Hope was an absurd emotion.
It was a chilly midnight when it happened for the first time. Monique was a light sleeper. After all, it didn’t take much more than a dull, heavy thud for him to jolt awake and sit up from the warm spot on the floor his body heat had gifted him. The cell next to his had always been empty since the very beginning of his time in here. Was the thud a precursor to an inhabitant?
Maybe it was a rodent, a stray rat that had found a glitch in this impregnable fortress. Or maybe he was…..doing it again. The moment a windchime begins to tinkle ferociously in his head, Monique slowly begins to relax. His muscles begin to thaw (he doesn’t remember crawling up to have his ear clamped to the wall), and he grumbles under his breath when he realises the warmth he had gathered to get him through the night had been sucked dry by the cold, unforgiving masses of stone encasing him. This was just another figment of his hyperactive imagination, wasn’t it?
Monique is mildly, very mildly pricked by that infinitesimally tiny voice inside the darkest corner of his consciousness whispering that thud was as real as the winter trying to seep into his bones.
“Mr Jeanne, have you not been taking your prescriptions?”
There was no way in the world he could have pulled that off. Three pills a day; three pills a day served on a rusty excuse for a platter. Three pills whose absence was dearly awaited by the warden who always impatiently waited for the empty sheet of iron to be slid back. Three anchors kept his mind afloat and made sure to tether him back to reality.
Yeah, there was no way Monique could not take his pills.
The doctor here for his weekly checkup doesn’t wait for a response. He simply runs his hands through his greying locks and peers up at him, something akin to indifference thinly veiled by the twinge of disapproval lacing his voice. “These pills keep you sane.” Monique was no doctor, but he was pretty sure using the term ‘sane” when the man knew he was broken beyond repair was nothing short of hilarious. “They make sure you don’t hear, see, or smell things that are mere figments of imagination trying to sustain themselves by tricking your sensory organ receptors. Do not miss these pills, Monique. You already have..”, he trails off when he takes a look at his file, “..quite the history of psychotic episodes. We would have to move you to a larger facility if your episodes got any worse.”
Monique simply nods. It was just the one thud, after all.
Hope was an absurd emotion.
As something that felt like months had passed on, the thuds grew louder. Before Monique had even begun to register these changes, a healthy amount of scraping had been thrown into the symphony, raiding his senses night after night. Rhythmic pictures of a crowbar trying to bust just one, just one stone open flowered in his mind because what else could that sound possibly be?
It’s real, Monique.
It also did feel like a crowbar was wedging a merciless gap between the two functioning bits of his mind. Was delusion really strong enough to make sounds that…tangible? Was that wispy sigh produced after hours of relentless scraping and pulling just his nerves trying to lull him over to a side filled with rainbows and dead mothers? It terrified him when he realised he could think for hours and still end up with no clear inclination as to whether this was all real or if he was just another victim of a harrowing reel of mental pressure.
He decides to tell the doctor nothing of it, though.
Just in case.
Seven months (was it years? What was time? One in here would never know) after he heard that fateful thud in the night, Monique decided enough was enough.
The last straw? The rattling of a loosened brick. The sound a stone would make as it ground against other stones to set itself free from the wall it had spent its entire life holding up.
Monique decides enough is enough when the days pass by, and he hears heavy chunks of stone clatter on the ground as the scraping had fully evolved into plundering. Days pass by. Trays are slid in and out as usual. He is escorted to the doctors as usual. There is no way the sight of the centre-most brick struggling to move was real in any way whatsoever. He finally breaks, and the doctor is nothing short of horrified. Signatures are hurriedly scribbled as arrangements are made for him to be transported to a mental health facility the very next day. Was this all because of hope?
He would be out of here tomorrow. Monique knows the stone jiggling in front of his very eyes is fake. As fake as the president’s promise to let the people drafted into the war live a life that hadn’t been forced into, as fake as the scent of the sea that seemed to fill his nostrils every time he thought of home. As fake as his brother’s laugh that echoed in his aching ears when the days and nights began to blur.
As fake as the hope that had taken root in his chest and blossomed into a fully grown tree that told him he was going to be broken out of here tonight.
That brick was only ever going to jiggle. It was never going to plop to the floor of his cell. There was never going to be a man who would whisper a ridiculously elaborate plan to him through the hole the brick had left.
There was no freedom for people like him.
But hope was an absurd emotion. For he was here, after all.
The last stone fell to the ground. He wiped his hand on his trousers and smiled.
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