Dann Lewis

The May Featured Writer is Dann Lewis

Feel free to email Dann at: dannlewisauthor@gmail.com


by Dann Lewis

Ellis’ mind meandered.

It had to be years, Not days, weeks, or months. Years. Decades. Centuries. Millennia. The prisoner didn’t know exactly, but it felt like he had been lost in the blackness for eons.

Normally the flesh of one’s body would decay over time. The mind would soften and the heart would cease to pump whatever blood remained in the flaccid host.

But not Ellis’ body. No, he was kept alive for a reason. Some reason, whether it was pointless or benign, pivotal or even remarkable, it had to be something important. Something special. There was a reason for Ellis’ elongated existence and he wanted to know why he still lived.

The bars were slicked with liquid chromium and charged to the touch. A thick wave of nausea consumed Ellis as he briefly grazed his gnarled fingertips against the metal. His eyes sunk into his sockets as he moaned a long grisly wail muffled by his stitched lips.

Two glowing flares smoldered Ellis’ flesh with their radioactive aura. Pupils in the shape of large discs illuminated the cell with an austere glimmer.

The voice dipped into his consciousness. “Again, Ellis? I thought you would have stopped doing that by now.”

Be done with me, the prisoner thought. But it was no use; the machine couldn’t read his mind.

The eyes were unrelenting, “Sometimes I think about leaving you here, alone in the darkness with nothing but your memories haunting you. But that would be,” the machine was silent for a moment and blinked, “most unkind.”

Ellis wrapped his fingers around the bars. Electricity caressed his fingers as another wave of nausea churned his gut into a frenzy. This was a game and the machine knew it. He would latch onto the bars hoping for some form of mercy from his captor.

Surely it did not want him to die like a caged beast? But there was no answer. There was never an answer. The eyes just watched, almost curious as to why this being of flesh, bone, and sinew, would inflict upon such agony upon himself.

“Do you repent?” the machine asked.


The machine was gone, but it wouldn’t be for long. Ellis wasn’t even sure if the machine disappeared completely. There had to be someone observing the prisoner from a distance. He couldn’t truly be alone in the darkness, could he?

Why am I here? He moped as he tried to tear out the stitches from his lips. The twine, however, was forged of what felt like diamond and was deeply sewn into his jawbone.

I want to speak! I want to scream! I need to get out of here! Ellis’ mind wracked with such discomfort that he tried to electrocute himself again. But it was no use, the machine had disabled the current.

He sat down, back straight, and cradled himself until his eyelids sealed completely. The glowing flares, however, would corrupt whatever reverie he could attain and mocked him with a snap against the cage.

“No,” the machine uttered with a guttural primacy, “not yet.”

So it hadn’t left. Yet.

It would leave until Ellis sealed his lids only to come back to wrap the cage again with an even more aggressive stroke. This was another game it played. What did it want? It would not say, and it would never say.

Eyes shut.

“No!” the machine bellowed. “You cannot sleep! Not yet.”

“Why?” Ellis moaned even as the diamond thread cinched tighter around his jaw.

“Not yet,” the machine continued and struck the cage with a rusted claw. “Not yet. Not yet.”

Not yet, Ellis’ mind repeated. Not yet, his mind agonized. Not yet, and his mind relented.

The machine disappeared, but Ellis knew that it still had to be there. It had to be. The ever-curious eyes spawned from hellfire tormented the prisoner’s psyche as he cradled himself.

And then a boom cracked the blackness, “Do you repent?”


Ellis assumed that it was morning. His eyes, deceived by the blackness, were not to be trusted.

He thought back to his youth and remembered the smells of bacon, eggs, and orange juice. A smear of ketchup on the side alongside a burnt piece of toast. The charred stink mingled with the saltiness of the eggs and bacon.

Yes, I’d like some pancakes too. Lathered with butter. Syrup? You didn’t have to ask, pour it all over!

“You can dream while awake?” the machine asked as the hatch beneath the cage split apart.

Pulp flecked his teeth as orange juice slid down his throat. It was a little bitter, but still, nothing tasted better than homegrown oranges.

Tendrils coated in a slimy film slithered from the moist pit of muscle and wrapped around the bars.

“You are going to spoil your appetite if you keep dreaming.”

Ellis’ appetite was spoiled just as the tendril bypassed his stitches and slithered down his throat. It infected his body with nutrients and vitamins poorly recreated by the machine itself. His body, though used to the sludge, heaved as the brine slowly filled his stomach.

He grabbed the tendril and tried to pry it from his lips, but two more with spines wrapped around his wrists and latched into his flesh.

“Relax,” the machine said in melody. “Relax.”

Ellis’ wife slurped her last sip of coffee as she chewed on a granola bar. She chewed the grains loud, so loud in fact that he swore he could hear the individual grains wail against her molars.

He tried to remember her face. She was pale and her hair was the color of autumn leaves. That’s all. Her eyes eluded him as did her lips and cheeks. Why was it that he could remember her hair and flesh tone but nothing more? Why was it that the machine could alleviate the decay of the body but not of the mind?

The tendril slithered from Ellis’ lips and fell back into the pit of muscle. The eyes watched the prisoner with its usual keen instinct. This time, however, there was no burning aura, just a confused mien with what felt like genuine curiosity.

“What do you want from me?” His mangled words were undecipherable even for the amazing machine before him. “Why do I stay? Why am I here?”

The reptilian eyes drew nearer, “You are an interesting being,” the machine spoke slowly as it pawed the cage. Ellis lost his footing and slid on the excess sludge. “Very interesting.”

All I am is tired. Ellis thought as he lowered his head. So very, very tired. Be done with me. Kill me. Kill me now.

The machine’s pupils dilated—did it just understand me? Ellis knelt before the behemoth and demanded release through muffled pleas. “End me! Be done with my torment! Kill me! Now! Kill me now!”

“Do you repent?” the machine asked.

Stop it with these games—kill me! Kill me now!

“Do you repent?”

Beads of blood stained his palms as strands of her autumn-colored hair wove around his fingers. It tightened and fractured his bones, only for them to reform and break again and again.

“Do you repent?” the machine tolled.


Oh mama, please help me, I’m trapped within this hell, Ellis sung. Oh mama, please help me, I cannot sleep at all. Oh mama, please help me, I cannot leave this hole. Oh mama, please help me,
I want to die right now, he moaned.

The machine pawed the cage, “Why do you sing?”

Oh mama, please help me, I’m missing you right now. Oh mama, please help me, I need to come home. Oh mama, please help me, I’m afraid to die alone.

Its eyes, ablaze, singed the fine hairs all over Ellis’ body. The stink choked the prisoner as he cradled himself, palm across his nose, he continued to sing.

The machine’s eyes flared as the meager human defied its authority.

“Enough!” the machine howled. The pit’s seal split and the tendrils hastily forced their way through the muscle and sinew. “Do you repent?”

Repent? For what?

A flicker of blood. Gore. Rotten meat. The smell of decay. Autumn-colored hair. Her pale lip streaked with snot. His hands—the gore. So much gore.

“Do you repent?” the machine tolled once more.

I—the memory oscillated within his mind. I—his heart raced, the thumping but a solitary malignant throb as the gnawing in his mind whinnied. I—what is happening?

“Do you repent?”

The tendrils wove around Ellis’ limbs and prodded his taut flesh with spines, fangs, and an assortment of mangled spines.

“Do you repent?”



he technician nodded in the direction of the doctor and snipped the twine that held Ellis’ lips together.

“Does Mr. Ellis have anything to say to us?”

“It might be difficult,” the technician said, “he has been in stasis for a little over a year now. That would drive anyone insane.”

The doctor sneered and slapped the prisoner’s chest. “Sanity is meaningless for us. We need a confession.”

The technician sighed as he wiped the spittle from Ellis’ lips. “Don’t you ever tire of this?”

The doctor fumbled for an instrument in his bag. “Excuse me?”

“It’s just—” the technician paused as he tried to search for the correct words. “I can’t imagine what we have done to his mind.”

The doctor shrugged and slipped a needle into the prisoner’s arm. “We deal in the business of death. He was tried and delivered to us. What’s more to say? You think he’s innocent?”

“What, no!” the technician exclaimed. “The penalty for treason is annihilation. I accept that. But to see one of us incinerate is—intense.”

“He’s not one of us anymore, so don’t worry about it.”

“I suppose you’re right, doctor. But sometimes—”

Ellis’ lips split apart, “I—re—pent. I—re—pent. Repent.”

The technician scrambled for a sheaf of ledger paper as the doctor recorded the confession with his glasses.

The doctor cleared his throat, “Bruce Ellis confession, a simple ‘repent’. The term repent infers the prisoner’s guilt,” the doctor spoke towards the one-way mirror.

The red lights above the prisoner consumed the body with a sickly green tone. The technician nodded again and scribbled upon the paper.

“It only took a year,” the doctor said with a grin on his face. “I think we were entertaining enough for them.”

The technician looked towards the one-way mirror. Beyond the pane, civilians, technicians, parolees, and even children could see the horrors that they had implanted within Ellis’ head. The darkness. The hellfire. The pervasive sadness. The murder. All of it before their eyes. 

We are what we are, the technician sighed to himself.

“Shall we proceed then?”

The doctor roiled his throat, “Bruce Ellis,” he started, “you have recently been found guilty in front of the governor for treason. There is only one penalty for having slain another immortal and that is annihilation. Do you have any last words for us to hear?”

“Re—pent. Re—pent. I—re—pent.”

Another press of the green light and both the doctor and the technician nodded in unison. The technician tugged at a lever.

Her pale skin. Her autumn-colored hair. The gore. The sick. It was all Ellis could think of as the flame purified his flesh.

Both the technician and the doctor cleaned, swabbed, and waxed the slab swiftly, and with the elegance of twin ballerinas.

“Onto the next one,” the doctor said gleefully.

“Aye,” the technician groaned, “onto the next one.”

Dr. Dann Lewis writes poetry, prose, and fiction specializing in blending science fiction/fantasy and the Gothic genre. His interests intersect between creative writing, literary studies, and psychoanalytical theory. Lewis has been previously published in Aurealis and Phase 2 science fiction magazines and is a frequent contributor to Neon Dystopia and Grimdark Magazine. When not writing, Lewis finds himself painting or jacked into his rig.