The Prison Of One's Own Making

Submitted into Contest #190 in response to: Start your story with someone vowing to take revenge.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

As he stood at the graveside, Tom vowed to get revenge. He had lost his wife and child in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The driver, who had been sentenced to just two years in prison, was now a free man, living his life as if nothing had happened. 

But Tom couldn't forget the pain and the anger. He started to obsess over the idea of revenge, spending countless hours researching the driver's every move. 

One day, Tom's persistence paid off. He discovered that the driver, a young man named Logan, had been working at a local convenience store. Tom went there, pretending to be a customer, and waited until Logan was alone in the store before making his move. 

Tom pulled out a gun and pointed it at Logan. He was terrified, but Tom didn't care. He wanted Logan to feel the same fear and pain that he had felt when he lost his family. 

"You ruined my life," Tom said. "Now I'm going to ruin yours." 

The driver begged for his life, but Tom was beyond reason. He pulled the trigger. 

The gun fired, and Tom took the life of another living human being.  

Another customer who had arrived shortly after Tom called 9-1-1, but Tom was already fleeing the crime scene.  

For weeks, Tom hid from the police, but he couldn't escape the guilt and the fear. He knew that he had crossed the line and that he was now the criminal. 

In the end, Tom turned himself in, unable to live with the weight of his actions. He was sentenced to life in prison, haunted by the memory of his wife and child and the vengeance that had consumed him.  

Tom sat in his cell, alone with his thoughts. The days bled into the other, the only thing that marked time was the routine of his meals and the occasional visitor from his lawyer. But even his lawyer couldn't help him now. Tom was a murderer, and he was paying the price for it. 

As the weeks turned into months, Tom became more and more consumed by his guilt. He knew that he had taken things too far, and that he could never undo what he had done. The worst part though, was the dreams. Every night, he was haunted by the ghost of his wife and child, their faces twisted in pain and anger. 

Tom tried to tell himself that it was just his imagination, that the guilt was playing tricks on him. But he couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. 

One day, Tom received a visitor. It was the driver's wife, Jessica, who had come to see him. 

"I just wanted to thank you," Jessica said. 

Tom was confused. “Thank me? For what? 

"For freeing me from him," she continued. "He was a monster, and you took him away from me." 

“A monster?” Tom asked. He was curious what Jessica’s definition of a monster was. Tom knew he was a monster, but obviously, Jessica did not think so.  

“He wasn’t a good husband. I’m ready to admit that.” Jessica turned, pulling a tissue out of her purse. Small, delicate tears fell down her cheek bones. “He hurt me, and he hurt our son, too. I couldn’t get the courage to leave, but after our son was hospitalized for a broken arm- well, I.... I can never forgive myself for letting my little boy take the pain and suffering for me. I know I waited too long. And like I said, I’ll never forgive myself.” Jessica sniffed, wiping her eyes. “Those poor nurses, they know exactly what was going on because of my injuries. I could have escaped then, but I was weak. I begged them not to report it.”  

Tom was stunned. He had never thought about Logan’s family. He had been so consumed by his own pain that he had forgotten about the pain he was causing others.  

But in this case, his wrongful and hateful act sprouted some seed of hope? His actions that should send him to hell, made someone else’s life better?  

As the woman left, Tom concluded that he was no better than the driver he felt he had to kill. He was a monster too, consumed by vengeance.  

That night, Tom had a dream unlike any he had ever had before. His wife and child appeared to him, but this time, they were different. They were peaceful, almost serene. 

"It's time to let go," his wife said.  

Tom didn't know what she meant, but he felt a sense of relief wash over him. The weight that had been crushing him for so long was lifting. 

The next morning, Tom woke up feeling different. He didn't know what the future held, but he knew that he didn't want to be consumed by revenge anymore. He wanted to live his life in a way that would make his wife and daughter proud. 

As Tom was led out of his cell to the cafeteria, he realized that he was finally free. Not free in the way he had originally wanted, but free from the burden of vengeance that had consumed him for so long. 

The next night, Tom lay in his cell feeling better than he had in months. Some part of his heart was still shadowed by guilt, which he wasn’t sure would ever go away.  

Tossing and turning, trying to find a restful position, Tom started to dream. He dreamed of a man waiting for a train at a station. The figure turned to him, and Tom gasped. It was the man he had killed; it was Logan.  

"I've come to forgive you," Logan said softly. 

Tom couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Forgive me?" 

The man nodded. "I've come to tell you that you need to forgive yourself and move on. After I passed, I was shown what a horrible person I truly was. It’s sad to say I learned after it was far too late but, that’s what seems to happen to most of us. I don’t want that for you." 

Tom felt a weight lifted from his shoulders again, and the shadows in his soul lifted away. He had been haunted by his actions, he truly hated himself for what he had done; But now, he felt like he could finally start to forgive himself and accept Logan being taken from this life and from Jessica, and sadly, his son- was truly for the best.  

As the figure and background began to fade away, Tom knew that he had been given a second chance. He vowed to make the most of it, to live a better life and honor the memory of the man he had killed, as well as his wife and daughter’s memory.  

From that day forward, Tom upheld one of the only vows he had ever made in his life: to do whatever he could to make up for his actions, to heal the wounds and to continue to repair his soul. He dedicated his time to helping other prisoners, and trying to make a change in their lives, to help heal them, too.  

Tom passed a few weeks after his sixty-third birthday, lying in his cell having devoted every waking second after his third and last vow to his family and to Logan; as well as the hundreds of prisoners he had helped. Having repaired some of the damage he had inflicted, and finally accepting Jessica’s gratitude from her and her son, he was at last truly free from the suffering of this life. Eternity came to him easily, the long sleep of death welcomed.

March 19, 2023 05:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.