Deathrow

    "There's no backing out after you're in, you know?"

    I looked at Jack, giving him a nod before I changed my mind as I raised my glass of whiskey. "For the better world"

    It was hard to infiltrate into the prison, the tedious paperwork, and bribes, and I always wonder how people managing this place felt. This used to be a sanctuary to house the wrongs, to make things right, to make the outside safe. But at this point, I don't know anymore.

    Hearing the familiar knocks on the door told us it was time. "Ready? Here, wear these glasses. They're meant to transmit video feeds, and track your location". My handler whispered to me as he passed me the glasses almost identical to my own.

    I went out, had my hands cuffed behind my back, and was escorted into the armoured vehicle. I was then briefed about my mission, a short 2 weeks stay to make it in time for the monthly bid. My job was to go in and get information until our handler comes to get me out during the bid.

    The ride to the prison is a quiet and solemn one, as the guards sitting in the front are nodding off, hugging their guns. My handler looks out the window as if wishing he's not in there. I looked at him, feeling alittle unsure. As if he could read my mind, he flashed me a smile before putting his hands on my thigh. "Get some rest, we still have a while to go"

    I woke up from the loud thud on the back of the door, as my handler could only "deliver" me up to this point. I was transferred out as I turned and gave him one last look before I was surrounded by strangers, with no one on my side. I was pushed and tucked across a series of rooms and corridors before they read to me my crime in the white room. I looked at the scales, made out of gold, holding themselves high up across the beams. So what's justice now?

    "Death Penalty", the guy muttered, as I looked at him, not batting an eyelid. "I guess you're all prepared", he proceed to stamp the papers and gestured to the guards to finish up my processing. Taking in as much as I could, I looked around. I saw how everything is in order and most parts actually felt like an actual prison - not what we heard from our informant.

    I was then passed on to a janitor and another guard. "Floor Zero", and the Janitor looked around, seemingly understanding the term. He fumbled with his keys before pushing them into a slot by the elevator.

    The lift shaft went beyond the first floor, beneath the basement before coming to a halt after some time. I could hear creaking as the door opened.

    “After you”, the guard gestured. I turned behind and saw the janitor stay in the elevator, possibly going back up to the normal levels. We started walking through this long corridor with triangular structures arching above it. Eventually, we came to the end of the corridor, where the quote “A new life awaits after Death” stood with pride in gold. It doesn’t feel like a prison at all - I could see prisoners going around freely, roaming, free instead of inside bars.

    I was brought to another room where they affixed a collar onto my neck - I could feel a prickling sensation. “This is why we have allowed the prisoners here to roam free”. I didn't need a further explanation - any defiance would result in immediate death. I smiled weakly and nodded before being ushered to the atrium, where they gave me a room. Suddenly it was just me, standing in an utterly busy hall, filled with prisoners doing their own thing.

    “You green here?”
    I turned behind and notice a lady almost as tall as me, dressed in an orange jumpsuit. I was surprised to spot some make-up and even some jewellery. “El here, and I’m purple”, she introduced herself as she pulled down the zipper of her jumpsuit, revealing the faint streaks of purple glowing from her collar. I instinctively touched mine, and I guess mine’s green.

    “We all started here as green, then blue, purple, red then we are due”.

    “What happens when we are due?”

    “They harvest our organs or make us kill for sport. I don’t know”, El shrugged.

    “And why are you here?”

    “Mixed prison you mean? Or why I’m on death row? Long story short, killed my girlfriend's abusive and alcoholic father. Mixed prison because no one cares, look over there”, El pointed to a room on the second storey. Through the window panel, I could easily see a couple getting busy.

    “Since we are all going to die, why not have all the sex we want?”, El laughed

    “THIS IS PARADISE! WOOOO!!”, I could hear someone shout from above and some scattered cheers that followed.

    “People are actually happy to be here?”, I asked El, totally bewildered. I had expected worse - people put against their will, scared, and left for dead.

    “We are, until we are due, or we are procured”

    “What..?”

    “Let’s walk as we talk”, El hooked my arm and started pulling me across the building.

    She showed me the different places, starting from the canteen, where food and drinks are always provided. There’s a gym and a tv room as well, but I guess that’s all, so that’s probably why they find leisure in sex, there’s nothing much to do here. People here do whatever they want to pass time.

    “There’s no such thing as ring leader or alphas. No dramas or we would get shut down”, El said and tapped on her collar. “Oh and this is the key to our room as well. So we would never lose it”. El showed me to my room before walking down to hers.

    The room looked great, with a bed, a window, and a toilet bowl with an attached bidet. It was too comfortable that it was weird. I laid on the bed and cosied up under the sheet and stared at the ceiling fan before dozing off.

    A siren woke me up and we were all asked to stand by our doors before being asked to walk towards the canteen in an orderly manner. Everyone is so well-behaved, and one by one we took our trays and got our servings of food. The day's menu was steamed chicken with broccoli and mushroom soup.

    “May I?”, a skinny guy with curls asked and sat before I could answer. “Jay”, he spoke again.

    I looked at him as if waiting for him to go on, and he went on as if understanding my cue to continue.

    “Killed my lovers and turned them into sculptures. Sucks to not be able to do my art anymore. You?”

    “Murdered a douchebag.”

    “Gotcha, Green.”

    “Ryan”, I reply and glanced at his collar, where Jay caught my eye and smiled, “Blue.”

    “Is it that bad to be due?”

    “Oh you don’t wanna know, you haven’t seen any Reds around here, right? The last time I saw one, he would have rather the collar taken him out; killed in his room for attempted escape.”

    “God..”

    “Just serve until we die, at least we are not locked up man.”

    “No shit, Sherlock”, El placed her tray beside me and slipped into my right. I could notice a star tattoo on the back of her ear as she pushed the streaks of her purple hair back.

    “Yo E”, Jay greeted. “Wait, a minute… new boyfriend?!” Jay went on without even waiting.

    El’s middle finger was a sign for us to just keep our heads down and continue eating. I mouthed sorry when our eyes met.

    “Jay’s just childish. Anyway, somebody is going to be due, wanna watch?" She nodded towards her 2 o’clock.

    “Now? In the canteen?” Jay replied, shocked.

    “She came in during meal time so…”

    “Most people just go hysterical, some accept it and just live until they die but most people just go crazy and would rather die right on the spot. The timer drives them mad”, El went on.

    “What would you do?”

    “I’ll fuck until I die”, Jay laughed and said

    We all looked down and started laughing for a bit. And as if right on cue, the lady’s collar beeped and flashed red. A timer appeared and started counting down.

    “Help! No! Not now not today! No!!“ the lady started panicking and tried to pry open the collar. I could almost hear the collar tighten as she gasped for air. Her friends tried to snap her out of it, patting her back. Others watched, while some went on like it’s a normal day. I see El and Jay continue eating like it’s just another day, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her when I saw her trashing around, crying while her friends tried to hold her down.

    “At least she didn’t die”

    “Yet”

    “How much time do we have when we are on red?”

    “Depends”

    “Most of us want to be shipped before we are due”

    “Shipped?”

    “The monthly bid. The prisons are selling death row prisoners. That’s how they fund the prison, and that’s how each city gets money and resources” El explained.

    “Money is the root of evil, controlled by the rich”, Jay added. “Then, we are sold away as slaves, off the grid, belonging only to the one who bought us”

    “What happens?”

    “God knows”, Jay answered. “some buy prisoners and make them fight to the death for entertainment while profiting off streaming it live. Some turn them into pornstars... or escorts!”

    “Some buy them for their organs” El continued, her eyes watery.

    “Stop crying E! Maybe she’s still alive! Just put it there somewhere”

    Finally, the horror of the prison unravels before me, behind this paradise of a façade, the real terror lies in the system. It was almost just as unbelievable but it all adds up. The small handful of rich have the bulk of the wealth, so what else can people do, except sacrifice the ones on death row to make them happy, to turn them into puppets to dance at their whim.

    I was deep in thought until El snap me back into reality. “You okay?”

    “Just… I can’t believe it y’know”

    “That’s life, and I’m better off dead since I can’t do my art anymore”, Jay seems to not care. “Mmmmm maybe they could turn me into an assassin! Maybe!”, I could see Jay’s eyes lit up at this mini epiphany of hope.

    “But we would never be free… isn’t it?”

    “Are we ever?” El replied as if reading my thought.

    I didn’t say anything and we begin emptying our trays before heading back. Knowing that they never would and my contact would get me in 2 weeks, I hope this secret expedition could shed some light and change the justice system.

    Though not likely.. but I’ll like to stay hopeful, for once.
    And I hope El and Jay won’t be due until then.

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