The Governor’s JokeCategories Flash Fiction Contest Winner
I’m getting close. It’s been so long I’ve almost given up, again and again. I don’t sleep because death visits me in my dreams, laughing, white teeth flashing, throwing his head back like it’s the funniest thing in the world. He stalks me in these tunnels, crawls just out of sight. If the tunnel collapses he’ll have me. If I give up, he’ll have me. Because life here isn’t life. It’s a slow, terrible death.
Sometimes I think about suicide. But that would be their victory, wouldn’t it? I won’t give them that.
Every morning they take me to the factory, walk me through corridors white as bone, empty save for them, the guards, helmeted, nameless. They could be clones for all I know. I never see their faces.
Sometimes I’m strapped into the vids, then they blast manuals and instructions onto my synapses. A deep male voice narrates. I call him Tom. Sometimes I hear him talking to me even when I’m not strapped in. It’s not right. This tech isn’t tested. Now I think of it, I guess I am the one testing it.
7:15 to 20:00 I work in the factory cell, alone. I make things. Complicated things. A while ago it was jammers to knock drones out of the sky. They didn’t exactly say, but I had a degree in engineering, before, and I knew. Recently, I’ve been making cameras, tiny cameras which could fit inside a button, underneath a fingernail.
I know what these things will be used for. I cry sometimes when I make them. I think of my friends. Are they still out there? Are they dead? Or are they in here too? Somewhere nearby, a walls thickness and an eternity away?
20:10 I’m back in my cell, alone.
20:30 My real work begins.
It’s under my bed. That’s where I’ve built it. My tunnel. I watched a film once, about prison, and the inmates dug a giant tunnel out. I couldn’t believe it. People couldn’t do that, not in secret, not without proper tools.
I was wrong.
Who was it that said man can endure any what, as long as he has a why? I live by that. I’d off myself if I knew I would never leave. But I’m going to get out and I’m going to fight back. I remember the smell of the green wind in the trees, the smell of wet earth after the rain. I remember women. I’m going to have that again. I’ll pay them back for this.
They moved me once. I’d built a tunnel so long it took me an age just to crawl to the end. Once I heard humming through the earth, like electric, a siren song through that sleeping realm. I wondered if that was what worms heard, as they made their long pilgrimages through the night? Had any man heard this song before?
They moved me and didn’t say why. I was never punished. I don’t think they knew about the tunnel.
Never mind. I’m close now. I’m going to escape. Please. Please let me be close.
First Governor Watten,
I’ve had Susan my secretary send you all the normal reports. All quiet on the western front. We’re ticking over nicely. More than nicely. I couldn’t have believed it this time last year but we’re actually making a profit. If you’ll excuse me my doubts but when you took that contract for the Drone-Burners I thought you were reaching too far. Prisoners have been used for labour before, but to put them to work on something so complex, so difficult, I didn’t think it could be done. We have quite a few degrees amongst our boys here, but let’s be frank, for what we’re ‘paying’ them I didn’t think they would put up with it. Or could put up with it. You know the hazards of solitary.
But Harry I really have to put it to you, you’ve hit on something here. Guess those years under Dr Heinstein paid off. Why, we kept putting up more walls, more towers, more guards, we gave them more beatings, more doses, more examinations. None of it ever worked.
Who would have thought it? All these years and we were going in the wrong direction entirely. Hope. Give them hope. A classic con, let them buy in, let their greed blind them. So, we work them hard during the day, but at night we leave them be. We send the guards away (the visible ones of course), litter potential tools about, feed them false information. Then we let them dig to their hearts content. Let them think they’re close and always getting closer. But, why, closer just keeps getting farther away! Harry, you should see some of the tunnels my boys have dug. Right regular rabbits they are! We move them of course, once they get far enough. And off they go again! It’s Groundhog Day around here. Meanwhile they spend all day working for us, their sworn enemy!
Oh, and it’s a shame nobody told those poor fellows about our fancy underground perimeter. Even if they did manage to get far enough they’d be fried chicken. The things the labs are turning out these days now all that bureaucratic red tape has been cut away! They’re almost cruel.
Give my love to Samantha. You two must come over soon, Mary’s just bursting to show you two her new Chicken Pot Pie recipe and the boys all miss Uncle Harry. Let me know how the other projects are coming along, I’d love to share results.
It’s taking longer than I thought. I saw the maps. It can’t be much longer.
Hope can’t be false, can it? As long as it lives, it shines. It doesn’t matter how it ends. You wouldn’t call life false because it ends in death? Hope is alive. And I have hope. Dear God, let me have hope.
I’ve started to hear that humming again.
Jamie lives in Edinburgh and likes to read and write weird, hopeless stories. His mum hopes someday he’ll write something nice.