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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Collapse by Richard Stephenson


While Howard continued to sip his coffee in the comfort of his mansion, Richard Dupree awoke in his bunk at the Highland Valley State Prison in western California.  Las Vegas was fifty miles due east of the maximum-security facility.  At the bottom of a valley, the prison sat with mountains on three sides, the fourth side being the exit to the valley fifteen miles to the south.  The facility was built in the middle of nowhere, no towns or roads, nothing but heat and dirt.  The state of California spared no expense when erecting the prison.  Not only did they have to build the facility, they had to build the roads and utilities leading to it.  Once the infrastructure was in place, opportunistic land developers were happy to swoop in and build a small town in which the staff and their families could reside.  They even built a few hotels and restaurants for the employees of the prison and the people who visited their loved ones incarcerated there.  The overcrowded prisons in the state were happy to send their inmates; however, the primary function of the facility was to house prisoners who had a history of escape. 

Famous escapees from around the country were ushered to the isolated prison. California was proud to boast that they had the most secure prison in the country and welcomed the publicity.  Such publicity could only be rivaled by Alcatraz.  Should an inmate escape, they would literally have nowhere to go.  The mountains and the cruel heat saw to that.  An escaped inmate would not dare venture into the small town of Highland Valley; their captors and their families lived there and were well armed.  The inmates that did manage to escape died from the elements.  The heat and the sand were unforgiving.  Some of the escapees even came back to the front entrance of the prison and surrendered, desperately seeking shelter.  The Warden welcomed them back with open arms and escorted them in so they could discourage their fellow inmates from attempting to leave his fine establishment.  The attempts started to dwindle and then disappeared for good.  No one had attempted to flee into the blistering, hell-like terrain for over eleven years.

Richard’s cellmate was grunting out his morning dump on the toilet on the opposite side of the cell.  “Jesus, Billy, you can’t wait thirty minutes for the door to unlock so I can get out of here?”

“Sorry, man.  No choice.”

Richard rolled over and crammed his face in the pillow to escape the stench.  His cellmate had many flaws that continued to grind on his last nerve and this was one of them.   Tank, as his cellmate was called, had very little consideration for anyone, not even his own cellmate.   Incapacitating anyone that called him on his lack of consideration was one of Tank’s favorite activities.  When you stood 6 foot 9 inches tall and weighed in at three hundred twenty-five pounds of muscle, you could shit pretty much anywhere you damned well pleased.

Richard was no slouch himself.  He was in his early thirties, a few inches shorter than Tank, and in the best shape of his life.  Not much else to do on a twenty-five year sentence but work out and read books.  He tolerated Tank because Tank practically worshipped him.  When The Incredible Hulk was your number one fan, it was hard to pass up the advantage.  Richard was smart enough to realize that.  Richard chuckled to himself that Hulk would be a much more appropriate nickname than Tank.

Tank flushed the toilet.  “You hitting the track with us?”

“For sure,” Richard replied.  Richard ran six days a week.  Tank asked this question six days a week, and Richard’s answer was always the same.  “Us” was the gang that Tank was a member of, the Aryan Brotherhood.  Tank was about as proud as a white boy could be and was also the biggest racist in the Aryan Brotherhood.  For a member of a White Supremacy group, that was saying a lot.  Without even opening his mouth, his racism was literally tattooed across his body.  The three main attractions of his ink included a swastika across his forehead, a very angry looking Adolf Hitler across his chest, and the words “White Power” emblazoned across his massive back.  He had many others tattoos on his body.  Richard was disgusted by the racism.  The tattoo that shocked Richard the most was the one on Tank’s right bicep.  On it was a black man hanging dead from a tree; three hooded figures from the KKK looked up at him with torches.  One thing was certain, Tank belonged in prison, and the mere sight of him would ensure he would never attain gainful employment.  The thought of Tank sitting down for a job interview was a source of great amusement for Richard.

When Richard first met Tank six years ago, that tattoo constantly bugged him.  He thought for sure that any man brave (or stupid) enough to sport such a tattoo would surely be murdered, regardless of gang affiliation.  At first, Richard deduced that the Aryan Brotherhood was the most powerful and influential gang in the Highland Valley State Prison.  The Aryan Brotherhood made up around one percent of the prison population around the country and was responsible for around twenty percent of the murders.   It didn’t take Richard long to realize that the Aryan Brotherhood, while it had power and influence, was not even close to the top of the food chain.  They simply didn’t have the numbers.  The smallest Hispanic gang had almost twice the membership of the Aryan Brotherhood.  So, the fact that Tank bore such a horribly offensive tattoo bugged Richard even more.

Determined to speak to no one, Richard had decided not get involved with any of the gangs; he simply wished to do his time in peace.   The Aryan Brotherhood had other plans.  Any solid looking white guy who looked like he could handle himself always got their attention.  Richard certainly matched that description perfectly.

Recruitment was the number one priority of the Aryans.  They needed muscle, they needed numbers, and they needed soldiers to beef up the ranks.  They had their eye on Richard.  He was smart enough not to piss them off, but he was also smart enough to know how to ride the fence and not get involved.

That’s where Tank came into the picture.

Tank pretty much ignored Richard at first.  Tank couldn’t care less about recruitment; he left that to his fellow skinheads so he could focus on other things like extortion and turning the guards to do his bidding.  He even bragged that he was still able to get laid.  Richard cringed to think that most of Tank’s sexual encounters were probably far from consensual.

One day Tank went from not even knowing Richard was alive to suddenly thinking Richard was the greatest person to set foot in the prison.  He walked up to Richard on the yard; Richard was certain Tank was going to punch him in the face.  Instead of a punch, Tank clapped him on the back.

“What’s up, Killer?”

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Genre – Dystopian

Rating – R

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