The Words on the Walls
by Brynn MacNab
The prisoner had literally written in circles--well, thought Myra, literally in squares--pacing around and around to fill the stark white walls of the room. The place was barely the size of a good shoe closet, with no windows and no bed. A camera, disconnected now, perched in one corner. The drop ceiling hung low, close, and the two doors--reinforced outer, inner with its dog flap for food and waste--finished the oppressive atmosphere. The man's looping handwriting looked tiny, cramped as he must have been.
"How are you supposed to lie down in here?" Myra said.
The trustee shifted on her understated heels. Instead of answering she said, "Repaint it before you move in. It might help with the smell."
"I think the writing is a good conversation piece. Have you read it?"
"No. I don't get much time for fiction."
Myra quirked an eyebrow. "Isn't it some kind of journal? The story of what happened in here?"
The trustee shook her head. "The papers called it 'fanciful.' Would you like to see the rest of the house?"
Nice of your cousins to let you live in it, she had said back at her office. Probably wouldn't sell for much anyway. Myra had clenched her teeth and ignored the condescension. It would be worth it to have a place to herself.
His bare feet made little shushing sounds on the sleek dark floorboards as he moved. His throat was dry, his tongue thick and thirsty. The bucket he'd been forced to use as a toilet sat open, stinking in the corner, and he felt as if the stench permeated through the walls and through his own body until they were all together a unified landscape of sewage-reek. His head pounded dully. At first he had let it stop him. He had waited to be released, returned to good health and his laptop and his favorite chair. But silence and stillness could drive a man mad, and he wasn't that stubborn. When the boredom had reached a crescendo higher than all his discomforts, he had taken the pen from his pocket and begun.