Tag Archives: prism sentence
This is a continuation of Prism Sentence. I’m not sure, yet, where this is going, if indeed it is going anywhere, but then that’s part of the fun. Again, this is based on a prompt from BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday: “Light Reading.”
Octavian lifted a hand to his face and noticed that his own arm was draped in layers of dark fabric, the same that covered the inhabitants moving around him. He grabbed the nearest passing figure and jerked back its covering.
A rounded, tortoise-like head blinked up at him before the creature shoved him back with a short, but powerful, arm. It shrugged the covering back over its head and wandered off at a faster shuffle than before.
Again Octavian was aware that the world moved while he remained still. When the tortoise-man shoved him, it shoved itself, and its surroundings, off of him. He took a step back and nearly lost his balance. The movement felt strange, but he could not remember why.
He pushed the ground under his feet until he shifted it to the nearest doorway. The place had the appearance of a public building, drab with dirt, but decorated in elegant, carved scrolls and fern fronds. It was familiar.
His light came in contact with one wall, and as it did, it shifted into a sconce.
Octavian paused to stare at it. He took a step sideways. The light traveled along the wall in pace with him.
With a shaking hand, he opened one of the large doors and bolted inside. The light followed, silently, now matching the interior fixtures, glass flowers hanging from spiked chains. It was farther over his head, but the increased distance made matters worse. He knew it was present, but could no longer watch it without craning his neck.
The room he entered was a quiet, open gallery with a floor of dark granite, polished to a mirror-like shine. One of the fabric-draped figures was slumped at a long central desk, its back rising and falling slowly, as if in sleep. Octavian ran forward until he hit a flight of stairs, then pushed the whole world down with each step. His feet echoed loudly. When he reached a landing several flights up, he paused.
His instincts were screaming for him to jump off the balcony. Will the world move when I don’t touch it? Or will I move in it?
He was over the railing before he had time to think, but the space below made him pause. A soft creaking sound drew his attention and he saw his light sway above him, just barely.
It cast a strange shadow and, turning, Octavian saw the shrouded desk-keeper moving up the stairs. It didn’t shuffle like the other creatures had. It didn’t move as if it had feet.
He released the railing and fell. The stairs rushed past. When the floor hit him, he felt an impact, but not much pain. A bright burst enveloped and blinded him.
Sight returned gradually. Sparks popped across a dark field, then they shifted into dim fireflies, drifting about on either side. For a long time that was all he could see until, looking up, he found a silhouette of evergreens framing a patch of sky barely lighter than black.
A whispering sound caused him to look over to his left. A firefly, about the size of a grapefruit, was sitting on the ground beside him.
He tossed a handful of pine-needles and dirt at the thing. It flicked its wings, but otherwise did not seem to care.
Anger outpaced his terror and he rolled over and tried to smash the insect with his fists. But touching it filled him with burning pain that centered on his heart and flowed through his whole body. He collapsed, writhing until the feeling abated and he lay still, breathing hard.
Aula pursed her lips as she studied the read-out from Octavian’s prism. Then she laughed.
“I win!” she scooped up the small pile of coins sitting on the table. Her companion, Sertor, groaned and put his feet up on his desk.“Dammit. The cocky ones’re usually too cowardly to try that for days.”
“This one’s gutsy, I’ll say that for him, but he won’t try it again any time soon.”
The voice of Secunda, the on-duty Oneirologist, crackled through the intercom. “Aula, you need to even out prismer seventy-one. At this rate, you’ll give him a stroke.”
Sertor rolled his eyes, but Aula obediently fiddled with her controls, tweaking the light through Octavian’s prism.
“She’s new.” Aula shrugged. “Scared of having an accident on her watch.”
“Maybe I’ll leave his record on her desk. A little light reading might give her some perspective.”
“You didn’t read it?”
Aula twitched. “You know how I feel about personality violation. If I’m going to do my job, here, I’d rather not have the details.”
“Fair enough. He’s a dear.” Sarcasm drenched the last three words. “So, when do I get a chance to win my snack-money back?”
“Hm. Well, what’s your newest prismer up to?”
Sertor glanced over at the read out of one of the prisms under his charge. “Not much. She must be worn out after that chase-dream.”
“Ok. If yours gets going first, you get your money back. If mine does, you’ll watch all the prisms while I take a nap.”
“Any parting words?”
Octavian glared at the ceiling and did not reply. The Lightkeeper pulled the final strap tight around his arms, then stepped back, out of sight.
“For the crimes of dream-theft, subconscious manipulation, and personality violation, you are hereby sentenced to ten years in Prism.”
Ten years. That number was bad enough, but in Prism, time was a variable. Once released, most of its inmates claimed to have wandered for hundreds of years, being pulled from dreamscape to dreamscape, nightmare to nightmare. They would have no more stomach for dream-crimes. Most were afraid to go to sleep, afterwards, and had to be drugged.
Octavian closed his eyes. Soon, the motion would have no effect. There is no closing one’s eyes in a dream.
He heard the first switch flip, and on instinct, opened his eyes again. The doors beside him slid back and he could see the Prism, it’s sharp edges just catching the ambient light. It was such a small thing, about the size of a grapefruit.
The second switch ticked over, and he was bathed in fractured light.
At the sounding of the third switch, nothing happened. He lay there, waiting.
Had he been reprieved? Had his lawyer caught, last minute, some mistake made by the prosecution?
“Hey, you bastards? What’s going on?”
The rainbow flickered. He looked at the Prism again, and his whole body tensed. It wasn’t a prism anymore. It was a lamp, an old gas-lamp with a blue flame in it. He shuddered. The light frightened him.
Without thinking, he sat up. A faint memory crossed his mind. Hadn’t he been strapped down?
But then it was gone. The light flickered again. The lamp had changed into a globe dangling from a curving stalk. It pulsed, bright, dim, bright, dim, as if it were breathing.
Octavian could feel his grasp of time slipping. The lamp had changed. It had, hadn’t it?
A sound came from the darkness on beyond. He stood up and made his way towards it. The light followed, and as he moved it changed again. Now it was a brazier filled with glowing coals. He took a few more experimental steps and realized, to his horror, that he was not moving. When he walked, it was the space around him that moved by him and his inanimate companion.
Dawn, or something like it, broke across the horizon and he watched the first dreamscape unfold itself. He was in a city, streets wet and shining from a recent downpour, air heavy with the humidity. His light-fetter shifted with the surroundings, blending in as an unassuming electric street-lamp.
People, or at least he thought they might be people, shuffled to and fro, backs bowed, heads low, all hidden under layers of dark fabric. One of them bumped into him, mumbled something that might have been an apology, and stumbled on.
Octavian closed his eyes. Nothing changed.