by Neeharika Pathuri
A ray of light nor a breath of fresh air were allowed inside the thick walls of the prison cell. It was square in shape and six by two feet in size, the walls were made up of strong concrete, it was always hot and dark inside the prison cell. It was located inside a tunnel, so that it was not easily located, there were no other cells located in the tunnel.
Jason was an Indian soldier, held captive by a terrorist group. He was sitting in a huddled position with his head against the wall, at the right end corner of the cell, his skin was pale, and there were bruise marks near his eyes and on his hands. He was only left with his trousers, which was also beginning to tear off. He was becoming weak physically, there was no fat left in his body, and all that was seen were his bones.
There was another inmate with Jason in the cell, in the years of his captivity Jason never saw his face, but heard only his voice. All Jason knew of his inmate was that he was held captive just a few months back.
They were supplied with food two days a week. But in the past few months Jason never had a morsel to the least.
“I don’t have any clue what time is it, is it day or night, spring or autumn what is it?” questioned Jason’s inmate, in a weak voice.
“I have forgotten my wife’s beautiful face, or the taste of my favourite food”, there was a hysterical laugh, with dry cough at the end.
“How does it feel to bask under the sun, how is it to be in the company of friends, or the very least the taste of freedom, how can anyone forget these? Maybe a few more days in this cell, we may forget who we are actually.”
Jason sat quietly not responding to his inmate’s words, he was lost in thought. All that Jason desired at the moment was freedom.
The prison gate opened with a creaking sound, and food on an aluminium plate was placed. Both of the inmates did not even bother about it, and it was already surrounded by rats, their squeaky sound was heard.
“You know maybe the rats are becoming stronger than us” he was laughing again.
The click sound of the prison gate lock was not heard.
“Do you think he’s locked the gate properly?” questioned his inmate out of curiosity.
Jason got up, with the support of the wall, he was weak and could barely walk. With the support of the wall Jason was walking slowly towards the prison gate, he could feel that his inmate was behind him, and also the rats that ran across his feet. He stumbled a bit, but somehow made it to the prison gate.
He pushed it lightly, and the gate opened, his inmate screamed out of joy and excitement.
“Yes man, we are free at last yes.” There were tears in his eyes.
There was hope, and this hope was enough to give strength to Jason.
“But wait a minute, what if the prison guard is coming back to check?” questioned the inmate.
Footsteps were being heard, Jason was holding the aluminium plate in his hand and was standing in an upright position against the wall and he pushed the prison gate a bit more, he was waiting for the prison guard.
The guard realized from a distance that the prison gate was opened, his gun was not loaded, he took out few bullets from his pocket, and was trying to load his gun, but it was difficult for him in the dark. As he fumbled a bit to load his gun, Jason on the other hand sensed that the prison guard was not making a move, with all his might he smashed the prison guards face with the plate, bent his torso and kicked his stomach hard with his knee. The prison guard fell on the floor hard, his gun too had fallen far of him and Jason kicked him onto the face again.
Jason was gasping for breath, he was weak in his knees and doubted if
he could make it.
“We need to make a move fast or the guard may come to his consciousness” his inmate informed him. Jason nodded.
“Freedom, freedom, we are going to be free! Look over there a ray of light,” words of his inmate echoed across the tunnel.
Jason gathered his strength and took light steps, he fixed his eyes on the rays of light, with great difficulty he came out. His eyes blinked a few times, to get adjusted to the light, he was barefooted and could feel the hot sand and he took a step forward, held his hand above his eyes and looked around. Heaps and heaps of sand all around, it was a dessert.
The sun was right above his head, in a distance he saw a tar road laid in the middle.
“So this is how it feels to bask under the sun” told his inmate spreading his arms.
“If we can make it across the road, that will be our freedom” told his inmate anxiously staring right at the road, he was standing right in front of him, he was wearing an army dress, with black boots, he appeared to be muscular and strong.
His inmate was walking very fast, while Jason was taking small steps, the hot sand burnt his feet which made it more difficult for him to walk, his bruises too were aching badly as they were exposed to the sun after a long time.
“Come on, faster we are almost there” his inmate voice tone was now stronger.
Jason felt that he was being followed and took a look back, it was the prison guard, and he was walking fast, with his gun pointed at Jason.
“Oh Shit! Run man run, he’ll shoot any moment now” His inmate shouted at him, turning his face back, Jason saw his inmate’s face for the first time in years. And somehow felt something was not right.
There was a bullet sound and it missed Jason’s leg. Scared Jason took steps quickly, he was taking long breaths.
While doing so Jason’s eyes were fixed on his inmates face, suddenly he stopped walking and stood there just staring at his inmate.
“What the hell are you doing, come on, he is back of you” his inmate was shouting, Jason stood stunned and bewildered as he realized that his inmate was looking like Jason himself before he was captured.
“It’s been two years man”, Shouted the inmate
“This is how you were two years back, see this, this…” his inmate took out a photo from his back pocket.
“This is how beautiful your wife was, you had three childhood friends, and your favorite dish was fish curry, freedom the taste of freedom, it’s just right across the road come on” his inmate was pointing across the road, his eyes were read.
Another bullet was shot and it hit Jason right below his knee. Jason jolted and held the knee with his hand, he was limping and moving forward, blood was oozing out of his wound, he stumbled upon a stone and fell hard on the ground and was trying to crawl forward, he felt the hot sand on his palms and on his bare chest, which was burning his skin. The pain of his wounded leg too was unbearable.
The prison guard was just right behind Jason, he lifted his head to see his inmate or his own reflection.
“So this is how I was two years back!” Jason spoke looking at his own reflection. The prison guard saw that Jason was speaking to someone, but found none.
The prison guard aimed at Jason’s back, and shot at it.
“Aaahhhhh!” shouted Jason in pain.
He faced the sky, taking short breaths, and holding his hand onto his wounded back, he saw the gun pointed at his head, and he knew this was the end, he coughed and blood spouted out of his mouth. He saw his wife’s smiling face taking its shape on the blue sky, even though he had reached the threshold of his pain, somehow he felt that he was at peace. Freedom it came to him at last.
Bullet was shot into his head, and he died seconds later. ***