His jacket was too restrictive. He was too confined. Dammit, he wasn't supposed to be here, wasn't supposed to be confined like this. Didn't they understand that he was free? That his mind had thrown off all restraints, all rationality, all supposed logic? He had logic, he was logical. Logical enough to know that binding his arms didn't bind his mind, it just freed him even more. He soared loosely on a wingtip, caught a ride on a zephyr, fought the laws of motion and dynamics and won. What was his reward? A white, strapped jacket that bound him to the ground, held him fast, prevented his limbs from taking the flight that his mind craved. And all because he had found freedom.

They were jealous, sure, that was it, had to be. They wanted what was his, what he had fought so hard for, the one truth he possessed. He wasn't about to give up, oh no, they had to go out into the battlefield to get it. That's where the truth was, that's where he learned to let go of his mind and soar. Godammit, he fucking earned that freedom, went through hell and back for it, and they wanted to take it away, just like they took his wings and credentials. They weren't going to take this, the bastards, no way, hell fucking no way. They didn't understand, those faces of stone that walked around in white coats clutching their shiny metal clipboards. They had no clue. They could pry into his mind, ask endless questions, yell, shoot him up with drugs, but it wouldn't work. He'd never yield, never give his most precious commodity away, never reveal the secret of his freedom that he was punished for obtaining. He didn't even know how he obtained it. It just happened.


Dammit, they were at it again. He didn't want to eat, he didn't trust them. The plate looked okay, but upon further inspection he found it was writhing with maggots, like the parasites that were chewing away at his dead comrades, filling their bloated, putrid, decaying bodies and eating their way out. His friends, his brothers in arms, reduced to the wriggling mass that was on that plate. He yelled out and the plate crashed to the floor, and then they were on him; burrowing deep into his skin, filling his pores, clotting his blood, wiggling, gnawing, squirming in his veins and eating his flesh. No matter how hard he clawed at them he couldn't get them off, they just stuck to his fingers as he cried out and shook. Blood dripped down his shirt from the fresh gashes in his face, and they crawled in, attracted to the blood scent. The white coats were trying to hold him, trying to keep him from injuring himself further, but really they didn't want him to escape, they wanted him infected with the pestilence, the filth, the parasites that consumed him. He screamed and fought, not wanting to be eaten alive. A particularly large maggot faced him with a needle in hand, a large, sharp tooth, and he felt a familiar sting as he was bitten, then the world faded.


There were voices. They hummed and cajoled, and he would tell them to go away, to leave him in peace, but they persisted. No matter how much he paced he couldn't fight them, no matter how hard he looked he couldn't see them, no matter how loudly he talked, they never raised their voices. Sometimes they laughed at him, sometimes they accused, sometimes they sang a single note as to drive him mad. They never answered his questions, never even responded to his pleas for peace. No matter how much he begged or how hard he held his head they were there, screeching, vile and musical, until he was reduced to a sobbing heap in the middle of the floor.

Then there were the helicopters. He still heard them while locked in his cell. He knew he was supposed to be up in the air and not land-bound with injured buddies, trapped, surrounded by sulfur and explosions and smoke and sweat and dirt and mud and blood and dead bodies all crowding him, choking him. He couldn't breathe, god, he needed air, fresh, high altitude, not this reek of death and decay. The earth was pulling him down, making him heavy. The imaginary body he was supporting suddenly fell limp. He stumbled and dropped him, landing on the dead man's chest, his friend, staring into his glassy eyes that would never again look back at him. The helicopters thumped overhead, cries of pain and fear were caught in the sticky air. He pushed himself off of the dead man, his blank stare the passageway to hell itself. A mosquito landed near those eyes and was swatted away, and he realized then that he couldn't just leave the man there on the soil for the bugs to consume. He grabbed the man's arms and pulled, tugged, cursed and cried, and went down as a bullet penetrated his arm muscle, and the pain faded...

Then the helicopters turned into soaring space machines, and the enemy looked like the dead. The final battle was fierce, yet surreal, and every day it evaporated into starched walls.


He lived, but his friends didn't. And no one cared. It didn't matter to these white coats, they just wanted to take what freedom he had left. They forced him to remember. They forced him to accept events and reconcile. They didn't understand that, once freed, the mind isn't limited to such constraints or emotion. But he complied, because he couldn't stand the jacket, and he couldn't fly with it on. So instead of giving up his freedom to them, he imprisoned them, telling them what they wanted to hear. He even started to eat again as he fed them his lies, although he did it with his eyes tightly closed. The food often tried to crawl back up, but he swallowed hard several times after each bite to keep it down. An odd thought occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, if he continued to eat he could consume all of the parasites and they would leave his friends alone. So he ordered plate after plate after plate until he vomited in the far corner of his room, thus releasing all of the parasites. They attacked, of course, and the jacket was back on.

After several months he accepted the fact that his friends were properly buried, and not consumed after all, although part of him was wary about the precise arrangements. His food slowly returned to normal, and he filled out slightly. Any thumping sound would put him in a panic, though, and he could be seen cowering underneath his cot from the steady beats of footsteps in the hall. It was ludicrous; the one thing that could give him peace now gave him chills. Huge metal monsters that chased him through the bramble like demons. The land exploded around him, the monsters pursued, and all he could do was cower and ultimately just pray for everything to go away.

So his friends were buried, and the metal monsters were man-made. After two more months of discussions the straight jacket stayed in the closet and he was able to enter the courtyard without fear. His face became pleasant instead of panicked, and his nightmares evolved into regular dreams. He felt good. His freedom had been a ruse, he found a whole new freedom that he relished every time he looked up at the sky.


The day finally came for that freedom. He packed his bag and gave one last look around the stark room that had housed him for so long. He wanted one more grand view. Walking to the now open, unbarred window, he caught sight of his freedom, manifested in blue dotted by white fluffy clouds. He grinned and reached out, embracing the fact that finally, he found a freedom that no one could take from him. He stood in the window happily...

...and jumped.