Alexis’ Story

Seventh October, 1893

Dearest Cecilia,

I wish I knew how long I’ve been trapped here. It has been hours, certainly, and days, probably. My cell is ripe with the scent of burnt toast. I am learning to endow the fragile bit of cartilage in the center of my face enough credence to guide my thoughts. I haven’t needed to trust my nose since we were children. I hear the occasional sound of a horse or the sharp metal-on-metal clang of a rest stop greeting. I describe all this to you so that you may place yourself with me in my small cell. If I know that you are with me, I will not be alone. 

I miss you deeply. I can feel your absence clawing through my chest like a painful hunger. I hear talk that the plight is not over. Of course, I could never wish the experiences I have faced on my journey on you or anyone else back home, but the hair on my back still prickles with hope when I hear murmurings that these kidnappings were not the end. Reunion in the jaws of our captors is hardly ideal, but I do hope I get to see you again. I am not naïve, and I know that if I do get to see you again it will not be for many years; we will not be the same by then. The cell isn’t so bad. There are nuts.

I found a newspaper clipping on the floor. It is on the back of the clipping that I am writing to you with a bit of graphite that was wedged between the wooden bars. It is far from an ideal situation, but with some difficulty, I managed a small hole in my cell to allow for a trickle of light to illuminate my reading. The newspaper says that it is the seventh of October 1893. I do not know how old the newspaper is, but it cannot be older than a few weeks because while the box is heavy with the burnt toast stench, the newspaper smells quite clean. I have found the story contained within its single page of particular interest and thought you might as well. Though I have, but now, scribbled over the majority of the original text, I will, if you will allow me to, detail its contents. 

The newspaper tells the story of a cave. It calls the cave “Plato’s Cave,” but I cannot imagine that is its true name. In the cave, five men stand chained to a wall, forced to observe the moving of shadows cast by a fire to their backs. The shadows are all they know of the real world. One day, one of the men is unchained (by what circumstance, I am still unclear) and released into the outside world. I hardly have to tell you what wonderous things he observes. The man returns to the cave and attempts to describe the world that, for the other men, exists only in sound and shadow. They comprehend neither color nor depth, meaning nor excitement. Because they cannot fathom the sights beyond their view, they have no yearning to experience what the free man has. In fact, they scorn him for his imagination, telling him that he has been blinded, and he has. He can no longer see the shadows.

I thought you might be interested.

Your Brother,


Seventh October (certainly no earlier), 1893

Dearest Cecilia,

I think you might like the City. I remember how you used to describe the tornado of smells after the rain as if they were a midsummer feast, and the smells of home are nothing like the smells here. I imagine trees as far as the eye can see and rows and rows of picnic tables and benches for the weary traveler to rest. I imagine wicker baskets and picnic lunches and warm spring days when I can lay on my stomach and bathe in the sun. I have to imagine. If I don’t imagine, I will only smell and hear, and what I have smelled and heard does not implicate a bright future. 

I have been pondering the article, dearest sister, and I have come to believe that our home is the cave. Cecilia, I may describe the scene around me: the shaking of the transport, the groan of the wheels, the small dusty light, the peanut shells littering the floor, but this will always be an exercise in futility. I know what a cigarette smells like now, and I can’t remember the trees. I can’t remember what it was like to hear the resonant voices of angry men echoing through the forest and lack comprehension. I don’t remember what it was like to hear a branch snap right before a loud bang and not wince. We were never scared back then. I suppose you still are not. Home is a dark place. 

The City is warm. There’s food and water and I never have need to gallop about searching for nuts. This, my home, is no larger than a shoebox, but I could not ask for more. I think you should join me here if you get the chance. We could chatter about the smells. I could show you the light.

Much Love,


Seventh October (I do not care for numbers), 1893

Dearest Cecilia,

Cecilia! I can hardly believe it! I hear new murmurings now: exciting sounds. My cell, which I thought was forever, seems flimsy now. The walls don’t seem so thick. The screeching of the wheels halts. I see a black lever inserted into the small light-hole that I made in the top of my cell, and a wave of white floods the space. Dear Cecilia! Cecilia! I was wrong! I was absolutely wrong! I can see outside now and there are trees and bridges and people! Cecilia, oh Cecilia, I finally see the light! Come be free with me; there is a world outside our cave—

Written by Alexis Weiss from California

Alexis has this to say about her story: “My story is based on Plato’s “Allegory of The Cave” and imagines a squirrel on the road to a new world whose observation is limited to the inside of a small box: his new home, he supposes.”