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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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The Wall

By Jesse Zelden

The Magpie, Spring 1940, v. 24, n. 2, p. 44.

IT is dawn. The first rays of the pale morning's sun stream through the windows of your cell and drive away the blackness of the night. You struggle up from your cot and pace the floor, your lips moving in feverish prayer. Then the sounds of footsteps outside of your cell come to you, and you slowly sink back onto your cot. The cell door grates open, and you see the figure of a priest, kneeling on the cold stone floor, murmuring Latin prayers. He takes your arm and leads you down the corridor, out into the courtyard. You hear the muffler rumbling of drums. They seem to keep time with your faltering footsteps as you cross the open place.

You find yourself looking at a wall which just exceeds the height of a tall man. It is composed of large, irregularly shaped stones, cold and grim looking. They are damp with that clammy dampness that reminds you of a lizard. The sliminess reaches out and grabs hold of you. The stones have a fascination for you... a horrible fascination. They leer at you: they twist themselves into fantastic shapes... the shapes that used to be in your nightmares when you were a child. You close your eyes in order to drive them out of your brain. It doesn't work; they persist in torturing you; they're driving you mad. You're terrified; you scream. You fall to the ground and writhe in the dust. You shout gibberish; you plead with God for help. A tear falls on one of your hands. You stare at it—bewildered. Slowly your reason comes back to you. Sobbingly you say to yourself, "Can this be me? What am I crying for? There's nothing to be afraid of."

You are relieved... reassured. You smile. You walk up to the wall. Contemptuously you turn your back on it. Again you smile. Then, without any warning, there is a sharp pain around your heart... it feels as though it were being ripped out. The terror comes back. Then the pain is gone. There's nothing; you're in emptiness. You feel like a snuffed out candle. You're drifting out into space; it stretches out its arms to receive you. You're tired... very tired.




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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