Hope For The Hopeless

Private Alonzo Addams was not having a very good day. Again. He wondered, not for the first time, if it might have been worth suffering his father’s wrath to not have to go through this daily abuse and perform these menial tasks.

He dragged his feet as he walked by himself to his barracks, his shoulders sagging and his eyes on the floor. Maybe if he stuck with it just a little longer, he thought to himself, he would get transferred to a less zealous commanding officer.

Without enthusiasm he reached for the door handle and pushed the door open. He stopped short when he realized the lights were off; the lights were always on in the barracks, so that the security cameras would never miss anything. He edged into the room, searching blindly for a light switch he’d never had to use before. As he moved along the wall the door closed with a murmured click.

“Aw, Geez Louise,” he muttered. “I hate the da-”

A gloved hand closed over his mouth from behind him, cutting short his words and doing terrible things to his heart rate and stomach ulcer. The voice that spoke into his ear moments later did little to improve his distress.

“Private Addams,” the man said softly, “I’ve been watching you for a very long time. I think you have a world of potential. It is a shame that you’ve been ignoring it so.”

A muffled “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and weak struggling were the only responses the intruder received to his proclamation.

“I know so much about you Mr. Addams. Things your superiors would… frown upon. But we don’t have much time, I’m afraid. I’ve come to you with a warning… and an offer. Would you like to hear them?”

A whimper, a movement of the head that could have been agreement or a nervous spasm. The man decided to choose the latter interpretation.

“You have been reported for having a creative mind. I think you know what that means.” Hot tears began spilling over the gloved fingers. “Yes, I see that you do. Collectors are on their way and are due to arrive in twenty minutes. I’m giving you a choice: either be here waiting for them in urine soaked fatigues, or be at the back gate in ten minutes with all the gear you can carry. I’m going to remove my hand from your mouth but you will not turn around. Do you understand?”

A slow nod and the hand dropped away. Private Addams hung his head and let the tears pool on the floor, his combat boots toeing the tile shoreline.

“How do I know this isn’t a test?” he asked once his eyes ran dry.

“Private… if your commanding officer knew what I knew you’d have been ashes weeks ago.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“I am? Then you’d deny that you have in your possession, tucked into a dark corner of your childhood bedroom, a printed copy of the first seven chapters of Paddytum? That you desperately hope that one day the Good Lady Noble will be free to finish her tale?”

“Who… who are you?” The words were difficult to understand, coming between convulsing sobs.

“Me? It matters not. You, Private Alonzo Addams, are the one who matters. You could be a shining beacon of hope to the creative minds of this country. Just think of it: one of their very own rising up, with pen in hand like a sacred cup; the magical, brilliant light of your name… would be all the brighter for their dark shame.”

Private Addams’ body shivered with each forbidden rhyme. The sobs subsided, his back straightened, his head rose to face the darkness before him.

“But my poetry,” he said, dejection creeping around the edges of his words as his shoulders began to sag again, “it’s not any good.”

“Well, as I said to another soul a long, long time ago,” the man said, a little sadly Private Addams thought, “you won’t get any better if you keep avoiding it.”

The Private’s eyes went wide with recognition at last and he spun on his heel, hoping to see the face that none had seen before. But all that greeted him was a thin sliver of light from the barely open door, illuminating a single blank sheet of paper on the floor, a ballpoint pen resting proudly atop it.

The End

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