The Captive


They told me I should wake up in Heaven but they were lying! I am lying in my tomb, engulfed by darkness, wondering: "Where is the palace they described, that God's servants erected for me in an elysian celestial space?" I never saw the angels who would serve me ambrosia and fly me on their wings to faraway horizons. There were no heavenly hymns to hear or nymphs to guide me through all the pleasures of body and soul!

Their inscriptions only evince the blissful ignorance they wallowed in and callow children they were, as their quest for truth never went beyond dreaming, with no work to realize it: they couldn't taste the labor of love, as they created imaginary gods only seen by them, and forced others to worship them. They didn't toil or suffer to make immortality a reality, and their kings' foreheads could not be crowned with the beads of sweat the least among their slaves had.

Now the masters and slaves are both gone, and nothing remained but those wishful engravings. These silent murals tell the story of the life they had and the one they hoped for. Their disillusion must have been great, for no one has ever returned to tell, except me.

I came from a past no one had witnessed. Yet I could tell nothing with this lifeless tongue of mine. How I hate my silence, the curse I was doomed to! I need to cry out and tell my story to the world, till my voice reaches the four corners of Earth where all those who have the gift of life can hear it.

Have they found me yet? Do they know I'm not dead? And where am I now: still in my tomb, a whole or dismembered, burned or decomposed? Have they ransacked my chamber and stolen me? Let them take any treasures they find but give me back my life. Have they sold me to some amateur strangers, collecting bones and studying the dead? Did they put me to the public, shown in a glass box to some curious eyes staring at me? SOMEBODY RESCUE ME!

I'm not hoping for the life I had, because I know it's gone; I only want life, anywhere with anyone. I love people, places and pleasures, and hate this barren ages-long solitude. Sometimes I wish to end it all and take my own life, but even this wish can't be granted.

Am I no more? I can't remember the exact moment I died and slipped into eternal unconsciousness. No, I must have been only asleep. They buried me alive here, saying I should wake up on time. It seems that thousands of years have passed while I'm still waiting. My mind is awake, remembering it all. But my body is dead, or so they made it, temporarily. I lived in darkness all that time, with no company but memories of a distant past I cherish, and hope for a future I daily nourish.

My mind has become the world, and the world my mind: there I heard and saw what the living couldn't grasp with their physical eyes. I traveled to places and settled wherever I pleased, meeting non-existent life forms: humans, animals and aliens. I met those from the beginning of history, and those who will witness the end of time; people from foreign lands, with different looks and tongues, with whom one communes only with mind language.

They preserved my body and said Death won't take my soul. I believed them and drank the elixir they offered me. I was part of several-day rituals performed on my corpse: their chanted prayers are still echoing in my ears! Yet, the elixir and rituals proved useless, keeping me alive but miserably alone. Now as I recall, the faint incantation, like inner hammers, is crushing my brain and forcing my entrails out. 

The boat that was to take me to eternity had cracked, not by wind or storm, but ants and rats. The food they left me stank, petrified, and vanished, like the life I had. They locked me in a casket and threw me in a dark pit away from all the living and sunlight. They worshiped the sun, sang and played in daylight, while here in eternal silence I lied. For ages I have only been sleeping and dreaming. My worst nightmares weren't of grotesque beasts and fearful gods, but of their own looks and voices turning me in my grave.

All the scriptures I had learnt by heart couldn't save me: all their prophesies and lies, the commandments I followed, and pleasures I never had--those my mortified soul was deprived of. I keep crying voicing my complaint like a mantra all day: why, why, why? I committed no heinous crime or fatal sin to be so rejected.

My life was a series of sufferings, that I wished for another one, another chance to live properly and correct the wrongs others did me. I thought I was born free--a free child, youth, and man--, but life thought differently, with all the chains I was constantly tied to. I was a mere piece on a game board controlled by some insensitive fate, like all humans, life forms, and particles of the universe are, following its laws. I was a lifelong SLAVE.


* * *


The story of my slavery starts long ago, when I was still a child, lamenting the parents fate had given me, who treated me not as an equal human, but a personal property or cattle they own. I was daily crying, until I had no more tears, and learned the wisdom of life, so early in life:Thou shalt be alone!

As I grew up and reached adulthood, I discovered love land, wherein I found a new hope and refuge. I wrote poems and sang to the one I loved, with whom I tasted love's sweet wine and sang life's eternal song: we wanted to live before life would leave us. But the enemies of life wouldn't let us! The self-assigned guardians of morality flooded us with warnings and threats, teaching about the true and only road, one they never found. Like blind-folded oxen bellowing all day, they trampled innocent souls, crushing whoever dissented or sought a pleasure of flesh or soul. They claimed such were crimes and evil to be removed--for else it will be said, they failed to reform.

A verdict was reached: the wretched ones tomorrow will be stoned--we, who inadvertently reminded them of pain, weakness and aging they couldn't take. They wanted to murder us; everyone was an accomplice.

We were fortunate to escape, to another town. There we lived for years, and learned the meaning of family, with all its delights and plights.

I was the father of children, who, one unlucky day, stole some bread to feed them. People were beating and mocking me, while leaving out monsters, tyrants and senior thieves, freely prowling among the public--a plague killing every one, yet every one kept watching. To court they brought my case, to sue me for the charge they found most befitting me, matching my dewy eyes' color and the size of my earth-tinted feet: how evil and odious my crime was! At last, they sent me to prison, where in despair I was slowly dying. Hooray! Justice was served! Long live the leaders of the world! The weak and the helpless are dead, and murderers survived.

So, where have all the wise men gone? Busy with arguments, arrogantly battling for abstracts, all the shrewd intellects unwittingly wiped ordinary fellow humans off Earth's map. Their blurred minds couldn't see the tears of my wife or children, while I was dying and ceasing to exist: a discarded life form, rejected by life's guards.

I served my long absurd sentence to the end, not without a price. I had nobody and nothing left to live for or with. I became alone.

I rented a room, no different from my prison cell, and retired from society, seeking refuge in solitude, where I was daily pouring my tears down a useless pen, bemoaning the cruelty of my fate. Yet, from my vantage, I saw life and people more clearly. It's larger than me and them. I wanted to change the world. I helped others, grieved for the misfortunate and rejoiced with the rejoicing. I lived for them, although too much sympathy was killing me sometimes!

When I fell ill once, they visited me. But I was a patient lavishly pitied by non-patients mostly offering him empty words and absent-hearted gifts. Then alone they would leave me, in ominous deathly solitude, a curse I couldn't refuse.

I have lost my strength, money, friends, and most hope, as I had lost my family before, that I ended up roaming the streets, homeless without shelter. Like wild animals in the open I freely lived, and slept under the motherly sky.

But for no reason, one day they arrested me, again!

To justice I was sent--for their burden of guilt to be lifted and the sins of Earth be cleansed. They wrongfully thought me a disease dangerous to them, but the disease was in them. They mulled my case over, dragging their heels until they reached a verdict. They declared, with the holy delight of revenge, or rather projection: "Take him away! In an asylum, with the mentally-ill put him!" That's where the misfortunate are treated, euthanized, or murdered. I cried out loud but no one heard: "Am I not one in whose shoes you could've been?"

I knew there were others like me -- a man, a dog, a bird ... -- who had similarly suffered, died, then passed into nothingness. In a large picture of life, I saw their sad eyes looking down at me, each from their own cross.

When all the tears and blood were sufficiently shed, I wondered how to love those who never loved, and, sanctifying Death, on its altar, they killed Life and all its forms? And how hate is possible, when love in our veins runs, with which we are born, by which we are bonding? I will stand up now, and, with these hands of mine, kill that love and grow, instead, a hatred to thrive and bloom, in a heart no more lovelorn.


* * *


At the moment I thought life has no longer a value and death is my only escape, they decided to give me a value: they sold me, as a slave. But who would buy the hopeless creature I had become?

I became a slave, although it was my responsibility too: I never tried to escape, revolt, or even argue for my freedom. I accepted my yoke, labor, and capricious masters, who sometimes equally rewarded and punished me for the same thing, or for nothing. I was occasionally a servant, a toy, an alchemist's tube ... satisfying his Masters' impulses, those who thought they could take and give back life to whomever, whenever they pleased.

One day, during a large annual festival, they took entertainment to an evil extreme. They threw me into a pit with a group of starving cannibals, that they had captured in an overseas campaign, as I was later told. It was a large labyrinthine underground cavity, where I saw no one but me. Urged by humidity and tempted by the darkness blinding any possible eyes that could see me, I decided to undress and rest, before I could grope my way to know what fate awaits me.

Now a little sun has entered the place, that I saw some moving figures, pushing and elbowing one another to stand in Nature's spotlight. I was afraid and shocked, looking at them aghast: they looked like animals in an overcrowded cage, not letting even the air share space with them, while loudly moaning, grunting, and squeaking like a fearful storm. Their breaths were reaching me like a burning monsoon searing my cheeks. Only their wolfish eyes and teeth, glowing in the dark, were visible. Billowing like an ocean, waves and waves of these gooey, sweaty creatures started to fall on me!

When a disaster strikes time cannot be turned back. I was doomed to appease them.

"Order, please! Each await their turn! Each will only be assigned to one body part! Don't ... " my voice was muffled by the flood of bites, that had started as gentle licking. Such a horrific necrophilic scene! Like a carcass surrounded by hyenas and eagles, or a dead beetle feasted on by ants, they were devouring me, ignoring all my shrieks. Their man-eating excitement was ecstatic, as each wanted their share of Nature's feast (for they had been starved for days). No more could I see myself; I was lost in a jungle of legs, that kept trampling and trampling, long after I lost consciousness.

My Masters ordered them to stop but they didn't understand. When the guards tried to do so by force, they gave a collective strident shriek and disappeared into the corners of the cave.

My body was lying motionless at the bottom of the pit, soaked in blood and other bodily fluids. The place was reeking of death, where every other smell and form of life had vanished. All the perpetrators had escaped, it was later announced. They were prowling the neighborhood, while the search for them continued.

I was miraculously saved. Nevertheless my masters kept treating me as crassly as before, like one permanently on a death row, awaiting his fate, and the next experiment to do on him.


* * *


This was beyond description or any human could bear. As I try to recall the sequence of events, I still can't grasp what happened next. A fire had started spreading in the Palace, faster than we could stop it. Masters, slaves, guests, animals, and even haphazard passers-by were all in an unexpected encounter with Death.

I was running for my life from the flames everywhere. Through heavy smoke I saw fellow servants lying on the floor, coughing convulsively. Others were standing by the windows, screaming, desperately waving to the outside world for help. At the other end of the room, our middle-aged overseer was unintelligibly stammering something he tried to write on his stone tablet, sobbing like a child; I couldn't make out his words. His heavy breathing was jolting his whole body forward so violently, that I felt he would soon die. Suddenly, he went into several spasms then stopped; the tablet dropped to the floor.

The cracking sound of fire eating away at the furniture, carpets, and curtains felt like a large furnace we were all locked in. I tried to break the door, calling for help by anyone outside. Nobody could hear us. The other rooms of the palace were on fire too. I could faintly hear their frantic voices and the thud of footsteps down the corridors. I vaguely saw their dark figures moving by, rushing to the stairs; but the rest was darkness as there was no light, only smoke.

Like everyone in my room, I was coughing now. They were calling their loved ones' names. I thought of doing the same, but I had nobody to call. I lived alone, I'm dying alone.

There was loud noise coming from the street, of people trying to extinguish the fire, but that seemed beyond their capacity. Their wailing voices were reaching my ears from faraway, like mothers weeping for their children. I could see on the glass windows of the palace facing us the pall of smoke ours was shrouded in, like a giant corpse ready for burial. I was crying, yelling, praying I would be rescued. But I saw my imminent doom wherever I looked: I saw it in my friends' eyes, their frozen tears and muffled cries. I loved life, I embraced it tightly, one last time. But our love sighs were almost smothered by death's deafening knells.

The floor was sizzling beneath our feet. Some tore their shirts off, unable to stand the heat. They were profusely sweating and their soot-tinted faces had the expression of trapped miners whose workplace became their grave. They were incessantly coughing, running from one place to the other whenever the flames came near. They broke the windows to let some air in, but the very air they needed to stay alive kept the fire alive too. All surfaces were difficult to touch or stand on; and nothing felt human about us, as we kept scurrying like scared rats: some maniac fate was extracting pleasure from our suffering. The dancing flames, reflected on the red eyes and glistening bodies around me, highlighted our grotesque tragedy. I was sickened by the burned meat's smell filling the place, as I looked at my boss whose dead body had caught on fire. Death and life smelled alike.

As I attempted to move, some embers fell on my foot I immediately kicked away. Leaning against the door, I tried to stand up, but the scorching door handle was untouchable. So I stayed still, while seeing my end approaching. My motionless body was getting heavier, yet my mind was still able to move freely, between memories it kept bringing up as if to say goodbye to each: my family, childhood friends, travels ... all the faces and places I loved, but will not see again.

The pain in my chest and my aching feet was unbearably increasing; I could hardly breathe, and I could no more think. It dulled every inch of my brain, killing every thought I tried to hold on to. Like my body, my mind was frozen now: I remembered nothing, I imagined nothing. I was a blank slate, like the day I was born--no, longer before that, the moment I was conceived. My naive parents, urged by their animal need, had once given me life (for that's how animals survive). They didn't survive, neither did I, nor the animals.


* * *


Here in eternal darkness I lie, awaiting Heaven's sentence it has never uttered yet. They have kept me in limbo for ages, tormented most by waiting, that I wish sometimes to be rather sent with evildoers to eternal fire, than suffer such uncertainty.

Some sunrays have entered my chamber, although I'm buried several feet into the ground. Someone must be nearby digging, burying another person, or trying to steal or release me, hopefully.

The engravings are still here. BUT these are not hieroglyphics. It's English; saying: "Do not Disturb!" I'm bound by some elastic wire and long colorless tube with liquid in it. I hear footsteps approaching.

Someone has entered, kept fumbling with the wires and tubes, then left. Minutes later, two others came in, walked toward me, and ... They looked familiar. IT'S MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER! I must be alive then. "I missed you so much! Talk to me!" Why are they silent?!

"Will he ever wake up again, mom?"

"I don't know, he is in a coma."


Now I remember! The fire at school, the history class, my students ... and the slaves working for the King. 



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