It wasn’t an ordinary itch. It tore at his flesh with the viciousness of army ants. The itch consumed his days and nights. Sitting on the bed in his lonely cell, he peeped into his cast. The itch snarled at him and bit him vengefully.
He would clang his steel plate against the iron bars of his cell.
“Sir, please, the cast is itching so much, please cut it,” he would limp towards the door and yelp like a dog.
“Just shut up. You are brave enough to kill someone, but cannot tolerate an itch?” the night guard would mock him.
He banged his head against the wall and tugged his hair. He howled like a wolf at night. All night, he sat under the dim light and poked a flat ruler into his cast. The touch of the ruler burned his skin. He felt that his skin would peel off and stick to the cast.
“It’s just the withdrawal symptoms. He is hallucinating,” the jail doctor declared on his weekly visit.
“Bastard, he was high and killed another bastard. Giving us trouble now,” the jail warden spit out a red mixture into his spittoon.
But he was sure it wasn’t hallucinations. He never hallucinated. He had lucid dreams – of himself, dribbling the football past the full-back. A defender nudging him from the back. He, landing on the ground on his knees, and the POP sound. His knee bent in an awkward ankle.
“Complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, and multiple fractures,” the doctor’s final verdict. The surgery, the painkillers that made him drowsy, his days on the bed, his loosening muscles, and his body, bulging in the middle like a pear.
Months of rehabilitation in his forlorn apartment, indignantly watching his team winning tournaments. His depression and anxiety. The magic drugs that helped him float above the sea of agony. The debts that heaped above his head like a mountain, the argument with his drug dealer. A hit that cracked the scrawny fellow’s skull. Lucid dreams!
He usually woke up from them, hearing that cracking sound of the skull. Soon the itch took over. He scratched on the cast like a lunatic. He hit his fractured leg against the wall, hoping to break the cast.
The waves of pain became a cyclone. Standing at the eye of it, he looked down into the deep column of water. It was getting ready to drown him. His lucid dreams vanished. Only the dark reality of the burning itch remained.
“Please, please cut this cast, it’s killing me,” he scuttered around his cell, pleading to the void in front of him. But, no one paid heed.
He could smell death around him. He thought about his final rights, his body being washed, wrapped in new clothes, his flesh being burnt, his skin melting, his bones crackling. He could smell his flesh, being grilled inside an incinerator. He felt a wave of relief coming over him.
That night, he howled in anguish, feeling each inch of his skin under the cast cut into pieces. He growled, yelped, and finally whimpered. Then he hung himself, with his cast weighing him down. Two and a half minutes, the itch competed with death, and death won.
The next morning, they took him down with relief. Carried him out of his cell and cut his cast. They jumped up, startled by that sight.
Dozens of bed bugs came gushing out of the cast!
They ran in every direction for refuge. His leg or whatever was that under the cast, resembled a swollen log floating above a sea of blood.