Condemn by Rae B. Lake

 

Chapter One

This must be what Hell feels like.

Pain slices through my midsection like the grim reaper’s scythe, and all I can do is lay here and wait for the end to come. Whoever said death was peaceful is a fucking liar.

“You should have left her alone.” I turn my head in the darkness to latch on to the owner of that voice. My eyes have long been swollen shut, but for only the briefest of seconds, I’m able to open one of them slightly and note the person inflicting the pain.

It’s not the devil. In fact, it’s no super-being at all. It’s just a man.

Hector Stavros, the mid-level thug my woman used to be married to.

“Kris! Kris, no!” Athena screams out, and I hear her trying to get away.

The edges of my vision turn black, and I know any second, I’m going to pass out.

“Thea, no.” I roll, but all my strength is gone.

A heavy-footed man walks up alongside me. He lifts his leg and brings down his foot on my face. The last thing I hear before sweet unconsciousness takes me is the silence of my woman and the unmistakable blast of a gun.

“Count!”

My eyes pop open and focus on the grey chipped metal bed frame of the bunk above me.

“Motherfucker.” I drag my hand down my face, wiping the cold sweat that has gathered on my brow. I swing my legs out of my bunk and stand.

Dixon, my roommate, hops down from the top bunk and puts his shirt on before he goes by the doors so the correctional officer can see him. I walk over next to him and wait for the count to be over.

“You know you really need to go talk to someone about that shit going on in your head.” Dixon wraps his hands around the bars, looking out the gate.

“What the fuck is it to you?” My eyes stay on him, always ready. I won’t be caught off guard.

Not again.

“Shit, you keep me up half the fucking night, moaning and groaning. I didn’t get locked up to hear no grown fucking man cry in his sleep like a bitch.” Dixon turns in my direction, looking me up and down like he’s ready to fight. He spits on the ground next to me and waits for me to react.

I can feel the enamel grinding off my teeth I’m clenching my jaw so hard, but I don’t engage him. Dixon has been an okay roommate, but he’s a little salty that my good fortune has come along.

Today is my last day in the clink. I’m a free man the second they process my paperwork.

“Radic!” Elvis, one of the few COs in here that I can stand, comes to the door after yelling my last name. “How about you give me that number one last time?"

I drag my eyes away from Dixon and turn to Elvis, “Fuck yeah.” I smile and sprout off the five-digit number they use to identify me for the last time. “Four-four-seven-nine-eight.”

“Heard. You packed up?” Elvis asks.

“I don’t got shit in here that I need,” I tell him, antsy to get out of the box that I’ve been in for the past two years.

“Alright, let’s go down to processing.”

I take a step out but turn around when I realize I have indeed forgotten something. Probably my most prized possession. I walk around Dixon and lean into my bunk. I look to the wall, and right there, taped in a plastic bag, is a photo of my Athena. I grab it from the wall and go back to where Elvis is. “Now I’m ready.” I take a step out, ready to get this part of my life over with. Jail is for the fucking birds.

“Krsto,” Dixon calls me, using my ethnic name, something he never does.

I turn back to him, ready to flip him off if he says something reckless. “Yeah?”

“On the real, keep your head up. I don’t want to see your pale, sardine-eating ass in here no more.” He doesn’t smile, but I can see he’s trying to make peace.

“You too. Stay strong.” I put my fist through the bars, and he bumps his knuckles with mine. I nod, and both Elvis and I start on our way downstairs so I can get the fuck out of here.