Chapter 1

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Though he was still very much alive, Ferdinand Velo wished he were dead. Fortunately, he wouldn't have to wait long, but it was the wait that was killing him. He looked down at his aged hands lying flat on his lap. In the harsh glare of the overhead fluorescent light, they appeared yellow. The color of sickness, he thought. Sickness and fragility.

Everything was sickly yellow - the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Considering the lack of sunlight, night and day could easily be confused in this environment. The march of time however, was ever-present; a constant, crushing influence.

The air here felt extremely dry. The cell had no windows but when he was permitted to move through the facility – always shackled and escorted – Ferdinand perceived the limited views of the landscape beyond to be that of a desert. And even that was glimpsed through amber-tinted windows. Natural light was something he hadn't seen in years.

At this hour, Ferdinand was acutely aware that it was night. Late, close to midnight, his life's conclusion at hand.

The guards were well-muscled thugs, whose tactics at times were nothing short of barbaric; an approach often employed by Ferdinand himself in the past. That was long ago, though. Now, "Ferdi," as he was called by the guards, was a shell of his former self. He had been broken and was weak.

Not long after he had been brought here, chained and blindfolded, Ferdi had learned that the facility holding him was referred to only as "Outpost 2." He surmised that it was what was referred to as a "black site," which meant that it officially didn't exist. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Ferdinand Velo did not exist; he was a "ghost detainee."

There were no amenities often seen in other prisons. No basketball court. No weight room that prisoners might use to accumulate enough mass and strength with which to challenge the guards. In other facilities such services were often used to coax inmates to comply and to calm them by offering a means to help pass the time. Those running Outpost 2 didn't care about easing the toll that time relentlessly impressed. They wanted each inmate to feel the time they served and to know that time was the true punishment; it was the long, taxing road they were condemned to travel. Their only hope of release was death.

Each day's passing gave birth to a new period of waiting and wall-staring and countless, mind-numbing contemplating. Ferdinand had become exhausted by the daily hopeless resolutions he made and then after careful consideration, decided were fruitless. Even if he could formulate a viable plan of escape, there was nowhere to go once outside these walls. The desert would consume a man in just a few days.

Once, his mind had been alive, an inexhaustible inferno of hate churning in the recesses of his skull, pregnant with wondrously evil concepts. But since, Ferdinand had been reduced to the equivalent of a neutered dog. Though despite years of incarceration, there still lingered a single, spindly flame. But that flame had been reduced to the delicate, flickering light of a candle in a drafty room. He understood that his ultimate justice-rendering was but moments away and that flame would be snuffed out. His criminal greatness had been all but forgotten.

None of it mattered anyway. He glanced down at the floor, toward the metal tray holding his last meal. A cold chicken sandwich that he'd left uneaten.

Ferdinand turned his dry hands palms up and studied the deep fissures. Several of his fingertips were marred with deep, blood-crusted grooves resulting from a lack of proper hydration. His tongue felt cracked and withered. This condition was facilitated by the lack of suitable drinking water offered by the prison personnel. Their actions were motivated by more than shear cruelty; it was their intention to emphasize their superiority and the freedom they so thoroughly enjoyed and to wholly demean the inmates before they left this earth.

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