The Glass Box

I wake up to the harsh fluorescent lights flipping on, scorching my eyes. Rubbing them back into function, I groan and roll onto my stomach. Mind still foggy, I dramatically shove my pillow on top of my head. Trying to get one more blink of sleep, I press my eyes shut to the point of a migraine. In a suspiciously timed fashion, I hear the knocks of, most likely, grimey little children on the glass windows surrounding me. The constant banging creates a tune in my head, slowly drowning me in my own agony. I begrudgingly roll over and throw the flat pillow on the floor. The cheaply made bed squeaks with any movement made. 

A slam on the window makes me shoot up in bed. I frantically look around trying to see where that noise came from. I see a uniformed man glaring at me from the glass. He shakes his head in a disappointed manner and yells out of his stupid megaphone,

 “Wake up time was thirty minutes ago. I know you are newer around here, but you dirty little inmates need to abide by my rules. You know the consequences.”

Putting my head down, I slowly nod in agreement. The crowd surrounding the glass had slowly multiplied, getting drawn in by my shame. Some chuckle while others allow an ounce of sympathy to flicker across their face. But then it all returns to normalcy. Kids with their curious eyes peering into my life. Watching my every move. I pace around the room slowly. One foot in front of the other, staring at the floor. The couple dozen eyes on me burn holes in my skin. 

One, two, three, four. Wall.

One, two, three, four. Wall.

Four steps. My entire life is secluded in a four step by four step box. Its full glass walls offer me no privacy. The outhouse-like bathroom is all I have. My safe space. The one place I can go and truly not be seen. I can still hear the chattering and laughing from the outside. The modern slang that I will never care to understand. The outlandish clothing the Futures wear. As a Former, wearing the intricate, flashy clothing they give me makes me uncomfortable. How I would love to wake up and change into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. But I’m forced to put on a show. My whole life is a show. 

I got sentenced on October 12. And since then, my days have been identical. Get awoken by brutally bright lights and terribly loud tourists. Spending my day pacing the room. Staring out into the crowd of strangers that are captivated by my existence. Getting fed food that should be illegal to give to a human. Then tossing and turning in bed for hours, waiting for the darkness. 

Accepting how I got here was the hardest thing I have had to do. Laying in bed staring at my ceiling. The stark white in contrast with the black rimmed lights. Accepting responsibility. Accepting myself. 

My trail of thoughts was rudely interrupted. A knock at the only door in my cold glass box snaps me back to reality. I yell 

“Yeah?!” questioning why anyone would think it’s ok to interfere. 

“Breakfast is here!” A cheery young voice yells.

“You can come in,” I say as though I even have a choice. 

Skin as smooth as an untouched body of water. Hair silky and the perfect shade of blonde. Carrying a tray displaying my delicious meal of unflavored oats and a single orange. Unsliced. But right now I am not focused on this terribly bland food. My eyes are fixated on the beautiful woman in front of me. Her eyes shimmer in the natural light that peaks through the door. Her perfectly structured face offers me a pitied, fake smile. Sighing, I thank her quietly and close the door behind her.

As I am closing the door, I feel the fresh air from outside and can’t help but take a deep inhale. This air chokes me. The extremely polluted air is nothing like the crisp air from my present. The past. The futures have destroyed our already suffering environment. Artificial trees are planted in an attempt to raise oxygen levels. 

I almost pity the Future’s. Children growing up with nature only being a thing in textbooks. Them researching the 2010’s, learning about real plants and how we have things like beaches. Not the tacky, fake beaches I learned they now manufacture. The joy of standing in the sand, feeling the real ocean water cooling off your legs. I almost pity them. Almost. 

It’s hard to pity your enemies. I was sent to this year as a punishment. And it was the smartest punishment anyone could have created. These insufferable humans create a sense of appreciation for my Former friends. How I miss going on runs on real grass. Meeting up with my friends for a simple breakfast. The regret is like a stab in the stomach. Dreading the fact that I always craved the extremes in life. Spending large, always on the next crazy adventure, to experience at least a sense of happiness. Now I don’t even get to experience the simple pleasures of life. 

Forcing myself to eat the only food I’m guaranteed for the day. Choking down the dry oats. I look up from my food and notice a familiar face. An older lady wearing a silky gown, carrying her lavish purse. She gives me a sad smile. She visits almost daily. I believe she has at least a sense of empathy for me. Maybe I am overthinking it, but she shows more emotions than most do on their plastic filled faces. She appears more natural than the rest. And not in an offensive way. In a comforting, appreciative way. Her face gives me a sense of safety. Normality in a world that is anything but normal for me. 

The three teenagers standing next to her right give me dirty looks. One tall, blonde boy looked me up and down in a disgusted manner. I can never tell if they are judging due to my prisoner status, or because I’m from a century before them. As someone born in 2002, being sent to 2304 created a cultural barrier. I don’t share the same mannerisms as them. No surgery done to alter my appearance. No full body tattoos. Even my hair texture lacks the waxy element they all have. 

My lack of freedom only gives me two options. I can sit all day, being on display in the human zoo. Or I can figure out a way to communicate with Dr. Williams. When the decision was released that I was one of the Formers chosen for this experimental imprisonment situation, he wrote me a letter. It read


“Dear Unfortunate Recipient of this Letter,

Hello, My name is Dr. Williams of Lordsburg, New Mexico. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. But I have something you want. The ability to escape the situation you were just assigned to. 

You may be confused about some things, most are. The Future’s lack communication skills and won’t be much help explaining things to you. Each year, 10 people are chosen randomly, from the pool of new inmates. You are one of the lucky 10! No but on a serious note, you are anything but lucky. You will be sent to the year 2304, 284 years into the future. You will be put on display, along with the other 10 inmates. In the simplest way possible, you will be placed in a human zoo. You will have no freedom, no choice but to spend everyday alone.

Now for the good news. I have an out. Now it’s not going to be easy or simple by any means. But it gives you the chance to reset your life. The chance to start your life off right. But the kicker is that you will be sent back 5 years prior to your sentencing. You will get the opportunity to fix your mistakes and create a life for yourself. 

Here’s the plan: 

  1. Every night the guards go on break for 15 minutes at approximately 0100. On September 14 at this time, you will leave your box through the vent on the ceiling that you will pry off with the crowbar I have left under your mattress, below the 3rd wood plank. 
  2. Once you escape, keep low. Duck behind the doors and any solid infrastructure you see. Make your way towards the main warehouse. Unfortunately, I won’t know which box you were assigned to. Follow the red “flowers.”
  3. Go around the back of the warehouse avoiding the main doors where guards will be posted at all times. Once there, you will notice a padlock with a touchpad.
  4. Activate the touchpad and use the code “XF972S5D” and pull.
  5. Enter the doors making as little noise as possible. Once inside, try not to freak out. You will know what I mean once you arrive. 
  6. Go right, toward the clear tube where I will be located.

Don’t get caught. Best of luck.




I have read this letter daily. Going back and forth between my decisions. When I first arrived and read this letter, I was completely against it. Everytime I would re-read it, I got this twisted, sick feeling in my stomach. Now it gives me butterflies of excitement. I have been counting down the days on a little scribble pad they gave me for “creativity.” Tomorrow is the day. Hope of freedom warms my body. 

The sun now fully raised fills my box with rays that glisten through the glass. Putting my hand out, I twist it slowly, watching the light rays form to my hand. For a second I picture myself back home, laying in the sun by my family’s lake house. And for the first time since I have been in this hell, a tear rolls down my cheek. It cools my skin and drops onto my shirt. But it is a tear of yearning. 

Watching the Futures pass by my box saddens me. Such a bittersweet feeling knowing I will never see the regulars again. Today, the silk dressed lady stares at me for longer than normal. I allow a saddened smile to flash across my face. Thanking her with my eyes for the comfort she has brought me. She seems to appreciate this look and gives me a slow nod, closing her eyes. Almost, just almost, like she knows this is the last day we will lay eyes on each other. 

  The distant setting sun means dinner. And almost on cue, a quiet knock on my door.

Her soft voice charms “Nathan, I have your dinner.”

“The door is always open for you,” I say slyly. 

I slowly open the door for her, wanting this interaction to last as long as possible. I grab the tray of mystery meat and corn from her and set it on the small wooden table they so graciously provide me. 

“Thank you America.”

She relays a soft smile and I notice her dimples appearing. 

“It’s kind of my job,” she says laughing.

“Not for dinner,  just thank you.” 

I want to say: thank you for making my stay here worth something. Thank you for being what I look forward to every day. Thank you for giving me the sun in this dark, black hole of a life. But I don’t. I look at her one last time, trying to absorb everything I can. Never wanting to forget a single detail of her face. She gives me a small wave and walks out, closing the door behind her. I take a deep inhale and sigh. Rubbing my hands together, I shake my head and refocus. T-minus 6 hours until game time. 

I climb into bed, deciding that sleeping is the fastest way to pass the time. Shutting my eyes, trying to calm my nerves. I drift to sleep for what feels like 5 minutes. Awoken by anxiety, I sit up and swing my legs off the bed, noticing it’s already pitch black outside. Panicked that I missed my one shot at prosperity, I desperately searched for the small hand clock that was provided with my arrival. Digging into the crack of my bed, I find it and flip it over praying. 


37 minutes. I quietly stand up and begin gathering my very few belongings. The pocket clock, a drawing I received from a tourist (a beach surrounded by roses), and my jacket. Pulling on the jacket, I realize I’m shaking. I stretch my shoulders back, trying to relieve pent up tension. It’s time. 

Following directions perfectly, I’m soon outside. It feels surreal. No claustrophobic glass surrounding me. Like a fish being released from a pet store, into the ocean. I get to the ground and put my arms out, spinning in circles slowly, taking everything in. 

I realize I need to focus and shake my hands out. Don’t get caught. Red flowers. Red Flowers. Padlock. Don’t get caught. 

I slowly open the door to the warehouse. I take one step inside and freeze. I’m surrounded by what appears to be prisoners from different years. Some appeared straight out of the 1800’s, others unrecognizable. I keep my eyes down and move toward the glass tube. Large rounded contraption, appearing about 9 feet tall. There he is. The person that is going to save my life. His curly gray hair and rounded glasses show his kindness. He puts a finger over his mouth to shush me, noticing I was about to introduce myself. He motioned over to the tube and pointed to where I would be getting in. It’s identical to the one that sent me here. Now anxious, my breathing catches in my throat. He notices and gives me a reassuring touch on my back. I slide into the tube, laying on my back. 

I will never get used to the feeling of going beyond the speed of light. Feels as though all the molecules on your body are constantly detaching and morphing back together. Thankfully the feeling only lasts around 7 seconds. The flashing lights shut off, signaling it’s all over. I take a rigid breath, regaining my sense of self. I touch my arm, to make sure I still exist. I see an arm reaching over, opening the glass. I sit up and get an instant rush of deja vu. The familiar face that opens the capsule glares at me. His brown eyes remind me who he is. The exact man who sent me to the future. Next thing I know, I am in handcuffs, getting dragged to a cell. A prison guard hurries over to my cell and let’s me know that,

“Your sentencing will be tomorrow. Try to get one last night of sleep,” He mocks.

He must have the wrong person.

“I’m sorry sir, you must have the wrong inmate.” 

He rolls his eyes at me and shakes his head.

“May I ask what day it is?” I plead.

“Uh, October 11.”

Oh my god. “And the year?” I say with a shaky voice.

“Are you trying to mess with me?” He is clearly angry.

“Please, just tell me what year it is.”

“2020,” he almost looks concerned. 

My heart sinks. I can hear my heart pounding harder and faster. Blood rushes to my face as I walk backwards, into the wall behind me. I sink to the floor, grasping my head in my hands. I start to panic, breathing at a scary rate. Dr. Williams must have made some mistake. Sending me right back to where I started. 

My breath catches. Realizing how embarrassingly stupid I had been. He was no Doctor. He is a part of the system. Giving me one last “fuck you.” Creating this fantasy that I will have a chance to start over. I start to cry, but this time, much more intensely. Tears streamed down my face. Unable to catch my breath. 

“Why? Why? WHY.” I start to lose it, yelling to absolutley no one. “Why did she have to die.”

This get’s the guards attention. He stares at me with zero sympathy. A straight face, glaring into my soul. 

“Why did you kill her Nathan,” he seems genuinely curious and saddened.

I pause, trying to catch my breath. 

I sniffle and offer what I have been telling myself these past months “That is irrelevant.”

He shakes his head and sighs, “You didn’t want her to tell everyone your secret.”

I look up at him and my eyelids squint in anger.

“Poor girl,” He looks down, shaking his head in sadness. “How could someone do that to their little sister?”