To forgive is to free a prisoner and discover that the prisoner was you.
-- Lewis B. Smedes
Bright, scathing light is multiplied tenfold as it reflects off the stark, cold white walls of the cell, penetrating every dark corner that could have been, piercing even the black centres of his eyes. It is white-hot flames against what little skin he has left uncovered, like thin but no less sharp blades inserted into his pupils.
He's used to it. He's used to the clean, bleached emptiness, so sterile that he always feels dirty and unwelcome. The almost inaudible but ever-present drone of electric cables in the walls no longer drives him mad.
What drives him mad is being alone in his own mind. The thoughts racing through it are so fast, so swift and fleeting that he no longer makes sense of them. Sometimes he paces the room. At other times, when he is too weak even to lift his eyes off the floor, he curls up in his corner. The two walls enclosing him offer no comfort. Sometimes they try to devour him.
He doesn't have a name anymore. His number is V138. Just a number. Not his. He once had a name – he does not know how long ago. The days have long since merged into one long, monotonous stretch of nothing. Mindless, hollow seconds ticking away to the beat of his heart. Sometimes he wonders why he still has one.
He remembers having more than one name. Neither was his. One had belonged to the destiny that had been forced upon him at birth. One belonged to the one he had tried and failed to make for himself.
In the end, everything was a lie. He was none of those things, no matter how hard he tried to fool himself. He is nothing now. A blank slate. The empty shell of a soul erased. Or one that had never been in the first place. He is a shadow lurking in a corner. He is the ghost of a memory. He is what could have become something but had gotten lost on the way. This is not his world.
He has no reason to exist, but he does anyway. That was what he does: he is. He breathes. He stares distantly into his own eyes; he can feel them turning into themselves. He watches the transparent, senseless images appear and vanish so quickly that he never really sees them. He can always feel them come.
He listens to the demons howling in his head. They never say anything. Sometimes they scream their hatred and try to rip him apart from the inside, raking their claws down the interior of his skull. Sometimes they wail in torment. Sometimes they cry bitter tears and whisper their loneliness. They never hear him call out to them.
Sometimes he grows restless. His bones are made of steel, too heavy for him to lift, but he does anyway. They are heavy, but they are also indestructible. He tries to fight the walls that sneakily inch closer to him with every breath he takes. They are rough and hard, sometimes cruel.
If he fights fiercely enough, he can hurt them. Then, they aren't white anymore. He can make them bleed, if he tries hard enough. They are the only colours he sees. The pristine, blinding white of the walls and his clothing, the pasty cream-white of his skin and painful scarlet that, in the excessive brightness, scrapes at his eyes.
The red usually disappears within…he does not know how long. It rubs onto his fists. It stays there after the walls heal themselves.
He likes the sharp, fiery feeling, like shafts of acid in his limbs or a fine webbing of it on his skin, or sometimes deeper in his flesh. It makes him feel insane. It makes him feel ill. It makes him feel deathly weak. It makes him feel powerful.
Renn Viell walked down the deserted-looking hallways with a purposeful stride. It did not show on her stoic, almost apathetic face, but she was bursting with pride, a newfound hope and even excitement. These were strange emotions to feel in a high-security detention facility, especially for a psychologist who dealt with mentally-deranged criminals, but she had a legitimate excuse.
Renn had been working with him for almost three years. Not exactly with him. He had been most uncooperative and lately did not say much anymore. No, a more accurate statement would have been that she worked for him.
From the moment she had laid eyes on him, she had known he was different. Not innocent – she could tell that he was as dangerous as any of them. He was probably the deadliest of the lot.
She knew him for the depraved, hateful person he was. He could be described as a murderous psychopath. But there had been something still in him, something that others had lost. His dark deeds clung to him like heavy, leaden chains.
Her many months of hard, nerve-wracking work were starting to show results.
Having long since acquired clearance to meet him in the flesh versus behind a transparisteel plane, Renn stepped into the drafty, impersonal, roomy yet confining space. Prisoner V138 was staring at her. She could never catch him off guard. It was as if he could tell beforehand. She was convinced that he could.
"Hi. How are we today?"
His stiff, stony countenance was the customary response.
"Looks like you're in a mighty good mood." She was certain that if he still had still had the ability to change his facial expression, he would have smirked. He replied with his usual deadpan.
"It's my way of expressing my undying love for you." If he was this coherent, it was not the worst of days. She was tempted to blow him a kiss.
"I have some wonderful news for you." He rolled his eyes.
"Fire away." She almost winced at his choice of wording.
"I've managed to convince them that you're better now. You will released in a matter of days. If all works out, all you'll get is a couple of years of military service."
"What makes you think I want out?" Renn chose to ignore the implications.
"It's better that rotting here for the rest of your life, isn't it? Once you're back out there in the real world, you'll love it…You'll never want to go back," she added with a smile. He did not seem to share her enthusiasm.
"What makes you think that the real world wants me back?"
This time, she had nothing to say.
"There's someone who wants to see you."
The petite, delicate-looking brunette cautiously stepped into the cell as she caught sight of the slight figure sitting in the far corner, the only contrast against the bare, neutral surroundings. If he knew of her presence, he did not acknowledge it. She opened her mouth and, eloquent as she usually was, she was at a loss for words.
She cleared her throat. No response. Hesitantly, she spoke.
"Hello. It's me, Leia."
Silence, still. Did he not recognize her? Three years in captivity could damage someone considerably…Could his memories be gone? Could he be gone?
"Do you remember me?"
She could feel her heart fluttering against her rib cage.
"I'm your friend. You rescued me on the Death Star. You and Han…and Chewie. We were inseparable. When we were on Hoth, it was so cold that we slept on the Falcon. There was one time, right before the battle, where I kissed you to spite him…"
Her voice was feeble and trembling. He was like a stone. Unmoved. But stones did not stare and blink at you with bright cerulean eyes. If not quite as bright as before.
"Don't you remember me?"
Desperate, fragile, almost in tears.
It was as if something suddenly fell into place. There was a flash of recognition in his eyes.
"Leia?" Tentative, not daring to believe, perhaps. She lost all restraint and pulled him into a tight embrace. No matter what atrocities he committed, he would still have a place in her heart.
"I love you," she murmured into his hair.
"I hate you."