Short Story
By Jacob Richardson

  I think my name is Joeb Christian.  I remember I was an accountant.  I know I
had a family.  I cannot recollect anything about them other than their faces
from a family portrait.  That’s most of what I remember about my past.

  I was kidnapped from my home somewhere in Texas.  You must help me.  I’
m imprisoned in solitary confinement at some kind of prison.  I was bound,
blindfolded, gagged, and deafened with earplugs after they abducted me.

  Being transported to this hellish place took seven hours.  I know.  I counted
them.  The transport vehicle felt surgical and sanitized, apart from the odor.  I
sensed there were other captives when I was dragged on the vehicle.  I
smelled their fear.  The salty musk in the air was so strong I tasted it.

  I’ve been in this torturous cell for four thousand and forty days.  I know.  I
counted them.  I’m not guilty of any crime.  I was reclusive in the world.  I kept
to myself.  I’ve never meddled into other people’s affairs.  No one could have
possibly had any personal vendetta against me.  Nor am I guilty of any sins
worthy of this sort of inhumane treatment here in this prison.

  The cells that we’re entombed in are two feet by three feet by five feet in
measurements.  I know.  I counted them.  My cell has never been opened.  I
can barely move.  I die hourly.  I have a permanent humpback from being
hunched over for years inside of this miserable cement box.  I’ve not bathed
since I’ve been here.  If I could look in a mirror I’m sure I would see a ghost of
myself.  I feel like I weigh less than a hundred pounds.  The food here is shit.  
It is.  I’m forced to return to my vomit every day.  They feed it to us.  We’re fed
our own feces, urine, and vomit in some kind of mystery grain porridge.  I’m
always sick.  Medicine is contraband here.  It’s only used to stave off death
long enough for us to live longer to suffer more.  I feel like I died and went to
purgatory.  I cannot fathom why such a place exists.  Where is the federal
government when you need them?  Maybe it’s the government doing this.

  All day and night I hear grown men and women cry words that don’t exist for
the feelings that describe our reality.  The constant symphony of screaming,
yelling, and hollering must be what perdition sounds like.  My fellow prisoners’
screams of suffering are so strong I can feel the vibration on the walls.  My
only other comfort here is this mutual sharing of total and utter misery.  
Sometimes I don’t even realize when I’m joining the miserable chorus.  I count
to one thousand to center myself.

   I can differentiate voices from the other solitary cells.  People are brought
here from all over the world.  I know.  I’ve heard spoken from the prisoner
population over twelve distinct languages.  They’re native speakers.  I heard
thirty-two unique accents and dialects.  I know.  I counted them.

  All of the cells face the center of the prison.  There are six hundred and
sixty-six hellholes like mine in this facility.  I know.  I counted them.  Every cell
has one small peephole.  The center of the prison has a stage that can be
elevated to be seen on each floor.  The stage has a guillotine that can be
viewed by all prisoners.  Prisoners here are executed when close to dying.  
They’re beheaded by this military-grade guillotine.  The guillotine can behead
up to forty inmates at once.

  I don’t want to be beheaded.  I need my head.  I need my brain to be able to
count.  The only thing that keeps me sane is counting things.

  I am sending this message for help through telepathy.  You must help us.  
Millions of people on the outside have received this message.  I know.  I
counted them.
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