They say if you put a frog in boiling water, it’ll hop out. But if that water starts cold, it will sit in there until it burns to death.
We never realized things were getting worse until it was too late.
I still remember the day the walls went up. I still remember the lies they told us, how it would protect us from the savages, how it was for the greater good.
We all believed it too.
I remember the celebrations, the parties. I remember the smiles and tears as we watched those walls come up. Those horrible savages wouldn’t be able to touch us now. Not that they ever had before, but the threat of them kept the town up at night. Waiting for them to strike.
Now, we could rest easy.
Some protested the wall. Their graffiti and destruction drew horror in the rest of us. How could someone hate something meant to protect us? Were they savages that managed to sneak in?
They were, shall I say, taken care of. It didn’t matter how to the rest of us. All that mattered was the safety of the wall. Anyone against it was surely a traitor, right?
When the destruction got worse- parts of the wall smashed open by sledgehammers- the government stepped in. They banned the purchase of hammers. It’s not like a normal citizen needed one anyway, and they were too much of a danger to the wall. The people agreed. This gave construction workers more jobs to fill, so it was a win-win for all of us.
It didn’t stop the destruction. So the government put up cameras. They’re in stores and buildings anyway, so why not some more to protect the wall? It makes sense, of course it makes sense, the government knows what it’s doing. This is all just to protect the wall.
And we believed them.
As destruction continued, so did the protection. Guard towers, dogs, barb wire. Anything to keep the wall safe.
It wasn’t long after that when listening devices were put in our houses. They’d only detect talk about the wall, our mayor said, nothing else. It was to keep an eye out for someone who might hurt the wall. You know, catch them before it happens. Some people grumbled about this, our homes were supposed to be private after all, but after some assurance, we accepted it with open minds.
All of this was for the safety of the wall. As long as we were good, nothing would happen to us. It was worth it, you know, to keep the savages out.
None of us got to see the other side of the wall. Only special government forces got to leave, and that was only to grab supplies. But they told us there was just as much protection on the other side of the wall as there was on our side. We believed them. They wouldn’t have an incentive to lie to us.
They risked our lives for us. Every month we watched them cross to the outside world and the next day we’d celebrate their return. No one was ever lost, they were great fighters after all, but we still prayed for their safety.
Some people didn’t appreciate what they did. Graffiti left the wall only to be placed on buildings, houses. It wasn’t uncommon to see strings of anti-government phrases and pictures sprayed on the side of a bank or a store.
Of course, something had to be done about that too.
Our listening devices listened for anything about the government. People grumbled about this a little more than before, but the mayor assured us. What reason would we have to talk about the government anyway? What they did was of no concern to us. All they wanted was the best for their people.
Well, most of us agreed. We were starting to open our eyes to what was happening. Some of us talked, in private. We talked behind buildings, away from prying eyes.
Until the military started to patrol the streets, day and night. Taking away anyone who seemed suspicious, breaking into houses and searching them if they had even an inkling of a threat.
But some of us managed to get over. Some of us managed to see the other side.
There were no barb wire, no trenches, no cameras, or heat-seeking devices. The other side of the wall was bare save for vegetation. There weren’t even any so-called ‘savage’ claw marks on the wall.
That’s when it hit us.
Walls aren’t built to keep things out, they’re built to keep people in.