October 26th
by matt radlow

scrittttch scrittttch scrittttch

It sounds like a rusty metal nail scraping against old porcelain. By now my eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and I can almost clearly make out the man in the cage. His long, dark hair is dirty and matted. His disheveled beard is glazed with mucus and drool. He's naked and malnourished. How long has he been here? How is he still alive? I am so alone. I am so afraid.

scrittttch scrittttch scrittttch

As the man in the cage continues carving and scratching, tiny sparks occasionally emerge from the source, illuminating his more disturbing details. His gaunt body is covered in lesions and sores and bruises. His mutilated hands are infected and bloody. But most unsettling is the way he never takes his eyes off me. I never look in his eyes. I just stare at the door to the room. I begin to panic. "That door will open soon," I tell myself. "Any minute now."

scrittttch scrittttch scrittttch

The man in the cage scrapes and scrapes, mumbling to himself. I want to believe it's a real language, but all I can think about is how alien it sounds. I notice that the few teeth that still remain in his mouth are jagged and broken. He stares at me, and I don't stare back. I never stare back. He can sense my fear. He can see it in my shaking body, my chewed off fingernails. He can smell it pouring out of me, more fetid than the piss and shit and bile. He can hear it in my sobbing, even over the screams. They never stop screaming. Dear god how long have I been here? How long do I have left? Is anybody out there?


For the first time, the man in the cage stops scratching. For the first time, he takes his eyes off me. For a moment he just listens. Then I hear it too. Without hesitation, the man in the cage begins frantically scraping. Over and over, faster and faster. I notice the small sparks, and that's when I finally see what he's been scratching: teeth. In his hand is a small piece of metal with a somewhat sharpened edge. Over time he had filed it down using his own broken teeth. My heart starts racing. I hear the sound of footsteps getting closer. The screech of heavy metal doors. “It's going to open,” I tell myself. “Only a matter of time.” I curl up against the wall of my own cage and begin to hyperventilate. I am not strong enough for this. I am so scared.

scrittttch scrittttch BOOM

The door to the room is wrenched open, but I see nothing but black. I turn to the corner where the man in the cage sits, but he is no longer there. Then everything happens at once. A horrible moaning noise, the sound of rattling steel, and shouting. Without warning, the man in the cage lunges at me with all his might, forcing his mangled fist through the thick chain-link wall our cages share. In his bloody, outstretched hand is the sharpened metal, just inches away from my throat. Crying out in pain, the man in the cage begins to desperately stab at me, but I'm just out of reach.

Then it happens. My cage opens. That terrible moaning noise. And that's when I finally see it. Two terrifying spindly arms that stretch to the floor. Milky skin stretched over dark purple lumps of muscle. It looks down on me from the doorway and reveals two horrifying smiles. I am paralyzed with fear.

In the back of my mind, I hear yelling. Words that sound alien to me. Out of the corner of my eye, the man in the cage attempts to impale me with his makeshift blade. That’s when I finally understand.

They say in times of tragedy, when life is at its darkest, to look for the helpers. Because even when the world goes to hell and evil reigns, there will always be those who help. For the first time, I look in the man in the cage's eyes. They are so kind and brave. They make me feel brave.

Suddenly I feel skeletal fingers on my skin. I see two mouths revealing the remnants of human flesh and bone. Almost instinctively, I take the blade from the man in the cage. Without a moment's hesitation, I plunge the sharpened metal into my own neck. I feel a rush of blood begin to fill my throat. The last thing I think of before I die is that I will never get to thank the helper. The one who selflessly saved me from a fate much worse than death. But as my life fades to nothing, I hear the man in the cage speak one last time.

“আমরা আবার দেখা না হওয়া পর্যন্ত.”

I'll never know what the man said. But as I cross over to the other side, I listen to his words, and all I can think about is how human they sound.

Thank you my friend. Until we meet again.

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