Ball and Chain

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Inmate 2158 stood there above the rock, his pick ready to swing, but his mind wandering through days long past. There was so much noise in the jail yard he could not even hear his own brain haunting him with memories. Men screaming in desperation and rebellion, others barking orders and firing guns into the air. He needed to escape, and this was his only chance. The klaxon blasted through the air, as if announcing his plan for freedom for everyone to hear. It was time. Inmate 2158 tore at the rock with the force of twelve years of labor behind each blow. Slowly, the wall gave in, the rocks crumbling and falling to his feet, revealing a damp, abandoned mineshaft stretching into the darkness. It had taken him years to locate this spot, but time was all he had left to live for.




Inmate 2158 threw down the pick and ripped at the wall frantically with his hands. Finally, he created an opening just big enough for him to fit through. After grabbing his small oil lamp that took so long to obtain, he crawled in slowly, dragging his ball and chain behind him, cursing it for slowing him down. He destroyed the opening by pulling down rocks, which submerged him into darkness. He lit the small oil lamp, which revealed to him the path he needed to go. Inmate 2158 gritted his teeth and pulled the ball and chain along the old mine cart track, cursing as it occasionally got stuck. How fitting, he thought, that the one thing holding him back from his freedom is a part of the very place that took it away from him.


As he descended deeper into the mine, the noise from the jail yard began to fade, slowly but surely losing itself to silence. The track led to the most recent mining room, with picks lying carelessly here and there, and an overturned mining cart in the middle. It was a dead end, the only exit from the room was the tunnel he entered it from. Inmate 2158 grimaced and stepped into the small hovel. Suddenly, a loud boom from above shook the room, causing the ceiling of the tunnel to collapse, sealing off the only exit. He cried out in horror and beat at the wall, but it was no good, he was trapped in here. He set his lamp on the overturned mine cart, which effectively lit most of the room, but was also burning away his only oxygen. Picking up a pick, he started cleaving at one of the walls, hoping to tunnel out, but his violation of the balance in the room caused part of the ceiling to collapse, showering him with rocks. He fled to the middle of the room in despair and waited, but the shuddering stopped, and he knew he would be safe, as long as he didn't touch anything. Inmate 2158 sat there in the middle of his new cell, taking solace in the complete silence he missed for so long. His ball and chain lay in front of him, mocking him, forcing his thoughts once again into the past.


It was a dark, silent night, the perfect night for a man to be brought to justice. 2158, as if in a dream, watched himself creep up to the window of a beautiful, two-story house. Inside, he could see the man who was responsible for ruining his life, the one who took away everything he lived for. The fat pig lounged lazily on his couch, staring blankly at the football game on TV, and stuffing his face with potato chips. 2158 saw his own face twist into a psychotic mix of pure rage and hopeless desperation. Then, he saw a young blonde woman walk up to the couch and sit next to the fat man. The prisoner trembled in fury as he remembered that this woman was his wife. He rose angrily from the window, blinking back tears. A knife that was stashed in his belt appeared in his hand, and he stumbled to the front door. His hand reached out to open, and 2158 cried desperately to himself, “Don't do it!” The man on the doorstep hesitated, but anger burned in his eyes, and he knew he had to bring justice to this man who had destroyed him. He burst through the door, and the sound of the knife piercing flesh was drown out by the woman's screaming. Inmate 2158 stared vacantly as he witnessed himself murdering this man, watching his wife's beautiful face writhe in horror.



His conscious decided to take mercy on him, and force him back to the present. His stomach twisted in agony, and his lungs stretched for each breathe of air left available to him. No matter what, he would not let himself put out the lamp, for he could not save his own life now. 2158 looked down and saw his ball and chain, his one tie to the earth. The face of murder reflected of its surface, showing him what he had become. Suddenly, his own face spiraled into the image of a bloody man's head dismembered from its body. It was the pig's face, the face that was forever burned into his mind, the face that had haunted his every dream for twelve years. “Your wife left you for me! She didn't love you anymore, you failed her!”, the ball shouted at him victoriously. “No! You stole her from me! You used your money to corrupt her!”, 2158 yelled, gripping his head in despair, shutting his eyes tight. The head appeared in his mind, continuously mocking him, and the sound of a woman's scream, the dying whimpers of a man, and the maniacal laughter of a man taking his justice filled the cave. The sounds resonated off each crag and corner, driving themselves into 2158's head. “No!”, he cried in despair, his heart beating his life away, and his lungs burning their way out of his chest. The ball continued to mock him, the chain forever connecting murderer and victim together. 2158's heart gave out, as if broken by what he had done, and his lungs forced out the last of his breath. The flame on the wick of the oil lamp burned furiously, then whisked out, submerging the cave into darkness. Inmate 2158's new cell became his grave, the echoes of his past forever surrounding him.





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IntrepidRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm
I like the significance you gave to the chain and ball. It could be improved by making his situation seem more urgent. Doesn't anyone attempt to chase him? Isn't he more concerned over the falling rock?
 
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