Solitary Victory

(Apologies for such a long gap since my last post. Hope this new story makes up for it! Also available at:

A rat sprinted across the floor as the young woman lay on the mouldy mattress mulling over her predicament. Moonlight cascaded into the cell. Normally this would comfort her.

But not today.

Today she wanted the shadows to envelop her, to clothe and protect her from reality.

Her imprisonment was yesterday and it stuck in her mind’s eye as fresh as if it were still happening. Justice Pooterledge’s sentence rang like church bells:

“Mrs. Nikopolis, you have been found guilty as charged of the crimes of:

  • interrupting the executions of several hundred enemies of the Law,
  • consistent refusal to pay citizenship tax,
  • non-satirical ridicule and criticism of His Holy Excellency Majesty Carters,
  • and claiming the existence of a social order superior to ours,

all of which contravene the Pan-American Anti-Terrorism Act of 2056, dictum 1043.1. I hereby sentence you to death by flaming crucifixion at noon, December 24th 2099.”

“Tomorrow,” she whispered to herself, tears hanging suspended from her lower eyelids. She untied her headwrap and dabbed them away, which only served to send them cascading down her auburn cheeks. Try as she might, she could no longer hold the full torrent of recent events out of her memory. Husband and all three children shot dead by police, and house burnt down by an angry mob convinced she was the enemy of Pan-America.

And she didn’t want to die, not like this! Not when so many fellow Afro- and native American citizens were being subjected to her fate daily and she was still alive to stop it! But how could she stop it now?!?

After some hours of manic sorrow and subdued rage, the tears dried out. She unfurled and hoisted herself off the mouldy mattress, and her usual gentle unthreatening face she disposed of. She forced herself to the bars of the cell door, her gaze piercing the hinges and walls for any structural weaknesses. Nothing. And the bars were too close together to let her slip through.

Gaze pierced the window. Nothing.

Floor. Nothing.

Ceiling. Nothing.

Walls again. Nothing!

“What the hell?” she screamed. Her blood buzzed with desperation and indignation, her limbs began to quiver and her newfound scowl tightened.  Her hands ached to grab something, to seize control of this hellish environment, seize control of her life.


Except the bed…

Good enough! She tore away the mattress, hoisted the solid metal frame into her arms, and with Herculean strength she swung the frame at the bars.


Steel reverberated against steel, the clang was deafening! She dragged the bedframe back into her arms and hammered the bars with it again, silently thanking God she was in solitary confinement and the guards had all gone home.


Another hour or so passed. The noise was muted in her ears and her arms numb to the vibrations so she powered on. The bedframe, however, wasn’t faring so well. It crumpled under the punishment but she couldn’t afford to care.


The cell bars weren’t looking any worse for wear.


Her arms were finally starting to tire.


“No! It can’t end like this! Matoaka, come on!”


The bars stood scratched but totally unmoved. The young woman collapsed, the bedframe fell into mangled pieces. Scowl giving way to tears once more, she dragged herself to the bars and against her own better judgment pounded at the bars bare-handed. This barely rattled the bars but she persisted. How much time had passed could not be known. How many times she pounded and pounded away to no avail could not be known. How many pints of sweat, tears and eventually blood she’d shed could not be known.

Yet the bars still stood.

Moonlight was no longer shining through the window as clouds hid the moon from view. She yawned, her beating quickly reducing to mere tapping, head bobbing back and forth from weariness until at last she – Matoaka Nikopolis, who’d never before known the meaning of quit – was finally ready to give up. She fell forward, her forehead clanging hard on the bars, and


She snapped back to life just in time to see the lock fall out of the wall – and the door open! Exhausted as she was, she clambered to her feet and wrapped her sweaty bloodied crown of curly black locks under the soggy headwrap.

Then an idea came. She turned back to the bedframe and snatched two detached bedposts, which her hammering had conveniently reshaped into stakes, and hobbled out.

As she made it to the endless winding staircase, an eerily familiar voice – Dad’s – whispered, “You’ve devoted so much to your cause, and for what? You’ve roused the wrath of the King of Pan-America, alienated your kith and kin, and become wanted as a terrorist! Why, just because Afro- and native American lives are inferiorised? We’ve survived for centuries by enduring; why risk OUR lives for the remote chance of victory over injustice? I mean, what does victory mean to you?”

She furrowed her brow briefly before a giggle bubbled up from her chest. At the empty darkness she panted, “This.”

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