His ivory walking stick made a harsh, clicking noise against the cobblestone as he walked down the empty alley towards his home on Elm Street. His steps reveled his frustrated thoughts, a mind caught in a circle of pride, judgement and impatience. He looked back on his evening with disgust. Another night amongst the so called social elite, filled with boring conversations and meaningless flattering. Impeccable acting within the rules of society. A game he was raised to master to perfection, with a polite smile on his face, but which he secretly dispised. “Fools“, he thought to himself. “Sheep running around aimlessly, lost without their herding dogs. Never questioning or reflecting, unaware of the fence surrounding them.”
He himself was painfully aware of that fence. He’d learned to find its holes though, the cracks through which he – if he removed his hat, his clothes and his walking stick – could press his long lean body and escape for a moment. There he would dwell in the soothing beauty of freedom, in a place ruled by truth not doctrines, acceptance not judgement, understanding not rules. A simple place of honest existing. There he could love freely; an including, unconditional, limitless love. There he could be what he really was: free.
Eventually he always had to crawl back though, back to the responsibilities and duties of his privileged position. His mother sometimes looked at him with worry in her eyes. A mother knows a son’s sorrows. “Why don’t you marry, my child?“, she’d say in an attempt to ease his pain, but her words always came out empty, with a lingering echo from her own soul. For the freedom that was haunting him with its absence was haunting her too. They were wearing the same shackles, born into responsibilities toward those around them – not only family, but also servants, staff, the farmers depending on them. He was grateful for his privileged lot in life and he tried to fulfill his responsibilities, but sometimes he asked his God why his lot had not come with a matching mind. A mind capable of simply enjoying the game he had been asked to play, unaware of the existence of another world. A mind unacquainted with questions like ‘why’ and ‘what if’, uninterested in the truth. “Like those fools this evening“, he said out loud, and the unexpected anger in his voice had him suddenly stop mid-step.
The hit came from behind, without a warning. He lost his balance and tumbled to the ground, his back-head exploding in pain. In a dizzy gaze he saw the three men, their eyes filled with self-justice, their hearts emptied by hunger and despair. They turned him over, quickly stripped him of his clothes and showeled them into a sack. One of the men saw the signet ring on his pinky finger and swore as he struggled to get it off. “Let’s go, let’s go” he heard a voice hiss as distant footsteps came closer, and then an ice cold sensation filled his chest.
The irony daunted upon him, and a broken attempt of a laughter escaped his lips as he drew his last breath. He pressed his naked body through the fence and escaped into freedom.
‘Escaping Into Freedom’ is part of a collection of short stories picturing the final thoughts and feelings of characters of different times and circumstances as they surrender to life and embrace death.