I’m passing time writing by candlelight in the depths of my cave. The tiny flame casts constantly moving shadows on the walls around me. They catch my attention and distract from the work I am trying to do.
I’d write in the daylight, but I have limited time in this place. I must achieve my goals and move on. Each time I reach this point I feel like I’ve done this before, but I must emerge eventually back into the light of day and rejoin the world. Until then, I sit in the darkness and write, pen scratching as it threads its way across the pages.
It is a long and slow wait. In the distance I hear water dripping. I can count my heartbeats between drips. I can count the drips. I can hear that tangible evidence of time passing. And yet, I am stuck in this pool of flickering light and the perception that all time is stopped outside its reach.
I hear the occasional noise that reminds me that my primary defense here is the difficulty of finding this cave. Surely it has served other creatures as a refuge, but when I entered it aeons ago or just recently there was no recent sign.
The reach of the light remains limited to just more than an armspan. Aside from the pen and a penkife I have little defense other than my fingernails. Those won’t serve me. Next time I find myself in this cage, I should plan to be better prepared.
But there aren’t that many that can find this cave in the first place, and fewer who can enter it. Those, such as I, are rare birds indeed. Spending some time in a gilded cage would seem fitting.
So I return to my notes on the study of the human condition, and wait for the time to be right to emerge and conduct another round of observation and interaction. Only time will tell where and when that will be. Time and the cave, but neither is speaking to me at the moment.
The dirty rat just stood there and stared. At first, we worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew, but as we circled him and stared, we began to envy his cool demeanor. He didn’t flinch. Nor did he seem easily distracted. Not that that prevented the lightest fingered among us from relieving him of his wallet, watch, and gun.
Gun. Now that was a surprise. Someone carrying a concealed handgun and seemingly unaware that a pack of feral kids might be willing to risk lifting it. Clearly it wasn’t serving the only role he was putting it to: protection. Clearly it deserved a more careful owner too. We are happy to provide that service. For a time, at least.
At some new point in time his hand-axe was going to get too hot to handle, and would need to be artfully transformed into a weapon with an entirely different serial number. For the gun, a rebirth of sorts. And for our gang, a chance at survival for another day.
We ought to be able to live on the take from lifting that gun for a few weeks.
And the tale will be worth a few beers after that.
My history has taught me a few lessons. First and foremost is to have a way handy to adopt a disguise and slip away. Given what the Fates clearly have planned for me, I am rarely far from pieces of a disguise.
It started innocently enough.
A few pranks, a little harmless fun.
Next thing I know, we are scattering to the four winds, running and hiding from the angry mob carrying pitchforks and torches.
The had taken the innocent events as evidence of something larger, and decided that burning the unknown was their best course. The unknown being, of course, us.
It didn’t help that we had also held ourselves somewhat aloof from the locals. When it came time to light torches, there was no one in the mob willing to risk their own lives or safety to defend us.
That night amid the fires and the hangings I realized that I had to disappear.
And so I did.
I have never returned, at least not in the form I was known then and there.