Today is Sample Sunday, where indie writers and publishers place samples of their work on line and promote them as much as possible. This time around I am going to offer up the prologue of my thriller Gothica.
THE SOUND of the stick smacking against the bars woke up most of the inmates in the D wing. The wood-on-metal clank resonated through each skull as it landed inches from their hairline. The officer knew full well he could crack open any one of these forgotten imbeciles and not suffer so much as a slap on the hand. It gave him a power his lowly rank never offered.
“Up! Get yer asses up!” His voice was nearly as harsh as the light that now seeped through the encrusted slits in their eyes. It was earlier than usual which only meant trouble.
“Sod off ya sack of lard!” Lem growled. The cold mist left his mouth and wafted through the air. “And give us some bloody heat…freezing my stones off.”
“I’ll get on that Queen of England.” He smacked his stick to punctuate his sarcasm.
“Mornin’ sunshine!” The warden poked at Eek, the smallest of the lot, who sat urgently at the edge of his cot. “How’s everyone’s pet rat today?” The guard laughed at his own prodding.
“Eek happy”. The tiny man said with a blackened smile. His teeth had rotted away long ago due to his penchant for eating his own waste. “Wanna kiss?” Eek puckered his lips and sent an imaginary kiss through the air toward the guard. His howling laughed peeled off the concrete walls bringing the entire D wing up in arms.
“Quiet down!” The guards scream tore through the ears of the insane men and brought them to silence. He spit into the cell of Eek, the spittle landing on the waif’s cheek, and moved on.
The only sound was the heel of the guards boot meeting the cement floor. Even the stick had stopped tattooing the cell bars.
The guard stopped in front of the only remaining sleeper in the D wing – Freeny. No one knew if it was his first or his last name. And no one particularly cared to ask. Freeny had been living among the ‘dead’ for the last five years. He was the unquestioned over-lord of The Deep and no one threatened his rule. He was feared by everyone (armed or not) and with good reason. Freeny was evil. Of all the murderers, thieves, and rapists, Freeny was the one that stood alone causing the guards to pause and to take the safety off their pistols.
Freeny wasn’t necessarily a huge man. He stood 5′ 10″ which was a fragment below average height in The Deep. His head was clean shaven revealing a thicket of scars he’d won inside the walls of his current home. His hands were thick, and his arms scant above average. What really made Freeny frightening was his eyes. His right eye was brown – the kind of brown that should smell like smoldering feces. The left eye, for one reason or other, was white. He claimed that he traded the devil the color in his eye for the taste of a beautiful woman once. Taller tales would conclude that the Devil took the color from his eye because his soul was too black for hell.
Although no one knew what crime brought Freeny to The Deep, everyone knew why he remained. Although perfectly silent, Freeny would randomly shift between personalities. One minute he would seem a diminutive gentleman, the next he would, without provocation, scramble to rip out someone’s beating, warm heart. No one ever knew which Freeny was going to show up. And when the man entered a room there was always a period of discovery – which madman are we dealing with today?
“Up and at ’em sweet heart. Time for confession.” The guard’s monotone voice sent the eager inmates scrambling back to the darkened corners of their cells. Everyone in the The Deep knew ‘confession’ all to well. Confession was where you spilled your guts – one way or another. The ‘doctors’ would have their way with you until every ounce of sin, crime, truth, and lie wrung from their souls. And ‘confession’ could come in any form. For the weak, confession was simply a small room, a single light, a guard, and a tape recorder. For others confession came in the form of experimental psycho-therapeutic tests and procedures. Those ‘patients’ lucky enough to be weak would return to their cells unharmed. The less fortunate would return to their cells having been lobotomized or in casts, hideous restraints, torturous devices, or worse. Freeny, however, always seemed to return more vicious than before. No one could figure out why he hadn’t been broken. And no one really wanted to know because in the knowing would surely come damnation. Or worse.
There was no movement from Freeny. The guard called out again. “Wake up Freeny!” His voice growled impatiently.
The inmates shivered. No guard had called Freeny by name in months. The last to do so wound up being flushed down the crapper piece by bloody piece.
Slowly but surely movement began to come from Freeny’s bunk. A strange hissing sound began to leak through the air. Those close enough, and smart enough to be frightened out of their wits, awaited a serpent to rise from the cot.
As the wool blanket was slowly peeled off the head of Freeny it was apparent it was still just the man. No devil or demon had replaced him in the night. Or maybe one should say another devil or demon hadn’t replaced him in the night.
Freeny slowly sat up in his cot. He tilted his head slowly to the left and then to the right as if he were a wolf listening to the distant cry of some wounded prey to be picked apart. He straightened his head, content in the knowing the prey would wait, and ever so slowly stood. He didn’t bother to turn around to face the guard. He just planted his feet next to his cot and placed his hands to his side. He didn’t speak. He just stood there mocking every bit of authority the guard had.
The silence solidified into tension. Both men slowly inhaled and then exhaled. It was a power-play common inside the walls of The Deep. The guards never let the inmates see the fear that resonated constantly within the minds of anyone venturing within the walls of The Deep.
But Freeny was a master of fear and resilience. He could stand there forever as long as he felt the fear boiling in the guards blood.
The guard, on the other hand, had a duty. That duty precluded playing any games with his ward. “Okay Freeny – treatment time.”
Freeny slowly turned his head to look at the guard. The guard tucked his fear deep down but it was in vane.
Freeny smiled at the guard. He didn’t show his lack of teeth. Not one man in The Deep had ever seen Freeny’s teeth. Some thought the man simply didn’t have any choppers to show. Other rumored that it was just another deal with the devil. Still others insisted they had glimpses of metal inside his mouth and that he could bit through the bars of the cells in one snap.
It all only added to the mystery.
“Assume the position Freeny.” The guard waved his stick side to side to try to remind the man what could happen should he decide to misbehave.
Freeny knelt down to the floor next to the cell door, put his head between his knees, and his hands behind his back. The guard reached into the bars and cuffed Freeny’s hands together and then his ankles together. Between the cuffs ran a chain that contained Freeny’s hands behind him and prevented him from running.
“Now stand, walk away from the door, and turn around slowly.” Freeny complied and the guard opened the door. “Now slowly step out of the cell and walk ahead of me”. Again the madman complied.
As the two men funeral stepped their way down the concrete the D Ward erupted into a mad symphony of sounds. The guard broke out in a cold, fear-induced sweat.
“Dum dum da dum!” One of the crazies was singing the wedding march as Freeny and the guard passed his cell. The guard smacked the bars with his stick and the moron shut his mouth as he effortlessly slid under his cot.
When they reached the end of the hall they were standing in front of the cell containing one of the nastiest of the inmates. Fat Jimmy earned his nickname from cannibalizing an entire family. He left nothing remaining after a 2 month period of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals that consisted of the Brock Wayne family of Louisville. When he was caught he confessed that God had spoken to him, through the mouth of a black angel, telling him he must dine on the flesh of the wealthy in order to reach heaven.
He was nowhere near heaven.
Freeny turned his head toward Fat Jimmy’s cell. Fat Jimmy was in the middle of taking his hourly shit (he was sure there were bits and pieces of the Wayne family trapped in his bowels).
Without thinking Jimmy stood and hobbled over to the cell bars. “The devil. That’s what you are Freeny. You are the devil and God has told me that you and your palace of sin will soon burn to the ground. You are evil!”
Freeny lunged at the sweaty, obese man. Fat Jimmy stumbled backwards and fell hard to the ground, pissing on himself in the process. Freeny just softly laughed and started marching forward again.
When they reached their destination Freeny found himself in the usual examination room. In the center of the room was a chair bolted to the floor. The chair had been wired for electro-shock and other forms of torture hidden under the guise of science. Next to the chair was a gurney – not the standard fare for this room. Something was up.
“Well Mr. Freeny. Always a pleasure to see you walk through my door.” Dr. Scheller was a small, almost frail, old soul. On the surface he seemed to really care about the ‘patients’. Underneath, however, a different man lay waiting.
Scheller was a man bound and gagged to a psychiatric system that fed on his experimentation. Since his ‘patients’ were the dregs of society, society never took notice when one of it’s own fell under the blade (or the chair) of Dr. Scheller. The State of course funded every last endeavor Scheller inflicted upon the human psyche. Vicious and slow in his torture, Scheller tested the walls between sanity and insanity on a daily basis and knew how to build them and break them down as easily as a child with Lincoln logs.
Freeny had become a particular favorite of Dr. Scheller. The doctor became obsessed with what lie behind the demonic eyes of this particular killer. The treatments began with the pulling of all Freeny’s teeth. Scheller had initially though the amount of decay in the inmates teeth was contributing to his insanity.
After the oral extraction showed no signs of improving Freeny’s mental state the doctor moved on to a round of less-than-pharmaceutical quality drugs. Most of these drugs were concocted in Scheller’s own lab in the hopes of stumbling upon the latest miracle psychotropic cure. None came. All Scheller managed to do was, on a number of occasions, leave Freeny catatonic. When the patient would awaken – his condition was found to be far worse than before. He would develop newer, more violent, personalities or his shifts toward insanity would last for longer periods.
Freeny’s last ‘treatment’ with Scheller was with the chair (which lasted a number of months). With each visit Scheller increased the power sent through Freeny’s brain pan until there was no power left to give. No one had ever withstood such torture under Scheller’s hand. Most men expired under such horrific means. Freeny, on the other hand, had beaten him at his own game. But at what cost? No one was aware that after the last session the mad man began to hear odd sounds and voices. He was sure they were in his head and he was sure the voices were there for a reason…to guide him through this nightmare. The voices became Freeny’s bogeymen and he invited them to come as often as they wished.
Freeny stood in the middle of the room, waiting for Scheller’s instructions. They generally came very quickly upon Freeny’s arrival. This visit would prove to be just a little different.
Scheller turned to Freeny and looked him up and down and then moved over to a table and began to arrange what looked to be surgical tools on a metal tray. Amid the stainless surgical tools lay what looked to be a common ice pick.
Eventually the Doctor gestured to the gurney. “Won’t you take a seat Mr. Freeny.” It was obvious Freeny was meant to lie and not sit down.
Scheller patted the gurney. “This will only take a moment Mr. Freeny.” There was an air of falsehood about the room. Freeny’s pulse waltzed into a frenzy. His eyes quickly scanned the room. On one table lay the metal try of surgical tools. Beside that try was a smaller metal tray which held a green bottle and a cotton gauze rag.
“He’s going to kill you this time.” One of the bogeymen Men whispered into Freeny’s racing mind.
“Better he die than you.” Another whisper came and then there was just an electric static buzzing in his skull.
Scheller took note of Freeny’s apprehension and attempted to calm the man before the lunatic underneath had a chance to surge. “I have had the pleasure of discussing a new technique with a fellow doctor. The man’s name is Walter Freeman. Dr. Freeman has perfected a new technique that I am sure will help rid you of your demons Mr. Freeny.
Again Scheller patted the gurney. Now, won’t you climb on board. You will not feel a thing Mr. Freeny.
Freeny’s eyes darted around the room calmly. He was not afraid for himself. He was more afraid for Scheller. Only one man would suffer here and it would not be Freeny. The mad man forced the killing beast deep within the bowels of his heart. Very calmly he shook his head.
Scheller took off his spectacles and pursed his lips. “Mr. Freeny, you know the rules. You do not have a choice in this matter. When you arrived here you became the property of the State of Kentucky at which term the State could do with you what they saw fit. The state feels that this new procedure is a certain cure therefore I must proceed.”
There was a deadly silence. Freeny shook his head again and slowly began to walk to the table next to the gurney. As soon as Scheller noticed the movement, he pulled out his whistle and blew hard.
Freeny knew now that within seconds a pack of guards would be in the room and would force him into submission. Without thinking he ran to the table, grabbed for the ice pick and, with one powerful swing, sent the pick through the throat of the doctor.
The static in Freeny’s skull went silent. Instantly the doctor fell to the ground screeching an inhuman sound. Death did not come this time. Freeny was disappointed. He had hoped for death. He had hoped to feel another soul wither away. Not this time. As the man lay gurgling on the floor Freeny heard the guards arrive. There was little to be done now. Punishment would come, only this time it would more than likely involve more than the dark room. The punishments grew worse and worse with each incident.
“They’re coming for you.” Freeny’s head rang out with a chorus of whispers. Freeny looked around for a solution to his rising problem. Dr. Scheller’s agony was filling the room with a confusing echo that challenged the whispers in his head. There were no locks on the door so he shoved a chair under the door handle. Freeny knelt down by the doctor and tried to quiet the man with a hand over his mouth. When no silence came desperation took over and Freeny grabbed the ice pick and removed it from its hole. The doctor lay there, his body shaking. Freeny had no idea what was happening in the mind of the bleeding man. He wanted to know. He wanted to reach into the mans eyes and pull the brain out to see how it felt in his hands.
Freeny grabbed Scheller’s head and turned it to him. Blood was gushing from his neck. The only sounds were bubbles and gurgles from the man’s new displaced mouth. The doctor’s eyes were filled with blood and fear. Yes it was fear that greeted him. Freeny breathed it in as the whispering voices began to laugh in celebration.
At that very moment the guards broke into the room and began to beat the insane man until he remained motionless.
Like the doctor, Freeny didn’t die. For some strange reason Freeny never dies.
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