“Where are we? “ I ask her. “What’s with the guards?” Questions roll out of my mouth as I try to figure out what is going on. I stand looking down into her eyes waiting for an explanation. Why is she working with the guards? I wonder, is this how the prisoners are done away with.
Turning my head I scan the room. Small groups of people are clustered. The sound of mumbled conversations radiate around me. The groups looking at me then quickly averting their eyes as my gaze falls upon them.
One of the guards in a small group at the far end of the room strides in my direction followed by the others in the group he was talking with. He stops beside Annaliese and extends his hand.
“I am Marcus.” He says as he shakes my hand. “Annaliese has told us about you. It was her idea for us to help free you from your cell.”
“But you’re a guard?” I reply trying to understand their reasoning. “Why would you help free me?”
Marcus laughs as he looks at the military garb he is wearing. He shrugs out of his robe and tosses it against the wall. The other guards in the room follow his lead.
“Disguises.” He explains as the smile leaves his face. “The city is under a permanent curfew. When the evening lights are turned down only the night watchmen are allowed out doors and on the streets, the rest of us are required to remain indoors and all gatherings are prohibited.”
“So you are all here against policy?” I ask. “What will happen when my disappearance is discovered or are you planning to return me to my cage before that happens?”
Marcus looks at Annaliese. The two shrug.
“We haven’t planned that far ahead yet. This has never happened before, none of the other prisoners have ever left their cells until it was time for them to be taken to the oil mines.”
I digest this news. “Have there been a lot of prisoners before me…?” I pause. “So if none of the others have left…why me?” I have to ask.
Marcus remains looking at Annaliese then he prods her on. “Go ahead…tell him.”
She drops her gaze to the ground and nervously shuffles her feet. The murmuring in the room stops, I look around at the others in the room. Again nobody meets my gaze.
Annaliese shuffles a while longer then starts talking. I strain to hear her voice. “Several years ago a group of men where brought down here. They were paraded through the city and branded as spies…” She went quiet again. “…Where they came from nobody knew…how they came to be here was a mystery.”
“You have to understand. The prophets control this city, they control everything that goes on around here so if they say the men were spies then we believe that they are spies.”
“I was the only one aside from the guards and the prophets allowed any contact with the men. My dad is the high Prophet so I was chosen to deliver food to the prisoners while they remained in the cages.” “During their short lockup I talked with them asking them where they came from, why they would spy on us, why they wanted to do us harm.” She grew quiet again. I waited wondering what this had to do with me.
“The stories they told me were entirely different then the explanation my dad and the other prophets spread. You see, very few of us in this city have ever wandered outside the city limits other than short walks into the lava fields but no one has dared venture to the surface. In fact very few would even know how to get there.”
“The prophet’s words are law in this city so we have had no reason to doubt them but after listening to the strangers I had a hard time believing that they were sent here to do us harm. The men told me that the military guards from this city accosted them while they were making a run in what they called an ice sled.”
The term ice sled caught my attention. “What did they look like…how long ago was this?” I blurted out the questions. Numerous crews from the New Capital had been lost over the years while running the surface, could this be one of our crews?
Annaliese’s gaze once again returned to the floor her voice growing quieter. “One of the men said he was an explorer. He told me that he was assigned to the crew and was searching for signs of metals or fuels that his city was so desperate for.” She continued ignoring my queries, her voice now a whisper. “This man was older but he looked just like you, Mike.” She finished then raised her head to look at me, the rims of her eyes wet, a tear slowly meandering down her cheek.
I was speechless. I was a teenager when my father and the crew he was accompanying failed to return to the Capital. More victims lost to the frozen unforgiving surface of this desolate planet. The loss of my father was the reason I became an ice racer.
Secretly I hoped that in my travels on the surface I would stumble across the lost ship and at least have a chance to bid my father farewell. Over the years my determination waned and as time went on reality slowly set in and his memory started to fade. I came to accept the fact that he was gone and I would never see him again…and now this.
Annaliese had to be mistaken. My father and his crew were lost on the surface like all the others before and after, unable to defy the odds of survival against the blizzards and winds, the freezing temperatures that ruled the surface of our planet, how would they end up here. I struggled with the dilemma, memories of my father flooded back.
Finally I found my voice and with hope stared in her face. “Is he here now perhaps in the oil mines you talk about or still held as a prisoner elsewhere in this city?” “Can you take me to him?” I asked hopefully.
More tears flowed over Annaliese’s face as she returned my stare shaking her head. “I’m so sorry.” She blurted.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.