Bells from Underground
L. P. Stribling
At their knell, the cell gates slide open,
Gritty rusted iron scraping on unforgiving stone.
Prisoners rouse their cold, sweat sodden bodies from the icy concrete of their cages,
The lights underground are present, but lack any infusion of hope,
“Get out, you filth!” The voice of the cell guard’s No. 1 is a soft-rolling
sludge from the mandatory metal speakers which are installed in this place on every seven feet of cavern wall – mind-crushingly thick.
They stand at their cell doors, their toes, blackened and rotten, only up to just before the now open entrance. Even after what this place does, most are still afraid of what would happen if their toes went past the line.
“And Call!” his smoke-heavy voice bails across the underground once more.
All is silent.
“Prison Resident Number…” a pause, “773461.”
Nothing at first. Echoing from the far end of tier six, somewhere out past the visible, tantalizing, but oh-so-dreadful cell line at their toes, there is a slam of metal on metal. Old metal – ore which has returned to stone after centuries of dull and repetitive clanging.
Somewhere, out in the dark origin of that clang, their gloved hands were on the him. Their heavy bludgeoning tools swung on their belts and the smack of their own steel washed toes struck the concrete halls. And in minutes, several quick but excruciating minutes, he would become this place, filling his own hole within a future block of smooth concrete. Atop him thereafter their heels would smack and click, and his pain would help build this cold dark cave.
“Back!” the yell came.
Their toes backed in a bit as the slow iron door rolled back into its own grungy bleak slam. They didn’t cross, though, no matter how slow it was. The dread still hung.
They returned their cold skin to the freeze of the concrete floor. Whom they lay atop few asked anymore.
Three hours more.
Then again they would hear the metal gun sounds of cell guard No. 1. For now they had three hours.
His smoky metal voice sung them to a transitory slumber.