Inmate 400

The Chasm is a secret prison, one that few people know of, and one that nobody has escaped from. Where Anarchy is King and there is no Law, the Chasm is run by bandits and muderers. Convicted for a crime he didn't commit, Inmate 400 is branded as a traitor and threat to the Duke of Gariton, and thrown in the Chasm. Forced to survive in a world of madmen, he learns things that pushes him to the edge of sanity, and knows that escape is the only cure.

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1. Life after Life

"400."

Pain. Headache. Staring from the back. Sweeping forward. Going to be sick. I'm going to be sick. Can't move. Pain. Blackout.

"400"

What is 400? who is 400? Where am I? Why do I hurt so much? The pain has still not subsised. Why can't I move? Why can't I do anything? The pain sweeps up on me and drags me into unconsciousness.

"400".

The pain is still there. It is lingering, hovering over me like a bird of prey over rotting carrion. But I can breathe normally, move slightly, and my senses register things that I would perhaps rather not know. The stone floor, sticky with my blood, the dim light trying to break its way through the veil of dust in the air, and the soft, steady breathing of the man sat over me.

"400. 400. Can you hear me? Are you awake?"

400. Why are all my dreams racked with that number?

'Who is 400?' is what I try to say. What actually comes out is a small croak. My voice is hoarse, completely parched and useless. The man watching over me offers me a flask and I greedily accept, the water cooling my throat, and enabling me to croak out. "Who is 400?". The man looks at me quizically. I can only just make out his appearance. He is a short, old man, his white hair dirtied by grime and neglect. His skin is pale, almost transparent, but I don't think he is a threat. To be honest, I can't think of anything. I don't even know where I am.

"You don't remember anything, do you? No, I don't expect you would, But don't worry 400, I won't harm you. You're about as safe as you can be with me. 400, well, you are 400. Inmate 400 of the Imperial High Security Prison of the Duchie of Gariton. You are marked as an extrmely dangerous criminal and have been condemned to the Chasm as a punishment. You, my friend, tried to kill the Duke."

I can't remember anything. I can't say anything. Me? Kill the Duke? In the Chasm? Nothing makes sense. I try to recall where I was before I was here. Before all of this. But I can't remember anything. Surely I couldn't have attempted to kill anyone, let alone the Duke of Gariton? "You can't remember, can you?" the old man continues. I shake my head. I can't remember a thing.

"You're marked, 400. The Hand of the Duke, branded into your flesh. A traitor and murderer. You won't find any friends here."

I look down at my chest. Sure enough, a rough palm has been branded into my flesh, the source of the throbbing pain now given a face. The skin has scabbed over, but the skin is pink and tender. Looking at it makes the pain increase tenfold. I tear my eyes away.

"So, you're 400. You tried to kill the Duke. Any more questions?" I can think of millions, but i can't understand what is going on. I try to be simple. "How do you now your number?"

"Its here" said the man, pointing to my arm. Sure enough, a small '400' has been branded on. Yet another scabbing, painful wound that I can't look at. "And you?" I asked meekly. In response, the man rolled up his sleeve, to show a faded, darker number, 129, branded into his skin. He had been here a while, then.

"Not many people have names down here" he said, "and if you do, it means you've got someone's attention, and that isn't always a good thing. If you keep to yourself, and cover up that mark on your chest, nobody should bother you. You're a big lad, you should be ok." that was true at least. I had always been well muscled and strong from all my days working as a---what? I couldn't even remember my old life. It was as if someone had completely wiped it from my memory. "Don't worry about that" the old man said, as if reading my mind, "It'll come back to you. Now, I can't waste anymore time. People leave me alone because I talk to the new guys and keep them alive, but from now on, you're on your own. Don't start fights unless you're certain you can finish them, make sure you make some sort of alliances, for food and water, and don't try to escape. You might as well give up on that hope right now." And leaving me with those words ringing in my ears, the old man 129 left me alone in a dark and damp room.

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