Sweet, Sweet Rain

He couldn't even feel the rain.

He could only smell it; only see it and hear it, yet that was worse than any crude torture he could have endured during his tenure. Some days, when it rained, he had stretched one arm through the bars in the wall, and along the cramped, grimy corridor that led to his coveted source of fresh, dewy air when the air in his cell had long since become stale. The prisoner willed his arm to grow, his fingers to stretch further, to reach ever closer toward virgin raindrops that they might fall upon his callused palm; a calmly whispered reminder that life continued, if not within himself, then outside, across the moor surrounding the prison.

It was raining today. He flexed his right arm experimentally, cracking each of the knuckles on his once immaculate, now dirt-stained right hand. The prisoner glanced upward sharply, eying the bars, the cool, mossy corridor, and finally his sacred break in the bricks, through which hissed the sounds of falling raindrops as they playfully charted new courses around and across the unrelenting steel and brick structures that made up the detention center. He grinned maniacally before whistling lowly under his breath; today would be the day, he knew it. He could feel it; could already feel the rain's cadence as though its tattoo replaced his blood. Determined, the prisoner gave another roll to his shoulders and hooked his hand through the bars, beginning the slow, painstaking crawl with his fingers toward the outside air and the blessed rain that taunted him from beyond. Last time, he was sure he had come within centimeters of his goal, and had even felt where raindrops had been windswept to a bitter end inside the prison walls. But the rain had stopped, and he had been forced to abandon his endeavor until the moor dried and cracked, until children set up lemonade stands, until lines of mercury rose to heady heights, and finally until the barometer fell once again, a shower of rain falling with it, baptizing the land and reviving the sombre green hues of the moor in shimmering, living color.

The prisoner could easily see the highway from this distance when his slowly advancing fingers weren't blocking the view. Cars raced along, plowing heedlessly through silvery sheets of water, radiating pretentious importance as they fled by. He snorted, reflecting briefly on the likely goals of their drivers -- climbing the business ladder, or perhaps falling in love, raising a family, and dying with a hoard of horrendous money to spare, while his was much simpler; to reach the very rain they bypassed in their swift cars. Biting his lip in desperation, he scrabbled along the rough edges of brick with bloodied fingernails, eyes widening defiantly.

Something was different about today. Pulses of pain from the junction of his shoulder and torso were joined by a gruesome twist in his chest, and, as he flexed his wrist within the corridor in hopes of lengthening its reach, he found he couldn't place why. But today, he was close, so, so close today to the sweet, sweet rain; whatever higher being that might have existed must have been smiling.

A hand, clad in a thick leather glove, found purchase suddenly on his left shoulder. "Mr. Conrad?" The prisoner did not turn to face his inhibitors, instead remaining passive as his arm was pried from its entrapment within the bars. He fixed a steely gaze on the small discrepancy in the bricks, breathing erratically through his nose as his hands were manacled behind his back. If there had been any doubt before about today, he sure as hell remembered now. Conrad ground his teeth fiercely as his head was forced sharply about to face the door to his cell, then to the stony hallway that led to a door and room yet unknown to him; ones he would only know just once. The prisoner closed his eyes, cutting off one sense to enhance another, wanting so badly to hear the rain he would never feel again.

His eyes snapped open, fixating on a puddle that accumulated on the floor from a leak in the prison's ceiling. Dark droplets fell in tandem from two cracks in the poorly constructed ceiling, forming one small, tainted pool at his feet. Conrad regarded the process bleakly. Maybe, when it rained, that same higher being cried.