Short Story by Daphne Crause
“Get in there and cool off for the night. Tomorrow you can go back to your regular room.”
Mavis felt the guard’s hands on her back as he pushed her into the prison cell. It was forceful and almost made her stumble, but she managed to catch herself quickly. With that he slammed the big wooden door and locked it. Then she heard his footsteps disappearing down the passage.
Mavis now had a chance to look around more carefully. She found herself in a small, almost bare room. The floor was made of cold, red cement. The walls were made of brick and painted an ugly cream color.
Big patches of the brick were showing through where the paint had already fallen off. The whole atmosphere made her feel gloomy, and just added to the physical pain she already felt.
There was hardly any furniture in the room. There was a bunk bed, a little table that stood against a wall, and a small cupboard with a few badly tattered books on it. Two hard chairs were tucked under the table, one at each end.
It became clear now to Mavis that she was not alone in this room. She heard a cough coming from the top of the bunk bed. Then she saw a young woman peering down at her. She blinked a few times as though she was trying to focus her eyes and wake up.
“Hello,” she said angrily. “Thank you for that rude awakening!”
“I’m sorry,” Mavis whispered.
At that moment, Mavis just wished that she could disappear and die. Everything was going wrong, and it seemed that everyone was against her now too.
She fell onto the bottom bunk with her face buried into a tiny pillow, and she let out all her pent up emotions. She sobbed and sobbed until she felt like she had no life left in her and she was exhausted. At least she felt a little better emotionally though.
After a while Mavis became aware of a noise in the passageway outside the room. This was enough to perk the interest again of her roommate. She had been silent up until now except for her nasty comment at the beginning.
Mavis felt the bed move slightly, so she turned over to see what was happening. Then she saw her roommate’s feet as she came down the stepladder at the end of the bed.
Mavis watched as she walked towards the door, and then she heard a knock on the door. Immediately her roommate bent down and picked up a tray of food from off the floor. The guard had pushed it through a small flap at the bottom of the door. It was just big enough to fit a tray of food through it.
“Food will be good right now,” Mavis thought. “At least it will be something to do.”
She sat up, and her head almost touched the bottom of the top bunk bed. Then she turned, put her feet on the ground and stood up.
“You’d better come and eat before it gets cold,” snapped the woman as she sat down on one of the chairs.
“Oh, by the way, I’m Carrie,” she said in a slightly softer tone of voice.
It seemed clear to Mavis that Carrie suddenly felt she had better try and be a little nicer to her.
“Hello Carrie. I’m Mavis,” she replied.
Then she sat down on the other chair and looked at the food.
The meal consisted of some watery soup and dry bread, and a side dish of stew and vegetables that looked overcooked, colorless and mushy. Mavis didn’t care what she was eating right now because she was starving. Even though the appearance was awful, it tasted pretty good to her.
“So Mavis, what did you do that was such a crime?” asked Carrie, after they had eaten silently for a few minutes.
“I was stupid enough to try and see what was on the other side of those huge doors,” she replied sarcastically.
Carrie shook her head, and the sides of her mouth turned up slightly in a half smile.
“Yes, I know that one,” she said. “A lot of people have tried the same thing and ended up with the same consequences. You know what? If I were you, I’d just forget about it and make the most of your life here. You’re never going to find out the answer.”
Mavis watched Carrie closely as she spoke.
“I guess you’re talking from experience here huh?” she asked.
Carrie shook her head up and down in agreement as she swallowed another mouthful of soup.
“Yup. I tried to find out the answer too, and had the same results. It is quite obvious that the powers that be want to keep us prisoners here. They are obviously trying to hide something.
“I was convinced that there just had to be a way of getting past the guards. But I’m afraid I’ve given up hope. The guards are everywhere. There’s no way to even try and sneak out of here.”
“And you? What did you do now to end up here?” Mavis asked.
“I didn’t work hard enough to the guards liking in the field yesterday. I was feeling ill, so I didn’t manage to plant enough rows of seeds for the new crops. It didn’t help that it was so hot and dusty. He started yelling at me to finish, but I just got mad, yelled back at him and walked off the field.”
“Yes… and I can imagine he didn’t like that,” Mavis said.
“Nope. He chased after me and dragged me inside. Then he beat me and threw me in here.”
Carrie had finished her soup and was onto her stew now. She ate a few mouthfuls then put her fork down before speaking again.
“Maybe… hopefully one day things will change. Until then, I suggest you just make the most of it and live one day at a time.”
She sighed, then ate the rest of her meal in silence. Mavis did the same. It seemed like there was nothing more to say.
When the meal was over Carrie gathered the plates together and pushed them back under the flap in the door to the outside. A guard would collect them a little later.
She then looked through some tattered books on the cupboard next to the table. After finding one, she climbed up the ladder of the bunk bed and settled herself in bed.
“If I were you, I’d find a book and read for the night or until you fall asleep,” Carrie said. “There’s nothing better to do around here. It’ll make the time go fast until your release tomorrow.”
Mavis really didn’t feel like reading, so she climbed back onto her bumpy bed and lay on her stomach with her head resting in her hands. Then she began to think about many things.
“Why can’t we go beyond those doors?” she wondered. “What lies outside there? Will I ever be free of this slavery; of working for the master and being used by him and whatever he wants?”
These were amongst the many thoughts that went through her mind as she lay on the bed. She had never known any other kind of life. She had been born into slavery – the daughter of a slave.
She lived in the servants quarters of the king’s headquarters with many others like herself. They lived in the basement, away from the main flashy facilities and luxury that the master lived in.
Her room was small, cold and mostly dull. A small, dim light sat on a table next to her bed. It was enough to let her see around the place, but it made everything look gloomy and sometimes scary.
Her days were spent outside with the others, working in the fields, planting, watering and growing the crops for the master’s food. It seemed that everything was against them. Nothing seemed to grow easily except for an abundance of weeds.
The rest of the crops seemed to take a huge amount of effort to grow. The soil was hard and dry, and they had to dig the ground in the hot sun to make it good enough to plant the crops in.
As if that was bad enough, the guards surrounded them from every angle. They watched them to make sure they worked hard enough, and punished them swiftly for every failure.
Sometimes her nights were also spent working for the master, often as an instrument of pleasure for him and his friends at his monthly feasts. Whatever the king commanded, she was obliged to obey. She felt frustrated, restricted and used – but powerless to escape.
With all of these thoughts going around and around in her mind, she finally drifted off into a deep sleep for the night. It was as though her body switched off to give her a time of rest from the frustration and pressure of the day.
The next morning she woke up early. She looked at her watch and saw that it was only 8:00 o’clock.
“Oh boy,” she thought, “I have the whole day probably to sit around before the guards come and fetch me. I wonder when breakfast will come? Will we have breakfast at all, or do we have just one meal a day here?”
Shortly after this Carrie gave a sneeze, and Mavis felt the bed shaking again as she started to come down the ladder.
“I will be leaving here shortly,” she said to Mavis. “I’ll sit and finish my book at the table while I’m waiting.”
“How do you know when you will be leaving?” Mavis asked. “Oh yes, I remember that you’ve been in prison before.”
“Yup, a few times,” Carrie replied. “I know the routine like the back of my hand. That’s why I know when the food is about to arrive.”
“So does this mean I will be leaving here soon too?” Mavis asked.
She was feeling rather hopeful about getting out of this horrible place at last. Even her dull basement bedroom was better than this place.
“Nope. If you’re here for the first time you stay longer – until they feel like coming. You could come out soon or in three hours – or even tonight.”
Carrie pulled out the chair and sat down, putting her open book on the table in front of her. Then she put her elbow on the table and rested her head in her hand as she began to read.
It was not long after this when they heard footsteps in the passageway once again. Carrie stopped reading immediately, sat up and looked towards the door.
“Carrie. Carrie Lombard. Come to the door. Your time is up here.”
Mavis heard the guards shouting at the door. Carrie stood up, tossed the unfinished book onto the cupboard again and headed for the door.
“See you around Mavis,” she said. “Hopefully it will be around the field and not in prison again.”
With that a guard opened the door and Carrie went out into the passageway, leaving Mavis on her own. What was she to do now?
She sighed and figured she would just wait patiently until someone came to fetch her. If it took the whole day she could handle it. She stretched out on the bed again, figuring that even though it was uncomfortable, it was a better place to be than the hard wooden chair.
Mavis suddenly thought she heard a faint sound outside the prison room door.
“Was a guard coming to fetch her already? Was she getting something to eat,” she wondered.
There was a knock on her door, and a second later it opened. She gasped with surprise at what she saw. There stood a tall man, dressed in white clothes.
This was not what Mavis was expecting. She pushed herself against the wall that ran alongside the bed. She was rather frightened, but also rather curious about this strange person standing in her room.
The guards always dressed in black and looked hard and angry. But this person was in white and looked completely different. His face looked open and friendly.
He smiled at her and said gently,
“Don’t be afraid. It’s okay.”
“Umm… you’re not a guard. I was expecting one. How did you get past the guards? How… how did you get in at all?” she stammered, not knowing what to say.
“It’s okay,” he said reassuring her. “I have orders from a higher authority than your master. They come from my Lord and King. I am the representative of the King of another Kingdom, and I have come to take you to Him and to introduce you to Him.”
Her eyes grew large as she took all of the information in and watched this stranger.
“Come,” said the man. “It will be okay. You don’t have anything to be afraid of.”
“But they will kill me here if they find out I’ve been gone.”
“Don’t worry about anything. All your questions will be answered,” the representative assured her.
He smiled at her and held out his hand. Very slowly she put her feet back on the ground and stood up. Then she followed him out of the room, all the time watching in case the guards were suddenly upon her.
“This is so strange,” Mavis thought, as she walked down the passageway to the outside door. “There is not a single guard around. What is going on?”
The man and Mavis walked out of the doors at the end of the passage and out into the open near the fields where she worked each day. They walked along a dusty potholed road that ran along the outside of the fields. Then they turned towards the high wall that surrounded the palace.
She looked in disbelief as they walked straight towards the same huge doors that she had wanted to investigate the day before. This was when everything had gone wrong and she had been caught, beaten and imprisoned.
“I… I can’t go there. I’m not allowed to. I was imprisoned yesterday for even trying to go near there…”
For a brief moment Mavis felt a wave of panic coming over her, and she remembered pictures of the guard jumping out and grabbing her. But the man didn’t seem to be deterred by her fear.
He looked at her with a look of assurance on his face and said calmly,
“Don’t worry. Everything is completely under control.”
She relaxed again slightly. She sure didn’t understand any of this and she wondered whether she was dreaming while she was awake.
They continued to walk towards the doors, and Mavis watched in amazement as they opened up wide on their own. They walked through the doors and Mavis instantly found herself inside a large open building that was more beautiful than she had ever seen.
Compared to where she came from, everything suddenly seemed bigger and brighter than usual. She felt as though she had taken some dark glasses off her eyes.
The floor they walked on was made up of white tiles that shone so brightly they almost looked like glass. All around her was open space, beautiful lush green trees, gold pillars, and people dressed in white. It seemed to be the color scheme here and was completely different to the dullness and dark colors she had been used to.
The King’s representative led her through the open square, and when they reached the end of the square they came to a large room. As they walked through the door, right ahead of them was a beautiful gold throne. On it sat a King, dressed in bright scarlet clothes.
On either side of the King there were many people seated. They were also dressed in white robes, but some of them were big, and some were smaller in height. They all looked closely at Mavis and the representative as they walked into the room.
The King stood up as they entered, and He came towards them.
“My Lord, I want to introduce you to Mavis,” said the representative. “Mavis, this is the King of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The King smiled at her.
“Welcome to my Kingdom Mavis,” He said to her.
He said it as though He meant it, and it made Mavis feel comfortable. She just needed to know a little more about what she was doing here though. Why had she been invited here in the first place?
As if to answer her question, the King said to her,
“Come. I want to show you something.”
He signaled to her to come with Him, and they went towards a corner of the room. There she saw a shiny table and some soft, comfortable chairs with bright blue velvet cushions on them. The chairs all faced towards a wall, which had a large screen hanging from it.
Mavis sat down on one of the chairs, and the King sat down next to her. Then He pointed towards the screen. As He did this, she began to see pictures of the life that she had lived up until then.
She saw how truly horrible her life was; how ugly she looked; how much pressure she lived under, just doing what her master wanted her to do. She saw how everything looked dirty, ugly and fearful to her.
“How do you know all these things?” Mavis asked in amazement.
“I know all things,” the King replied gently as He smiled at her.
“I know you and I love you. In fact I’ve known you ever since you were born, and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to meet you like this.”
Mavis felt a strange feeling of peace coming over her. Who was this King who knew so much about her? He made her feel so relaxed and comfortable, and she felt like a queen in His presence. She had always been made to feel like a second-rate citizen before.
“You see how you are right now,” the King continued. “You see the type of life you are living, as a slave to the king of that dark kingdom. But I have come to offer you something completely different. I’ve come to offer you a new life.”
As He spoke He pointed to the screen again. Now she saw new pictures on it. This time they were ones of people being free, happy and contented. Everything was bright, colorful and pleasant to look at.
“I’m here to offer you this type of life,” He continued.
“You see Mavis, I knew you even before you were born and I loved you so much. I wanted you to come and be a part of my Kingdom. But you have a choice to make. I cannot force you to come and be a part of my life. I can only woo you and let you know that I love you.
“I want you to know that I have overcome the king of the world you lived in. He and I had a battle many years ago, because he kept everyone in slavery and no-one could escape him. They were slaves to his sin, and he would not let anyone go.
“But I conquered him and went and took the keys of his kingdom away from him. When I did this, I made a way for everyone who would like to, to come here and be with me.
“The only thing you need to do is make a choice to let go of the evil, negative life you have been living. You need to leave your old family behind and come and be a part of this family.”
Now the screen on the wall showed the two types of life alongside each other. She saw on the one hand the dark, evil, difficult life of being in slavery. On the other, she saw the new life of freedom, light and enjoyment. What choice was there to make? There was no choice in her mind.
“I would like to accept your offer. How could I not accept it? But I feel so unworthy,” Mavis said. “There’s nothing good about me that you should want me in your Kingdom. I’ve lived such an ugly, evil life. How could people not want to accept your offer?”
The King looked at her, and His eyes were soft with love and understanding.
“You would be surprised how many people want to continue in their life of doing wrong. Many don’t want to stop their evil practices and give up the way they have lived. But I continue to offer this new life freely to everyone who wants it.
“You have made a good choice,” He continued. “It really doesn’t matter what life you have lived up until now. I can wash you clean from all the contamination of the past and make you a brand new person.”
He stood up and held out His hand to her. She took it, now with more confidence, and He led her into another room. It was like a bathroom, but it only had a shallow bath on one side, and mirrors all along the other side.
She couldn’t help looking at herself in the mirrors. All she saw was how ugly and black she looked. Was the King really going to help her to wash away all the dirt?
“Get into the bath,” the King said to her.
Mavis stepped into the bath and stood facing the mirrors. She watched as the King took a large bucket that was already filled with water, and began to pour it over her head.
As it poured down over her from head to toe, she felt a strange but beautiful feeling. It felt as though suddenly she was alive, and every cell in her body tingled. She started to feel energy that she hadn’t experienced for the longest time.
She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling that was going through her body like waves. After a while she opened up her eyes and looked into the mirror once more. She blinked at what she saw as though her eyes were deceiving her. Then she looked down and realized that it was true.
She too was now dressed in a beautiful white robe with gold on the edge of the hem. Her old tattered, grey sackcloth top was now gone. Her face shone as though it had been bleached and scrubbed.
“Come, let’s go and finalize everything now,” said the King.
He led her back into the main room where His throne was, and led her to the middle of the floor.
“Mavis,” He said as He touched His hand on her heart, “I am giving you a part of me. I’m giving you a seal of the fact that you are mine, and part of my family.”
He placed His hand on her heart, and when He removed it, there was a glow over the area that gradually faded away.
“This is like receiving new genes,” He said to her. “It is my genes – a sign that you belong to me and are my beloved child.”
He looked at her, and His eyes were filled with emotion and love as He did so. Then He moved with His hand to all the witnesses sitting on either side of the room.
“Gentlemen,” He announced, “we have a new member of the family.”
The witnesses began to clap and shout and showed great excitement at what was happening.
He turned back to Mavis, took her face in His hands and looked into her eyes.
“Welcome to the family my child. I’m so pleased to have you as a part of us. Now, come and meet the rest of the family.”
Mavis followed Him as he walked out of the door, down the open hallway, and out into a huge, beautiful garden. It had the softest, greenest grass she had ever seen or felt. It was also filled with gorgeous big, shady trees and bright, colorful flowers of every conceivable kind.
She began to walk down the clearly laid out pathways, enjoying the beauty and the gentle warmth of the sun.
As she walked she saw people all over the place. Some were young, and some were older. But one by one they came over and began to welcome Mavis to her new world. Never before had she felt more at home or more loved.
As she continued to be greeted by those in her new family, she suddenly realized that the King was no longer by her side. She turned around and saw Him standing nearby, watching her and smiling with joy.
She smiled back at him and mouthed the words,
He turned to go back towards the palace. Then she walked arm in arm with some new family members into the garden.
This was a day that she would never forget – the day that she was adopted into a beautiful new family and began a wonderful new life.