Roderick stared vacantly into the receding darkness of his cell. The first few rays of the morning sun crept into dungeon trough the tiny window up near the ceiling. As he did most mornings Roderick noted the distinct colour of the light, faint though it was. Crimson, bloodstained orange as he’d put it himself, was his favourite colour. Perhaps not strange given that it was the only colour in his life.
“Ha! It seems I was right, Sebastian,” Roderick said and turned his vacant gaze to the lifeless skeleton that shared the cell with him. “You’ll go mad before I do.”
Feeling rather pleased with himself, Roderick leaned back against the wall and donned a smug smile. “Do you think they’ll remember to bring us breakfast today? I sure hope so! I mean, look at you! You’re practically skin and bones.”
Whenever he spoke his voice reverberated against the walls. Over time Roderick had taken to speaking very softly. The echo unsettled him.
“I suppose that’s my fault, your condition I mean. Hmm? What was that? Oh, yes, good point Sebastian. Ill ration my bread better, thanks for the suggestion.”
Roderick turned his head away from the skeleton when he heard the echoing footsteps of a guard approach his cell. He fought down the glimmer of hope that had sprung to life within him. The hunger would be unbearable if he got his expectations up in vain.
“I’m a fairly lucky guy,” he said at length. “It’s not every man who gets such a nice cell mate.”
The footsteps stopped in front of the heavy wooden door and a tray was slid inside through a hatch at the bottom of the door. Before the guard closed it Roderick could make out a pair of worn brown boots.
“Did you know,” he began as he went over and picked up the tray and put it on the bunk he normally slept on. “That I once had a pair of boots like that? I wasn’t always barefoot.”
Roderick grimaced as he swallowed a large chunk of bread. “It’s gone stale,” he explained to the skeleton. “You were much tastier,” he chuckled and gave the skull of the remains an affectionate pat.
As more light crept into the cell Sebastian’s remains stood out even more, the pale whiteness of the bones took on a more orange shine. Jagged marks were visible on all of the larger bones, especially the arms and legs.
“That’s very kind of you, my friend,” Roderick said with his mouth full of bread. “Giving me your portion too. You sure you’re not hungry? Oh well, if you insist.”
After he had wolfed down every single crumb on the tray, Roderick lay down on his bunk and began his daily routine of counting the bricks in his cell. It was one of those things he just had to do, after breakfast a man counted his bricks, everyone knew that. Even Sebastian had known that much.
“What’s that? Demons?” He suddenly asked his cell mate. “Sure, we all have our demons. Why, want to share any of your own, Sebastian? No?”
Roderick fell silent for a moment, eyes fixated on a specific brick. “Even high society has it’s demons. Hmm? My society? Come now, you already know that. I’ve told you before, these four walls are my society.”
Roderick’s face contorted into a grimace. He picked up the empty tray and threw it at Sebastian. “You made me lose count, damn it. Now I have to start all over again. Oh laugh all you want, I’ll count them all today. Wait and see, I’ll show you.”
Roderick spent most of his days counting bricks. It had yet to dawn on him that he would not be able to count all of the bricks in the cell. He couldn’t count that high, which was why Sebastian always made him lose count at around two hundred.
“Tell me again,” Roderick suddenly blurted out, forgetting to keep his voice down.
He curled up into a fetal position almost instantaneously and stayed that way for a good five minutes after the echo had died down. Slowly he uncurled and gave Sebastian a toxic look.
“I have told you countless times to keep your bloody voice down,” he hissed. “As I was about to ask, why did they put you in here? I know you’ve told me before! I just forgot is all.”
Roderick fell silent and listened for a moment, nodding in agreement to the silence of the cell.
“I see, yes, I did the same thing. Well, I murdered a woman and her children. I didn’t rape her like you did. Did I make the husband watch? No, I can’t say I did. Maybe I should have? On the other hand, husbands tend to get so territorial and violent when you go after their family. Ruins the mood, you see.”
Suddenly Roderick had to bite down on his shoddy tunic in order to prevent his laughter from escaping his mouth. Only chortled, muffled barks escaped.
“Oh you are just too much sometimes,” he said with mirth still dancing in his voice. “Did I eat them too, you ask? No, so far I’ve only ever eaten you.”