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An Eye for an Eye
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An Eye for an Eye

by P. J. Aitken

‘Everyday it’s the same’, Freddy Smith muttered to himself, with no one close enough or bothered enough to even hear. Staring hopelessly into the assortments of foods laid out on a dented silver tray in front of him, he was amazed at how many shades of brown could be created, all in separate compartments, yet all tasting the same. This food wasn’t vegetables, fruit, meat or a combination, simply put, it was brown. And the most unfortunate thing is, he pondered to himself once more, in a state of daydream, as he poked randomly at the mass of processed…slush, that the only clear cut possible upside to having to eat this substance was that it would taste better then it looked, but, in comparison to the taste, the slush was as beautiful as Marilyn Monroe.

Freddy Smith smiled the smile of a happy contented man. Something he had never been, happiness was always out of reach, unachievable, he’d spent his life looking for it, and waiting for the euphoric bliss of that sublime sense of serenity to swarm over him. But happiness had eluded him. They say money cant buy happiness, and whoever they are they have a point in this case, money can buy you drugs and a plastic sense of well-being, it can buy you all the hookers you could need, provide you with the means to live the high life of gambling and drinking, eating at plush restaurants and driving sports cars, glamour, respect, authority, but happiness? That’s a gift, you don’t earn it, and you certainly don’t buy it.

Growing up without a mother, and being raised by a drunken father, Freddy had learnt things the hard way. When other children were at school he was recovering or receiving a beating from his father. When adults in the neighbourhood were at work he was climbing over their back fences and breaking into their houses, stealing nothing but money. Belongings he had no use for, he knew his father would only find them and pawn them for drink money.

He tried heroine at the age of 11, caving in to the peer pressure from a gang of older kids he hung around with, but drugs never tickled his fancy. He smoked cannabis on and off, but he never wanted to end up like his father, so drink was avoided like the plague.

At 16 his criminal record, if laid out, would have stretched along the green mile and landed right in the electric chair, where (according the older generation of his town) he rightly belonged. His convictions were never taken to court, nothing more than vandalism, possession of cannabis, criminal damage and petty theft. Until at 18, on deciding to leave home due to his fathers increasing aggression and severity (where moments of returning home he would find his room ransacked by the old drunken man, and every coin and note he had stashed, dug up and claimed by his father) the old unkempt alcoholic had stopped the young Freddy Smith from leaving the house. For the 18 year old this was the final straw, no more would he stand for his father’s antics, no more would he turn a blind eye to the man stealing from him. In a matter of seconds fear turned to anger, anger that had never before surfaced in Freddy Smith. He struck his father in a spasm of rage, breaking the old weak jaw of the person who brought him into the world, before delivering another flourish of heavy kicks and blows, leaving a mangled wreck of broken bones, torn, bleeding flesh and muffled blood filled gurgles as his father lay dying in front of the him. He stood and watched as the old man slowly coughed and spluttered his way out of this life. This was the scene a neighbour was greeted with 20 minutes later and subsequently the police 10 minutes after that. Freddy never moved from the still blood-wet image of his father, and neither did the sadistic smile on his face.

He was never a social person, he liked his own space, he enjoyed the company of friends but he never much liked them being around all, or even the majority of the time, a lot of his youth was spent sitting in parks, forests, beaches, with just him and his thoughts, aspirations and memories. He would occasionally wonder what would have happened if his mother hadn’t died through “complications of child birth”, and what awaited for him in the open world, the places to go, the sights to see, the people to meet.

A Dream that vanished when he was given a life sentence for first degree murder, for someone like Freddy Smith, prison might as well have been a death sentence.

That was ten years ago, but the memories of that fateful day, where he threw his life away, are still etched in his mind. Freddy Smith shook his head to himself in silent contemplation “two minutes of madness for a lifetime of confinement” he looked around himself as he muttered his unheard words. Views seemed to be exchanging between a few inmates at a table at the other end of the large dining room, he watched without interest, still in his own dream world “life lost in the blink of an eye” he said aloud, with only him seated at his table no one paid attention anyway, he stared once more at the slush, only lifting his head 3 minutes later when a loud shout bellowed out, rattled from the lungs of one of the inmates, who stood up on his chair and screamed at the guards. The commotion seemed to be about the food, the “slush” was served due to an apparent shortage in food supplies, according to the warden the supply trucks were finding it hard to get through the snow. More and more inmates joined in the shouting. Within seconds trays were being thrown around, the slimy substance decorated the floor like an artist’s canvas, the prison guards were quickly on the scene, taser shots jazzed through the air alongside the thumping of truncheons against flesh. Now it seemed the whole force of the guards were in the room.

Freddy Smith, being at the back end of the room, with his silence and general air of invisibility went unnoticed by the onrush of guards, some glanced at him as they passed, but concentrated on the commotion, and not the innocent bystander; who, after watching in amusement for a few minutes, strolled away to his cell.

The walkways were empty of the normal patrolling guards, the voices of which still screamed out from the room behind Freddy. Commands of authority which were soon overruled by screams of pain, fists, trays, weapons clattering flesh and bone, rang out in the echoic room, and spilled into the corridors, where Freddy’s footsteps slowly trotted their way to his cell. He walked in and swung the door gently shut behind him.

Marching up to the bunk bed which occupied a harsh sleeping surface for him and his absent cellmate he clambered up to the top, reached behind the solid mattress and grabbed what he sought, before dropping back to the floor. Muttering away to himself in the process “everyday, same people, same place, same routine-” he sat down on the only chair in the room, a solid pine structure chipped away by what seemed to be human bite marks and fingernails, it usually sat in front of a desk which displayed the same savagery of indents and engravings, which the cellmates could (but rarely did) use to write letters home.

Freddy Smith stood on the chair and reached up to the ceiling “this isn’t the place for me” he muttered, grasping an old shirt in his hand which had been wrapped tightly and knotted onto various other materials, now draping from the ceiling “10 years is enough, I’ve served my time-” he looked at the makeshift rope now dangling in front of him, a mild sense of pride at his achievement arose in him as he glanced at the solid noose and yanked it hard, feeling its strength, but the pride soon dispersed once again into melancholy, and he slowly slipped his neck through the noose “-an eye for an eye” with his standing foot he kicked the chair out from under him. For a moment the prison fell silent of screams and shouts, and a sickening crack spilled out into the shockingly silent hallways, bringing with it the air of death and remorse.

Copyright P. J. Aitken 2005

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