Here is day 3 of my personal November writing challenge. It’s an idea I’ve been toying around with for a bit now, and certainly not a unique one by any stretch of the imagination. I’m tired from the last 15 hours of work I’ve done so I didn’t keep writing, but I think I’ll pick this one back up at a later date (maybe tomorrow, maybe a few days from now). I realize that there are problems with the pacing right now, but I hope to address that in the re-write stage.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick around for the rest of my November challenge.
Prisoner (working title)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2024
“Ah, Detective Inspector, how good of you to drop by.”
Detective Inspector Alan Locke sighed as he slid his special access card into the scanner that was bolted to the reinforced steel door and punched in the morning’s access code. The honeyed tones of the prisoner’s voice didn’t so much boom as fill all the empty space in the corridor at once. Locke hated it when the prisoner did that, spoke to Locke before he’d opened the sealed chamber he was housed in. Before it could have possibly known Locke was even coming. It wasn’t like Locke came down here at regular intervals, but somehow he always knew Locke was there.
There was a sudden metallic scraping sound followed by the loud shunk as the primary cylinders slid back from the frame into their sheaths inside the vault door. The Inspector then spun the combination lock in the center of the door a few times and then gripped the large wheel that had been affixed there. A second metallic scraping sound, quieter but longer than the first, echoed through the corridor. When the wheel locked in place Detective Inspector Locke heaved on the door, groaning slightly as his joints squealed in protest. The heavy steel door swung slowly open.
“I had hoped you might visit me some time soon. It’s been so long.”
The prisoner’s voice no longer sounded as though it was coming from everywhere at once, but Locke didn’t feel any less nervous at having to hear it. The fact that the voice seemed to be coming from the hunched figure in the center of the vault only comforted you if you didn’t know that the it didn’t have a mouth. Or lungs.
It had eyes though, and it watched Inspector Locke keenly as he made his way to the battered wooden table set ten feet in front of the bound prisoner and take a seat at the single metal chair positioned there. Both table and chair were bolted to the floor, but Locke had been coming down here for a long time and had learned long ago to resist the habit of trying to reposition the chair. The prisoner got even more glib than usual if you did that and it was hard enough talking to it in the first place. Locke reached in his briefcase, pulled out a simple, unlabeled manilla folder and spread it’s contents out on the table in front of him for the look of the thing. The prisoner was too far away to see any of the photos or documents clearly, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t even need them to be removed from the briefcase. It didn’t even need them to be in the same room. It knew. Inspector Locke just liked following his routine.
“We have another case.” Locke said in a monotone. He fixed his stare squarely on the prisoner over the top of his thick rimmed glasses.
“Down to business so soon?” asked the prisoner in a mocking tone, tilting his head to one side. “I’m beginning to think you only come here for my information. It’s like you don’t care about my personality at all.”
“I don’t,” Locke replied flatly.
“Do you hate me?” the prisoner asked in a sing song voice.
“Why, Detective Inspector, I never knew. Careful, you’ll make me blush.” The prisoner was positively purring with delight now.
“I don’t feel strongly about you one way or the other.” This was a lie. The prisoner repulsed Locke in every possible way. He hated it with every unthinking fiber of every cell in his body. But the Inspector took pleasure in making the prisoner think he didn’t care about it. It always got so angry when he did.
“Well,” said the prisoner in a deep, mirthless voice, “if that’s the way you’re going to be, I think we’re done here. Good day.”
Detective Inspector Locke didn’t say anything. He’d been through this charade far too many times to try and argue with the prisoner. Instead, he simply let his hand fall to the large metal rod beside on the right hand side of his chair. It was a kill switch. The lever’s fulcrum was lubricated daily. At the base of the switch was a simple circuit that would break when the switch was thrown in either direction. A single cable snaked it’s way across the concrete floor all the way from the switch to the apparatus that the prisoner was suspended above.
It had been a point of concern when the prisoner had first been discovered. What prison could hold a being so totally unique and ungodly powerful? When it had first been unearthed it had killed more than a dozen officers and nearly fifty civilians in the first few minutes. If it hadn’t lapsed into an exhausted hibernation they might never have stopped it.
And so, The Vault had been made. These days the rumor mill in the local law enforcement fully justified the capital letters. It had begun simply, and then grown more elaborate as time passed and new information became available. Initially the prisoner had been thrown into the vault strapped into a straight jacket and left under heavy guard. When the photos of ground zero had been analyzed it became apparent that the prisoner’s physical strength and…occult talents rendered the vault and the armed guard almost worthless.
After the initial precautions were deemed inadequate, non-conventional means of containment had been investigated. Mystics, holy men, shamans, psychics, exorcists, and pseudo-scientists were flown in from around the globe to consult on the project. Locke had only been a rookie cop at the time but he’d been one of the first to voice criticism over the prospect of bringing in unorthodox help. In his mind the prisoner was something to be destroyed, not contained. But he was a long way from the top, and those who dictated agency policy declared that the prisoner was to be contained and possibly harnessed for the greater good.
In the end, a system of fail safes were put into place to cover any possible contingency for the prisoner’s awakening. Whatever its origin or abilities, common consensus was that, if you threw enough at it, it would eventually be weak to something. The kill switch by Locke’s chair was connected to the plank that was the prisoner’s only means of support in the chamber. The plank was attacked to hinge that was locked in place by a single metal bolt. Should the kill switch be thrown, or any of the other containment protocols be breached, the clasps holding the bolt would be jettisoned and the bolt would give way immediately, letting the plank swing free on it’s hinge.
What this meant, for the prisoner, was that the immutable laws of gravity would then take effect, and the prisoner would plummet downwards at a rate of nearly ten meters per second. Since the plank suspended the prisoner mere centimeters above a four meter deep pool of holy water, it would mean that the prisoner would almost instantly be submerged in the tank of water which was blessed weekly by no less than four senior members of different religions from around the world. The whole contraption put Locke in mind of those dunk tanks he had seen at carnivals as a child.
Of course, there were other protocols and precautions in place should there be nobody present to throw the kill switch. All around the prisoner was a wall of invisible infrared lasers. If anything larger than a gnat passed through the invisible wall the sensors would detect the movement and activate the tiny explosives on the plank’s bolt. Locke often had to fight the urge to throw something through the beams, just to see if they worked.
The prisoner’s straight jacket was likewise bound by mystical means. A series of padlocks hung from the back of the jacket and all of them were engraved with symbols. Some were Christian prayers, others were Kabbalistic or ancient pagan rituals. One was even etched in plain words in all of the world’s languages. Words for jail, or confinement, or simply “stop”. It was whispered, through the rumor mill, that the jacket itself had been woven by the hands of a hundred virgins working in silence for a week and a day. Locke knew that this was almost completely untrue. It was a normal straight jacket, probably made in some sweat shop on the other side of the world. The workers were probably children, and so were technically virgins. At least Locke hoped that they were.
And Locke knew that there were more precautions put in place than he would ever be aware of. He’d heard that the entire room was laced with explosives. He’d heard that there were missile silos less than a hundred miles away that had executive orders to target The Vault 24-7 and could turn it and the surrounding three city blocks to ash within minutes of launch. The men who came in to oil the hinges and check the padlocks were rumored to be blind and deaf, though Locke shuddered to think at anyone blind checking the padlocks on the prisoner’s jacket. They would have to deactivate the lasers, for starters, just to be able to feel that the locks were still in place. Locke doubted if that last rumor were really true.
But what Locke did know was that the prisoner did not want him to throw the kill switch. There was a brief moment of silence as he rested his hand on the simple iron bar and he almost thought he saw the prisoner shake, with rage or fear, as it considered its options.
“How long,” it said after the pause.
“Two days ago. Upstate.”
“How many dead?”
“You know all of this already. It’s all there in the file. You’ve read it all by now. So why ask?”
“I like to hear you say it. It helps me think. Helps me learn.”
“Why I should care.”
Locke was momentarily stunned. It wasn’t often that the prisoner expressed a wish to understand the cases that Locke brought it. Usually it was as simple as walking in, stating the facts, and then waiting a remarkably brief time for the prisoner to provide an answer. The answers weren’t always what Locke wanted to hear, and sometimes they were barely comprehensible, but they were always definitive and complete.
“Why do you think you should care?” Locke asked slowly.
“This one is different. You know that, yes?” the prisoner sounded genuinely reticent to speak on the subject. This, too, was new. Usually it only withheld information to be a nuisance, but now it actually seemed torn over the decision.
“Everything I bring you is different,” Locke said blankly.
“You know what I mean,” the prisoner snapped.
“…Yes,” Locke said eventually. “I think I do.”
“Can I assume that the bodies were found in the same positions as they appear in the photographs?” asked the prisoner.
“Yes. To our knowledge the bodies had not been tampered with. I doubt you need me to point out that, in cases like this, that doesn’t mean the bodies were found where they died.”
“There are no other cases like this.” said the prisoner softly. “At least, not that I know of.”
That statement worried Detective Inspector Locke more than he cared to admit. His prisoner seemed to have a knowledge of events around him that frightened the Inspector with depressing regularity. There were times when the Inspector had actually learned of important events that had happened in the time he’d met with the prisoner from the prisoner itself. To Inspector Locke it often seemed like the prisoner wasn’t really a prisoner at all.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that, if your evidence is correct, then there has not been a case like this in the past five hundred years.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because the last time something like this took place in your world was the night I was summoned. I would know instantly if anyone had come after me.”