This morning I ate a few of the fat, wriggling maggots feeding on the putrefying gash running down my thigh. Their sliminess on my tongue caused me to gag, but as there was nothing in my stomach to regurgitate, I forced myself to swallow the partially chewed muck. Brother and sister haven’t fed me in over a week, and it’s been several days since I managed to catch a rat in the mop bucket. I devoured it whole, fur and all, while it squealed halfway down my throat. The basement is frigid and filled with drafts, which occasionally distract me from my hunger long enough to think about the shackles. They squeeze the life from my ankles, which have taken on a purplish hue. My feet are even darker in color, and crisscrossed with broken capillaries. My toes no longer have any sensation. But my sense of smell has never been more acute. The pools of brackish water fed by a leaking foundation. Rotting wood. The dark earth beneath me. The squalid mess of urine and feces – my own – saturating my decaying nightgown. All of their odors combine in my nose, leaving me perpetually nauseous. When I manage to fall asleep, despite the constant glow of the mud-stained light bulb hanging overhead, the horrid smells turn my dreams into nightmares. Sometimes I awaken to my shrieking voice echoing off the moldy cinder block walls. I remember the night they snatched me from my warm bed and its billowy pillows, then dragged me down here – down twenty-one steps – to this tomb. Recalling that image leaves me screaming and crying as I yank huge clumps of long, silky hair from my head. When I’ve finally exhausted myself, I crumple into a ball and put my fingers between my legs, inside of me. I think more about my hair. Mommy hated it, you know. She was jealous of its softness and luster, so I opened her jugular with Daddy’s straight razor. This was after I blew off his head with grandfather’s shotgun. I touch myself some more.