~ The Cage ~

Steven saw what Ted Shafer has become. That was when he realized he had to get out.
The cage really wasn’t all that difficult. There weren’t any locks, only tie-downs, which weren’t a problem if you just ignored the burning of the mud that he couldn’t touch. He’d driven seven loads of winter wheat to town with a temperature of a hundred and four, by god; if he really wanted to, he could get the damned cage open.
Eventually, he proved himself right, although the sweat in his eyes burned almost as badly as his skin.
He slipped past the smallest number of huts possible to get to the edge of the camp, not knowing where he was going except away.
Just past the last hut, it got difficult to walk.
Twenty paces later, the needles started to burn him like over-extended muscles. It felt as though he was trying to pull a truck with chains attached to his body.
”Steven,” came the phlegm voice. He was too focused to jump.
”Where are you going, Steven?” The voice was right in his ear, it seemed.
”The hell… away…” Steve didn’t even know if that was an answer or a command.
”What if there’s no one waiting for you?”
The thought went right to the base of his brain and waited for him to give. He wasn’t going to. He knew if he could just get a few more steps, he’d be free.
But what then?
He’d go home.
What if…
When blunt fingers wrapped around his arms, he was already sitting on his knees, looking up at the sky.