Why am I still here? I was supposed to be free! Even now, I look at my hands and feet and see no shackles or chains of any kind.
Why am I still here? I raise myself from the prison floor and pace across the moss-covered stones. The prison door is blatantly open, and there are no guards. Why do I not run?
There is a reason. It exists, and I know what it is. I do not want to speak it for fear that I will understand myself and be disgusted.
Instead, I remain here, crying out for someone to save me while ignoring the liberty I have already been granted.
What is that? Some trick of the light at the window? As I think it, I know exactly what it is. The visitor returns. He has come to me many times in this place. It was he, after all, who made the chains and shackles disappear.
"Still here, I see," he says. There is no sarcasm or condescension in his voice.
"I do not know," I say. I am lying, because I do know.
"Suite yourself. The world outside is much better, you know. How long has it been since you saw the least bit of blue sky?"
I do not remember, so it must be a very long time. I say so.
"That's a great shame," he says. There is a genuine sadness in his eyes that shows he means exactly what he says. "You know you can leave anytime you want. The chains are gone, like I promised."
I shake my head. "No, I cannot leave. They will kill me." I know full well as I say this that what I say is not the case. He knows it too.
He approaches me. I move back slightly. He has never hurt me, but I refuse to take the chance. "The reason why you can't leave," he says "is that you keep lying to yourself."
"That's not true," I say.
I do see.
He looks around at the few possessions I have in this place. I have arranged them to make myself as comfortable as I can be while I'm here. The guards at least allow me that, and I am thankful.
"You've made yourself quite a little home here," he says quietly. Then, without warning, he begins to pick up my possessions, throwing article by article against the wall. My bowl, the one I always eat from, breaks into a thousand shards. Everything else is broken too, because if it doesn't break the first time he throws it again and again until it does. My heart is beating very fast, and I'm beginning to sweat.
When he is done, he comes for me. He picks me up by my throat and pushes me against the wall. I try to escape his grasp, but my wasted strength is no match for a carpenter's.
"Look at me," he says. I am finding it very difficult to breathe, but I look at him anyway.
"You've identified yourself as a prisoner for so long that you don't know what freedom is anymore. That's exactly what the enemy wants. He's been using psychological warfare this whole time to make you think this is where you want to be, even though in your deepest heart you know where you belong."
He sets me down. "I have healed you and given you freedom. Whether or not you take it is your choice. I'll be waiting at the foot of the hill outside the prison. Leave these things and come follow me."
He leaves just as quickly as he came.
I look at my wrists and ankles where the shackles used to be. Nothing left there but mist and darkness now.
Why am I still here?