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I Am a Prisoner who Dreams of Prisons

I Find No Escape in Sleep

By Kyle CejkaPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2024

The dream always starts the same: I feel the cold bite of wind gnawing through clothes entirely inadequate to protect from the weather and I realize I am standing in line. Ahead of me and behind me are other inmates, identified by the burgundy scrubs we were issued upon arrival. I don't know where we're going.

I know this place. This is The Prison Complex. I've dreamt of its bland, stone walls before, many times. Part of me knows I am dreaming, but that knowing part of me can't tell the part of me that is experiencing it that it's only a dream. I am both spectator and protagonist in a drama I can't avoid.

The chain link fences surrounding the yard make narrow corridors for us to pass through. Parallel lines painted in bright crimson stain the rough concrete, defining the path I am to walk. Stay within the red lines. Don't step outside them, your life depends on it.

Sergeant Evans–an officer who's given me trouble in the Waking–is escorting the endless line of inmates. He's only a few paces ahead of me. Will he be the antagonist this time? I wonder.

The line ahead of me dissipates, the inmates dissolving silently into burgundy mist. Striding toward me in his officer's formal blues is Lieutenant Robinson. I've always been on good terms with him. I don't know why he's on a collision course with me, but that doesn't matter; officers have the right of way, but I can't step outside the red lines! Never step out of the red lines!

I stop dead in my tracks. The knowing part of me senses the danger I'm in, but can't do anything about it. The dreaming part of me keeps his hands visible, his posture relaxed, his countenance neutral. I am not a threat.

Outside the red lines, the K-9 units materialize, their German Shepherds straining at their leashes, teeth clicking as they snap at me. They're not supposed to be so close, the dreaming part of me notes, that's how I got bit last time.

Lieutenant Robinson stops before me. He speaks, but I can't make out the words. What do I do? I can't step outside the red lines, and I can't impede an officer's progress.

I don't get to make the choice. There's a sharp pain in my side. It's begun.

The knowing part of me screams, unheard and unnoticed.

The dreaming part of me reacts. As I'm pulled to the ground by the dog, I trap its head with my arm and start punching it in the snout. I hate myself for having to hurt the animal that's nothing more than a crude tool in the arsenal of savages less noble than it.

My calf is clamped in a vice of teeth as another dog is sicced on me. Then my punching arm. They're going to tear me apart. I should have kept my mouth shut, I never should have stood up for what was right, never called out the administration for its abuse of power and now I am paying the price.

Just like that, I am standing in the chow hall; handcuffed, shackled, and leashed; displayed to the other inmates, a lesson. A warning.

I strip my clothes off and show them all my wounds.

"Look what they've done to me!" I demand of them. "You are witnesses! You know this isn't right!"

I plead for them, for any of them, to stand with me, to bear witness on my behalf and help me find justice. Not one of them stand. Not one of them will look me in the eye.

The knowing part of me remembers the many times I've dreamt of this place, of this symbol of the prisons I've lived in these past two decades, of the petty tyrannies and casual abuses heaped upon those with the will to speak out. Nobody will stand. They would rather suffer in silence than risk the few petty privileges they've accrued.

Bloodied and torn, I stand before these beaten men, feeling more alone than I ever have. The worst of it is the knowledge that the beatings shall continue, because I don't know how to surrender.

I am a prisoner who dreams of prisons, finding neither solace nor escape in the uneasy slumber in which so many of my compatriots find their only sense of freedom. In that nocturnal dreamscape I find no joy, no escape, only a different kind of suffering.


About the Creator

Kyle Cejka

Kyle Cejka is an incarcerated author whose profile is facilitated by his Wife, Cydnie. He lacks direct internet access, but is determined to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a world-reknowned bestselling author despite any obstacles.

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Comments (9)

  • Brandon Miller16 days ago

    Another amazing job brother! Well done!

  • Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • ROCK about a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! I have subscribed; "finding neither solace nor escape" ~excellent wording!

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Heartbreaking dreamland with no rest! 🥲 great story but sad facts.

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Beautifully woven Congratulations

  • TahimaAniabout a month ago

    OMG.. what a story!!! beautiful

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Well done and like it really is.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    This is so striking and well written! A captivating lonely tone rings clear.

  • Jhayden Faeranabout a month ago

    This story is visceral and dark, very well-written!

Kyle CejkaWritten by Kyle Cejka

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