The island was exactly 50 paces across. Not so strange in itself, except that it didn’t seem to matter which direction Seth went in or what size steps he used, the land always ran out on that 50th step.
He wriggled his toes in the clear water and looked up at the sky. It was almost noon and time for the weekly food drop off. Lately he had admitted to feeling almost excited at the thought of company. But he also knew that with each encounter came a curious sort of emotional hangover which had become harder and harder to shift.
‘Sentenced to solitary confinement for heinous and unforgivable crimes,’ Seth winked, ‘I mean, come on you have to admit it has a nice ring to it.’ There was no one around to agree with him, but he laughed anyway. He’d found that talking to the empty sea made more sense than talking to himself. What he wouldn’t give now for the flash of silver fish, the music of birds… even a tree to hug. But there was nothing else on this damn island, nothing. There was just Seth.
In those first few months he’d been so angry, throwing himself into escape plans and building life rafts out of his torrid dreams. But the truth was that there was nowhere to run to, not even death. And when that desperate day finally came, the same sea that had offered him oblivion had just washed him ashore, broken and screaming with rage. He sighed, it was obvious now that his anger had at least been something meaningful, because it was the damn fading of it that had finally shipwrecked him on this wasteland of sanity.
The familiar grating noise that tasted of lemons and made his ears pop, pulled him from his thoughts. He took a deep breath and turned, knowing there was no time for his usual contrived politeness, ‘When I stepped through the gate, and I crossed the border into this world, I knew that the killings would stop. But, but I didn’t think, I didn’t expect, that it would be…’ He looked up at the shape, hiding in the shadows.
‘You didn’t expect it to be you?’ the dark figure swapped the empty packet of food tablets for a full one before turning away.
‘Wait,’ Seth scrabbled forward, ‘can’t I at least have another jailer? Someone less…’
‘Familiar,’ Seth gave a jovial little shrug.
‘You’re the crime, the carrier and the final sentence,’ the figure said, ‘That’s whole the point of this place. You decide your own fate and then you enforce it.’
Seth fought against the urge to make a break for the open door, this was the one brief moment of interaction left in his world of isolation and he wasn’t going to waste it, ‘At least tell me how this 50 paces thing works?’
‘It works because you’re cruel.’
The door had begun to count down, there were only a few seconds left, ‘Come on, give me a clue at least?’
‘Look at what’s fixed,’ the figure said, stepping through the fading door.
Seth sank down onto the sand, ‘Of course, it’s the damn number that is fixed, not the pace.’ And there it was, his punishment laid out for him in the plainest of terms. One pace for each year on the island. And the lengths he went to in order to change that were irrelevant.
He couldn’t help feeling a flicker of admiration. The nature of the torment was slow burning and brutal. There was no doubting it now, the person who had designed this prison was a real arsehole.
This story came out of a conversation with the lovely and wildly talented, Matthew over at Twisted roads of madness . He had just posted a 50 word story based around a prompt, and his creation, Border, was so brilliant that I couldn’t wait to read the expanded version. Instead of dropping everything and immediatly penning a masterpiece as was my want, Matthew suggested that I too could write an extended version based on his 50 word story. What a meanie eh?
You can read Matthew’s expanded story here