Saturday, February 1, 2020


I had almost made it.

The Warden had dozed off in his chair again and I had to take the chance. I had spent hours upon hours, days upon days, chipping, rubbing, wiggling, and otherwise accelerating entropy in the joints, anchors, and locking mechanism of my cell door. The effort was the only thing keeping me sane and, now that the opportunity presented itself, I had to make use of it.

Taking the door off its hinges had been relatively straightforward. What squeaks and thuds the process caused didn’t wake the Warden, inshallah. I approached his little booth in the center of the cells and worked my way in. Quietly, oh so quietly I relieved him of his keys and unlocked the trap door.

The Warden’s booth sat in the center of a dozen cells in a classic panopticon. Prisoners in those cells had a wonderful view of the city from twelve stories up; to exit out the window meant certain death. the panopticon design was a stroke of genius - one guard could watch many prisoners if they never knew exactly when he was watching them through the shaded glass. Unfortunately for the guards and fortunately for the prisoners, the Warden snored.

A dozen high security cells for three enemies of the state. We were high profile, so it made sense to put us somewhere the politicians could point at. It didn’t have to be perfect - we were academics, not thugs - but it definitely needed to be conspicuous. So the “Ivory Tower” had been built with room to spare. If another few cases of “too inconvenient to kill” popped up they’d have a spot ready. Now the tower stood tall at the northern edge of the capital - a warning for others who might stick out like the white spire did among its brown brick neighbors.

The other two prisoners had been quietly, but insistently, motioning to me that I should free them as well. When I first envisioned my escape, I saw only myself - the others would have to fend for themselves. As I felt the first elation of possible freedom, however, I had a change of heart. I leaned out the door and slid the keys to the closer of the two.

The trapdoor had an ear-splitting squeak if opened fully, so I had slithered down with it half open. I had never been the most physically fit person on the planet and, after years of confinement, I was ill prepared to descend the tower’s stairs. There was an elevator, yes, but that seemed like a great way to get caught. Taking a deep breath, I began my descent.

Alarms screamed up and down the staircase a minute after I’d entered it. I hoped beyond hope the other two had tried the elevator and had drawn everyone’s attention that way. I was so close to the bottom - another flight and I could at least try to find a window to jump out of.

My luck, however, ran out. I didn’t even hear a door open or footsteps behind me - all I felt was a large hand around my neck, arresting my progress.

I had almost made it.

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