In the remote area of the world, an island held a prison. It was home to the most vicious, the most terrifying convicts. Residing in the place alone diminished their sanity; some of them were willing to break down the door, destroy the entire place, and then kill themselves. If one visited there, then one would hear the laments and wails through the wall every single day and night, nonstop. It was unbearable. No use to escape anyway since storms and blizzards would occur, and the ocean would consume them before they could swim out of the island.
It was much of an agony for Azukunika. Under the full moon, she shivered and stared at the blank walls. Although her black-colored robes provided her some warmth, she could barely get over the chills among the air. Her cell was at best, squalid. The gray walls leaked water through the cracks and holes, and it gave off a scent as though it came from a marsh. On the other side of the room, the moonlight glimmered the iron bars and the window; a gust then flew in and frosted Azukunika even more. Upon the window, birds flocked and chirped to themselves, then they pecked on the bars and caused a ruckus. They flew away.
Azukunika curled up on her metal bed, with her neck and fingers cold.
She looked at the drawer behind the bed, which housed hygiene necessities and her undergarments.
Azukunika let out a sigh. As it came to her, she wondered what was happening back at the village. So far in one year of her sentence, she had not heard anything about her family, her mother, and her community; the absence of the news seemed to make her feel estranged to the world.
As the voices of the convicts bellowed throughout the hallways, Azukunika folded her pillow and covered her ears with them. She gritted her teeth; she endured this with a pang in her heart, she could barely tolerate this. From the room on her left side, scratches and clicks echoed and rattled her bed. The lady never met the inmates face-to-face.
Whenever the guards released them for dinner or recreational activities, they would wear face mask in order to conceal their identities. At one point, everybody was so wary of each other that they guessed the names, occupations, and the crimes of their peers. Some of them got it right the first try, and as for others, they were way off.
Azukunika did not participate in their charades, for she beared the shame and guilt in her wrongdoings. She remembered fresh and well of her past, the time of the revolution. The 27th Lama said to her that she had to execute the leader of the revolutionaries for the sake of family honor. If she succeeded, then the regime would provide her anything she wanted; or he would sell her into slavery. Although she was apathetic and clueless about the entire matter, Azukunika complied anyway. Going into the encampment of the rebels and trying to murder Yebuka was difficult, and it mounted a lot of pressure upon her. As such, the outcome happened otherwise to their expectations. After the botched attempt, Azukunika ran away from the village and settled in the grasslands for a brief period. She hid her face and worked as a peasant, and she befriended a lot of people. It seemed to her that it could last forever; but being far away from the family, it crushed her heart so much that she isolated herself.
It was one day that an informant from Yebuka’s posse caught her red-handed. For the whole time, the informant spied on her movements and activities; the revolutionaries found it hard to believe that a person like Azukunika would live in the grasslands. When Azukunika tend to the livestock, the informant struck her down and explained about the reasons for her arrest. Knowing what she did back then, she surrendered; the next thing that occurred, she was on trial. She begged to the officials to tell what had transpired at the end of the war and what had happened to her family. They said nothing. The fire on their eyes and the hisses from their teeth were enough to scare the life out of Azukunika.
Now in her twenties, Azukunika could not imagine of what her life would be like from now on. Not seeing her mother and her family for the rest of her days, the darkness of the jail cell was only there to draw herself into her own despair. As much as it seemed scary, it comforted her. Along with the unstoppable commotion in the prison, she had to deal with reality. She regretted committing herself to her wrongdoings; she wished to go back in time, bring her family somewhere else, and reside in peace. But the blood she shed in the past had sunk deep into her skin.
“Oh mother, if only I was there with you, then none of this would have happened. Where are you right now?” Azukunika scowled and smacked her forehead. “I swear, I cannot face this without crying to myself in my sleep. I miss you so much. I want to return to the good old days, where I gave you my love and supported you on a lot of things. I didn’t mean to spill blood during the revolution. I should have turned my back on Ozughen. I should have helped you all.”
Something fell from the bed. A clink she heard, Azukunika lurched at the barren, cold floor. The emerald on her necklace faded away from its color; in an instant did it turn dull and lifeless. The lady picked it up and grasped it close to her bosom; she shuddered. Her mother gave this to her at her high school graduation. At the time where Azukunika wore the necklace, Usheniko complimented her for being so beautiful.
Azukunika squirmed around her blanket and blushed, before her face descended into gloom. Like that time, in fact, all her memories with her parent, such things remained vivid in her mind. Never in her life could Azukunika forget them. After all, they were the only possessions she had of her mother left in her prison sentence.
“I hope my mother is okay. I bet that she is giving out more fortunes than ever! But in this age, it seems plausible to think that she is out of business. Maybe right now, she is working as a farmer. She has the strength to do so, but her willingness to commit to a laborious task is lacking. Haha, it sounds rad anyway.” Azukunika tossed and turned, and her braided hair flicked her face. She stroked her hair, the illumination of the moon scintillated the silver strands. It seemed as though her hair was turning into a nebula.
As she was about to close her eyelids and sleep, a knock came from the iron door. Azukunika got up and perked her face through a small opening; once she narrowed her eyes, she saw two guards. They giggled and nudged at each other.
“What do you want? Can’t you see that I am taking a beauty sleep here? Scram, go away.”
The guards shook their heads. One of them brought out a parchment.
Under the orders of the Lama, it told them to report everything to Azukunika about the situation in the village – including the fate of her mother and family.
“W-what?! You’re telling me this now?” Azukunika stepped back, she kicked the back of her heels against the drawers. “Well then, don’t stand there! Say something!”
The guards rolled the paper away, and they stood still. In the hallway where they were, the torches on the wall burned their eyes. Their lips dried up and their cheeks went limp. They set their gaze to their feet, and they coughed and sweated. Paleness on their faces, they couldn’t help but look away. Azukunika scratched her head.
It was then that they proceeded to explain. Never could this night get any worse for Azukunika. Once she heard the first sentence about her mother, her heart shriveled. She collapsed to the bed. The guards ran their mouths and continued their explanations, with every word they said came with a sneer.
“No… no!” Azukunika thrashed her limbs and clawed her nails on the walls. “Those things cannot be true! My family, my mom… they-”
She choked, her face turned gray. She couldn’t believe that everything they said had actually happened; she thought her family was resilient.
But to hear her mother’s demise was something that she was not able to handle. She seethed and kicked the bed. Everything in her mind went blank. Her ears melted and her voice cracked. Nothing she could do, the guards wrapped up their statements. They left the hallway.
“Those are rubbish you guys are spewing!” Azukunika said, she punched the emerald on the necklace. “Show me my family! Bring them here!” No matter how much she begged for such a request, they would never come back to life. All that her family left behind for Azukunika was the burden of the truth. She wanted to blame her loved ones for putting themselves in a precarious position, but it wouldn’t change much.
Azukunika buried her face upon the pillow. Like the noises from the inmates, she animated her jail cell with a series of broken screams and cries. Now she had learned about their fates, she looked at her remaining part of her life as dark and futile. What was the use of living any longer? Suicide seemed to be the most honorable, viable option. It would at least, give her the rest and peace she needed. But the pain swelled up her entire essence, she lacked the courage to end her life.
Azukunika drowned in her sorrows. Now more than ever did she miss her mother. She was alone in her own world – there was nobody to save her.