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J.C. Tabler

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A Question of Freedom
By J.C. Tabler
Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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A small town sheriff in post-apocalyptic America is forced to choose between his duty or his ideals.

The following is an excerpt from "A Question of Freedom" by J.C. Tabler

The most insulting aspect of the whole situation was that they were holding him in his own damn jail.

It wasn’t one of the fancier city jails with the soft bunks and little televisions in the corner of the cell, and it had been built with funds that had been stolen or redirected from other areas of the county’s budget, but it was still his jail. He knew every crack and leak in the place like he knew the veins on the back of his hand, and could pinpoint where he was in the cells simply by how strong the odor of urine was on the floor. This was his turf, and they had managed to come in and make it a place that was hostile to him instead of being damp, familiar, and at least as friendly as a jailhouse could be to anybody.

Stripped of his belt and gun, he sat on the thin mattress as the springs groaned under him with every little shift of his weight. It wasn’t difficult for him to ignore the constant drip of water falling from the crack in the shoddy ceiling as his eyes were instead fixed on the object in his hand. He turned it over again and again in his palm, rubbing his thumb over the engraving on the gold-tinted surface of the star. Every few turns he swallowed thickly as if trying to keep down bile or emotion, although both were one and the same in his opinion. He exhaled heavily and ran his thumb once more over the word “Sheriff” on the small star badge as he waited to hear the footsteps coming down the hall.

The footsteps announced the approach of his captors long before they got to his cell, a trick of acoustics he had delighted in during the years prior to this occasion. He had thought, at one point, that the sound of approaching doom put a prisoner into a state that was more given to confessing. At least three murders and two drug deals in the county had been solved by the sound of boots on the concrete echoing down the bare corridor to the ears of an incarcerated suspect. It was amazing what a noise or a simple phrase could do to destroy the human psyche.

He didn’t shake himself into a frenzy of penance and remonstration for past deeds, not at the sound of footsteps alone. That was, he thought, one advantage to playing on the home field, even if it was now owned by another team. He was in a familiar environment that wouldn’t shake him, at least not as strongly as it was originally designed to do. His head was raised when the men in the sharply tailored suits appeared at the bars of the cell, emerald eyes staring coldly at the two large forms that squared themselves silently in front of him. One hand left the badge as he straightened his gray-speckled hair to grease it back against his head.

“Come to beat it out of me again, boys?” he slurred in a tone that, he hoped, was at least somewhat flippant.

The rest of "A Question of Freedom" is currently available on Allegory Ezine at

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