the cell

Reading Psalm 88 this morning, I was reminded of a short story I wrote years ago while in the Dominican novitiate. I still have it, and it's not too bad. I have to admit, though, that I borrowed some scenes from Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, a nonfiction book I was reading at the time. Here's the beginning...

“...the darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88

Just before midnight, Dmitri’s shaven head snapped up. A key was rattling in the lock. He saw Ivan and Yuri jerk their heads up also as the door swung open; and then a new prisoner stumbled into the cell. He stared blankly at Dmitri. Relaxing enough to offer a weak smile, Dmitri dropped back heavily on the thin straw mattress. Just another zek. Maybe no one will be called tonight. He noticed that Pytor, lying next to him, had not looked up, though his eyes were wide open.

As soon as the door slammed and the key rattled again, Ivan and Yuri began whispering at the stranger. Yuri asked if he was from freedom. Ivan wanted tobacco. Ignoring Ivan, the new­comer mumbled something about freedom that sounded sarcastic, and began to lay out his blanket on the concrete floor between the two beds. The blanket appeared to be his only possession. Ivan lay back down, but Yuri persisted with a soft barrage of questions until Dmitri silenced him. “He’ll be here tomorrow. Go to sleep!”

Pulling his blanket close around him to keep out the cold, Dmitri resisted the urge to tuck his arms under it. Once a minute, a hostile eye peered into the cell, checking that all the prison­ers’ hands were in sight. As if on cue, the peephole cover slid open with a soft click. Dmitri closed his eyes tightly against the harsh brightness of the cell, and tried to remember that some­where it was dark.

(The whole story can be downloaded as a RTF file here.)