Paper airplanes, the folded creases on the crumpled paper airplanes lying on my bedroom floor haunted me everyday. How was I to know that he would manipulate me to suit his inhumane research!
“Each airplane is a flight path to a greater truth,” he used to say.
Looking into his eyes each time, I would fall into a deep swirl of dreamy blue. It was so convincing. The way he said it seemed so sincere, yet now I knew better. He wanted only to use me to doom the lives of so many others. The blood on his hands was the stains on mine as well.
If I knew what the future held for me then, I would have tried to avert it. I was the only lucky one to have survived the ordeal. I wanted to save those I had not known I would damn, but it was all too late.
“Fold me another one of your paper airplanes,” West had said, “They always fly the furthest.”
He handed me a piece of paper, slipping it through the bars. I had been born into this unfeeling place. From the moment I opened my infant eyes at the hour of birth, I had been facing these concrete grey walls. Over time, as I grew, the walls changed. They grew older, more cracked, but colder still. I had never known what it was like beyond the bars that locked me in. I was ignorant, until West had found me amongst the many other captives.
West used to sit beside my cell and tell me bedtime stories until I fell asleep. Even though he was unreachable beyond the iron bars, the warmth he exuded embraced me and filled the coldness of the prison with brilliance. I would drift off into dreamland, knowing that West’s voice would keep away the nightmares.
In my eyes, even now at seventeen, he always seemed so ethereal. He seemed untouched by the unsympathetic atmosphere in this metal cage. He was always vibrant, yet full of philosophy. Everything I knew was taught by him, from my alphabets to what it meant to be human.
From young, I watched as other of my fellow inmates were dragged from their cells, screaming and cursing, down the hallway. They never came back. I saw countless people leave, but the number of people seemed limitless. The ceaseless amount of individuals was always a wonder, yet I could never know how or why. My vision was restricted to the grey wall before my cell and the never-ending hallway that stretched beyond it.
“Where do they go?” I used to ask West. He was the only one I knew who could move freely around other than the guards.
“To be freed.” West never gave me any other answer than this and stopped asking after time. In all seventeen years, I was simply satisfied having being left alone in this strange facility with my only friend.
I took the paper from him, folding the airplane with ease. He had first taught me how to when I was three. Ever since then, he never stopped asking me to. He would hand me a piece of paper and I would pass the folded origami back to him. West would throw it down the hallway and see where it landed. He would then walk to it, pick it up and leave. He never returned until much later. It was a routine that I never questioned, though I would often take longer than necessary to fold the airplane just so he could stay longer by my cell.
Handing the paper airplane back to him, I watched as he threw it down the corridor. The white paper soared through the air before hitting the ground silently. West started to walk away, and I knew he was going to leave me.
“Wait,” I sputtered for the first time in many years. “Why do you always leave after picking up the airplane?”
“Well…” West pondered uncertainly. He eyes met mine and I thought I saw a flash of doubt. What surprised me was the sudden smile he gave me. “I have something to show you.”
I furrowed my brows as he bounded off. Was I supposed to follow him? He came to a sudden halt, whipping around after realising I was still standing in my cell.
He rolled his eyes and ran back to me. Gripping one of the metal bars, he casually slid the entire iron frame upwards. My eyes widened in utter shock. I was free. The grey wall opposite my cell which I had stared at for years was finally touchable. I looked down at the fine line between confinement and freedom.
“I’m free?” I murmured uncertainly. West had freed me. But what did it mean to be free? I did not know the world beyond my cell. West grabbed my arm and pulled me as he ran down the hallway, but not forgetting to pick up the paper airplane.
I passed cells and the inmates looked at me with bewilderment, not knowing what to make of my casual roaming. In a single step, I emerged from the abyss I had lived in for my entire life into an entirely new world. I was standing on an elevated platform, winding stairs leading downwards to a vast hall. On this small platform, I stood with West. He had walked forward to lean against the rails as he overlooked the workings below. I took a cautious step forward. Looking down, I was faced with a wide board that covered the entire ground. It was further split into many square boxes, each having a number written on it.
West handed me the paper airplane I had folded. “Throw it. Let it fall where it may.”
I took it from his hands. “What will happen then?”
I looked at him, doubtful, but I threw the airplane. I watched intently as it soared through the air. It seemed as though it would never fall, the projectile motion a lie. Yet, it came to a descent and landed on one of the squares. Immediately, guards ran out from all corners of the hall. They slowly marched up the steps and into the hallway behind me.
In mere moments, a child was carried, wailing, past the both of us and down into the hall. They placed the innocent boy on the square my airplane had landed on. He had stopped crying by now and was looking up at us with innocent green eyes. He seemed so lost in the enormity of the place. I gave him and encouraging smile, but in a split second, a blade was etched into his throat.
Blood poured out of his neck, gushing and staining the board with a terrifying red. I shrieked in utter horror. I almost collapsed in fright, but West caught me and was holding me up. His face was placid.
I knew exactly what I had done. I had sentenced the boy to his doom. I struggled and thrashed against the steel grip of an executioner. I knew where all my fellow inmates had gone now. The man I trusted to be my friend was nothing but a sick, thwarted murderer.
“I am only doing this for the greater good of mankind,” his voice was composed. There was no sympathy in it. It seemed, to West, cold blooded murder was acceptable. “By their deaths, I can use their blood to find out so much more about life. It is necessary for science.”
“You are a murderer!” I yelled at him.
He stared down at me, the once comforting blue eyes was now ice cold. “It would’ve been you, had I not decided to spare you. The airplane had landed on your cell. You were almost condemned by yourself!”
I fell limp in his grip. He had saved me. He was a killer, yet he had saved me. He glanced down at me, as I stood speechless. Shaking his head, he gestured for his guards. They ascended the stairs and led me down, instead of back the hallway to my cell. I was lost in the labyrinth of passages, but I eventually entered a bedroom. They sat me down on the bed and locked the door.
Ever since then, West had asked me to fold him airplanes, but I always folded them and crushed them before he could take them. They lay strewn over my floor. As long as I did not give him anymore airplanes, his vile system would no longer work. The inmates would be safe, at least until he decided to be rid of me.
I crumpled the piece of paper in my hand and threw it across the room. My eyes followed it as it soared and landed in a pile of many others. As long as I stayed safe from harm, it was my duty to keep the rest safe as well. This was the only promise I could give them.