A Knight's Nightmare
The screeching of the metal door woke Squire Meekel up. You would think that after being in this prison for over two years, he’d be used to waking up to that every day. He’d been in here so long that he forgot what it was like to wake up to the songs of the weewoos and Pteris and Lennies. He forgot what it was like to wake up to the rising sun. Who knew when he would wake up to those things again?
“Here’s your breakfast,” Galgarrath grunted. He put the tray of slop on the old, wooden table and left.
Meekel didn’t get up from the corner of the prison cell. He looked out the window that showed the cloudy, foggy skies. There was never, not one single day that the sun showed its face through the ominous clouds even one bit.
Meekel stared at the greenish-brown pile of what might have been dung on the plate. He’d rather eat the tiny pebbles on the floor. But it was either that slime or starve, so he chose the slime, because lunch and dinner wouldn’t be serving anything better.
The Kacheek heard banging against the wall. “I don’t want this discolored dung! I want some jelly from Jelly World!” cried a shaking, old voice.
“Ah shut it, Number Five!” the other prisoners called from their cells.
“There ain’t no Jelly World!” Barallus said. “Not in your time a thousand years ago, not now!”
There was a clop from Clop’s cell. That meant he agreed.
“I want me some cornupepper jelly!” the insane Lupe shouted, still banging his stick on the wall.
“Pretend it’s dung jelly,” the Yellow Knight said. “You like dung jelly?”
Meekel made a disgusted face. “Eck.”
“No, no, no! Cornupepper jelly from Jelly World!” Number Five shouted.
A door banged open. “Who’s making all that racket?!” a deep voice demanded.
“Sorry, Master Vex,” all the prisoners but Number Five responded in unison.
“You’ve got a visitor,” Vex muttered. Meekel heard him say, “Haskol, bring him in.” Meekel listened as the door closed shut and footsteps came in.
“It’s a newbie,” the Yellow Knight, who owned the very first cell that didn’t contain the insane old Lupe, said. “He’s here for you, Clop.”
Clop tapped twice.
“You know you have to play,” Barallus said.
Meekel took a spoonful of the slop and decided he’d wait for something even a tiny bit better during lunch. He listened to Clop stomp all over the floor in reluctance.
“Quiet, you Moehog!” Haskol roared.
The stomping stopped.
Meekel sat in his cell and fumbled around with the chain he was tied to. He’d done this a thousand times and he’d never broken it; this time wouldn’t be any different.
The door opened again. “Returning player for the Kacheek,” Meekel heard Vex’s voice say.
Haskol came over and unlocked Meekel’s cell. Then he unlocked the chain and forcefully dragged Meekel over to one of the playing tables.
Meekel sat down across from the striped Shoyru. He remembered seeing the Shoyru play against Barallus. “You go first,” Meekel said.
The Shoyru nodded and made his move. Meekel had seen all these moves. More than enough to last a lifetime. Sometimes Meekel tried, but most of the time, he let the opponent win. What was the point of beating them? They would have to keep playing, and to be honest, Meekel didn’t really like Cellblock that much. The first time he played it was fun. Now it was boring and monotonous. He only played because he’d be punished by not getting any food for the day. I mean, he could easily beat that stupid self-centered, egotistical Mynci in his sleep if he wanted to.
How many times had Meekel tried to propose a deal? If Meekel could beat Vex in a match of Cellblock, he could receive his freedom. But Vex denied the proposal every time. Maybe inside, he was scared of being beat.
Meekel beat the Shoyru the first game, and then just let him win the round. Maybe it was because he was sympathetic towards the shaking Shoyru. Being in a dark prison cell can have that apprehensive effect on neopets. And because it was a striped Shoyru, and after all, Elbin Kroe, Meekel’s Yooyuball hero, was a striped Shoyru.
“Elbin Kroe! Elbin Kroe!” the insane Lupe shouted through the bars of his cell. “You play against Jelly World?! Jelly World will win the Altador Cup! They will, I tell you! They will!” Speaking of Elbin Kroe...
“I have to play him?” the Shoyru asked.
Meekel nodded wearily. He was tired. And hungry. Tired of sitting in a dark prison cell tied to a chain. Hungry for something other than mush. Tired of playing the same game every day. Hungry for some sunlight. Tired of listening to Number Five shout things about a world that didn’t exist. Hungry for freedom.
The word always got stuck in his throat. Freedom. Freedom, freedom, freedom. It would never make it out of his throat, and he would never have his freedom back.
The Shoyru decided to move on to play the Yellow Knight. Haskol took Meekel back to his cell and put him back on the chain.
As Meekel sat back down in the corner, he thought about the day King Skarl had convinced him to be a knight.
“Think of the fame! Think of the fortune!” That dirty Skeith’s words exactly. “You won’t be a lowly Meridell citizen anymore. You’ll be high on the list.”
“Okay,” Meekel had said.
That word. That one word. A four letter word. So short, yet so deadly. That word was the reason why he was chained to a prison cell wall. Why he was eating slop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner instead of a nice hot bowl of soup. Why he had forgotten what sunlight looked like. Why he had forgotten what it was like to breathe fresh air.
A few hours later, Meekel was playing a Gelert and his baby Aisha sister. It was during the lunch hour, so he got to eat while he played.
“You have to eat that?” the Gelert asked.
For the second time that day, Meekel nodded wearily. “Your turn.”
The Gelert put a piece on the board. “What’s it like to live here?”
Meekel put down the winning piece. “A nightmare.”
The Gelert cleared the board and stood up with his sister. “I lose the round, I guess.” He put the pieces away. “I hate having nightmares.”
Meekel shook his head. “Yeah, but you can wake up from your nightmares. I live mine whether I’m awake or asleep.”
Haskol escorted the Gelert and the Aisha out and tied Meekel back up. He listened as Number Five played his opponent. “If I win, you take me to Jelly World. If you win, you take me to Jelly World,” the Lupe said.
“That’s the dumbest thing you’ve said all day, you dunce,” Barallus said from his cell.
“He’s said dumber,” the Yellow Knight muttered.
One clop from Clop’s cell.
Like every night the past two years, Meekel sat in the dark corner of his cell, listening to his “friends” have their pointless conversations of the night. Sometimes he wondered if he was going senile like that Lupe had years ago. If he hadn’t already, he would soon enough.
Meekel drifted off to sleep in the uncomfortable position that he had almost gotten used to. He had a nightmare that wasn’t really a nightmare compared to what he was living.
The next day, he didn’t wake up to screeching metal doors.
A thin beam of sunlight in his cell.
He looked out the square window. The same square window he had looked out every day hoping for something other than clouds and fog.
And there it was. A sliver of the sun behind the cloud.
It seemed to want to tell him something.