The Wall scorched the man’s hand, flooding in around his rough flesh and trapping it there for the usual sequence. The man strained as he tried to pull away from the red field, veins popping out through his fit arms.
He knew there wasn’t much time.
He could feel his hand melting into the world beyond. It was like his skin had been pulled apart from the rest of his hand, and then cooked ‘well’ until the very blood turned into its gaseous form. He knew it was an illusion, but the pain was real.
He could recall that he had passed through The Wall many times before, each time worse than the one before. He couldn’t take it anymore: the unnecessary suffering, the draining of strength, and the quickening evolution of fear. He had to escape.
“Relax,” the familiar voice said from somewhere above. “You must be cleansed.”
“Cleansed? You call this cleansing?” He asked, spitting at The Wall. “I got something to tell you, I…agh!”
The pain from the current of electricity that had just passed through him caused him to partially collapse, hanging to the wall by his locked hand. He kicked at the wall, yelling in pain as his toes broke on impact. The rubber-toed shoes were completely stripped by the kick, The red Wall appearing to shimmer with delight.
“I bet you love that!”
The man had this all planned out. He wouldn’t take any more of it. “Hey, I’ve got somethin’ to say to you,” he began, reaching down for his black bag on the floor. “It’s a little song from the old days: we’re not gonna take it, no, we ain’t gonna take it…”
He opened the bag with his free hand, withdrawing a sharp, jagged rock. He raised it above his head and brought it down upon his wrist. He screamed as the pain rippled through his body, but he kept smashing at his wrist, warm blood trickling down his arm and dripping onto the floor. He couldn’t tell if the self-inflicted pain was better or worse than that of The Wall, but it didn’t matter.
He was free.
His hand remained inside the wall, melting as it passed through at a pace slower than a turtle. He began to laugh as he dropped the rock on the ground, looking at his crushed wrist. He turned to run, tripping over his bag as he headed through the corridors. The Wall howled in anger and the ground began to shake and bend.
He had become too weak to go any further. He collapsed to the ground, trying his best to crawl. He heard footsteps and a thousand screams. He felt lost and defeated, yet also victorious and found.
“Come and take me!”
Then the man was lifted by his feet, being hauled along the floor by cold hands. “You have expired. Protocol must be initiated.”
He felt a claw to his head, then a buildup of pressure. He let his mind wander as blood dripped from his nose. His eyes bulged and his ears began to ring. For the first time in his life, he actually wanted to live. But it was too late.
“Protocol requires that I take out the trash.”
It would be the last words the man would ever hear.