by Jon Straface, University of Northern Colorado
The great adventurer walked swiftly across
the empty Tunisian horizon. From a distance his body seemed
to ripple and sway through the reflections of heat from the
crackled earth. Many days were behind him, and many ahead.
Having escaped his captors for a third time, he was in very
good spirits, hoping to hold his freedom for much longer
than before. Perhaps this time he would keep his freedom,
but likely he would not.
There were many whiskers on his face by this time and
the longer he walked, the more grizzled and unrefined he felt.
His hair had grown longer and now hung in his face. His beard
had grown to a healthy length and when he talked, it felt as
though he was tickling his chest. In the miles ahead he could
see a town. He would stop there to rest and clean himself up.
As he stood in line at the small food stand he remarked
upon a small child standing next to her mother in front of him.
She looked back at him and gave a quizzical look, studying him
like a curious child would. In response, he removed his glasses
and winked at the girl with a pleasant smile. She then returned
to the safety of her mother's right thigh and gave the traveler
no second thought. Just as he had hoped, he was somewhat
inconspicuous. This would be a great asset as he found himself
in parts of the world that would prove unfriendly. He would need
to blend in to remain a safe distance from the pirates.
The tourist had been across several countries and had
learned how to keep himself safe. The pirates wore costumes to
look like regular citizens, but they were easy to spot. All you
had to do was look for the nametags. The pirates had to wear
visible identification to avoid legal problems when apprehending
their prisoners. And at that moment, standing in line, waiting
to get some food, the adventurer knew he had to leave. His captors
were everywhere and wouldn't stop until he was back in a cage.
The tourist would learn from his mistakes and remain out of public
view. He would stick to the outskirts. The men with nametags would
stick closer to the cities and villages were the tourist had been
caught twice in the past. They would never expect a change in the
pattern. This is what the traveler had learned.
With the town behind him, the tourist once again felt
confident. This desert was not to continue much further, and though
he had been deprived of the chance to eat, he could see the lights
of Hong Kong over the Horizon.
As the train passed over the border from china to the western
slope of England, the tourist began to feel the all too familiar
sensation of surveillance. Was it the bobby in the opposite seat?
With his domed hat and his curly mustache? Or perhaps it was the
man in the brown cape smoking his pipe. Looking as though he were
making deductions from the smallest clue, educating the portly gray
man to his left on the finer points of detective work. The traveler
wasn't sure who was watching him on this train bound for London, but
he was sure that his captors were near. He would be forced to get off
at the next stop.
By the time the tourist could get to the door, the king with
only one eye was already standing there. Ready to apprehend. This is
what the traveler had thought he could escape. This is what he thought
he could defeat. At this point the tourist realized that this was a
reality he could not exit. That fate is inescapable. He could never
be inconspicuous. He could never blend in. The small children of the
world would always hug the thighs of their mothers, and he could never
blend in. Not since he'd been labeled. Not since his wife and family
sold him down the river, all in hopes of an easier life, without torment,
without night sweats, without needles and pills and doctors. The tourist
knew he could not escape this torment like his family had done so swiftly.
This was the end, no more escapes, no more countries, no more adventures.
As the medication took effect, the confused man once again
understood what he had learned. He remembered not to go so long without
eating. He reflected on the subway trip he had taken, and remembered the
paperback that one of the passengers was reading. He remembered that the
Tunisian desert does not lead to Hong Kong, and that you can't take a
train from China to England. He remembered the little girl he had
frightened with his ravings. But most of all, he remembered that he was
a very sick man, and would probably be very sick for the rest of his life.