Soon it was the eve of Ezra’s eleventh birthday. He did not know this of course because acknowledging this or celebrating it would be a way for Acacia to admit his humanity. She would never allow herself to ponder if she had stolen anything from him. In her state of darkness, she did not even understand what she had stolen from herself, much less feel conscience stricken by his loss. One day when Ezra knew Acacia would be gone for a while, he decided to follow the path that Acacia had long ago beaten toward the elusive village of Gladstone. He could still see her foot prints on the dewy trampled grass as he anxiously tread on each of her steps to the place where people go about normal, happy lives. As he approached this village his heart began to race, his hands began to sweat, his throat became very constricted.....WHAM! A sudden darkness fell over his face, he heard a scuffling sound after which he must have blacked out. When he finally awoke, he was locked in his twig and twine cage that was getting really small for him by this point. Acacia fashioned this prison for him when he was only three or four so it did not fit like it used to. He looked through bleary eyes to see a scornful Acacia glaring at him as she mixed up some smelly goop with her twig handled spoon. He could tell that she had smashed him on the back of the head with some kind of club as evidenced by the goose egg that now smarted right behind his left ear. He never saw her. She must have sensed that he was following her, hidden herself, and waited for a chance to ambush him. She knew it would have to be this way because he was getting tall and nimble enough to outrun her any day.
Little did she know, however, her days of having no mercy on Ezra would soon be over. Ezra had been noticing that Acacia burped a lot more than usual. It was rhythmic almost, as if she were hiccuping. As he laid still in his cage wondering what kind of gunk she was going to force on him, he observed quietly that she seemed to be breathing more rapidly than usual, belching more and more. Suddenly, to his astonishment she dropped her bowl of trash, slumped over the chair that she had been standing by, and made nearly inaudible gurgling sounds! “Acacia!” Ezra screamed. “What is wrong Acacia?” Ezra begged. Despite the cruel treatment he received at her hands, it still frightened Ezra to think that she was dying. Indeed, she seemed at that moment to be dead. He could not know for sure since he was locked up, but he had never seen anything like this before.
A creeping fear consumed him as he faced the dawning realization that there would now be no one to let him out of his cage. “Acacia, please get up!” Acacia just laid there over the chair. “Acacia, can you hear me?” Nothing! Ezra had never actually tried to get out of his cage. It was his normal. He now made a decision to try with all his might to get himself out of his bonds. He grabbed the arm that he had used so many times before to reach for Acacia’s bread. He was aiming to get the bread knife close enough to reach with his hands and then he could begin sawing at the twine that held his cage in one piece.
As the tip of his long arm touched the knife, he gave it a pull, trying to edge it closer. As though someone were invisibly trying to end him, the knife went the wrong way. No amount of stretching could help Ezra get that knife back toward his grasp. After two hours of trying in desperation to reach the knife, he slumped over, truly exhausted. It was a fitful sleep, but sleep he did. Ultimately he spent two days in that cage, in that house with a dead lady before a passing traveler stopped by wondering if he could get a drink of water. The stench of death overcame him as he approached the house. He could hear a rambling, nonsensical voice crying deliriously for a sip of water. Imagine the traveler’s horror when he found Ezra and discovered the shroud hovering above that house, evidence that the grisly reaper of death had walked through. Ezra’s first ugly reality was finally coming to a close. Sadly there would be more to follow.