Chapter 11 - Conclusion


Sylvia put the pencil down, and smiled. She couldn't think of anything more she wanted to put into her drawing.

In the background, to the left, was a mountain peak covered in snow, but the foreground was very temperate. A small meadow, backed by blossoming trees, sloped slightly downhill towards the front of the drawing. There was one tree closer in, standing alone, next to a lake. Sylvia always put some water into her drawings, a lake, a river, sometimes a beach.

She never literally drew herself into her pictures. She was the observer, the drawings done from her point of view. She sat back now and imagined herself looking at the tree, thinking over its potential as the place for a picnic. Perfect, she decided.

After finishing any drawing she often lay back on her bed and stared at it dreamily, letting it encompass her being, its atmosphere wash over her.

They were always drawings of sights she knew she would never see again in real life. She hadn't seen the world outside the prison building in two years, and knew she never would. Her sentence was life without parole. The pictures didn't fill her with a sense of loss, though. Looking at them, they were as real to her as if they were really the scenes they represented. She had always had a good imagination.

Sylvia carefully tore the page with the drawing out of her sketchbook. She hoped Judy would like it. Sylvia liked to imagine that Judy had Sylvia's drawings pinned up on the walls of her own room.

Judy, when she wasn't spending the night in her rented house in town, stayed in the guards' lounge, that mysterious room just outside the cell block gate. Sylvia had never seen inside the room, but she assumed Judy had decorated it very pleasantly.

Sylvia stood and put the sketchbook and pencil up on the surface of the upper bunk, at the far left end where they belonged. Judy always insisted on things being in their proper places. There were other items lined up on the bunk -- several books, and a shallow plastic tub with some toiletries, such as bars of soap, toilet paper, a pack of sanitary wipes, tampons for her periods, nail clippers without the files, one or two clean hand towels, and packets of sugarless gum for cleaning her teeth.

Sylvia lay back on her bed, the lower bunk, for the moment, considering the rest of her day. The bed itself was comfortable, luckily for Sylvia, as she most of her time there, eating, drawing, reading, resting, or sleeping. It was about thirty inches wide, with a vinyl-enclosed mattress pad covered with a single linen sheet, which Sylvia exchanged for a freshly-laundered one every week. There was no pillow, but Sylvia had accommodated to the lack, and never felt a need for one anymore. She did have a thick blanket, of scratchy wool, that she could use in winter. Most of the year it was, like now, warm enough to do without the blanket, and she simply slept on top of the sheet, the blanket folded and put away under the bed.

I need to do the exercise bike, Sylvia thought. I haven't done my second stretch of pedaling today yet.

She swung her leg over the stationary bike, beside the foot of her bed and perpendicular to it along the wall, and settled onto the seat. The seat was covered in terrycloth, much more comfortable than the original hard vinyl underneath, to which her labia had sometimes stuck. Sylvia hadn't worn clothes in two years. She didn't miss them. Not that she had ever disliked being clothed, but in her present life she didn't see any point. There was only herself and Judy, and Judy had seen her naked for so long that Sylvia didn't give it a thought.

Her only adornment, aside from the four silvery bands worn permanently on her wrists and ankles, was the wide leather collar around her neck, locked with a tiny padlock, which Judy had given her in the first week of her sentence. Sylvia remembered how much she had hated it at first, how furious it made her to be forced to put it on. She rarely noticed it now. Without it she would feel incomplete.

The bike needed to be pedaled thirty minutes every day, to charge the batteries mounted under the seat, so that the batteries kept the lights burning. Sylvia usually did her pedaling in two fifteen-minute sets, though she enjoyed pushing herself to do it all at once sometimes -- that was easier now than the first time she had tried it. Electrical cords ran from underneath the bike, up the adjacent wall to the ceiling, across it and out through the bars of the cell, first connecting to two lamps mounted on the wall of the rec room across the corridor from the cell, then out to a few other lights in the cell block, and to Judy's room. Another cord connected to a big schoolroom-type clock, between the lamps. Sylvia could always tell what time it was.

Judy had told Sylvia, early on, that she wasn't going to keep constantly buying flashlight batteries, and that if Sylvia wanted light, she would have to work for it.

Sylvia was happy to have a way to maintain the light. She had no means of turning off the lights illuminating her cell, nor did she want to. Even when she was sleeping at night, she preferred the two lights shining into her cell. They were very comforting. Sylvia's cell was, to her, a place of light in a dark world.

She was terrified of the dark.

After finishing pedaling, Sylvia wiped at the dampness on her forehead with her arm. Her arm felt the bristles of her brush-cut hair, and she smiled, remembering her next haircut was coming soon. She pulled the Styrofoam food cooler out from underneath her bed, opening it to retrieve a bottle of water. It was always important to drink plenty of water. She drank about half the contents of the bottle and put it back in the cooler, then pushed the cooler back under the bed. Judy disliked a cluttered floor.

It was crucial for Sylvia to make efficient use of her floor space. She didn't have very much. There was room for the exercise bike, and the portable chemical toilet beside it, which Sylvia was able to exchange every few days for a fresh one. Judy, Sylvia understood, took the used toilets to her own house, cleaned them, and prepared them for use again. It appeared that there had once been plumbing in the cell, judging from the pair of capped pipes in the wall opposite the bars, but whatever had been attached to them, probably a standard toilet and faucets over a sink, were gone, most likely removed when the prison had been closed. Since there was no running water now, it didn't matter.

Except for things put away under the bed, there was nothing on the floor of the cell other than the bike, the toilet, two currently empty buckets, a can for trash, and a ten-gallon water-cooler bottle beyond the bike, for Sylvia's next bath. But that didn't mean there was plenty of room for other amenities. Sylvia couldn't reach very much of the cell beyond these objects. The chain connecting her ankle band to the frame of the bed, near the back wall of the cell, was only a few feet long, just long enough to allow her to mount and pedal the bike. The cell was about seven feet by fifteen feet, with the bars forming one of the long sides, and the bunk bed against the wall, bolted to it, on one of the short sides. The barred door to the cell was at the end of the wall of bars away from the bed. Sylvia couldn't reach the cell door, even stretching out as far as she could on the floor, diagonally across the cell, but there was no reason to touch it anyway. It was locked, and the lock was even farther out of Sylvia's reach. But Sylvia hadn't even felt any motivation to try reaching the door for a long time.

Sylvia remembered that during the first few days that this cell had served as her home, she had spent hours each day trying to break one of the links of the chain that connected her ankle to the bedframe, scraping the link back and forth across the concrete hoping to wear it down, pausing occasionally when the chain became too hot to hold. She could no longer recall exactly why she had done that, since with the cell door locked, and with the gate to the cell block also locked, Sylvia had no realistic chance of escaping. She supposed she had just been thinking in terms of a step-by-step escape, with the chain as the first step. After her third day of rubbing the link on the floor, with the link worn about halfway through, Sylvia's plans came to an abrupt halt when Judy had required her to replace the chain, padlock, and all her ankle bands and wrist bands with new ones. Obviously Judy had known what Sylvia was trying to do. Judy had continued making Sylvia change her restraint equipment every three or four days thereafter, though by alternating different sets, rather than giving Sylvia a brand new set every time. No doubt Judy inspected the equipment closely for any damage before giving it back a few days later.

Sylvia didn't understand why it had been so important to escape. It didn't matter, though. That really had been a different Sylvia, the one from her before-life. Sylvia shook her head. Thinking about leaving the prison made her uncomfortable.

Sylvia felt cared for, somehow, when she was chained to the bed, locked in a cell whose door she couldn't reach. To Sylvia's way of thinking, all of the security measures just showed how much she meant to Judy. It was important to Judy to keep Sylvia here. That was enough for Sylvia.

Judy was at work right now -- she worked three days a week, four hours, though she was gone well over four hours on those days. She either left for her house the night before, or else early in the morning, so she could shower, put on her makeup, and so on. Two days a week she was also gone for a time to shop for supplies. When she returned to the prison after shopping, that was one of the very few occasions when Sylvia was allowed out of her cell.

Leaving the cell for any purpose required some formalities. Judy would toss Sylvia the key to release her ankle chain, through the cell bars, which Sylvia would use and throw back. Judy would then throw into the cell whatever restraints the occasion required. Sylvia was never allowed out of her cell unless her hands were secured behind her back to a chain around her waist, and her ankles connected by an eighteen-inch hobble chain, if not directly to each other by a padlock. The former was used for most purposes. Sylvia was required to secure all of the chains and padlocks slowly and deliberately, each step done in Judy's full view, so that Sylvia couldn't pretend to lock things together without really doing so. If there was any part of the process that looked to Judy like cheating, she made Sylvia unlock everything and start over. Sylvia hadn't tried to cheat for a long time, but she was a prisoner, and Judy was right not to trust her. As soon as Sylvia had finished securing herself, and yanked against each restraint under Judy's supervision as a final proof everything was properly secured, then Judy would open the cell door.

If there were supplies to be moved, most often bagged ice for the coolers, bottled water, and food, Judy would clip a leash to Sylvia's collar and lead her upstairs. The leash was a requirement, because Sylvia would be outside of the locked cell block. Upstairs, there was sufficient light for Sylvia to see her way without electrical assistance -- she only moved supplies in the daytime. The supplies would be at the loading dock, to which Judy had driven in her car and unloaded them beforehand, closing the dock's outer door before bringing Sylvia there. As Sylvia waited, her leash tied temporarily to a pole, Judy would stack boxes on a hand truck, and Sylvia's job was then to pull the hand truck behind her (having her hands behind her was actually convenient for this work), and take it to the stairs, where Judy had covered one side of the stairway with a ramp, which had a pebbly finish so Sylvia's feet wouldn't slip. Going down the stairwell, Sylvia needed to walk backwards with the hand truck leading her down. She would then finish pulling the hand truck to the cell Judy used for storage, or to Sylvia's own cell. Often there were other things (boxes of trash, water-cooler-sized bottles of used water to be emptied by Judy outdoors, or the chemical toilets bound for cleaning) that needed to be returned upstairs, so Judy would again lead Sylvia by her leash as Sylvia pulled those up to the loading dock, again using the hand truck. In either direction, Sylvia usually needed to rest briefly on the first landing, and Judy allowed that, for at most thirty seconds. It was strenuous work.

There were rewards for doing the work, which made it worthwhile. Sylvia earned points that she could exchange for personal items. The first thing she had used her points for was seat cover for the bike, and the second was the sketchbook and pencil. She had loved drawing when she was a girl. There were also the books. Sylvia chose titles she had read as a teenager and earlier. She was currently halfway through "Sense and Sensibility." She'd loved Jane Austen in high school. And there were the Alice books, beloved at a younger age. Sylvia had read most of her books more than once in the time she'd been here. Somehow, she found she could concentrate on what she was reading better than she had in many years, especially in the absolute silence while Judy was gone, and she could lose herself completely in the world of the stories. And as an adult, the books delighted her with levels of meaning she hadn't been aware of when she was younger.

Judy had recently brought her "The Phantom Tollbooth," which Sylvia remembered from when she was ten. She would dearly love reading that again. She hadn't had a chance to start yet.

Sylvia smiled, remembering this morning. Judy had suddenly appeared outside the cell, as she often did. Sylvia had jumped out of bed to stand at attention, facing Judy, her hands clasped behind her, her head down, eyes down. She wasn't allowed to look at Judy eye-to-eye. Judy, as always, came right to the point. "I'm going to shop for supplies after work. You have five credits."

In her chronically hoarse, whispery voice -- her vocal cords had never fully recovered from the damage of that night of terror when she thought she was going to die -- Sylvia said, "Yes, ma'am." She wasn't allowed to call her Judy.

Judy had given her a neutral look. "Any requests?"

Sylvia's heart had pounded. She loved getting rewards, and she had worked her way down to the next item on her mental wish list. "Chocolate ice cream?" She had decided ice cream would keep reasonably well in the cooler. It wouldn't be there long. She avoided adding "Please" to the request. Judy didn't like begging.

Judy seemed to think it over. "That would be worth ten credits."

Sylvia had fought to keep from smiling. Judy liked her to be serious. "Yes, ma'am." Sylvia felt only a little disappointed she couldn't get the ice cream right away. She was excited to know that it was feasible, something to be looked forward to in the future, something she could earn.

Of course, Sylvia's life wasn't purely work and rewards. There were demerits and punishments as well, chiefly for failing to obey a command or perform a required duty instantly and without complaint, for failure to keep her cell organized, or for not meeting required standards in her exercises. Sylvia's behavior had improved markedly over the last year, and the punishments were much more rare than they had been at first.

Other than for moving supplies, and for punishments, there were only two other times Sylvia was allowed to leave her cell. One was for her walking exercise, one evening every week -- one hour, making circuits of the cell block. The hobble chain was no bother during her walk. Sylvia was so accustomed to taking short, quick steps that she didn't even think about it anymore. Judy supervised the walk, observing from a lawn chair outside Sylvia's cell, sipping iced tea, and occasionally ordered Sylvia to speed up if her effort lagged, but those commands were becoming more rare as well. Sylvia remembered the way she had collapsed on her bed after her first walk, completely exhausted, her legs aching. Now she finished without breathing hard. She never considered slowing down during the part of the circuit outside Judy's sight. She knew all forms of exercise were important, as was personal self-improvement. Sylvia knew how many circuits of the cell block she could complete in an hour, and was trying to increase her distance gradually, experimenting with different breathing techniques to see if they would help.

In sum, Sylvia was usually outside her cell for about four hours each week, one for the walking exercise, three for supplies. During the one hundred sixty-four hours, out of one hundred sixty-eight, each week that she spent in her cell, her time was mostly her own, though Judy often stopped by for an inspection or to watch her exercises. Or to restock the coolers, which held about a three day supply of food and bottled water cooled by ice, or more if Judy was going to be away for a time.

Today, Sylvia felt energized after her bike pedaling duties, as she often did lately. She had no way to go for a walk now, but she could do her in-cell exercises -- fifty sit-ups, fifty pushups, and twenty chin-ups on the bar Judy had installed across the top of the cell. She hadn't always done that many. As the months had gone by, Judy had gradually increased the required numbers, and sometimes, without warning, ordered Sylvia to show she could do the full set, so Sylvia needed to stay in shape to be ready.

Sylvia was very proud of her body, which was considerably more trim, muscular, and athletic than the one she had come here with.

Sylvia herself was primarily in charge of her own personal hygiene, giving herself sponge baths, in her cell, using the soap Judy provided, with water from the ten-gallon jug. Sylvia liked the way the scent of the soap remained in the cell for some time afterward.

Judy didn't provide a razor, but Sylvia didn't feel a need for one. She had been in the habit of shaving her pubic hair in her before-life, because she loved the smooth feeling of her mound when she masturbated. But she believed Judy must like her with a full bush, and the wispy black tufts of underarm hair as well, since Judy would have done something about it if she hadn't liked it.

Judy did take charge of one single item of Sylvia's personal grooming -- she cut Sylvia's hair every three weeks, on the lawn chair with a towel spread under it, the last thing on the list of occasions for which Sylvia was allowed out of her cell. Under restraint, of course. There was never any exception to that. Judy made quick work of the haircut, not more than five minutes with a battery-powered hair clipper, for a brush-cut of about a half-inch length all around. Judy called it a prisoner's cut. It was easy to take care of -- when bathing, Sylvia simply dunked her head into the soapy water bucket and gave her bristly scalp a firm rubbing, then rinsed it in the other bucket, afterwards drying it with the same hand towel she used for the rest of her body, which would then await exchange for a clean one. Aside from the convenience, it satisfied Sylvia that Judy wanted Sylvia's hair to be that way. Sylvia hadn't always felt that way about it. She remembered the way she had cried inconsolably over the loss of her hair, the first time -- not that Judy had made any attempt to console her. But now Sylvia looked forward to the haircuts, counting the days until the next one. Because the haircuts were the only time Judy ever touched her.

Sylvia sat on her bed, drank the remaining contents of the previously-opened water bottle to replace fluids she had lost while exercising, threw the bottle in her trash can, and retrieved an apple from the cooler. She lay back on the bed, took a bite of the apple, and thought about the haircuts -- and her need to feel Judy's touch.

It did seem strange to Sylvia. She had never, ever, in her before-life, felt a physical attraction to any woman, and had certainly never tried to imagine herself kissing one. But Judy wasn't any woman. She was Judy. She was the only other person Sylvia would see for the rest of her life. Judy provided for every need Sylvia had. It made Sylvia laugh to think of saying "She brings the light to my life," but yes, Judy had provided the electric lights as well, banishing the darkness from Sylvia's cell. Of course Judy was very demanding, and very strict about rules, but even that showed that she cared about Sylvia -- why would she make any demands if Sylvia meant nothing to her? And Judy meant everything to Sylvia.

Someday, Sylvia reflected sadly, Judy would die. Everyone does. Sylvia was not in denial about that. It might be thirty or forty years from now, as Sylvia hoped, or she could be in an accident tomorrow. Sylvia, of course, would then die as well, with no one to supply her physical needs. But not by the dehydration death that had so terrified her when Judy first brought her here. Sylvia had a bedsheet and an overhead bar. If Judy ever went missing, so that the food and water ran out, making it obvious something had gone wrong, Sylvia could end her own life on her own terms. Sylvia had no wish to die, but she didn't want to live without Judy. It wasn't something she dwelled on, simply a fact of life she acknowledged.

If only Judy would touch Sylvia, or allow herself to be touched. If only Judy would hold her, run her hands over Sylvia's skin. Sylvia was sure they would feel soft, and warm.

Sylvia was always naked for Judy, but Sylvia had seen Judy naked only once, that time in the... (Sylvia didn't like to say the words "Black Hole," even in her mind.) Sylvia remembered the firmness of Judy's legs, the flatness of her tummy. Judy's breasts were small, but they were perky, well-rounded.

Sylvia finished the apple, tossed it into her trash can, and became conscious of the tingling of her skin that her thoughts of Judy touching her always inspired. She let her right hand wander down between her legs. She always tried so hard not to do it. She knew it would not be something Judy wanted, and doing what Judy wanted was so heavily ingrained in Sylvia that she couldn't think of defying Judy's wishes without feeling dirty.

Aware of the shame but pushing it away, Sylvia began rubbing herself, the heel of her palm brushing against the kinky black hair that Judy must like, teasing her swollen labia with the tips of her fingers. Just touching them made her jump. She closed her eyes and moaned. Thinking about...

...her next haircut. Judy finishing with the hair trimmer, putting it down, for some reason keeping her hand on Sylvia's head, stroking it softly, moving her hand down to Sylvia's shoulders, rubbing them, bending to put a light kiss on Sylvia's neck above her collar.

On her bed, Sylvia brought her left hand up to her left breast, squeezing it, pinching the hard nipple, while opening her legs a little wider, pushing two fingers of her right hand inside her, feeling the warmth, the wetness. She moaned more loudly.

Judy rubbing Sylvia's breasts now, kissing her shoulder, licking it gently with her tongue. Suddenly Judy's clothes are gone, and she comes around the chair to face Sylvia, pulling Sylvia up to stand in front of her, and kissing her, Judy and Sylvia both breathing hard, opening their mouths wide against each other. Judy pushing Sylvia against the bars of the cell, pulling Sylvia's knees apart and stepping into the O made by Sylvia's bound legs, lifting them so that Sylvia's legs are wrapped around Judy's waist, Sylvia tightening them around Judy, feeling Judy's mound pressed against her sex, Judy's breasts crushed against hers, loving so much the way her chained hands are pinned uselessly behind her so that Judy can use her body any way she wants to. Judy kissing harder, her breath coming in gasps, her tongue pressing against Sylvia's teeth, Sylvia opening her mouth wide to allow Judy's tongue in, sucking on it, both of them wanting each other, needing each other, both of them breathing so hard and moaning so loud...

The climax exploded all through Sylvia, her entire body like dice being shaken in a single enormous hand, while lightning sent shocks through every fiber of her being. She called out, Judy!! Judy!!

The tide of orgasm slowly ebbed away, leaving Sylvia limp, wrung out.

Deeply ashamed, knowing how angry Judy would be to be used in Sylvia's fantasies, Sylvia wiped her hand on the bedsheet and turned onto her stomach. I have to stop that, she said, as she always did afterward. Judy wouldn't like it.

Sylvia felt drained, and realized it wasn't just from the energy used up masturbating. She had done it immediately after her biking time and a full set of exercises. She could usually handle all that, but it was so warm today. She sat up and opened a new water bottle, and took a long drink. I hope Judy doesn't bring something I need to pull in from the loading dock, she thought. At least I still have a couple of hours before she comes back, Sylvia thought, looking at the clock. I need to rest up, in case.

She put the bottle away, lay back down and closed her eyes for a second. It felt good...

*   *   *   *   *

She dreamed that Judy was clearing her throat. What does she want to say? Why doesn't she say it?

It slowly crept into Sylvia's consciousness that the throat-clearing wasn't part of her dream. Judy was standing just outside the bars, looking angry. Then it all came back to Sylvia, and she remembered what she was supposed to have been doing.

Adrenaline surged through her, and a feeling of pure panic. She sat upright on the bed instantly, her hands flying up to her mouth, and said frantically, "Ma'am, I was just... I'll do it now!! Right now!!" She jumped off the bed, her whole body shaking, pulling the second food cooler out from underneath the bed and throwing open its lid in a single motion, kneeling beside it.

On each of the three days of the week when Judy worked at the law office, Sylvia was expected to have a sandwich and soft drink ready and waiting when Judy returned. It was up to Sylvia to listen for the opening of the door from the stairwell, always clearly audible in the dead silence of the cell block. That gave Sylvia two minutes to open the cooler containing Judy's food, pull two slices of bread from the loaf package, three slices of bologna from a package of cold cuts, spread the contents of two fast-food packets of mustard on the meat, assemble the bread around the meat, put the sandwich on a paper towel, stretch out along the floor to reach through the bars and put the towel with sandwich outside the bars, pull a can of root beer from the cooler, open it, and stretch out again to put the drink beside the sandwich on the paper towel. Then stand, her head down, hands clasped behind her back, ready in case there were further orders. The quick food preparation had required a lot of practice, but she was getting very good at it, and only rarely got demerits for being slow now. She couldn't put the sandwich together beforehand -- the meat wouldn't be cold if she did that, nor the root beer. Judy liked them cold. Sylvia had suffered an immediate punishment the one time she'd tried that.

Sylvia wasn't allowed to eat anything from Judy's cooler. Judy wouldn't tolerate their food being mixed. Judy kept track of what was in the cooler, so that she'd know if something was missing.

As Sylvia was reaching with a shaking hand for the bread, Judy said sternly, "Stop."

Sylvia froze, not daring to look toward Judy.

Judy said coldly, "It's not just that you weren't ready. You were sound asleep!"

It had been so long since Sylvia had seen Judy this angry. Sylvia still knelt by Judy's cooler, her lip quivering. "Yes, Ma'am." Judy hated excuses, and Sylvia had none to make anyway.

"Stand up."

Sylvia bolted up to her feet, turning to face Judy at last, hands clasped behind her, her head down, as required.

In a low voice, Judy asked, "What are you?"

Sylvia knew the formula. Head still down, she gave the required response. "I'm a worthless worm, Ma'am!"

"And where do worms belong?"

Her throat tightening unbearably, Sylvia could only whisper now. "In the Hole, Ma'am!" She knew better than to plead for a second chance. That only added more time to her punishment.

Without another word, Judy threw the key for the ankle chain into Sylvia's cell. Sylvia took it and unlocked the padlock, putting all of her effort into keeping her composure together, not wanting to break into sobs. Her breath came out in little catching sounds, almost like aborted sneezes.

As they came sliding into the cell, Sylvia took up the chains and padlocks in the proper order, locking her ankle bands together, putting on the waist chain, turning her back on Judy so Judy could watch her bind her hands together behind her with the chain and lock them to the waist chain. She waited, shaking, while Judy went to retrieve her flashlight.

Blinking through the tears, sniffling desperately to try to keep her nose from being plugged or overflowing, Sylvia waited while Judy unlocked the cell door. Sylvia followed Judy's retreating figure, Judy walking, Sylvia hopping, to the Black Hole.

Inside the room, Sylvia hopped directly to the cage, let herself down to her knees beside it, walked in on her knees, and pulled the door closed. After long practice, she knew how to position herself so that she could reach back through the bars of the door, turn the key in the lock, move it down to the second keyhole and turn it again, and flip the key outside the cage towards Judy. Unable to hold back the sobs now, she eased herself down to sit on the floor of the cage, leaning back against the bars.

Judy grimly picked up the key, and said, "Twenty-four hours..."

Twenty-four hours! Sylvia's punishments in at least the last year had not been longer than eight hours. It had been so long since she had spent a full day here! She could hardly draw enough breath to keep crying, but managed a whispered, "Yes, ma'am."

"...and since you couldn't be bothered to get my food and drink ready, I won't bother to give you any either." Sylvia gasped in horror, and had to clench hard to keep her bladder from emptying. Judy had never left her here for so long without occasional breaks to pelt her with fruit and ice cubes. There would be no breaks in the punishment this time, no food, no water, for all those hours. And no light. "Yes, ma'am."

Without another word, Judy picked up the flashlight, stalked to the door and slammed it closed behind her, plunging Sylvia into the darkness she feared so much.

Sylvia could only sit upright, her shoulders heaving as she cried, her body shivering despite the warmth, because lying down on the floor brought on the real panic, with so many terrified memories associated with that position. And sitting up helped her fight against falling asleep. Somehow Sylvia must make herself stay awake the entire twenty-four hours, without any sight or sound to help maintain her attention. Because sleeping, in the Black Hole, made the dreams come. Always dreams with no light, as if the blackness of the Hole even blanketed Sylvia's subconscious. Dreams of wriggling so carefully near the waste hole, only to hear the splash of the padlock key as it fell into the toilet below, forever out of reach, the sound telling her she was doomed to an agonizing death. Dreams of hopping blind through a maze with nothing but dead ends, with no sense of where she was or how to get out. And other dreams much worse, assaults from all manner of terrors she couldn't see or defend against. Dreams such as she never had in her lighted cell. They came to her only in the Black Hole.

She always woke up from the dreams screaming, in a puddle of urine, and trembled uncontrollably for a long time afterward.

This is my own fault, she lamented to herself, completely mine! I fell asleep when I had work to do! Judy does everything for me, and all I had to do was that one little thing for her! I will try so much harder from now on! And I promise, I will never, ever masturbate again!

Sylvia froze suddenly, holding her breath, as the memory returned, the one she tried so hard never to think about. The memory of why she was in prison. Of what she had done in her before-life. The terrible thing she had done.

She understood now why Judy was so angry. Understood exactly. Tasked with doing a service for Judy, Sylvia had fallen asleep instead -- as if Judy's needs were unimportant. As if Judy's feelings didn't matter. While Sylvia had not defied Judy's authority for a long time, she often came up short of Judy's standards, and her occasional punishments always made her vow to do better. But Sylvia had never before acted as if Judy didn't exist, not in all the time she'd been here. Not since... the kiss...

Sylvia cried out in the darkness as loudly as she could, defying the danger of further vocal damage, "Ma'am, I'm sorry!! I'm so sorry I kissed him!! I'm so sorry I hurt you!! I'll never fail you again, ever!! I love you!!! I love you!!!" Wishing so hard for Judy to hear her, though she knew she couldn't.


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