How We Remember

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two prisoners, under the influence of a mysterious force of forgetfulness, regain their mental clarity and freedom through an unlikely source

Submitted: September 21, 2014

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Submitted: September 21, 2014

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How We Remember 

By S.L.Shapiro

 

Gabriel peered through the rusty bars of his cell as the clock struck one. A brilliant ray of sunlight struck the floor as if a border between prisoner and the outside world. Vargas, his neighbor, a man missing half left arm and half his right leg, mumbled "Two hundred and twenty," the days the two men had spent time dreaming,wondering and spitting out bits of unknown objects in their daily potato soup. 

"My mind isn't so clear anymore," said Gabriel leaning against the bars to Vargas' cell. "They're succeeding" replied Vargas. "That's what they want, for our minds to become like that mushy potato soup." 
Vargas  began  rubbing two sticks together. The repeated action over months had worn the wood down to a thread. 
Gabriel looked at Vargas with annoyance and hopelessness.
"Remind me why you're here?" he asked.
"Arson. And tax evasion. Pretty sure that was it. I'm forgetting why you're here too." said Vargas giving up on his project to set a fire in the cell block. 
"I sprayed painted fangs on posters of the Leader."
"Dumb." Vargas said as he drifted off into a dream-like state. 

A clanking noise echoed through the hall. Jerome, the neckless guard with a permanent smirk, opened cells of Gabriel and Vargas, attached chains and led them out like two old mules. They followed Jerome through the courtyard packed with inmates to the outer gates of the complex, down a mossy hillside to the edge of  cliff where a turbulent, grayish-green sea howled against jagged rocks. These men were the few fortunate ones who questioned nothing, remained silent and were rewarded. They could stroll, albeit in chains, down the lush landscape to breathe sea air for ten minutes every week. 

Each week Gabriel took careful note of every passageway, every sewer pipe, every corner and nook that may lead to a way out. Vargas struggled to keep his balance hopping along the way, the mental and physical exhaustion enough to do him in. Returning to his cell, Gabriel remembered what he saw. He hurried to gather the fast fading images, grabbed his only stubby pencil and recorded his observations. A blank paper stared back at him. Nothing. 

Either it was the air inside, or the potato soup, something was clouding his and others' thoughts. 

The inmates whispered about the Leader's desire to inhibit clarity of thought by some unknown source. Others were unable to recall what they had for lunch, though it was the same potato soup. Jerome never failed to stop by for his daily barbs. "Hey, Vargas, how'd you manage to lose half the left arm and half the right?" He cackled as he swayed his chain. Vargas squinted in anger, yet never said a word out of fear.  His only pleasure was the ten-minute walk to the cliff. 

On the last week of the month, Jerome came as usual to take the two for their chained stroll. He cracked his whip with a stinging sound every few minutes as if to say, "Don't mess with Jerome". Along the streets high spirited, limber and muscular townspeople ran down pathways as if competing with each other.  They flew like falcons and possessed an agility like no one had seen before. Vargas hobbled along stopping for deep breaths. He wondered if these people were even human. 

Back in their cells prisoners continued whispers about the happenings on the streets. Some caught glimpses through the bars in the courtyard. The images soon grew vague, but a few newcomers could hold onto a lucid picture for a couple hours.
"A race. The Leader's Marathon...for his most loyal," speculated a new arrival. The course leads somewhere."
"Over the cliff?" chimed in Vargas. He felt a cold wave that drowned the desire to question more. Gabriel fought off the same coldness, but was compelled to question more. 

The next walk to the cliff would be crucial. Gabriel mustered up as much strength as possible to bring back news to the prisoners. Vargas didn't join him. He slumped over in his cell, mumbling the number of days he had been in the same place. His eyes glossed and distant. The two sticks still lay beside him on a barren floor. 

As Gabriel slipped along blueish mossy hills, he noticed the runners in their daily practice. They popped small fuchsia balls into their mouths at rest stops then sprinted down paths that were lost in the horizon. "It must lead somewhere," he said under his breath, hoping that speaking the words would help him remember.

Moments later a young man with a clown-like bright yellow jacket and hot pink running shoes appeared near the path. Gabriel took him as one of the marathon practice runners who had strayed from the course. They glanced at each other locking eyes, the young man smiled then sauntered away.  Jerome was so busy cracking his whip and staring into the distance that he didn't bother check on his prisoner. Gabriel spotted a box of chocolates left where the young man had stood. He snatched them, shoved them under his jacket and followed Jerome's lead back to his cell. 

The chocolates were a marvel, each with a different design. Inside each was a small fuchsia ball. Gabriel held it up to the faint light and placed it in his mouth. As it melted on his tongue he began to remember bits of his walks. He recalled the pathways, the pipes, the trap door and his way out. He lifted Vargas' limp head and popped a ball into his mouth. In the last chocolate was a tiny key. 

The two scuffled underground and landed on the marathon path. The moonlight was a welcome lantern in the darkness as they followed the path to the end. Here was the marathon finish line. The young man who left the chocolates sat on a rock. He remembered. Gabriel embraced his brother, a former prisoner, after two hundred and twenty days. 


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