The Apsaras Series 4:   

                                                                                                          Hope Dies Last   


                                                                                                                                                       By:  Stacy L.   



CATEGORY:  Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Vignette

TABLE FIC PROMPT:  #078 Different

WARNINGS:  Dark, Disturbing Imagery, Violence

COMPLETED:  November 17, 2006


AUTHOR’S NOTES:  This story takes place in the backdrop of the “Mada’s Cursed” series and is the fourth installment in “The Apsaras Series”.  It also serves as a response to a table fic prompt from the 50_darkfics LiveJournal challenge community.


                                                                                                               * * * *

As he lay in his dark cell resting his head on his arms he listened to the sounds all around him. Voices filtered in disturbing the silence he craved and yearned for. Hearing screams pierce the air he tensed, swallowing hard, his heart racing as his mind sent him images of what could be happening to those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of whatever abuse Mada’s guards chose to inflict.


He felt desolation begin to set in as the reality of his present situation again slapped him brutally across the face. He opened his mouth to scream only to fall silent again as a calming presence settled around him. Without thought he softly croaked, “Janet…” her name tumbling from his dry lips as if it were a prayer. Silence answered him, but he sensed that he was no longer alone. He sensed a soothing presence, a familiar presence and smiled softly. He whispered, “Miss you…,” moaning as a tender hand began to softly comb through his hair and a lilting voice came back to him, “I know you do, honey, but this isn’t the way to see me again.”


Releasing a soft snort he answered, “I know,” and the musical voice came back to him softly inquiring, “Daniel, how did you get yourself into this mess?”


“I’m not sure…”


“You’re not sure?”


Shaking his head he managed, “Don’t remember…not much anyway.”


“Where are the others?”


“Oh they’re here and there, everywhere…”


Janet frowned deeply not liking the words spoken. She shook her head asking, “Why haven’t they come for you, Daniel? Why haven’t they come?”


“They think I’m dead.”


“They…? How?”


“I don’t know. Can’t remember…been so long, so, so long. Too long in darkness, losing myself… I’m losing myself.”


“No you’re not Daniel. No you’re not.”


“Can’t take it… Please…let me die.”


“No. No. That’s not why I’m here, that’s not why I’ve come.”


“Please let me go.”


“No, Daniel. No.”


“Then why are you here?”


“To provide you with hope…”


“What is hope, Janet?”


Her voice came to him sounding sad as she answered, “Hope is something you need. Something we all need to keep on going.”


Sighing Daniel replied, “I think I’ve lost it, Janet. I think it’s gone and soon, soon I’ll be gone too.”


“It’s not yet your time.”


“So I’ve been told.”


Janet smiled knowing that he was referring to the one who had already visited him. She continued to gently stroke his hair responding with, “She is rather fond of you.”




“You know of whom I speak. She was but the first. Many more will come to you.”


“What? But…I don’t understand. Why?”


“You’re too precious to lose. You have much yet to accomplish.”


“Why? Why do you care? Why do they care?”


“Because there is presently no one else to…”


“So I am lost.”


“Oh no, Daniel, not lost. Misplaced, temporarily, they will come for you.”


“They think I’m dead. No one will come.”


“Why do you harbor so little faith within?”


He remained silent hearing screams piercing the air beyond his cell before managing, “I’ve been here a long time, Janet, too long. Time has no meaning here. All that exists is endless darkness. I should have fallen ages ago but…”


“The angel of death was merciful to you.”


“She saved me, but I don’t know why. Why Janet? Why am I here? Why am I suffering? What did I do to ever deserve this?”


“You haven’t done anything, Daniel. You haven’t done anything.”


“Then why am I here?”




“Because why?”


“There’s always a reason.”


“Not this time.”


“You’re here because you’re needed here.”


“I’m needed here? I do nothing but rot away in this dungeon suffering, screaming, fighting for my very soul… I’m lost Janet. Forever trapped in a nightmare. Why? Why am I here? Why have I been forgotten, left for dead? Why, Janet?”


“You haven’t been forgotten, Daniel.”


“No? Then why am I still here, still trapped? Why?”


“I don’t know, but there has to be a reason. There’s always a reason.”


“Not this time, Jan, not this time.”


“Daniel you must hold on. You must continue to fight.”


“With what, Janet, with what…? My body is battered and broken. I’m lying in filth. I’m naked, alone, lost with no chance of escape. Why should I fight, Janet? Tell me why.”


“Because the world needs you…”


“What could the world possibly need from someone who has nothing left?”


Janet felt her eyes begin to tear up. She knew if she dared visit him she would be faced with his overwhelming despair and sorrow. She had been warned. She had been told not to interfere, but she had to. She couldn’t allow him to become lost. She couldn’t allow Daniel Jackson to fade and disappear. She just couldn’t do it, so she came to him determined to instill hope into a man who had all but given up on it. He was so far removed from the man he had once been and for good reason. He had been captured months ago and was kept in a constant state of darkness, kept in a constant state of oppression, kept in a constant state of submission unable to do anything but lie where he was chained, forced to allow them to beat and abuse him, forced to allow them to starve and torment him. He was trapped and could do nothing to gain his freedom so long as he remained chained to the floor.


Most people would have surrendered long ago becoming so lost in despair that they went literally mad. Daniel had not, but he was very close to giving in to the dark realm of insanity. He was on the edge still teetering, so close to falling and becoming truly lost. Soon, soon insanity would win the battle and claim Daniel’s soul. It was so close now, so very close to obtaining its goal and if there was no intervention soon then Daniel would become truly lost.


Two had already been sent for that very purpose but when Daniel saw the first he was happy to see her, even hoped she was coming for him. He was so ready now, so very ready to die that he no longer feared the angel of death. And as for the second, he was too far gone to see her, though she never strayed far from him fearing the one’s who tortured him would become so full of hatred, of lust and of rage that they would go to any length to break him. She remained watching over him feeling his suffering tear at her very essence, but she was not permitted to interfere. Her duty was to always remain near humankind, to inspire mortals to be just and fair. Shekinah was being slowly torn apart as she bore witness to Daniel’s endless suffering. She hovered nearby doing what she could, intervening when she could, pushing the limits of her restrictions, skirting the very edge of the rules, bending them when she could while trying to keep from breaking them on a whim. Two had already been sent and still Daniel dangled so very close to the brink of insanity.


She was the third and was determined to give Daniel hope again, for without it the demons of darkness and hatred would be permitted to run amuck driving Daniel to his limits, pushing him beyond his endurance, beyond resistance, beyond the light and once they succeeded in driving him from the light there would be no bringing him back. He would become darkness and despair, a spirit, a soul crushed, destroyed, nearly obliterated, forever to be tormented and trapped, forever to be lost in what most people called Hell. He would become a fallen angel trapped, his wings clipped, his very spirit dying, winking out, his soul sentenced to eternal damnation and she would not allow that to happen. She refused to allow it to happen determined to give hope back to him.


She drew in a deep breath before saying, “Daniel, you can’t give up.”


Silence answered her. It stretched for several minutes before Daniel broke it with a soft, “Why?”


She started to answer him certain that she had lost his attention, “Because…” and as he tensed further she continued to tenderly run her fingers through his hair unsure of what to say or how to help him. The silence grew awkward between them until Daniel again broke it, “Do you hear them?”




“Do you hear how they cry out? How they scream? How they beg and plead? Can you hear how they suffer? There are so many down here and so many suffer endlessly, needlessly. Why?”


Hearing the thousands of screams around her she quietly answered, “I don’t know, Daniel. I don’t know.”


“I’ll be next you know. My time is coming. They visit me every night and every night they torture me. They don’t ask anything of me but that I beg them for mercy. When I refuse they beat me. They laugh at my suffering and derive way too much pleasure from the art of abuse. In fact, I hear them now. They’ve come for me. They will punish me. They will beat me again.”




She jumped startled as his cell door opened and a guard quickly approached wasting little time before grabbing a lock of Daniel’s hair and yanking him upright by it. His scream pierced the air and the tears Janet had been holding back began to fall. She turned away catching sight of another who too was crying. The woman softly greeted, “I am Shekinah.”


“I know. Why are you here?”


“I am always nearby when he is chosen for torment.”




“There is nothing you can do for him. He will no longer hear you. He is now too focused on fighting for his very soul.”


“It’s not time…”


“You are correct, but there are other forces at work here, evil forces. He has been chosen to be broken. They want him to join them.”


“Who does?”


“Fallen angels…”


Janet swallowed hard watching the horrible scene play out, her attention only straying when the woman again spoke, “I fear he can no longer hear you.”


She turned then halting as Daniel released a soft barely audible, “Janet, don’t go…please.”


She turned back seeing the guard laugh before he whispered, “Beg me and I will spare you this night.”


When Daniel spoke again it was to form her name upon his lips and was answered by a sharp kick being driven into his left side. His breathing grew haggard and he began to cough attempting to regain it before drawing yet again to hands and knees, his limbs shaking violently from the exertion he was expending to follow the command given. She wanted to leave unsure if she had the strength to stand by and watch as he was beaten and abused. She turned to go but as he again released her name as if it were a soft plea she found she couldn’t leave him. She would stay, and she would remain until he no longer needed her…or until blessed exhaustion stole him away again.


She was so focused on him that she jumped as Shekinah spoke, “He knows that you are here. There is a connection between the two of you. Perhaps that is why he can sense you and not me. I have tried so often to gain his attention and his focus, but he does not hear me. I have tried to offer him comfort, but he does not see me. You, you are different. He can sense you. He knows that you are with him and this has given him strength. He needs you to bear this pain, this burden with him.”


Without looking up Janet softly questioned, “But why? What is so different about this moment, this particular session…?”


Shekinah lowered her head and fell silent drawing Janet’s full attention. Noting the change in her demeanor Janet forced herself to speak, “What happened to him the last time he was visited?”


“It is not important. What is important is that you are here with him now.”


“Shekinah, what happened to him?”


The sharp no that echoed through her mind forced her attention back to Daniel and what was occurring before her. She gazed at him certain that he had not spoken that word aloud. Instead he was screaming it in his own mind. As she focused her full attention on the two men before her she shuddered watching as the guard began to run a hand tenderly across Daniel’s back, almost affectionately. She stepped towards them only stopping when Shekinah sharply informed, “You must not interfere.”


She took another step pausing when Shekinah continued, “This is not an uncommon occurrence, and I can assure you they will not go much further beyond this. They never do. Instead they wield it as a weapon…offering him tenderness and gentleness before returning once again to inducing pain and suffering. It drives most insane…the balance of tenderness and hatred these monsters inflict upon their victims. It is a game to them, and he knows it is. He fears they will one day go further, but they will not. I will not allow it. They desire to keep him in a constant state of uncertainty. They desire to keep him always afraid, always unsure of what their motives are, of what they will do to him next to gain his compliance. It gives them more power over him, more control over one who refuses to yield to them. He angers them and frustrates them. They do not know what to expect from him, and they do not like that. They want him broken and will soon go to any length to ensure it is so. They have held back thus far but to leave one secured in place, unable to move or to rise, unable to care for themselves, left always unclothed, unkempt and unclean…left to lie in their own lifeblood surrounded only by the screams of countless others in eternal darkness has a way of breaking even the strongest of mind and body. He continues to resist and to fight against them, but he is fast losing the battle. He is certain that he is alone in the world and believes that he is no longer missed. He has nearly lost all hope and once that is gone he too will be gone for…”


“Hope dies last.”





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