I Just Wanna Scream and Lose Control, Throw My Hands Up and Let It Go, Forget About Everything and Run Away

Seven years ago, I was a scared little boy, lost in the woods and searching for a safe haven.  Suddenly a seemingly friendly, grandfatherly type stepped into my path and offered me candy and a ride.  “Don’t take candy from a stranger,” my tired mind told me, “Don’t accept rides from strangers.”  But I was scared and all alone and didn’t know where to go.

So I accepted the candy and I climbed into the back seat of the grandfatherly type’s vehicle and he started driving.  The candy he offered me, turned out to be stale and inedible, “I’m sorry about that, little guy,” he told me, “There’s more candy where we’re going.  And ice cream and cakes as well.”  So I sat back to enjoy the ride and thought about having the delicious food in my belly.

Grandfatherly type drove for what seemed like an eternity and I was starving when we arrived.  He pulled up in front of a beautiful, big mansion.  “We’re here,” he told me, “Let’s go inside and get you settled in.”

I climbed out of that car and walked with the grandfatherly type to the front porch.  As we climbed the steps to the porch, I noticed some chips in the paint and the boards creaked a bit as we tread them.  One of the steps felt like it might give out beneath my feet, but I didn’t think about it or worry about it because I knew there was good candy, and ice cream and cakes in side.

Grandfatherly type produced a set of keys and turned them in his hand until he found the correct one, placed it in the lock and turned.  The door swung open slowly, revealing a dark room that smelled of must and dirt.  “Don’t worry; someone’s going to clean that shortly.  Let’s go get you fed.”

“Don’t accept gifts from strangers,” the voice said again but all I could think about was the candy, ice cream and cakes, so I stepped across the threshold.

“This way,” grandfatherly type said, gesturing toward an archway.  As I approached the archway, I heard skittering and squeaks and thought I saw something moving in the corner.  I looked up at grandfatherly type, now somewhat disconcerted.  “It’s OK.  Someone’s going to take care of that very soon.”  He gave me a little nudge and I walked forward again.

Finally, grandfatherly type brought me to a large steel door and told me to stand aside while he opened it. “This must be where the candy, ice cream and cakes are!” I thought.  The door swung open and I felt a push.  As I stumbled across the threshold I realized this was not a refrigerator or a pantry, and then before I could react, I heard a loud CLANK as the door swung shut behind me.  There was a small window up near the ceiling, but it didn’t allow any light because it was dark outside and then a single naked bulb illuminated over my head.  I turned around, and around, and around.  I was alone in the room.  Grandfatherly type had not followed me in.

The room was long and narrow, with rock walls and a cement floor.  Against the back wall, was a small cot with no pillow and one thin blanket.  The door stood, ominous before me.  It was a solid wall of steel, with no handles.  Even the hinges were on the outside.  The only thing preventing this from being a smooth surface was a rectangular panel in the middle of the door.  As the panel slid open, I heard grandfatherly type say, “Here.  Eat this.  You’ve got a big day tomorrow.  You need to keep up your strength.”  Then he passed a small tray through.  On the tray was a small metal plate with a hunk of stale and molded bread and a bottle of warm dirty water.

“But what about the candy?  The ice cream and cakes?”  I asked nervously.

“If you’re good you’ll get them later.  Now eat your dinner and get to sleep,” he said, no longer any hint of the kindness in his voice.  With that, he slammed the rectangular panel shut and turned off the light bulb, leaving me in complete darkness to eat my old bread and drink my dirty water.

The next morning, the sun still low on the horizon, he turned that light back on and opened the panel.  “Give me the tray,” he ordered.

I was barely able to make sense of my surroundings, let alone the instructions.  “Wh-what?”

“GET UP!” he shouted, “Give me the tray from last night.”  I stood up, picked up the tray from the floor and passed it back through the door.  “Here.” he said, shoving it back to me, now with a bowl of what appeared to be oatmeal on it.

“I– Um, I don’t like oatmeal.  Can I have something else?”

“No.  Eat it.  You’ll need your strength.  I’ll be back in ten minutes.”  He closed the panel again and left me to try to eat my oatmeal.

Ten minute later he returned, had me pass the tray back through the panel and told me to go and sit on the bed.  Watching me though the panel to make sure I did as I was told he waited till I was seated and then opened the steel door.  He told me to stay seated as he approached me.  In his left hand he held a chain with a ring on either end.  In his right hand he held what looked like a dog collar, which he held out to me.  “Put this on.” he said.

I was frightened now and afraid not to follow his instructions.  While I put the collar around my neck I heard a click as a mechanical lock sealed making it impossible to remove the collar.  Then he held, in front of my face, a small device resembling a car alarm remote and said, “Do you know what this is?”  I shook my head slightly.  When I did, he pressed the button and I felt an agonizing jolt of pain shoot through my body for a moment.

“Remember this.  If you do not do exactly as you’re told, you’ll get another jolt.  The longer I hold the button the stronger the jolt will become.  The collar is connected to an invisible perimeter outside the house.  If you cross that perimeter it will automatically trigger the jolt and the farther you get beyond the perimeter the stronger it will get.  If you try to run away, it will kill you.  Now, put the shackles on your ankles.”  While I did as I was instructed, he continued, “You will never leave this place.  You will do exactly as I tell you.  If you behave, you’ll be rewarded.  If you misbehave, you will be punished.  Do you understand?”

I really didn’t understand what was going on and the pause before answering was all he needed to shock me again.  “DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND?” he repeated.  I simply nodded as I could not get the breath to speak.  “Good.  Now get up, you’ve got work to do.

As he lead me out of the cell, I could see, by the risen sun, the mess and disrepair of the place.  He set me to work cleaning, scrubbing, repairing things.  Everyday, I saw the rodents in the corners.  They chewed through the boards.  They ate through the packages with the food.  The left their refuse throughout the house.  “Don’t worry,” he’d always say, “Someone’s going to take care of that soon.”  But they continued to destroy all the progress I made in cleaning and repairing the house.  Every time I cleaned a room, they drug trash in and tore it to bits.  Every time I prepared a meal, for grandfatherly type, of which I was never allowed to partake, they came and ate the remnants before I could have a chance.  Every time I replaced a damaged board, they came and gnawed through it.  Continually creating more work for me.

It has been 2483 days.  Every day is the same.  Grandfatherly type lied.  He punishes me even when I do behave.  I do exactly as he asks of me and he punishes me.  I rebel against him and he punishes me.  I have never gotten candy, ice cream or cakes.  Every night, grandfatherly type, puts me back in the cell, passes a hunk of old bread and bottle of dirty water through the panel in the door and leaves me in the dark to eat and sleep and save my strength for tomorrow.

I’ve read about Stockholm syndrome.  After a while, the prisoner comes to care for his captor, even trust him.  The prisoner starts to feel as though they belong with, or to, their captor and the captor can trust the prisoner not to run away.  Maybe Stockholm Syndrom isn’t real, or maybe I’m not your average prisoner.  I’m still being held captive, but I don’t love grandfatherly type.  I don’t trust him.  I’m just waiting for my chance to escape him.  In the mean time, he treats me just as badly as ever… and I’m trapped.

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