om, for teaching me to create
ad, for teaching me to dream
Copyright © 2011 Jenni Merritt
Kindle, 1st Edition.
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This book is fictitious. Any similarity or resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776
My name is Millie 942B.
Next week is my eighteenth birthday. And I dread it with every fiber of my body.
I guess my name might seem pretty strange to someone who doesn’t know the world I live in. ‘942’ is the cell number I was born and raised in. ‘B’ is the floor level of which my little cubicle resides. It is a symbol of my existence. I have no brothers. No sisters. Only a silent father and a state-proclaimed unstable mother. And it is because of them that I am here.
y handwriting darted across the yellowed page. Something about the words I had written seemed strange to me. Something I wanted to hide. Scanning over the writing again, my stomach twisted into a painful knot.
The voice jarred me from my thoughts. Forcing my eyes to lift from the page, I looked up at the woman sitting across from me. Shadows cut long and harsh across her thin, pale face. My eyes trailed to her lips. They pursed tightly together, small wrinkles spraying out in every direction like an angry sun. With eyes bearing into me, she readjusted the glasses that sat perched on her nose.
Millie, I asked you if you had finished your journal entry.”
Yes,” I replied softly. I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes off of her pursed lips.
Are you going to share today?” she asked, impatience tugging at her voice.
Finally prying my eyes away, I glanced back down at the paper in my hands. The words still yelled at me, seeming to spring off the page in desperation. Something about them needed to be changed. The woman sitting across from me never let me make changes though. Whenever I would try to go back and scribble at something, she would stop me, reminding me that it was her job to correct, not mine.
She had been my psychiatrist since I was a small child. Something about this place that made the people in charge assume that, no matter who you were, you would eventually need help. In all honesty, I couldn’t disagree.
I blinked my eyes, forcing my mind to focus. For a moment the name of the woman sitting in front of me became muddy in my memory. I blinked again, searching frantically in my mind until her name finally emerged, as if creeping out from a lost game of hide and seek. Marta Eriks. That was her name.
Not today, Dr. Eriks.”
It felt as if my mind had gone numb. At times a mental fog would envelope me, people who I saw daily disappearing into a thick haze that denied me all my senses. I would disappear into the fog, letting it carry me away from everything I knew. It was lonesome. It was freedom. Then suddenly, the fog would always lift, leaving me alone to recall everything around me in blinding light.
I relished my private release. Yet, at the same time, I feared it. I was not afraid of being alone in the fog. The momentary solitude was usually a sweet release from the world that surrounded me. The fear that gripped me was that someday I would be freed from one of my fogs and find that I was still utterly alone.
This was something I never told Dr. Eriks.
I blinked harder, fighting the fog at the corner of my vision as I forced myself to stay.
Millie, your eighteenth birthday is just around the corner, isn’t it?”
How do you feel about it?”
Dr. Eriks sighed, rubbing the bridge of her sharp nose as she let her eyes flutter shut. “Millie, you do realize that they require a recommendation from me before you can be discharged, don’t you?”
I looked back down at the paper, now crumpled in my hands. “I know.” My voice came out soft, submissive. I rubbed my eyes angrily, chasing away the last remnants of my fog that still fought to cloud my vision.
Well then, Millie, you need to talk. I need to know that you will be an asset to the Nation.”
Dr. Eriks’ voice hissed out of her mouth, accusing me of things I could never imagine doing. There were times when I felt the urge to confess to anything, just to get the hiss to disappear. Then deeper, hidden underneath the hated hiss, I could hear the rhythmic strum of something else. Something that made me want to listen. Something that made me want to believe anything she said.
The Nation needs you, Millie,” she continued, the strum intensifying. I felt my mind softening, willing itself to listen to whatever the strum played next. “We need the strong, the good, to keep us going. This,” she motioned with her hand, waving it in a loose circle, “this is not how we want our great Nation to be. We want everyone to be free and secure.” Dr. Eriks leaned in, her bony elbows resting on her dull brown skirt. “It isn’t your fault, Millie.”
My eyes shot up to meet hers. “My fault?”
It isn’t your fault that you are here. In Spokane. Who’s fault is it, Millie?”
I swallowed the dry lump that had suddenly grown in my throat. “My parents.”
Exactly. They are the criminals. You are not. You want your chance to prove that, don’t you?”
I nodded, my throat too dry to allow my voice to break free.
A thin smile spread on Dr. Eriks’ lips. “Very good, Millie. You can trust me. You know that right?”
Of course, Dr. Eriks.”
The smile widened, foreign and strange on her usually stern face. Whenever that smile cut across her face, my skin always went cold. Frozen goose bumps would spring up in quick lines along my flesh, a shiver taking me over as they spread. I could feel them beginning their rise on my arms as she watched me a moment longer. I waited. Letting out a sharp breath, Dr. Eriks finally broke her gaze and picked her notebook up from the small table next to her.
The room fell into an almost tangible silence. All I could hear was her pen as she scratched words onto the white pages. She seemed to cut into the paper, writing that I had never been given permission to read filling up the neat lines, permanently.
My stomach tightened. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and no matter how many times I swallowed, I couldn’t chase away the dryness that had taken me over. Closing my eyes, I let my head hang slightly, the knots finally loosening their deathly grip in my stomach. Dr. Eriks’ pen ticked like a pendant of a clock, scratching away the seconds as my mind wandered in the near silence.
Scratch. Scratch scratch. Scratch.
The clip of Dr. Eriks’ notepad shutting made me jump. I snapped my eyes open, the sleep that had started to tug at my mind quickly chased away. Glancing down at my crumpled paper, I licked my lips. My throat was still too dry. I needed a drink. Squirming in my seat, I kept my head down and waited.
Well, Millie.” My head jerked up as her voice cut through the air once again. “It looks as if our time for today is over.” The muscles in my tightened shoulders relaxed at her words. “I believe we made a small bit of progress, don’t you?”
I encourage you to write in your journal tonight. Finish what you started here today. We will talk again at your next meeting.” I started to stand, but Dr. Eriks stopped me with a slight clearing of her throat.
She leaned forward, setting her notepad gingerly on the table as she pulled her glasses off her thin nose. Her eyes watched me, crinkling at the corners in thought.
Millie, upon release – if you do get released – you will be free. Do you want to be free?”
I swallowed against the dry lump in my throat. I managed to nod, my eyes locked once again on her pursed lips. I knew if I spoke, my voice would come out raspy and harsh.
Then I shouldn’t have to remind you, Millie, that if you fail to follow our great Nation’s laws once you are set free, you will be sent right back here. No trial, no pleas. And,” she added, slipping her glasses back onto her face as she stood, “that would not be a good thing. At all.”
Dr. Eriks watched me a moment, then turned and walked towards her desk. Keeping her back to me, she curtly tapped her wristwatch, her nails clicking on its glass face. “You can go now, Millie.”
I stood, the ache from sitting for so long throbbing as I stretched my legs. Without another word I hurried out the door, shoving my journal page into the back pocket of my jeans. Dr. Eriks’ receptionist didn’t even look up as I passed her small desk. She had worked there for years now, and all I knew about her was the nasally drawl of her voice as she ushered me into my appointments.
The hallway echoed slightly as I made my way down it, away from Dr. Eriks. Made mostly of cement, the walls were a light gray, cracking in places from the years of wear and abuse. No color. A door occasionally appeared along its stretch, a black blip with unknown offices hidden behind. My footsteps were the only sound that echoed off the hallway’s lonely walls.
I slowed as a couple appeared in front of me. They were meandering slowly down the hall, their hands loosely intertwined. Obviously, they were in no hurry.
I was about to duck around them when something crashed up ahead.
Stopping, I looked down the hall past the couple. We were almost to the entrance of the Commons, but I couldn’t see the door. Any view of it was blocked by a mass of bodies, arms swinging and legs kicking as they pummeled into one another. People started shouting, a mix of angry growls and taunting jests. The two fighting inmates dove harder into each other. Spit and blood flew into the air. The blood splattered across the walls, its deep red an angry contrast to the dull gray cement.
I backed up as boots suddenly sounded down the hall behind me. Just as I pressed my back into the cool wall, three guards ran past, their batons already held in their meaty fists. The couple in front of me leaned against the wall a few feet away, watching the fight as they chatted casually with each other, as if nothing was wrong.
My mind raced. A few doorways back was a hallway that would lead around the fight. I could take that.
I took a step back toward the doorway, intent on avoiding the growing mass of cheering onlookers. Just as I started to turn away, something the man in the couple said stopped my feet mid-step. He had said Dr. Eriks’ name. The tone of his voice, slightly shaking and tinged with anger, pulled me in. I clenched my eyes shut, his voice still ringing low under the rumbling fight.
Eavesdropping was something you did not do, especially here in the Prison. The secrets your ears might pick up were the kind that could haunt you for the rest of your life. I knew I should walk away, but I couldn’t seem to move my feet. Letting out a sigh, I leaned back against the wall, shoving my hands in my pockets and trying to seem invisible as I resigned to my curiosity.