Thursday, October 25, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 4

Episode 4 - "Just a Ghost"
by Camille LaGuire

JACKIE'D HAD BEATINGS before, and petty humiliations by loyalists when he had drunk too much and they caught him in a back alley.  He hadn't, however, been under the power of another for an extended period of time before.  And, when he thought about it, he hadn't really expected this to last that long.  He'd expected a quick spate of abuse, a trial, and then hanging.

It was possible to be defiant over a short period of time, when you didn't expect to feel anything after the end of it.  His defiance was made more difficult after the first time he'd spoken up in court and they forced the iron gag in his mouth, and buckled it to his head like a bridle.  And then all he could do was stand there, fretting at the bit like a nervous horse.

And it was all so ironic, because he hadn't done anything.  He'd come to the territory to talk someone out of sedition.  He hadn't said a peep.  Hadn't so much as criticized the queen's dog.  But they arrested him anyway, for all the things he'd said before.  And they would have hung him for it, and quickly.

And that was the most extraordinary thing.  He stood there fretting at the gag, and they were rushing the thing through.  They'd already found him guilty.  And then the lady came.  He had no idea who she was, and couldn't imagine a reason why she was there.  He'd been distracted and missed her name, even.  She was beautiful and beautifully dressed, in a fashionable gown of a dark bluish gray, with black trim like a widow.  Obviously a person of quality who should be glad to put the noose around his neck even tighter.  But she called him a literary flame and asked for clemency, and they laughed at her.

Then she brought up the subject of the queen's treaties, and the way she looked at the judge and the judge looked at her, it was suddenly quite clear that the whole reason for the gag, and the speed of the trial, was to prevent that subject from coming up.  Then they could say "Oh dear, your magesty, we didn't realize what effect your treaty would have on the case until after we hanged him.  We're so sorry."

So he was transported instead, and that left him in a state of shock for a bit.  But he just couldn't see living as worse than dying.  Mary had always said he was an optimist.

As he came out of his shock, it was with the belief that providence had played a hand in this.  He didn't really believe in God, not as a person.  But just now he felt a purpose to the events of the world: His life was over.  It was done.  He should have hanged.  But there was still a use for him, and rather than waste him, providence had thrown him in here where his words had never penetrated before.  Where liberty was a bizarre concept that seemed like no more than a joke.  Where hope meant the next man got the lash rather than you.

But it took a bit to adjust himself to this terrible world.  It took him a while to realize what it really meant to have no freedom of expression.  That it was behave himself or wear the gag.  After a few days, though, he'd learned well enough to get by.  When the guard went by and asked him;

"What do you think of the royal governor now?"

"He rules by the right of god and the queen, and I'm grateful for his justice," answered Jackie, without a trace of sarcasm.  When the man was out of earshot, though, he'd add under his voice.  "He also has a pretty arse that smells like roses."

The other prisoners smiled into their bowls, but it made them nervous.

"You're going to get us all killed," said the old man chained next to him one day.

"We'll die anyway," he said.  "They say a man won't live long, once he's sent to the Sabatine.  Might as well die while you still have your soul."

"None of us have souls," said the old man.

"That's what they tell you, but it's a lie.  It's them that's lost their souls."

A few hours later the guard came up to him.

"So you say I don't have a soul?"

"No," said Jackie.  "Only a fool would say such a thing."

The man struck him three times across the shoulders with his cane, which was thick, and probably left a bruise, but not a real injury.  Jackie was more careful after that.  The old man clearly hadn't said anything to anyone, but they were all so close together, who knows who else had heard?  And he realized that he shouldn't be too impatient.  The boat was only the beginning.

And he tried to keep himself from thinking about Mary, because he was sure that would be the end of him.  I'm just a ghost, he told himself.  I don't have anything now.

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

No comments: