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The Keeper of the Keys

The darkness was complete, of that much I was sure. I could hear the sound of water dripping down from the ceiling, smell the mold and mildew of the men in cells on either side of me. Through my window there was nothing to see but blackness, and the certainty that tonight was my last night. Even the moon, which I was sure was out there somewhere, seemed too frightened to make an appearance.

There was no light, and since no inmate dared to make a sound, I knew not if I was the only one awake. However, I sensed the fear that was ever present in this world. In this world, where day and night converged, where no one spoke, and anyone who did was on their last walk toward death. The lucky life that lived outside of bars consisted of rats and cockroaches. Even the guards patrolling the halls every night lived in their own virtual prison, locked in by the weight of the darkness and fear.

As for me, I was confined by the cast iron bars and the impending death I knew faced me in the morning. I sat up in my bunk. I could just see myself hanging from a noose, head covered and limp, feet meters over the floor. I could hear my last scream as I was shot to death and fell to the ground. I could even feel a needle piercing my skin, the deathly substance melting my veins. In the blackness I discerned Death himself standing in the corner of my cell whispering, barely audible, “I’m waiting… I’m waiting for you.”

I recalled the night that had gotten me here, the night that it happened. The blood, on my hands, on the knife that lay on the floor. I could still see the knife getting closer and closer, piercing skin… all the blood, and then- nothing. I barely recalled being questioned, not answering, and then here. Here for God knows how long, confined by the darkness and fright, and tomorrow was the day.

I breathed in, smelt the sweat of the men around me and nearly jumped out of my skin. A scream pierced the air of the cold night, hanging long after the scream ended. There was no commotion, as this was common place in this world, but I knew the person who had screamed was dead. Death had left my cell, to retrieve his soul. It did not take long for me to dismiss the scream, but I did wonder. Was it a guard? Being punished? I shook myself. And a dead silence settled over the prison, the night finally taking its place. A fear so palpable I could sense its weight on my shoulders, gripped at my throat. Again I looked back on that night. The night of the blood. The knife. And Him.

There was a chill that night, and the knife was as cold and sharp as a shard of ice. The blood was everywhere, coating my arm, my shirt, the knife, and there were drops of blood that left a trail on the chilled stone floor. He was screaming in fury, pulling the knife out of the deep wound just as I did. And then everything was black. They told me there was no evidence of my story, no proof. But for the knife and my fingerprints, it seemed as though nothing else had appeared at the scene of the crime.

Time was lost on me here, but the wound of that night had slowly healed until I barely recalled it was there. Until tonight. I returned to this time, right now, and the darkness was so thick that I could not determine where my cell ended, and the hall began. I could not see the bars, the bars that captured me in this mental and physical prison.

Now I was truly terrified, listening intently for any sound of human life. There was nothing, I could not even hear the heavy boots of the guard marching through the hallway as he always did. There was no reason for me to sleep now, soon I would be dead I knew.

And then, from no where I heard a footstep in the hall. And there was only one person I had every heard that sound come from. The clicking steps, the sound echoing, only one person I knew that was rich enough to own shoes such as than. It was Him. But how could it be? Was he coming for revenge, for what he lost that night? The air around went cold with the dread I felt at his coming.

Another step, this one resounding through the whole of my cell. He was coming, I could tell by how His footsteps kept getting louder and louder. Was he coming for blood? A hatred so deep that I winced at its presence ran hot in my veins as I waited for the next step. But it did not come.

So I sat on my bunk, laid my head on my pillow, and waited. Somehow, sleep managed to pierce its way into my shield of suspicion and I fell into slumber. In dreams I was haunted by ghastly images of blood, knives, footsteps, and His face. I awoke; sweat beading its way down my forehead, my breath coming in heaves of effort.

With a start, I leap up on my feet and looked out into the darkness. Behind the bars, suspended in the dark was a pair of eyes. They stared, directly and fiercely straight at me. My heart started beating rapidly. How could I have fallen asleep? Was it Him? I did not know, for there was not enough light to discern the color of his eyes, barely enough to detect their presence, but I knew they were there.

If the eyes belonged to Him, I knew I faced almost certain death. But who else could they belong to? My mind set to one unanswerable question after another. Sweat was now flowing so profusely that my clothes were soaked and warm. My heart beat so fast I felt the rush of it in my ears and head. Silence. I closed my eyes. Opened them. The eyes remained, and now they appeared to be squinting as if in a deathly glare. They did not move, did not blink, and deep within them I sensed a thirst for blood.

How long I sat there in terror, I do not know. Time ended when I entered this cell. But the moon, only a sliver in the dark sky, was making its way into the window’s view, shedding a thin beam of light on the stone cell floor. The eyes flickered and disappeared from view, and I attempted to discover someone in the hallway.

A terror so complete and so beyond anything I had even felt before made me collapse. And then, from somewhere very close, a deep voice uttered the words, “You deserve to be dead.”

I felt certain that if it had not been for the fact that I had not spoken since that terrible night, I would have let out such a scream as to wake the sun from its rest. But I only felt the strength to grip my chest, feeling for something to end this terrible night. No resilience remained in my body, so I collapsed back against the chilled stone wall, my head hitting it so hard I might have jerked back had I not been so numb with fear.

“I want you dead,” that same voice came again, darker, deeper, more menacing.

There was no way of knowing if the voice came from the eyes I had seen but I knew it was from close by. The boots of the guard entered into the view of the light and I sucked in a breath.

I stood and gingerly walked my way to the bars and strained to make out the guard. His face was in shadow, but he was definitely a guard, as I could tell from the way his black uniform blended him into the night.

“Scary night, huh?” he asked, still in shadow.

I nodded ascent, too used to silence to speak. I attempted to look both ways down the hall, but the little light barely illuminated the heavy boots of the figure.

“Reminds me of a night from a while ago.” His voice was growing darker, more familiar…

I tensed. “It was a night that I lost something to really wanted.” I had no time to react, I was too stunned to move.

It was then that the guard turned into the light, “I’ve come to get what I really wanted.”

In the full light, He stood before me. His tall figure, towering over me, loomed in the darkness. He had changed from his polished black shoes into work boots and the dark uniform of the prison guards. It was so black that had I not known He was there, He would have blended in completely. Quite suddenly, there was a blinding pain in my arm. I rolled up my sleeve, looking down at the long scar that was still reaching its bloody claws from my inside elbow to my wrist.

I had come to his home that night to confront him. I had found him in the cellar, the dark and cold cellar where he was waiting. I tried to convince him that there was something wrong with what he was doing, he got angry, and he brought out a knife. Then the blood was flowing, everywhere. I had wrapped it in torn sleeves as I had always been taught how, so close to death… descended into a cloak of blackness.

When I woke, He had disappeared and police officers where everywhere. I never knew why He had not finished me off then, when I was so vulnerable, but I thought that it may have been that He wanted to see me suffer in this hole of a prison, to await death among Death itself. They told me that I had killed Him, and the memories of all the blood and blackness struck me so dumb that I dared not protest.

Back in this cell, a night much like that night- cold and dark, He was pulling keys from his pocket. The sound seemed out of place, so loud and shrill I actually flinched despite the fear that was so intense. For the first time since I had entered this cell, I heard the lock snap, and the door creaked open, so slowly that I knew he was now torturing me.

“I find that there is no loss in your early death, no sadness or mystery. No one will miss you but the rats and scum, missing your dying flesh. So I will kill you tonight. Before you tell anyone my secrets.” He pulled a shining dagger from his inside pocket, circled me. I was almost too afraid to feel fear, too filled with terror to move or resist.

I followed his boots around my body, once, twice, and then he turned quickly and he plunged the sharp dagger deep into my heart and pulled it out. A pain was so severe that I collapsed that reached its sharp claws up from my legs to my head. I clutched my chest with my hand, going pale even as I moved, blood covering my arms and shirt. I could fee the hole that the blade had left in my torso, gaping and filled with my blood. Lying on the cold stone floor, blood began to pool around my body, warm under my skin that now felt so cold. I saw red- red everywhere. And with my last gasp of breath, my last sight I watched as the keeper of the keys left my prison and then my eyes rolled back and then all I could see was blackness…





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

summerlife324 said...
Apr. 4, 2012 at 6:04 am
Thank you so much! That means a lot to me!
 
TouchOfARose said...
Apr. 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm
This is absolutely amazing! I love the detail as you describe the fear and tension among the inmates. You painted a very clear and chilling picture, and I loved every second reading this. It's just so...blood-curdlingly creepy. I'll admit, I got chills from reading this. 5/5 stars, definitely. (:
 
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