[KKV] 01. The Cage Dweller

When it comes down to it, I brought this on myself.

Hanging from the dilapidated ceiling by ten feet of rusty iron chain was a cage. It swayed slightly in the windless night air, a precarious pendulum pacing back and forth over the black and fiery brine far beneath: Forty stories beneath the frail and flailing cage, the ichorous black cumulus pulsed and throbbed with the echoing torment of a thousand unjust deaths. Without much recourse, the cage continued it slow and steady swing, a squawking screech of metal upon metal its sole somber song.

Framing the flailing cage’s room were no less than 10000 stone steps, lit only by the black fire below and the pale moonlight above. The cage dweller was not privy to that climb, as they were unconscious and bound long before they even arrived. No, two of the officers officiated the ascension, complete with bumps, bruises, falls, and other such meandering gifts left in the wake of their duty.

A short, spiteful curse fell from the cage dweller’s lips to land between their crossed knees on the cage’s slanted floor. It traced its way down to the bars which held the operation together, and swung its drop-like form around to the underside of the cage. Swelling in size with each passing second, it soon gave up and surrendered to gravity’s harsh rule, free-falling into the flames below.

Or, that’s what it seemed to do, anyway.

Why do I always get myself into these situations?

Vacant eyes turned themselves to bandaged, bruised hands, to watch them turn and twist around one another in absent minded thought and contemplation. Scars from past escapes recited speeches of missed opportunity, squandered potential, and forgotten friendships forged in the fires of ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’. The hands slowly tensed, clutching each other all the more tightly, pressing into one another as though they might become one, until…

Release. Pain. Striking the floor of the cell with their combined might, adding a larger, fresher blemish to hundreds of others in enraged dismay. The release was sweet, but a short lived affair. Certainly enough to hold the eye’s piqued interest. Clench again, brought together already by the manacles on their wrists and ankles, formed violent by their desire to make change.

Release. Slam. Pain.

At least this, I can do. Perhaps I won’t last as long as they say.

And then, a sound. A softly ominous sound, like a key turning in a lock… Or a tree bowing just before it would break. A sound that makes even three-day-empty stomachs turn, the kind You feel deep in Your most sensitive parts. Confusion. Uncertainty. Willful disbelief. Unconsciously, one final tentative tap of hammered fists on old cold metal.

And then, the floor of the cage fell away. With it, came the cage-dweller, who now realized they needed a new name.

Falling fast, concurrent with the broken shell of metal meant to prevent this from ever happening, thoughts flashed with the intensity of a geyser just let loose. Beneath, lay their certain demise: Painful, burning agony that would result in the end of all thought, forever. Not exactly the best option, but due to its likely ease of execution, one which should be left on the table, surely.

The disc of rusted, untrustworthy metal whistled beside them. For a split half-second, thoughts of happier times, riding something similarly shaped across the fading summer waves, not because it was easy, but because it was fun. A happy thought, but not one that would help much here. And really, that sodding disc has already failed me once. Not really an option… Time to move on.

The Manacles! If anything would count as progress, it would be the destruction of the manacles. And progress sets us free, after all. But how to destroy inch-thick iron in a 40 second free-fall? And even then, what if it wasn’t enough of a trigger for them to pull their way out of this?

Doubts later. Action now. With the skill of a slithering snake sliding across a bed of brambles, feet and hands were thrust beneath the falling form, towards the floor that bubbled mere seconds below. With any luck, the iron would hit before brains or heart… And, be destroyed in the process. Silent prayers to goddesses long forgotten filled the frantically fuming mind, and then, mere seconds before the moment of truth…

Nothing. Silence. True peace. The echoes of reality faded as nothing ever could, and mind truly triumphed over manner in that beautiful second.

It passed.

And then, true agony set in.

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