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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…?

‘Bewsey?’

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.

THE AUTUMN SERIES