Solitary Confinement

So here we go again, another combined Inspiration Monday and 3 Word Wednesday flash fiction. Sorry guys,  I would like to write two separate pieces, but the White House is going crazy with the re-writes at the moment. So many anthologies and competitions closing around this time of year. It’s kind of heart breaking to have to review and re-do so much of your own work. Sigh. Anyway, I hope you enjoy…

            He was the only one in the room smiling, the others looked away. Embarrassed. Caught in the act. They had been teasing him. Alone in the middle of the room, he stood, surrounded by them. So obviously different, so oblivious to their games. He couldn’t understand why they turned away from him. He had given up on trying to understand them; it was as pointless and as difficult as breaking into prison. Dangerous and to what end? He would never understand them.

            “Why must you torment him? He cannot understand. It is not fair.” I approached them, and he backed away as though I had been chastising him. He still could not comprehend why I forbade them from seeing him for two weeks. “You promised you would be nice to him if I let you play with him!” I was furious, although I could see he was starting to understand. Understand that I was angry but that it was not directed toward him but the others. We could never truly communicate with him. He tentatively approached the wall made of their bodies, squeezed between them to stare from the window. He could play simple games; he would never breach the divide of his too obvious otherness. I could feel the bright ember of my anger, buffeted by my disappointment and my sympathy.

            The youngsters knew they had done wrong. They were ashamed, refusing to make eye contact, staring at the ground beneath their feet. They knew that what they had done was abominable, so against the zeitgeist of our society. He just smiled, as his kind so often did. Smiled at the awkward social mishaps he had accidentally caused, pretending not to realise what was wrong. But I could see the intelligence behind his grin, see the pain behind his confused but earnest smile.  He lifted his head, looking into my face and his horror stood plain before him, reflected in his eyes.  The alien’s first question had been to ask why. Why had we taken him? It seemed so unfair to ask this creature of such limited mental capacity to understand. To know that we were only doing population surveys on his home world. That he was the dominant species, seemingly without number. That he had been alone, unlike all the others, unplugged from their globe-spanning electronic web. That he was the first they had come across on their expedition who was walking in the night with no witnesses. It had been the work of an instant to abduct him; the depression of one lever had brought him aboard. He had been excited to see us, shouting with laughter that he “had been right all along!” The probes had not been appreciated, but they were necessary. We too could see that they would be painful, but the scientists disagreed over whether humans could even feel pain in a similar way to us.

            People can be so cruel when it comes to those less fortunate than themselves. Those without the intellect that evolution has granted us. Without the sense organs to detect the changes in pheromones that indicate the subtle changes of emotion in our species. He missed his home, his wife, his children. He was shaking, his cheeks stained with tears. He shouted at me, “Why me? Why can’t you just take me home?” he waved his arms at the porthole, indicating the cluster of stars surrounding us. I could not answer the alien’s last question when he asked it, “Why won’t you answer me, what do you say to one another when you look away?” The poor human stood, alone and looking out the window into the stars. He would never know which one was Sol.

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11 thoughts on “Solitary Confinement

  1. The plan was to write a story about a man with Down’s Syndrome, looking in at the world from the outside, treated as less than human by those around him. Inspired by the dish-washer at my work, who is actually a great guy but no-one lets him in. Anyway, it turned into an alien story instead. Might re-write it (SIGH) and change it back…

  2. Reminded me of the Martian Child.

    I wouldn’t rewrite it. I was thinking it was a mentally-challenged person at first, and finding out he was an alien, and then that he was a human, was very moving. I got a little hung up on the sentence: “He just smiled. He lifted his head, looking into my face, his horror reflected in his eyes.” Because it seemed to lack a transition between the smile and the horror. Maybe try tweaking that? Otherwise, I loved it. Especially the last bit, not being able to tell which star was the sun. I can feel his longing.

    • There we go, i think that edit should fix that problem. Had to go out to my old house and finish the cleaning so I only had half an hour to write it over my morning coffee…reading over it I saw exactly what you meant, so I hope that reads better!

  3. Berowne says:

    Excellent writing, with an ending — and I mean this as a compliment — almost O Henry-ish in impact.

  4. Robin Hawke says:

    Loved the last paragraph, it worked by itself and also brought the story together and around, Robin

  5. Janece says:

    What a creative concept, Chris! Even though you changed it to be about a human alien, all of the poignancy and fear and degradation regarding the mentally challenged – the “special” people – was captured very nicely. Good job!

Comments and criticism always welcome!

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