It was late at night when one of the guards released me – possibly at a word from the Chief – and once again, it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Stumbling, I found myself outside, in the brig’s foyer.
The adrenaline of my earlier battles had long since departed, leaving nothing more than an increasingly familiar sense of emptiness – hello old friend.
Bailey was nowhere to be seen, but he left a message for me outside the brig: my name, scrawled on the wall, in what I can only presume were the browning stains of his own blood (or an unwilling donor). The cleaners were already at it, borax and buckets, scrubbing away the looped spatter of fingerprints.
Despite what I had already endured, that stint in prison must have loosened something – perhaps it was the fact that the brig had felt so safe compared to what awaited me out here.
That’s not normal. I gritted my teeth. Despair was creeping over me. It was always lurking, but I had been able to hold it back – I was good at that, damn it! But, time alone to think about the horrific things I’d done was a novel experience – I guess that’s the point of prison.
I stood, face buckled, refusing to cry, but a few tears leaked out none-the-less. My face firmer, harder – the way a soldier might stand to a flag for a fallen comrade. I was half-expecting – and not caring – that I might fall victim to one of the Cotopaxi’s few remaining passengers.
The answer came to me in the form of a nearby guard – ramrod straight, arms to his back, head forward – who stood there, dispassionately, staring right through the woman in front of him.
Help isn’t coming. I don’t think it can.
Even if I survive this game, will they let me leave? And then what? How do I move on? How do I look at my family again? How do I look at myself again?
But remember that mirror? I felt I had finally looked into my own soul.
In this world of the mirror, my wounds felt like battle scars, and the pain and despair faded. It was replaced with something much more homely – a sense of purpose. As I left the brig foyer, I offered the guard a bared, toothy grin and thanked him for his help. Oh, yes.
I had decided I was going to need some cash.