No one knew me, but everyone worshiped me. I reveled in their reverence; they embraced my creed with all their hearts, minds, and souls. The world that I envisioned was slowly taking shape.
Each day more compounds were constructed, swallowing up masses of land to confine the hordes of prisoners. I coerced more commanders to control the compounds and disseminate my aspirations. For decades, nothing could stop the juggernaut I had created.
The trains were one of the measures to transport prisoners to the compounds. Life in each compound was torturous as people waited out their eventual demise. Long days of labor and poor conditions wore the prisoners down. I watched and laughed as they hung on tight to a hope that one day they might be released from the torment. How pitiful they were!
Yet everything changed in that single moment. One day, during the transportation of prisoners to their compounds, I became aware of a crack in my fortified master plan. The train left early that morning. As the guards watched the prisoners, they stood erect like steel needles, and death was mirrored in their eyes. The smell of apprehension wafted throughout every inch of the train. Did the prisoners really know where they were going? Or were they just following orders, doing what was needed to survive? Or were they simply beguiled by my magnificent and all-pervading propaganda? My regime was relentless; the war continued every day for as long as everyone could remember.
Prisoners didn’t ask questions; acceptance was their creed. They were herded onto the trains, some with a little nervousness but most with an omnipresent dread. A fake smile here, a muffled conversation there, followed by a stern look from another. A pleasant environment it was not, but they all pretended to believe whatever was necessary to distract them from the truth.
The whistle blew and parents held tight to their young ones, hushing any slight murmur. These children sat in blissful ignorance of their impending destiny. I always thought that parents ought to know better, but they didn’t. The blind led the blind, and they all would ultimately fall into the same ditch. I should not have been surprised though; it was my pure brilliance that blinded them.
Their dreams were shot down like warplanes in the sky. For most prisoners on the train, their heartfelt yearnings had barely sprouted, let alone begun to grow into reality. I liked to think of the trains as dream catchers, swallowing whole any semblance of a bright and sunny future.
As each station passed, more prisoners trudged onto the train with their meager belongings. The shackled hand of destiny nudged them onward. Seats were taken with minimal eye contact. Some people made secret acknowledgments which were made in a moment and lost in the next. The train sped forth. The eyes of the guards surveyed their human cattle, and the wheels on the tracks made a violent rattle.
From then on there were no more stops, and the free world outside whizzed by like blurred nightmares. A few seats remained empty and the aisle ways were clear. Some prisoners fell asleep. It was the only way they could drown out their unknown future and surrendered past. Dark clouds hung in the heavens, gripping to an empty gloominess.
Silence suffocated the will to speak but intensified inner verbosity. The awake prisoners performed mental gymnastics of repetitious what if’s and why me’s. As each second passed, hope faded faster than mundane memories. A few prisoners wondered if they would ever see their loved ones again, while others were happy to be rid of them.
And then, in one of the carriages—as though inspired by an even greater power than me—a six-year-old girl escaped the hold of her sleeping mother. She walked into the corridor and stood still for a moment. Some prisoners watched her; the guards did not notice the little one as she was hidden from their view by a large, tall man. Her slender body was adorned with a faded gray dress and her long hair was split into two rearing ponytails.
The girl began to twirl with her arms held outward at an angle. Her dress floated in the air; she was a whimsical whirling dervish. More prisoners began to watch as the girl performed her hypnotizing movement. A merry-go-round of innocence was on display before them. Her eyes were closed and her spirit traversed galaxies. She twirled on a pinpoint. One of the male prisoners who until that moment had been wholeheartedly brainwashed by my worldview could not stop staring at the girl. As he watched, centuries of visions—past and future—formed within his mind. Thoughts thundered through him.
Hypocrisy and democracy. Do as I say and not as I do. The beauty of life overtaken by insatiable greed and the need to toe the line. The flock of sheep bleat to the beat of a materialistic drummer boy. More, we want more; it’s never enough. Why bother anyway?
WHAT’S THE POINT?
In that single moment, the male prisoner caught an unconscious glimpse behind the veil of my ingenious illusion. The twirling stopped and the girl remained motionless. She opened her eyes; they glistened and glimmered like dew kissed by solar rays. Her unblinking eyes stared for miles into the distance. She saw a field of daisies caressed by the breeze. Butterflies frolicked from bloom to bloom, befriending each flower with their unbridled joy. Sunshine graced the earth with untold blessings. The girl saw a different world fed by different desires.
As a single tear escaped from the corner of the girl’s left eye, rain began to strike the train windows. She fell down on her knees, bowed her head, and clasped her hands together in front of her heart. The rain intensified and the little girl prayed. It was a prayer that heralded a shift in the power of my regime. When her supplication was offered, she rose taller than a giant sunflower and walked back to her seat where her mother was now watching her.
The train shuddered and stopped and then lurched forward again, bringing the male prisoner’s awareness back to the carriage. Shaken and stirred, the man sighed. The darkness in his eyes had changed; a sliver of light peaked through the window of his irises. In years to come, this male prisoner would escape and lead the downfall of my regime. He didn’t know it yet, but Mitch Matthews, as he would later become known, would be chosen to lead a revolution.
A heaviness of heart descended upon the prisoners as the train arrived at its final destination. The mother whispered to her daughter, “Sweetheart, what were you praying for?” The girl considered the question for a moment and many of the prisoners stood up to leave.
Looking out of the window, the mother saw the rush of commuters at central station. Men in suits and women in fancy skirts and high heels carried laptops or talked on mobile phones. They walked to the beat of my hypnotic mantra and acted like model prisoners as they headed off to their compounds for a long day’s labor. The mother was still waiting for her daughter to respond. Finally, the little girl answered, “May we all wake up. May we all wake up.”
Copyright © James Golding 2019