Project ZEAL

Scene 8 - A Hole in the Head (Claado Shou)

Year: 600 A.D.
Place: Guardia Prison Cell #5

He was in the plains again. He didn't know by what road he had arrived there, what pathway in time or space he had chosen, because in his mind, it was just another illusion. But God, it felt so real.

He could remember, from some imagined past, the feel of his wife's skin. His son's hair, red and tangled. They never ceased to be loving, caring people, even when he had to leave, to trade. The caravan, stacked neatly with goods for sale on the neighboring peninsula. Where the war was no more.

He could sense the wind on his face, the grass poking up against his thin shirt and poking his flattened back, the stream's soft crooked sounds floating up like poppy seeds, dapples of dew tickling his ears. His wife's cheerful sigh from his side, and his son's frantic chase in the field towards the butterfly. Just one more unattainable goal.

But once he began to think about it, what was his wife's name? His son's? Were they even related? The woman and the boy, his family? What history did that come from?

And then he was back in his prisoner outfit, a sludge-covered jumpsuit with two thin holes for his arms, constricting the blood flow to his extremities, and a larger hole for his head. Leaning against the wall, he heard the crackle of dust under his stretching feet and the rattle of the guard's keys as he paced the hallway, whistling repetitively.

Gryph stood up weakly, staring out into the hallway that stretched in front of seven other cells, all of which were just as dingy as his. In the room next to him, a man guilty of seventeen murders sat quietly, making grooves in his skin with his fingernails. On the other side, a man with an actual family, guilty only of saying one harsh word about a public official, now condemned to live without the proper rights of a human being.

And what was this man's crime, this radical dreamer's offense? He had tried to make a living doing something that promoted peace, the unification of two separate bands of thought and society. But it was a time of war, and the laws of the King forbade such acts. Thus, he was not only an outcast, but a criminal.

As if that wasn't enough, his three year term was almost up when the wardens interviewed him and discovered his dreams about the family he couldn't possibly have. So they deemed him mentally unfit to reenter society, and placed the key in holding for another time. He tried to convince them every time he could that the dreams were gone, but the guards knew better...it was just Gryph's bad luck that he talked in his sleep.

So, placed in a stinking cage like an unfeeling animal, he had resigned himself to never again seeing daylight, sitting once again against the wall. His pupils, he guessed, had doubled in size from the absence of illumination for such a long period of time. But since there was no mirror in which to view his face, he couldn't even be sure of that. No glass...only stone. He didn't even remember what his face looked like anymore.

The guard beat on the metal bars, and startled Gryph. The guard smiled as the man jumped from surprise.

"Hey, you should relax! All that thinking of your wife and kid is making you uptight! Ahahahaha!"

The guard walked away, still laughing, but Gryph didn't get angry. How could he? He knew it was the truth. He was soft, no longer the warrior he had once been. His allegiance to Guardia had betrayed him; Guardia had betrayed him. And without that as his foundation, he could no longer keep his footing in the shifting sands of reality.

"I just wish..." he began, his finger tracing over the outline of a pendulum etched into the ground. "I just wish that I could find my path."

What happened next was the greatest gift that Gryph would ever receive, though at the time he didn't know it. In fact, for a long time, he would consider it as a curse. Only when the time came to understand what was happening to him would he see that there truly was a glorious path made for him in that moment.

From the stone wall opposite of the cell door, a bright light materialized from nowhere. Gryph quickly turned to face the penetrating source, and the pain from the intense illumination immediately sank in, forcing him to hide his eyes. It got even stronger, filling the entire cell, shining as if a greater force itself was fueling it. And Gryph kept his eyes diverted as best as he could, though the light seeped in no matter how hard he tried.

However, after only a moment, it had dimmed down incredibly, becoming nothing more than a pinpoint of energy on the wall, bright but not intrusive. Gryph sensed safety and uncovered his sight, looking at the wondrous thing there in front of him.

"What...is it?..." Gryph asked himself, standing and walking, drawn towards the vision. His hand stretched forward and eagerly reached for the light, his senses all dissolved, the pain no longer evident, his thoughts all forgotten remnants.

And as he touched the spackle of luminescence, it grew from a pinpoint into a band of whites that stretched out before him, the brightest things he had ever seen, his eyes absorbing, painlessly, every sight about him. And then, his body also became one with the atmosphere, disappearing in rivulets of cloud and smoke, like a piece of paper held within the stream. And then he was gone.

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