Title: A New Way to Break
Word Count 1149
Disclaimer Not mine
Spain broke him in a new way.
They had gone South West, day after day. For a month, the sun burned first his back, and then his eyes. His bare feet had bled, and then had blistered, but in time they calloused. They were handed over to new captors every few days. It didn't mater. His eyes were fixed on his hands. His hands were tied to the tail of men behind the cart. Archie thought about food. He thought about not falling down. The faces of the other prisoners were strange to him. The guards all looked the same.
After a month they changed heading. More South than West now. They were at the coast. Archie could smell it. He could hear the roar of surf, like a distant audience, as they were driven along the narrow headland road.
The transfer to Spain came at mid-day. They were halted, unexpectedly, and given water. Water, at mid-day! Such luxury, such joy. Archie's cracked mouth turned up at the edges, as the dipper came to him.
They were permitted to crouch on the ground, to rest. Archie shut his eyes. With his head on his knees, he folded small. He waited for the next thing to happen.
The new captors were Spanish. This was Spain. They were checked against the dossiers, and set off again. But now the ordering voices were Spanish. They were given rest and water more often.
After some days, they came to a new fortress. Archie stood in the courtyard, shivering a little. Sunlight splashed and moved over the walls, with open blue overhead. He angled his head, carefully, sneakily. Nobody struck him for looking at the sky.
He trembled when they unchained him. The man stood so close, as he cut off the chains. What could it mean? Archie's wrists burned in the free air. He shut his eyes, struggling with the too-much.
A man came out, into the sunlight, to speak to the trembling remnants before him.
“We are not Frenchmen.” He began. He went on to say other things. Things about trust. Archie dared not raise his head. He tried to listen carefully, but the words slid away, into the sun and the sky.
They were stripped naked in the courtyard then. They were washed, head to toe, like dirty dogs or horses. Archie stood with his head down. Shaking. They were given new clothes, white linen, all the same.
He was taken to a small room. It had a window. It had beds. Archie was made to understand. He was to be locked in at night, released to the courtyard each morning. He could use the bed. It had a blanket.
“We are not Frenchmen.” The man said again.
He stood in the room for a long time. The sunlight crawled across the wall. He could not hear anything but his own breathing. Eventually, Archie sat on the edge of the bed. He let one hand down, slowly, to feel the blanket. It was so soft. In time he pulled his feet up. He reclined on the bed. It was against the wall.
He thought about Horatio. He had the dream often now, of Horatio standing over him, with that cold face, and the list of Archie's crimes. But that was not really how it had been. Archie didn't think so. Horatio had loved him. People had loved him once, even if they had forgotten him now. He felt his mouth turn down. He tried to think of something else. He felt sad, because he was not chained in the dark. He was so tired. Tired of everything. Tired of trying. But they had not chained him, and he knew what that meant.
It meant he would have to try to escape.
He waited a week. He ate, and he rested, and he watched the little lizards climb the rock walls. The first time he tried it, he was caught quickly. They beat him, naked, in the courtyard. Not much of a beating, really. He remained conscious, he could still stand.
He was locked in his little room for a week. They brought his food. They let him keep the blanket.
The second time he tried it took them longer to find him. He learned about the pit.
From his position in the ground, Archie could hear when the watch changed. Some of the men kicked sand on him. Some of them pissed on him. He could move, a little, to avoid the things that came down from above, but he could not stand, or lie down. He shifted position, a little, when he could, to ease his legs and back, he hurt, for some time. But finally his legs went numb. His back was worse. His stripes were infected, he was sure. He could feel the itchy puffy wrongness back there. It made him think of Splasher, and his buckets of vinegar. Wonder who he's splashing now?
They brought food and water, each day. For the first week, Archie ate hungrily. There were rats, bu they got not a crumb from him. He rocked his head at night, against the stone, back and forth, as he had used to do-- had he done it always? It helped him sleep.
On the fourth night-- a surprise. Someone shoved a blanket down the grating. It was old and felted. It smelled of horses. It was crawling with lice. Archie cuddled into it gratefully.
The days crawled, the nights ached. He became so thirsty. His head was floating away like clouds. He shivered. He dreamed. He dreamed that Horatio listed his crimes. Horatio shouted, and made Archie's head hurt. His head hurt so much. He was folded in the middle, and would never be right.
He was sleeping, when they lifted the top off. He was so dirty, and he shivered in the heat, as they pried him forth. The light made him scream with pain, but he sound was so weak. They carried him back to the same little room, and dumped into the soft bed. He curled, shivering and small. He hurt so much. If only someone would find him here. People had loved him, once. He was sure of it. But they had forgotten him now.
The door to his cell creaked open. What now? Someone now?
Oh God. Horatio's voice. Horatio had come to list his crimes. This was hell, and Horatio was dead too. It was Archie's fault, but he had never meant it. Sorry, sorry.
He pulled the soft blanket over his head. But they wouldn't let him hide. Horatio pulled the blanket away, and those same dark eyes burned down. Horatio was here to hurt him.
And Archie knew himself weak. Hot tears spilled, and he could only plead, “No, no! Go away!”