The protagonist is a famous escape artist who enters voluntarily in a prison-escape challenge with the designer of an 'escape-proof' prison. The prison is just a machine hooked up to the mind of the prisoner and causes the victim to experience 10 years of paralysis in 10 minutes of real time, thereby alleviating the cost to society of incarcerating criminals while also being more humane. The protagonist is initially trapped inside his own dreamscape but eventually is able to perceive the inside of his own mind and his traumatic experiences as blobs of color, process them and become healed. He overcomes the paralysis but instead of completing the assigned task that would end the challenge he grabs his nemesis and brings him into the simulation, showing him the 'prison' he created has far more value as a tool of psychotherapy than it ever could as punishment. I believe I might have read it in IASFM, Analog or Galaxy. Does anyone recognize this story?

  • Thanks for asking. I was thinking about asking a question about the House of If. Apr 5 '18 at 14:01

This sounds like 'The House of If' by Barry B. Longyear. I first read it in his anthology "It Came From Schenectady".

There's a short synopsis here.

The story of a man who can’t stand prisons and the builder of the ultimate prison.

  • YES! Thank you! I read it in IASFM 1981 - it's been driving me crazy. THANKS!
    – Bob Splort
    Apr 3 '18 at 22:02
  • The Chateau d'If is a renaissance era fortress and prison on an island near Marseille. It has great literary fame due to the protagonist Edmond Dantes being falsely imprisoned there in Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. Apr 5 '18 at 14:10

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