I have a bit of flash fiction for you today! This piece is the first I’ve written in the dystopian genre…
I knock lightly on the door, inserting the key labeled 1039 in the doorknob and twisting the deadbolt. The heavy metal barrier swings open, and I stare into a monochromatic room. The only splotch of color in the cell is the blond head that’s bent over a tiny desk in the corner. I cough. “Here’s your dinner.”
The man spins, and his eyes shoot blue anger into mine. Blue.. like the snatches of sky that slip through the tips of skyscrapers. Even in the face of their venom, I stare into the eyes almost hungrily.
“What are you staring at? I thought you had my dinner,” I snap. The impatient tone doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to it, like I’ve grown accustomed to this room… cell. I snatch the first word from my thoughts, furious that I dignified this residence with a term that smacked of life before… this.
I shake the thought from my mind and rise to take the tray of food from the little girl. She doesn’t seem to notice that I yelled at her. “Thank you,” I growl, whipping it from her hands to the papers on my desk.
I know that I should leave now – my job is over – but I can’t help but stare around the room. It’s so different from the rest of the cells. For one thing, it’s twice as large. There’s room for a man to take four paces across and seven paces along the wall, leading to…
I gasp. “You have windows!”
I snort. “That’s a generous statement.” Windows indeed. Glass-filled holes in the wall, shaded on the outside so I can’t see the sky. Yes, the government was very generous to permit me the one room in the prison that has “windows”. They hardly do any good; I can get much more light from the fluorescent bulbs that line this edge of the ceiling. I wonder if they’ve allowed me this semblance of normalcy to assist in crumbling the walls of my soul… bit by eroding bit. To ever remind me of what has been lost.
“What are you working on?”
I shove my hands over the papers full of equations, protecting them from her searching eyes. “You did what you came for.”
“Is that a bird?” Her eyes grope at a corner of paper my hands failed to defend.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a bird… but I think that’s what the figure in the little ink sketch is. “It’s so pretty.”
“Do they pay you to talk?”
I turn my back on her kindness. After the door closes, a question rises from somewhere deep inside… perhaps a dying gasp from the man I once was.
Because I can’t remember how one responds to kindness? Because the days of being complimented on anything other than intellect – and grudgingly, at that – were buried long ago? I shove away the tray of food and rise to stare out the window at the gray cement of the prison next door.
What does it matter? The kindness was momentary… swallowed now by a sea of ever-present numbness. Best to get used to it. Taking up the sheet of paper, I rip off the corner and sink to my knees. Staring up and out of the window, I strain my eyes and my soul to catch a glimpse of sky.
I’ve done this every day and have never succeeded… so why do I keep up this madness? I can solve the most complicated equations… but I can’t solve this riddle.
I sigh and tuck the inked bird into my pocket.