They Will Not Break Me

An inmate is on the verge of an attempted escape. Who can he trust?

They will not break me
I cannot be broken
They will not break me
I will be outspoken
They will not break me
I know I’m not guilty
They will not break me
These walls can’t contain me
They will not…

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech… CLANG.

“Lights out!” The shout from the bottom floor echoes throughout the block, squeezing into every corner, every eardrum, every soul, leaving all weaker for the intrusion.

“I hate that bloody sound,” my cellmate’s voice floats up to me from the bottom bunk, devoid of emotion. He has become, in these last few weeks, more and more like an animated corpse. He still breathes, he still moves, he still talks… but there is no heart behind any of it.

“You say that every night Terry,” I reply while listening to the metallic clip-clop approach of the guard along the walkway that runs alongside the cells on our level. I’m not even sure which noise he was talking about and I don’t really care. They’re all reminders of where we are and where they plan on keeping us for the rest of our sorry lives.

You’d think after five years you’d get used to all these sounds, learn to tune them out. But they’re all as fresh and raw on my nerves as they were on that first terrifying night. And I’m proud of that – I have no intention of getting accustomed to anything about this miserable facility. The day you get institutionalized is the day your soul dies. It’s too late for Terry to avoid that fate but it’s not for me.

“Doesn’t make it any less true,” he replies and shifts onto his side, setting our fragile bed set to shuddering. I’m grateful that Terry has a debilitating fear of heights, not that he’d ever admit it. I know he’ll survive when I eventually come crashing down on him, but I’m happy to eliminate any possible cause of injury I can in this place. I’ve got enough that are either unavoidable or require a whole hell of a lot more effort to avoid than that one.

Like Guard Olsen and his red baton, for instance. It used to be black, if the talk in the cafeteria can be believed, but decades of use have stained it irreversibly crimson. But I reckon by this point that if you are careless enough to get within his long reach, you deserve what’s coming to you. Constant hyper-awareness is the only way to survive in here, although a bit of luck is always appreciated.

I recline on my back, fingers interlaced behind my greasy, curling black head of hair, and stare at the pitch black that moments before was my rusting, tormenting ceiling. It’s hard to describe just how much I miss the night sky. The stars: tantalizing promises of something greater that twinkle just beyond our reach; the moon: like the giant, unblinking eye of some great black god, peering down on us – sometimes wide open, often squinting slightly, sometimes squeezed shut as though He or She cannot bare to watch any longer; and shooting stars: I could use one to wish upon right about now.

Although I suppose it would have been more useful the night they broke down my bedroom door and arrested me. But I guess I couldn’t have known to make a wish not to be arrested for a crime I didn’t commit. No, I would have had to have seen that one coming before I could have done such a thing.

“The nights are getting cold Manuel,” Terry says and I hear the stiff cotton of his blanket scrape across his skin as he wraps it more tightly around himself. “Winter will be here before you know it.”

My skin goes clammy and I can feel my heartbeat quicken in my chest, as though it is as eager to break free from my body as I am to escape from this prison. But, just as it cannot live beyond the confines of my body, I would not survive an attempt at freedom in winter. If I managed to get beyond these walls and into the woods without a bullet in my back, my first night would kill me as surely as any well placed projectile. They probably wouldn’t even bother to go after me.

It’s time to decide who I can trust; who in here can match my resolve and willingness to do whatever is necessary. It will have to happen soon because I will not spend another winter within these walls.

They will not break me
I cannot be broken…

The End

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