Saturday, November 19, 2011


The alarm sounded signaling the end of the hour. The watch tower had a change of guard. Superintendent Jackson had tightened the security protocols after the riot that broke out two days ago. One guard had been killed in the violence. Some said Jackson was pissed at the thought of such an atrocious incident under his watch. There were others who had a conspiracy theory that Jackson staged the whole thing to get rid of the guy for reasons unknown without having to face a departmental inquiry from the Bureau.

Jackson was a short and stout man with his balding forehead. One would mistake him for a store-clerk or a restaurant waiter except that the nasty scar that ran down his right cheek was evidence of a much darker character. He cut his teeth as a gunnery sergeant in the wars and joined law enforcement after leaving active service. He specifically asked for a job within the Bureau of Prisons and was granted it without much difficulty thanks to his war credentials. Now, he runs the Lunar Penitentiary Colony where the worst offenders are shipped off from the Earth to lead life sentences. Jackson ran a tight ship and held an enviable record. No one has ever managed to escape from his prison, yet.

* * *
Jeff Rhodes a.k.a. Prisoner #3092 at the Lunar Penitentiary Colony, lay on his bed in his cell with palms locked behind his shaved head and looking up through the glass ceiling. Beyond that reinforced unbreakable glass ceiling were stars, distant galaxies and dark space that seemed to extend to eternity. Somewhere, definitely outside the small viewport that the ceiling in his confinement cell offered him, a beautiful blue marble called Planet Earth was spinning around. Jeff Rhodes dreamed about it all the time. If everything were to go as per his plan, he would be on his way to the Earth in less than twenty four hours only happy to leave this godforsaken place.

He turned to his side and caught a figure in the shadows, standing by the gate and staring at him. He could make out the unmistakable contours of Jackson in the darkness, standing there almost like a wax statute. Jeff closed his eyes and mentally started running through the sequence of his escape plan for the tenth time. He didn't know when the tiredness took over his body and when he fell asleep.

* * *
Blaring alarms. Flashing lights. Prisoners lining up for a roll-call. Jeff avoided eye contact with Jackson and the other guards. He sat alone during breakfast, looking up occasionally to count the number of guards on duty. He knew that one of the guards was on special leave and had left for Earth last week due to the untimely death of his wife. Jeff had taken care of killing another guard during the riots last week. The reinforcements sent by the Bureau were enroute and would take two more days to reach the moon base. Meanwhile, Jackson's short-staffed crew would make mistakes. Jeff was counting on it. He hoped that no one would notice him slipping away after breakfast when the prisoners are sent back to their cells.

* * *
The alarm went off and the prisoners got up from their seats and filed into two lines. One of the guards signaled them to move towards the cell block. The prisoners in their orange jumpsuits started walking. Jeff had carefully picked his breakfast table so that he would be towards the end of the line with just a couple of men behind him with the rear guards following them. The prisoners had to navigate two sharp turns and Jeff was planning to slip away between those two turns and hide in a wall recess he had identified. The challenge was to do it without the knowledge of the other prisoners and the rear guards.

The leading prisoners made the first turn to the right. Jeff coughed and stopped temporarily as the rear guards looked up. He avoided meeting them in the eye and let the two other prisoners who were behind him to pass and took the last position in the line. The guards didn't notice and seemed to be relaxed and engaged in trivial banter. He was now just a few steps away from the first turn himself.  Jeff made the turn and quickened his pace. Small beads of sweat formed on his head and ran down over the dragon tattooed on his neck. The rear guards were invisible and were at least ten steps behind him. Another four seconds... and he would reach the wall recess.

As soon as he got there, Jeff deftly moved sideways and cramped himself into the small space offered by the wall recess and hid in the darkness. He could hear the footsteps of guards. Jeff was acutely aware of all his senses and time seemed to slow down as he waited with bated breath. He could see the rear guards passing by. He waited there for a minute and then tiptoed his way to the transportation bay. He reached the door. There was not much time left. There will be a check done after all the prisoners get into their respective cells and his escape would be discovered. He had to be on his way before that.

He took out the key from his pocket... the key that he had taken from the dead guard during the riots. He opened the transportation bay door. He had almost made it. A few seconds away from freedom. He could sense it.

A steel casket ready for dispatch lay in the center of the dimly lit room. The casket held the dead body of the guard he had killed. It was destined to leave for the Earth in the next robotic cargo freighter out of the Lunar Penitentiary Colony. Jeff thanked the broadminded designers of the steel casket for making it large enough to fit two bodies. Of course, he didn't know or care that it was designed that way for saving costs.

He could see the cargo freighter's lights blinking a short distance away as it approached for docking. He quickly got into the casket, by the side of the embalmed corpse and closed it shut. Once the freighter undocks, he would be free to get out of the casket. Every casket had an unlock provision from the inside in case someone was accidentally shut in. He was willing to endure this minor ordeal with the corpse until the freighter was on its way. 

The pod bay doors opened and the freighter completed its docking maneuver. The casket moved into the freighter and the doors closed. A few seconds later the freighter undocked and glided away from the Lunar Penitentiary Colony. 

* * *
Superintendent Jackson finished typing his report on the strange happenings that week.


1 comment:

  1. A very entertaining story. Definitely not the ending I was expecting. I love how you added an underlined humor in an otherwise serious story.


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