Hope

“Guess it’s about time,” the old man mused to himself.

After searching for a moment, he found what he was looking for. A grin showed on his face as he pocketed the tiny key.

He has to force himself to take measured steps and to relax his gait as he descended the stairs down into the basement.

The echo of his steps long preceded him, and he can already hear the rattling of chains.

When he opened the door to the small cell, a gasp reached him. It was music to his ears and for a moment he stood there, listening to the labored, ragged breathing from inside.

“The hell you waiting for you sick freak?” the man inside asked.

The old man knew it was meant to be a scream, yet all that reached him was a mere croak.

“Ah, my dear Mathew,” the old man started in a voice dripping with honey, “how are you this fine day?”

“Fuck you,” the man inside spat at him.

The old man laughed and stepped into the room with a bright smile on his face.

“Guess you’re having one of those days, aren’t you, Mathew?”

This time he got no answer, just as expected.

For a moment the old man stops, sniffed the air, and his face changed to an expression of faked shock.

“My god, Mathew, I think you’re in dire need of a bath, how about-“

“Why the hell did you come down here? To make a few more of your sick jokes?”

“Now, why’d I do that? I was going to bring you some food, Mathew. You know, I want you to be healthy. But since we’re talking about health, you might want to move those arms and legs of yours a little. It will keep your muscles from cramping and those joints from hurting.”

“You ARE hurting, aren’t you, Mathew?” he asked with an exhilarated expression and hungry eyes.

“Go fuck yourself, I’m done playing your games!”

The old man laughed.

“Then how about I ask you a question, instead. What is true terror? Is it the fear you feel when I enter this room?”

Mathew answered with nothing but a grin.

“Is it the pain of your muscles tearing and your joints dislocating?”

Nothing.

“Is it the deterioration of your mind? The fact that you don’t know what will happen to you, how long you’ve been here and that in time, you might not even know who you are anymore?”

Once again, no reaction.

Suddenly the old man’s face showed childish glee before he began laughing again. This time, it’s a throaty, hysterical laugh, one that makes Mathew cringe back.

No,” the old man brought out between bouts of laughter.

“True terror is hope.”

And with that, he placed the key to Mathew’s chains on the floor, just barely out of his reach.