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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: Prisoner 0235098
By Ruth Neilson


I always hate patrolling this part of the prison block. It’s not that the prisoners are hard to deal with—in fact, it’s just the opposite, it’s always so quiet in here. Sometimes I wonder if the actual men who are banished here are still alive.

They are, for the most part. Well, alive as far as you can consider religious dissenters to be. Most of them were caught preaching openly on the streets and then brought into the interrogation rooms. Day after day, different men are dragged from their cramped cells, blinking like rodents in the harsh early morning light, to be questioned.

Some of them came back alert, while others were dragged back by their arms or legs and then unceremoniously thrown into the dark cell. Yet, despite all of this, it is still peaceful here.

It is like these prisoners know no fear.

Take Prisoner 0235098, for example: his fingers have been shattered in an attempt to convince him to confess to his crimes against the state. He screamed as the interrogation progressed, but once he was thrown back into his chamber, he didn’t say another word. Instead, every day since then, he stands guard at his own cell door. Sometimes I have to wonder if he is welcoming his own into their personal pit of hell.

Occasionally, I can overhear murmurs of encouragement that slip between the cells, but other than that, these men don’t say a word.

“...walk through the valley of the shadow...no evil...the Lord... me...”

So I walk my patrol, cringing as I pass through the well lit corridors filled with men and women who make remarks towards me. There I fear my life if I make one wrong move. Their lewd comments make me feel dirty, despite the heavy uniform and body armor that I wear. I close the door with a clang and allow myself to relax as I walk into the darkest portion of the prison.

It should be filled with fear, but instead, the atmosphere is different—calmer, almost peaceful here.

With a sigh of relief, I holster my tazer-gun on my hip and nod once to Prisoner 0235098.

“Still standing, I see.” I greet him with a small smile.
He returns it, his green eyes studying me cautiously. Finally, he speaks his voice hoarse and sing-song like. “I stand like Moses stood over the Israelites in battles of old.”

Riddles upon riddles. I frown, moving my hand to rest on the tazer as he continues. “I stand like the prophet Jeremiah stood for his people.” More riddles. His mind must be gone from his interrogations.

I shake my head in amusement and move away from the rusted door. His thin arm snakes through the small slot at the top of the door and grasps my shoulder, “I stand so that your redemption might draw near.”

Whatever calm that was in the air fled.

The air grows tense as other voices in the block chime in with their own hoarse, ‘Amen’s’ echo through the cramped quarters. I can hear those who can still stand scramble to their feet. Injured and crippled fingers wrap around the iron bars as weary eyes peer through the darkness. I jerk away.

“Enough!” I struggle to keep my voice steady. “You are a prisoner, all I need to do is report you and your standing days are done with.”

The threat seems empty, even to me. But, how can these lowly prisoners know the longing of my heart? My dream to take a chance and stand up for those who can’t or won’t stand up for themselves, just like these men in this forgotten block.

Prisoner 0235098 releases me and withdraws his emancipated arm back into the cell. He peers at me once again, his green eyes steady and clear for a long moment. “For such a time as this...” he begins as I stalk away.

I’ve got another block to patrol before my day is done.

Whispered prayers follow me through the unit, never stopping, even as I step through another heavy steel door. I pause long enough to force myself to calm down.

Whatever serenity that I had found in that prison block has turned upside down. Once I was at peace with myself, now there is nothing but chaos.
Exodus 17:8:13
Jeremiah 7:2
Luke 21:28
Esther 4:14

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This article has been read 706 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 09/20/07
This is great. You really held my attention. Let's hope the guard finds TRUE calm through these prisoners!
Dee Yoder 09/21/07
Unique and well written story. Good job.
julie wood09/22/07
A beautiful story! I felt as though I were there--the descriptions and dialogue make the prison come alive.

Great portrayal of contrast between the lewdness of the "normal" prisoners and the calm and inner peace of the persecuted believers.

The intriguing title also sparked my curiosity.

Great job!
dub W09/23/07
This is wonderful, intense, futuristic, I loved it. Welcome to the puppy pen.
Gregory Kane09/24/07
What I liked about this was the way that you resisted the temptation to have the guard convert straight away. This kept the writing tense with a rawness to the closing comments.
Joanne Sher 09/24/07
Wow - so VERY descriptive and evocative. A very powerful piece.
Jan Ackerson 09/24/07
Definitely high-caliber writing here! One of my faves this week.
Kristen Hester09/25/07
This is one my very favorites this week, also. Wow.

I live in a prison town and I've heard stories from the guards. Your describtions are awesome.

I felt your MC's turmoil. I saw the calm from Prisoner 0235098.

Amy Michelle Wiley 09/26/07
Very creative--great job. I love the story!
Joy Faire Stewart09/26/07
The guard's emotions are vivid and the message is very clear. Excellent writing and right on topic.
Frank Creed10/09/07
People accuse me of having more story to tell--same here. This is a cyberpunk or at least dystopian novel waiting to happen.

Enemies of the State unite!