The Glass Prison
Every day of every waking moment I am steering the wheel of life and staring through the windshield of tomorrow. I am the commander of my own fate and captain of an effervescent soul that dwells deep beneath the dullness of my flesh and blood. In reality, I am behind the wheel of a vehicle that seems to drive itself; a machine flowing with innovation and though it has never betrayed the trust of my command, I cannot say with certainty that I am in absolute control for at any given moment, the reigns allotted by this beast may be stripped from my grasp then I would be bound by the mercy of its mechanical conscience. There is nothing I can do: no words to have the power of sway, and there is no escaping these walls of steel that shine with the splendorous glee of a masked tomb.
Often I dwell in this false sanctuary, not by choice, but because simply it allows me to advance from one point to another, more quickly. Yet, I do not readily feel that this is the future of travel when I look through its windows to see the incongruity and inefficiencies of such behemoths. Rumbling, rusting, rattling, and ranting its mechanical mantras. It is a machine riddled with chaos.
I often take notice of other kindred souls whom, for the most part, have surrendered to the same mode of transportation and as I behold their pristine state of obliviousness to my curiosity, I am captured by their sense of senselessness. With discreet fascination I keenly take to observing how many tasks a human being can effectively handle at once before crashing to a startling halt while hiding behind a transparent barrier that shields them from the worldâ€™s ridicule. When they are within the beast, they know nothing of the outside world. Their loud screams of anguish diminished and disappear into silent ears. Their tears race down their cheeks and fall like dew drops off the morning leavesâ€“fresh, salty, and saturated with melancholyâ€“but still, driven into the masks of oblivion.
They are among the discontent and others will pass them without a hint of care, a scent of distress, or an acknowledgment of apathy because they too have been consumed and, even as they live, they are being digested in the womb of the beast. Their physical resemblance remains intact but a part of them, unseen, is being devoured and all that remained was a vacuous stare, void of humanity.
Do they know that a vast world exists outside of these isolating walls? Nevertheless, these speed demons plow through the lines as a rampaging juggernaut heedlessly bent on destroying everything in its path and those on the other extreme crawl like slugs leaving a slippery trail of provocation that one could easily slip into madness if caught in it. And thusly, the rhythms of life continue to beat from the eagerness of dawn to restless dusky evening. Life stops for no one and anyone. It discriminates neither for status or wealth. Nor shall it give weight to the debt of conscience or the density of good will. Death stops for no one and anyone.
The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning while everyone was still hazed by the mists of the nightâ€™s grog. Rays of muted yellow smeared on the horizon giving just enough light to see the immediate surroundings but everything beyond this perimeter was a mesh of dark watercolors. Beads of it fell from the sky and heavily impacted my vehicle like liquid hail. I could barely see a short distance ahead to navigate and only by the guiding red lights of those in front of me was I able to cautiously proceed balancing between the limit of my control and the regulated speed of others around me. This pace was still well below advisory under normal conditions but it was not hard to conclude that due to the unusually inclement weather most had decided to wage their battles in the reverie of their dreams with their heads still planted on their pillows. Not everyone was afforded this luxury, however, so treading the storm was something of the unavoidable. While caught in the entanglement of these thoughts I inadvertently did not notice the regiment of cars ahead of me had gradually decreased in pace until only now, after the canvas of the morning scene seemed to be completely inert, that it had occurred to me something had gone wrong, somewhere. These things were somewhat commonplace so most already had this scenario in their store of anticipation while I remained bound to blind optimism and hoped that this morningâ€™s commute would not deviate too much from the established routine but, as I come to find out, this morning, held only a marked resemblance in expectation, which manifested itself quite defiantly against all other mornings.
A sea of crimson flooded the surroundings as brake lights sequentially activated and clamor of life came to a dead stop; leaving only the sound of the crashing rain to bombard our safe houses. People seemed confused, frustrated, and maddened by this inconvenience. Their heads shook to designate disbelief, some threw their hands up in the air to outwardly express frustration, and the majority of others continued at their business, bobbing their heads to a silent rhythm, speaking vigorously into their devices, unphased by the disruption. What possibly could have happened? What had gone wrong? Did someone fall at the mercy of the beast? The epicenter must be a ways ahead since, for as far as the eye can see, a continuous stream of rouge wound endlessly into the horizon. The lack of activity echoed an eerie silence that pervaded the vicinity. Life had given itself pause. It showed no concern for the promises of punctuality and neither a care for those coming or those going.
Everyone now is synchronized to the same beat and they are given an opportunity to wake from their mental slumber to see for the first time what they had missed every morning that preceded this one. The stillness was broken by the anticipated sirens that came roaring like a thousand trapped souls crying out for help in unison. Screaming to the peak of their intensity for they knew of the divide that could not be transgressed and their efforts were futile against the mighty partition that captured their voices and tucked it away in the annals of oblivion.
The shoulder of the road provided them with access to progress and many more beyond the first followed in its trail as a funeral motorcade and we had no choice but to stand by and watch its grim unfolding. What is this morbid fascination that we feel compelling us to look in the face of death? Do we esteem ourselves in the comfort that if we are able to identify the enemy, to see its form in anotherâ€™s lifeless eyes before we enter the arena that we may have a better chance of defeating it? These accidents, however ordinary or commonplace, I believe are of a divine nature. It is a sacrificial grace that in order to bring pause to our lives and force an introspective reflection blood must be withdrawn and delivered to the gods in the belief that the life of one man taken can save a boundless number of others. In this hiatus, we cross an event horizon toward the promise of redemption.
The dawn hours wore away quickly giving to a dull grey ambiance complimenting the persistent showers that clanged against the steel cages like pennies. Brake lights flickered on and off in the distance which indicated that life was to resume where we had left it. Engines sputtered, darker gaps in the field began to light up and revealed itself as displaced outlines of its actual figure amidst the barrage of rain, the commotion of life once again continued as an orchestra returning from intermission to replay an eternal sonata, and we are the audience entranced by its performance.
As we collectively approach closer to the wreckage it was as if the air was physically thicker and the added friction made it more difficult to pass. Our hearts raced, our breathing controlled by our emotions, and an instinctive spotlight guided our eyes across the traces of debris that led to the eventual end of the beastâ€™s journey. From the remains and trail of guts that it had left behind one could assemble a recreation that it was sickened with madness and in its fervor, lost control, rolled over numerous times with irreversible momentum, shattering all of its eyes, rupturing its organs, and crushing everything inside as it impacted the wall of the freeway and sustained a collision course into the pillars that held up an overpass, then slid into a nearby ditch. What was most disturbing was a childâ€™s car seat that laid upside-down soaking the rain water from the pavement. I couldnâ€™t make out if a child was still strapped in but judging from the neglect of the emergency response crew I trust that if such a child existed it would have been accounted for long ago and their focus had already shifted to extracting the rest of the passengers from ravaged creature.
The beast laid still, without a breath, without a sound: hollow, bare-boned, and vulnerable to the elements. The fragmented shards of glass scattered the scene as though heaven was crying and its tears had crystallized upon impact with the earth. My thoughts frantically darted with curiosityâ€¦â€”â€what heinousness was done to provoke it so?â€ â€”â€how did these poor souls entangle themselves in the brambles of this tragedy?â€ â€”â€if their lives were lost would anyone know?â€ â€”â€would they care?â€ â€”â€if they disappeared into the depths of the earth would anyone notice and take pity?â€
They cried quietly, stared with fascination, shook their heads, empathetically reached out, and that was all they can do. The rain poured from a bottomless carafe and refused to give despite human tragedy.
The voices of the rescue crew resoundedâ€¦
â€œHis body is submersedâ€¦â€
â€œHeâ€™s pinnedâ€¦we canâ€™t risk further damageâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦we need to do it now!â€
The morning landscape suddenly froze, its colors washed away by the downpour, and its texture eroded revealing an underlying scene.
Suddenly, I was in the hallway of my office, surrounded by partitioned rooms with large windows projecting its inhabitants from a distance. It reminded me of reptilian museums that encased helplessly dependent creatures in glass cages, stripping them of dignity, and exposing their concealed rage for the world to judge. They didnâ€™t seem to know I was there, observing them. A quick stir of commotion spurred in one of the rooms and caused a small gathering to take place. Their faces were distraught with worry and the message delivered acted as an enervating wave that swept the area, collapsing the ceiling of excitement down onto the bystanders and pinning them against the floor. Moments later the crowd dispersed and each participant reluctantly returned to their posts.
The fluorescent lights one by one flickered and extinguished leaving a gradation of darkness in its path.
The rain ceased. A deadly silence took the place of the calming white noise and the echoing of my thoughts rippled as an unwelcome disturbance.
A light emerged from the abysmal darkness and reflected a familiar reality. I was in my room, unusual as it was tidy yet losing to the invasion of dust. The bed was made, pillows neatly arranged, clothes hung orderly and unused. The posters on the wall still defying gravity, the trophies that lined the dresser standing proud and basking in the fleeting moment of its glory. It was quite evident that life had left this room behind some time ago. I approached the window, which now was frosted with age and barely translucent, then with all the strength I could muster, broke through the binds of deterioration and lifted the dull glassy frame to reveal another reality behind it.
A soothing voice of a mature woman sought its way into my consciousnessâ€¦
â€œSir, can you hear me?â€ â€”â€Youâ€™re going to be okayâ€¦just try to relaxâ€¦â€
â€œDo you know where you are?â€
â€œYou were involved in an accidentâ€¦but youâ€™ll be okay now.â€
â€œMy name is Anne. If you need anything at all, just push this button to call me. Iâ€™ll be right outside your room.â€
Her shadow pierced through the sterile air as she exited the room. Though unable to move my head, I could still see her from the corner of my eyes through a large glass window paneâ€“a teasing transparency that stood between me and another human being, separating our distinct realities, yet, mutually revealing both worlds that are, at once, within reach and completely isolated.
My voice struggled with a stubborn laziness and could not carry its own weight. In the sterility of silence, a simple realization emerged from the atmosphere of confusion. It is not distance that separates us, but a glass prison–one that most of us have unknowingly entombed ourselves within long before our physical death. We live in it, we breathe inside it, and we only see with our eyes the world beyond, that is, if we even bother to look.