Author : Gray Blix

It had been the perfect plan. Throw spitballs at the substitute English teacher, get sent to the assistant principal, spend an hour after school in detention, and walk home in peace. For once, he would make it through a day at Central High without being pummeled by the school bully and his gang of five. And the plan was working.

The hallway was empty. He didn’t head for the front doors, of course. Billy might be waiting at the bottom of the steps. Instead, he took a side exit and walked towards the gate to 12th Street. But half way there he saw the gate was locked. Could he climb over that chain link fence, at least twice his height? No. It might have been built to keep people out, but it served to keep him in. He’d have to use the front doors after all. Turning around, he saw Billy and his gang approaching. They split up to cut off his escape routes. Two of them came ahead to to grab him, one on each arm, and hold him for Billy.

He was in a panic as Billy’s face filled his field of vision. He felt his heart pounding and heard his quick breaths and the hiss of escaping atmosphere on one side and a rush of air filling the vacuum on the other. Hoses and cables detached and he felt a mild shock, which awakened him from a deep sleep. Arising, he bumped his head on the lid, which was opening slowly, and tried to remember what he’d been dreaming. As always, he could not.

“You have visitors,” a soft voice intoned.

Climbing out of the pod unsteadily, he was momentarily chilled and confused. Realizing that he was completely naked, he donned a one-piece jump suit hanging by the opening to his chamber and slid his feet into a pair of slippers. As he warmed, the voice said, “Follow the arrow,” which had appeared on the floor and begun moving out of the chamber and down the hall. He saw no one as he followed the arrow past other chambers and through open doors which closed behind him. Finally, he entered a room in which two people sat at a table. He sat on the opposite side.

“My, but you have grown,” he heard himself say to his daughter.

“Why don’t you have any hair, daddy,” the girl replied.

He knew that. He closed his eyes and remembered. The voice had told him to rub a cream all over his body that first day and then to shower all the hair away. He had watched it go down the drain, never to return. Then he had been dried by blasts of warm air, after which he had followed the arrow to the medical…

“Did you HEAR me, daddy?”

“Yes. Hair. ‘Nobody here to impress, no need to bother with hair,’ the voice told me, so they, or he, well, actually I…”

“You look well,” his wife offered, helpfully. “better than you did before.”

It was true. The combination of nutritional infusions, along with drugs and electrical stimulation, kept his body trim and toned.

“Was it the same voice that talks to us, daddy?”

“I guess so. I’ve only ever heard the one voice here.”

“Welcome to Acme Detention,” it had said in its soothing way to the small group of visitors just minutes before. “This ultra secure and fully automated facility houses 1,984 inmates, all sentenced to life without parole, in a hygienic and safe environment. Acme does not punish. It merely encourages reflection and contemplation.”

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