The Silent Inmate
by Liam Brennan
forum: The Silent Inmate
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Silent Inmate


           The body was lifeless. Officers and guards gathered round to sneak a peek at the seven bullet holes that drenched his back in warm blood. They laughed and joked about the horrific events that had occurred just a few minutes earlier, the smiles on their faces revealing the darkest side of the human psyche. I wavered at a distance, not quite sure what to think as they dragged the stiff away, with a bloody path following it along the cold cement floors of my once humble abode, Kingsway Penitentiary. He, the dead man, had been locked in his cell for the night, reading a copy of an old kids' comic book entitled The Last Stand of James T. Tall. These books incensed him; the possibility of a life other than the one he had been handed was an idea that haunted his every thought since he passed those old steel gates.

           That had been four years earlier, on a cool October morning. As he entered his cell for the first time after a scalding hot, hose bath, the others taunted and teased him the entire night. This went on for the first three years of his stay, yet he never let it get to him. Everything was building up inside and yet he never blew up at anyone; not so much as a childish name-calling fit broke from his lips. He was a quiet man who chewed his fingernails to stubs and often sat and stared at the water stains on the ceiling above him, contemplating his eventual escape. The others grew tired of those antics and eventually moved on to newer entries into the Illinois State Penal System, young kids who had mouths two miles wide across their face by the time the others got to them. Meanwhile he stayed still, reading his stories for boys that were being sent to him by the only friend he seemed to have in this world.

           Max Martens was only ten when he passed away after a three-year bout with leukemia that saw him confined to a hospital bed. He was embarrassed to set foot outside that room because of his frail appearance and bald head; it was his own personal jail cell. He didn’t have much to do and took to writing letters to the only other place where someone would have just as much time to lie around and feel sorry for themselves as he did, the state prison. He wrote the silent inmate every week and included that week’s serial edition of his favorite comic, just so the man could have something to pass the time the way Max had. They became the best of friends, speaking of a life less painful or a world where they could run free from the stresses and boredom that had dominated their lives in recent years. Forests to camp in, racetracks to speed along, and busy city streets they could walk: these were the simple places that appealed to them.

           Max had written his weekly letter and included that week’s comic edition, yet there was a note accompanying the letter, written by his nurse at Max’s hospital. It was to inform him that young Max’s battle had finally ended that week and he was now in a better place where he could be free. They had spoken of this life and now Max had finally found it, albeit in a way the silent inmate had never though of. He wanted to meet Max, and experience this life as soon as he possibly could. He could think of only one way to flee his current situation and when the opportunity arose, he took it.

           The opening guard was just a few feet away that morning, unlocking each cell one at a time and escorting the inmates into the courtyard for their daily exercise routine. When the guard unlocked his cell, he stepped forth and pounced upon him with mighty force, knocking them both to the floor. Within seconds the bullets were flying and he was dead, his spirit slowly leaving his body and stepping to my current position, a few feet away. He was me and I was him, and we were all together, John Lennon would have said. But I am not him anymore, I am a new person, one that can experience those dreams that Max and I had talked about in those letters for the past three years. And as I stood in shock of what had just occurred, not believing that I actually went through with it, I watched the trail of blood begin to pool in the center of the block. The guards were happy to have me gone no doubt, they always wanted to know what was going on in my mind and couldn’t stand the silence I put forth every night. But that silence was over now, as I ventured through those cold, brick walls and forth into the luminous afternoon. The outside was different than I remember, things looked new and fresh. But as I drifted through the surrounding forest with its towering trees that were mere children when I first arrived, I finally saw what I had come for. Max was sitting next to a small fire he had fashioned out of twigs and stones. As I moved toward him he smiled and nodded his head, which was covered in thick black hair that ran down to his pink cheeks. This is the life we had been waiting for, in a world of our own.




copyright 2007 Liam Brennan.

Liam Brennan is a 22 year old student at the University of Manitoba, soon to be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and minor in religion. He writes screenplays, short stories, poetry, and more recently, flash fiction.

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