Out of the Cage

03 Dec

By Taylor Masella

“Come on David, we’ve really got to go,” called Ava, as the rain began to fall.

“A few more minutes and I think we can get that buck,” said David, eagerly.

“My Uncle Rick’s cabin is a least a half hour away and I don’t want to get soaked. Come on, let’s go.”

“All right,” David replied, sullenly. “Relax.”

The two of them were spending the week at the cabin Ava’s uncle had bought twenty-six years ago. David and Ava had both grown up in Hardin, a small town in northern Tennessee. David had later moved to Dickson city but he often returned for a week at a time on hunting trips. Since the two had been friends since meeting in middle school, Ava let David use her uncle’s cabin and sometimes she would even join him for a few days.

Though they had enjoyed their time together, the hunting was lousy. David had been determined to score a kill by the end of the day, but with the rain falling harder, and lightning crashing now and then, even he had to admit it was time to hurry back.

The two began to head towards their cabin, but on the way, they came across a thick clump of bushes and vines. They could have gone around, but the rain was coming down in droves and the thicket stretched in each direction as far as they could see. As the two fought their way through the undergrowth, it grew thicker at first but then began to thin out and they found themselves in a tiny clearing with a rickety cabin stationed in the middle. Ava hurried on by, but David paused to look at it for a moment.

“Come on David, we don’t have time to stop. It’s raining and once it gets dark we’ll really be in trouble.”

“But look at this thing,” David replied, “it’s gotta be fifty years old.”

“David, I don’t think we’re even on my uncle’s property anymore. I don’t remember him having a shack.”

“You told me your uncle’s property was huge. Besides, it looks abandoned anyway.”

But Ava was afraid. “I don’t feel like we belong here David. We gotta go now.”

“No way. We didn’t even find one stupid rabbit. I’m not gonna count this day a total loss. I’m going inside.”

Though Ava pleaded with him, and even threatened him, David was driven by that curiosity that drives all men of his age. Undeterred, David approached the cabin, lifted the latch, and ducked inside. The cabin smelled strangely sweet—it was a smell he faintly recognized. The only light in the cabin came from outside, seeping through the cracked, wooden walls. Though the light was pure, the twisted boards deformed it, casting strangely shaped shadows on everything so that it was hard to discern what exactly was in the room. David did see a picture on the wall. It was of a man and a woman sitting on a bench at the park. But though the man looked at her, lovingly holding her hand, her gaze was distant, focused on someone outside the picture. David stepped further into the cabin, towards the letter and bumped into a table. On the table lay a letter. All he could make out was something about killing a man who cost someone his job. Ridiculous, thought David, who would go that far over a job? David stepped closer trying to see the letter more clearly, and as he did,
something caught his eye. In the corner of the room stood a cage. Just then, he heard Ava calling from outside.

“David? Come on David, we really need to go.”

David considered leaving for a moment, but he saw a faint glimmer coming from inside the cage. He crept slowly over, and bent down to get a better look. There were two tiny gleams now. David bent down closer, trying to determine what they were. He lurched back as he realized that they were the eyes of a man, staring back at him. David looked at the man in fear but the man gazed back at him with those big, steady eyes. He wanted to run but those eyes held him there, firmly. In them, David could see an entire world: all the things he had ever wanted but knew he couldn’t have. The man was as old as the land itself, gnarled and withered from lack of action. But as David stared into those big round eyes, the man suddenly grew strong and lurched at the bars. He began tearing at them and would have broken through except that David panicked and turned to run. As he turned, his gaze left the man’s eyes and the man instantly became old and feeble once again. David realized this but did not stop to see what would happen next. Instead, he ran out of the house, across the clearing and, grabbing Ava by the arm, he fled all the way back to their cabin.

For a time, the two friends worked in silence. They washed the mud off their boots and changed into dry clothes. Finally, Ava broke the silence.

“Dave, what was in the cabin?”

David scrubbed the mud off his hands. “Nothing.”

“Why did you freak out then?

David slowly dried his hands, then walked to the couch and sat down. She waited for a response, but he just sat there, staring at the fire. Ava knew he didn’t want to talk but she was scared. Anything that shook David like that must have been serious. And he was not just scared, he was different. She noticed that he looked at her differently, spoke to her differently. They had always been friends, but something in his eyes told her that had changed.

“I’m not going back there,” he said. But he seemed to speak more to himself then to her.

The whole night long, David lay awake, thinking. He thought about Ava, and about the things he had seen in the cabin. He knew how that man in the picture must have felt when he found out the woman’s heart was elsewhere. And that letter on the table; maybe some jobs were worth killing over. He especially thought about the old man and how quickly he had become strong. His eyes in particular haunted David. In those eyes, he had seen his own losses, his passions, his anger, his greatest desires. He had seen in them every forbidden thing he had ever wished for but had been denied.

The next day, David worked hard to forget the man. He told himself the man didn’t exist. When that didn’t work, he tried to convince his mind that he didn’t desire what the man had to offer. But it was no use, for intellect alone could not deny the passions of the heart. He longed to look into the old man’s
eyes and see once again those things he grieved the most, hated the most, desired the most. He was terrified of the strength the man had gained when their gazes met for the first time. But though he greatly feared and even hated the man, in the end, his eyes would lure David back.

The next two days dragged by. David became increasingly withdrawn. He sometimes thought that he could hear the man speaking softly to him. He told David that he should be happy; nothing should stand in the way. Distraught, Ava did not know what to do with him. The way he talked to her and treated her made her nervous. She tried talking to him again and again but he only withdrew, refusing to respond.

Then one night, a few days after they had found the cabin, David decided to return and see the man once again. He would not stay long, a few minutes
perhaps, just long enough to glance into his eyes once again and see the things he desired above all else. After Ava had fallen asleep, David crept through
their cabin and out the door. The night air was fresh and light. The moon shone brightly, casting shadows everywhere. At first David walked slowly for he was afraid of the man and he somewhat dreaded what might happen when he arrived. As David traveled on though, his thoughts of the man’s strength waned and his desire for another glimpse into the man’s eyes only intensified.

After about an hour, David reached the thicket and pushed his way through it and into the clearing. He paused for a moment, then stepped boldly towards the front door. He lifted the latch and pushed gently. The old wooden door gave. David paused again, waiting for his eyes to adjust. There was some moonlight outside but the cabin had no widows and once again, the only light was that which had managed to slip through the rotted plank walls. David spotted the cage and crept towards it. Inside, the old man sat as if waiting for David. He looked a little larger and less twisted than he had before. Perhaps he had retained some of his strength?

The entire night, David had felt uncomfortable—unsure of what he was doing. But as he stared into the man’s eyes once again, he was filled with passion. The love, the anger and the grief, all of the lust, envy and desire he carried with him were revealed in those two small beads of light. Vigorous and strong, David’s chest began to heave. He knew he was losing control of himself, but it felt good. He was tired of controlling his passions.

As before, when David looked into the man’s eyes, the man grew larger and stronger. He grabbed the bars and his muscles began to flex. David saw it. He
knew what was happening. But he was caught. He could not tear his eyes away from the man’s gaze. Under the man’s great strength, the bars bent and then snapped. The man leapt out of the cage, but David dodged him like a cat and fled out the door. He ran, blindly crashing through the thicket and into the woods. Branches smacked his face, vines tore at his body. David did not look back but he could hear the man close at his heels. He could feel him breathing on his back. As David ran, the man’s strength began to wane, for the man was empowered not by his own body, but by the strength of those who looked at his eyes. He held little power over those who fled his might. As David ran, he suddenly fell into a shallow gulley. He thought to get up, but he was growing tired of running, and decided to stay and hide.

As David crouched, he listened intently. The soft crunch of leaves approached, then ceased.

“Come here David,” his words were smooth yet piercing. “You know you cannot escape from me for you know who I am. I am there when you are cheated and full of hate, when you are jealous, when you are sad and when you desire what you can never obtain. I am always there.”

Distraught, David replied in a weak voice, “I’ll run. And you won’t be able to follow me. I will never look into your eyes and you will fade and die. I–”

“You may hide from your friends and family. But I will always find you out. I have followed you from birth, and I will follow you until death. You have always been mine and in the end you will be mine. Had you looked at me once you might have gotten away, but you have looked at me twice and there is no escape. I am in you and I am you.”

David heard these words. And though he feared the man and thought to flee, he knew that the man was right. Having gazed so intently into his eyes, David could never be free—he was his own prisoner.

David climbed out of the gully. He walked slowly over to where the man was waiting, sorry he had released this monster in the first place. The man reached out to grab David and destroy him for good…

“Stop!”

Ava’s voice sounded shrill in the stillness of the night. She had heard David leave and had followed him there. Now she stood, pointing his hunting rifle at
the man. The man laughed then, not cruelly, but the way someone laughs at a child. He stepped towards her. She shut her eyes and squeezed the trigger. Bang! The bullet crumpled like paper against his chest and dropped harmlessly. Then the man grabbed her and in one quick motion smashed her into the ground. He looked at David and, satisfied with his work, he headed back to his cabin.

Frozen, David stood there, looking at Ava’s limp body—the work of his own hands. That should be me, he thought in utter horror. I didn’t think I would come to harm gazing into that man’s eyes, and I never dreamed he could do this to
someone else—someone I loved.

David gathered Ava into his arms. That night, he drove back to Hardin and three days later, they buried Ava. He didn’t go to the funeral.

I am your forbidden passions and desires.

I am the lusts of your heart.

Wherever you go, wherever you flee

I am there.

What will you do?

 

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