What is freedom?

Is this freedom?

Free to go

“Apologies, but yes, you are free to go.” barked the sergeant from behind the almost closed door, whose covering of paint did nothing to hide the rich golden orange varnish which had at the first been applied to its timber and thus betrayed the not so humble origins of the previous inhabitants of the house.

“Ah! those words! ‘You are free to go.'” They echoed briefly in the large, otherwise empty, room, and hung for a moment high in the air. Then came the devastating, crushing silence once more.

“But where shall I go?”

After twenty seven years and 198 days and seven hours and fifty minutes in Trudovoy Lager #3, Alexis Vertinskya had lost all sense of what it was proper to do in the place to which he was now free to go. Forty three of those latest minutes had been spent on the other side of the door from the sergeant waiting for an answer to his question, whether then, after he had served in full the sentence that had been handed down to him, it might be considered possible, just possible you must understand, that they might be considering when he may be allowed to leave.

He walked slowly along what he remembered as a once cobbled road, but which now was strangely covered in a thin layer of poor quality tar scarcely disguising the rough stones which lay beneath. After 24 paces, exactly 22.5 metres – he had spent much of his time perfecting the techniques of measurement, the carefully measured step mixed with counting to subdivide each pace into pacim (‘1 pace = 10 pacim’ he whispered to himself as if he might have forgotten it) in the Lager #3. He knew how long each corridor was, the dimensions of each room, the width of each gallery, and even where the hidden doors were, whose presence could not be detected except by inference from putting together in his mind a plan of the whole building. He had confirmed the presence of three of these doors to himself, two more remained undetected, but he knew where to look – and now exactly 22.5 metres down the lane he turned around. The open door beckoned to him…