Leslie P. Knox
Copyright © Original story: 2006 by P.L. Ladislaus
Translation © 2012 by Leslie P. Knox
‘Hey there, Jim!’ Carmen said in a friendly way, with a smile on her face. She pulled a steel chair closer to her, its steel legs making scratchy noises on the rusty floor. She seated herself, crossed her legs, and leaned forward on her elbow, resting her cheek in her hand. She wore blue trousers, grey sport shoes, and a white singlet. Her blonde, tousled hair was chin length, and blue eyes shone from her pale face.
The walls, floor, and the ceiling were made of rusty steel plates, covered with dark auburn-coloured mouldy stains that seemed like splashed blood. Four neon lamps hung from the ceiling, but only one of them worked, illuminating the two prison cells separated from each other with thick bars. There was neither escape nor entrance.
Carmen was chewing gum. She blew small bubbles, and when one exploded, it broke the awkward silence.
‘Jim, let’s see!’ she said. ‘Where are we? You are there, and I am here. Hey! Look at me!’
Jim, who had just woken up on the filthy floor, looked around the place. The bars separated him from the woman. And he had no idea how they had gotten there.
Jim was a white man with black, short hair. He wore a dark-coloured smart suit with a blue shirt underneath. He was laying in one of the two prison cells, and the woman, his wife, was in the other.
‘What’s this all about? Where are we?’ Jim said, his green eyes seeking an escape route. However, there was no escape. No door, no windows. Nothing but the bars between them. It almost seemed like they had been placed there first and that the cells had been built around them.
‘We are here for one reason: We can never get out of here. You know that Jim, don’t you?’
‘Don’t scare me, Carmen! This place … It looks like a––’
‘Oh, people are so stupid. They make a bunch of bad choices and never learn. Meanwhile, they always forget that others might suffer due to these mistakes. Don’t you think, Jim?’
‘What are you talking about, Carmen?’
‘Have a guess,’ she smiled.
‘If you are thinking about that issue between us, we were just discussing it, and we agreed that it was behind us. You have no right to judge me.’
‘I don’t judge you. I don’t. Yet. But in this place, you don’t have any other choice to do something but to speak to me.’
‘What do you mean, I have no other choice but to listen to you? Shouldn’t we try to get out of here?’
‘Don’t think about that! That’s never going to happen.’
She still sat in the same position, but the man began pacing in his cell, searching the rusty walls, seeking any sign of the escape.
‘Carmen, what is this place?’ asked Jim, panic on his face.
‘You will know it in the right time,’ she said and leaned back, staring up at the ceiling, continuing to chew her gum as if she was ignoring him.
Jim walked over to the bars, and stuck his arms through the gaps. He pressed his forehead against the cold steel and stared at his wife, who was still staring at the ceiling. The man stretched his hands out to reach her, but she was too far away. He gave up and sighed.
‘Carmen, I …’ his voice faltered, and he grabbed the bars. He looked down at his shoes, gently kicking the bottom of the bars.
‘Jim, this is not necessary. The repentance is over. You had the chance,’ she said.
Jim looked up suddenly and felt that the air was choking him. His face became red in anger. He realized at once what she was talking about. She knew…
‘Carmen, honey, please try to understand what happened and why.’ He grabbed the bars furiously.
‘Don’t call me honey, okay?’ She was still watching the ceiling. ‘You can call any of your girlfriends that, but don’t call me that again … please!’ she suddenly stared at him and forced a pretty smile.
Jim tightened his grip on the bars. He felt a helplessness against her.
‘Well, Jim, let’s see! Susan was one of them? Katherine was the other one, right?’ she squinted at him.
‘I …’ his voice stuck.
‘Susan and Katherine, right?’ Carmen proceeded, with rage growing in her voice.
Jim sighed and let go of the bars. ‘Yes, they were,’ he said as he looked down at the bloody floor.
‘I see. Well, at least, were they good? Did you feel good?’ Carmen asked.
Jim was in an embarrassing situation. He felt humiliated that his wife knew everything.
‘Look, Carmen, I…’
‘I asked something. Were they good?’ she shouted.
Jim surrendered. ‘Yes, dammit, they were good.’
Carmen leaned her head back and began to laugh sarcastically.
‘Why are you laughing?’
‘Ooh, it’s nothing. I am just laughing, imagining how you will behave soon,’ she smiled.
‘What do you mean? What are you planning to do?’ he asked, growing frightened.
‘You’ll see, just listen well!’ she gave him a wink and stood up from the chair.
She walked to the corner of her cell, where a small night table stood. On its top, a filthy lamp vainly tried to illuminate the corner.
Jim still did not understand where they were. He didn’t know how they got here. But he wanted to get out of here. However, there was no door … and the bars between them ….
Carmen opened the drawer of the night table and took out something. She hid this in her palm and walked back to the rusty chair. She seated herself, crossed her legs, and hid her hands behind her back. In this position, her beautiful breasts were more visible in the half-light. His glance stopped at them for a short time. She noticed his gaze and encouraged his attention, licking her lips and smiling at him. He was aroused and grabbed the bars again, searching for a way to get through them. But he quickly gave up. The bars were unmoveable. Meanwhile, Carmen just sat and smiled at him. She still hid her hands behind her body, holding something in them ….
Carmen shook her head. ‘Give up, Jim! You can’t get over here. Or out of there.’
‘If we could get in here, we can get out,’ Jim stated confidently.
‘Jim, I think you still don’t get it. I said it already, we are here for one reason: We can never get out of here,’ she also looked confident.
‘And what is going to happen to us? Or is this just a bad dream?’
‘Ooh, no Jim, this isn’t a dream; this is the bloody reality.’
‘Well, I can see that. But, I’m asking again, what is this place?’
‘That’s not important right now. More important is, why we are here,’ she winked mysteriously.
‘You really don’t know?’
‘I really don’t know.’
Carmen sighed and lowered her head. Jim grabbed the bars again, trying to get closer to his wife.
Carmen noticed his eagerness and tried to make it worse for him. She almost danced on her chair, enticing him with her body.
She stopped suddenly and said abruptly, ‘We are here because of Susan and Katherine.’
‘You heard me.’
‘But this isn’t their concern,’ he said, trying to protect the two other women.
‘That’s right, this isn’t their concern. This is your concern,’ she replied.
Jim was frightened. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Did you make love to them?’ Carmen asked suddenly.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Yes or no, Jim. Just be brave, and give me a straight answer, yes, or no.’
‘Well … yes …,’ he replied and then lowered his head and pressed it against the bars. He felt terrible guilt.
Carmen didn’t say a word.
Suddenly, she began to cry to the point where her body was shaking.
That was the moment that Jim felt sorry for her: he realized what he had done to her.
Carmen was now crying uncontrollably.
Jim fell down to his knees. He felt more terrible as the moments passed. He blamed himself for this. Yes, he and only he was responsible for his wife’s breakdown.
Jim tried to reach his wife but … it was useless. The bars stood in the way.
He whispered a quiet apology to her, trying to calm her down. He felt more and more terrible about this situation.
‘I …,’ he tried to begin, but his voice came to a sudden stop again. He realized that he loved his wife and needed her. And this beautiful woman just cried in front of him. He wanted to hug her and caress her face to calm her down. But he could not reach her…
Carmen kept crying. Jim shook the bars in frustration.
‘Hone…’ he started to say and then stopped himself. Tears came into his eyes while he watched the broken-hearted, crying woman. ‘I love you darling,’ he said eventually, pulling himself together.
A few minutes later, Carmen stopped crying and then looked at her husband through her tears.
Jim’s heartbeat increased in hopefulness. He knew, this was the moment of forgiveness. He smiled.
‘I forgive you, Jim, I forgive you!’ Carmen sniffled.
‘Darling, I’m going to make amends for this mistake. I promise!’ he said tearfully.
‘Don’t worry, it’s not necessary. I forgive you…but…this situation is already beyond retrieval.’
‘What do you mean, darling?’ asked Jim. He felt fear and pulled against the steel bars.
‘You’ll see right now,’ she said.
Then Carmen put her hands on her lap. She opened her palms to reveal a razor.
‘Honey, what do you want with that?’ Jim was frightened.
‘Oh, it’s nothing, dear, it’s nothing. I’m just completing why we are here. I’m gonna punish you, like you did to me. I suffered for nothing, you’ll suffer for something.’
‘Wait, Darling!’ he was shocked and scared.
‘I won’t do anything that could hurt you. Don’t be scared! I won’t hurt you…’ she smiled.
Jim felt relieved, but just for a short second…
…because Carmen suddenly cut her left forearm from the elbow to the wrist. She then grabbed the razor with her other hand, which was shaking because of the injured nerves, and with another fast movement, she made the same cut on her other arm. Blood began to flow from her veins. She let the razor fall onto the filthy floor.
‘Nooo!’ Jim bawled, shaking the bars.
She began to turn pale because of the blood loss. She glimpsed at Jim sadly, as he fought fiercely to reach her…in vain.
‘Nooo, nooo, why? Why?’ Jim bawled and sobbed. His body was shaking in fury and anger.
‘Jim … this is your punishment … you must watch … this …,’ she whispered weakly.
The blood collected in a big puddle beneath her chair.
Jim still sobbed and fought to reach her, but she just smiled at him weakly.
He bawled … sobbed … shaking and kicking the bars … He tried to save her life … but the distance between them ….
‘Don’t … don’t be angry dear, I fe … felt this once,’ she said quietly.
‘Nooo, no, no, no!’
‘I … I’ve lost you, Jim … so you’ll also lose me forever … and watch my … my dead body for eternity … because … because you will never get out of here …’
A moment later, Carmen slipped off the chair to the ground. She lay in the puddle of her own blood. She had no power to speak any more. She stared at him painfully … she gave less life signs
… eventually, her eyes took on a vacant look …
Jim suddenly began to laugh … but not because of happiness … .