Friday, February 1, 2008

Purgatory

I'm ready to try another short story. I think you will enjoy this one, even though it might be a little strange.
Purgatory
“Okay, we go live in 3… 2….” Then the cameraman’s voice was silent and he pointed at the reporter.

“This is newswoman Shara Livingstone broadcasting live from Purgatory State Prison where Governor Smith announced two days ago, a shocking across the board pardon for all the inmates held here at Purgatory. The Governor stated that he loved the people in his state so much that he was compelled to offer blanket amnesty. The only condition to be released was that each prisoner had to ask forgiveness for his crimes, accept the pardon from Governor Smith, and live a life dedicated to fighting crime. Many prisoners have been set free over the course of the last two days and can be seen walking around the prison. However, we have just learned that many of the prisoners held in Purgatory Prison were refusing to leave their cells. Joining us now is Cell Block Lieutenant Imp, “Lieutenant, can you tell us what happening inside the cell blocks right now?”

Imp scowled a moment and then commented, “It seems that most of the prisoners refuse to leave their cells. They just won’t believe that they have been forgiven by the Governor.”

“What are they telling you? Have they offered a reason why the prisoners refuse to leave?”

“They know in their hearts that they don’t deserve to be forgiven, therefore they will stay in their cells.”

“But the Governor has made it easy to be released. Haven't they been told how easy it is to just leave their cells and never return?”

Imp scowled again. “Oh they were told. Some of the Governor’s men walked through the whole prison and made their announcement.”

“What were the reactions of the prisoners?”

“Most of them refused to believe their good luck. But then the first fellow tried his cell door and walked away. It was the dogonedest thing. His cell was locked and then he asked forgiveness for his crimes, and then the cell door just popped open. Heck, we didn’t want to let him go. We knew that fellow was a thief. But after he was given amnesty, there wasn’t anything we could do to keep him there. Some of the fellows tried to get him to denounce his amnesty, but that thief wouldn’t have any part of it.”

“Why would the guards try to keep him in there if the Governor set him free?”

“Well heck, they are guilty and don’t deserve to be set free. Besides, what will we do for jobs if all the prisoners leave the Purgatory Prison?”

Shara Livingstone turned and pointed at the large gothic prison to her right. “Lieutenant, you have agreed to escort us through the cell block. Shall we begin our tour?”

“Might as well. Okay, you go through this here door and you will be inside of Cell Block One.”

“Shouldn’t the door be secured? It’s wide open.”

“The Governor ordered us to open the prison doors. We argued that all the prisoners would leave, but surprisingly, they ain’t left yet. We just keep on doing our jobs. As long as they refuse to leave, then we can keep on getting paid.”

“But don’t you care that their debts against society have been forgiven?”

“So long as it serves my purpose, I don’t care.”

“Okay, I’m now standing inside Cell Block One. Behind me and to my right are many rows of cells. You can see that bars separate and define one cell from the other. My first reaction to this prison is the smell. Lieutenant, can you tell me what that horrible smell is?”

“That is their own filth. All the garbage that they brink with them and all the sewage that they generate here. We don’t offer any toilets or showers here.”

“Isn’t that inhumane?”

“What do I care? So long as I have a job…”

“As I continue walking along, I am stunned by how dark it is here in Purgatory Prison. In fact, the further I go inside these walls, the brighter the light from the doorway that is the only opening to the outside. Lieutenant, why is it so dark in here?”

“Oh that serves several purposes.” He held up a finger as if to count. “For one, they can’t see all the filth that they are living in. B, if they are in the dark, they are easier to control. They don’t go getting a lot of ideas on their own. And third, as long as they can see that light, but can’t get to it, they stay miserable.”

“You sound like you want them to suffer.”

“They are guilty. Ever one of them deserves the death penalty. I hate to see them set free. They don’t deserve it.”

“But the Governor chose to forgive them. Shouldn’t you help them find that light?”

“Oh, they were told about that light. It’s up to them to choose to walk out of their prison. Some of them shout for joy and run out of here like a bull coming out of the chute havin’ just been branded.”

“Is that a prisoner in that cell there?”

“Yes ma’am, it is.” He hit the bars with his night stick. The prisoner flinched as the sight of the night stick. “Hey you! Get over here and talk to this reporter.”

The prisoner obediently stood to the bars. “Yes sir.”

“We have just been told that the Governor has granted you your freedom. All you have to do is accept the amnesty that was offered you. Why haven't you left?”

“Well, I don’t believe in the Governor.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t believe that the Governor exists.”

“Well that is ridiculous. Look around you. Can’t you see what the Governor has built here? This building had to have been built by the Governor. It was designed to be a prison.”

“No. It was here before I was born. I didn’t see anyone build it. As far as I’m concerned, this building has always been here.”

“But I hold in my hand the decree stating your freedom.”

“Okay, I’ll play your game. If you can make the Governor appear before me, then I will believe that he exists.”

“Well, I have no control over the Governor. Who am I to make him come and appear to you?”

He shrugged and smiled smugly at her.

“But didn’t you hear about the amnesty? Don’t you want to be set free from your prison?”

“No. This is the only life I know. From this comfortable room I have everything I need. Besides, if there is no Governor, then I don’t have to leave my cell.”

“So, you are choosing to stay here, even though you have been offered amnesty?”

“Isn’t that what I have been saying all along?”

“Yes, in fact it is. I just don’t understand it.” She turned to continue on her journey and the man grabbed a hold of the bars and shouted out at her. “Tell me this, misses Smarty Pants, who made the Governor? Huh? Tell me that?” He laughed at her.

The Lieutenant rapped his fingers with his baton and the man shrunk back into the darkness.

“Lieutenant, who is the man in the cell next door?”

“Hey you, get up and come here.” He beat the bars wickedly. “This is one of our best prisoners.”

A prisoner stood before them with tear-stained eyes. He refused to look at them and stared down at the floor.

“My name is Shara Livingstone and I want to know why you haven’t accepted the amnesty offered by the Governor.”

“I don’t deserve any amnesty. I am a very bad person. I deserve to be in this cell.”

“It doesn’t really matter how bad you were. The Governor has chosen to forgive you.”

“I know, but I just don’t deserve it. You have no idea how bad I was. The Governor could never forgive my crimes. I want to stay here.”

“But the amnesty is all encompassing. None of you deserve it; it is a gift to you. Why don’t you accept this gift?”

“Well, I know that part of the requirements is that you have to turn away from a life of crime. I can’t do that. I am too bad. I don’t deserve to be set free. I’m just too bad.”

“Thank you for your time.” The prisoner sadly turned from the bars and heaved gasping cries of sorrow from deep within his chest. He crumpled down on the filth and wept bitterly.

Shara watched him in amazement. “Lieutenant, who is in the next cell?”

“This joker is a nut case. The psychologist says that he is sane, but the guy just doesn’t make any sense.”

A man was standing at the bars when she stopped in front of him. “How do you do?”

She politely nodded to him. “Sir, I have a few questions about your life here in the prison…”

“What prison?”

“This prison. The one we are standing in.”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not is a prison.” He looked at over to Imp. “Hey, Lieutenant, where did you scare this woman up?”

“Shut up and answer her questions so I can go back to my work.”

The man smiled warmly. “His bark is worse than his bite. So, what did you want to know?”

“The Governor has just announced amnesty to all the prisoners. Why haven’t you accepted his generous offer?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about. The Governor I know would never build a prison. He is a good man. He is a very loving Governor and would never impose on any of us.”

“But sir, you are in a prison that was built by the Governor.”

“Nonsense. I voted for the Governor. I chose him to oversee us. The man that I chose would never put anyone in a prison.”

“Oh yeah?” A gruff voice in the next cell yelled out. “I don’t even believe that the Governor is knowable.”

The man Shara was interviewing waved him off. “Don’t pay any attention to him. It is amazing how it’s human nature to assume that because we believe or don’t believe something, then that makes it true. This joker doesn’t believe in gravity either. Even though he can feel the effects of gravity, he refuses to believe in gravity. I keep telling him that gravity exists where he believes it or not. The Governor is knowable. I know him. I voted for him. And the man I voted for would never put any of us in a prison.”

“Oh yeah?” Another man yelled at them several cells down. “I read that amnesty announcement and I didn’t understand it.”

“Well, I read it,” a different man yelled back. “And it had a contradiction in it. Therefore, it can’t be right. Besides, one of the Governor’s aids wrote the document for him, it’s not really from the Governor himself. There, I have proven that amnesty is a fraud!”

Shara Livingstone walked several cells down and saw a man sitting on the floor with his feet crossed. “Sir, may I ask you some questions?”

“I already know that you want to ask about the so called amnesty.”

“Yes that’s right. What do you think of the amnesty?”

“It doesn’t really matter. This prison is nothing more than a metaphor about life. Besides, I believe that when I die, I will be set free from this prison. I have lived a good life and what comes around goes around.”

“But sir, you can get out now without having to die.”

“I used to be a thief, but now I live by the golden rule. If I can continue to live a good enough life, then I will make it out of here when I die.”

“Thank you.” She walked a few doors down. “How about you, sir? Don’t you want to get out of this prison?”

“Sure, some day. When I’m older. I’m not through living here yet. But before I die, I plan to take the amnesty and get out. But for now, I’m just having too much fun. Besides, I don’t want to become a puppet for the Governor.”

“Thank you.” She turned to the Lieutenant. “I have time for one more interview. Let’s go to that man standing over there. “Excuse me, I have a few questions about the amnesty announcement made a few days ago.”

“Yeah? What do ya want to know?”

“Why haven’t you accepted the freedom and walked away from your prison cell?”

“Are you trying to make me feel guilty by representing the Governor? I don’t appreciate your attack on my personal beliefs. Who are you to judge me?”

“I’m not judging you; I only want to know why you haven’t taken the opportunity to leave your prison.”

“Well, there is a truth that works for you and a truth that works for me. My own personal truth tells me that I can live right here if I want to. You can’t force your truth on me. That violates my personal space and my personal beliefs. Who are you to come and try to condemn me? Now leave me alone.”

Shara turned away from the cell and began to walk with Lieutenant Imp back toward the exit. “I didn’t realize how far we walked into the prison. It is so dark and foul in here.”

“Yep, but that’s how I like it.”

“Isn’t it amazing how bright the light is from the exit door? It’s almost blinding.”

“Yes it is. I like the darkness better. It’s just too bright outside.”

“Hey, who is that walking around here in the cell block? Is it the prisoners?”

“Well, sort of. These people here stepped out of their cells, but refuse to actually walk into the light. They just love the darkness too much to leave it. What’s more remarkable is that they think that they are free. But they still live in all this filth like the men in the cells.”

“I need to talk to one of them.” She stopped a man that was wandering in the darkness. “Excuse me sir, but I have a question for you about the amnesty.”

“Sure, go ahead. That’ my favorite topic. I love to talk about the Governor. After all, he set me free.”

“But have you really been set free? You are still living within the walls of the prison.”

“I have been set free. There is no doubt.”

“Yet you are still here in the cell block. Why don’t you move on into the light and out of this prison?”

“I’m not in the prison. I am free. Sometime I do go near the light and walk around outside. But, this is where my home is and my friends live here also.”

“But I have been outside, and it’s clean and free outside. Why make your home here?”

“Oh, when I went out there, they wanted me to go and tell others about how the Governor set me free. It just seemed like they were expecting too much of me.”

“That is part of the condition for release, to live a life that directly opposes crime.”

“Well, I didn’t want all my friends to make fun of me. It was just too uncomfortable. I tried it out, but it just didn’t work for me. So, I came back in here where all my friends are.”

“Thank you.” She turned to the camera. “I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. These prisoners all have different reasons for choosing to remain here in Purgatory State Prison. Despite the fact that none of their reasons or excuses make sense, they are content to live a life of filth and squalor rather than a life of freedom and responsibility. This has been Shara Livingstone reporting live. Now back to you…”

1 comment:

Alison said...

I like a good allegory, and this one made me think. I don't like it when something I read makes me examine my life! =)