Our psychiatrist was a queer fellow, and I don’t mean that he liked men—he was obsessed with his patients, studying them at all hours, feeding them drugs like tic tacs. The prisoners had a glazed look in their eyes and their nails grew long and yellow. Their skin hung loosely on their skeletons, like it had been stretched several times, as if they had grown old and reverted back to adolescence.
I didn’t like to look at them. They were like caged animals—men and women with stringy hair and bad teeth, with distorted backbones. It looked worse than spina bifida, and they all walked on the balls of their feet like Autistic children. Our doctor wasn’t making them well, and as the months progressed, even he, looked sicker than usual. I ate the cafeteria food with apprehension.
I kept getting these headaches, but I didn’t want to ask Doctor Jupiter for drugs, because I didn’t want to turn into one of them, but it got so bad at the end of the month, that I complained, and he gave me a Tylenol. He was only a skeleton then, clutching his left arm.
That’s when I saw his blood, seeping through his lab coat.
‘What happened to you?’ I asked.
‘Suzie bit me when we took her to the execution room four months ago. The wound hasn’t healed.’
‘Why was she killed?’
‘Executed,’ Jupiter corrected. He said this like he had swatted a fly. ‘And only the warden knows. This is a maximum-security prison, so the file remains sealed.’
I didn’t like to talk to him, but my curiosity got the better of me. ‘Are the patients, insane?’
‘Prisoners,’ Jupiter corrected. ‘And, you aren’t a doctor, so you don’t need to know.’
‘What about your wound?’ I asked.
‘It’ll heal—in time.’
For some reason, I didn’t believe him, and one day, after he doled-out pills to prisoners, I noticed that he took one himself. What kind of psychiatric drugs was he administering?
Through the iron bars, I could see the empty sea.
When I visited the warden, I intended to get a transfer. I had the feeling, the walls were deteriorating—that whatever kept this place solid, was melting.
‘You don’t receive calls. You don’t write letters,’ the warden said. ‘Why do you want a transfer?’
‘This place doesn’t feel right. I’ve heard rumors…”
‘That some of the guards have been executed, along with the prisoners?’
‘Why do the prisoners get the death penalty?’
‘Their countries decide. We don’t have anything to do with it. We just house them and dispose of them, as directed.’
‘But what about the guards?’
‘They leave, when they want to.’
He seemed healthy, wearing a green sweater-vest over a red-collared shirt. His blond hair and rosy cheeks made him look like Father Christmas with a military crew cut.
‘Okay. I want off.’
‘I’ll put your paperwork in. I’m sorry to lose a good man.’
That’s when I saw his black phones. Each one, was for a wing of the prison.
The red one didn’t have a label. Then it rang…
‘Yes,’ the warden said through clenched teeth. ‘He died, you say? Okay. Put his body in the morgue.’
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘Our psychiatrist… is dead.’ The warden’s face looked worried.
‘How will the prisoners get their pills?’ I asked.
‘The end of the month is nearly here. We’ll have to kill everybody. Bill—you just pulled shotgun duty for the next 72 hours. Hopefully, we can execute every prisoner before the full moon.’
To be continued…