I remember the times when I would work, hands raw and blistered, face burning from the scorching sun, hoping, desperately clinging to the thought of something better. A comfortable life, with a house tucked away at the edge of the forest, sitting by tranquil streams and gazing out at the beautiful scenery. Then my daydreams would disappear, like someone had built a brick wall between me and my fantasies. I would lift the shovel, bring it down into the dry soil, scrape away layer by layer of the crumbling, dusty earth, until I had dug a pit so large that I could stand in it and stretch my arms out and still not reach the edges. Then I would clamber out of the hole, the outcome of a few days work, and fill it back in. Bit by bit. Layer by layer. Aching and exhausted, I would constantly, repetitively plunge the shovel into the Earth, only to undo all my effort. Parched tongue, growling stomach, and still I would work, and work and work, to no prevail.
Patches of yellowed, crumpled grass were strewn over the barren land, and only a few thin trees were scattered among them. Time would pass, and months would come and go, and my world would remain the same. A simple cycle of work and rest, and work again. It could have gone on for an eternity. I suppose I should start at the beginning. I was thirteen, then, and now I am forty, living in the same little cottage on the edge of the forest that once I could only dream of. Since I was a young child, I had been living in a small wooden hut, sleeping on a few nets of straw, covered with a thin sheet of linen. I couldn’t remember my life before then. Every day, a voice would wake me up, shouting to get to work. I would climb out of bed, change into a monotone grey uniform, and walk outside into the blinding sun.
The weather changed one day. Rain pounded down on the hut, thunder rung in my ears and lightning flashed. Terror churned inside me, confused and disoriented, I had paced the small room, longing for the strange new occurrence to end. Panic pounded in my veins, and I desperately clawed at the windows, clutched my head and wailed while the storm raged malevolently. I tried to go outside, work as normal, but the absence of the heat and the exhaustion confused me even more. I had felt pain, but it was always there, always comforting me to know that everything was normal and everything was how it had been my entire life. Overwhelmed with shock and fear, I begun to experience something new, something that had never happened before. An idea. I walked out in the rain, a new curiosity filled me, and I started digging a pit. I was tempted to fill it back up again, as I had done so often, but I urged myself, just once, not to. Instead, I walked back inside, and went to sleep.
In the morning, panic filled me again, and as the booming voice filled the air, I stepped out into to the blinding sun once again, and dashed to the place where I had left the hole the day before. For some reason I was relieved to see it had been filled in. Maybe it was just a thought. Maybe I had imagined leaving an empty hole, and the strange water pouring from the sky. Still, an ominous thought lingered in the back of my mind. Who else could have done it?
Three months passed, while every minute felt like a year, and my pain and exhaustion and aching arms pushed me to keep going, keep digging the large holes I would dig every day, and fill them back in. The thunder then came again, and the strange new sensation came back to me. I decided, to ignore digging a hole, and instead, keep walking. I walked and walked and walked, until the hut was only a dot upon the horizon. Exhaustion was dragging me down, my footsteps growing heavier as the journey progressed. Eventually I stopped to rest, then kept walking. I chewed a few berries, a pale green colour and foul tasting, forced myself to swallow them, and kept walking. I checked back, and the hut has disappeared. I walked like this for three years.
You may be wondering why I did not notice the passage of time, was not driven insane, or dead from thirst or hunger. My mind was simple and undisturbed, and desires or varied thoughts were well beyond my reach. I had never truly felt before the urge to do something, which was why I was so compelled to it when the weather had changed that day. Nothing bothered me, I had never experienced the joy of colours or music or creativity, never felt the tugging desire when it was lost. That was why I walked for three years without giving up. I stayed in contented reverie without ever waking up. Three years passed, and I reached a fence. Engraved in my memory is the sight of that fence, tall, foreboding, made of wires, and topped with menacing spikes. There was a sort of gate in the middle, padlocked to the edge of the wire. I could just prise it open with the help of a piece of metal which had been pinned to my uniform the entire time. Why had I never noticed it before?
A map greeted me at the other side. A message had been scraped into the dirt, with a sharp object which jagged edges like the piece I used to open the door. It was divided into a grid, and a cross labelled “you were here” was marked next to square G7. I then stepped back to read the note.
Welcome to Square G8.
For this story I won’t post a Part 2, and instead I’ll leave it up to your imagination. Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed it!