It was a night of long music that wouldn’t stop. Repeating itself like a circuit in time with my feet. I should have gone down the well like I wanted to when I first saw it. Now, followed, the only thing left was to seem not to be the one they were looking for. Three men walking behind me. So what. I’m over here, they’re over there. My life. Their lives. I have nothing to do with them and try to project that in my body language.
“He’s good,” I heard one of them say as if he was just then inside my head.
“How far is he going to go?” A higher voice. The kind that always belongs to the skinny guy advocating the loudest to hang people the highest.
I didn’t need to hear the rest of the conversation. People passing by, people who just happen to be there, don’t do a commentary about the nonchalant manner in which someone is walking. I bolted into the woods to my left and right into the arms of two officers who were waiting for just such an opportunity.
The canvasback truck jangled over the pine cones, wobbling down the uneven terrain. They were all laughing and threw me in the back under the canvas. I scrambled to the back and wedged myself between the gumball machines and some broken mannequins, just in case anyone had the idea of following me in and starting a beating. But the only one who joined me carried a large hunting knife that flashed blue only once when some unknown light hit it, and he just smiled like a raccoon.
“You boys will never learn will you?” He stunk of onions. “Back to Paladin’s Field for you now.” He was happy. The prospect of returning to the compound filled him with Christmas joy. “I don’t know why you boys run so much. If I had the guarantee of being fed every day, had a place to sleep each and every night, I’d jump at the chance.”
I don’t know why I said, “then why don’t you take my place” from behind my knees.
He went quiet. He had to think about it. Mull it over. Process my words. Just the kind of guy they get to do this kind of work. Perfect, in fact. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “Don’t you have to do something, know somebody to get in?” His head was tilted like a dog. And these are our masters. “Or did you do something bad?”
“I was born in the city. I finished my schooling and here I was.”
“Because you knew someone?”
There was no point in answering. The truck jumbled along the bad road. Me beside the painted face of a naked plastic woman half my age. He didn’t wait long for an answer. In a few minutes, he forgot he’d asked one.
We reached the Field by morning unfed, half-awake, my legs as thick as paste. Only the braying of the hounds inside the fence and the truck gate slamming open broke my trance.
The men were lining in the yard. I knew what was to follow. I’d been caught before. Been brought back before. I already knew the speech I was going to get. The treatment I was about to receive.
After a shave and a shower I made a pot of coffee. I could hear the men marching outside my window. The morning cadence.
Fresh clothes. My good watch. Out the door to join them. Next time I’m going to jump down that well. The only reason I didn’t do it was because of the spiders. Not the idea of spiders but the look on their faces and the things I imagined them saying to one another once I broke into their hidden world. Staring at me with their diamond eyes. All knowing.
I passed the women chanting and praying in the coatroom and out my front door. My good shoes crunch the chipped gravel and a few of the men smiled in my direction. Mornings are neither a relief or fresh hope. They are only a bell you wake up to.
I caught the expression on Edward’s face. His eyes staring at me above a wicked grin visible all the way across the Assembly Yard. He was going to do something and he wanted me to do it with him. I read all this just from the squint of his eyes. We didn’t dare be obvious about it and had perfected subtle means of communication. Changing the color around our eyes like chameleons. A twitch at the cheekbones, a half-hearted wink. His lips were in a tight line, showing he was determined.
That face we all get. He believed he’d perfected the means of escape this time. I flicked my eyebrows. My response. Not me. I needed a shower and a hot bowl of soup tonight, my signal said. Need to lay low for a while. Let a few more days go by. And more days. And more days after that.
About the Author:
RW Spryszak’s recent work has appeared in A-Minor Magazine (Hong Kong) and Novelty (UK). He has been featured in small press magazines since the late 1980s and is the author of “Edju” published by Spuyten Duyvil (NY) in late 2018. He is Managing Editor at Thrice Publishing and has edited two anthologies in the “Surrealists and Outsiders” (2018 and 2019) Series.