The Man in the Cage

Three days ago he had given himself over to insanity. Not the insanity of the schizophrenic or the deranged, but the mindless silence of a man past speaking. How long he had been in this cage he could not say. It was since the beginning of his remembering. And where remembering began he did not know. He could not see past that point.

At the beginning of his remembering the Enemy had bound his hands and taken him deep within the cave. He could not forget the Enemy, fierce creatures of ghoulish design, of the earth yet unnatural. They kept their faces hidden from the sun, their bodies cloaked in long coarse robes. Only their skeletal hands could be seen. They tied his hands with rope and lead him deep into the earth through the cave of the mountain.

He looked up one last time at the sun and blinked against its glare before they lead him down to the abyss. He did not know how many days they traveled. It seemed to him that the days rolled into weeks as they journeyed through caverns, large tunnels and small, past great hidden lakes and through corridors that lead to nowhere till finally they reached the center of the earth.

The Enemy brought him to a cavern as vast as the sanctuary of a cathedral but broader. The height of the ceiling seemed to go on forever so that even though he strained his neck he could not see the end of it. Yet the one force that engulfed him upon entering the cavern was the coldness that took a hold of him with a fierce grasp. It was the coldness of death and the grave.

There before him lay the hole of the abyss that almost covered the entire diameter of the cave itself. He felt the drafts of cold despair exhaling from its mouth. They lead him around the edge to the other side. There sat two cages, one on solid ground, the other hanging precariously in the air over the abyss. They threw him into the cage on solid ground and locked the door. Mind yourself they said. You may cry out here but no one will hear you. Then he watched as they marched away till the light of their torches faded to a dim nothing. He was all alone, the coldness and the silence his only companions.

And so the days went by but were they really days to him? In darkness what is the measure of a moment when the day does not chase the night? To him night and day blended into a melancholy one, the endless pitch dark ever before him.

Till finally that single moment came where he could not remember any light or the heat of the sun against his skin. He sat up and panicked. He rattled the bars of his cage and cried out into the silence but only the echoes of the cavern took notice. He could not forget! He had to remember, remember, remember the light! The ray of the sun flashed across his mind and was gone. The despair swallowed him till finally he sat in silence. For this man it was now eternal night.

Then one day the enemy returned. He did not get up to greet them but only watched their movements with the glass eyes of one who cannot see. Yet in the midst of the enemy he saw a pile of rags that reminded him of his own. He did not understand why they brought him rags. He had plenty of his own. Then he realized that the rags were not just rags but a man. His face was badly bruised, beaten and swollen with pain. The man appeared to be sleeping. Or were his eye so swollen shut that he could not open them?

The Enemy pulled on a rope that was tied to the cage hanging over the abyss. They pulled the cage to the edge of the cliff and when it was close enough they threw the man in the cage. They let go of the rope till it rested over the abyss again. Then the Enemy left, their torches fading away and then were gone.

When they left he sat up and looked out into the darkness. He could not tell if the man was alive or, worse yet, slowly dying. And so he sat in silence and watched the man in the other cage. He did not know if he was staring at death or watching death happen.

As he sat watching the man sanity returned to him by taking a slow labored path. Maybe it was because he looked at human flesh that brought to mind his own humanity. The rags so like his own, the withered hands and feet, the torn flesh. Underneath the bruises and cuts of the man’s face he could see the frailty and pain of starvation. Was he looking at his own face? This man was so like him.

“Water,” said the man. He stared back at him. He could not remember how to speak.

“Water,” the man said again.

“There is no water here,” he replied.

“What is your name?” the man asked.

“I do not know.”

“You have no name?”