Author : Ken McGrath

He woke screaming, just as he always did.

The chains held him in place, tearing into his flesh, causing his wounds to tear open and start to bleed again.

The other place was gone, all that existed now was this horrible twisted metal hole, pumped full of stale, dead air and the constant howls of other prisoners. It was much more real than the other place, the one with the clear blue skies and the endless oceans that flowed to the horizon and beyond.

He curled up, pulling his knees close to his raw, burned chest. Cables and wires of varying thickness wound their way around his body, probing into cavities both existing and new, digging into his very soul. Or were they bursting out of it? He didn’t know. All he knew was one thing and that was his throat felt like it had been set on fire, his ragged, bubbling pleas cutting through the vile sounds filling the atmosphere.

Fresh blood poured onto his hands so he scrunched his eyes closed, even tighter than before, trying to make it all go away, trying to make it become the other place, praying to escape from this horrible dream…

…and when he opened them there he was, standing in the doorway to his house, facing the beach, the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the shore adding to the laughter of the youngsters who were out on this beautiful star-filled night.

His legs went from underneath him and he reached for the doorframe to stop from falling, cutting his palm as he did. The blood brought him back to the other place. Was he still there? Was that where his body was right now, being operated on and tortured. Being used as food, as fuel for the machines. Or was it only his mind that went there? Was he safe here?

He sighed heavily and thought of the gun that lay hidden beneath the clean towels in the wardrobe upstairs. Should he free his mind now? Get it over with, but before he could stand another thought stuck him with enough force to knock him back to his knees.

What if this was the escape, what if here was where his mind went to escape the torment and pain. If he killed himself here he might never be able to come back and he might be trapped in that cursed cage with no escape, no safe haven for his mind to escape to.

But what if this was the one, this was the place where he was free and his damaged, demented mind had invented the other one, that red, overwhelming place where he lay bound, trussed and forever in pain.

He screamed and it was a sound all too familiar to him. The night sky suddenly became something more menacing, the pinpricks of light were now eyes staring out at him from the darkness of the panopticon letting him know he was being observed, waiting to see what his next move would be.

But he couldn’t move, the wires coming out of his chest held him in place, the distant laughter morphing into pained voices and he knew there was no safe haven. There was no past, no such thing as escape. Wherever his mind ran to he’d always end up back here, waiting to die on this filthy slab beneath the metal fingers of his cage.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows