Jimmy’s cellmate, Bryn, was rocking back and forth on his bunk, muttering. If anyone caught wind of Bryn acting like this, things could go bad for both of them. Jimmy looked out through the bars, the prison was locked down for the evening but he didn’t want anyone overhearing; it wouldn’t be good for him to be seen to be overly caring.
But he did care. Bryn had slept in the bunk below him for nearly three years and Jimmy knew him better than just about anyone he’d ever known before.
He kept his voice low, “Bryn, mate, what’s going on?”
Bryn looked up; he was still shaking but he stopped muttering. Beads of sweat slipped down his face, and his eyes slowly focussed on Jimmy.
“S’bad, Jimmy, s’real bad.”
“When ain’t it? You gotta pull yourself together, mate.”
“Too late. S’my fault. They got out.”
“Who got out? Of here? No way, ain’t no one due out and ain’t no one escaped.”
Bryn shook his head and moaned.
“Out of my head, Jimmy. I used to escape this place every day. Used to imagine myself other places where I wasn’t held in concrete and steel, where I was free to come and go as I pleased.”
“Hell, mate, we’ve all done that.”
“Problem is, I came back here every night.”
“Yeah, we all got that problem.”
“No, no, no. I thought I imagined those places, but they’re real, the demons ain’t just in my head.”
Jimmy had heard rumours about what Bryn did, the savagery, but he’d never asked, just seen the wide berth some of the other killers gave Bryn.
He licked his lips nervously, “Uh... the demons that told you to do all those things?”
“Those other places were prisons, too. And something wanted to escape, something followed me back. Here.”
“Look, mate, I heard about your insanity plea. It didn’t work then, what makes you think it’s gonna work now?”
From somewhere on another level the night time silence was broken by shouting, agitated, angry. It was always difficult to judge exactly where, the way sound ricocheted inside the bones and cavities of the building, but a shout in here, after lights out, always started an avalanche, more shouts, whoops. There was a scream, not unusual, but this sounded different, scared.
You didn’t sound scared in here, it wasn’t good for survival.
Jimmy rolled his eyes, “Great, everyone’s feeling a little crazy tonight, must be a full moon.”
“You don’t understand.” Bryn gripped his arm, “It’s too late, you’re going to die.”
Jimmy calmly removed Bryn’s hand, “Now I know you didn’t just threaten me. Watch your mouth, Bryn. Say that to the wrong person round here and you’ll be doing all your imagining in a neck brace, or worse.”
“What kind of creature needs to be locked up in a place that doesn’t even exist, Jimmy?”
The chorus of cries and yells continued to crescendo. It was beginning to sound like a full blown riot, but no way was anyone out of their cells. There was going to be hell to pay when the chief came in; the night warden was probably calling him right now.
Bryn looked up and over Jimmy’s shoulder. His eyes widened.
“Oh shit. I’m sorry, man, so sorry.”
Jimmy’s stomach clenched as a rank smell of rotten meat and soured milk washed over him. There was a clink, clink, of something hard, like ceramic, making contact with the metal of the bars behind him. There was a low, phlegmy huffing and then the straining, creaking sound of tortured metal.
His back prickled cold with fear. Fear of whatever was bending hardened steel with sheer force of strength. Fear of the unknown, but he couldn’t look, couldn’t afford to freeze. He didn’t want to die and there was only one thing he could think of.
It was nothing he hadn’t done before. He just hadn’t cared about the others.
“No, Bryn. I’m the one who’s sorry.”
He took hold of Bryn’s head and twisted sharply, standing, wrenching, hearing that wet, crunching, crackling snap, like biting into the gristle of a chicken leg but ten times as loud.
He let the dead weight of the body pull the head from his hands.
He waited. Nothing.
The smell was fading. He turned. One bar was bent and torn, another was bowed. Something dark was smeared and smattered along the walkway. Blood? But nothing else. Nothing but the confused cries of predators suddenly found themselves prey, and then delivered.