Steps were heard. Heavy boots, leather and metal slapping and clicking against the silent face of smooth worn stone, the pace methodical, the foot porcine but not clumsy. The rhythm of the stride belied one leg longer than the other and Rog wondered how much abuse his jailer had endured by those more fortunate in birth. Thoughts of home, a place where difference was celebrated, flooded his heart. A child of the shells this man would have been. And Rog wondered how this man’s life would have been different, how his fate would have taken a different course on Hyneria.

The cell door opened, as these doors were wont to do, with a heaviness felt on the skin as much as heard in the ear. One set of dull dark eyes, standing, took account of two sets wide and bright, sitting. The air felt humid, heavy, and each breath felt as fish must feel in labored exchange of effort for life. The soft water seemed to hang in the air as if air and water were easy neighbors long accustomed to cohabitation and conspiring such that the walls sweated reflective beads of cold fear, walls that knew the souls of many men having met once but never again. They say if walls could talk, but these walls chose not, for some things were better not remembered.

No words were uttered as the unbalanced man placed a tray in the center of the cell. He looked again at John and then Rog before backing out of the room and locking the door, the key squealing closure as steps loud became soft until only the sound of labored breathing could be heard.

The tray held two thin octagonal glasses with a crimson hued liquid sitting steady at three quarters mark. John spoke first. “The matutinal drink. Mercy in a glass.”

Rog held his glass up to the dim light. The liquid seemed to glow, to hum, almost as if alive, as if a thousand tiny voices called forth and demanded obedience. Rog put the glass to his lips—”Put that down,” yelled John.

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