But A Dream For The Dead

Life is but a dream for the dead.


1. -


There aren’t many colours around here now. There’s grey, white, black, and maybe a splash of orange if I’m lucky, a spear of sunset amidst the crushing monochrome I’m surrounded by, but that’s really it.

Prison cells are boring places. As bland as the food they serve, and God, am I sick of the people here too. They’re all the same here- murderers, drug dealers and a whole lot more: a vicious concoction of sick, twisted and plain sadistic, cruelty rebounding off individuals like a ball against the wall in a game of squash.

But none of them are me. None of them will ever be like me.

They’re all the same because they’re guilty. That’s really the essence of it. You don’t get put on Death Row otherwise, unless you’re someone like me, who was in the right place, the right time, shooting at the right people for the right reasons.

The rest of my compadres in this neatly boxed-in walkway of damnation have all but accepted their fate. They’ve thrown their lives into the hands of the authorities, occasionally with a plea for a re-trial, but essentially let the world move on without them, waiting to find out whether tomorrow will be the day they’re awarded their final meal.

I’m not like the rest of them though- I thirst for the feel of wind on my skin, I itch for the taste of clean water and bitter apples on my tongue. I haven’t accepted my own mortality, not like the rest of them, and I’m going to ensure that I experience the real world again. I know it’ll happen, and trust me- I know things.


Daggers of icy air drag over my bare skin as I push open the door, the shrill scream of the fire alarm burning my ears. I’m nearly there. There are howls layered underneath the fire alarm’s noise- furious yells of security and prisoners that almost lurch after me like hunting hounds.

I wonder if anyone else is using the distraction I’ve created for their own benefits; I wonder if, like I did, they’ll think to clamber into an air vent amidst the bedlam erupting from every cell, sneak into the prison wardens’ changing rooms and steal myself a spare uniform. I’m almost free now: just a few more steps until I burst into the world again, like a phoenix reemerging from its own ashes.

It’s taken so long to plan, almost forever and a day, but now the time’s come, it’s worked perfectly.

I know that they’ll try to catch me- the American Government doesn’t let a killer like me slip through its steel clutches without some form of vengeance- but I know that they won’t be able to catch me either.

Don’t ask me how. I just know things.

Just like how I knew that setting off the fire alarm would trigger a riot amidst my fellow inmates, that the prison wardens would be so consumed with packing them back into the cells that the wouldn’t notice the small maybe-he’s-schizophrenic-but-his-doctors-denied-it prisoner slipping into the shadows, not making a sound. They’ve always ignored me anyway- if anything, they were relatively surprised for the person who shot up a wedding (just like Kill Bill, even though that film was always too violent for my taste) to only just be old enough to actually be sent to an adult prison in the first place. They weren’t expecting me to be so small or sickly either, but what can you say, other than not to judge from appearances.

The hotel I’ve checked into is the cheapest in the area, but even then, I was only just able to afford it from the money I took from the car I stole during my escape. It’s only a small one, nondescript- the kind that would be owned by a respectable, single man in his mid-twenties, who uses it to make his daily commute and nothing more. Inside the glove-box was a wallet containing nothing more than a few dollars in notes and a credit card, of which the pin number was 3482 (see, I said- I know things). I’ve been using that to buy myself clothes, food and shelter, but I know that soon enough it will be reported stolen and I’ll have to throw it away again.

But tonight, I’ll be fine. The Government are still no closer to finding me, although that’s no real surprise. I’m a bullet through a flock of doves, and if anyone could see me through all the flying feathers then… well, I’ll be very impressed. I’m very clever. I don’t leave trails- well, I do, but they’re all wandering off into the wrong directions, so they don’t count.

I’m camped out in the hotel room with the windows open, sipping at a glass of ice-cold water, listening to the sound of the sunset. People don’t seem to hear the music enough- blocking out the world with their earphones, drowning their sorrows in sound-waves, but never actually listening to what’s around them. It’s a shame, it really is, but I’ll admit that I’ve only bothered to listen after I made it out into freedom. The sun’s bleeding out scarlet out onto the clouds as it sinks, staining the whole world in a mute orchestra of colours. The brash ruby of the percussion, the soothing salmon of the woodwind, the murmuring tangerine of the strings.  The clouds resemble bloodied bandages. The shadows claw at the bedroom window.


It’s beautiful, being free again.


The Lucifer Effect was developed by Phillip Zimbardo, after his Stanford Prison Experiment. He wanted to know whether anyone could become evil, and so he created a fake prison, threw normal people into roles of prisoners and wardens. And he watched. And he waited.

The funny thing was that he wasn’t expecting the wardens to become so cruel so hurriedly. How quick they were to view their fellow humans as nothing more than animals.

Good people can become bad in evil situations. The Lucifer Effect.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s obvious, really. It’s to show you I am- was- at essence, a good person. I helped people cross the road, I walked my neighbour’s dog during my lunch hour. I offered donations to charity whenever I could.

But good people can become bad in evil situations, and for me, that evil situation was the wedding.

Clichés are sickening things. Boring. Almost as bad as those Mary Sue characters that are often so sweet they could give you diabetes just from reading about them.

Clichés are sickening, but that was exactly what the wedding was. Perfect in every way. Flowers lining the aisle. Birdsong trickling through the gaps in the closed door in a stream of liquid gold, sunlight tumbling through the stained glass windows and shattering into a cacophony of different colours, pouring over the heads of the waiting guests.

The bride was soaked in white and pearl, the exact same colour – or lack off, if you want to be technical- as her face when I strode through the door halfway through the ceremony. I’ve always been one for the dramatics, poised for the perfect moment to throw open the door, allowing myself a brief, satisfying grin at the stunned faces of the guests before making my way down the aisle.

The groom had said something brave; something like ‘if you’re to hurt her you’re going to have to go through me first!’ to which I immediately agreed and killed them both.

Bad situations make evil creatures of good humans.

Now, I’ll admit that what I did was bad. I know that yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But it’s not my fault.

No one knows why I did what I did. And I’m not going to explain.

I did what I did, and it’s not my fault.

That’s what I told the prison wardens whenever they checked my cell. That’s what I told the cops when they dragged me out of the church. They all scowled and muttered something about psych tests before continuing on their way. There’s nothing wrong with me, nothing some psychology test can prove anyway.

Not that any of this matters anyway.

The problem with American prisons is that they execute their prisoners far too enthusiastically. And that’s why I couldn’t let them keep me. It wasn’t my fault, so I don’t deserve to die for it.

And that’s why I ran.

I check out of the hotel the next morning, sneak into a local store and buy myself a new wardrobe. I find a truck in the carpark with a full tank and drive away before the owner’s even managed to stagger out of the door.

Now I’m driving down an endless stretch of road, the wind whispering through my hair like a promise. The hum of the engine is soft and soothing, a lullaby with no words, and I smile, because I’m finally free.

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