THE PRISONER

By John Thomas Tuft

Some saw it as a most beautiful place. Others saw it as a paean to the ugly. Some saw it as something large enough that it could be seen from the orbiting space station. Others saw it as nearly microscopic. Some saw it as the deepest of the greatest ocean depths. Others saw it as a shallow puddle, to run through with a casual splash like a child. Some saw it as an endless desert, stretching in shimmering waves of heat to the horizon. Others saw it as a patch of dry ground easily crossed at a brisk walk. Some saw it as a high, high wall stretching from sea to shining sea. Others saw it as a coated wire fence around a rose garden, easily hopped over so one could climb the apple tree in the middle. Some saw it as a sign of righteous anger, towering over all the earth, torture turned triumphant. Others saw it as two twigs tied together and adorned with colorful yarn.

I pondered all this as I made my way through tall trees and dense, dark underbrush of wild and woolly origins. I was searching for the infamous bastion castle of this fertile ethereal land. Legend said that it had been built by mysterious ancient visitors, come from afar, rich with timeless wisdom from across the known, and unknown, worlds. As always, there were others who claimed it was no more than a  temporary rest stop built by travelers to house travelers on their way to somewhere else. The path suddenly sloped sharply upwards and my legs began to burn with exertion. A light rain began to fall as I rounded a bend and stopped short before a heavy iron gate. A stark sign was bolted to the top: Forever Endurance And Reclamation Station. The heavy door yielded to my efforts and beyond it lay the powerful walls and flagged, bedecked towers of one of creation’s greatest wonders.

Seeing no one about, I proceeded up the stone path and knocked at the unguarded door. Tiny, brightly colored finches flitted in and out of the ivy climbing the sobering walls. The door swung open and a man roughly of the same size, build and age as myself greeted me with a friendly smile. “Come in,” said he, motioning me forward. Right away I was struck by all the mirrors lining the high-ceilinged great hall. Mirrors of all sizes and shapes. Tall ones, skinny ones. Ovals, squares, floor length, no frames, wooden frames, bedecked all in jewels frames. I lifted my eyes to discover that the ceiling was also covered with mirrors. I looked down and saw that the black marble floors were polished to the unsettling sheen of a mirror.

“What is this place?” I asked. “And who are you?” The man bowed low. “I am Sardis. And this place is for you,” he said in a low voice. I wasn’t expecting that, so I said, “I wasn’t expecting that.” He chuckled. “No one ever is.” He motioned for me to follow him down a hallway with many doors. We stopped at the first one, marked Trust. There were the bunkbeds of my youth, the old baseball glove, the worn pillow. “Uncertain?” asked Sardis. I nodded. Next, he stopped before a doorway marked Certainty. It was filled with books. Glorious books from floor to ceiling. “Hopeless?” he raised one eyebrow. I sighed. “Yeah.” At a room marked Hope, I saw a picture of my precious first car, fire engine red. With bunting taped all over the finish, shaving cream on every window, filled with balloons and rice. “Faded love?” said my guide, who was starting to get on my nerves.

And so the afternoon went. Love was a room with an empty pulpit, some scattered notes and his annoying question was, “Disillusioned?” I’m not even going to tell you what was in the one marked Truth. You can just imagine what the simple question was in there. Finally we were in the basement, standing in front of a small room as the light began to fade. It had no windows and the door was heavy and thick. At the height of my head there was an opening cut into the door. Large enough to stick my head and shoulders through. Except it was covered with bars. “What’s this one,” I asked, irritated. “Finality?” Sardis took out a great key, unlocked it, pulled it open. “No,” he said. “We’re back to Trust. Do what you must.” And he pulled the door closed, locked it and threw the key through the bars, where it landed at my feet.

I turned and ran. Past all the doors, past all the mirrors, over the shiny marble, out the door, past the ivy walls, heading toward the great gate. I skidded to a stop, stunned. It was no longer there. Only an old, frayed rope dangled across the path. I stepped over it. Next to a tree sat a faded board with hand painted lettering: ‘FEARS.’ I turned back around. Where earlier had stood a magnificent, imposing gated castle, I now saw only a rundown shack with off kilter stairs and leaning walls. And as I turned to go a gust of wind, carrying a song that could have been the brightly colored finches. I’m not real sure. “All is trust. Do what you must.”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.