Häftling

Moonlight entered the room through a single barred window. It’s rays protruded through the darkness, reaching out like pale fingers grasping for hope. A bead of perspiration, sitting gently on the brow of a lonely man, shimmered in the light. It glistened like a jewel as he worked and if it were to ever fall, it would crash to the ground and shatter into a thousand pieces.

A cold breeze filled the room, bouncing off the damp, stone walls and fluttering through his thin coverings. The man shivered in the chill. His chest was almost completely bare, the cloth ripped and broken. He stood still, unable to move the lower half of his body without creating an echoing sonata of clinks and clacks.

His aged fingers clenched around a thin line of wood: a paintbrush, ragged and broken, with the slightest amount of ochre paint. Its bristles were fine, like the hair of a newborn child, and caressed the canvas ever so lightly. The man’s hands trembled slightly with age, the shackles around his wrists rubbing hard against his skin.

Switching between palette and palette, colour and colour, paintbrush and paintbrush, the man added layer upon layer of daring mixes of colour and texture. Slowly the bland canvas filled with extraordinary hues, forming an image that leapt off the material.

As he worked, the man hummed softly to himself, vibrating his innermost soul with his favourite tune. A melody so daunting that he himself could never have thought of it. It was the sound of old memories, past loves, lost lives… and he savoured its bittersweet taste.

Suddenly the room grew dark, a great cloud sweeping over the moon and her children. Shadows grew and a sea of blackness seeped throughout. The man’s melody came to an abrupt end and the symphony of colours he had orchestrated were lost in the gloom.

Footsteps came from beyond the far reaches of the door across the room, gradually getting louder until they reached their destination. The man’s breathing became rapid and the rise and fall of his chest increased.

The door flung open. The man shrieked in terror. He yelled and shouted, as two men entered the room. They grabbed him and pushed him to his knees. Not even looking at him, they stared blankly ahead, out of the doorway, as a cloaked figured raised his hand and signaled one of the soldiers…

Behind them the clouds billowed in the distance, but a single break let in a small ray of light. It burst through the sky only to crash into the painting by the window. For a split second, the light ricocheted off the painting; bouncing off brilliant shades of ochre, maroon, purple, and aqua … and then the light was gone, and shadow returned to the room once more.

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