Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: EERIE (07/28/16)
- TITLE: From the Spider's Corner
By Francy Judge
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“The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.”
Half of the nursery rhyme is written in perfect script, the handwriting of an elementary school teacher. Officer Roland Brown stares at the paper. Underneath the nursery rhyme, Stanley has signed his name in three inch letters that take up the rest of the page and written “Bye!” in ant-size letters at the bottom.
Roland shouts through the window, “Remove the paper and stand with your hands up!” He can’t take any chances with Stanley. In Maximum Security, the guard checks on the inmates through the window. It is not the place to hang a nursery rhyme…unless he is hiding something. Roland calls for backup.
Stanley doesn’t answer.
“Stanley! Remove the paper!”
Still, no answer.
With his gun ready, Roland unlocks the cell, and kicks the door open with his boot.
The cell is empty.
“Oh, Lord. This can’t be happening!”
Officer Dillon Thomas rushes over, but squints at the guard. “Are you sure you didn’t hear any sounds this morning?”
“Nothing. I checked his cell at 4:00AM, and he was sleeping on the floor. At 6:00AM, the nursery rhyme blocked the window, and he was gone. Just vanished.”
Dillon shakes his head in disbelief. “Don’t let anyone near his cell. This will be all over the news by tomorrow…and we’ll look like idiots.”
“I swear I checked his cell.”
The prison is bright now; one inmate raps the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and others bang a tune on the bars. News spreads fast here.
Dillon steps inside Stanley’s cell and takes pictures of what he sees: a pen and paper piled on top of a neatly folded prison shirt. Sheets of paper, aligned corner to corner, cover the bed mat. Each paper has the same thing written…”The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout.” The rhymes are never finished, and Stanley has signed every one. “What’s with the nursery rhyme obsession?”
Officer Thomas follows Officer Brown to his desk for paperwork.
As Roland fumbles at his desk, his Bible falls to the ground.
Dillon whips his head around as if a gun exploded. “You’re still reading that? Maybe you should pray we find this creep.”
“I will. Maybe you should too.”
“I’ve seen too much evil to believe there’s a loving God in control.”
“If your eyes were open…”
“Not now…we need to find this nut before he commits another crime.” Dillon skims through the folder and studies the photo of Stanley before his frizzy burnt orange hair was shaven. “We’re dealing with a man who killed a family and showed no remorse.”
For weeks, investigators comb the prison, searching for clues and interrogating prisoners. Over two hundred armed troopers are called in for a manhunt. How can he vanish so quickly and not leave an ounce of evidence? How far can he get?
A few prisoners say they know something, either hoping to throw off the search, or to satisfy their compulsion for lying. One prisoner thinks he didn’t leave; he insists Stanley turned into a ghost and is hovering around, stealing things and planting them in his enemies’ cells. “Every fight started since Stanley turned into a ghost is with his enemies.” The officers laugh, until the prisoner punches a guard in the mouth. “You’ll see!” He warns as he’s handcuffed.
One month to the day after Stanley disappeared, another fight ensues as the sun rises. Roland tries to ignore the latest cacophony until he hears a scream. Like usual, he is ready with his gun and prayer. Out of habit, he glances at the window of Stanley’s cell and sees orange.
“No, not possible.” He has passed the cell numerous times throughout his shift and could swear it was empty. Through the window, where the rhyme has been removed and stored as evidence, facing the back wall, a prisoner sits, hunched, on the floor…a prisoner with an orange crewcut.
Roland bangs on the window. “Stanley! Turn around!”
He kicks open the door and aims his gun. “Stanley?” Roland dry heaves at the overpowering smell of rotten something and holds his breath. He circles the prisoner until he has the gun toward his face—Stanley’s face, grey with death. A folded paper hangs out of pocket—“The Itsy Bitsy Spider crawled up the spout again…”
Roland thinks he is alone with Stanley… but I am watching.
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