When I woke up they were all dead. Every damn last one of them.
The first thing to hit me was the smell—the sweet, rancid stench of unholy death. I vomited almost immediately upon waking, but only stomach acid came up. The air was so thick with death I could barely breathe; my lungs felt like I’d inhaled sticky tar. Only, it wasn’t tar I coughed up. My mouth filled with a metallic tasting glob of coagulated blood. I don’t think it was my blood, though.
It took me some time to regain my composure and acclimate to the putrid odor. Once I did, I was able to take stock of my surroundings—not that there was much to see. I was lying down on the unforgiving metal springs of a prison cot. There was no mattress or pad of any kind. I was closed in on all sides by rust colored concrete walls, with the exception being a metal mesh covered window and the entrance side blocked by solid iron bars. There was a jagged pipe protruding out from the cracked concrete floor. I assumed it was once connected to a metal prison toilet.
On the other side of the iron bars was an unending blackness. I stared into that darkness for a long time, like I was hypnotized by it. I swore I could see shadows moving through the black void like demons dancing at the entrance to hell. There was a dim red light bulb flickering overhead; it was the only light—casting an eerie crimson hue throughout the cell. That was it. there was nothing else to see… at first.
I attempted to sit up but I didn’t have the energy. I hadn’t thought to give myself a once over, and when I finally did I was horrified by the sight. I was completely emaciated. My body had withered away to almost nothing. I was drenched with sweat and felt very cold. More startling, my left leg was gone below the knee; the stump was raw and oozed a puss so thick it had the consistency of cottage cheese. I almost threw up again, but there was nothing in my stomach.
All I could do was stare into that hopeless darkness. I had no idea what was coming for me, if anything. At the time I truly believed I had been locked in there and forgotten about. But then, in a sudden horrid flash, I was confronted with my fate. As I stared into the darkness behind the bars, the overhead fluorescent lights began to flicker with life—the only thing I could call life as they illuminated a mound of dismembered, decayed, almost unrecognizable pile of human bodies. I was instantly frozen with fear.
I had no idea how I had come to be in that place of misery. And to be honest, I’m not sure how accurate my recollection of that time is. I fell in and out of consciousness many times after I first awoke in that nightmarish cell. The two things I am absolutely sure never to forget, though, is that overpowering stench of death, and the moment I first laid eyes upon those dead bodies. The lights were only on for a brief moment before shutting back off and casting my world into darkness once more.
Shortly after that I passed out. I’m positive I had a fever due to the infection in my leg. When I awoke again I was nearly blinded by an intense white light. At first I thought I had died and was at the gates of heaven, but deep down I knew after the life I’d lived that luxury wouldn’t be bestowed upon me. I’d lived a life filled with drug abuse and violence. I was a bad man. Hell, I’ve been bad since birth. My poor mother didn’t survive the process of ridding my cursed being from her body. There was no way I could ever get into heaven.
When my eyes finally adjusted to the light I realized I was in an operating room. My head was stuck in place and the only part of my body I could feel or move was my eyeballs. There was a faint dripping sound in the distance but nothing else. I was alone.
For some reason I wasn’t scared of what was happening to me. I wasn’t even curious as to where I was or why. The only thing I was worried about was that dripping sound. It was driving me mad!
I was trapped in that room for what felt like an eternity—strapped to an uncomfortable, hard gurney under a blinding white light. I had lost all sensation below my waist and assumed I was either paralyzed or had lost circulation to my lower half. I figured both issues were possible due to the near gangrenous state of my left leg. Of course, I was unable to look down to be certain. How long I endured that torture I couldn’t say, for my memory was corrupted by the unrelenting dripping in the distance. It was all I could focus on—to the point I didn’t even feel as if I were in my body any longer. At some point I found myself teetering on either side of sanity. I prayed death would take me, but it never came…
If you want to try your hand at finishing this story, send your work to email@example.com in the form of a word doc or PDF. Make sure to put ‘A Prison For One’ in the subject line.