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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5. Dreams

I was outside, playing in the wheat field. The sun was beating down relentlessly, but I soaked up the rays greedily, wallowing in the heat and simple pleasures of my life. Marcus was ahead of me, smaller but quicker, my younger brother and I playing together on the outskirts of the estate. Mother would be so angry if we got our clothes dirty, so we shouldn't journey too far from the grounds.

We ran and played, bumbing into eachother and playfighting like brothers do. We used to include Father in these games, but he was too busy these days. Too busy with his---

Cold water crashed against my face, the jolt bringing me round, away from the safety of dreams, away from the comfort of sleep. The desert of stone stretched around me, the darkness overhead engulfing me. But not for long. As I hear the concerned calls of 317, the bed of dreams beckons to me, and like a deprived man, I stumble towards them.

I'm older. Fully grown into my masculine body, muscles starting to define my edges where once there was nothing but soft fat. Marcus is sitting opposite me. He looks like me, and we both look like father, although it is fair to say that I am more grizzled where Marcus is more baby-faced. Still, he is an apt and able-bodied fighter. I should know from our lessons together.

We are in the Dining Hall, often used for grand balls and feasts of epic proportions, but for now, housing only two teenage boys with a vast appetite. The windows around me stretch invitingly. The fields surrounding us cover the horizon. The sun lazily leaks in through the windows. I know in my mind that this is no dream. It is a memory, clear as day. Maybe the blow to the head did more good than I expected.

"Father says the King is visiting Gariton tonight. I hope we get to see him. That could help us no-end" Marcus said in between mouthfuls of cheese and bread. Having lived off rats and stale crackers in the Chasm, just the memory of proper food set my stomach grumbling. All this time I had strived to stay alive, and I had forgotten the simple pleaures of home living.

The next bucket of water jolted me once more away from those dreams. We were moving. I was on a makeshift litter and was being hauled along the Obsidian Desert at something resembling a gentle trot. 317 was there. "400? Wake up! Reaper has sent more men after us. If you wake up, you can walk and we won't have to drag your sorry corpse all the way to wherever it is we're going!" I knew that I should get up. We were in trouble, I needed to help. I propped myself up on one elbow, but the pain in my head exploded. My vision clouded over, and once more, I was dragged down into my memories.

This time, I knew my experience wasn't going to be a happy one. I stood over a grave, the horizontal rain a perfect pathetic fallacy, reflecting my mood and the occasion. The mud was recently turned, the headstone newly planted, the roses freshly placed. The rain concealed my tears, but soft sobbing noises broke free from my throat. Marcus lay a comforting hand on my shoulder. He too had been crying. We both looked down on the grave of our father, and mourned a great man. The looming responsibility I must now accept was an ever present menace. I knew that I would----

The slap connected again, and again. "Get up!" 317 was screaming. All around me was chaos. Lazily, I took in the scene. Obvioiusly Reaper's men had caught up wih us. The Shadows were darting in and out, but too many were falling. Reaper's gang were too many, filling in the gaps left by their fallen comrades. I knew it was me they were after.

317 was hauled away, torn from my side. 344 had her in an iron grip, and with everyone else occupied, they made off, 344 bustling over several smaller men in his escape, eventually disappearing. I could see Cleave, dancing in the twilight of the Desert, Sneak beside him, his dancing partner. Where they moved, emn fell. But it could not hold out for long.

"Stop" I managed to squeak out. "STOP!". The fighting lessened, but did not stop completely. "Let them go, and I will come with you peacefully." I knew that, if they wanted to, they could kill me easily. I was in no state to fight, but they didn't have to know that. "Let them go NOW." The clashes of men lessened until eventually there was silence save for the heavy breathing of laboured men, and the beating of my heart. Cleave, Sneak and the few remaining men were given a wide berth, but they refused to move.

"400, don't do this." Cleave grumbled.

"Cleave, you know you can't take on the whole world. Its me they're after, not you. You don't have to do this. No friends, right?"

"400. Reaper will kill you. Slowly, and painfully. Let us fight for you."

"NO. Cleave, let me take care of this. If you die now, they'll take me anyway. "

"He's right" this was Sneak, calm as ever, but still obviously unimpressed. I looked for someone who could be some sort of leader for the attacking gang. There was one man, inches taller than the rest. I assumed he would hold some sort of authority.

"You. Will you agree to let them go? I will come peacefully."

He laughed at this. "Why don't we just kill them? You know we can. Then we can take you."

"Because if you kill them, I will take as many men down as I can before you can stop me. It wont be pretty."

"And you think Reaper cares about these men? He would sacrifice them in a heartbeat to take you alive."

"Fine" I replied, taking my knife from my belt. I put it to my own throat, hoping they couldn't see the fear in my eyes. If I knew anything of Reaper, which I didn't really, I knew he wouldn't want to be cheated oh my slow death. "Let them go, or I'll kill myself. Surely Reaper wouldn't be happy with this."

The man mulled it over for a while. "You're bluffing"

"Try me." The knife was trembling in my hand, but I couldn't break his gaze. One wrong move, and we were all dead.

One nod from him, and his men backed away completely. Sneak and his men took their opportunity, and slowly backed away. Cleave, however, was more reluctant. I knew he was not a man who liked to lose.

As I said my silent farewell to those I knew I would not see again, I was disarmed and bound, and led along to a certain slow and painful death.

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