Part I—The Prisoner
The prisoner shook the door of solitary cell. The noise echoed only a short way down the hall to either side.
“Hello!?” The word rang out, traveling no further than the sounds of the shaking door. “Guards? Anyone?” The prisoner pleaded for a reply, for a voice, for anything to indicate he was not alone. He was sorely disappointed.
Through the reinforced window behind him there was a stunning view of a lush field. Grass and wild flowers swayed in the breeze. The field sloped down to meet with a lake lined by a sandy shore. Small waves covered the lake and lapped upon the beach. Off to the sides of the field, lusciously green trees swayed their branches in the wind. Birds flitted from tree to tree and occasionally to the ground in search of food or nest materials. The prisoner could feel nor hear any of this through the cell’s window.
The prisoner turned from the window as he heard the small slot swing open at the bottom of his door. A human had slid a food tray in through the slot. The guard stood up, his eyes peering through the barred window which was set in the door.
“Why don’t you ever speak to me?!” The prisoner’s voice was desperate as he moved toward the door.
A resounding voice boomed into the room, “Step away from the door, prisoner!”
The prisoner continued toward the door. “Look, I don’t want to cause any prob—“
A dart shot through the window and into the prisoner’s chest. The muscles around the dart immediately went numb and the feeling quickly spread through the rest of his body. “What…did…I…dooooo…?” The prisoner’s speech came slowly and slurred. By the time he finished the question he blacked out, his body slumping onto the floor.
Part II—The Escape
The prisoner awoke on the floor of his cell. The room was dark. He rolled off his back to push himself up to his hands and knees. When his body arose from the floor, the soft lighting automatically returned to the room. Massaging the back of his head, the prisoner walked to the window. It was nighttime. A full moon shined low in the sky, reflecting off the lake. The prisoner rested his hands on either side of the window staring dreamily as freedom taunted him from the other side.
From behind the prisoner, the guard’s voice called into the room through the window in the door. “Conscious prisoner is to be moved to solitary confinement. Slowly make your way over to the door.” The cell door slowly opened downward, straight into the floor, as the prisoner turned from the window.
“Solitary confinement? Are you crazy? I’m already alone in this infernally secluded cell! There’s nothing more to take away from me! I’m going insane just wanting to hear a voice or feel a slight breeze!” The prisoner’s fists clenched in anger. The guard in the doorway brought a firearm to point directly at the prisoner.
“Please refrain from hostilities.” The guard’s face remained impassive. A whirlwind of thoughts blew through the prisoner’s mind. His eyes hardened, but his fists relaxed. He deliberately calmed as he walked toward the doorway.
The guard backed up into the hallway as the prisoner approached, his eyes never leaving the approaching figure. “Please turn left and walk ahead of me down the hall.” As the prisoner exited the room, there were only a few feet separating him from the guard. Just before turning left the prisoner sprang into action.
The prisoner swept his left hand out to knock the firearm aside. At the same time he brought his right fist around in a roundhouse punch toward the guard’s face. His left hand should have shoved the gun away a split second before his right connected with the guard’s nose. To the prisoner’s surprise both hands passed completely through the guard. The guard had not even flinched. As the prisoner thought hologram?, an alarm sounded through the hall.
“Alert! Alert! Unrestrained violent prisoner in the hall! Alert! Alert!”
Left was the direction the ‘guard’ had been trying to herd him, so the prisoner looked left to see where the hall led. There was a doorway in the hall a short distance away. A door was wide open in the doorway. A couple hundred yards beyond the door was another open door. Beyond this the prisoner saw the darkness of night, somewhat lit by the moon as seen through his cell window. It was hard to be sure with all the lights on in the prison. The prisoner sprinted toward the outside.
“Initiating lockdown! Alert! Alert!”
The hallway door started to close, but the prisoner was too near and it was moving too slowly to shut him into the hall. Once through the first door he set his sights on the exit. That door was closing from the ceiling downward and it looked as if it might be moving fast enough to trap him inside the prison. With a burst of adrenaline and the fuel of desire, the prisoner raced toward the opening. His only hope set on this means of escape, he dove and rolled through the narrow gap just before the door sealed into place. The escapee found himself locked outside the prison in the darkness of night. As he struggled to control his beating heart the man scanned his surroundings. He eventually noted one confusing fact: there was no moon.
Part III—The Outside
The escapee sat outside the locked prison door. Shortly after the door closed he heard the alarm system stop halt its alerts. Fearing pursuit, the man stood up and looked for an attractive direction in which to run. In the dark he could not make out any distinguishing features on the landscape. He began a slow jog directly away from the building. Through the window he had never seen any fences or guards, so he was not expecting opposition ahead of him.
Around fifty yards away from the building, the man heard the door open behind him. Looking over his shoulder he saw a man standing in the doorway holding a flashlight. The flashlight waved back and forth as the guard stepped out afresh.
When the escapee’s endurance left him, he slowed down to catch his breath. He had traveled over quite a bit of land, maybe as much as two miles, but there were no landmarks to measure his progress. The land he had passed through was barren as far as he could see. In the dark his vision was rather myopic, but he had passed nothing that could be mistaken for a bush or a tree. There was not even grass on the ground. The earth below his feet was a type of dry, cracked soil. The air he breathed into his lungs felt more arid than he would have expected from the view out of his cell window. If it had not been for the dry, stale air he may have even been able to run a while longer.
The escapee thought it may be wise at that time to circle around and try to head for the lake. He knew he needed moisture to survive as well as needing to throw off any pursuit the guards may be assembling. Orienting himself, the direction he though he had taken, and where the lake was in contrast to his cell, the man turned to his right and started hiking at a slower pace.
Hours later the escapee was still hiking. He had still not encountered anything except dry ground. The dry air had caused him to stop and rest many times. His mouth was parched and his eyes were scratchy. He wondered, not for the first time, if he had chosen the right direction. Where was the grassy field? Where were the trees? Most importantly, where was the lake? As long as it was dark out he had only his sense of direction to work by. When morning came he trusted the light to show him the way.
Imperceptibly, the night sky began to brighten. Suddenly the man realized he was able to see a little clearer and a little farther. The ground he was on took on a reddish hue. The edges of his line of sight were still somewhat dark, but all he could see around him was dry, parched earth.
As daylight dawned and the sun poked up over the horizon the escapee had his first tinges of panic. The sun rose directly in front of him. The horizon ahead was completely flat. There was no greenery, no tell-tale signs of water, and not even any hills filling the landscape. The man turned to his right. His left. He looked back. Nothing. The man stood in the middle of a completely flat terrain. There was no indication, other than his own footprints, of where he had come from; the jail had been left far behind. There was no indication of the luscious views he had seen from his cell window. There was no hint of anywhere to take refuge from the sun that was already warming the dry air.
The ex-prisoner was lost, confused and quickly dehydrating as he began to realize the complete perfection that made up the punishment for his crimes.