(Contest Entry Short Story): Follow the Leader
Note: Entry for @mikepm74 contest. Guideline:
Your assignment is to write a story about escaping from a Dictatorship set on getting their own way through Censorship and manipulation.
The air was cold in the rocky surroundings. Maybe it was night outside. Maybe it was deeper underground than estimated. As the arrow was drawn the thought that it would be the last one couldn't be avoided. The sound of footfalls echoing against the cave walls was closing in.
A warm hand grabbed at the shoulder. "Citizen Meyer, it's the end. After all these years I've finally caught you."
"Welcome to Hell, Fisher."
"You'll be given plenty of Hell when we get back. Nobody escapes. We're going to make quite the example of you. But I'm not such a bad guy. Let's make it nice and official. Citizen Moses Meyer; you are hereby my prisoner."
As Fisher dragged Meyer along he said, “This has to be my easiest capture. You thought you were so smart knowing about this network of caves extending past the border. You college professor types are all the same. You spout facts. Facts anybody can get from a computer but you pretend just knowing things makes you better.”
"So, You don't believe knowledge is power?"
"Citizen Meyer, let me tell you about power. I've made it my job to be powerful. I work for The State which is power. I am literally leading you to the gallows so I have power over your very life."
"Nowhere in that diatribe did I hear about knowing things making you powerful."
"Well, Citizen Meyer. Let me tell you something you don't know. I've know all about this plan of yours for weeks. I've been using The State's resources to track your computer activity."
"Without a warrant I suppose."
"Oh, there was a warrant. I got one after I did some, let's say 'creative editing', of that little manifesto you posted. I then reposted it as if I were you."
"Did you edit the last page?"
"I DELETED the last page, Citizen Meyer. That little invitation to anybody who agrees with your writings won't be seen. Nobody is going to be using these caves to cross the border. You were just wasting your time with these stupid arrows...", Fisher stopped and looked around. "What's going on here? Where are those arrows you've been drawing?"
"Don't you know?"
"What is going on here? You were drawing arrows for people to follow you through this network of caves across the border. Where are they?"
"Fisher, let me tell you about power. I've made it my job as a college professor to teach lessons. I worked for The State just like you. I may not have harassed and intimated dissidents as part of my job like you've been doing to me the last few years. I did know The State had the ability to monitor all computer activity. The State doesn't share that information in its official materials but that is a well known fact in academia."
'Where are the arrows? I can't find where you were coming from!"
"I am not a chemist but it seems that I used a kind of invisible paint. Something that fades after a few hours. Something I played around with as a child years ago. Maybe that's a detail you missed since my magic hobby was outside of the time window during which you were monitoring my computer activity. Didn't you know I used to be an amateur magician?"
"Well, you know the way out."
"No, all that computer activity was random stuff I made up. Fake maps of the cave. Time I spent admiring my own deception which you thought was 'research'. I could walk around in circles for days without finding my way out of these caves."
"But you invited people to follow you across the border!"
"Did I? I thought you said you deleted that page so nobody would read my invitation. That's probably for the best. I really don't know if these caves extend across the border. Maybe they do. It's just miles and miles of a rock maze."
"Then how did you plan to get out?"
"It seems I must. The State will execute me if I return. It's your job to bring me back so that can happen. I suppose I'll follow you."
"But I don't know the way back. I was following you in here."
"Didn't I tell you?"
Tell me what?"
"Welcome to Hell, Fisher."