“I’ve been up for about ten minutes,” Juan said.
Two guards stood outside of the bars of Eugene and Juan’s cell. One of the guards was an older grey haired man, the other a much younger and overweight man. “I woke up and he was like that,” Juan added.
“He was released from psych too early,” the older guard said.
Eugene entered prison under a suicide watch and spent the first month of his incarceration on the eighth floor mental ward. He suffered from clinical depression, but he could be functional. It took him the entire month to persuade the psych ward staff that he was not going to hurt himself and he was ready to be put into general population.
“He shouldn’t have been allowed to have access to shoe laces,” said the fat guard.
In the back, by the window that looked out over the exercise yard, a dark figure was mostly hidden in the shadow of the corner. Beneath the darkness where a little light shown, a pair of feet with white athletic socks could be seen suspended in the air as if Eugene were levitating inside of the cell. Outside the window, lightening flashed. The sound of rain pouring onto the roof could be heard from just above.
Eugene was convicted on vehicular manslaughter charges and sentenced to life for killing a woman and her eight year old daughter. He was high on weed and had three beers, so he drove off.
About ninety days later he was caught at a traffic stop where a warrant showed up under his name on the police database. The name Eugene flashed on the computer screen in the arresting officer’s patrol car; manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crime, possible DUI.
“Looks like he tied himself off on the air vent,” said the fat guard.
“Ten minutes you say?” asked the older guard.
“He twitches a little once in a while,” Juan stated in a matter of fact manner. “Sometimes one of his legs kicks.”
Juan was a young man facing ten years for meth transportation. It would have been a lesser sentence for a man who didn’t take half of the Phoenix police force on a wild car chase from the city streets to the high desert where his radiator overheated and the engine block cracked.
Juan was leaning his arms on the bars of his cell door. His dark eyes looked from the fat guard to the old guard. He met eyes with both of them. He was keeping quiet even though he wanted to scream out about how creeped he was being in this room with this half dead man kicking in the dark.
Some specters leave the body well before the death of their host, like a cold vapor escaping into the wind.
One pass about the scene. Two prison guards outside of the cell.
Juan waited patiently to be taken out, not caring where. They could put him out in the rain for all he cared. Just so he was out and away from Eugene.
Another cold sweep around the group; the old man with the grey hair is afraid. It shows in his eyes. Probably Juan and the fat guy saw this too. The fat guy, just wanted to get out of there. And the cold vapor finally escapes into the storm.
The lightning flash caused a strobe-like effect in Juan and Eugene’s cell. A violent light invaded the cell like pyrotechnics during a rock concert. The light flashed across the bloated face of the hanging man. Eugene’s closed eyes could be seen during the flashes.
“Want me to report this?” the fat guard asked, his hand on the shortwave device attached at his belt.
“Shit,” the old guard said. “Don’t call it in yet,” he answered.
“Cause he is probably still alive. If we open the cell we can tell for sure. Check for a pulse. If he is alive they will want us to cut Eugene down. I’ve seen this before.”
“So…” prodded the fat guard.
“If he isn’t dead yet, his brain is fucked for sure. He will live his life a vegetable on the medical ward. People bitch about the price of keeping inmates housed now. If only they knew the cost to keep a vegetable alive.
“Anyways, it wasn’t an accident. He wanted to die. He basically strangled himself. The air has been cut off to the brain for at least ten minutes now.”
The fat guard stayed his hand as he pondered this, his fingers resting on the shortwave attached to his belt, a quizzical look on his face.
“Besides, Juan here wants to get the hell out of that cell,” the old guard explained. “Let’s get him cuffed and out of there.”
“He was a nice guy,” Juan explained as they walked down the hallway to the holding cell. “Not much of a talker though.”
The door to Juan and Eugene’s cell stood open. The wind from the storm could be heard coming from the window. It was strong enough to blow some of the rain water through the seals of the window. A thin stream was pooling up on the floor in the light just beneath Eugene’s stocking feet.
The lightning flashed and filled the room with light. Eugene’s big toe on the right foot twitched. The body, struggling to stay alive, kicked at death furiously. Eugene was losing more specters to the storm. His body wished to breathe one more breath. The body rebeled against dying and struggled to the last second. Eugene’s right foot kicked for one last time, alone in the dark. DSS
David Seaman, 51, of Peoria, Illinois. has been a machinist and worked with the disabled. He is now attenting college to obtain an English degree.
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