I was hanging limply from a torture device located somewhere high up. Bound by my hands and feet to a post that hung at a seventy-degree angle to the ground, my torso was left to bow uncomfortably outwards. It was obvious to me that I hadn't been fed in a few days or more and a crackling sensation from my shoulders and back, along with searing, nearly-blinding pain, told me I had been whipped again. Badly. It seemed I was kept alive by an IV drip stuck into my neck.
After this small self-assessment, I came to wonder what the hell I had done to get myself in this situation. However, the strain of my brief time awake seemed to be too much, and I sank back into blackness and fevered dreams.
There was a time back, way back, where my body was whole and functional and unscarred, and where I loved people and had people who loved me. There was a time where festivals were held at this Pyramid Stage that was now my prison and a public demonstration point for anyone that happened by. Though most people avoided this place after what happened that night at the festival five years ago.
It had been a warm, humid summer night, perfect for the garishly-colored festival that was taking place in the glowing tents sprawled all over a vast field in front of the Stage. I remember the field had a river running through it, straight as an arrow, that then divided into two paths that ran around the Stage.
But no, these frivolities provided in the tents were not for me. I was here for the main event, the show that was to be played right where I now hung.
Eventually, the summon for the commoners to gather at the Stage Plaza came, and I moved with the slowly-flowing masses to the Plaza to an aisle seat very near the front. Then the show began.
It was a flurry of movement and light and color and noise. Dancers garbed in rainbows galloped across the stage, leaped, and soared, never seeming to return to the ground. Lights flashed and spun, highlighting the intricate array of knots, twists and turns created by the orderly tangle of limbs and flowing hair. The music blared, telling all of the story without any of the words, masterfully painting the perception of an expression on the dancers' inert faces.
I don't know what moved me to do it. Perhaps a beckoning glance from a dancer? Perhaps I saw something going on behind the curtain that I needed to be a part of? It still remains a mystery to me, and I have paid dearly for my mistake. The mistake in question was getting up from my chair, bypassing the guards at the bridge to the Pyramid, climbing the red stone steps, and going backstage to watch the performance from there.
From that vantage point, it became plain to me that there was much less that was actually dazzling or real about this show. It was only the magic of the night working here, it was only the moonlight sparkling on drops of dew, both of which would disappear with the dawn. This event, televised to the nation and mandatory to watch, was nothing more than bread and circuses.
Meanwhile, hiding behind a piece of scenery, I was receiving nasty glares from the performers and stage technicians. What was wrong with this? Why shouldn't I see what was really going on? Were they afraid I would tell the other "commoners" what it was they were watching?
Eventually, I was dragged from the scenery, onto the stage to face a shocked crowd. the dancers were already gone, having exited stage left, but I was certain that they watched from behind the curtain, perhaps smiling at the justice I was about to receive for disrupting their sacred and mighty performance, for becoming aware of the rotting cogs that turned the clock hands.
The device that I was currently strapped into was erected, I was attached to it, and then I was submitted to a televised public whipping while the anthem played in the background. I blacked out after the first fifteen lashes, but still the agony continued. When I came to, I was in my present situation, bound, alone, starving, injured, naked, cold...more feral, frightened animal now than human...
Suddenly awake and free of the mind-numbing pain, revitalized by this memory-refreshing episode, I strained at my bonds, opening the gouges on my back. I gasped as the first hot drops of blood rolled off my torso to splatter on the stone.
My anger-fueled struggling was interrupted by a noise, so slight I might not have heard it if I had been breathing any heavier than I already was. It was a whimper, coming from behind me. And it sounded human.
My bonds and injuries prevented me from turning to look, so I had to communicate in the only way I still had energy to: bird whistles. Ii whistled for a while, creating twisting, spiraling songs that echoed off the red rock around me.
Finally, I was able to stir a response in my fellow captive; a weak, four-note response reached my ears. Yes. Someone was there.
I spent days recovering enough of my strength to speak, and finally I was able to converse with the boy who had been imprisoned with me. We formulated a plan of escape. Another festival was due to happen in two days' time, at this very same place, in commemoration of my imprisonment and to make a spectacle out of the new boy. That would be our time to run.
By examining our bondings, we found that if we manipulated our hands correctly, they would slide right through the straps. After that, it would be easy to unhook the straps securing our ankles. Once free, we would go around the back of the Pyramid and escape into the woods.
The day of the festival came. Guards checked our securements, clothed us in ragged, ripped-up shirts and worn-through pants and applied make-up to our bodies and faces to make us appear more haggard than we really were. The lash wounds, of course, were all too real.
People gathered in the field below all throughout the day, though the festival was not as I remembered it. the color was all gone.
Finally, the moment came. My partner gave a whistle, and I immediately struggled and soon dropped free of my bonds, shoulders and arms aching as they returned to their normal positions , chains clacking as my feet touched the ground for the first time in five years. I freed my legs as well, and turned to face the boy at exactly the same time that he flipped around to look at me.
The devilish, tooth-baring grin he gave me seemed almost savage, but familiar, and was exactly how I would have greeted this particular partner in crime. Moving together, we dashed to the stairway I had climbed to get backstage and raced down it, out into the field where the tents were.
I was intent on running the length of the river, all the way back to it's source, the source that must surely be untouched by this distopia of man -- it must surely be a place in my element where I could have time and nature close to my heart to heal me. But it seemed my associate had other plans. He swerved to the right, a steely glint in his eye, heading for the largest tent of them all. I swerved with him, fearing for him and also for the rest of these brainwashed people, these sheep, that he might unleash his wrath upon.
I didn't see the small, silver grenade in his hand until it was at his fingertips, already beginning an arc through the air that would land it directly on the largest tent -- the President's tent.
He suddenly reversed direction, crashing into me and throwing me into the river. We sank quickly to the bottom. As we touched the sandy riverbed, feather light, a muffled blast rolled through the water and was followed by a tide of red that washed over the surface of the river, boiling and exploding again and again. the turmoil finally subsided and we floated back to the surface to find the field empty.
It was still verdantly green and unblemished...but all the tents had disappeared, along with the hateful Pyramid, and, as we floated along with the water's current, I realized the river was curved.
A feeling of emptiness, of hollowness, of desecration poured into me as I clambered onto the shore and took in our surroundings once again.
The dream faded as we staggered upriver into a bloody red sunset.