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For A Dog

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John Drake, now known as No 6, was acquainted with every inch of the village. He had been here for well over two years so had traipsed every path, trod every sidewalk, sauntered around every plaza. He had counted each tree, both the real and the fabricated, brushed against every bush, both organic and plastic. He had identified every camera location (at least he THOUGHT he had).

He was so sick of this village and fed up with everything in it. Last year he had come face to face with the thing that controlled his fate here (and everybody else’s), the travesty that wore John’s own visage. And every time he encountered this monster, he was reminded of how it was his own fault that he ended up here. He had inadvertently created his own hell. A mainframe computer safely stowed underground held a plethora of data supplied by him, involuntarily, that continually grew and fed a holographic monster that looked like him, used his facial expressions, his quirks, his movements, and strategized like him. The difference was that this miscreation was built emotionless, with no compassion. It operated solely out of what it believed was logic. But even logic could sometimes be illogical.

He could argue with it and even win sometimes, but never convince it to let him go. The thing just said, “I’ll let you leave the village as soon as you can give me a good reason to let you go.” And he - it - said this same sentence, over and over again, with a self-satisfied smirk (an expression John had seen many times in the mirror, right before he had outsmarted some criminal or enemy agent. And John couldn’t punch him or kill him. He was a hologram, no matter how real he - it - appeared. The egg shaped chair simply served as a display screen.

Occasionally, John could convince it to allow things. They got movies in the village, only some, but those movies did give John a glimpse into the world outside as it changed over the past two years. And he convinced the thing to allow a bit of world news in. He convinced it to allow the village to watch the 1968 Olympics. This was a sneaky way for John to try and find out the origins of some of the villagers. And he could make wagers with it, they matched wits. From time to time he won and the thing would always honor the wager - always. That’s how John got three real bottles of his vintage whisky even though no alcohol was allowed in the village.

But, this captivity angered him and it angered him daily. He tried not to take it out on the other residents. After all, some were also prisoners. And, for the most part John was civil, sometimes even social, but there were days that he was so dour he just needed to be alone. Today was one of those days.

He stood looking out upon the water, wishing there was some way to fly over the sparkle. How freeing it would be to push a sail up into the breeze and just go. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. At least he had the air. It was crisp and clean. At least he had that… and sometimes a moment or two of isolation. Standing here, there were no eyes on him, for a moment, at least.

But he heard a rustle and that brought him to full attention. What was it? A quick flash caught his eye. It looked like someone, someone small, maybe even a child, slipped through the bushes.

Drake crouched down and tried to follow. The little body moved fast and was nearly silent. He caught just a glimpse, first here, then there. Then he lost... her? him? Was it even a person? He thought so. He snuck through the trees trying to pick up the trail but it was no good. Had they been spying on him? He didn’t think so. Whoever it was had been doing something on their own and that interested him. Anything that smacked of independence always interested him. But there was no way to find this person.

The next day John made it a point to be out at that same place. He had plenty of time, probably years, to wait for this furtive little person to show themselves. They didn’t come back, however, (at least that he could see) until the third day, and even then he almost missed the quick movement through the greenery.

The pale body slid through the trees so quietly that if her hair hadn’t caught the reflection of the sun, he would have never noticed her. But her hair was nearly white, like her skin. The daylight flickered over it. John ducked and followed her through the forest down to a spot that had looked like sheer drop-off but was actually wide enough cliff edge to hold tenacious feet.

Peeking from the trees, John watched the girl duck down onto the little ledge. She had a bundle under her left arm and used her right arm to brace against the cliff wall. Her hair was horribly disheveled and her clothes were torn and ragged. She had a few bruises and scrapes. He figured that she had been hiding out in the wild for some time.

Once she had slid past the danger zone, she jumped, then ran along a little dirt section. John carefully made his way along the perilous ledge then also jumped and traveled quietly behind her. She disappeared into a cave and he carefully crept behind her into the dark. He watched her pale figure slip around a dimly lit corner and when he, too, turned that corner in the dark cave, he realized that the far end spilled out into another beach, a cove that perhaps “rover” was unaware of. This cave was more a tunnel than a cave.

The girl left this tunnel-cavern then ran down the newly revealed beach just a little further and disappeared into another cave. Was there a whole system of caves down here? Could he possibly escape this way?

He slid out of the tunnel and moved in her direction keeping his back to the rock walls so that he could try to blend in should she come back out. It was a bad idea and he knew it, way too obvious, but he was overly anxious. She emerged into the sun and even if she hadn’t seen him he was exposed. A dog followed her and it noticed him immediately, charging with fierce barking.