Her dank little cell stank of muggy already breathed air. Sometimes Cassie would stand and crane her neck, moving her nose closer to the window and the fresh sunlit smells wafting through the tiny opening.
It was a torture device, this small view of the outside world. Cassie was sure of it and she hated the window as much as she craved the reminder that there was a place that was not her dungeon. Cassie twitched when someone shifted outside the locked iron doorway. A guard, maybe the one set to watch her, maybe one tasked with someone else. It was impossible to tell who reported on whom to whom. Cassie had given up trying to decipher the meaningless hierarchies quickly into her imprisonment.
Overwhelmed Cassie sunk back down, placing her chin in her hand. How long had she been here, months or weeks…it was an eternity either way.
“Bout nine hours now actually.” Said the voice next to her. Cassie blinked and the cell changed. Stone walls turned to industrial grey fabric and the dark to fluorescent lighting. Doug didn’t bother to swivel his chair around. to look across the cubicle as he answered the question Cassie had mistakenly said aloud. “Ten if you count your lunch.” He continued, diligently looking over his fantasy team, a row of excel sheets covering half his monitor.
“I count lunch.” Cassie mumbled and looked out the window. People told her she was lucky to have one. They were wrong of course; her window was another subtle form of torture her captors inadvertently administered. Only in captivity was a mere glimpse of the outside considered a privilege. The sound of a file cabinet being closed, a key in a lock, the snapping shut of a laptop echoed between them and the adjacent cubicle. Cassie twitched towards the sounds even as Doug looked up.
Doug looked to her his words a half-believing whisper. “He’s leaving.” There was no need to ask who ‘he’ was. Their taskmaster had made it clear neither was going home until their respective projects were complete, it would take hours more. Cassie was slipping on her heels, normally kept off under her desk, before she could think of the consequences. “You gonna chance it” Doug whispered.
“I have to.” Cassie said back. Already their boss’ shoes were echoing on the carpet, getting softer with each step.
“Braver than me.” Doug mumbled and went back to his nook. Cassie didn’t correct him, she didn’t have the time. She wasn’t brave, just desperate. Cassie was gone before Doug looked up again.
Things changed around her as she hurried through the hallways, heels clicking on the cracked damp floor. The calming blue grey fabric of the cubicles were now pitted stone, iron doors marking each cell in the dim torchlight. The air was the same though, too often breathed.
Iron scrapped against stone. The cell door directly ahead swung wide and Cassie had just enough time to sprint past it, around the corner and flat against the wall, breathing fast from panic.
The rest of her slipping, furtive path to her exit was plagued by little else than the feeling that she was about to get caught. Cassie only paused once as she slipped through the set of great iron doors and breathed. The smells of outside brought the smallest of smiles to her lips and her eyelids to flutter.
Armored boots and sensible flats echoed from the stone hallways within. Pursuit was coming. Cassie gritted her teeth and didn’t linger a second longer, continuing her surreptitious escape across the wide courtyard. She wouldn’t go back.