I’m shoulder to shoulder with murderers and pedophiles knee-deep in pig guts. I stuff another heaping handful of intestines into the sack tied to my waist wondering when they’ll open the doors so I can finally take a shit or if I’ll have to do that business right here and now. I notice Charlie collapse into the stinking pool of gore, exhaustion-induced unconsciousness. I wade over to his side as fast as I can before any Fabricants spot him. Pulling him out of the pool took nearly all my strength and I could feel my muscles tear and pain firing from every neuron. “Come on, buddy. On your feet.” I felt a stream of shit fall down my leg. Relief.
Charlie’s head surfaced, eyes still closed. I smacked him twice before he flinched and stared at me with wild eyes. “Put the puppies in the fire!” Charlie said.
He struggled to his feet while grabbing for my neck. I was too tired to defend myself and allowed his hands to close around my neck and shove me down. I was on my knees while Charlie strangled me and I could feel his nails digging deeper into my throat and wondered how bad the wounds would get infected.
“Charles, my lovely boy! Put those puppies in the goddamn fire before I tan your hide!” he said.
“Charlie,” I whispered.
Just as I feel myself slipping, his hands leave my neck and I fall face first into the pig guts. I look up, gag, see the back of someones jumpsuit and another man, presumably Charlie, thrashing wildly before him.
Don’t kill the poor bastard, I thought. Charlie had it worse than all of us in terms of sentencing. At least we got 3 meals and a bedroll while he was on the receiving end of countless torture devices and biological experiments conducted by Fabricants. It’s funny, though. They could be torturing any of us, and in a sense they do, but not the way they do Charlie. Whatever he did must’ve been real bad. Bad enough that they drill holes in his head every night and his screams fill the prison and they echo through your dreams and you wake up with this lingering sadness, this sense of disaster that you can’t quite understand until you see that look in Charlies eyes. That blank stare and crooked smile. The shaved off eyebrows, dimpled chin, hollow cheeks, long, thin black hair. I watch him at breakfast shovel gruel into his mouth with trembling lips but a steady hand. His actions are cold and calculated, an automation. I remember the look on his face when we were in processing and he asked me what I was in for.
“Child prostitution, first-degree murder, necrophilia, cannibalism, trespassing. You?”
He couldn’t even answer, he just stopped breathing and looked at me. I asked him if there was a problem and he just kept staring. I grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him up against the wall and told him I’d take pleasure in fucking him after I kill him that night. It wasn’t until later at dinner that he sat with me and apologized and asked if there was anything he could do to avoid becoming a dead man and naturally I made him my wife up until the Fabricants took him away. I guess I loved him, because when they took him I cried and I screamed and tried to kill myself by jumping off the second floor but got two broken legs and 5 months in solitary for that. When I was put back into general population I asked around for Charlie and was told to wait until nighttime and I’d hear him. I’ve listened to his screams for the past 6 years. When he was finally put back on work duty in the slaughterhouse I tried talking to him but he was already gone, mentally on another planet. It didn’t matter, I still tried talking to him everyday, and everyday he would have psychotic breaks and tried killing me more times than I can count. He successfully killed 14 other inmates but received no punishment because the Fabricants look at is as a natural way of cleaning up the prison population. And if I ever heard even the slightest plan of someone offing Charlie, I killed them. He needs me.
I told him this one day and for the briefest moment, I felt like he was back again. He looked at me strangely and said, “I ran a bookstore. That’s all I ever did”
I know I could get up and save Charlie, pull this mother fucker off him and save him from being murdered. But something kept me still, something convinced me it was his time to go and I watched him stop struggling and the man in the jumpsuit stand up and walk away like nothing ever happened. Charlie was gone,
I’ll miss him.