Jacob Flynn (part ii)

Jacob Flynn’s relatively short jail sentence has been dramatically extended to life. No parole. No time off for good behaviour. No chance of escape.

He’s stuck here behind bars with his dead cell mates until they all rot down to nothing. Or is he…?

Jacob Flynn by David Shires


Flynn stared in disbelief at the figure standing swaying in front of him. It was Bewsey all right, but how the hell could it be? Two days ago he’d watched the man die. It was impossible. I’m going fucking crazy, he thought to himself, that didn’t take long. Over the last forty-eight hours Flynn had been forced to consider so many horrific prospects that one more didn’t make any difference. He decided he was most probably hallucinating and buried his face in his grey, prison-issue pillow. He hadn’t had anything to eat for more than two days, the rest of the world had dropped dead, and he’d been trapped in a ten by seven foot cell with only the corpses of his cell-mates for company. A hallucination seemed likely. What was left of his mind was playing tricks on him again.

Bewsey’s clumsy corpse staggered across the tiny room, tripping over Salman’s dead body and crashing into the small bookcase next to the sink, sending its contents crashing to the floor. Flynn sat up fast: 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 Bewsey’s body continued to awkwardly drag itself around.

For a while Flynn remained completely still, paralysed with fear and not daring take his eyes off the dead man. Bewsey’s face remained terrifyingly expressionless, his eyes unfocussed, and he appeared to have little control over his movements. He shuffled lethargically across the floor until something stopped him moving any further forward and then, more through luck than anything else, he turned and shuffled back again. Why couldn’t he be like Salman, Flynn thought? His other dead cell mate was still lying facedown in a pool of dark brown, congealed blood.

‘Bewsey?’ Flynn said, not sure whether or not he actually wanted to attract his attention. He was relieved when Bewsey didn’t react. Still shell-shocked, he shuffled off his bunk and stood up. The corpse continued moving, completely oblivious, colliding with walls, furniture and then, eventually, with Flynn himself. Flynn grabbed hold of the dead man. ‘Bewsey?’ he said again. ‘Can you hear me, mate? What’s going on? I thought you were dead…?’

Flynn stared deep into the corpse’s dull, clouded eyes. They were covered with a milky-white film, obviously unseeing. He let Bewsey go again then 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 moving around the cell, banging into things, crashing into walls. 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 bodies moving in other cells now, he could see them occasionally through the bars. He wished he was out there too, but getting out seemed an impossibility. Feeling on edge, ready to snap at any moment, he decided his only option was to try and stop Bewsey’s corpse moving, to make what was left of his interminable incarceration slightly less unbearable. He didn’t care why the dead man was moving anymore, he just wanted him to stop.

Unsurprisingly, there was barely anything in the cell he could use as a weapon. In fact, all he could find was the plastic water jug. If he hit him hard enough, he thought it might just be strong enough to batter Bewsey into submission. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed the dead man by the throat with one hand, raised the jug above his head with the other, and then smashed it into Bewsey’s face with savage force. Although his skin was a little more bruised and bloodied than it had been, Bewsey’s expression remained impassive, unemotional. Not a flicker of response. Flynn lifted the jug and brought it crashing down again and again and again…

It wasn’t working. It didn’t matter what he did, the dead man didn’t react. 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 the corner of the small room. He shoved Bewsey onto the other side, successfully confining the cadaver. Keen to separate himself from both his dead cell-mates, he did the same with Salman’s lifeless bulk.

Flynn leant against the door and peered through the bars, preferring to look out than look in any longer. He could see men moving in the cells on the other side of the landing, but when he called out to them they didn’t respond. He assumed they were all like Bewsey.

He heard a corpse fall down the stairs, just out of his line of vision. Then he heard slow, dragging footsteps approaching. A figure emerged from the shadows at the far end of the corridor, walking with an awkward limp as if one of its legs was inches shorter than the other. He couldn’t tell who it was at first but, as it came into view, he saw that it was one of the prison officers. The dead guard lumbered towards him, his head hanging listlessly to one side.

It took Flynn several minutes to realise the importance of seeing this body: the officers had keys and, if he could reach the corpse and pull it closer, there was a slight chance he might be able to get out of this bloody cell.

Suddenly feeling more alive and alert than he had in days, Flynn watched the dead officer like a hawk. When the corpse was almost level with the cell door, he stretched out his arm between the bars as far as he could, straining every muscle to reach. The tips of his outstretched fingers brushed the corpse’s sleeve, but not enough for him to get a grip. His heart sank as the body stumbled past and out of reach again.

The prison landing was largely without obstruction, and the dead guard continually staggered from one end to the other. Flynn reached out for the body whenever it came anywhere near, like he was playing some damn perverse fairground game.

Eventually, more than four and a half hours after he’d first noticed the corpse, he finally caught hold of it. He managed to grab the dead man’s shirt collar and pull him back. He then grabbed the cadaver in a neck lock and, with his other hand, tied him to the bars using the belt from his trousers. Flynn tugged and yanked and pulled at the body until he’d got the keys.

Minutes later he was free.



Autumn: The London Trilogy omnibus edition