Inmate 52

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Inmate 52 won the Editors Pick this week! I’m so thrilled! Here’s what the editors had to say about this piece –

This week my Editor’s Pick goes to Hema for Inmate 52. Through judiciously alternating correspondences with exposition and dialogue, Hema successfully built a convincing and authentic world and characters. She carefully unfolded the plot, giving just enough information for the reader to fill in the backstory and be invested in the characters. Hema took existing tropes and modified them enough to keep them fresh without alienating the reader. There are so many points at which the reader feels an intimate familiarity with events, characters and setting, and yet they’re not immediately identifiable. Most notably, Hema didn’t overwrite the clever twist, so though it was predictable, it wasn’t clichéd.

Another editor said –

I’ve said before that it’s not as important to write innovatively as to write well. That’s especially illustrated in Asha’s editorial staff pick this week, and I wanted to highlight one extra thing that Hema did well: even though the reader suspected what was coming, they could root for it. If you’re going to go someplace that’s a little predictable, give your readers characters that they can cheer for along the way, and make them invest in that outcome so that they’re hoping for rather than predicting it.

“Tiring, isn’t it? Living like this?” Zorah’s silky voice floated through the room.

Elyot brushed his long, matted hair away from his eyes and looked at her intently for a fleeting second before he went back to defining the lines on the glass wall. The blue marker squeaked as he crossed out four parallel lines with an oblique. “185,” he muttered.

“Ely, sweetheart, look at me. Pick up that knife. One glide of that blade along your wrist and we’ll be together forever.” Zorah whispered into his ears. Can’t feel her breath on my neck. This isn’t her.

Muttering to himself, he erased an equation on the wall with his tattered shirt sleeve and started a new one.

***
To: Warden Peterson, Belt 34, Sing Sing
From : CustCare, Apex Holo Services
Date: July 31, 2152, 18:30 hours
Subject : Daily report – Inmate 52

At 15:45 hours, Inmate 52, Elyot Wade showed moments of responsiveness to his assigned hologram. Our statistics suggest an increased exposure to the holo after first signs of responsiveness to achieve faster clearance of inmates.

Please respond to this message if you wish to do so.

***
“Good morning, sweetheart!” Zorah’s voice caressed Ely’s ears. Gossamer rays of the morning sun streamed through the french window in their bedroom. It was too bright to open his eyes. The air smelled of fresh coffee and pine. He savored these delicious moments with Zorah in bed before the madness of the day took over.

“G’morning!” He stretched before opening his eyes. There she was, looking like a forest fairy in her green pajamas and disheveled morning hair. He opened his arms out to her when the whirr of the guard-bots on morning patrol brought him hurtling back to the cell. It smelled like marker ink and urine.

Ely pushed himself away from her towards the edge of the metal cot. He embraced his knees and rocked himself. She isn’t real, none of this is real. 

Honey, it’s me, Zorah, your wife! You called me Zee.” She glided closer. He rushed out of bed to hold on to what was real, his equations on the wall.

“Ely, please, look at me, Have you forgotten everything? The life we built together?” Zorah pressed on.

For the first time in six months, Ely stood up and faced Zorah. He took her in from head to toe.

“You’re not her.” His voice was hoarse. “You’ll never be her.”

***
To: Warden Peterson, Belt 34, Sing Sing
From : CustCare, Apex Holo Services
Date: August 1, 2152, 18:30 hours
Subject : Daily report on Inmate 52

As per your request, we have increased Holo exposure to Inmate 52. Elyot Wade engaged in dialogue with the holo today for 10 seconds.

***
Aug 3, 2152

“Ely, honey, they’re messing with your brain!” Zorah teared up. “Please, trust me!  The knife’s right there! End this life and come to me!” she wailed.

“Tell me where we first met.” Ely asked, still facing the wall.

“At the university cafeteria.”

“And what was playing in the background?”

“The name of the song, Zorah, tell me!” He turned around and screamed. His face was inches away from hers. “You don’t know, do you? Because you…you’re not her.” He cried.

If you removed the crazy, Ely’s eyes were beautiful pools of blue. Something fluttered in her belly, telling her to hug him. She pulled herself close to him, awkwardly holding out her arms.

“Tell me about her,” she gave in to the alien feeling.

Ely sat down on the cold floor.

“My Zorah was unlike any other…” he started.

***
To: Warden Peterson, Belt 34, Sing Sing
From : CustCare, Apex Holo Services
Date: August 3, 3021, 18:30 hours
Subject : Daily report on Inmate 52

Inmate 52 is now fully engaging in dialogue with his assigned holo. Estimated time for clearing Elyot Wade is 7 days.

***
To: Warden Peterson, Belt 34, Sing Sing
From : CustCare, Apex Holo Services
Date: August 5, 3021, 18:30 hours
Subject : Daily report on Inmate 52

We regret to inform you that we’re unable to read Inmate 52’s holo. Unresponsive holograms are a very rare occurrence and we assure you that this will be resolved as soon as possible. We apologize for the break in the inmate’s mind conditioning.

***
To: Warden Peterson, Belt 34, Sing Sing
From : CustCare, Apex Holo Services
Date: August 7, 3021, 9:30 hours
Subject : Re: Rogue Hologram – Resolve ASAP

We have received your complaint re. Inmate 52’s assigned hologram. A hologram helping an inmate escape is technically impossible. Please be assured that we are trying our best to get a read on Zorah. We appreciate your patience.

19 thoughts on “Inmate 52

  1. Fluid Phrase

    A good story. A nice twist at the end there. I love happy endings! But this kind of scenario does seem scary isn’t it? And you say 100 years from now? Shiver….

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you! Here’s hoping that 100 yrs later, the world will be better than the bleak one I’ve imagined 🙂

      Reply
  2. Michael

    I really liked this, especially the final message. There’s so much implied in the sentence, ” A hologram helping an inmate escape is technically impossible.” I’d love to see how that escape went down. 😀

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thanks, Michael! I don’t know yet, but if I do extend this story, the equations might have something to do with his escape 🙂

      Reply
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