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Day 9, 11:51 P.M.
"Look at you! Look at the fat on you!"
"Fat? What fat?" MT1023 said. "You are too tall! You should be on the bottom!"
"I have two broken ribs already!"
"Nonsense. Bend down."
"I can't lift you!"
"Yes you can."
"No, I can't."
"Try one more time."
"One more time."
MT1023 fired his hands into the air. "Enough! Do it! Make sure you break my back this time."
"Quiet. Be steady now. Put your hands on the wall."
"You should worry about you."
"Exactly. Now, you must not move. Put your hands on the wall."
"Shut up and climb!"
JT1023 shook his head. He gripped the smaller man's shoulder and raised a foot to his hip. He rocked once, twice, then propelled himself upward.
MT1023 winced. A knee stabbed him in the center of the back. "Ow!"
JT1023's hands slapped the wall. He jammed his other foot and pushed. With fingers splayed, he shot toward the bag of fruit.
But MT1023 faltered, and he wasn't well prepared to recover. JT1023's foot slid down the sudden slope, and his body came down, thrashing. Elbows and heads collided.
The impact swatted MT1023 to the floor.
"Get off me! Get off my leg!"
"Great. My head is bleeding."
MT1023 shoved. "You idiot! Off! Off!"
JT1023 climbed out of the tangle. "Yes, definitely bleeding."
"Good! Are any broken bones sticking out of my skin?"
"You should have held onto the wall like I said."
"You should've been on the bottom!"
"If you hadn't moved, I would've reached it."
MT1023 waved him away. "Just get out."
"No. We have to try again."
"I'd rather starve. Get the hell out."
"No! You listen! I'm sick of you and your condescending bullshit. Just get out."
JT1023 shrugged. He scraped himself off the floor and walked off. He climbed onto his own bed.
Then, the lights cut. Total darkness punched them.
"What's going on?" MT1023 called.
The room monitors flipped to infrared. Neither of the rainbow heat signatures moved.
"Do you hear something?"
JT1023 didn't answer.
Minutes passed. MT1023 shriveled, pulled into himself.
"Are you there?"
"Of course I'm here," JT1023 said. "Where would I have gone?"
Day 10, 2:32 A.M.
Behind MT1023, the bag of fruit released from the hook and thumped onto the floor.
MT1023's head turned in the direction of the sound. From the other room, he heard JT1023's undisturbed breathing. Asleep.
Day 10, 2:45 A.M.
MT1023 lifted the bag from the floor and returned to bed. He heaped it on his lap. The open end was scrunched in his fists, but he did not touch the food.
Day 10, 3:11 A.M.
On the infrared monitor, JT1023 jumped up.
"Do you hear me? Are you awake?" MT1023 said.
"Yes, I hear you." He sounded groggy.
"No. I like it here just fine."
"Really, you should come."
"Because I have something for you."
"No you don't."
"Yes, I do. It fell off the wall."
"Yes. It fell."
JT1023 scurried off the bench and felt his way. He located the doorway quickly. "Where are you?"
JT1023's hands probed in front of him. "Damn, it's dark."
"Keep coming. Right here."
Fingers touched MT1023's shoulder. MT1023 guided them down to the bag.
"I don't believe it," he whispered.
"Enough talk," MT1023 said. "Eat!"
JT1023's self-restraint splintered, and he dug, snatching something in each hand. MT023 followed.
They smashed the fruit to their lips.
On the infrared monitors, little drops of warmth fell from their chins and glowed on the floor.
Day 11, 4:42 P.M.
MT1023 sat on the end of the bed. JT1023 reclined, crossing his legs to give him room.
"That was the end for him. My brother died that night."
JT1023 sighed. "Awful. It must have destroyed your family."
"My father never walked tall again. His back was always bent. Like it was just too heavy for him."
JT1023 nodded, although MT1023 couldn't see it. "I'm very sorry."
MT1023 got up. "I'm going to use the toilet."
"I'm so exhausted by this dark," he sighed. "It makes it seem like everything's in my own head. Even you."
"If I didn't have you to talk to, I'd go insane."
"I'm glad you're with me too," JT1023 said.
"You know, I--"
A sound erupted.
Both men froze.
It was a tremendous grating. Every scrape unfolded like landscapes vacated by their blinded eyes.
Then, the lights flipped on. The horrendous glare incinerated a path directly to their brains. They howled and buried their faces.
When MT1023 finally managed to squint, he didn't speak. JT1023's eyes battled into the brightness. He saw, and a sound jumped from his lips.
A second doorway had opened.
On to Part 6.
Go back to Part 4.