Joey Cifelli ’23
This week features the first installment of a story in two parts: enjoy!
(Above) I ran through the woods taking no heed of my own safety. My face was wet and gross, and I choked down air between sobs and sniffles. Branches and thorns cut my hands and face. When I came to rest at the moss-covered rock, my little fortress, I was a mixture of sweat and blood, snot, tears, and shame. I was never going to talk to Lauren again. I promised myself that. I collapsed against the soft side of the rock, which was kind of like a couch when I was that age. I don’t know if I’d even think it was big anymore. I clutched my head between my knees and held my neck with my hands and sat there for a long time. The wind rustled through me. “Hey,” a voice said. I looked up. There was a man chained to one of the massive rock outcroppings only a few meters from where I sat. “Give me a hand, would you?” he said, and he gestured with his neck toward the massive iron links holding him in place. I stood up. I took a few steps toward him and then stopped, unsure of how to progress. 9.4/10.
(Above) I was almost certain I had read something about what to do for these kinds of people. I didn’t think I was supposed to get close. I took a step closer. And another. And then I walked all the way up to the man and sniffled involuntarily. I said, “What’s wrong?”
The man rolled his eyes, but at that age I did not know what that meant, so I carried on. “Do you need help?” I said.
“Help would be nice,” said the man, “as you can see, I’m a bit tied up at the moment. I would be earth-shatteringly grateful if you could get me out of this bind.”
I said, “I’ll try to think of something,” and then I sat down cross-legged on the grass across from him. For some reason, I trusted him completely. His voice was not very pleasant and neither was anything else about him for all that I could see. But I felt somewhere deep inside me that there was no danger to found from this man. I wonder if I would have felt the same thing today, if I came across that man. I don’t know. 7.4/10.
(Above) The man grumbled a little after I sat down. He shuffled into a more comfortable position as much as he could, and he asked me, with a hint of resignation in his voice, “thought of anything?”
“No,” I said. “But I’m thinking about it.”
“Uh huh,” he said, “please, take your time. It’s not as if I have anywhere to be.” He stared at me for a few seconds.
“I’m being sarcastic, of course,” he said, “by my estimation, if I’m still swaddled up here ten minutes from now, I will die. That is not a joke. Really, if you could, hurry up a bit.”
It didn’t seem like breaking the chains was going to be a possibility. Each link was thicker than my thumb. I also did not care for the way the man was rushing me, even if he was going to die in ten minutes, which was kind of a silly idea anyway. Part of me thought of saying, ‘well, looks like in ten minutes I won’t have to find a solution anymore,’ but I didn’t dare. I began to feel the crushing sadness again. I had forgot I had forgotten it, and now that it was coming back tears started gliding down my cheeks and I pulled myself into a ball.
“Oh hell,” said the man. “What’s this about?” 7.6/10.
(Above) I didn’t respond. I couldn’t stop thinking about Lauren, and I did not want the man to look at me while I was crying.
“Is it me?” the man said. I shook my head.
“Ah, I see. It’s a girl then.” I nodded.
“Okay, kid. I’m going to make you an offer. Can you look at me? I need you to look at me.”
As low as I felt, there was a part of me, that was all of me, that was curious what kind of offer a strange man in chains in the middle of the woods could make. I sat up and wiped my face with my arm and rubbed my eyes. I looked at him, sniffling.
He began, “look, I’m sure what you’re going through is terrible, and you feel terrible, that makes sense. Who could blame you? That being said I’m really not in a position to help you right now given my situation. So, what I am proposing is a little exchange between us, of services, in which you release me from these bindings, and in exchange I will aide you in that task as much as I am able, and later, I will do something for you, a favor which will be decided at a time of your choosing. Do you accept my terms?” I stood there, thinking, and made my choice. 8.2/10.