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.
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