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In another life, maybe things turned out differently. In another life, maybe Lorna never left. When his eyes closed it was like she was still there. After years of being locked up, more than anything else he remembered her smell. The scent of lavender and fresh pine and, sometimes, for special occasions, she used a rosy perfume. In his dreams, in another life, she never left him. Things turned out differently.
The priest looked at him, a scornful scowl weathered by lines of age, grey eyes slanted behind rimless glasses. They read out of the book together now, but that priest has been there for him long before then. At first he refused, stubborn. Now they read and spoke the passages out loud, and a cleansing light shone through the window, between the bars of his cell.
His cage was small, colourless, had a toilet, bunk bed, iron bars between him and the hallway. No privacy except that the cage was his and his alone. Limited phone privileges—useless, the ones he called never answered.
Has it really been twelve years already?
The priest chuckled. They continued reading through the holy book together and after they were done, the priest left, moved on, his job done.
He was left alone in his cell, and the light shining into it from outside went away, disappeared behind the clouds. He looked around, inspecting the shadows and every corner, then went back to the small bed, climbed onto the top bunk and lied on it.
In another life, Lorna woke him up on their king-sized bed with a kiss, his daughters came and jumped up on the bed, laughing. It was another sunny Saturday. They went for a picnic in the fields somewhere near their farm. Far away from the bustle of the city, far away from the hustle of his past. The wind was cool but the sun warmed his back. The sky was bright, the trees swayed and waved, their leaves glittered in the light. His daughters laughed. He looked at them. Later, when one ran around in the field searching for something, another run up to her mother, her face red with tears. Lorna swooped down and kissed her, hugged her, and a smile returned to his daughter. They looked at him and smiled. They waited for him.
But that was just a dream.
He woke up. He always woke up, life moved on. Even without him. These days he talked about his feelings, his joys and regrets, his past and hope for the future. He talked to anyone that would listen, or anyone that walked past his cell. Once he got stabbed with a shiv for it—he stopped talking to Carl since then. When it rained outside, he could see the water stream down the window, the pale withered light glinted from each and every drop. That was one of the moments he thought about whenever anything bad happened to him. Whenever something struck that comfortable feeling of inner sanctuary he managed to cultivate month by month, he’d think about the drops of rain and the light and the cool clouds, the movement of white lining against grey.
It rained that very special night that he knew she must’ve forgotten by now. When he came to her place in a suit, ready to explain and possibly apologise for the flowers the delivery company sent to her home while she was at work. The ten dozen roses boxed up and supposedly left by her front door all day in the blistering sun, then soaked in the scheduled evening pouring rain. He came to take her to that seafood restaurant but found no boxes of roses outside her house. When he feared the worst she opened the door to her tiny little apartment and it was full of budding roses. It rained that night also.
The guard rattled the bars of his cage, waking him up. Before going anywhere, he’d have a choice of food, of anything he could desire, and all he wanted was the salt and pepper prawns served with cucumber, spinach and soy in sesame dressing; grilled hake with spring onion mash and soy butter sauce, along with a glass of white wine to go with it. Thinking about that night again.
Alas, here they only had red wine, only fish and fries.
After he ate his fill, they took him into a room, past long corridors of fluorescent lights, bright with their buzzing hums, into a bright clean room. There were no windows except for one large one, and it did not reveal the sky and fields outside, but another room where silhouettes of people watched. Those mannequins stood unmoving, gawked. In the room there was also a chair, a sturdy-looking thing, an uncomfortable looking thing with straps and wires and an upside-down metal bowl around where a head would fit if one were to sit down. The guard directed him into it, strapped him up, then left with a snickering cackle.
Behind the glass he saw the familiar figure, the face of his love.
Lorna held a single rose.
A spark above his halo, and the whole thing went up in flames. First his head, then his leg, then his lungs. Every breath was as if he inhaled toxic fumes. He could feel the blood vessels under his skin rupture, he looked down and the points the electrodes touched singed the skin. For 66 seconds he heard the sizzling of his own flesh. Smoke filled the room.
It wasn’t fair. The moment he started living, he had to die.