Here is my lastest short story, inspired once again by a Flash Fiction Friday prompt:
F3 – Cycle 123 – Sprung
Prompt: Write a story about a convict and his new found freedom, whether from an escape or parole.
Genre: Crime, though you are welcome to mash genres. Who knows when or where the story’s set.
Word Limit: 1,700
Following on from the prompt, I was further inspired by having recently watch the movie "The Hiding Place.", (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073109/) which ends with Corrie Ten Boom being freed from a prison camp due to an administrative error.
The story is a bit rushed and I haven't had much time for editing, but I hope you enjoy it.
Why me?Jimmy sat on the floor in the middle of his cell, catching the midday sun shining through the bars of an out of reach window. He might have spent the last five years in solitary confinement, but at least he had a good tan.
The cell was made of blocks of stone too big for a person to shift by themselves. There was very little furnishing. The bed consisted of raised stone blocks beneath a mattress. A toilet was set in one corner next to a stone basin. Jimmy wasn’t sure about the plumbing other than that it was designed to be inaccessible to the prisoners, as were any electrical or fibre cables. Overall, the design was well thought out to make escape near impossible; the cell couldn’t be burnt, dug through or blown up. It was somewhat ironic that where stone had once been a sign of prestige, in the mid twenty-first century, it was primarily used for prisons. Jimmy knew this was his home for life and that he deserved it.
While working on his tan, Jimmy had had plenty of time to contemplate his crimes of robbery and murder. He was guilty; there was no doubt. He had been caught on camera from several angles. Of course the cameras didn’t capture the emotion or motives behind what happened, they didn’t show the fear and confusion that both Jimmy and his victims felt as the robbery started to go wrong. It felt like he had lost control of his body as he pulled the trigger the first time. Having done it once, it seemed so easy to do it again. The gun had fallen from his hands before the two dead men had hit the ground, as he realised the horror of what he had done. From that moment onwards, Jimmy had done nothing to resist arrest or fight the charges. He was guilty, as charged, and sentenced to life without any chance of parole.
A Jimmy adjusted his position with the moving sun, he heard the whir of his door and assumed that it was a guard delivering his lunch. The door was stone like the rest of the cell. It sat on a track and was easy to open from the outside. There was no way to open it from the inside.
“Jimmy Smith!” the deep voice of the guard made him jump, the prison staff rarely spoke, so Jimmy lived in an almost silent world.
Jimmy turned and gave the guard a surprised look.
“Jimmy, come with me.”
As he stood up, Jimmy wondered what they wanted. He hadn’t done anything wrong, he was a model prisoner. He was allowed strictly one hour in the exercise yard once a week, but that had been yesterday.
“Bring your…” the guard paused and looked around at the almost empty room “…stuff.”
Jimmy continued to stare blankly at the guard, confused by a change to routine.
“Hurry up!” The guard urged.
“What’s going on?” Jimmy as he finally turned to retrieve his change of clothes and his computer tablet.
“Hurry up!” The guard repeated.
Jimmy had lost any urge to resist long ago, so he just shrugged to himself and followed the guard, meagre possession in his hands. The guard lead him along the corridor towards the administrative wing. It was five years since Jimmy had walked the other way along this route and he had only the vaguest memory of it. They passed many cells that looked like Jimmy’s and passed through several section doors. Looking around, Jimmy made the most of the novelty of different scenery. Soon, they reached the door of the Governor’s office and the guard waved him through.
By now, Jimmy was thoroughly mystified. He couldn’t think of any reason why he would be brought to the Governor. Even when his father died, a guard had brought him the news.
The Governor was sitting at her desk, looking at the screen built into it. She also had a pen and paper sitting by her hand, surprisingly common in a highly automated world, as Jimmy remembered. She looked up at him and waited a moment before speaking.
“Jimmy Arthur Smith?” She asked.
“Yes, ma’am.” He stared at the wall behind her as he spoke, too scared look her in the face.
“Wrist!” she indicated to the sleek plastic sensor block on her desk.
Jimmy placed his left wrist on the block so that it could read the ident chip planted inside it. When it beeped, the Governor looked down at the screen and nodded.
“Under article ten of regulation six, you are now free. Guard Anderson will escort you to your debriefing.”
Although confused and wanting to know why he was being released from his life sentence, a subconscious warning made Jimmy think that questioning his release would be a mistake. So Jimmy silently followed the guard as instructed.
Several hours later, Jimmy found himself in front of the door to a flat in a nice block about 20 minutes from the centre of the city. Apparently, it was his flat for at least the next year while he settled into a job as a delivery man, which he had just been given. He held his wrist up to the key pad, expecting his luck to finally run out and not be let in. The door clicked open and Jimmy found himself in a small lounge room decorated in black and white minimalist style. On the modular bookshelf, there were some photos of his parents. Jimmy walked over to have a closer look before exploring the rest of his new home, which consisted of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, all decorated in a similar style but with the unnerving addition of possessions that Jimmy had left at his parent’s house prior to his life of crime. As Jimmy walked around, he randomly touched pieces of furniture and other objects to assure himself that they were real.
Eventually, Jimmy collapsed on to the very comfortable bed and pondered his fate. He knew, as everyone did, that a life sentence meant life without parole with almost no exceptions. There was no explanation for the day’s events. Jimmy had kept in touch with the outside world through his personal tablet, a privilege earned for good behaviour, but there was a huge chasm between earning a tablet and gaining freedom. Now, he had a house, a job and a bank account with money in it. Suddenly, his life looked just about perfect. It was so very different anything he could have hope for only a day earlier.
“This is just weird… too weird. I don’t deserve this.” Jimmy spoke his thoughts aloud. The sound of his voice unnerved him, so he got up and returned to the lounge room, turning on the wall screen TV.
“Hey Jimmy, do you need a holiday?”
Jimmy then remembered how intrusive personalised ads could be, although the idea of a holiday sounded nice. He changed the channel, looking for something light hearted and mindless to watch.
For the next month, Jimmy found himself settling into a new life and a new routine. The thought that at any point someone would realise it was all a terrible mistake and take him back to jail occasionally disturbed him, particularly when he saw anyone in uniform, but it was becoming less frequent. He got in contact with his family who chose to pretend he had never been in jail. There was even a friendly young woman, who worked for one of his clients, who had caught Jimmy’s eye and agree to have dinner with him. It was like he had never been a criminal and had always been living this normal humdrum life.
On the Saturday morning five weeks after his release, Jimmy’s criminal past was thrust back into central focus. His new weekend routine was to sleep in a bit, get up and have a leisurely breakfast in front of the daily news before getting dressed and going out for the afternoon to an art gallery or museum to enjoy his new found freedom. So mid-morning, Jimmy sat down with his bowl of cereal and switched on the news.
“…all inmates are confirmed dead. Police have also confirmed that in the weeks prior to the attack, it appears that several prisoners were illegally released. However, the records have been tampered with so the exact number of escapees and their identities cannot be confirmed at this time. The Public is warned to avoid suspicious looking men.”
A chill ran down Jimmy’s spine. Were they talking about him and his former prison? No longer hungry, he put his bowl aside on the coffee table. He then stood up, looked around, started to say something, stopped, rubbed his face and then turned his attention back to the television.
“Come on, tell me which prison.” He demanded of the screen.
Within minutes, it was confirmed that it was indeed his former prison that had been the victim of a fatal gas attack that had cleverly used the plumbing system and that the police were looking for some missing prisoners. Jimmy decided to cancel his plans for the day and stay inside, keeping a low profile. He stayed in front of the television while also surfing various online news services in case they reported other details.
By the end of the weekend, Jimmy had discovered that not only had some prisoners been wrongly freed, but also that a hacker had wiped all of the criminal and legal records for these men and had tampered with newspaper records of the trials. No one had paper files anymore, so there was no record of who these men were or what they had done. He was truly free of their criminal pasts.
On the Monday morning, Jimmy decided he would carry on with his new life and forget about his terrible past, in spite of the fear of arrest nagging at the back of his mind along with a question.
That evening, when he got around to checking his messages, there was one with no sender and only a subject heading.
“You showed remorse.”