"The simplicity of the gesture, along with the nerve-wrecking situation, made our small and silent exchange all the more funnier, in a sadistic sort of way."
“All officers, turn the TVs onto channel four.” The announcement was abrupt and was followed by the shuffling of guards taking out their remote controls to change the channel from what usually was a sports game, to the given channel. At this point, I was extremely nervous. Very rarely did we ever have a prison-wide broadcasting, and usually had them only during elections or during important national occurrences. Soon, each television was on channel four, a nationwide new channel; NBC I think. The newscaster was just finishing up his last report and stated,
“New Jersey’s death sentence? Coming up right after these messages.” The commercials started playing, the annoying spokesperson superfluously yelling about some super amazing washcloth. I knew it. I just knew it. Clamor rose in the room, some reactions frantic, others, nonchalant and indifferent. Gerard, who had been sitting next to me, faced me, wide eyed, assumingly confused to the point of terror. I peered up at him, sighed, and nodded subtly. He brought his hand to his mouth and stared back at the television. The commercials seemed to last forever, until the program finally returned. The newscaster started to speak.
“The governor of the state of New Jersey has announced that the bill to legislate capital punishment, or the death penalty, has passed…” I didn’t really hear anything after that. I knew people were yelling and acting out, and guards were preparing themselves to protect themselves, in case any sort of riot ensued. I just sat there, still staring at the television, watching the newscaster’s lips move silently. I could tell Gerard was facing me, unbelieving of what he had just heard.
Soon, to avoid any disturbances, all inmates were forced back into their cells. It was around seven in the evening and the sun had almost completely set. As we shuffled back to our cells, I could see that Gerard and I had been separated by the flow of the crowd, and that he was struggling to get back to me. In my trance of disbelief, I ignored him and walked to my cell, or more like pushed by the other inmates. Over and over, Gerard cried my name. I looked behind me and saw that he was struggling to get to me, guards holding back both of his arms, forcefully bringing him back to his cell. Each prisoner stood in front of their cell doors while an officer walked past, ensuring that inmates were in the proper place, Gerard’s calls that echoed through the cellblock not fazing him in the least. I was still caught in my reverie, still not convinced about what I had heard; Gerard’s shouts ringing in my ears. Finally, the cell doors opened and I walked inside, turning my head just long enough to see Gerard being thrown in by the guards that were restraining him. I let myself fall onto my bunk, still listening to Gerard call my name again and again. Several inmates yelled angry threats at him to be quiet, along with a few of the guards, but he did not capitulate, and continued to yell, not only my name now, but cries for help and pleading innocence. At the moment, I was too immersed with the thought of my doomed future to realize that he thought the fact that he was innocent had finally reached him; either that, or he just didn’t want to die. I remained on my bed for the rest of the night, staring at the small rectangular concrete ceiling, thinking about what I had just heard. Since Ray had informed me about the situation, I had thought I was fully prepared to receive the official news that the bill had been passed, but I really wasn’t. Once hearing about the bill itself and that it was going strong, being favored by the majority of the representatives and the state itself, I knew, or was almost completely sure, that it was going to be passed. Even so, I guess I still had a lot of hope that it wouldn’t be passed and I didn’t realize how thwarted I would be. I imagined all of the difficulty that it would take until my execution. They had to decide whether I was fit to stay on my life sentence in prison, or whether I would be executed, and after that, I would have to be taken to death row to await my lethal injection. I thought long and hard about what was to come, and what the different options were, not many, really, into late at night. Eventually, Gerard had stopped crying out and I had assumed that he had fallen asleep, but I was proven wrong. I assumed it was late at night, for most of the prisoners had fallen asleep, but Gerard called to me once.
“Frank?” I didn’t answer right away, unable to conjure up the will to reply to him, but eventually I did.
“Gerard, it’s okay,” I called out into the darkness.
“It’s not, though!” Gerard cried back. I could tell he was on the verge of becoming hysterical again.
“It is. I’ll be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after. It’ll take months for this to play out. Don’t worry, I’ll-” I was cut off sharply by one of the guards who stood on night duty.
“Hey! Shut the hell up!” he yelled, banging on some metal, which I assumed were Gerard’s cell door bars. After that, I didn’t hear anything else from Gerard.
I didn’t sleep at all that night, speculating what I was going to tell Gerard the next morning. At six thirty, all the lights flashed on, as they did every morning, and we were ordered to step out of our cells. I reminded myself that it was Tuesday, inspection day. Looking to my left, I leaned back slightly to see Gerard doing the same. My eyesight wasn’t good enough to completely make out his expression, but he was clearly distressed. In a meek attempt to cheer him up, I held up a thumbs-up sign and grinned. The simplicity of the gesture, along with the nerve-wrecking situation, made our small and silent exchange all the more funnier, in a sadistic sort of way. We, along with many of the other inmates, were about to die.
I had nothing to worry about during inspection. I never kept anything against the guidelines and rules of the prison, and they checked my room quickly. Actually finding something was extremely rare, as it was a maximum security prison, and today was no different than any other typical inspection day. By the time the officers checked every cell on the block, I was restless with anticipation to tell Gerard my thoughts. Finally, we were led to the mess hall, slower than I would have liked. As soon as I stepped into the room, I was yanked aside by Gerard, catching me by surprise.
“What’s going to happen? Are you going to die? Am I going to die?” he asked frantically, gripping the hand he had pulled me with. We were pressed against the brick wall by the swarm of prisoners filing in.
“I don’t know, Gerard, but I have to tell you something,” I whispered, only loud enough for him to hear. He looked at me questioningly, but I waited until the commotion died. Once the prisoners settled down, I sat myself down at a table apart from the majority of the inmates and gestured for Gerard to join me. He sat down next to me and asked,
“What are we going to do?” I inhaled deeply, doubting whether what I was about to tell him was the right thing to do. Finally, deciding that it was, I said,
“We’re going to escape.”
A/N: Sorry this chapter was so late Dx The next chapter might be a little late too because I can only use one hand to type (I broke my wrist D:) Rate & Review if you liked it!!