Authors: Keary Taylor
An EDEN Prequel
Copyright © 2013 Keary Taylor
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
First Digital Edition: February 2013
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Taylor, Keary, 1987-
The Ashes : a short story / by Keary Taylor. – 1
Also by Keary Taylor
THE EDEN TRILOGY
The Raid: An Eden Short Story
The Bane: Book One
FALL OF ANGELS
Afterlife: the novelette companion to Vindicated
WHAT I DIDN’T SAY
It’s been three days since they brought any food. From the shouts and banging that echo throughout the block I’m guessing that I’m not the only one starving. The inmate in the cell next to mine lets out a string of cuss words you only learn when you’ve spent a few years on the inside.
“So this is how it’s going to be?” my neighbor shouts to no one in particular. “You’re just going to let us starve? What, did the red, white, and blue finally run out of flow or something? Just gonna’ leave me here to rot?”
The guy next door always did have a loud mouth.
My stomach rumbles as I lie on my hard bed and stare up at the gray ceiling.
Where is everyone?
The schedule in here is clockwork. No deviations. But no one on D block has seen a single guard in three days, not since they brought dinner four nights ago.
Guards don’t simply disappear.
We’ve all had to dig into our stock piles of hidden food. Some of us will be good for a week, some us for only a few days.
The hunger makes the violence and vile words grow worse.
Today we heard shots being fired somewhere out in the direction of GP. Even more shots out toward Medical. I didn’t think they were going to end when I heard them out toward Death Row.
Eighteen days now.
I ran out of food five days ago.
My hands are shaking and my eyes can’t seem to focus just right. My body wants to be sick but there isn’t anything except water in it.
Never thought I’d be so grateful for the tiny sink and toilet combo in my cell. Never thought I’d have to rely on it to survive.
I haven’t heard much from the guy next door in the last twenty-four hours. He’s worn himself out and reduced his ranting and shouts to just the occasional pounding. He’s getting quieter.
The whole block is.
Twenty-three days since we’ve seen anyone. At least a week since everyone ran out of their food hoard. And yesterday morning the water shut off.
It smells. D block always smelled bad.
But not like this.
I don’t hear voices any more. Occasionally someone gives a weak kick at their door. Every few hours someone moans. Or cries.
You don’t cry in here. Not if you want to stay alive.
But if I’m guessing right, a few of us don’t carry the status of living anymore.
I don’t want to think that I might be headed in that direction soon. I can’t even climb out of this bed. I can hardly lift my arms or move my head. I don’t even feel hungry anymore. I just feel…
I hear something.
A door creeks open, or maybe closed.
And suddenly there’s the familiar buzzing sound of the cell doors sliding open.
“Hello?” I say. At first my voice doesn’t work. “Hello? Is anyone out there?”
Feet shuffle somewhere out in the corridor, but they pause just outside my cell. I sense their hesitancy, as if they’re debating just taking off and leaving me here alone to rot.
“Please,” I said, my voice sounding weak. “Please don’t leave. Get me out of here.”
They hesitate a moment longer, their weight shifting back and forth.
“You may as well stay here,” a voice says. Something is tossed and lands on the floor of my cell. “Everyone’s as good as dead out there.”
“What do you mean?” I say as I try and roll over to see what was thrown.
“Don’t let them touch you,” the voice says. “Anyone. Don’t let anyone touch you. That’s all that matters.”
And then the footsteps retreat and I’m alone again.
I wake sometime later and find that I’m on the cold gray floor. My arm is outstretched, reaching for something lying on the ground. I can only assume I passed out earlier.
The man in the dark. Something was thrown.
I make my way to my hands and knees and crawl to it.
It’s a plastic bag. The kind you get at the grocery store. Inside it is a bottle of water, half a loaf of slightly moldy bread, two Snickers bars, and a small cup of applesauce.
I’ve devoured half of it before my brain fully registers that I’ve eaten.
Massive stomach cramps immobilize me and soon I’m lying on my back again, staring up at the gray ceiling. My eyes open and shut in pain. But it’s a good pain. It means maybe I won’t die today.
My eyes trail across the ceiling to the entrance to my cell. The door is still open.
But I don’t even have the strength to crawl out it.
Seven years. Seven years I’ve occupied this cell in the SHU. D block is the segregated housing unit. I deserve my stay. But after seven years, my chance at freedom is right there, and I don’t even have the strength to get to my feet.
“You still alive?” a voice says. Suddenly I’m blinded and I feel my eyelids being pulled open.
My fist connects with a jaw in fight or flight reaction.
Someone curses and stumbles away. A flashlight hits the floor and rolls into the corner. I shakily climb to my feet but nearly fall to the ground again. My muscles seem to have forgotten how to work.
The figure in the dark is still cursing when the flashlight is turned back in my direction.
“Guess you’re still alive then,” they say. “You’re the only one on D block.”
“Everyone else?” Once again my voice is haggard.
“They’re dead. Starvation and dehydration took ‘em,” he says as he walks closer to me. His gray prison clothes match mine. “Probably best. Come on, we’ve got to get out of here.”
I don’t question him as we head out the door. I grab the sack with the remaining food before we leave.
Out on the walkway, the smell is overwhelming. Some of them must have died at least a week ago if it already smells this bad.
“The corridor leading to Medical’s blocked off,” the guy says and starts toward the isolation rec block instead of out toward GP. The only way in or out of the prison is though Medical. “Roof’s caved in. I was hoping there’d be another way out in your neck of the woods.”
I don’t look into the other cells as we pass by.
The doors are open out to the isolation rec block that separates the SHU where I reside and Death Row. I’m momentarily blinded as I look up at the barbwire-covered opening. Out to freedom.
We’re both deathly quiet as we walk through the narrow block toward the next door.
This one is open too.
Death Row is silent and smells worse than the SHU. I dare a glance into one of the cells. There’s a man lying on the floor, flat on his back. He’s staring blankly up at the ceiling, a bullet hole between his eyes.