Certainty's Deceptions

Written in response to: End your story with a character standing in the rain.... view prompt

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Fiction Suspense Thriller

Sunlight’s glare stood fiercely before Dario, awaiting his presence like some long forgotten creature in a nightmare, yet this nightmare was not merely a distinct dreamscape, but reality. 

Staring defiantly at the sphere of infernos scorching his retinas, Dario inevitably questioned as to why he was still alive. Such drastic reasoning did unfortunately have validation due to Dario’s frequent convergences with death itself, yet it appeared time and time again that the hands of fate had clutched his life from the depths of hell and brought him back to the begrimed realm of the living.

Nonetheless, Dario continued his dispiriting life, wishing on a daily basis for something more than his current meander of misery.

Dario strolled through the desolate streets of Mudmore, a long forgotten town disheveled via the effects of a disconsolate drought, as he began to plan his pilgrimage, at least seven steps ahead at all times. Dario had chosen Mudmore as his current ‘headquarters’ due to its rather unknown nature, residing in a long forsaken corner of the Earth. 

As he sauntered amongst the pavement, an unwelcome glare happened to catch his eyes as he acknowledged a certain scintillate upon the horizon. However as he approached the glimmer the truth suddenly dawned upon him; what he thought was a horizon was truly a prison. The prisoner was Dario.

In a frantic daze he drove a serrated steel axe directly into the ‘horizon’, and shattered the barrier, freeing himself from his bonds and enabling a new meaning of freedom in his misbegotten life. 

And then he woke up.

After more years than he could count of being locked up in the augmented reality jail known to most as Fort Hallowdale, he finally understood that his mind was the true culprit of his failures, even virtual failures in a virtual jail with virtual hopes of emancipation.

It seems that explanations are in order. 

Seven years ago on the dawn of a new day, Dario stumbled into the streets of London; no more different than the other hundreds of times he had done this before. This was of course except for the fact that unbeknownst to him, a dangerous fugitive was at large pillaging bourgs as far as the eye can see, and unfortunately such a fugitive shared a distinct quantity of features as Dario. These features consisted of the same hair, scars, tattoos, facial features, clothes, etc…

If it was not already obvious, Dario was the criminal. His punishment may have been deserved, (three hundred and forty seven years in virtual jail), yet he still felt a surge of betrayal from deep within as he blankly stared at the ‘walls’ in a perplexed state of unknowingness. Unknowing whether what he was staring at was truly ‘there’ or if his mind was once again denouncing his vision.

Before he could continue his notions on truthfulness, a stentorian shriek struck down throughout Dario’s eardrums as he fell to his knees in dismay. The familiar tolling of the alarm arose as yet another prisoner had perished after attempted escape, further reminding Dario of the supposed inescapability of his dual dimensional jail.

However this proposed ideology was far from reality. Far from reality as a result of the concealed file stashed away in the underbelly of the circuitry, allowing a momentary ripple in the illusions of materiality.

It was in these brief ripples when hope seemed like more of an obtainable goal as opposed to an unachievable concept of imagination. These brief ripples when Dario could almost imagine the light of day, the sound of the sea, the waving of the tree branches. These brief ripples when the conception of an escapade was at hand.

These brief ripples were Dario’s only connections to that of both hope and the outside world.

As Dario ventured the imaginative hellhole constructed from the darkest of prison executives’ minds, he once again acknowledged the ripple; this time positioned exactly where he was heading; an archway of terra firma and boulders highlighting the rays of suns reaching out to like a mother’s arms to a newborn.

It was at that very moment of imaginary bliss when prison officials decided to arrive, providing Dario with his first human encounter in seven years, and his last moment of bliss for the next three hundred and forty.

As Dario was dragged away by his sleeves he experienced reality for the first time in seven years; a deceitful realm always taking and only giving when it gives both agony and treachery.

Finally reaching his destination, the enforcers slammed Dario to his knees and began the questioning stage, demanding how the file came to be within the circuitry. Regrettably Dario had little to say about the file’s origin, but what he did have to say was an assortment of expletives to spew instinctively at his interviewers. 

As expected he received the penultimate punishment before capital, that being the ‘Scourge Sanctum’. In layman’s terms, the proposed sanctum was a once again virtual aspect of the prison, yet this time it stood to be a perpetual state of lashings coming from all angles and hitting almost all angles, yet this was only the first stage.

Stage II, being in parallel with stage I, consisted of the cumulative pain of tarantula hawk stings, increasing tenfold for every year of sentence passed within the sanctum. With the sentence’s length depending entirely upon the severity of one’s crime, Dario had landed an inordinate twenty-three years of agony as a result of the breach of the ‘Illusionary Punishment Directory’.

Sickening courses of shaking suddenly struck through Dario’s body as those numerical integers nestled into his mind. Twenty-three years. That is approximately twenty-two years longer than it takes for the average human’s mind to breach the idea of insanity.

However insanity was not for Dario.

A secondary shriek fell from the ceiling, yet this one was not that of the prison’s. Dario himself manufactured this one solely and painfully. Well, not truly solely and painfully, and not truly Dario for at the time of his capture, Dario’s closest and now deceased companion, Olen, had rigged Hallowdale’s security mechanisms, allowing a singular moment of serenity at a singular point within the first 10 years of Dario’s service. 

A seemingly inconvenient time, yet a window of opportunity nonetheless.

In the midst of the confusion among both security and convicts, reality struck Dario like an anvil as he arose to his feet in a seemingly lost sense of supremacy as he dove past the guards, breaching the security barriers and arriving at the block of cells…

Without a breath of hesitation Dario began unlocking the cells one by one as a result of the malfunctioning defensive mechanisms, ensuing mass pandemonium within the fort’s crumbling structure.  

As brawls arose between guard and prisoner, Dario seized his literal once in a lifetime moment of freedom and scampered for the exit like a rat in a maze.

Finally colliding with the exit in a state of both awe and exhaustion, for the first time in seven years, Dario felt the rain slide down his face in a moment of true ambrosial gaiety. 

September 19, 2021 17:15

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2 comments

Jude S. Walko
01:31 Sep 23, 2021

James what a great story! This post-apocalyptic setting was so aptly and meticulously described, with just the write adjectives and word choices, that it really set an amazing tone in which the story began. I really love this concept that the prison is mostly constructed in the prisoner's mind, and that it can be perceived in the mind even way longer than is physically possible. It becomes a sort of purgatory and living torture chamber like hell. Be careful what you imagine, as this may someday become a reality. A half real, half-virtual ...

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James Holgate
15:11 Sep 23, 2021

Thank you so much for the kind words it really brightens my day to receive feedback on my work, and yes feel free to use the name whenever it pleases you! :)

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