The Fort November 17th, 2015

The orangered envelope sat lit before him. Oh no, thought David. What did I say this time? With hesitation, he clicked it. 37 downvotes. It had seemed like such a helpful comment when he'd posted it, yet people had risen to the challenge of responding, and respond they did. What a stupid thing to say, they cried. And you're a stupid person for saying it, they implied.

The sting of every word cut him like a knife. Why, he cried. Why would this tiny glowing envelope, designed only to share thoughts, be the cause of so much pain?

He leant back in his chair, away from the glow of computer screen. The cat arrived, but that was purely its own decision of course. He picked up the cat. As he spoke, his words were soft, for no fight remained within.

"I can't deal with this any more, cat.", said David.

The cat seemed indifferent to his pain. It jumped down from his lap and rubbed against his legs, its tail raised like a flagpole.

Then, in the darkness, an idea sparked. It started small, and flickered like a match. But it burned, and suddenly ignited everything.

"I'm not going to deal with this any more, cat."

It would work, right? He had all the equipment he needed right here...

He jumped from his chair, and flew into action. Quickly, a space was cleared in the apartment. Furniture was moved to the side of the room. Only the simple wooden chairs remained, which were hastily arranged into a square formation in the center of the newly-vacant floorspace.

He dashed to the bedroom, and ripped the blanket from the bed. He went to the cupboard and grabbed the spare blankets from inside. As he draped them over the chairs, something began to be formed where before there was nothing. The pillows, too. And the cushions from the sofa. All were shanghaied into service. The furnishings came together to form a luxurious interior, fit for a prince.

Lastly, the most important piece - the seal. The final blanket went into place to close the entrance.

David looked on his work and was pleased. It was perfect. From only mere blankets and such, he had created a fort. The fort stood strong, and no storm could breach it.

Armed with the supplies he needed, he kneeled down and climbed inside. After a little while the cat entered, and settled upon the soft cushion piles to sleep. Shortly it began to purr.

A day passed. The pain began to ease. Outside the apartment it rained, but that was no longer a concern. The fort held, and none of the concern of the outside world could penetrate its defenses.

The fort stood strong.

A week passed. From time to time the phone rang, its demands suppressed by the fort's protective shield. The fort sheltered David, and he began to forget what pain others could cause. He was pleased.

A month passed. The time for the rent came and went, and the landlord entered the apartment. He talked at David's fort, he argued, he shouted, and he raged. But his words fell on deaf ears, for the fort's wall of safety could not be breached. The blankets blocked all the evils of the world, and David could not hear them from inside his castle.

2 months passed. The police arrived, armed with weapons of notices. With authorizations from the city, and with words from magistrates, they tried to break down the fortress. Yet their attempts failed. For all their might, they could not lift the blankets, nor move the chairs. The fort's defenses could not be breached. The fort would not fall.

The fort stood strong.

3 months passed. Scientists were dispatched, to witness it firsthand. They studied to find why they could not lift the blankets, nor move the chairs. But the fort defied their attempts to breach. They fired questions at the occupant, and when that failed, they fired questions at the cat. But their words could not pass through the barrier, and David could not hear them. David remained at peace inside the castle walls.

A year passed.

David sat up and scratched his head. The cat jumped onto his lap, demanding cuddles. He scratched the cat also.

He'd been feeling a lot better recently. The fort had done its job well, and shielded him from the evils of the world outside. But it was Spring now, and the flowers in the park would be in bloom. Perhaps it was time to leave the fort, its job complete, and rejoin the world. It would be interesting, he thought, to see what has happened in the world while he had been absent.

David pulled back the blanket, and left the fort. The cat left shortly afterwards, although that was entirely its own decision.

The apartment was empty. No landlords, no policemen, no scientists to be seen. He strolled out onto the street, to rejoin the world he had left behind so long ago.

But the streets were bare. No cars, no buses, no passers-by, nor dogs nor cats nor planes in the sky. In their place, only the wind remained.

David wandered for hours, looking for signs. He looked into shops. He looked through windows, into houses, into schools and offices. He looked into hotels, motels, campsites and more.

He explored a thousand rooms, but no person could he find.

Instead, inside every one of them, there sat a fort.

Written by Richard Mitton,

software engineer and travelling wizard.

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