Personal Prison

This story is the result of day one of the FlashNaNo 2021 challenge. The story prompt: Write a story that takes place in the dark.


Carmen’s nightmares, although brief, caused her constant anxiety. She perceived them as realistic dreams that often generated confusion and dread. However, the reality of her dream state never left, and she remembered every detail for weeks.

As the day ended, Carmen dreaded falling asleep. She turned on the TV, grabbed the plush throw from the back of the couch, and snuggled up with the remote. She flipped through the channels and looked for something that would keep her attention for the next several hours. Maybe I’ll binge-watch a new show.

She pushed the hair back behind her ears and sipped her tea. Finally, she settled on a new science fiction show.

“This should do it.” She gave her dog Polly a loving pat on the head.

“What do you think?” Polly seemed completely disinterested, as usual.

Carmen made her best effort to stay awake for as long as possible, but sleep stole her consciousness. Polly curled up beside her.

Why are these dreams so real? She could smell, touch, and hear everything in such clarity. Then, in the next moment, she was in a different room, planted firmly on the floor. Carmen didn’t recognize the room and had no clue as to where she had traveled.

When she entered the adjacent room, there sat a woman with black eyes.  The room was dark, and she walked closer to the woman. She stood directly in front of her. The woman’s eyes appeared black because holes had taken their place. Carmen saw straight through to the other side of the woman’s skull.

Carmen’s heart pumped so hard she could feel it from the inside out.

“Who are you?” she asked the woman.

“You must see. You must try to see the light.” The woman pointed to the next room.

“What light?” The woman didn’t respond.

Carmen remained cautious as she walked to the next room. She noticed a jail cell in the right corner of the room with a man sitting on the floor weeping.

“Why are you crying?”

The man turned his head to look Carmen in the eyes and said, “I fell asleep while driving and killed my family.”

“I’m sure you didn’t mean to fall asleep, though.”

“I deserve to die,” he bellowed. “I loved them. They meant everything to me.”

Before Carmen could answer, she found herself in a different room. A woman ran to the windows and doors, checking all the locks, ensuring that the room was secure from strangers. In the center of the room sat a little girl playing with toy farm animals.

“Hello.” Carmen wasn’t sure what to say to the frantic woman.

The woman, startled, turned abruptly. “Who are you? How did you get in here?”

“I’m Carmen… I don’t know how I got here.”

“Get out.” The woman picked up the little girl and held her close. “Leave us alone.”

“Why are you locking yourself inside?”

“Because they don’t understand, and they’ll take my child away from me.”

“Who?”

“Child services… the government.”

“But, why? Why would they take her?”

“People blame me for the bruising on her arms and legs. They think I beat her, but I don’t. She has a disease. I have to keep explaining this to everyone, and I’m sick of it.”

“I’m sorry you’re going through that. Can’t they document the disease so that you don’t need to lock yourselves inside all the time?”

“It’s easier this way. I have everything delivered to me, including my groceries. The only time we go out is to her doctors.”

At that moment, everything went dark, and in one quick head-spinning movement, she sat up. Looking around the room, she understood what had happened.

What does it all mean—see the light?

Carmen read about dreams and astral projection. She didn’t believe in out-of-body experiences but did believe in spiritual messages.

“What am I supposed to learn from this? What the heck is the purpose of those visions?”

Carmen decided to go to bed, hoping to have a clear mind in the morning. She’d figure it all out then.

The following morning when she woke, Carmen had a complete interpretation of her dream. Both the man and the woman had willingly placed themselves in a personal prison.

Feeling guilty, the man put himself in an unconscious jail cell, and the woman locked her and her daughter inside their home out of fear. Both did so out of desperation.

Carmen realized that the light represented empathy and understanding. To understand someone’s situation is to show them love and compassion. Do not judge them—instead, choose to identify their needs and help them heal.

Carmen no longer hated the night. Instead, she relished her visions and set out on a path to help others understand their journeys. Finally, Carmen knew that the spiritual lessons from her dreams were designed to help those around her. So, she vowed to live a purposeful life of healing for others.

4 thoughts on “Personal Prison

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  1. I’ve not read much flash fiction, but this story resonates deeply. Many of us build these prisons inside our souls and hearts. I know that I did. I use the lessons of my journey to help others find freedom, much like Carmen set out to do at the end of your story. Bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

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