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Tin Can Mental Contagion
And why shouldn't it?
by Gene Dillon

Cry Fowl - Part 1

"Will you knock it off?!! I can barely hear myself think!"

"Well, whaddya need to do that for?"

This fucking guy never lets up. Every day the same thing. It's morning. The light, the sun... It makes me want to fucking scream. So I scream. What's it to him?

He's practically on top of me now. "Look, it's hard enough having to be locked up in this fucking place. I just want some peace. I could sleep through my entire sentence here. Never wake up. Wouldn't you like that? Sleep in, for chrissakes. We aren't going anywhere!"

He has a point there, I have to admit that. But the nightmares are a hell of a lot uglier than this cage. And that's really saying something. There are six sides to this thing, the four directions and the up and the down, and every side looks exactly the same, a grid-work of impenetrable steel. And it reeks like the inside of a pig's ass. I'll never get used to this foul stench in my nostrils.

I'm not even making half as much noise as the dudes in the next cell. It's barely 6 am, and they're practically tearing each other's faces off. The guards don't give a shit. If somebody dies, it could be days before they drag out the carcass. They don't even clean up the daily mess. Just the occasional hose-down on a stifling hot day. Makes you pray for heat stroke, just to know that the rain is coming, to wash some of the stink off.

I haven't seen the sky in I don't know how long.

The walls over there across the way, at the start of each and every day, they turn from an inky black to a lovely sort of darkness adorned with a couple of very faint, gray rectangles. That's the light! It's what I live for, just a glimpse of that. It makes me want to scream with joy and longing, with longing and joy, I scream over and over and over. My cellmate is going to kill me. I might just let him. I'll have that last memory to take with me, a barely perceptible glimpse of hope for a bright new day when everything might change for the better. You never know.

I've never known any other place. As kids, we didn't have any idea we were living as prisoners. When you're growing up, you have your reality as you find it, and that's it. It doesn't feel good or bad, right or wrong - that crap comes into your mind later. You make the best of what you've got, and you're green enough to be able to enjoy a few laughs. I miss that. That was a freedom of sorts, but I squandered it somehow. I didn't know what to do with it, and I sure as hell didn't know how to hang onto it. It's all in the attitude... Yes! It's exactly the same thing that gets me up out of bed all pumped up every morning, that feeling... But it only lasts a moment now, before somebody tries to shove that bliss right back down my throat. How did we get like this?

They used to let us out in the yard a lot more frequently in the old days. That sure helped. We used to just flail! And smack each other around like lunatics, and run and jump and chew on sunflower seeds all day long in the sun. Why don't they let us out anymore? What did we do wrong?

Just in case... I'll greet every new day the same as always, hoping that one day... One day, I'll look around me, and all of these walls will be gone, and the rest of the world will crow along with me, up to the blue sky and the clouds and the sun.

To be continued...

©2006 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers