The Yellow Line

All around the compound is the fence. At each corner, and between at every hundred feet are towers. Twenty-five yards inside the fence, on the ground is a yellow line. The rule is, cross that line and you get shot.
We’ve never seen anyone get shot, but then we’ve never seen anyone try to cross to the fence anyway. We know the guards are up there in the towers, we know the ammo is live. But, the yellow line…none of us know how real that is. The person who has been here the longest says he remembers being told that two days before he came a guy had been shot two steps past the yellow line, no warning at all.
We’ve never seen the guards in the towers either. We’ve seen the guns, we’ve seen an occasional guard walking between buildings outside the fence, and we’ve seen guards when new prisoners have been delivered. But the last prisoner was delivered almost a year ago.
Lately, we’ve been talking about why no more prisoners in the last year. We’ve come up with two ideas. Either the war is over, or the front has been pushed so far away that we’re not close enough for the enemy to easily deliver prisoners to any more. Either way, it’s bad news. And some of us are beginning to wonder if there really are any enemy left guarding this camp. like I said, we never see the guards, and the one or two people we see outside the fence among the buildings are too far away to see if they are the enemy or just robots.
So, now three of us stand here, looking at the yellow line twenty feet away from us. We look at the towers, and see dark windows with slits. We can’t see into the windows. We look at each other. Silently, I wonder about guard bots, but I haven’t seen any indication of any. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve not seen any indication at all that robots are used by the enemy, other than the two that run along the outside of the fence every 12 hours checking it. Checking it?
A few quick whispers and we’re studying even more intently the towers and the camp outside the fence. All that day we roam the compound, studying. That night we talk.
The next morning sees us again standing twenty feet away from the yellow line. As the sun climbs into the red sky, we stand there looking at that yellow line. Finally, we turn to look at each other. The time has come. We shake hands with each other. We walk to ten feet from the line. During the last night we had made our decisions and decided. With a sigh, Timon straightened up.
In eleven paces he had crossed the yellow line.


This story was originally written as part of a regular practice of writing based on some single word or item, randomly picked from a dictionary, magazine, book, or some such.

The word for this one was “yellow line”.

Originally written 4.17.95, the actual story and words have not been changed in any way. The only changes made have been to fix any typos and to format it better.


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