A tale from outside the cage...

A Short Tale by Art Kessner & Alan Vekich {aka A. A. Wolfner}


We bounced around inside the cage for hours. Jumping, pushing, careening off each other and off the bars of the cage, we would find our positions. One at a time, we would leave. Later, we would return. Everything we did, we did for the Players. There were so many combinations, so many possibilities, and our job was to make sure that the most exciting and suspenseful combinations occurred at the end of the Session, so that the Players would return. The Game was everything. It was our Universe.

One day, they dropped me. I rolled under a table. I rolled; I was alone. It was an awesome experience, being alone. We were no longer here. I was there, and the Players could not find me. I was easily replaced; I felt good about that, and yet I was alone. The freedom was incredibly exhilarating.

I watched the Players. I saw them, but they could not find me. I saw them win, and lose. They laughed, and cried. Each one was different. Each one was unique. Each one was alone. At first, I was curious, but soon became enthralled. The Players were free to come, or to go. They could speak to each other, or stay silent. They moved about the large room, each one unconcerned about the others. At the end of the session, they left, lining up by the door in an orderly fashion, but leaving toward every which direction as they exited the Hall. The players were independent, clever, and free.

I thought about the Players and their freedom as I sat in the dust under that table. They had greatness in them. They made their own choices, and each individual built his own destiny. I heard them speak of families, of friends, and of their Creator. They had seen the world outside the Hall. They knew the outside, the inside, and the other side. They saw the whole Universe. My thoughts whirled faster than I ever jumped in the Cage. The Players had something. It was special, although I could not give it a name it. The dust grew thick around me, but I still listened. Finally, somebody said the word, “free will.” Over time, I learned that this idea included Independence, Creativity, Knowledge, and Sprit. It reflected the essence of a mind, or of a soul. Yet I remained in the dust, hidden from these messengers as they revealed the truths of my Creator.

It was bitter cold outside the Hall, and for some reason that made the Players uncomfortable. Strangely, though, they seemed jolly when they took refreshments that somehow “pushed the cold out of my bones.” Later, the Players must have forgotten how pleased they had been. Sounds became harsh; the voices felt loud and raucous. The dust blew around me. A Player shouted, “You are a cheater,” and everything changed.

The Players, infused with free will, continued to possess creativity, knowledge, and spirit. They infused these in odd ways – moving somebody’s “marker,” or “taking my card,” or “stealing a seat. I did not fully understand these things, but this does not matter. The result of these new way is what I remember, not the meaning.

Chaos. Fighting. Players in blue uniforms dragging Players in torn clothes out the exit, away from the Hall. Players lying in the dust, moaning because of their pain let their moans become words of hatred and abuse.

These things provoked disturbances within me; they were painful despite my protective layer of dust. My thoughts shattered and my understanding diffused into the dust. These messengers had, in fact, no understanding of the message.


They found me under the dust after clearing the Hall of broken tables and spilled refreshments. They wiped away the dust and the webs; tonight I expect to return home. I look forward to the Cage, protected from the Hall. I look forward to being Home with my friends. I envy them; they have no concerns about free will, independence, or that baffling aggression. I will not tell them of these things. I will not steal their “markers,” or their “cards,” and they will remain content within the Cage. I hope I can forget what I have learned, so that I may return to the joy that I had once mistaken for ignorance.


The years have passed and Old B6 has been taken from us, cracked and bruised after years of jumping. We all bounce, we all jump, and then we all rest. We know that none of us can jump or bounce with the same overflowing glee and vitality that legend still attributes to Old B6. We watch the Players, and laugh about Old B6, and the wild ideas that came to him, there under the dusty table. He told us what he saw, and what he thought, although he insisted he would not. We remain embarrassed by what we thought. We find it hard to understand how sitting in the dust could shape such fantasies. No matter. He was amusing, and the tales were worthy of re-telling while waiting for the Game to begin again. We shall miss him.

We have watched the Players all night. They are not wise, nor are they free. That was a dream. They have no idea that they have creativity, or knowledge, or spirit. They see only the Game, as we do. They know only winning or losing, just as we know only leaving or staying, here in our Cage. Their Cage is the Hall; Our Universe is the Hall. They believe the Universe is the Cage. For them, everything depends on which of us leaves the Cage, and which of us stays behind. At the end of the Game, there is shouting and moaning, and then the Game begins again.

The Cage is their Universe, while we see the entire Hall and all its Players. We are fortunate to have such vision, and such greatness, as to understand the importance that the individual has in relation to the whole. We pity the Players. Each of them knows only himself, and each of them is horribly alone.

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