His breath shook as he let it out through the blinding exertion, and the fireworks in his mind continued to echo violently across the inside of his skull. He could hear the metal clicking like snapping bones as his mind pushed with numb fingers at the inner core of the lock. But the latch wouldn't budge.
Letting out a cry of painful desperation, he let his eyes slide open, hoping to see his success. The lock remained as before, the pale face glinting in the harsh blue emergency lights. Sweat stung his dried skin and his shoes were like fists around his feet, pulling him down with all the weight of a human corpse. He hung from one arm for a while as he wrung out the fingers of his left hand. Then he regained his grip on the bar.
The seething masses below him toiled in the cold mud and the occasional crack of a whip marked the positions of the Delkori. Still, no one had spotted him.
He faced the lock again, trying to see it in a new light. It had defeated him every time, and yet he continued to bite its hard metal with throbbing teeth, waiting for a crack, and gagging on his sinking hope. He closed his eyes. The solidity of every piece bloomed to life in his mind, and he took a deep breath before tensing his concentration and moving in with a fierce will power.
Anything was better than the life he saw below him. To break free was all this life was good for. If it could find him freedom, then it could be tossed into the nightmare of his memories, never to be worn again. What new life he would live was to be discovered. He had never left the trenches of the Delkori. One thing was certain. He was ready for the change, however great it might prove to be.