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At first, when they threw him in and drew the heavy bolts across, he was angry. He pounded on the door, he yelled and cursed at them, and railed against the injustice of his condition.

Anger, however, is a tiring emotion, and it soon gave way to despair. He staggered away from the door, reeled against the dank walls, and sank into the dirty, damp straw which he had glimpsed upon his entrance. It had disgusted him then; it welcomed him now. He begged for forgiveness, from his gaolers, from his ancestors, from his god, and finally he sank into a fitful sleep.

When he awoke in the darkness, he could not tell how long he had slept. There was no light here, even on the brightest day, unless a gaoler brought it, and the only sounds he could hear were the squeaks of rats and the constant drip drip drip of water in some corner of his cell. His throat responded to that drip; he became aware of how thirsty he was, and hard on the heels of his thirst came hunger. He cried out again, begging for water, for food even if it be stale bread.

Nobody came.

The thirst drove him to grope across the walls in the dark, searching for the source of that drip drip drip, for the respite which it promised and which even the strongest man must crave. On finding it, he pressed his lips desperately to it and swallowed. The water, if it could be called such, gave off a putrid smell and tasted so foul it made him gag. With a shudder, he held it down and crawled back to his pile of filthy straw.

He slept and woke by turns, never knowing how long for, wondering if it had been mere hours that he had languished there or days, even months. In the darkness there was no way to tell. He tapped on the floor, when he was awake, and when his fingers bled from tapping he rocked with arms around his knees, counting in a futile attempt to prove that time was still passing, that he was still alive.

Finally, the bolts were drawn once more and the door opened. He was blinded by a glare that seemed brighter than the sun, unaware that it came from a smoky lantern, and threw his arms over his eyes to protect them.

The door closed again, but the light remained. Blinking, squinting, he lowered his arms and saw that it came from a stump of a candle, set on the floor next to a tankard brimming with clear water and a plate bearing some unidentified and half-rotten meat and half a loaf of burnt bread.

In his despair, this meagre offering was more than the greatest feast he could crave, and he fell upon it with as much joy. He gloried in that tiny, flickering light until the candle burnt to its end and plunged him once more into the deep, foul and unforgiving darkness.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Three Word Wednesday time once more, and the words were Crave, Putrid, and Shudder. I actually had the most trouble with Crave – it would have been easier to work it in as “craving” or “craved” but I regard that as a bit of a cheeky cheat!)