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The devil throws me into a sealed cell. Frightened, I look over my new home, my eyes roaming from the thin rusted bars back to empty stone walls and ceiling. Within the concrete confines of the room, I find that everything I have ever had has been taken away from me except for my past and future.
“How long must I endure this?” I cry in despair.
“Long enough,” my future answers sadly, looking down towards the ground. When I look over my future, a deep feeling of dread fills my soul. With darkened hungry eyes and wild un-kept hair, my future appears to embody a more animalistic version of myself. Red scars cover his chest, and a blackening bruise shadows his left eye.
“Is this what I must become to survive?”
“History always repeats itself,” my past answers in a hopeless murmur. I look curiously over my past-self, over the copy’s clean features and somewhat well-kept appearance.
“We’re not so different,” I whisper, eyeing my mock reflection. The doppelgänger looks down sadly before sitting against the cracked floor of the cell.
I look the other way, back to my future, watching the being gaze quietly outside the bars. Beyond the rusted iron, a deep darkness wavers indefinitely beyond. Knowing that what my future holds, I peak out the cage as well, my sight vanishing into the un-observable abyss.
Eventually I look away from the bars just as my past looks out.
Neither food nor water comes to us, yet we find we can live without it. None of us sleep either; we continue on in one unbroken stream of consciousness.
What feels like years tick by, filled with a hollow existence in this hellish box. Hunger and thirst become a permanent fixture of this new life, and I find myself unable to recall a time before this continual agony.
I pace the cell repeatedly, tearing at my hair and striking my head against the wall. My appearance gradually approaches that of my future but never quite manages to surpass his disheveled facade. Simmering with frustration, I grit my teeth while watching my past, hating how clean he looks and how calmly he waits, not having yet reached my own level of desperation.
“Damn it,” I curse, clawing at the barren concrete walls. My fingernails file down harmlessly against the stone. No matter how hard I try, I cannot leave any mark against our cage, only upon my own body.
Grappling with my own boredom, I turn to my past. When I look over it, a sickening lurch of envy overcomes me; the clone already shows less sign of decay than me. I fight back tears, looking over my past and realizing how far I’ve already fallen.
“It only gets worse,” my future growls, and as I look over my disfigured future I know that it speaks the truth.
I lay down on the floor. Is this all there is now? Is this the world?
My eyes wander wearily over the familiar sights of the room. It hurts more to gaze at my past than it does to my future, I conclude as I stare at my past, despising everything about its presence. Trying to distract myself from its disgusting form, I scratch my nails down my chest.
It feels good to feel.
Eventually the physical pain numbs, as it always seems to. I consider digging deeper to find the hurt but realize that would only serve to desensitize myself; I need to let my tolerance fade first.
I wait impatiently in an attempt to reach sobriety from my self-bloodlust. My fingers dance idly along the iron bars, desiring any motion at all to break my monotony. Inevitably, my attention turns towards the other two who dwell within the box.
My eyes pass silently over my future leaning against the wall, and I wonder how closely my own invisible image mirrors its.
Before my future, my past sits against the iron gates of the room.
Watching its clean skin and clear eyes, a knot forms in my stomach. My sickness worsens with each easy breath it takes.
Why can’t I be like him?
Why can’t he be like me?
Moving slowly, I cautiously approach my past. It doesn’t react much as I near; we’ve all grown quite accustomed to each other’s constant presence.
As it looks vacantly into the room, I stalk up next to it, mocking a thoughtful gaze into the outside. I bide my over-abundance of time, looking over my past with contempt.
I want it to hurt.
I grab my past’s head, slamming it into the cold metal bars. My past recoils away, crawling feebly over the dirty floor, too dazed and exhausted to protest against its fate.
Enraged, I fling a fist down into my past’s skull, sending a spray of blood and drool flinging through the air. I quickly straddle my incapacitated past and wrap my filthy hands around its clean little neck. It manages to swing a blind elbow into my left eye. To respond, I clench its wind pipe shut, squeezing tight until I can feel its breaths fade into stillness beneath me.
With an exhausted cry, I fall off my past’s lifeless body and tumble to the floor. As I try to catch my breath, the corpse fades into shadow, disappearing out into the emptiness beyond the cell. I stare quietly, relieved to be free from my past. My future only watches with detached curiosity, saying nothing.
We sit quietly in the cell for some time, until the devil returns.
“I brought you a friend,” the devil smiles, pushing a new life-form into the room. I gawk at the new being, seeing an even more decayed, ghastly image of my future.
“Who is that?” my future asks with clear fear as I bow my head in defeat. The devil answers with a smirk:
“Why, present, this is your future.”