Kate Wyer

Selim is in the corner holding the sharp edge between his fingers. He is waiting for the high yellow sound of noon. He is calm. My elbows move closer to my ribs and then out again. Everything is breathing with me. Dolinka, Dolinka, Dolinka: now.

Selim bends at the waist and cuts his Achilles tendon. He hands me the razor and sits down. He is happy. My feet are bare, my pants rolled to the knees. I cut my tendon and pass the razor. We put our bleeding feet in a circle and let the blood pool. We push the blood to the door, force it under.

Demiricimim is the last of our twelve to cut. He pushes the razor into a crack in the mortar. We get up on our good feet and hook elbows. Dolinka! we shout.

Dolinka! the floor answers. Dolinka! the ceiling answers. Twelve, twelve– all of us! I shout.

The count comes from the cells. Fifteen! Twenty-three! Thirteen! Twenty!

Selim is adding them up. Two-hundred and sixty-six! he screams. The guards have come by now. They see the blood under the door and stop. They watch us through the food door of our cell. We are still standing together, hooked at the waist. We hold our loose feet together.

The guards do not move. Expletives and static come out of their walkie-talkies.

Where is Dolinka? I ask them. I am white and shivering. I feel the circle weaken. Demircinim's lips are blue.

The guards leave.

Where is Kazakhstan? I ask their backs. Tell CNN, tell the BBC where Dolinka is!

We hear the ambulances and sit down on our bunks. We are sweating and shivering.

When we get back from hospital, I tell Selim, we can do the other ankle.

No, he says. The British will come. He pulls out a comb from his pocket and neatens his hair.

Kate Wyer lives in Baltimore and works as a mental health interviewer. She's been told that her heart runs on atomic energy. Her blog,, is updated daily.