It was November 1st, 2017; the clouds had parted and paved way for the gleaming sunshine to cast itself on the recreation yard. The inmates queued up slowly and each one was checked for weapons and sent out. Asher was questioned for the fifth time that week about his white bear and each time he had to prove that it was a mere toy. He had a rigid routine: find a desolated corner, close his eyes and mumble something holding his toy. On the opposite corner of the yard was Willy, a reticent individual with a huge, grotesque scar across his back. Since his entry into prison, he was always reserved and stuck to his own prison cell; some even doubted his ability to speak. Usually, he’s left alone but today was his unlucky day. A group of thugs came and picked on him, laughing at his suffering. Asher stopped his mumbling and looked at them. He didn’t want to be disturbed so went on over to help him. Upon intervention, the ruckus grew more violent which got the attention of the guards and immediately, the thugs walked away swearing at Willy and Asher. Asher ushered him off the ground and for the first time, Asher heard Willy talk. There was about 30 more minutes left for the break to end so both of them went and sat together in a bench far from the notorious thugs.
Willy somehow felt at ease to talk to Asher and opened up to him. He thanked him and noticed the toy Asher was holding and tried to touch it. Startled by it, Asher quickly grabbed onto it even more tightly. Asher, likewise felt comfortable talking to Willy. He told Willy, “It was my daughter’s favorite toy and she used to carry it around, introducing it to everyone she met in her life; a sort of a sibling, I suppose”. He started to tear up and Willy tried his best to console Asher.
Willy asked “So what happened to your daughter?”. Asher composed himself and said “It was the first day after vacation so she wore the new skirt I had bought her for birthday and en-route to school, a damned BMW jumped a signal and T-boned my car. I was on my way to the office when my driver called me and told me about the accident and that he had called for an ambulance. I quickly turned around and went to get to her as soon as possible. The car that caused the accident was long gone but she kept bleeding out and not even one pedestrian was willing to lift her or try to aid her in any way. Some displayed blatant ignorance while some were taking photographs silently, without even calling for help. It was pathetic. By the time I took my dear Sarah to the hospital, she was gone. The nurse told me that she lost too much of blood and that they couldn’t save her. If only she got her help a little sooner. If only the disease-ridden, self-serving bacterium that is society had helped Sarah, she might’ve lived. To make things worse, the driver was never caught, he most probably fled town; I guess the only ball bearings he has are in his car.
I kept thinking of all these scenarios and how drastically my life would’ve changed. Being a single parent was not difficult but being alone in a self-centered world sure was.” At this point, Willy also started to wriggle a little; it was not easy to stay strong after that woeful story and couldn’t do anything to make his companion feel better.
The bell rang and it was time. The inmates started going inside, one by one and Asher watched Willy enter and simultaneously break into fragments. Asher felt a whole lot lighter after talking to Willy. Maybe this is what he sought for all this while. Running a billion dollar company or owning a chain of mansions wasn’t what he needed, but someone to hear his story.
He was a little surprised that a week had already gone by at the prison, felt the flickering lights around him and got up from the leather seat. He always felt the design of an entirely black room with a few mirrors embedded on the wall was eerie. He put on his $50000 tux and approached his gold-plated Rolls-Royce outside.
It was November 1st, 2047. Asher returned to the sadistic reality that he oh so dreaded; he didn’t feel like living anymore so often transported himself through a manually created astral projection. He loved to wander outside the materialistic boundaries and exclude himself from society. Despite living in a simulated dream, he knew he was far away from those who let his daughter die. According to him, a prison cell provided him more closure than his own family. He would often go on weekly vacations, sometimes monthly under the pretext of visiting family, but all he would do is try to keep his shell intact so that he doesn’t crumble down any moment.
– Adityan Suresh