The Newcomer

The winds have kicked in and are currently picking up both steam and leaves that have lost their chlorophyll. This can mean only one thing: the transition from autumn to winter has begun in the city.

A horn blast cuts through the serenity of the scenic exterior to which I was enjoying. A new guest has joined the ranks here. Other guests begin to run up to their cell doors to get a glimpse of the latest newcomer, stomping their feet and hurling verbal jabs in hopes to attract attention. Meanwhile, I turn away from my tiny view of the outside world to see the panoramic display of the commotion outside of my cell.

Two officers, one in front of the newcomer and one behind them, emerge from the corridor, walking slowly toward the row of cells in which mine is located. Suddenly, the trio stopped at the first cell in this row, in the corner to the right of my cell (or facing left). It looks to be that I will have a neighbor in this commune of hell. I try to catch a glimpse of this new guest, only for the glimpse to be obstructed by the bumbling officers escorting the new guest into their cell.

A few seconds later, both officers emerge from the cell, wiping their hands over their pant legs and securing the cell door. I quickly retreat from my own cell door so that both officers don’t see my curiosity getting the best of me. The last thing I need is an unnecessary trip to see the warden. Last I heard of someone getting caught trying to watch a guest being escorted to or from their cell was reprimanded themselves before being escorted into a brief period of isolated confinement.

The horn blasts again, indicating the housing of the newcomer is complete and that the officers have retreated to their central little cave near the warden’s office. After the blast died down (you can still hear it in your own ears for hours afterwards), the faint sound of sobbing rose to my attention. It was coming from the newcomer’s cell.

Each cell has at least two “windows;” one that looks outside the confines of here, the other is basically a brick sized hole with tiny poles that are located at the base of the side wall just below the ceiling. Some units, like mine, have these “holes with poles” on both side walls; the cells at both ends, like the newcomer’s, only have one.

I grabbed the legs of my bed and dragged it next to the wall with the hole facing the newcomer’s cell. After positioning it directly beneath the hole, I remove my shoes and climb on top of my bed to take a peek of the newcomer.

The newcomer was a petite figure, feminine in appearance, with long dark brown hair and fair skintone. They were sitting in a corner of their own cell of four white walls and a door that splits between a solid bottom and a steel columned top. The newcomer had their forehead covered by their arms while being supported by their knees sitting in a corner, providing a melody of sobs and whimpers in a soundtrack of prison life.

“Hi,” I managed to squeak out from my mouth. Having been embarrassed by the sound of my own voice, I cleared my throat to give a more noticeable and proper “Hi.”

The sobs from the newcomer, however, did not stop.

I felt a bit sad for the new houseguest. I wanted them to cheer up some. It’s already bad enough that we’re stuck here, crying about it isn’t going to help matters. On the other hand, I did feel the newcomer’s pain of being brought to a place to unfamiliarity and uncertainty.

“I’m Inmate Number One,” I continue with my one sided conversation to the newcomer.

As soon as I said one, the sobs came to an abrupt stop from the newcomer. Their head popped up as if they weren’t sure whether they were hearing things or not.

“Who’s there?” Asked the newcomer, their voice deep in tonality but light in volume. “I’m not a crazy bitch.”

“Hey, look up towards the ceiling, and turn your head to the left,” I directed to the newcomer so she could see the hole and me. The newcomer slowly tilted their head in search of the hole. When they saw the hole with poles, the newcomer did a quick double look, befuddled that there was a set of eyes looking at them.

“Hi,” I said with a smile.

The newcomer responded with a scream for the ages.

“No no no, don’t scream! I’m your neighbor,” I quickly stated. “We all have these holes in the wall.”

My message, however, had no effect to cease the screaming from the newcomer. In fact, the screams turned into wails of passion. The wails riled the other houseguests to jeer and taunt at their cell doors again. It became so loud that the public address called for officers to my cell row.

Damnit, I thought to myself.

I climbed off of my bed and picked it up off the floor so it wouldn’t make any noise as I put it back. While the newcomer kept screaming and wailing, I crawled into my bed and threw the blanket over my body to feign my state of rest, should I get ratted out by one of the other guests.

An officer barged in from the corridor and jogged to the newcomer’s cell. A second officer walked in shortly thereafter. I could tell by the sound of their clanking footsteps. I kept my face down on my pillow and closed my eyes, hoping not to be noticed by the officers. The newcomer’s wailing faded quickly back to its original whimpering sob.

“What the fuck is going on with your screaming?” One officer sounded off. “You trying to bleed our ears off?”

A weakened voice replies, but the content of their response is inaudible. A portly “What?” came from the other officer. “Speak up! You were loud just a few seconds ago!”

The newcomer’s voice got stronger, but I still couldn’t translate the words from the noise.

“Peeping Tom?” The first officer piped. “From that hole? Were they watching you?”

One set of footsteps came right to my door. I laid still to give the sleep appearance. The footsteps didn’t retreat.

“Didenko is asleep,” the sound emitted from the second officer.

Now, for the moment of truth: please G-d, please don’t let me be ratted out.

“Okay,” says the first officer. “You see, each cell has at least one of these ventilation separators to circulate air. You are probably just hearing things.”

“I said that I’m not a crazy bitch!” That sentence I could discern was from the newcomer.

“We know. We’ve heard that before,” the first officer mused with chuckle.

Hell, it made me grin on my pillow.

“Fine. Then who is Inmate Number One?”

Oh, fuck me sideways. My grin quickly disappeared. I began to slowly remove the blanket off of me.

A thunderous “YOU” came out of the second officer, who was still standing outside my cell. As I looked up to meet my demise, the second officer wasn’t looking at me or my cell; his attention was at the newcomer. “You,” the second officer repeated, but without the voluminous intensity. “You will be inmate number one to see the warden in the morning if you don’t stop screaming and shit. Got it?”

I immediately froze on top of my bed, looking like I was the top in a missionary style conjugal visit. To my chagrin, the second officer turned to look at me inside my cell. Got damnit, I can’t get a break.

“Lay back down, Didenko. This does not concern you,” the second officer bluntly spoke to me. I gently lower myself back onto my bed and covered myself entirely with the blanket. I started to tune out the noise from that moment on.

There was more conversation between the two officers and the newcomer, but it became background noise until the noise was no longer tickling my subconsciousness.

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