Five Years Ago
There was a knock on the door.
Number 847910 looked up from the book he was reading.
He knew he could not ignore the knock. It was a government knock, the kind of knock that inspired fear in the hearts of men, women, and children.
He got up and opened the door.
“Number 847910?” a government man asked.
“Number 847910, you are turning twenty tomorrow, correct?” the government man asked.
He nodded again.
“You are ordered to present yourself in one week at noon in Town Square for the Marriage Ceremony. So it is decreed by King Maveth, may he live forever and prosper.”
“May he live forever and prosper,” Number 847910 echoed.
The knock echoed through the house.
Number 847910 rolled over and sleepily rubbed at his eyes.
His wife, Number 921910, got up and went to go answer the door. He could hear his wife chatting in pleasant tones to someone who sounded like a government official.
A few moments later, his wife re-joined him in their room.
“What was that about?” he mumbled.
“King Maveth has ordered us all to Town Square today at noon for an emergency meeting,” Number 921910 muttered to him.
He shut his eyes tightly. He hoped it was not a public jailing again. There were too many these days, with so many people trying to escape the city and all.
He had thought about leaving many times throughout his life. Life under King Maveth’s rule was mundane and controlling.
At noon, they walked to Town Square. The day was bright and sunny, with hardly any clouds in the sky.
A government man scanned the barcodes on their wrists and checked them off his list.
Only then where they allowed in Town Square. Town Square was an area of land in the center of their town. It had a medium sized stage at the far north side, and the rest of it was open space, perfect for all the people.
Number 847910 felt his wife’s small hand clutch his.
“It’s an execution! King Maveth has finally ordered an execution!” she whispered fearfully.
She was wrong, however.
It was yet another public jailing.
Number 847910 was shocked by who it was being dragged out in chains.
It was Number 858910, his own twin brother!
“This man, Number 858910, is a traitor to King Maveth. And so, according to law, this man is being sentenced to a life in prison. So it is decreed by King Maveth, may he live forever and prosper,” a government woman read from a card in her hands.
“May he live forever and prosper,” everyone echoed her. As he said the words along with everyone else, he caught his brother’s eyes. His brother looked so disapproving and sad, it broke Number 847910’s heart.
“Do you have any last words, Prisoner 858910?” the government woman asked.
Number 858910 raised his head defiantly. “We are all trapped in. King Maveth, if he can even call himself a King, is a liar! He forces you to follow his rules because he’s afraid!”
The government officials started dragging him away. Number 858910 shouted as they did so: “Freedom’s just within your reach! You can’t be afraid of them! Be free!”
That night, Number 847910 lay next to his wife in bed. She had fallen right to sleep, but he was busy thinking about what his brother had yelled.
How many times had he lain awake, thinking about escaping this horrible, mundane, controlling town, wishing to do the same as his brother had?
The answer was too high to count.
He sat up and looked down at his wife. She was sleeping peacefully, as if nothing at all had happened just nine hours ago. He swung his legs out of bed and silently walked over to where they kept their stationary.
There he composed his letter to her.
I do love you. But what my brother said is weighing on my mind. It’s not just that either. I’ve thought of leaving this town multiple times. This town really is super controlling and mundane and frightening. One day things are going to get out of hand here, and I don't want to be around to witness that. I would love to take you with me, but I know you love it here. You are so loyal to King Maveth it’s terrifying. I know that I can be free if I just try to make it past the guards and the wall. And if there’s nothing out there, then I guess King Maveth was right. But if there is a better life out there, then I want to take that risk. I hope you will someday come to realize that I’m right and you’ll join me.
Then he placed the note on his pillow and exited the house. It took three hours for him to get to the outskirts of his town, and four more hours on top of that to get to the wall.
“This is as far as you can go, sir,” a government man said.
“Okay,” he said obediently, turning around to walk back.
What are you doing! Turn back around and make your brother proud! Remember: Freedom’s just within your reach! You can’t be afraid of them! Be free!
Number 847910 turned back toward the wall. “Freedom is just within my reach. I’m not turning back now.”
He took off running toward the wall, and his freedom.
Five Years Later
Number 847910 had found a town a few miles past his old town. The residents there had welcomed him in without any problems, knowing very well what horrors King Maveth could inflict.
He missed his wife. She had never come to join him, and Number 847910 had given up hoping that she’d come.
The price of freedom had been high, but worth it. If his brother were there with him, Number 847910 knew he would be proud.
So next time you feel trapped in by the walls that encircle you, just remember this: Freedom’s just within your reach! You can’t be afraid! Just be free!