The Prison
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He didnít have much of a chance, he knew, but he had to give it a try. He had been lying in the suffocating darkness for so long that the concept of time had no relevance for him. He couldnít even recollect the precise instant when the dim stirrings of dream and sensation had coagulated into a tiny knot of consciousness which had then grown larger and larger, slowly, until he had recognized at last the incredible situation he was in. Even now he was unable to formulate his thoughts coherently, but he knew that he must try to get out immediately, because the hostile forces were growing stronger.

Even as he resolved to make a last desperate attempt, the plastic walls of darkness began to squeeze him again. They started at his heels, and he could feel the pressure growing in intensity and violence as it traveled up his body. Furiously, he kicked back. What did they want with him? What had he done? He kicked again, and he could feel the walls yield a little at the point of his blow, but the constriction continued undiminished elsewhere and everywhere else until he felt as though he were about to strangle. Points of light danced in his closed eyes; he began to lose consciousness again. Great, furry spheres rolled across the roof of his brain soundlessly. And then he was at the head of a great pit, looking downward into nothing while nothingness receded farther and farther into darkness.

  
 
He was at a great height when he fought back to awareness and began clawing at his prison. A scream rose in his throat, but he gagged on it as another convulsion wrenched him.

It was too strong. When at last it let up for a moment he lay trying to breathe, trying to think and having little luck at doing either. Another one like that and it would be the end. Whatever he did, he had to make up his mind soon, for he could feel the temblors in the walls, the warnings of another seizure.

And then he had it -- of course! The trick, if it would work, was not to fight it, but to go with it. He knew that there was pressure forward as well as constriction. When the next one came....

He could feel it beginning already. Frantically, he pulled his knees up into his belly and tensed. He pressed his hands into the walls with steady pressure and waited. He would have to time it perfectly -- about the time the constriction reached his hips, he thought.

Suddenly, the force was upon him. It took him like a great tide of blackness, and it was so strong and quick that he nearly missed his chance.

He pushed as evenly as he could with his feet. His hands and arms, even as they began to double in with the effort, strained to push him forward. The blood raged in his temples. He drew his legs up as best he could and began to push again -- his wrists began to hurt, and the pressure of the walls against his body turned into agony. His throat felt about to burst. It was no use -- no use at all. He sensed a darker blackness moving upon him and he knew it would take him this time.

But then he saw the light -- not a dancing speck, but a blur. He tried to roar, to take a deep breath and roar, but the light began to fade again, and another great movement took him violently. This time he fought viciously, kicking forward and raking with his nails.

Still, the light faded until it was lost. He screamed. The light appeared again, became a blur, and then a steady radiance. Exhausted, when the doctor -- although he didnít know it was a doctor -- held him up by the feet and slapped him, he knew he had made it.

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