Monday, 22 February 2010


Jace stood on the shore, his bare feet balanced on the slimy seaweed of the wet rocks, as the waves pounded against him. Spray leapt in his face and made him blink. Even the saltiness of the water couldn't wipe away the large grin that split his face as he looked out over the expanse of rough sea.

Away in the distance, littered casually on the far horizon, land promised a new life. Jace could clearly see the green hills leading away into a future time.

Toes curled against the coldness of the waves, hands held in iron fists against his hips, Jace contemplated the distance from where he was to where he wanted to be. He sighed. There was no way he could swim it, he thought slowly to himself. A boat though, a boat could make it.

Without looking around Jace could picture the handy logs and planks washed up against the nearby beach. Long fronds from palms and scraps of rope from shipwrecks could hold the wood together. At least for long enough.

Jace could see himself sailing through the dawning mist, eyes forward, never looking back, his hand firmly grasping the makeshift tiller as he steered his way towards the welcoming land.

Behind him, dogs barked.

He didn't need to turn to know that they were close now. Jace closed his eyes, focusing on the moment when he would first reach land, the tentative step on to the sand, the slight stumble as the surf rocks the now pointless boat against the occasional pebble.

The path leads on, up a gentle gully and into wilderness of ferns. Small birds twitter in the foliage and he can hear singing over the next rise. It is a woman's voice, young and free, sincere yet filled with good humour. He can't see her yet but he feels that he knows already how she will look. How her face will glow when she sees him emerge.

The dogs are closer now, they are snarling and yelping, trying to tangle with Jace and yet restrained. Jace can feel the hems of his trousers wet with their slobber.

'Jace, Jace, Jace.' A voice, confused more than angry, shatters his thoughts. Returns him to reality. 'Come on now. You know you shouldn't be here.'

Jace turns then, the smile faded from his face without a trace remaining except in the deepest secret part of his soul.

As they returned Jace to his cell, locking his manacles back to the bare stone wall and securing his grated door with additional, stronger locks, the senior warder pauses in his work and looks, long and hard, at Jace.

The warder is old. He has been here for longer than he cares to remember. He has been through more wives than he cares to forget. He doesn't understand this prisoner.

'What I don't understand is why you keep trying?' he asks in a polite voice. 'You know you won't ever get off this island so why keep going?'

Jace pauses before he replies, though this is a question he already knows the answer to. 'I want to be free.'

The warder frowns. 'But you'll never be free. They'll never let you go.'

Jace smiled, the thin lipped grimace of a man who has known happiness but not recently. 'When I stand there, with the wind in my face, my feet feeling the rough rock beneath them, when I stand and look out at the horizon, the thin strip of dark blue all those miles away...'


'Well, then I feel free. Even if it is only for the shortest of times.'

The warder shook his head and finished turning the final key in the shiny new padlock. 'You realise that one day you'll find that you can't get out there anymore. We'll have locked you up good and proper for once.'

Jace turned his face to the walls so that the warder could not see his tears and shrugged as if he didn't care.

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