We look to the stars whilst we are in the gutter

By Daryl

How long have we been in this silent, pitch-black pit? A week? More even? Well, I’ve lost count a long time ago. Sometimes, they throw in little pieces of bread, but never enough to sustain all of us. Somebody said that’s what they do, they wait for days, making us hungry and disoriented, lost in time, and then they throw in a knife to see if we’ll eat each other, like savages. I’ll surely die in here. Maybe it’s meant to be? Human beings are fallible, gullible, we seem to have left our humanity outside this pit. All that’s left inside is this raw, innate will to survive. You could call it life, maybe.

There were five of us down there. We’ve tried to find a way out. I don’t remember when, but a long time ago, when we’re still hopeful. We talked about standing on each other’s shoulders, tying our clothes into rope – nothing worked. Maybe we knew that already.

“Our fates where decided the moment we dropped down this pit,” someone said. There was no hope for us. Well, unless God would redeem us.

A few days before their raid, a little birdie told me to flee North with my family but I couldn’t leave. I had to safeguard what little we had, in case the raids were a false alarm. I’m not a man of much, all I wanted was a loving family and a home, a warm bed, so I stayed, holding on to our home. I didn’t think they would think I’m a commie, I thought they’d see an honest man looking for a good day’s hard work.

But then the Rebels came and raided our neighbourhoods, killing all the men like stray dogs just to prove how far they were willing to go for their cause. The government…Well, let’s just say the government was the government. Slow to act, corrupt to the core – business as usual. So now I’m down here. I’ve been here for five days now, not a week, come to think about it.

I’ve studied their patterns. What else can I do? During the day it’s quiet above, it must mean they’re only here at night. I hear muffles and screaming, but from within the earth. There must be neighboring pits. At night, you hear loud laughter and crackling fires above, as they enjoy their spoils. I can’t accept that this will be the end so I spent my time conceiving escape plans. The best moment would be daytime, when it’s quiet. I’ll need all the men’s help.

“Do you want to die here?” I said.
“My wife and family have been killed, so what’s to live for?”
That response took me aback. “You’re not even willing to try? We’ve all suffered losses, but we need to fight back. We can’t die at the mercy and amusement of other men, like sheep. Where’s our self-respect? Let’s try to climb the wall tomorrow. The smallest of us will climb up last,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“We need to make a human ladder, the first one that climbs out finds a rope to pull us out of here.”
“Are you crazy?” he said. I felt stupid. “There’s always a sniper snooping around. They’ll shoot us at point blank if we try to escape during the day. And you think we will reach the top with how short we are?”
“We can try. What’s the difference between dying here and dying trying? It’s all the same. I prefer to die trying, so I’ll come to terms with that. We’re becoming weaker, more broken and more savage each day. You think they are going to feed us? We’re going to turn on ourselves just like what the rumours say. Better go now than tomorrow”
“What are you saying man?”
“Let’s just try to get out of here, there’s no time to explain”
I was alone on this plan. They all didn’t think we could make it. One of them tried to help for a while, but we just gave up after a while.

The sky looked so beautiful. How can all that this beauty be so close yet so far? Cool air of night on my skin. With my eyes closed I could almost felt freedom. Almost.

We grew thinner and more tired each day. One of us became extremely ill. We called for help, but no one came. Our worst fear was confirmed: they left us for dead. At least they didn’t leave us with a knife. Indeed, the walls were tall, we couldn’t have made it to the top. There was no way we could have left so all we could do was shout as loud as we could. Then our voices grew weary. Still no sign of man. We knew life was over.

But I couldn’t give up. Not now. So I began digging, pile up earth on one corner with my bare hands. I’d dig, and dig and dig. They thought I had gone crazy from misery. Half dead, and still they had the strength to be negative. I wasn’t hopeful, but my god, the stars. Such hope they gave me. I knew that if I kept on digging, I’d find my gold. And gold means freedom.

24 July, 2023