Some people are afraid of hell. Others, they fear Xykrull.

Those that are in Xykrull, they fear nothing, because they have faced their fear – been forced to face it – and have realized that they have nothing left to lose or gain. They know that pain is as temporary as joy, and no matter which they have more of, they will all end up the same way in the end. The sound of those colossal doors thundering shut behind you is the sound of your coffin being sealed. This is assuming that your death merits a coffin.

It is not merely a prison, a monstrosity of sandstone and brick; it is a torture chamber in and of itself. It is an executioner lying in wait in the heart of the desert, a murderer with scarred hands and smirking lips and eyes you cannot see. It is the axe-man, the sort you slip a little extra in the hope that he'll make your death a clean one, except Xykrull is equally merciless to all of her victims.

Xykrull's purpose is to break a man, and kill him.

Why won't this one break?

I stare at her, at the body lying face-down on the cot. Rivulets of blood have dried on her skin like cracks in a sheet of glass. If not for the muscle on her person, she would resemble a skeleton. Her body quavers with each intake of breath; a half-sob escapes with every exhalation. I cannot imagine the pain that must be searing through her body; how she remains awake, conscious, I do not know.

Xyrkull was meant to kill, to destroy, to break down and reduce to nothing, to strip the human being of all dignity and will and hope, to remove his identity and leave him a subservient, walking, barely-breathing shell of a person, constantly thirsty and weary.

What does not kill a man, though, will only make him stronger.

This prisoner. This woman.

She is not invincible.

She is something else altogether.