JACOB FLYNN (part ii)
Flynn stared in disbelief at the figure standing swaying in front of him. It was Bewsey, but how could it be? Two days ago he’d watched him die. It was impossible. I’m finally going crazy, he thought to himself, that didn’t take long. Over the last forty-eight hours Flynn had been forced to consider so many bizarre events and improbabilities that one more didn’t seem to make any difference. He decided he was hallucinating and buried his face in his grey, prison-issue pillow. A hallucination was the most plausible explanation he could come up with. He’d hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for more than two days, the rest of the world appeared to have dropped dead around him, and he’d been trapped in a ten by seven foot cell with only the corpses of his former cell-mates for company. What was left of his mind was obviously playing tricks on him again.
Bewsey’s clumsy corpse staggered across the tiny room, tripping over Salman’s dead body and knocking into the small bookcase next to the sink, sending its contents crashing to the ground. Flynn sat up as the noise clattered around the cell. This was no hallucination, much as he wished it was. He backed into the shadows and watched from the relative safety of the furthest corner of his dark bottom bunk as the body awkwardly dragged itself around.
For a while Flynn remained completely still, paralysed with fear and not daring to take his eyes off the dead man. Bewsey’s face was expressionless, his eyes unfocussed, and he appeared to have very little control over his movements. He shuffled lethargically across the floor until something prevented him from moving any further forward and then, more through luck than judgement, he turned around and shuffled back again. Why couldn’t he be like Salman, Flynn thought. In contrast his other deceased cell mate still lay where he had originally fallen, face down in a pool of dark brown, congealed blood.
“Bewsey?” Flynn said, not sure whether or not he actually wanted to attract the bizarre figure’s attention. He was relieved when Bewsey didn’t respond. Still shell-shocked, he shuffled forward off his bunk and slowly stood up. The corpse continued to move, completely oblivious, colliding with walls, furniture and then, eventually, with Flynn himself. He instinctively grabbed hold of the dead man.
“Bewsey?” he said again. “Can you hear me? What the hell’s going on? I thought you were dead . . .”
Flynn stared deep into the dull, clouded eyes of the corpse. They were covered with a milky-white film and it was clear that they were unseeing. He let Bewsey go again and he tripped off in another direction before hitting the wall then turning and tripping back towards him. No wiser and no less terrified, Flynn crawled back onto his bunk and pulled the covers tight around him.
He couldn’t stand it any longer. Bewsey just never stopped, not even for a second, constantly shuffling around the cell, thumping into things. It was the noise that Flynn found hardest to handle. He couldn’t take much more of it. He had to do something.
There were other catatonic bodies moving outside now, he could see them occasionally through the bars. He wished he was out there too, but getting out of here seemed an impossibility. Frustrated and frightened, he decided to try and disable Bewsey’s corpse and make what was left of his interminable incarceration slightly less unbearable. He didn’t care why the dead man was moving or how, he just wanted him to stop.
Unsurprisingly, there was barely anything in the cell which he could use as a weapon. In fact, all he could find was the jug they used to pour drinks of water from. The plastic jug had a hard base which, if he used it with sufficient force, might just be strong enough to batter the body into submission. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed Bewsey by the throat with one hand, raised the jug above his head with the other, and then brought it crashing down in the middle of the dead man’s forehead with brutal force. He lifted the jug away again and saw that, despite his skin being a little more bruised and bloodied than it had been, Bewsey’s expression had not changed. Flynn lifted the jug and brought it down again and again and again . . .
It wasn’t working. It didn’t matter what he did, the dead man didn’t react. He continued to relentlessly move, oblivious to the fact that Flynn was even there.
Increasingly desperate, Flynn dragged his bunk bed into the middle of the cell, swinging it around through ninety degrees so that it formed a barrier across almost the full width of the small room. He shoved Bewsey over onto the other side, successfully confining the cadaver. Keen to separate himself from both of his dead cell-mates, he then did the same with Salman.
Flynn leant against the cell door and peered out through the bars. He could see movement in some of the cells on the other side of the landing, but when he called out to the men over there they didn’t respond. He assumed they were like Bewsey.
He could hear slow, dragging footsteps approaching. A figure emerged from the shadows at the other end of the corridor, walking with an awkward limp as if one of its legs was several inches shorter than the other. He couldn’t tell who it was at first but, as it gradually came into view, he saw that it was one of the prison officers. In fact, he was sure it was the officer he’d seen lying dead at the bottom of the staircase. The dead guard lumbered towards him, his head hanging listlessly to one side. Flynn immediately realised the importance of seeing this body: the officers had keys and, if he could reach them, there was a real chance he might be able to get out of this cell.
Suddenly more alive and alert, Flynn watched the dead officer intently as he approached. When the corpse was almost level with the cell door, he stretched out his arm between the bars and reached out, straining every muscle to reach. The tips of his outstretched fingers brushed the side of the corpse’s sleeve, but not enough for him to be able to get a grip. His heart sank as the body stumbled past and disappeared out of reach again.
The prison landing was clear and without obstruction, and the dead guard continually staggered from one end to the other, its movements random and haphazard. Flynn watched the body like a hawk, reaching out for it whenever it came anywhere near.
Eventually, some four and a half hours after he’d first noticed the corpse, he was finally able to catch hold of it. He managed to slide his fingers into the dead man’s shirt pocket and then, once he had a strong enough grip, he pulled the comparatively weak figure towards him. He then grabbed the cadaver in a neck lock and, with his other hand, tied him to the bars using Bewsey’s trouser belt. Flynn tugged and yanked and pulled at the body until he’d got the keys.
Minutes later he was free.