Remember My Chains

Fiction By Heather // 12/2/2008

I hated my job, back in the days when I worked here. At first I didn’t mind it, then without warning it started to grate on me.

It wasn’t the sounds, though they were enough to curdle the blood of any sane man sometimes. Nor was it the smells, though it was if all the refuse of the world had been dumped in this pit.

It wasn’t the work, either. There were moments I hated it, like the day a prisoner came at me with a knife and I had to break his arm. There were times, after kicking and knocking around defenseless men, that I hated myself. But I justified it by saying these men were animals, sub-human, worthless, the scum of society. They deserved everything they got.

But there was one man who made me hate my job. The prisoner in cell forty-eight. I was put in charge of food for that block. Three times a day I went around, carrying plates of food to those men. I’d open the door, set their food within their reach, and jump back quickly, slamming the door lest I be caught and strangled in their chains.

But day in, day out, as long as there was light to see by, the man in cell forty-eight would be writing on the wall of his cell with anything he could lay hands on. Bits of chalky stone, rusted nails, anything. Always, I’d open the door and the white-haired old oddity would smile at me as I set the food down within his reach. He never lunged for it, or at me, like the other prisoners. He’d merely set his bit of chalk or metal down, thank me, and bend his head over the food.

I saw what went into that food, and I said back then that I’d never touch it if I was starving to death. But he always seemed so grateful for the junk we gave him. When I came back to gather the plate, he’d smile and nod and thank me again. I never saw anything but a smile on his face. Sometimes I wondered if he was fully sane.

I tried to find out his crime. Some I asked weren’t even aware of his presence. Others knew him but couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me his crime. I finally asked the prison supervisor, and his answer shocked me. The old man had done everything from insurgence to speaking false religion.

After that, I never listened to the old man. I never stood around long enough to hear his thank you. I hated him, for seeming so innocent. I hated him because of his serenity in the face of death, when I, an upright man, couldn’t find peace to save my life. Yet a corner of my mind always wanted to speak with him, to find out the secret of his peace. He haunted my dreams. That made me hate him more.
Yet I couldn’t force myself to stay away from him. I was there the day they remembered his case. I was there the day he was put on trial and the day he was sentenced to die. I was there when they took him out of his cell. His ocean-blue eyes looked at me calmly, peacefully, and he didn’t fight when we took him out of the cell. Strange for one about to die, and it made my limbs shake.

“Remember my chains,” he said to me. “Remember my chains, my son, for one they may be your own.”

I left the prison that day, trembling and swearing I’d never go back. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I found another job, but the old man’s serene blue eyes wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t help but dig into his past life.

Now, I am back at the prison. Now I sit in the cell, reading the words in the old one’s shaky writing and taking comfort from them. I hear them coming to help me complete my journey in following the old one’s footsteps.

He was right. His chains have become mine, but like him I am not held down by my depressing earthly bonds. My soul soars above them, joyful and at peace. I can only hope that I am worthy to follow the old one’s final steps.

Comments

Wow, Heather...that was

Wow, Heather...that was amazing!
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"Ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?...Morons."
-Vizzini

Clare Marie | Tue, 12/02/2008

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

That was so inspiring! Great

That was so inspiring! Great job. :)
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"You're pirates! Hang the code, and hang the rules! They're more like guidelines anyway"
-Elizabeth Swan//Pirates of the Caribbean//Curse of the Black Pearl

Sarah | Tue, 12/02/2008

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

I agree with the two

I agree with the two commenters above, this is a wonderful story, I never would have guessed this wasn't your strong point =]

Tamerah | Tue, 12/02/2008

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