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  • Writer's picturedrashishrastogi

The poker'geist'


Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six. This is the sixth time I have counted the steps confirming my calculations. The seagulls are in a frenzy outside. Time for Kim to make his appearance. Breathe Nick, breathe my mind prods me on. The single most important task. Other than to eat the dry crumbs of bread and cold raw chicken they serve me in here.

The lock clicks to open. Three turns and then the clank of the knob moving right. To avoid the glare of the bulb outside I shut my eyes.

“Still fighting. Your resistance makes me happy.” Sarcasm is all Kim can throw at me. The punches, nails or burns having done nothing.

“Your happiness is what I live for.” The cut on my lips and the swelling below the eyes make smiling an effort. Kim’s knuckles crunch as his fists ball bringing inner happiness to me and lessen the pain. The feet shift, there is another man in the room. The kick lands on my stomach. Pain shoots through my body. I close my eyes.

“You are a pretty sight and tough. You would be an asset to my team.” Kim bends and lifts my face up. I hold his gaze as he continues, “There is a very simple path to get into my good books.”

“Tired of the company you keep.” I smile at Kim. His gaze doesn’t shift. Two can play this game. I continue to stare at him.

Kim’s face stiffens, “That chip is not worth your life.”

I make quick mental calculations. “It could be worth yours.”

His hold on my face tightens. I smell the stench of his breath as he brings his face close speaking into my ears. “We could do it the easy way or make it difficult for you.”

“All this effort for a simple set of numbers.” Poker isn’t my favorite, but I am good at it. Time to find out if Kim can play too.

“My patience will run out soon.” Kim hisses.

“Like your luck on the Zhuang Protocol.” At my words, his eyes dilate and breaths rise. He grips my throat and squeezes. We lock our eyes.

“The piece of metal is more attractive than her.” If he is searching my eyes for a clue, he is in for more disappointment.

“The officials at the Li Ba did not think so.” When his nostrils flare, I know I have my man. He squeezes my neck but releases his grip when I choke.

“Lin take special care of our guest.” The last words from Kim as I hear him walk out.

I close my eyes and count. Lin gets tired after 2 minutes when I stop moving. He mutters something in a unknown language. Something I need not waste my time to understand.

The taste of copper in my mouth is like an aphrodisiac. Drink it in, a voice inside my head tells me. It will give you nutrition. Any other time I would be sick with such a thought, but the voice insists. A voice that is not mine. When it started I tried to correlate it with someone I knew but nothing seemed familiar. No one in my life has that voice.

The voice only speaks when I am alone. I might have lost my mind or is it a concussion. But, it can’t be true because the voice brings me strength and gives me company. It gives me instructions helping me survive. Most important of all, it helps me remember her. The light in my darkness. Thoughts of her bring peace and happiness inside. Yes, also hope and determination.

Every movement will hurt more tomorrow. Day 20 of my captivity. When the lock clicks again and steps fade, I will myself to move. Listening to sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks nearby. All my senses have heightened. The sound of a truck's horn break my thoughts. The movement indicating the gates to this compound are open. I open my eyes and in the faint light count the chicken ribs I have saved waiting for my moment.

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