False Imprisonment – Part 3

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The persecutors get their comeuppance.  

Aunt Olivia stood leaning against the kitchen surface, vaguely watching the telly through the doorway of the living room. She had asked to speak with Eustace, but was told no contact could be made while the trial was pending. The judge had called a recess of two days to discuss the recent testimony of Virgil’s commanding officer, and Eustace was being held in isolation until the trial was resumed. She felt numbed. She could only keep everything vaguely tidy, throwing away the paint cans and white spirit and doing the remaining washing up. As if through syrup, the familiar trumpeting intro of the news reached her ears. She finished her tea and slowly started to make another as the newsreader told of embezzlement, strike action and an inspirational story about a child prodigy who had made an exact replica of the Eiffel tower out of kit-kats.

 

The noise of the boiling kettle obscured the news-readers next lines but as Aunt Olivia glimpsed the reporter’s footage out of the corner of her eye, she dropped the spoon she had been holding into her remaining tea. She watched with astonishment as the stark-black facts confronted her on the ceilings and bunks of two bare, military-style rooms. The screen was split down the middle to show a comparison of the two, the squat char-lines and the strewn and crumbled soot and debris zig-zagging and doing figure-of-eights at her as the amateur camera men panned shakily around each room. They focused on the thin holes in the floor, small but jet black with depth. Black that did not fade when the screens slowly illuminated as the cameras adjusted to the drop in ambient light. The kettle stopped boiling.

 

… current investigation into the disappearance of the two soldiers, thought to be in connection with a military investigation, the details of which remain undisclosed. It may be that more information will be released by military authorities, who have scheduled a press-conference for Monday, but due to the secretive nature of circumstances and information surrounding the case, many doubt that this will shed any light on proceedings. Join us again at ten for another look at today’s headlines. 

 

 

*  *  *

 

 

As he stopped at the zenith of the great ramp, holding the jacket he had filled with earth in one hand, the soldier peered at the sky through the binoculars he held in the other.  Dark light of red and pale green hung in great swags high in the air, dripping slowly down to the horizon, and exploding in writhing fire on impact.

 

Although the two soldiers were more tired than they had ever been, they found that they could not stop. They both agreed that they had been working non-stop for just less than two months, marking off the days from their watches. The other looked very small standing at the bottom of the ramp, hauling up the last of the thick wooden planks as he had been commanded by the statue. It whispered its instructions and threats almost constantly now, as if in anticipation.

 

The soldier at the zenith spread the earth from his jacket onto the last section of the un-boarded surface of the ramp, folded his shaking legs under him and waited for his companion. Some time later, he emerged at the lip of the ramp and they sat for a time, panting heavily until the statue made them get up and demanded to be conveyed to its resting place. The opening in the cliff, a shallow recess in the shape of a rounded arch, was nearly eight meters high, ranged around with strange and complex designs, the pale blue stone finely carved in the images of obscure martyrs and the instruments of their martyrdom.  Curving around the top of the arch, fully a meter high, were the words ‘FALSE IMPRISONMENT’.  

 

In the centre of the alcove, a stone plinth stood ready to receive the icon, which buzzed and crackled in their heads unbearably now. One of the soldiers hurriedly opened his pack, and both could see Eustace’s face, etched in some black, shining mineral, staring up at them from within. As they positioned the idol in the proper place of exultation, it shone darkly, picking out the detail of the chains around the hands and feet and the emaciation in the hollows of the eyes. 

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