Mole City
Vida Janulaitis
Hayward Fault Line Winner

O uch! You think by now I would be used to it. I've walked this path countless times and yet each time I manage to bang my head into that pipe. It's a small price to pay for freedom and peace. I wish everything else were so easy. Today's my anniversary. It's been one year since I've escaped into these tunnels. A labyrinth of darkness and dampness the city planners just ignore. Who else would live here except creatures of the dark? Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the sanctuary, yet I don't understand. What did I do that was so wrong? The only unique thing that I have is me. Don't I have the right to defend myself when someone tries to take that away from me? I wonder what that cop would have done if it was his wife he found bleeding in the alley. Mistreated animals get more sympathy. I lost my home, my family, my job and yet they never could take away my dignity. Even when I said I would shoot that bastard again as he tried to rape me. Put away for murder. Don't they know what else he tried to do to me?

Out of nowhere Gabriel showed up. Yeah, my guardian angel. They never use their real names. They can't afford to. Just when you've reached the depths of despair they show you their world. It's become my home, just a few miles below the real thing. Everyone has a job here. Some people work above to provide for the rest of us. The most amazing part is that the officials know about us. Privately they help. Publicly we don't exist, only the rats do. We always have food. There are teachers, lawyers, doctors and everything you need to make life as it once was. But never as it could be again.

The crimes committed against us are never mentioned. It's like being on a different world, an alien world. I'm too scared to go above to face the madness. There are times I feel like a mole, shunning the sunlight but at least I know safety. I know what family means. Here at last I know what true love is.

First published: May 10, 1999