The Castle

It is raining outside. The ceiling leaks and the boards on what were the windows swell and sweat. The water soaks into the orange carpet; the smell of mildew curls up from the floor.

Foote’s fingers have healed, but crookedly. He is alone, has been for a month now, as close as he can figure. Perry was taken away — was gone — had left, while Foote slept, weary, so weary. He hardly noticed, except that the armchair was empty, except that the pans filled with rusty, calcined water, and overflowed, and weren’t emptied. He hasn’t said a word, either to Perry, or to himself, or to those who come without warning, without pattern, to beat him and cut at his flesh, in six months. Last night, he cried out in his sleep — a small noise, a whisper of noise, not even a word — and his throat had torn and he’d spat blood for two hours.

He sleeps in the chair.

When he wakes, there is someone in the room with him, his face dark with bruises, his fingernails torn off. “Don’t try to anticipate them,” Foote says, and coughs tearingly. “You’ll only wear yourself out.”