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From the Pit
From The Pit
It was a really nasty jail in a really nasty land. This jail was more or less a pit filled with dirt and swampy water. The prisoners never saw sunlight, and were never fed, so most of them had resorted to cannibalism. Most prisoners never lived for more than a few weeks. However, there were but a few who had survived longer than anyone else, and they were respected throughout this pathetic dwelling. There were four such of these people and, strangely enough, none of them were cannibalistic. Their names were Jacanob, Milinia, Stonachus, and Ricabint. Stonachus was actually the oldest of them all at 72, and had been confined to the prison for 20 years for stealing an orange to feed his family.
One day, he gathered all the weak prisoners together, and informed them of a brilliant plan; a plan of survival. Stonachus still remembered the days when it was a friendly government ruling them all. People lived without fear, worked happily, and lived in peace. Food was plentiful, society was productive. He had also been there when things took a turn for the worse.
The new king, Shishkabob, took the throne after his father Marter had been poisoned. He quickly replaced the members of the government, and established a strict rule. People disappeared in the night, others were arrested for ridiculous crimes and were given unfair trials. Many had already been beheaded simply for not eating their broccoli. All of Shishkabob's supporters had come into a great deal of money, while the rest of society quickly dwindled into poverty from hefty tax.
Many of the prisoners eyes twinkled with wonder at his recounting of the glory days, then misted over with tears when they remembered the life outside of the stone walls.
It was only Stonachus, Jacanob, and Ricabint who remembered the wonderful days. Milinia had been a small child when she and her family were imprisoned for shoveling horse manure, and was now 15 years old, the last living person in her family, and had but a faint memory of life before prison. Stonachus explained his plan.
He had been working away at a small crack in the wall, and it now opened into the garbage dump. At this point, if
he had chipped away at it any more, garbage would flow in, bringing old wood, fruit and vegetable seeds, and some half-living fish, as well as the rest of the smelly garbage.
If they were able to bring this useful trash into the prison, they'd be able to survive for much longer than they already were.
The prisoners all agreed to this plan. The next day, the prison was filled with an extraordinarily cheerful mood, as well as a terrible smell. Already, they had caught some catfish and cooked it over some sticks; their first meal in so many months.
It was difficult for most of the prisoners to change their ways of cannibalism, bloodshed, murder, and deceit that they had acquired over the recent years, but none could fully hide their true nature; and honestly, the fish looked more appetizing than their previous diet of eyeballs stewed in body fluid. Over dinner, Stonachus and his son Jacanob explained their plan. They could use the rubbish that now freely flowed in to expand and shape their society into a more civilized group. Everyone agreed. None were actually capable of horrible crime, it had simply been a necessity to survive. At least, that was the situation for most of them. They took up their old ways with vigor. Secondly, they would all work together. There would be no need for currency. No, they would barter and trade goods and services. They were all thrilled! They could each do the work they loved. All slept that night with full bellies and happy thoughts... Well, almost everyone.
In the dankest corner of the pit was the newest prisoner of the lot, a man by the name of Eglacius, arrested for making an assassination attempt on the life of King Shishkabob. He shivered and had a feeling of pure hatred for his fellow man. The idea of building this Shangra-la sounded absolutely ridiculous to him. He had arrived after the glorious fish meal, and didn't know of the conditions beforehand. Why should this happen, he reasoned, if conditions are already so wonderful? Eglacius made a plan, a brilliant plan. He closed his eyes and smiled wickedly to himself. All in good time, he thought.
The very next morning, some dead squirrels and some more fish washed in through the hole in the wall these were cooked, administered, and eaten with enthusiasm. Milinia claimed that it did, indeed, taste familiar, and perhaps this had been a common meal when she had been a civilian. After all had swallowed his last bite and washed their hands in the muddy water trickling in with junk, they set to work collecting anything they dubbed to be useful and piling it in the corner- the corner where Eglacius happened to be secluding himself in darkness. He first became aware of such activity when an old shoe hit him on the back of his head and bounced into the ring of rats he had planned on catching, sending them skittering into oblivion. He cursed and clutched his knees closer to his chest, and fumed silently. All in good time, he reminded himself. All in good time.
Within an hour, the heap had buried him, no one the wiser. He took out the flint knife he had smuggled in for protection, which glinted in the sun. All in good time, he thought as he brushed a mango peel of his face. This might be harder than he thought.
Milinia and Ricibant were wonderful friends, though one was 15 and the other was 8. Ricibant was the son of a woman who had gotten sick and entrusted the child to Milinia, who herself was 7 at the time. They had become family during those 10 years in prison. Ricibant trusted Stonachus as a son would to his father, and felt entirely devoted to the building of this Utopia. Milinia also felt the overwhelming sense of freedom, but she was still worried, what might go wrong?
After 2 1/2 hours of scrounging for useful material, Stonachus pronounced the pile to be sufficient, and all rested for a much deserved lunch of sparrow stew.
The first order of business, Jacanob declared, was walling up the whole with a portable blockade. Certainly, no one wanted this place to fill up, so the hole would have to be blocked until needed. They were all surprisingly spry and productive searching through the pile of junk for suitable material. The blockade was quickly made, consisting of jugs, wood, rope, and mud.
When they set out to place the blockade, however, something interesting occurred. The hole was already blocked from the other side. It was a large sheet of cotton, it seemed. When they tried to pull it out, it bleated pitifully. It was a sheep stuck there! They worked carefully to pull it through, and when this was accomplished, two little lambs bounded through the hole after their mama. Stonachus thought it would be wise to raise them, for perhaps when they were grown, they would start a flock in their prison. He had not finished this sentence, when a mooing was heard. Jacanob suggested later that these animals may have been the property of some poor soul who may have been executed, which had been disposed of. There was fresh milk to go around, Bessie's udder was bursting so.
But with accomplishment comes sorrow, and it was to come that night. Eglacius met with Jacanob, and words were exchanged:
"We both know that this will not succeed. The guards will see, eventually, and we will all be at the wrong end of the guillotine."
"I'd rather see these people know what freedom feels like for a week then to see them live in ignorance for a hundred years."
"I know what you have wronged."
Eglacius did not, in fact, know what it is that he had done, but everyone has something that can be held against him. What was Jacanob's deed, you may be wondering?
It was simply this: The palace guards had once thrown a young woman in the prison, a young lady of great beauty. The guards had later come back to kill her, but Jacanob could not bear to see her killed; instead,
the guard who had been sent was relieved of his weapon, his job, and his head. The girl starved to death a month later. He had only told Ricibant of this affair, who had been 3 years old at the time and too young to remember.
Jacanob had taken the bait, though he had already been moved by Eglacius' words. Eglacius told him the simplest way to save the people: there had been a spy placed in the prison among them. To get rid of him, Jacanob
was given a sharpened flint dagger coated with poison- poison from a dead serpent he had found in the rubbish heap earlier- and the location of the man's bed.
Stonachus felt very tired by the time he went to retire to his bed. But even a sleepy old man such as he would be wide awake if he had suddenly found a dead snake in his bed. He stifled a weak cry, one that brought Eglacius to his aid. He moved the snake with a stick and proclaimed that it would not be safe to sleep there that night. He recommended a sweet, cozy little corner which seemed quite comfortable. Stonachus thanked him, found the spot easily, and laid for the night. Jacanob approached the small cavern not long after. In this place was the hideous man who sought to destroy his father's dream. Coated with sweat, he approached cautiously, dagger clutched in his hand. He was not visible under the raggedy blanket which he slept. Jacanob stooped over the villain, preparing to strike. It would have to be a clean kill, he couldn't risk missing, or he would cry out. By the time poison set in, he would be caught. He closed his eyes, breathed a deep breath, and muttered, "for Utopia." Just as he struck, a tremendous roar was heard, followed by shaking and falling rocks. It was a magnificent earthquake! Jacanob barely grazed the man's side. Fortunately, he did not stir. But Jacanob tripped backwards, a rock hit his head, and the dagger plunged into his belly. In the commotion, his foot tore the sheet off the man he had just sentenced to death.
"Father..." Jacanob whispered, tears streaming down his face, and his body went stiff.
Stonachus awakened, sweating, and crying out in agony. Milinia was crouching over him with shock, pressing a wet cloth to his forehead, his fuzzy eyes glanced at where it hurt- the side where the traitorous dagger scratched him. It was swelling and green with the poison. He saw his dear son lying in the corner, a stone dagger in his stomach. It was too much for him. He closed his eyes for the last time.
In the farthest corner of the pit, away from the mourners, Eglacius was munching on a rat- the rat he'd finally caught. A wicked gleam lingered in his eyes. Now maybe these people would learn some common sense!
There was one very wise man in particular, a man strong, brave, and kind, named Ocrasin. He was the strongest supporters of the Utopia plan, and still believed in it strongly, despite the recent martyrdom. He studied the hole in the wall, carved at so diligently by Stonachus. He examined the blockade, woven so tightly with the care of Jacanob. This should continue, he said to the crowd in an assured voice. Continue their legacy! he proclaimed. This was met with murmurs of agreement.
It had been a few years since the martyrs had been buried. Under the rule of Ocrasin, the pit was expanded to nearly a mile in radius. They had even carved a few small windows in the walls, which brought sunlight and light breezes into their dank prison. It was amazing to think that the Guards had not yet found out. They had decided to make small doors on the North, South, East, and West ends of the pit for hunting small game. They dared not escape for fear that they would be caught and hanged. The sheep and cow had swelled into herds, producing milk, wool, and meat in abundance. They had even found some small bags of fruit and vegetable seeds. The carrots were all ready starting to sprout, which attracted the plumpest rabbits. Milinia and Ricibant had grown physically and emotionally in the past years. Ricibant and Milinia were perhaps the hardest and wisest workers, helping all who came their way. Ricibant, now 17, cared for the lifestock lovingly, brushing them and feeding them small vegetables when he could. He had constructed some ingenious structures and dwellings, and was teaching some other young men in carpentry. Milinia was now 24, and had blossomed into a lovely young woman. She had organized pottery, sewing, and cooking groups, she being one of the only ones who understood it first. She helped all who came her way with a sweet smile and the kindest words. She was also one of the closest advisors to Ocrasin. She had come up with crafty ways to distract the guards near the prison when they had become suspicious. The two were perhaps the most respected people in the prison besides Ocrasin. The trio had practically finished Stonachus and Jacanob's vision of harmony from the ground up. This, of course, infuriated the now elderly Eglacius.
Since he had killed Jacanob and Stonachus, he had been in a much more cheerful mood. One person even reported seeing him smile at dinnertime. This utopia would fall! He preferred the gloomy atmosphere. But then Ocrasin had opened his mouth. Who was it that said, cut off its head, and the snake dies? he thought. That person was an idiot. This utopia scheme was like a hydra- cut off one head, two more grow back! How did Hercules defeat it? He tried to remember. That’s right. He stopped the heads from growing. He would do just that. Get rid of any leader they could have, and victory was his. He would start with something small and easy this time. Someone who was small and easy. From his corner of the pit, he spied the two people, and young man and woman, one carefully stroking the cow, the other pulling vegetables. The terrible grin stretched across his dirty face. Perfect.
Milinia’s arms ached, and her knees were scratched. She had stayed behind, skipped dinner in fact, to finish harvesting their most bumper crop yet. Ricabint had helped the newborn animals out of the shanty stable he had first constructed at age eight, when his true architectural genius began to develop, a few months after the murder… Milinia tried not to think about it. It had changed everything for them. It meant that they were truly on their own. Now, though the whole prison was family, they still felt alone. Stonachus had been like a father to them both, and Jacanob had been their brother. Seeing his corpse had been a much bigger shock to Ricibant. He had fainted straightaway, not awakening for 3 days. Those wounds still hadn’t healed. They had stuck especially close for almost a decade. They wanted to build this place just as their father and brother wanted it- a paradise. They had each devoted themselves to doing just this, each in their own way. Ocrasin had become their closest companion through this. Ricibint had pulled out the three legged stool to start milking Choko, when he heard a sharp snap. Normal people would have just dismissed this sound, but Ricabint wasn’t normal; no, he was tense. Tense as he had been since he had awoken hours after the funeral. He squinted his eyes into the near darkness of the cavern. He hadn’t realized that this whole time he had been so close to the place where… it happened. There shouldn’t be anyone there, he thought, but that was, in fact, where he heard the sound. But one thought popped into his head, clear as crystal. Run, hide. He cautiously scooted over to Milinia and grabbed her arm, dragging her behind the shed, causing her to drop her radishes.
He clamped a hand over her mouth, and said, “We’re in trouble, someone is after us.”
Her eyes widened in fear, as these words registered in her head. It was a man in shabby clothes. His hair was scraggly, his skin was grimy. I won’t even mention the smell. But worst of all were his eyes. No one had seen Eglacius for several years, and in that time, they had grown absolutely dreadful in his anger. They were sunken pits, bloodshot and black irises. They were hungry, sucking away all the light. They were filled with evil, and hatred for man. Looking at those eyes would make you weak. Milinia's knees weakened as Ricabint grabbed her hand and hurried her to the hay field, where the hay had been stacked. He squeezed her into the straw, jumping in after her. She was gasping in terror. The man was pulling out a small knife. It wasn’t a particularly sharp one, and he wasn’t as fit as he had once been, but he was still a formidable opponent, and it was still a formidable weapon. They were unarmed. Two slashes to the neck would finish a job such as this nicely. Needless to say, the odds were against them. They could hide in the haystack for a while, but he would find them. As they were hiding in the haystack, Milinia’s heart beat in her chest, as the man with the knife grew closer. They knew that they would be willing to live as martyrs for their people, and he knew it too. She squeezed her eyes shut as his heavy feet pressed in the mud, squish, squish. He stopped, and he saw her. She gulped as he brushed aside the hay, their only refuge destroyed. “Finally,” he said, “This place shall fall... starting with you two...”
Suddenly, he stopped, cocking his head to one side. Ghostly whispering filled the air. “Yes,” he said, chuckling, “I killed Stonachus and Jacanob. Just keep my little secret for me, will you?”
He bent in closer with the knife, when his face went pale. Blood blossomed from his chest. He toppled over like a sack of potatoes, to reveal Ocrasin, a flint knife coated with an ancient green poison, dripping with fresh blood. Milinia fainted straightaway. She awoke in a cold sweat on a cot in the infirmary. Ocrasin sat on a chair near the cot, in another was Ricabint, snoozing.
“Is it true?” Ocrasin whispered, “Did he kill him?” She nodded weakly. “Then, the martyrs are avenged.”
Far across the pit in a small field of potatoes, some farmers were plowing. A sudden rush of wind came on, followed by the eerie whispering of two men. There, they saw the ghostly forms of Jacanob and Stonachus, son saying to the father, “I'm sorry.” Stonachus whispered these words in return:
Riches more than mind can picture, Wheat and barley, cattle and hay,
Corn, beans, and potatoes Shall be ours upon that day.
Bright will shine the fields of Utopia, Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes on the day that sets us free.
It was only two days later that these words came to pass. The guards actually went into the prison! See, Shishkabob, now getting old, had a 3 year waiting list for urgent matters. Eglacius was never supposed to be in the pit. He was to be executed for his crimes, which, if you remember, were quite a bit higher than broccoli eating. At the last minute, he killed the guard and jumped in the pit, which he had stupidly thought was an exit. It was only now, after his death and after Utopia had been achieved, that the party poopers arrived to crash it. Ironic, isn't it? They had come looking for the escaped condemned, and to their bewilderment, there were meadows and buildings, and not dying and grieving people. Everyone saw them. Ocrasin knew what had to happen. Bright will shine the fields of Utopia, Purer shall its waters be, Sweeter yet shall blow it's breezes on the day that sets us free. “Attack!” he screamed.
Nearly 500 people armed with pitchforks and scythes versus 2 guards, only one with a sword, was no contest. The first guard was killed by Milinia, who through all this time had been teaching herself to fight, another result of Stonachus and Jacanob's murder. Of course, no one noticed her. She wasn't stupid, and disguised herself with men's clothes. The killing of the guards was heard through the whole castle, which sent the other guards scrambling for their weapons. A fierce battle ensued. Milinia snuck away in the chaos to the throne room, a green coated flint dagger concealed in her cloak. Only one person happened to notice; Ricibant. He sauntered inconspicuously after her in curiosity, thinking she was a man. She kicked down the door, where the king Shishkabob was eating his meal. He yelped, diving under the table. She kicked the table over, ready to strike, when she heard a familiar voice, “Milinia?” She turned to look. In that moment, the king seized her, armed with an eating knife and pressed it to her throat. Ricibant was reaching for his dagger. “Don't move! One move and she's dead!”
Milinia was hyperventilating. Secretly, she grasped for the dagger and held it behind her back. A cold draft wafted into the room. She heard a voice.
Riches more than mind can picture, Wheat and barley, cattle and hay, corn, beans, and potatoes, shall be ours upon this day. Bright will shine the fields of Utopia, Purer shall it's waters be, Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes, on the day that sets us free.
He turned his head. “Who said that?”
The dagger plunged in his arm, as Milinia broke out of his death hold. The poison was spreading through his veins. He was lunging to kill Ricabint when he heard Milinia's voice.
“Sweeter yet shall blow his breezes on the day that sets us free.”
He had to turn. She pulled back her hood, and reeled back her fist, planting a wallop bigger than any man could match, right between Shishkabob's eyes. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, and it was too much for the old man. The land of Iskanob was free.