As if hearing my thoughts, my father tore his eyes away, glancing out the cell door. “Where is your mother?” he asked, his voice suddenly anxious.
What…” I felt the heave in my chest snap. Jerking my hand off his shoulder, I took a step back. My father was still staring out the door. His hand shook, blood dripping into the deep red pool on the ground. “Who cares. You need to take care of yourself right now, Dad.”
He shook his head, his eyes swimming dangerously in his head. I could see his cheeks losing color. “No, they said I am fine. Where is your…” His voice slurred. Licking his lips, he forced his eyes to the ground. His face paled even more.
I’m getting a Medic,” I announced.
Millie, I said that I’m −”
I said, I’m getting a Medic.”
With that, I stormed out of the cell. The Medic room was just down the walk, positioned to be nearby for a reason. There were a lot of injuries here. I banged roughly on the door then waited. After some time a woman finally peeked out. I could tell she wasn’t a convict. The scared look on her face, the long wavy hair pulled back into a clean pony tail, the neatly trimmed nails with white tips only served to give her away. There was no way she had ever served time.
My father is injured.”
Name?” she asked, pulling out a small plastic box that fit into the palm of her hand.
She typed in the name then waited. The machine sat silent a moment, then beeped. “It says he was examined at the site and deemed fit to return to cell for rest.”
I can see fat,” I snarled through clenched teeth. “And bone. He won’t stop bleeding. Does that sound ‘fit’ to you?”
The nurse’s eyes widened for a moment at the hiss of my voice. Checking the device again, she added nervously, “And his points amount only allows −”
Take it from my points.” As she opened her mouth to protest, I cut her off again. “Yes, you can. I am given points as an allowance until I leave. Take the amount you need and fix his damn hand.”
The nurse looked at me a moment, her eyes wide in fear. Then she nodded once, picked up a small bag, and pushed past me. I watched as she made her way toward my block, then I let my body slump heavily against the now closed door.
I felt strangely exhausted. Even though I had just woken up, my eyes were now heavy, my body laboring for breath. I didn’t know what had come over me. The sudden rage that had driven me was something I had never felt before. It scared me. Yet, at the same time, I felt oddly powerful. The look the nurse had given me as I hissed my words at her seemed oddly fulfilling. And that feeling, the feeling of enjoying the innocent woman’s fear, was what scared me the most.
A clock hung on the wall above the nurse’s station, covered in strips of metal. Looking up at it, I saw that it was almost 1300. I had just enough time to make it to the Parole room. Cursing at myself for pushing time again, I started to run.10
y toes lined along the yellow line once again. The Parole room looked nearly identical to the Exam room. The only change was the small desk set up in the corner, an old typewriter waiting on its worn surface. I was alone in the room. In my rush, I had arrived there early and was told by the guard in the hall to go in and wait.
So I waited.
I heard the door swing open. Keeping my eyes glued to my toes, I could hear the shuffle of feet as the Panel made their way to their seats. I could hear Dr. Eriks sigh, the groan of Judge Wood as he lowered himself into his seat. Another light shuffle of feet sounded as the typist made her way to the waiting typewriter.
Someone cleared his throat, loud and demanding. I jerked my eyes up.
There, sitting in the Warden’s spot, was Carl.
Hello 942B,” he said, his voice cool and relaxed. I could see the hint of a grin on his lips. My whole body went ice cold. “Warden Binns was unexpectedly called away to other duties. I have been asked to sit in for him at this hearing.” He bore his eyes into me. “Are there any objections to this decision?”
I could hear the quick typing as the woman in the corner recorded every word he said. I licked my lips, feeling their sudden dryness crack under my quivering tongue. “No.” I barely managed to speak.
Carl smiled, leaning back in his chair. “Then let it be on record that the release hearing for Millicent 942B has begun.” He turned slightly to Dr. Eriks. “Doctor, would you care to begin?”
Dr. Eriks flipped open a folder that laid on the metal table. I could see my photo taped to the inside, my black and white face staring intently out. Swallowing hard, I tried to calm the shaking that threatened to take over my body.
Patient, casually addressed as ‘Millie,’ has been seeing me weekly for the past fifteen years. Her mother has been incarcerated for life, Murder 1 and Assault 1. Her father has been incarcerated for life, Murder 1 and Aiding. Medical evaluations have found Millie’s mother, Leann 942B, suffers from self-imposed amnesia, psychosis, and bi-polar disorder. Medications have worked to an extent to calm violent episodes.”
Violent episodes? In my entire life, I had never seen my mother lift a finger to any person. When stress or fear or anger came up, she would just disappear into her strange trance. I found myself wondering suddenly if those trances were just drug-induced controls. My mind started to swim in questions, and I tried desperately to suppress them as Dr. Eriks went on.
Neither parent shows remorse for their crimes. They have insisted that the men ‘deserved it.’ Upon their entry into Spokane Prison, inmates Alan and Leann found that they were pregnant. Abortion was strongly urged, but they refused.”
I couldn’t understand why Dr. Eriks was talking about my parents. I had come in there expecting a review on myself, on who I was. Instead, she sat stiffly in her chair, her dull eyes reading the words printed permanently in my folder. Words about my parents.
Something she said slowly sank in. I had always thought I was conceived and born inside this prison. That wasn’t true. My parents were already pregnant with me before they were committed. And they had refused to abort me when urged to. Something tugged at my mind, but I forced it away, realizing that Dr. Eriks still had not stopped.
always seemed indifferent to parents’ crimes. In most sessions, has been calm, aloof, and quiet. Millie has stepped up to her parents’ responsibilities. Millie withdrew from school a year early to proceed in independent study.”
Pausing a moment, Dr. Eriks dug through the folder, finally finding a sheet of paper. She took a moment to read it, then proceeded. “Her final exam showed extreme knowledge in the greatness of our Nation. Millie has been awarded an A, thus securely passing.”
I felt my shoulders relax slightly. Moving my eyes from Dr. Eriks, I took in the rest of the room. The others at the table were all watching me. Reverend Smitson had a soft look on his dark-skinned face, as if ready to offer me the salvation of the Lord at any moment. Judge Woods looked bored. Oscar still had a fist up to his lips, his eyes watching me almost in fear. I lingered on him a moment, confused. Then I finally let my eyes trail to Carl.
He was smiling.
Dr. Eriks closed the folder, knitting her fingers and resting them neatly on top. “Millie has never proclaimed any affiliation to any gang, group, religion, or faction. She has proven her loyalty to the Nation. She has never been in any confrontation and has never been accused of any crime. Her submissiveness and humbleness are appreciated by the Nation. I -”
Yes, but do you recommend release?” Carl asked, leaning toward the doctor.
Dr. Eriks’ eyes widened for a moment. Turning her face towards Carl, she stared at him as if in disbelief. “Excuse me, GF?”
Carl leaned back, knitting his fingers across his chest as he glanced at me. “You say she is an asset, you tell us about her parents and her exam results. But we already know all of this.” Carl looked back toward Dr. Eriks. His eyes were squinted, bearing into her.
Her lips parted a moment. I could see her brow knit together, anger flaring behind her narrowed eyes. Dr. Eriks was not a person accustomed to being interrupted. “I was getting there, GF.” She spat out the last word, her lips tightening into angry lines. “I was −”
Carl looked away from Dr. Eriks. His eyes locked back onto me, a smirk passing his lips before he cut her off again. “Then I suggest you get there already.”
Dr. Eriks paused, her eyes locking onto mine for a moment. I could have sworn I saw contempt flash across them, but it vanished as fast as it had appeared. “I give my approval for release.”
I couldn’t speak. It seemed so sudden, so simple. I had expected Dr. Eriks to tear me apart. I had thought she would reveal all the secrets she must have discovered and written in that notepad of hers. Instead, I had just been awarded her approval without hesitation.
Looking over to her, I saw the hate radiating from her eyes. Then, slowly, a thin smile spread on her pale face. I felt sick.
Carl leaned forward. “Millie 942B, due to your shining report and passing grade, you will be given the option to accept a job for the great Nation and work here in Spokane. All your needs will be taken care of as you work to better our Nation as we reform its criminals. You must announce your decision now. Have you decided?”
His eyes suddenly turned cold. I felt them bear into me, cutting through my very being like jagged knives. No one else seemed to notice his intense stare. The slight parting of his lips. His fists as he clenched them tight. I could feel his hot breath on my neck as he had pressed me against the wall. His words echoed suddenly in my head, angry and distant.
So, I think you need to ask for a job here. In the upper blocks, where I will be transferring back to very soon. I have tried to suggest it nicely. But obviously nice just didn’t get my point across.”
Might I remind you, 942B,” Carl interrupted, his voice coming out business-like and indifferent. As if he had never spoken to me before. “Accepting a job within the Prison is a great honor. You will be compensated well, and offered the ultimate protection from the… unjust.” His eyes scanned me a moment, so quick I knew no one else could have caught it. “Have you decided?”
I knew then, as sure as my blood now ran like ice through my body, that I did not want to be anywhere near this man.
I have,” I said, my voice obviously shaking.
Carl let out an exasperated sigh, his lips slightly smiling as he awaited his expected answer. “What is your decision?”
I swallowed hard. When I finally spoke, my voice surprised me by coming out clear and strong. “I wish to be released. To work and earn my freedom within the Nation as I better the land and people around me.”
Carl’s face turned dark. I could see his muscles tighten as he clenched his jaw in anger. Dr. Eriks’ eyes flicked to look at him, her lips tightening into a thin line before looking back to me. Her eyes focused on my shirt, refusing to look me in the face. In a level voice, his eyes still bearing into me, Carl coolly asked, “All in favor of Millicent 942B’s release?”
The four others raised their hands, muttering “Aye.” Carl watched me a moment. The vote had to be unanimous. If it failed, I would be detained until a consensus was decided. I suddenly realized that Carl could make that indefinite.
In a low voice, he finally answered, “Aye.”
Judge Wood cleared his throat. His bored eyes rose to look at me, barely taking me in. “Millicent 942B, by permission from our great Nation, I am proud to be the first to announce your release from Spokane Prison. As is practiced, you will be on watch for the first month. Your job will be assigned, and you will be expected to earn your living. Spokane will release you come midnight of your birthday, with any points earned and any belongings thus acquired. Are there any questions?”
I shook my head.
Judge Wood nodded. Without another word, he pushed himself up from his seat, breathing hard against the weight that tried to keep him down. Oscar rose, his eyes nervously watching me. I could hear the paper shuffle as the typist gathered the records and left the room. The others followed close behind.
Carl stayed in his seat, watching me. He looked about ready to launch himself over the table at me. Then he suddenly smiled, standing smoothly.
Remember, Millie,” he said, his voice an unsettling calm. He smoothed his hands over his vest, glancing coolly at the empty doorway. “I get what I want. Enjoy your release. I will see you around.”
With that, he excused himself from the room.
| | |
That was it. I was going to be released. Even though I always knew I would be, it still felt strange to stand there, knowing that tomorrow I would leave the only place I had ever known. I was finally going to be set free.
When I got back to my cell, both my parents were standing near the bunk. I could tell they were nervous. My mother kept trying to flatten her knotted hair. My father shifted from foot to foot, watching her every move, one hand resting lightly on her back. He cradled his other hand across his stomach, the bright white gauze that covered it a stark contrast against his dirty shirt. As I walked in, my mother saw me and jumped, clapping her hands together.