Author: David Henson
When a buzzing sound distracts Cage Edward Fox, he stumbles at the top step and cartwheels to the bottom. He lies motionless a moment then gets to his feet and continues to the garage.
Cage parks his car and takes his fishing tackle from the trunk. Short-cutting to a pond in the hills, he howls as something chomps his ankle. He reaches down and strains apart the jaws of the bear trap enough to free his foot.
Hopping in circles, he stirs up an underground hornets’ nest. Screaming, he stumbles toward the water to escape the wasps but loses his bearings and tumbles off a cliff.
When he comes to, his whole body aches like a bad tooth.
The next morning Cage goes to the front porch for the Sunday paper and finds a package marked EMCA. He opens it, and an explosion sends him flying. As he looks down on the roof, he thinks he must be dead. But when he thuds to the ground, he realizes a ghost wouldn’t feel such pain.
Cage is walking down the crowded sidewalk toward work when people start shouting and diving aside. Seeing a growing shadow at his feet, he looks up at a falling piano. It crushes him with the sound of a dozen minor chords. He lies under the piano in a puddle of hurt then extricates himself.
“OK, Fox. You’re free,” the guard says.
Cage’s eyes flutter. “What … ?”
“The disorientation’ll clear up. I’m John Peters. You’re Cage Fox. You’ve been serving time under Forced Dream Punishment protocols.”
The electrodes buzz as Peters removes them from Cage’s temples. “Damn feedback,” Peters says. “Your sentence has been commuted. They’ve decided it was self-defense when you beat that guy to a pulp.”
Cage leaves his cell and heads for the exit sign. After a few steps, a looped rope tightens around his foot and yanks him toward the ceiling. As Cage dangles upside down, Peters morphs into a cartoon and whacks him with a stick as if he were a piñata.
“OK, Fox, you’re getting out.” Peters removes the electrodes from Cage’s temples. “Enjoy your freedom.”
“You’re not fooling me again.” Cage stays in his cell.
“This is Cage Fox,” Peters says to a younger man. “He lives here. He’s been free to leave for years, but prefers not to. Cage, I’m retiring. Sanders is my replacement.” Peters nods toward the exit. “Old friend, it’d warm my heart cockles to see you walk out that door.”
Cage guffaws. “Still trying to flim my flam, aren’t you?”
“Cage, you’ve a visitor,” Sanders says.
After Cage and the young woman chat a few minutes, she hands him her phone. “Dad, this is a picture of Sally, your granddaughter. Don’t you want to see her?”
“I’d love to, Honey. Can you bring her in?”
“If you want to see her, you have to leave this place once and for all.”
Cage sighs. OK, he thinks. Life’s passing me by. Sally looks so cute. Eyeing the floor with every step, he makes his way to the door without incident. “I can’t believe it. All this time I was free to go?”
“After you, Dad.”
Cage grins and opens the door. A freight train roars through it. The train grinds to a stop, and Cage slides off the front of the engine. After a moment, he climbs to his feet, groaning. Then Cage E. Fox hears a buzz and is hit with an irresistible urge to buy a vintage Plymouth muscle car and pedal-to-the-metal it on Breakneck Road. Beep beep.