The permanent darkness that surrounds him now makes him feel a little better about himself. If he had any semblance of time, it would have driven him insane, counting the days and nights he’s been a captive to a foreign land. But since minutes, hours, and days have lost their meaning, he can only count each beat of his heart.

He longs for the day when he could forget to count, or no longer have a reason to do so.

In the darkness, all he sees are faces. They look at him with a hollowed-out expression, and somehow, he thinks it’s worse than if he could see anger, resentment, or accusation instead. Like the darkness, these negative feelings would make him feel better about himself. It would take away a sliver of the guilt that had taken up residence in his stomach. A sliver is not a lot, but it is enough.

He will never have enough, now. Not since the day insects became more valuable than empty plates. Not since the day walls became breakable, and bowed down to the enemy. Not since the day he ran, for the very first time in his life.

He now knows the meaning of humiliation, and that makes him feel better about himself.

In the darkness, all he hears are voices. They always begin by saying his name, but no matter how many times he hears them, they never manage to finish. Sometimes, his name is spat out, as if his name were something unpleasant to be formed by human lips. Other times, his name is scared and angry, as if it couldn’t decide between two emotions so it settles for both.

Only once did an inexplicably sad voice speak his name. It is the only voice he hates, but he has never heard it again. His instinct tells him that he will hear it in the future, though – when everything is over.

It would be so, so easy to shift the blame of his circumstances. The list of such people roll out of his mind like an unfolding scroll, most of which have been haunting his dreams and nightmares. But he knows better than them. The present him knows better than all of his past memories of them, which is why he doesn’t say anything to himself anymore.

In the darkness, he tries to forget what he looks like, but the silence always forces him to remember. He is ugly, and he remembers.


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