Prisoner 374215 (An ESTO Universe Story)
By Angel Martinez
An ESTO Universe Story
Release Date: June 2, 2013
Word Count: 10,360
The cracks had opened wide one day, let the monsters out, and swallowed every bright thing.
While the cell is sparse and cold, at least this one has a bed. The figure resting there is too thin; too still, the prominent bones the result of long starvation, the stillness the product of too much anguish and abuse. He watches, though. An anxious, intelligent mind still occupies this frail and failing body, one that watches and wonders about the new guard occupying his cell each night.
Cracks…the universe had them running through it. They had opened wide one day, let the monsters out, and swallowed every bright thing.
The electronic locks clanked. Scar came through the door and secured the locks before taking his seat by the far wall. It was time for sleep, then. Perhaps he could now that Scar had come. He didn’t trust this guard any more than the rest, but he had become part of the soothing routine of evening. Day cycles meant chaos and fear often accompanied by yet another new agony. Night cycles, though, had become regular and predictable in his newest cell, a time to catalogue and analyze the spots of pain old and new.
The clanks and thuds of guards checking locks and their boots thumping in the bare hallway signaled the last round of disturbance. Afterward, all was quiet except for his own breathing and the occasional sob or moan from someone farther down the hall.
A shifting in the shadows meant Scar was settling his sidearm more comfortably and crossing one booted ankle over the opposite knee. He did these things every evening, this restless shifting before he became completely still and watchful.
374215 didn’t know the man’s name. Guards didn’t give their names, so he had his own designations for them. The one with the galactic coordinates tattooed across his knuckles was Spacer. Scar had his name for the plasma burns on the left side of his face that sometimes, in the right light, made him look like an Old Earth tiger.
Not that he shared these nicknames with the guards. One didn’t speak to them except under extreme circumstances. Speaking resulted in beatings, the severity depending on how much time and energy the guard had. 374215 hadn’t been beaten for several weeks.
He wanted to speak to Scar, which wasn’t a sane impulse. Nothing insulting or defiant, simply, Hello, how was your day? Yes, I think I’ll sleep now. The pain isn’t as bad as it was yesterday. Goodnight. Perhaps if that lantern-jawed face had been less forbidding, he might have. Perhaps if he knew why Scar came every evening…but curiosity was for other men. Men with names.
Curled up in a tight ball for warmth, he turned his attention back to the wall and let the meandering patterns of cracks in the plasticrete lull him to sleep.