The Fifth

When Ishma finally awakens it quickly dawns on her that she can’t see a thing. She is sure her eyes are open but everything is black. Am I blind? She asks herself as she holds her hand up in front of her face. She can’t see her hand and that is when fear really starts to set in for her. Have they blinded me? She wonders as she pulls herself off her back and turns her body so that she is sitting with her back against a cold rocky wall. That means I’m still in the mines, she reasons as she holds both hands up in front of her face now.

She is sure she is holding them in front of her face, but she still sees nothing. Ishma doesn’t understand. She would have thought that if the guards had blinded her then she would feel pain, like she does from her back. My back! She reclaims in her head as she quickly pulls away from the wall and reaches round to what should be shredded and bloody flesh. Instead, she finds her back is wrapped in bandages. Did the guards do this? She doesn’t know but she can’t imagine anyone else would have. But why? She then queries, but she has no answer for that question. She simply doesn’t know and the last thing she remembers is the shift captain punching her in the jaw. She can still feel the pain from the strike. Her teeth are on edge as a result of the impact, but she doesn’t know where she is, why she can’t see or how long she’s been out.

First she needs to answer the question of why she can’t see, she decides. That is her most pressing concern right now she concludes as she reaches carefully and slowly for her face. Her hands at first make contact with her forehead and the dirt that has been ground into the lines in it before they slowly move down to her eyelids. She can feel her eyelids, so that means they’re still present. Ishma breathes a small sigh of relief at that revelation as it becomes clear that she still has her eyes too. She exhales loudly at that discovery.

So why can’t I see? She wonders as she opens her eyes again now that her hands aren’t perilously close to them and in danger of causing any damage. Suddenly Ishma catches sight of the outline of her fingers. Her hand is very close to her face but she can see it. That means it’s just very dark here, wherever here is. She feels a great wave of relief wash over her to learn that she hasn’t been blinded by the guards as some sort of retribution for her not screaming at the bite of the whip. So where am I? Ishma asks herself as she feels a sudden shudder rip down the length of her spine. Whatever this place is it’s cold and definitely underground. Am I still in the mine? I have to be, there is nowhere else I can be. But what is the purpose of me being here? I suffered my punishment, so what is this? Is this because I refused to beg and scream like they wanted me to? Maybe, she concludes after some time of contemplation.

But for the space to be this dark she would have to be deeper within the mine than she believed had been reached. If true, then how far does this mine really go? She doesn’t have a clue and due to the creeping feeling that this place is giving her she’d rather not find out.

“Hello.” Ishma calls after a long period of silence. She wants to know if anyone else is here with her or whether she is alone. She expects that she is, but feels the need to know for sure. If I’m not what will I do? The voice in her head asks. She hasn’t got a clue and curses herself for putting such a question forward.

However, after several minutes, or what Ishma thinks is several minutes, she concludes that she really is alone. Not only did she receive no answer whatsoever but she didn’t even catch a single sound. Beyond those of her own breathing and thumping heart, that is. Her pulse isn’t racing, but it is audible to her and beating at a marginally elevated rate compared to what she would consider normal.

With the realisation that she is truly alone, she can’t determine whether such a thing is a positive or negative as she shifts onto all fours. Her legs and arms are cramped, as is her back. Though, her back is less painful than her arms and legs. They have clearly been in one position too long and demand movement now, but as Ishma crawls forward they seem reticent to obey her wishes.

Ishma winces in response to the pain as she pushes past it while reaching out to feel for another wall. She discovers nothing ahead of her except empty air but to her left finds a jagged rock face. The surface is moist and cold. It reminds Ishma of clammy hands and is why she wipes her left hand against her burlap sack clothing soon after. It’s a subconscious reaction that she is completely unaware of as she re-extends her arm and locates the rock wall again before carefully sliding her hand over its rocky surface. Ishma makes sure to keep her touch light so not to gouge her hands open. She has enough wounds without adding to them by carelessly and heavy handedly sweeping tender calloused skin across jagged rock walls in the pitch black darkness that she has found herself in.

It comes as no surprise to Ishma that the wall is a slab of unbroken stone as she returns to edging forward, still on all fours. She tests to see where the other side of the space she is in resides as she goes. Before long she comes across the opposite wall, having carefully sought it out. She is thankful she did as its surface is far sharper than the last and would have sliced her tender flesh with incredible ease. But she doesn’t rest on her laurels as she turns ninety degrees to her right and resumes her crawl forward.

By the time she reaches the far end of this wall, which is much smaller than she had anticipated, Ishma can no longer feel any stiffness in her arms and legs. Though, she has to admit that her knees are beginning to throb from all the crawling she’s put them through. They aren’t used to it.

That is why it is just as well that the floor is smooth, she thinks as she reaches out to touch the wall ahead of her. This isn’t the first time she’ll have touched it as she had been feeling the wall to her left until she’d felt the definite right angled turn that marked its end. Not that she got much of an impression of this third wall from the brief encounter with it that she has had.

With her hand having reached the wall ahead of her she notes that its surface is not what she had expected it to be as while it is cold it isn’t rocky or uneven. Instead, it’s a single smooth surface more perfect than the stone beneath her. That surprises her and is why she continues to run her hand across its surface seeking out something that might give her an indication of why it is as flush as it is.

Before long Ishma shifts her body and comes to lean back on her haunches. She extends her arms upward but she still isn’t sure what she is searching for. However, after examining as much of its face as she can without rising to her feet, which she isn’t sure she can achieve at this moment, she concludes that she is facing a door. Ishma can’t imagine that it can be anything else.

A well of hope forms in her gut as a smile creeps across her face. She never doubted that she was in a room; she just doubted that the door would be on her level. Though, she realises that she had no idea of where else the door could be, not that it matters now that she has located it.

However, it is clear to her that the door, after some further examination, cannot be opened from this side. Her heart sinks a little with the dawning of such a realisation but she knows she shouldn’t be surprised. The guards were never going to lock her in a room with anything that she might be able to manipulate and use to escape her imprisonment.

Water drops drip loudly in the otherwise silence of the space. Up until this point Ishma has managed to ignore the sound of droplets dripping from somewhere in the space around her. But now, as she stares at the door which she cannot see because of the darkness, she has to admit that it is wearing her patience thin. That is why she soon resorts to banging her clenched left fist against the locked metal door. The only response to her action is the dull thud that her pounding fist makes and she expected nothing else. Though, she has to admit that it feels good to get some of her frustrations out, which is why she strikes the door again with the palm of her open right hand. The response is a slapping sound that comes out wetter than she thinks that it should. At that moment she wonders if she is bleeding but determines with a rubbing of the fingers of her right hand that the door is covered in condensation. She wipes her hand against the burlap sack clothing and then tilts her head back to look above her. Ishma can’t see the ceiling of the space she is in and has no clue as to how far above her it is. She contemplates whether she should stand and make an attempt to reach for it but before she can make a decision something catches her eye.

At first she is sure that she is imagining the slight green glow off to her right, but as she shakes her head, eyes closed the glow gets brighter.

Ishma opens her eyes and then dares to look in the direction of the glow. She doesn’t expect to find anything. In fact, she is sure she won’t and that the glow is all part of some hallucination. After all, she has no idea how long she’s been here in this room. It could be hours or days. She has no way of judging the passage of time, but the glow is real. She is looking right at it now. Still she refuses to believe that it’s real. That is until it grows brighter still.

Ishma has to shield her eyes because of its glow which casts the small cell in enough light for her to see it’s every nook and cranny. The space is exactly as she imagined it, except for the ceiling which is higher than she would have guessed it to be. She would never have been able to reach high enough to find its limit. But none of that matters now as she turns her focus back to the green glow and slides across the stone slab floor toward it. Her hands seek out ahead of her reaching for the glow, but find nothing until she is close enough to the wall to be able to touch it. It is at this point that Ishma discovers that the green glow is emanating from a crack in the wall. She had been sure that it had been closer, perhaps even hanging in the air above her. But she’d been wrong.

 Ishma runs her fingers along either side of the crack in the wall, feeling it out. The rock here is brittle and even at her light touch begins to break away in thin flakes. She doesn’t know whether she should seek out the source of this glow, but can’t help but feel the need to. So she claws at the rock that breaks away in larger and larger chunks until the area around the glow is clear of debris and reveals that she glow is coming from a crystal, a green crystal. Ishma stares at it in disbelief. It is by far the most beautiful thing she has ever seen, she decides as she runs her fingers over its angular surface. The shape of the crystal isn’t perfect by any means, but the jewel is certainly large. She wonders how it got here and how no one has discovered it before now, but quickly decides not to question her fortune.

A jewel off this size will more than pay for any passage she would require to escape Skywall. But first she will have to extract the crystal as it continues to glow.

She has no idea how it is shining so brilliantly and doesn’t care. It’s the first time in a long time that the questions running through her head haven’t needed to consciously be forced aside for her to concentrate.

Ishma soon starts to sift through the shards of rock looking for anything that may be able to aid her in freeing the crystal. After a few minutes of searching Ishma comes across a decidedly thin and flat piece of rock. She tests it to see if it is overly brittle and finds, much to her astonishment, that it is not. A smile creeps across her face as she attempts to find an edge along which she can fit the thin wedge of rock. On her third attempt she locates such an area and quickly jabs the sliver of rock in with all the force she can muster. Her fingers are stiff from having clawed at the rocks, but are otherwise unharmed. Ishma draws some comfort from the finding as extends and curls her fingers until the stiffness is all but gone. Then she grabs hold of the sliver of rock and with all her might pushes against it. At first she gets no response for her efforts, but sees no reason to give in to her failures thus far as she continues to put her weight behind her until suddenly she is rewarded with some movement. It isn’t much but she beams in response to it while resuming her shoves against the rock sliver. This time the crystal not only moves but dislodges from its embedded home in the rock wall. It clatters to the floor and Ishma draws an inward breath in fear that it might break. But the crystal doesn’t. Instead it simply continues to shine and illuminate the space around her.

Ishma claims the crystal quickly before soon coming to nestle it carefully in her open hands. Her eyes examine every inch of it with wonder. The crystal is larger than she had first thought, but not by much. However, her concentration is broken as she hears movement beyond the limits of the space she occupies. She can’t imagine it will be anyone other than members of the guards that keep her imprisoned, like the other children, in the mines.

Panic sets in as she scans around her. She doesn’t know what she is searching for. You don’t have time! The voice in her head shouts. Ishma nods as she brushes the shards of rock against the wall that she extracted them from. Then she ferrets the crystal about her person, making sure to keep its glow hidden. She checks to make sure that at no point will it be visible before the door to her cell will be opened.

It takes longer than she had expected before the door to her cell comes swinging into the small cell she has been locked in. When it does though, Ishma winces because of the sudden bright light from the torches in the guards’ hands. Ishma instinctively shields her eyes with her hands.

“Four days of confinement are up troublemaker. Now it’s time for you to return to work.” One of the guards announces without a hint of emotion in his tone as he steps into the cell. Ishma contemplates assaulting the guards and trying to escape but doubts she’d get far as they grab and painfully shove her face down to the floor. Her arms are pulled above her head and her shackles reapplied. She has to admit that she didn’t miss the bindings limiting her movements. Soon after her legs are then shackled together again before she is moments later hauled up and onto her feet.

Ishma’s legs feel weak and she can’t keep her balance, not that it matters as the guards drag her out of the dark cell and back toward her branch of the mine. As they drag her along Ishma makes sure to keep a hold of the crystal stashed about her person. She can’t risk losing it. It will be her saving grace, she is sure. The last hope she has at being able to live a life again without these monsters dictating her every waking moment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: