Beyond the Wall
Here I am. Where am I? I find myself trapped in a small space, swallowed by a pool of inescapable ebony, with absolutely no recollection of what had occurred prior to the perplexing event of me being placed here. I don't have the slightest clue why I am trapped here right now all alone in this room.
This room and everything about my surroundings seems vaguely familiar, but yet, so foreign to me. Though the room appears to be completely sealed tight, I can feel the cold wind of death slice through my body. I can hear the chilling sound of a nearby leak as the drips of water hit the cement ground.
Fortunately I was never known to be claustrophobic. That surely would be a shame, because the dark and wet room I am currently in has absolutely no openings of any kind. There is no source of natural light. I feel around the area to better familiarize myself with my strange surroundings. The room dimensions are imprecisely ten by thirteen feet. I measure with my feet, carefully placing one over another, but I can not tell for sure.
The walls of this room are covered with damp, rough stones. I look up and notice that those walls seem to go on forever in the vertical direction. I can not tell where they end, but there certainly is a ceiling; for I do not even see the moonlight overhead. I merely guess that it is nighttime, but one could not tell. Everything appears to be dreary and dark inside the walls that engulf my being.
I will not say the setting is the worst of it all; no, I can not remember a thing about myself, or how I got to this dreadful place. Perhaps I do not want to know exactly what happened prior to me being in here; this closed up room gives my stomach an uneasily churning sensation.
I don't know what to do at this moment. I walk toward the brightest part of the lingering shadows and gaze down at my only source of light. It's not much. I examine myself, starting with my hands. I can not believe I don't even remember what I look like.
My hands are blackened from what appears to be dried dirt caked on my palms. I scrape most of the residue away. My fingernails have something grotesque underneath. Is it… dried blood? I can not see it clearly enough to determine for sure.
My clothes are nothing but tattered rags, also encrusted with slightly damp mud. What had I been through not too long ago to look as dreadful as this? I can not see my face; for I have no mirror to reflect my features. I do feel my hair scratching the tops of my shoulders. I run my fingers through my hair; unsurprisingly rough to the texture and impossibly tangled.
I then feel my face with my callused and splintered fingertips. I can make out a pair of thin and ice cold lips. They are sore, even as I touch them as gently as possible. They are extremely chapped to the point of splitting open. I can taste the blood in my mouth as I lick my lips. I also feel unfamiliar bumps on my cheeks. I make the mistake by picking at the bumps, only to discover that they were crusted scabs. They crack and bleed. They might be infected.
At the moment I can sense a terrible migraine murder my brain; it is as if my eyes are bruised terribly. This is unbearable to go through.
I begin to scrutinize the room closer. I step toward one of the surrounding walls. I reach out one aching hand to feel the surface of the wet bricks. They are indeed rough stones, rubbing against my hands like scratchy sandpaper. I grab the little lamp beside me and bring it up to my eye level to see clearer. I notice overgrown weeds that grew and died in-between the tightly spaced bricks. At least I know there is life outside these closed walls.
These walls are so antagonizing to me. The wall is laughing at me as I sit here and wonder what to do next. It is excruciatingly taunting and grating on my nerves. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do at this point.
If only there is a way I can remember just a smidgen of what led up to this perplexity. I slouch against the wall and set the lamp down beside me.
* * *
I saunter to school one dismal, foggy day. I have my snow boots on my feet sloppily. The shoelaces are carelessly flopping around in the snow as I take every step. I take one step into the private school campus and instantly hear what seems like German Nazis in a concentration camp: the teachers. As they spit salvia of rage into the innocent faces of the young children, I hang up my dampened coat on the hanger outside the door.
I meaner leisurely into the classroom as I notice the teacher glaring at me with eyes of lasers. She burns a hole directly through my soul. I know I did something to upset her. I glance wearily at the rest of the children. They are all sitting up straight in their chairs with numb-looking expressions engraved on their faces. They give the impression that they are desperate, but without emotion.
"Your shoes are untied, young man," the teacher critiques harshly. She viciously points her meter stick toward my soaking winter boots.
"I-I'm terribly sorry Mrs. Stellar," I begin in a hesitantly trembling voice. "I didn't know they were untied, honest."
"Liar!" hisses Mrs. Stellar.
"Liar!" mimics the rest of the children in unison. They sound brainless. They do not blink or make an emotional expression; they simply sit there staring blankly at the front wall.
I am a schoolboy, attending a small town private school secluded from any major populations. Boys and girls go together, but never learn in the same classroom with the opposite sex. I am told to always stay away from the little girls. They are strange, so to this day, I listen to the teachers who originally told me to do so.
The teachers are definitely not what I would describe as pleasant. I noticed after my first few weeks at this school that they were all unusually cruel to the children.
The school building is rather run down and ancient. The red bricks are loose and the pavement is cracked beyond repair. From the outside, the windows are dark and dirty. The grass is full of overgrown weeds. In fact, there are weeds surrounding the entire building, and dead trees with weathered, distorted branches intertwining through each other. There is but one small playground on the side of the lot. It is always empty. We are forbidden to play on the rusty swing sets. The slides are muddy and filthy with age. The playground has not been used by children in years. The only thing that lingers is the ominous silence that seems to dwell within everybody at the school.
Without warning, the Gestapo of a teacher raises her meter stick and slams it against my arm. Instantaneously, my flesh catches on fire. I holler in pain.
"Sit down with the othe's!"
"Yes Mrs. Stellar," I quickly reply as I stroke my injured arm. I take a seat beside one of the other boys. I do not know anybody in the classroom. Nobody knows one another. We are forbidden to talk to each other. If we talked, the teachers would strike us down, just like Mrs. Stellar just brutally demonstrated.
"Now class, we will pick up from where we were yesterday. 'Oo knows where we left off on our lesson?" Mrs. Stellar paces the front slowly while continuously glaring at me with her cynical eyes.
Everybody's hands robotically arise in unison. Just then, like a single person, the children, including myself answer, "Marcus… Steppel…"
* * *
Just then my eyes pop open. I immediately stand up, alert for who knows what. What had just happened? I had been dreaming. It is either a dream or a distant memory in the form of a dream. Which is it?
It is certainly probable to be a memory. It all seems so clear and detailed in my mind that it could very much be reminiscence. Yes, I know it had to be a fading remembrance from my childhood. It confuses me. It seems so random and insignificant in meaning to me right now. None of it makes sense. What should I be taking away from that vision? What of its importance? Is it a remembrance, or just an intriguing dream which seems like a faded memory, but is just deception?
I rub my bruised eyes, fully awakening this time. I am so desperate to find some answers about my identity, or at least about why I'm here that I may be over thinking some things. At least I know a little bit more than I did a while ago.
Out of the blue, a distant blast sounds from outside the wall. I stand up against the wall and my ears perk like radars. A second time, there is another blast. It sounds recognizably like a gunshot. Somebody is out there, I suddenly realize.
"'Ey you," I exclaim as loudly as I possibly can. My voice breaks the dead silence inside these walls and seems to make the bricks rumble to some extent.
"'Ey you out there, can you 'ear me?"
No answer. Yet again, another gunshot is fired, which still signifies that there is still existence out there.
"Is anybody out there? Can you 'elp me? Please, is there anybody out there?"
I fiddle with the stones on the wall in front of my face, trying to find a way through, just hoping that the walls are thin and unstable enough to break through. I pound uncontrollably at the wall. I notice that the gun fires were getting softer and softer.
"Don't go! Come back fo' me!" I frantically scream as I slam my entire body against the bricks. I grip my sides in pain. I become conscious that it is no use trying to crumble the wall. There is definitely no way out.
"Hehehehehe!" I hear the walls echo with menacing laughter which fills my soul with malice. I can not believe that the walls dare to jeer at my troubles. Who does it think it is to laugh and make fun of me?
"Shut up you bloody bastard!" I scream at the walls. I know that I am slowly going insane. I am speaking to walls; what's the matter with me? I wonder to myself as I study the walls. The wall is mocking me. The wall is laughing at my misfortune, I realize. The wall knows it has me locked up forever, and it is filled with scornful amusement. This enrages me. I thrash myself into the wall, not even leaving the tiniest indentation.
I put my ear against the wall, waiting for a responding gunshot to call out, but there is ominous silence. The sounds have vanished.
* * *
I spent the past two days within these walls, not knowing how much longer I will survive. I have no sources of water or nourishment. My stomach is roaring like a ferocious beast. I can not satisfy my demanding hunger.
After that day I have not heard the gunshots again. There is nothing I would not give just to see one more glimpse of glimmering daylight. I would kill just to feel the warm, golden rays hit my skin one last time. Of course, there is nobody to kill; as established before, I am all alone.
What lies outside the wall is an unreadable mystery. I desperately want to step out of this prison cell. That's what it is, a prison. What did I do to get myself into this catastrophe?
I lean against the bricks, still with old, musty moisture on the surface, trying to curl up in order to warm myself a bit. With those thoughts in my mind, I slowly begin to drift off to a deep but unfulfilling slumber. As I drift deeper and deeper away into a dreamless sleep, I feel as if I'm covered head to toe with comforting, soft eiderdown.
When I finally wake, to my surprise, I find a small portion of rations next to me. I do not vacillate another minute. I rip open the packages and stuff what tastes like stale bread into my mouth. I have never tasted anything more sweetly in my entire life.
Somebody must want me to remain alive, I realize as I stuff my face with the crumbling bread. Someone is keeping me here, and somehow they were able to get in. There must be a way out of here.
After my gratifying meal, I feel around the dark room to one of the walls. The lamp had been on throughout the past few days, and surely it will burn out soon. After that happens, I will not have the slightest idea what to do next.
I indolently pace in circles around the room, trying to stretch my legs a bit. I know it is good for me to get a little exercise. Just then, I hear another glint of hope from beyond the walls. This time, instead of one single gunshot after another, I hear multiple bullets being fired at once. There must be a war going on out there, I consider. Suddenly my survival instincts kick in and I shriek ear-splittingly from behind these walls, praying that someone out there would hear me.
"Is there anybody out there? I'm in 'ere! Save me!" I beseech, trying to amplify my voice as much as humanly possible. There is no reply, but the bullets continuously fire.
I persist on bellowing, but none of it does me any good. In the midst of a panic, I scan the room rapidly, trying to find another way to catch attention. I strive to finger at the stones again, knowing that it will probably get me nowhere. I do not know what else to do, so I begin to pound against the wall hysterically, bruising my fists in the process of insanity.
Indeed, the walls do rumble as I ram my gaunt shoulder into the side of the wall. I simply must break down this wall, I tell myself. At long last, when I slam my fists into the bricks, something strikingly odd catches my attention, which consequently causes me to cease my violence. One of the stones gives in and is loose from its position in the wall. This instantly sparks my curiosity as I initiate by scraping at the rock with my jagged, bloody nails. Undeniably, the single stone is loosened by my reckless pounding.
At long last, the brick falls to the icy ground below my bare feet in surrender. The sight is immensely blinding. The sun cracks through the tiny crevice I have created. I can hardly bare to look at it, but soon enough my eyes become used to the brightness. I peer apprehensively outside, not knowing what to expect. Will the world behind these walls be a lush, serene place; beautiful to the point of injecting envy into my system toward all the privileged people who are able to enjoy the paradise? Or will I be considered lucky to be isolated from the torturing world beyond the wall?
Despite my racing thoughts, I glance cautiously through the small crack I created. I squint my eyes as I gaze into the blinding light. It is almost unbearable to look at; the brightness stabs my eyes with pain. After a while my eyes finally adjust to the sunlight outside. I am now able to see with reasonable clarity,
What I discover is not far from my second prediction. Without exaggeration, it is apocalypse out there. I wish I could have prepared my eyes for the shocking phenomenon which is only occurring less than one hundred feet away from me. The people carry semiautomatic weapons and submachine guns; they have blood and dirt splatters across their traumatized faces. It is utterly disturbing, the whole scene of dilemma. Grenades are being thrown in all directions. Everything is in complete shambles in the battlefield which lay only yards away from where I stand. What happened here, I wonder in trepidation as I continue to gawk at the horrifying scene.
Now I am in awe by the gruesome sight of dying souls. Perhaps I am lucky to be sealed within these walls, which are protecting me from the revulsions that lay outside. It is horrendous to watch the poor buggers being blown apart my mines and grenades.
I attempt to scream from the small crevice. "'Ey you, would you 'elp me? I'm in 'ere! I'm in 'ere!"
Nobody is paying any attention to my frenzied implorations. They are all to busy dodging bullets and miscellaneous projectiles flying through the air. It is useless. Nobody can save me. Although I am safe from the horrors beyond these walls, I would rather be out there with those people than all alone in here, isolated, starving, and still with many questions. I incessantly plead for help, knowing that it will only be a waste of energy and hope.
* * *
I am now in the private school like before. The children are sitting separately during the twenty minutes of recess doing absolutely nothing. They are all staring into space, muttering words of hatred under their breath. Some twiddle their thumbs while drooling down their chins brainlessly. Some of the mindless children pace back and forth, staring at their toes blankly. I do not understand why the children do the strange things they do. I want to play with some of the other boys my age, but they act like I don't even exist. When I dare to initiate a casual conversation with them, the teachers race up to me and scream some profane words into my face. I don't know what I do half the time to get into trouble.
I do comprehend that I am different from everybody else. I can not distinguish why I am different. The teachers and principals hold that against me. They constantly punish me for reasons that don't make sense to me whatsoever. They only tell me the vaguest things, like if I interact with the other children, that I will distract them from their education. It doesn't make any sense to me.
I barely make out my home life at this point. I don't remember even having a mum. And a dad, oh, I don't know much about him either. I may have a dad, but I can't seem to focus on the topic right now. I don't know. Perhaps I'm not meant to know.
The biting, crisp wind picks up speed. The dead, intertwining tree branches tangle within each other, as if gathering close to one another for warmth. The pale sunlight is eerie and shallow. It is immeasurably hushed all around; I can clearly hear ravenous wolves howling in the distance.
The setting drapes me in an eiderdown of confusion and depression. I do not know what has come over me, but I unintentionally shed a tear. Perhaps it is the meager sight of the deceased tree leaves blowing lifelessly in the wind that triggers my emotions. I wipe the tear away quickly, remembering how I was punished for crying last time.
Too late; one of the teachers must have seen my tears. I turn to the direction of where the voice was projected from, and notice one of the recess supervisors rushing up to me frantically.
"Why were you cryin'?" the cruel man demanded breathlessly.
"U-uh," I stutter with apprehension. I don't know what to say. I don't even know why I cried. It seemed involuntary.
The teacher's face flushed with malice as he grabs the collar of my uniform tightly. It feels as if he is going to kill me at any second. "Answer me, you li'le shit! Why were you crying? You know very well that crying is against the rules!"
"I-I don't know, sir!" I manage to sputter. The teacher stares into my eyes, as if trying to read my mind or something. I attempt to avoid eye contact with the man, but he simply batters me unsympathetically on the back of the head. The angry man releases my collar, continuing to glare a hole through my soul, or so it seems.
"Children, playtime is over!" the teacher commands ruthlessly as he blows a vociferous whistle. All at once, the children rise and stagger mindlessly to the door and into their original classrooms.
The emotions of depression I had just a moment ago now fade instantly and replaces with giddiness. That was the first time I had gotten away with crying at school. Realizing that the teacher could have given me a much more severe of a punishment, I consider myself lucky.
When I get into my seat, I wipe the hint of smile away from my face, knowing what happened last time I giggled. It's not worth repeating.
Mrs. Stellar swats the meter stick on a child's desk who is not sitting up all the way in his chair. The boy directly improves his posture without question.
"Now class, we will continue our discussion from last week on Marcus Steppel. 'Oo can explain to the class 'oo Marcus Steppel is?"
"Marcus Steppel is the president. 'E leads the country formally known as The United Kingdom. 'E is in total control of the government. 'E rules over everythin'…" everybody in the class recites blankly in unanimity. The sound is grating on my nerves, and sends an icy shiver down my bony spine.
"Correct. 'E is the president of this grand country, and a great president is 'E?"
"Marcus Steppel is the best president to eva' control this country. 'E is the owner of this country. 'E owns every person in the country. 'E also owns the surroundin' countries."
"And wot would those be?" initiates Mrs. Stellar.
All at once, my fellow classmates list off the information hardwired into their brains. "Germany, Ireland, Poland, France, Italy, Spain…" On and on the list goes.
"Splendid, class," coos the teacher. "But why aren't you answerin' along with the rest of the class?" she demands toward me.
"Well, uh…" I don't know what to say.
"Well then, answer this for the class: in wot year did Marcus Steppel and 'is powerful militr'y conquer the United States?"
Silence. Every breath is held as everybody waits for my response. "Uh, sorry, I guess I don't know the answer to that one."
"If you don't know the answer to such as simple question as that, then you must pay more attention during class. Why, you're nothin' but a pile of rubbish, li'il bugger. Now pay attention!"
"Now, we shall take the conversation in a different direction. Remembe' our lesson last Tuesday?"
"Yes Mrs. Stellar," all the children mutter, including myself.
"Can you tell me class, wot will 'appen to anyone who interjects with the President's important plans just as countries like the United States did?"
The children hold out their delicate palms and violently strike it with a fierce punch with the other hand. I participate along with the class, "Death! Death! Death!"
* * *
Now in reality once again, I gasp awake. My hands are uncomfortably clammy from the utterly disturbing dream I just experienced. It is not even a dream, I realize; instead, a terrifying memory in the form of an unforgettable nightmare.
Did that really happen in my childhood, I reflect in disbelief? It did happen, I know. That is not difficult to understand. I clearly remember that moment in my early school life. It is as if someone had inserted those thoughts deliberately into my brain.
It is all coming back to me. My entire childhood is now right in front of my nose. But who am I? I still don't know my name. Why was I put behind these awful, captivating walls? Those are still hidden aspects I yet need to find out.
* * *
One similarly tortuous day, something extraordinary happens. It is entirely amazing, what occurred. It is a typical day, or night, for I am still captured in mostly darkness, so I have no way of determining the time. There are guns firing and epic chaos as normal. I peer out the crevice and see the action; it is nothing different from what happened the other times.
All of a sudden, a single grenade is thrown in my direction. I feel as if I'm in slow motion. I have extremely sluggish reflexes, so I fail to take cover from the bomb, although there isn't anywhere for me to go. As I continue to ignorantly gaze out through the crack in the wall, the grenade explodes, sending stinging shrapnel into my eyes. I can say that it does not initially hurt as much as I would have expected it to. I suppose that the blow hurt so greatly that my body went into shock; therefore, I do not feel much of anything.
I grab my eyes as I feel warm blood gushing from my cadaverous sockets. I can tell for a fact that the flesh around my eyes is torn apart to shreds. What has it done to me? I immediately assume that my appearance is permanently disfigured.
I do not notice right away that the walls around me are rumbling with extremely low frequencies. As I cling on to my eyes in shock, I lean against one of the surrounding walls, not realizing that the grenade's blast caused the walls to become unstable. I rest on the wall, only to find myself losing my balance and falling flat on my back. Directly after my tumble, I can hear the walls around crashing down on top of me. Next thing I realize, the world around me fades into black.
* * *
I feel my face in apprehension. Are my eyes still in bad shape from the explosion? My fingertips gently caress the skin bordering my eyelids. They are extremely bruised. I can not open my eyes at all. They are sealed shut from the dried, crusted gobs of blood. It's not like opening my eyes would do anything; the world inside these walls is dark anyway.
Perceiving my severe weakness, I attempt to rise to my feet, but fail, falling to my back. It feels as if I have broken every single bone in my body from that detonation. It is truly a wonder I'm still breathing. I inhale a deep breath of fresh air. The air seems to rejuvenate my system instantaneously with its sweetness.
Hold on, the air around me is fresh and sweet? This can not be correct; for I am only used to the stuffy, damp oxygen which runs through my lungs all those weeks behind the walls.
Now it's all coming back to me. After the shrapnel flew into my eyes, the walls crumbled on top of me; yes, that's right. The walls deteriorated from the grenade. That also means that I am outside the wall.
I force my eyes to crack open halfway. The light was blinding that I shut my eyes straight away. After a few minutes, my eyes adjust to the brightness of the sun's warm rays. I blink a couple times, getting used to the movement of my eyelids. They feel cracked and scabbed. It is a wonder that I can still see clearly like this. Perhaps the shrapnel did not hit me directly in the eyes like I assumed.
I take a moment to study the world around me. The red-orange sky above my head gleams, bringing a daunting mood to the landscape which sends chilling shivers down my spine. There is an almost evaporated stream nearby, filled with shallow, silent waters. Vultures lurk overhead as they fly in repetitive circles in the shadowed part of the sky. I glance back behind me to find the crumbled structure which must have once been the walls that swallowed my very existence. There are also several withered plants all around, along with browned grass. The trees are gnarly and disfigured. There are no signs of plant or animal life for miles and beyond.
The setting around me puts a queasy feeling in my empty stomach. I instinctively throw myself toward the dried up stream and bile rises in my esophagus. I hurl whatever was remaining in my stomach into the muddy stream. After I my body could not manage to exert any more energy, I leaned toward the dried up stream. There is a little water left. I study my frighteningly grotesque reflection in the dull water. It is unbearable to look at for long.
My face, without at doubt, had been torn up to tatters in the explosion. It is incredibly revolting. My lips are split and cracked in numerous places. The blood trickles down my chin. My hair is greasy ebony colour, tangled with the nastiest snarls imaginable to man. My nose bridge appears to be broken and split down the middle. I have eyes that seem to be punched to the back of my skull. The whites of my eyes are absolutely bloodshot. My gaunt cheeks give my entire face a depressing shadow. The other aspects are indescribably atrocious.
But at this point, I know that my appearance is the least important thing if I want to survive. I look around. The place is deserted. There is no other human essence nearby. I do not know what to do next. I finally am outside the walls, but I do not know where everybody is. I need to find help, but it is clear that I am stranded in the middle of a wasteland.
"Is there anybody out there?" I cry, pausing for a long minute in silence. There is no answer, other than the discordant reply of the distant echoes.
* * *
I must have spoken too soon. After hours of earnestly pacing back and forth, someone in the distance emerges. Someone is finally here to rescue me.
"'Ey you, I'm over 'ere! 'Elp me!"
The surrounding vultures flinch from the abrupt projection of my frantic voice. They fly away hastily, not taking one last glimpse of their possible meal.
As the silhouette of the person walks closer to me over a small hill, I observe that the man has at his side a machine gun. What is the gun for, I wonder? I back up a bit, unsure of what to think of this man's countenance.
Just as the man stoops down to the dried up grass, he pulls out his weapon, cocks it with dominance, and begins to fire in my direction. I instinctively drop to the ground, covering the back of my head with my hands. The bullets are airborne. Clumps of dirt are shooting up fro the ground as the bullets lodge deep into the crust of the earth.
"Wot the bloody 'ell are you doin'?" I shriek in sheer alarm. I begin to crawl forward, closer to the shooter, but closer to safety. I encounter a miniature ledge of dirt, which protects me from the bullets in the air. I dodge behind the wall of dirt for cover. I look to my left… nothing. I look to my right… the same: only miles and miles of desert that will definitely not save me. How will I get out of this one?
Without warning, the shooting suddenly ceases. Only the reverberations from the bullets linger in the atmosphere. I peek over the ledge cautiously to see another stranger standing above the other man. The shooter is on the ground, and to my horror, his skill is sadistically cracked in half with gallons of red blood gushing out. The absolute worst part of the whole matter is that the man who is hovering over the shooter does not seem the least bit disturbed by the appalling sight.
"'Oo—'oo are you?" I stammer with trepidation. I stumble over my clumsy feet as I head toward the stranger who just saved my life.
"Are you okay, Syd?" the man answers, although ignoring my first inquiry,
"Are you speakin' to me?" Of course, who else could he be speaking to?
"Yes. Are you okay?"
"Tell me 'oo you are!" I demand uncooperatively.
"You don't remembe' me. It must be the drug 'e gave you. Don't worry, you are safe now, Syd."
"Why do you call me that?"
"It is your name. I know you don't remembe' me, my good friend, but in due time you will understand everythin'."
"Can you tell me wot the 'ell is going on 'ere?"
"Don't worry, everythin' will be revealed to you, Syd, but right now we must move. Follow me quickly. I will tell you everythin' you need to know, but for now, you just 'ave to trust me," the man gestures for me to follow. I hesitate, but only for a moment, for there is no other option available to me. I obediently trail after him. Besides, this man seems to know me and I am desperate for some answers.
The man leads me to a corroded military jeep. As the wheels of the jeep turn, it stirs up a thick cloud of dust which causes me to choke on the air I breath. The strange man is carelessly steering the vehicle, paying more attention to his compass than anything else. We speed along the desert, going to a place which is not familiar to me. We hit a speed of ninety-seven, driving haphazardly over bumps and pits in the ground, therefore making the entire ride to be quite discomforting.
Finally, a tiny speck emerges from the distant horizon. As we drive closer and closer, I eventually see the object with more clarity. It is a building. The structure appears to be extremely ancient and unkempt. It is surrounded by dozens of similar looking structures, although this building is the only one not entirely weathered away with age. I assume that the place is inhabited. The six story building towers above me with intimidation. We enter the building through the massive front doors. The man cautiously steps through the hallway, gun locked and loaded, ready for anything. We march through the empty halls.
After walking up a few flights of stairs, the stranger finally slows down and ushers me through a door. The man follows me in hastily. He closes the heavy door behind us. There is nothing but a single overturned chair in the room. The floorboards are dusty and smudged with dehydrated mud. The walls are a sickening shade of cream. There is but one small window which gives off a tiny ray of sunlight.
"Wot are we doin' 'ere? I need answe's," I require as solidly as I could muster. This man, indeed, is intimidating, but if I want to get anywhere with the list of questions I have I need to sound like I know what I'm doing. The man slouches lazily in the chair.
"Okay, you will not remembe' any of this, but my name is Scott Bender. Let's just say, we were pretty good friends before all this 'appened. As I told you before, your name is Syd," Scott begins. "That basically covers all the major information. Is there anythin' else you need to know?"
"Yes. W-wot 'appened to me?"
"Wot do you mean, Syd?"
"You know wot I mean. Wot am I doin' 'ere? Why was I isolated for so long? Why can't I remembe' anythin' about myself?" I can't keep up with the questions that fly out of my mouth.
There is suffocating stillness in the air which causes me to suffer tremendously. Say something, I beg him internally.
"This is a long story. You know there is a war goin' on as we speak."
"Tell me wot 'appened."
"Okay, it all began with your plot to destroy…" Scott drifts off in the midst of his sentence. He looks off to the side, in the direction of the doorway.
"Wot are you do—"
"Shh!" Scott interrupts as he raises his hand abruptly. "I think I 'eard somethin'."
Scott rises from the chair and loads ammo into his AK47. He hisses at me to lay low, and so I thought best as to obey. Scott inches his way to the door, gun held high and finger steadily above the trigger. He creaks open the door gradually. Taking the slightest step possible, Scott tries his best not to make a sound.
I hold my breath as Scott creeps out the doorway, looking both ways in the hallway before turning to me. He lowers his gun and sighs in relief.
"It's nothin'," he says. But just as Scott's defense is down, he is violently tackled to the ground. A group of intimidating men in black suits burst through the doorway, shoving the machine gun into Scott's face. Scott is knocked out cold. He slumps lifelessly while two large men drag him away.
The men in black grab me by the arms and haul me throughout the building and outside the entrance. Once they have me outside, one of the men takes out his cell phone and states, "Everythin's under control, sir. We 'ave him alive, over."
"Wot do you want with me?" I sputter.
* * *
I regret asking any questions to those men. I simply asked one question and it must have offended them to the point where they slammed the back of a pistol into my temple. It was not a hard enough force to kill me, thankfully. Instead, I blacked out.
"Ugh, my 'ead," I complain as I clutch my temple and sit up. I open my eyes and find myself in bed. "Wait, where am I now?" Fully alert, I scan the room. Marble floor, mahogany furnishings, silk sheets, linen tapestries, what's going on here, I wonder?
Suddenly, a large door swings open and a rather small man walks into the room accompanied by a man in a black suit. He stands stone-faced by the door and shuts it without saying a word. "Ah, m' boy, I'm pleased to see you're awake so soon. I was so worried."
"Why, don't you remembe' me at all?"
He seems nice. And he certainly seems to know me very well; I don't think he's a danger to me. "Why, no; terribly sorry, but I don't seem to recall much of anythin'."
"I'm your fatha', and I'm rather chuffed that you're alright."
What? My father? I have a dad? All of a sudden, it all comes back to me. Like a flowing river of memories, I feel a surge of happiness come over me. I remember. I remember everything about my father!
"Dad!" I cry with ecstasy.
"Syd, you remembe' me?" My father instantly walks toward the side of the bed and kneels as he gazes into my eyes with hope.
"Yes! I do!"
"Well I'll be gobsmacked! This is a miracle!" Tears stream down my father's face as he embraces me. I embrace him back never feeling this blissful before in my life. "This is wonderful! I didn't expect you to remember me so soon. We must have a celebration of your return."
"That sounds splendid, dad."
My father claps his hands twice and the man guarding the door responsively exits the room.
"Great. I'll make arrangements straight away!" My father stands up and begins to leave the room.
"Wait, dad. It all sounds great, and I'm very excited, but I 'ave some questions that I must have answered." I stop him just before he leaves. My father stops in his tracks and turns around, smiling.
"Of course; anythin' fo' you," he approaches the bed again. "Okay, wot are your questions?"
I take a deep breath. "Okay, first of all, 'ow did I get 'ere?"
"Well, you see…"
"I mean, the last thing I remembe' is that I was with this man named Scott Bender. Then these men in suits came and attacked us."
"Oh, that! Ah, my men came fo' you because I got word that you were with Scott. They wanted to make sure you were safe from that evil man," my father explains.
"Wait, wot do you mean? I don't think 'e was any danger to me. 'E was about to answer some of my questions. And besides, 'e said that we were friends before I lost my memory."
"Yes. 'E would have said a lot of things to confuse you, my son. But think nothin' about wot 'e might have told you. 'E is a liar and a manipulator."
"Wot did those men do to Scott?" I ask.
"You 'ave to understand that man is very dangerous and wicked. I 'ad my men capture 'im and save you, but unfortunately Scott managed to escape some'ow. We don't know where 'e is now. 'E could be anywhere."
"Please, fatha', explain wot is going on. Startin' with the first thing on my mind: why was I isolated fo' so long be'ind those walls?"
"Syd, are you alright? You don't look too good."
"Wot do you mean by that, dad?"
"Nothin', it's just that you aren't makin' sense right now. I don't remembe' you bein' put behind anythin'. I thought you were dead all this time."
"Yes, I thought that the man who calls 'imself Scott might have killed you."
"Now why would 'e do that? 'E said we used to be friends before I forgot everythin'."
"You seriously don't remembe'?"
"No. Please tell me everythin' you know."
"Alright, but this is a very long story. Not too long ago, there was a man 'oose name was Marcus Steppel. Accordin' to what you know 'im as, 'e must've changed 'is name to Scott Bender…"
As my father starts from the top and explains things in detail, I begin to feel unusually sleepy. My eyes start to feel like they are being pulled down by a hundred pound weights.
"… We created an army to fight against Marcus Steppel and 'is dictatorship…"
I don't think I've ever been this knackered before in my life. So… sleepy… his voice… so soothing… eyes… half-way shut… room… dancing…
"… I suppose that Scott placed you be'ind those walls because…"
* * *
I feel as if I'm floating. I am weightless. I don't know where I am, and right now I don't really care. I am soaring like an aeroplane up in the sky. I must be flying. I look down, and all I see are people beneath my feet on the ground. I move closer, and they don't seem to notice me there. I move closer, not sure of what I'm doing. I don't know what the significance of me being here is, but a natural instinct takes over my will and forces me to show interest into the people below.
I move closer and closer. I have the need to hear what they are saying. I don't know why, but I know that this is important. I can't explain.
"Marcus Steppel, Sir!" A man in a handsome suit approaches another man with a solid salute of respect.
"'Ow are my milit'ry units doing in the United States, General?" The other man who was addressed as Marcus Steppel stands tall and strong and dressed even more handsomely than the first asks as he puffs on his cigar.
"Everythin' is going according to plan, Sir. We 'ave permanently wiped out the U.S. milit'ry defense system. Now there is nothin' to prevent us from movin' our units completely into the country."
"Excellent," puffs the man with a thick cloud of smoke. I move closer to them and listen more attentively.
"Wot is our next plan of action, Sir?"
"Well, is there still the problem with the Rebel Army, General?"
"Yes Sir, there are increasin' numbers with Rebel Army participants. There is an overwhelmin' amount of soldiers. Wot do you propose we do now, Sir?"
The man takes the cigar from his mouth as he says, "General, 'oo is the leader of the Rebel Army?"
"Well, Sir, accordin' to the number of agents we've sent to spy on the Rebels, we've narrowed down our suspect to one man."
"'Oo is this man?" asks Steppel.
"Syd Wright," the General hands Marcus a folder stuffed with paperwork. Marcus opens it and takes a long look.
"I see. I know just the thing. General, I want you to simply get rid of this man by any means necess'ry."
"Is that it?" asks the General as he takes back the folder.
"Yes, and General, that's an order."
"Yes Sir; straight away, Sir!"
* * *
I gasp awake in bed once again. I'm back with my father, I suppose.
"Dad, where are you?" I moan. He walks in the room immediately.
"What's the matter, Syd?"
"I remembe'… I remembe' everythin' about the war and about Scott."
"Yes, I 'ad a vision. I understand now that Scott is Marcus Steppel. 'E was the reason why I was isolated behind those walls for so long. He wan'ed to get rid of me because I was the leader of the Rebel Army."
"Yes, that's right. Is that all?"
"Naoww, there's more. The Rebel Army was formed because people like you and me wan'ed to fight against the dictatorship Marcus Steppel was successfully creatin'. 'E conquered many countries including the United States, and we desperately wanted to put a stop to 'is evil plans."
"That's right. I'm so glad you remembe' now. Do you remembe' what 'is ultimate plan was?"
"It was world domination. 'E wanted the entire world to be forced under 'is government. I, as the leader of the Rebel Army will defend our freedom to the death."
I sit up in the bed and push away the satin sheets. "Dad, I want to see my army."
"Of course, I'll bring you to your army straight away."
* * *
Before my father takes me to my army, he requires me to clean up first. My face is still a mess as it was when I was stranded in the desert. I look in the mirror as I turn on the water faucet. I must be just about unrecognizable to my father. I rinse off my face and scrub all the blood out from underneath my fingernails. I put some alcohol on the soars on my face and Vaseline on my cracked lips.
After a quick shower and a change of new clothes my father's butler brought to the room, I am pretty much as good as new. I leave the room and gently shut the door behind me. My father is standing outside the door when I get there.
"There you are, much better indeed!" he states optimistically as he walks alongside me down the hallway.
I look around a bit and note how nice the house is. Why, it could be mistaken for a small castle. "Fatha', I don't remembe', but 'ow are we this wealthy?"
"Oh, you know just some smart investin' on my part." And he leaves it at that. We round the corner of the echoing hallway and he states, "'Ere we are now."
He leads me to a balcony overlooking the manicured front lawn. It looks more like a national park than a front lawn. Behold, standing there on the lot is a magnificent looking army.
"Is this it?" I inquire. I notice immediately how small the army is.
"Well, I couldn't get the entire army on the front lawn, could I? I just got a small sample of the army to present to you. There are, of course, multitudes of men that serve us. Tell me, does the army please you?"
"Oh, yes, dad, very much. It is a fine army."
"They are 'ere to serve you and me. They are 'ighly trained soldiers; fearless in battle and willing to die for wot they believe in."
"Wot shall you do with them, Syd? I think you should start where we left off before you went missin', don't you think?"
"Enlighten me; wot was that again?"
"Well, our last plan of action was to wait for Marcus to come to us. We've been on offense fo' so long that it would be unpredictable to lay low for a li'l while."
"That sounds like a grand plan, dad."
My father turns to exit the balcony and I follow loyally at his side.
"So wot exactly must we do in order to prepare ourselves for Steppel's attack?" I inquire after a few moments in mutually silent contemplation.
"Well, the soldiers are already well prepared for battle. I'm not sure there's much we can do except to be ready and on the lookout for Steppel and his army. Our army, though great and strong does not compare with the astronomical number of soldiers that will accompany Steppel."
"Shit," I say in awe. "I 'ave to admit dad, I am frightened."
"Don't worry, Syd. 'Ave faith in our milit'ry as I have faith that you will lead us to a grand victory." He gazes intensely into my eyes as we cease from walking hastily down the hall. My father admits quietly, "I too am frightened."
A man wearing a fancy black suit appears from around the corner of the hallway and walks up to us professionally. "Sir, the celebration you ordered is ready."
My father looks at me and smiles. "Wonderful. See, this is just the thing we need to get our minds off of battle." Father turns to the man, "We shall go, but first, give me and m' son time to dress for the party."
"Certainly, Sir; we will be waiting for you in the northern dining 'all."
* * *
The celebration is quite exquisite. The roasted pig is a delicacy, the stuffing is celestial, the caviar is divine, and the wine is plentiful. I have some quality time with my dad. My father and I eat and drink our fill while engaging in a light conversation while professional violinists and cellists play soothingly in the background.
It is truly a brilliant and relaxing evening with my father. After the feasting is over, I announce my retirement, and I return to my room and plop into bed, exhausted from the day.
* * *