My body shakes as I breathe in; the air getting caught in my throat and constricting in my chest. I don’t think I can do this. I don’t know why I’m even here. I just want to cry and run away in distress and fear.
I start to turn away from the ominous building looming in front of me, but as I slip my hand into my pocket for my keys my fingers brush against a round, cold object. I reach out and clutch the pocket watch from an old, deceased friend between my fingers, grasping it tightly as I remind myself why I’m here and steel myself for what is to come. My breathing starts to slow as my blood simmers with determination. Sharpening my senses, I turn on my heel and walk quickly and deliberately inside the barred gate with my head held high.
There’s no one to stop me as I make my way through the halls. If I wasn’t so caught up in what I am about to do I might have been concerned about this fact. My tunnel vision guides me to where I need to be though, and my feet pace silently along bland concrete walkways that have seen more drama, doom and gloom than I could ever comprehend.
Finally reaching the archway I need to cross I stop and pause, taking in the echoes in the room before me. Shouts of masculine anger, jest and conversation merge to create a tense soundtrack of discordance. The pungent smell of male sweat penetrates the air around me; and the sharp smells of metal, dirt and urine waft in the breeze. I crinkle my nose in disgust and steel my nerves for what I am about to do – reminding myself once against that these men cannot get me behind the locked doors of their cells.
Taking a deep breath and wincing as the aroma of prison eau du toilette invades my nostrils, I start to walk slowly forward. At first no one notices; the men all too busy going about their own business to focus on the small, lone female figure making her way into the center aisle of the large, drab room of cells. Then the jeers start; the catcalls; the comments I dare not repeat let alone comprehend the meaning of. I let them all brush off me, refusing to acknowledge or react to even the most vulgar and disturbing suggestions thrown my way. Stopping in the center, I put two fingers in my mouth and whistle loudly; the sound bouncing off the concrete walls and echoing through each and every cell. A hush falls over the prison as men move to their doors and drape themselves through the bars, their eyes piercing my soul as they wait impatiently to hear what I have to say.
“Three years ago you were all transferred here as part of the prisoner rehabilitation scheme,” I began, my voice ringing strong and loud throughout the building conveying a confidence I didn’t possess. “You were promised release within 10 to 12 months; and yet none of you are yet to see the light of day.” Murmurs of agreement floated through the room.
“You’ve lost people though.” Pausing, I prepare mentally for the repercussions of what I am about to say and cast out a silent prayer of apology to my family. “But these people were not released like you were led to believe they were. They’ve been killed, slaughtered, hunted in the name of fun. This new ring of poachers have run out of wild animals to hunt and resorted to using real people – to using you – to hunt and slaughter inhumanely. That’s why you’re here; you’re being weakened, broken, slowed before you head out there so you can’t fight back, can’t escape. It’s not fair, it’s not right. You need to stand up and fight. You need to get out!” I scream the last sentence over the top of the deafening roar of anger and fury that booms throughout the building.
Dazed, I look around slowly. I take in the scrawny men in stained white singlets violently shaking the bars of their cells. I cringe as I watch muscular, shirtless men rip furniture from the floor and wall and slam against the walls, doors and floors of their cells. Shouts of anger, fury and fear overpower the room, and I turn and walk quickly from the room, breaking into a run when I reach the hallways and trying to escape before they break loose and start seeking their revenge. I have to warn my family. Even if my Dad is the head of the committee who kills these men for fun, I can’t let them die. I just hope they can forgive me for what I’ve done. I just couldn’t stand by and see people being killed for sport any longer; even if they were criminals.
Huffing and puffing, I run until I reach the top of the hill above the prison. Looking back, I can see the guards have the rebellion under control. There’ll be no prison break today. Sighing, I shake my head and take comfort in the fact that at least these men know what’s coming now. I did all I could. I startle as a hand claps me on the shoulder, and swings me around.
Looking up into the dark, angry eyes of my father the wall I’ve been holding up finally collapses under the weight of my fear. I pray he won’t kill me for what I’ve done. Sobbing, I reach out and hug him, shouting my apologies in desperation for his forgiveness.
Patting me on the back, he softly kisses the top of my head. “It’s ok kiddo, it’s ok. I don’t blame you for what you did. I forgive you.” Sobbing harder, I relax against him and let him lead me home. Nothing has changed… But I know I’d made a difference speaking out and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to save at least one life by doing what I did.
Photo credit: John Keith W http://www.viator.com/photos/San-Francisco-tours/Alcatraz-Tour-plus-Muir-Woods-Giant-Redwoods-and-Sausalito-Day-Trip/985240