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I had no idea how long I'd been stuck in that room. Days, weeks, months, and maybe even a year. I hadn't seen the sun in so long that even the simplest flash blinded me. And I would sit in my corner, underneath the only window I knew about, praying for rescue. Right. If that would ever come.
The treatments were torture, the beds were itchy and crawling with vermin, the food was horrid to the point of a pungent smell seeping into my clothes, my hair. The greasy mess of black on my head that hadn't seen soap for so long. I would touch it sometimes, wishing all of it were gone. So I wouldn't have to deal with the snarls and tangles that accompanied my waking every morning. But, they wouldn't shave my head. No matter how many times I asked.
It was the usual day for me. I woke up, ate whatever slop they slid underneath my door, and stood next to the window. Now, they didn't really have windows here. They didn't want any of us getting out. So, the windows were just paintings of the happier things in life.
One of the prisoners here was named Marco, and he could draw and paint beautiful pictures. He had gotten his paints from a distant family member a few years ago, and he even got some canvas that he tried to use sparingly. So, in exchange for something small like a towel, a cup of soup, or, on the rarest of occasions, a piece of candy, he'd paint you a picture of whatever you'd like. The guards sometimes would buy his work for their kids, or wives on birthdays or anniversaries. But, he died last year from the treatments. So, when the newbies arrive, they don't get anything pretty.
My picture is of one of my favorite things. Flowers. A huge field of orchids and pansies, daffodils and roses. All in a never ending row that seemed to stretch until it reached the golden horizon. We hadn't seen sunlight in ages, but he tried to remember the best he could what happiness and flowers looked like. It took him about three days, but he finally gave me the painting in exchange for a washcloth. It was a decent trade. So, there it always has been, hung up in my room, waiting for real light and air to reach it.
One twenty four hour day, I can't tell whether it's morning, afternoon, or night, one of the guards came into my cell and told me that it was my turn for treatment. Fantastic. More agony, more pain, more scars. But, what could I do? He grabbed my chains and nearly dragged me down the hallway, not caring what I ran into. By the time we got to the office I had about three bruises on my forehead, a cut on my cheek. A thin stream of blood went down, like a crimson tear. Dr. Quizer was already seated at the table.
#How are you doing today Beth?#
He usually started with that simple question, hoping for a different response than what I usually gave every morning. His eyes pleaded for an answer. So I gave it to him.
#A little less tired, a little more awake.#
#Excellent! Will you please get up on the table?#
His eyes, the pale blue ones that usually showed anger and depression, showed genuine interest that I was doing different. Feeling different. I climbed on top of the cold, metal table, and awaited the cables that connected to my arms and legs, neck and head. They soon arrived, and were attached to my bony frame. I gritted my teeth, waiting for his first question.
#What is your full name?#
The metronome was already on, and I could feel the electric current running through the machine connected to the wall. My full name? It's...
#Bethany Elizabeth West.#
No shock registered that I had answered correctly. Next question. There were five in all, and if you answered them all correctly, you get moved to a different room or maybe even get to wash your hair. I wanted to shave it.
#Where were you born?#
That question stumped me. I barely remembered anything about my childhood. I sifted back through dim memories, hoping for the answer. Got it!
He smiled. Question three is up next. They got harder and harder, and number five was usually impossible to answer. It was something that only they knew, and you had to remember.
#What color are your eyes?#
I hadn't seen a mirror in such a while, that I couldn't even fathom what they looked like. Blue maybe? No, only Dr. Quizer had blue eyes here. Green? Brown? Black?
My minute to answer was up. The shock was so painful that I had to stifle back my scream. I could smell my burning flesh, feel the blood. But, he had to continue. But, he asks what your answer would've been.
#I always thought my eyes were hazel. Or brown. Something dark.#
#If you had answered with that, you would've been right. Next question!#
Sweat pooled on the nape of my neck. My hands became clammy and cold. The drab institution garb that I wore every day was soaked with my fear.
#What was your...brother's name?#
I did remember that I had a brother once. He had brown eyes, curly black hair, a slight overbite...
#Nicholas Perry West.#
I used to call him Nick, or just Nicholas if he was in trouble. The day I was put in this terrible place was the first time I saw him cry. Then, he left and stopped sending me letters. The last one I received read that he had gotten married, and he and his young wife were expecting a little girl. He promised to call her Beth, but he said his wife Haley thought she would end up like me.
#Last question. How long...have you been in here?#
That was the question? it was impossible to answer! We all lose track of our days of being captive, and we usually don't care anymore. I had a rock that I would mark on the wall with. Last week, I think, it was six months, three days. But, I have to add the days I've missed! Dang it!
#The clock is ticking. Let's make this a little more interesting. Crank it up to...fifteen volts.#
That was almost impossible to live through! Okay...today I think is a Tuesday, and it was a Friday the last time I marked. So Friday...Saturday...Sunday...Monday...Tuesday! I know the answer!
#Six months, seven days! Right?!#
He was appaled that I had remembered. He said that was correct and that I could get off the table. But first it was time for my #reward#, some type of concotion that I had to drink. Sometimes, it was poisonous. But I had always done well enough to get something less vile tasting.
#This is ORANGE juice. Something you've probably never had before. Have a drink.#
The juice was indeed orange in color, and condensation was forming on the outside of the glass. I licked my lips. I took the glass and drank. A tartness filled my mouth, and then something else. I started to get dizzy.
#I feel...like the room is spinning. Is that supposed to happen?#
#Yes. Keep drinking it.#
I did, but only to obey orders. I got dizzier, and soon began to cough up blood. I then knew that this wasn't the way it was supposed to taste. It was too late for me. I tried to vomit, but two men restrained me. I wanted to break free, to live, but they wanted me to die. I guess six months is my time for improvement, and I didn't improve good enough. I sank to my knees.
#You have been sentenced to death. What you just drank was arsenic, a poisonous substance that is impossible to overcome. Goodbye Beth. Have fun.#
Then, he just left. The guards dragged me to my cell, and threw me on the floor, locking the door behind them. My throwing up and coughing did no good. The feeling of burning inside of my bowels was too great to not scream. And, after I was done, they came back. I knew how to fake being asleep, and I held my breath. My heartbeat was slow anyway. So, they pronounced me too late to save.
Carrying me to the morgue, one of the guards told the other to write out a letter to my family. One saying that my stay was officially terminated. He nodded and took off in the opposite direction.
He laid me down on another table, did the sign of the cross, and left me. Now it was time for my escape. The examiner hadn't arrived yet, and I knew there were no cameras in here, so I fell off the table and began to drag myself towards the door. More than three minutes later, I could hear his footsteps. I pushed the door open, and got to my feet. And I started to run.
Running was hard for me, but feeling that wind and fresh air for the first time in months gave me courage. I knew then, it was either late fall or early winter. The prison uniform that I wore brought no protection from the cold, and no shoes on my feet made it harder. The sun hadn't risen yet, so I was concealed in darkness. The tracks that brought newbies here was loading up. The few lucky ones who completed their rememberance. I hopped in at the last second, feeling the train's speed pick up. A girl was next to me, and told me where I was going.
#I've endured he** on earth for this long, and I know exactly where I'm going. I'm going...home.#
The sun rose over the horizon. I wasn't blinded like I usually was. I embrace dit, letting the armth enrobe me, comfort me. The girl asked me another question.
#And how are you going to get there?#
#Step by step little girl. Step by step.#
I was rolling over the hills, feeling the wind. I put my hand to my hair, and took the strands that fell, and scattered them. I was officially free.