He couldn't make the Wise One understand.
The chain was biting into his ankle. The unbreakable chain that bound all the Continental children. Up until now, it had been loose but some of the others had tipped over the edge into the abyss and now it was getting tight.
"Well of course there are problems" the Wise One said in an exasperated tone as he bit into a ripe peach he had just plucked from the tree. "Look at these peaches!".
"Yes, but the chain."
He looked down at the links around The Boy's ankle and their taughtness that stretched off into the distance connected to their friends and their friend's friends and others who were already gone. He looked at his own, which was as loose or looser than than The Boy's had been and shrugged.
"You worry too much."
"But it hurts!" The Boy said, straining against the chain. His shoes skipped a fraction of an inch as he pulled.
"You must be exaggerating because I don't see Cal or Jurgen squawking....." tossing the now exposed pit aside. "Things are just like they've always been, have a peach" proffering the ripe, beautiful fruit to The Boy who had both hands around the chain and his feet jammed and scrabbling the ground.
Off in the distance they could hear Cal and Jurgen laughing and calling back and forth to each other. They were lying on the ground and their respective chains were dragging them slowly, ever so slowly but they didn't seem cut into their ankles the way it did The Boy's and anyway, they didn't seem to mind.
And the Wise One was right: things were beautiful. The trees were filled with fruit, the sky was a sparkling blue and there was a babbling brook darting and dancing all the way down to the abyss. The roar of the water as it fell in almost drowned out the cries and moans of those inside. The Slavic kids scrabbling at the steep sides, trying to stop their slide, the Asians, almost all boys, grim jaws set, climbing over the bodies of others clamped to the wall and the Bantu wails from all the little ones at the bottom - too young and weak to even begin to escape the dark, cold water.
A number of the children walked over to talk to The Boy and The Wise One - the ones without chains. "Why do you have a chain?" they asked.
"Because we are Continentals!" The Wise One answered proudly.
"But you'll end up in the Abyss"
"No we won't" The Wise One said a little too defiantly as one of the littlest fell screaming down the side.
"Why don't you just unlock your lock? Take the chain off?"
The Boy winced but not from the pain of the chain in his skin but from the mention of the treason he planned.
"There is no key", The Wise One said. "Well, to use a key wouldn't work", he finally admitted "because all of those other kids further down - the ones that don't realize what is happening to them - would fall in all the faster" he said with an intensity that belied his feigned nonchalance. "There is no choice, we must remain linked no matter what".
"Do you think you're your brother's keeper?" said the Free Leader incredulously.
"Yes, of course, we're the responsible ones"
"Then why are you letting the chain drag you all down to the abyss? Do you like cold and darkness?"
"No, of course not. But this is what we've always done"
"That's a lie" shouted, The Boy - "There never used to be these tight chains, we all stayed together in the meadow and played but it's only been a little while since we were all chained together, ever since the abyss opened in the middle."
The Wise One rounded on him "for your own good, so you wouldn't stray. Please be quiet, you're making things worse" as The Boy's straining legs and shoes skipped again.
By the by The Wise One wandered off to debate with the Free Ones, he had so much slack in his chains he could walk the entire meadow. The Boy, exhausted from his fight looked around furtively and digging in his pocket retrieved the golden key that they all had before they accepted the lock and the chain. But many of the children had been careless or improvident and had lost or sold theirs. Not The Boy. He looked at the key's gleam - it read in finely etched letters: "Liberty". All of a sudden a wail went up among some of the other tightly dragging children who jealously pointed at The Boy, chanting "key, key, key". He frantically began trying to fit the key in the lock and release it but his hands were tired and bloody from the fight with his chain and he kept dropping it.
The Wise One looked up from his reverie, and called out the alarm to his still loosely chained friends. As The Boy finally recovered the key one of them kicked it out of his hand and it flew far away....out of reach for the tightly chained Boy.
"Please, he begged, please give me my key back".
"No, you're not allowed to flee."
"For God sakes! I'm going to be dragged into the abyss, don't you understand? Please, please give me my key! It's mine! I saved it."
The Free Children came over, looking pensive.
"Well surely you'll help me, please just go get my key - it's right over there. There's nothing they can do to you".
But they just stood there, staring.
"Why won't you help me?" The Boy cried out.
"We can't" Said the Largest of their group "Every child has to choose to be tied to a chain or to become truly free of their own accord. We can't do anything except encourage. It's every child for themselves".
The Boy sobbed as his shoes finally broke their friction connection with the ground and he landed unceremoniously on his back - moving a full half a foot Abyss-ward in the process. He lay there softly crying as the chain dragged him towards his end. After a while he began humming and laughing, talking to himself and smiling.
The Wise One turned to the Free Ones "See, I told you he wanted to stay chained" and walked away with his steadily shortening chain in tow.