The Prisoner

Power flows from my heel to my toe, propelling me forward. The autumn leaves crunch under my feet, disintegrating with each step. Further and further I make my way into the forest, putting the Great White Wall to my back. I am out here to find my stash. There are weapons there; I’ve squirrelled them away over time – just in case. Today is ‘just in case.’ So I will arm myself. I will rebel. I will be free.

It was ten years ago. We never got to elect these people. These zealous politicians – these petty tyrants – always tell us they know what’s best for us. They tell us where we can and cannot go, do and do not do and worse, tell us what we can and cannot eat. It is totalitarianism in its purest form. Someone has to fight back. If no one fights back, what will become of us? We will become obedient dogs, loyal to a world we had no say in in making.

The Big Pine. Her branches cast a narrow but protective shroud upon the ground. It was here I scattered my cache. The dead, brown leaves are thick this time of year. They layer the forest floor and complicate my search. But I spread my hands out like metal detectors, searching, searching…got one! The cool, earth-toned oval exterior of a WWII-era pineapple grenade. It’s old so I hope it will still do the job. I crawl around on my hands and knees and rub them raw on the hardening ground and bitey sticks in search of more. Another! And another! How much time do I have?

I stand and look back within the confines of the Great White Wall, through its wooden slots towards their prized temple of discipline. And from the temple a scent comes to me on a light, crisp breeze. It can only be…just as I feared. I will not be subjected to their experiments again! I should run further away. I should save myself. But that is the coward’s way. I am all that stands between them and my kinsmen. I am the difference between oppression and freedom.

I race back towards the blue shingled walls that enshrine their madness. Fueled by the promise of a new day, I am a blur. They will never see me coming. One explosive is in hand, ready to lose its pin. Two more rest in each of my back pockets for insurance. In moments I have put myself within striking distance. I pull the pin. I rear my arm.

“Oliver!” the weary-haired witch calls as she appears out the gates of Hell. She wears a dithered flowered smock; it might as well be a butcher’s apron. “Put those pine cones down and get in here for dinner! Fish sticks with broccoli and cooked carrots.”

I am discovered! I can throw this grenade and end her. But what of the warden who himself is an ogre? I have more grenades, but what if they don’t work? They are old, after all. I should have tested one of these first. Maybe I should have collected more reliable weapons. I am frozen. What do I do? He who hesitates is lost.

“Get in here and eat dinner if you want ice cream for dessert.” Her crooked, warted finger motions for me to come hither.

Damn her. Damn all of them. This is what they do; there is the experiment but there is also a reward. And this is how we fall, how we conform – they give us just enough of what we want in order to keep abusing us. I drop my arm, drop my armaments. In the end I am no different. I drag my feet back towards their lair.

“Coming, mother.”

In time I will tell myself oppression is not so bad. In time I will tell others that freedom is overrated, that ‘Freedom ain’t free.’ That is when I will know but not dare say I have fallen completely under their spell. Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.


All Rights Reserved © July 2016 John J Vinacci

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