The light came on and it woke him from his dreamless sleep. He sat on his bucket in the corner where he always slept. It was a flashlight shining in from the doorway. Once there was a light in the windowless room, but it had been a long time since that worked. The uniformed man shouted for everyone to get out so he got up and helped Andy stand before reaching down to pick up his things. It didn’t take long, he had little to gather. Turning the bucket over he had been sitting on put in the bundle of rags which was his mop and tied straw bundle which was his broom and put them in the bucket. He steadied Andy against the wall before he fell, then picked up the bucket hooking it on his arm and taking the stick which was the handle in the same hand before holding up Andy and walking toward the door. This made him one of the last to exit the dark room. There was nothing left in the room except for a man that had died last night or the day before laying against the wall on the other side of the room. He did not look at him as he left, many had died in that room. Outside they proceeded down the hallway Andy holding on to his shirttail so that they could walk in single file. He walked slow so that Andy’s shuffling walk could keep up with him as they went out to the courtyard. Andy couldn’t walk fast because of his leg that had not healed properly after being broken by a guard.
As they went down the stone stairs blinking in the brightness of the morning he looked and saw many men in uniforms and several trucks. It was not normal, but he accepted it because there was nothing to do but accept the fact. They stood in a crooked line as some strange man began to tell them all what to do or what they were going to do. He didn’t listen because of the ringing in his ears distorted the sound. Then a man in a plain uniform came by and took his things. When he looked back to the front there was a different group of men walking toward them. None of them looked familiar, but it made little difference.
“Today,” loudly said a man in a fancy uniform who stood in front of them. “The war is over. You will all be sent home.” Then he turned and left saying nothing more, or nothing he could hear. The plain uniformed men directed them toward the trucks that had tables beside them and men in chairs with lots of papers in front of them.
At the table a man asked him “Name?” to which he just blinked while he tried to think. He point to his torn shirt which had a name on it and then the man said “Your name is Bob?” and he just nodded in response. Talking was not approved of sometimes and he couldn’t tell if he should speak or not. He was confused. This was not what the day usually was like. He should be sweeping and mopping the floors, but they had taken his things. It was his job and for working they were feed. He was worried they would stop feeding them, but it had been several days already. He just numbly repeated the word. “And what about you?” He was pointing at Andy standing next to him. Andy still held on and his head was downcast showing the top of his head through the few hairs still left there.
“He is Andy.” Bob said quietly, not wanting to risk saying much.
“Andy” Andy repeated as a weak echo. This was what Andy was now an echo, a shadow, and barely anywhere. Bob had taken responsibility for him and his work counted for both although the food was only for one. If you didn’t work you didn’t eat.
“Where are you from?” Asked the uniformed man.
“B4” said Bob, “4” echoed Andy.
“No, what country are you from. What army?” The uniform was getting stern. The tone made Andy cower closer behind Bob. Bob couldn’t remember an Army or a country so just stood there. “Tell me who you fought with.” There was no memory of any war or army or even country.
A another man in a slightly fancier uniform came up behind the seated man and put his hand on the seated man’s shoulder. “Sergeant, calmly.” Then looking at the two of them in front of the table said “Go over to the next table and get some food, you both look hungry.” They had been the last ones in line, but when they shuffled over to the next table the young man handed Bob a bowl of soup.
“I didn’t work today and they took my things.” Bob sad softly.
“This is for yesterday’s work.” The man said. So Bob took a sip and handed it to Andy who drank as Bob supported him. The man offered Bob another bowl which confused him for he never got a second bowl so he just didn’t take it. He thought it might be a test or something and if he took it they would beat them both for trying to steal extra food.
“Andy doesn’t work, I give him part of my food.” Bob took the bowl from Andy and drank some more. “We share, I work for two.”
“Two” Andy repeated.
“You worked two days without food, this has already been worked for.” This was the man from the other table with the fancier uniform. Bob nodded and took the second bowl and handing it to Andy. “I don’t think you understand.” He continued. “You all are free.”
“Free” Andy said softly and then collapsed to the ground. Men came and put him on a stretcher and carried him away. Bob never saw him again.
Freedom had come, but Slavery lingered in his mind. Remember nothing but his existence and Andy shadowing and echoing him freedom was nothing he could understand. When they told him he was free to go he began to walk back to the room where he had been. It was there he seemed to belong. Years his life had been there, he remember nothing else. He didn’t know his name wasn’t Bob, it was just an old shirt he had found to wear. When they gave him new clothes and shoes he was reluctant to even touch them. The concept didn’t register. He had become the mindless blob of humanity his enslavers had worked to make him.