Taylor's Time

Hey, look!

Taylor's back, and this week she's got something special for us!

Hold on. I gotta put up her logo shot. See you below.

Right.

That's better.

Where was I?

Oh, yes!

Taylor's gotten into her personal wayback machine and pulled out a story she started working on some years ago. She read it, found it good, and then put some polish on it.

Then she sent it to Adam, and he did his thing.

Then he sent it to me - no, he didn't. He didn't share, the stinker! So I'm reading it now for the first time too!

But he says it's really good.

So here we go!


Safe Now



The heavy metal door creaked as the two Guards opened it slowly. I stood a distance away from them, terrified of what I would see on the other side.


For the first week in Solitary Confinement, Paul gasped and hyperventilated, rocking back and forth and grabbing at his hair as he did so.

Over the next several weeks, he yelled and screamed, begging to be let out, to talk to someone, anyone..

By the end of the first month, he had lost his voice, but that didn't stop him from trying to get the attention of the computer and cameras by pacing the cramped box in a quick, panicked motion.

As the second month slowly passed, he became so distraught he began to throw himself against the door. He slammed all 140 pounds of him into the four walls of the box, yelling weakly for the two Guards who now stood in front of me.

Now, as the end of the third month quickly approached, I was met with silence, a chilling silence that caused my imagination to run wild. It was far more torturous than hearing him panic and yell and throw his emaciated body against the box.


What would the open door reveal?


In a moment, I got my answer.


Paul sat, his back against the wall, hugging his knees to his chest, eyes closed as he leaned his head against the cold metal of the box.


"Paul?" I said, taking a small step forward. "Paul, can you hear me?"


A full minute passed before he finally opened his eyes with effort. The bruise that once engulfed the left side of his beautiful face had faded, but the dark purple bags under his eyes remained. They were darker now, more noticeable than before. Tiny bright red blood vessels surrounded his piercing blue irises, and the soft skin around his eyes was tender and puffy from crying.


"Oh, my God," I breathed, placing a hand over my mouth.


The Guards looked at each other.


"He's suffered enough," one said with a cruelly joyful smile. "Let's take him out."


But as the two muscular men made their way towards the opening, Paul panicked, backing into a corner as he began to hyperventilate.


"Paul, it's okay." I told him softly, placing my hands out in front of me as if I could touch him.


He wasn't reassured. The Guards on either side of me didn't help him feel any less panicked.


"Can you give us a minute, please?" I asked without looking at them. "I'll try to get him out of here."


A small eternity later, or maybe it was only ten seconds, the Guards finally left us alone.


"What have they done to you?" I whispered, feeling hot tears well up in my eyes.


I walked slowly and silently towards Jack. He calmed a little since the Guards had left, but was still uneasy.


"It's okay, Paul." I said in my softest voice. I inched my way to him.


I knelt before him, trying to keep my emotions under control in my own state of panic.


"You're okay now, Paul." I told him, placing a hand to his arm. "You're okay."


He recoiled at my touch, jerking his body out of reach of my hand. I watched helplessly as his eyes darted from me, to the opening to the ceiling, to the walls, to the floor.


He opened his mouth to say something, but instead, mouthed the word, "How". After several seconds of thinking, he mouthed the, "Long".


"They locked you in here at the beginning of August." I began, struggling to contain what composure I still possessed. "It's December now."


He closed his eyes, leaving me to wonder what was going through his mind. As if he had only just processed everything going on around him, he opened his eyes and gasped, backing further into the corner.


"Easy, Paul." I said, softly, placing my hand to his arm again.


This time he didn't recoil.


Instead, he turned his head to look at my hand touching him, then placed his own trembling hand on top of mine ever so gently.


"My God," I hissed, moving my hand out from underneath his. "You're absolutely freezing!"


His hand was frigid, and the usually soft skin of his palms was dry and cracked from the cold. I unbuttoned my denim jacket without hesitation, unsure if it would fit him, but not caring if it didn't. I took it off, exposing my skin to the freezing temperatures Paul was forced to endure for months.


"Here," I said, placing the jacket over his shoulders. "This should help."


I wrapped it tightly around him, expecting him to say something, anything to let me know that he was okay, but again I was met with an eerie silence.


What would happen now?


He had spent 20 years perfecting a machine to save others from a life of violent crime.


How could this have gone so wrong?


Even Paul, composed Paul, unemotional Paul, Paul who had defended himself without showing an ounce of remorse for his deceased subject in the courtroom, couldn't hold back his tears as he looked me in the eyes. Using the navy blue sleeve of his jacket, he wiped his nose and eyes as if to hide his feelings of obvious remorse from me.


"Oh Paul," I breathed, placing my hand to his wet cheek. "You did what you could..."


I gently wiped a tear away from the soft skin of his cheek with my thumb. He let a shuddering sigh escape his pale lips, closed his eyes, and leaned into my hand.


"What have I done?"


These were the first words I had heard him utter since the day he was locked away from the outside world.


"What have I done?" he asked again with a raspy voice.


No words escaped my lips. Instead, I let my hand slide from his cheek down to his shoulder and pulled him towards me. As soon as our bodies touched, Paul wrapped his arms around me, holding me so tightly it hurt. He buried his face in the crook of my neck before breaking down completely and sobbing.


"No one can hurt you now, Paul." I whispered, struggling to contain my own sobs that I knew were coming. "I won't let them...."


It had been three months since I watched him struggle valiantly to the door that led to his freedom. Even strong Paul, who had managed to keep his composure for the six months we'd been locked in this hellish environment, couldn't stop himself from crying out in pain. Powerful currents of electricity struck him down mercilessly with devastating blows. Now he seemed to care less about what would happen next. It seemed he had used every ounce of strength he had left to keep himself sane.


"You don't have to be scared anymore," I whispered.


I ran my hand up and down over his back gently as his body went through short stages of convulsions. I placed my other hand to the back of his head, running my fingers through his feathery golden hair.


"You're safe now..."


As I rocked him back and forth, I no longer saw him as the strong-willed inventor who was driven to fight the malfunctioning prison system with everything he had. This man, this wounded man who trembled in my arms as he cried, was nothing but a broken spirit who was cruelly tortured into submission.


That's when my worst fears were realized.


This broken soul was not the Paul I once knew.


He was a new man.


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