Author: Jeff Hayward
The fluorescent lights switched on flickering and humming – the clock on the wall read 6:00 AM. Patrick sat up in his bed, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He stood up unsteadily, using the steel sink to gain his balance. He shuffled the few steps to the toilet and did his business.
Once finished, he started on the rest of his morning routine – sink shower, brushing his teeth and then a few minutes of stretching and exercises. Years ago, he would spend hours exercising each day, but slowly over time his workouts had changed to support his aging body.
A loud buzz rang out and the bolts securing his cell door released. Patrick glanced at the door to see Officer Stanz through the small thick glass window. The thick steel door swung into the cell.
“One last brown bag, Patrick. Will you miss them?” asked the guard, grinning.
“Of course,” answered Patrick. He walked slowly across the 8 x 12 foot cell to retrieve the bagged meal – always a plain bologna sandwich and apple.
“I’ll be back to get you at 10:00 AM for the… the, uh…” the guard stammered.
“It’s ok, officer. I know. I’ll see you then.” Patrick replied.
At 10 AM, Officer Stanz returned to the cell. Patrick had been ready, sitting patiently at his small desk reading an old crime mystery by Raymond Chandler. He wasn’t going to finish the story in time, unfortunately.
The prison guard led Patrick down the hall towards the execution chamber. Inside, Patrick was strapped onto the padded chair in the center of the small room. A woman in a navy lab coat approached him. She held a tablet computer in one hand, and a small circular device in the other. She placed it on Patrick’s left temple and made a few taps on her tablet.
“Mr. Stephens – you were convicted in 2051 for 3 counts of first degree murder. Under the provisions set forth in the Criminal Deterrents Act of 2038, you were sentenced to 17 successive life sentences of seventy years or natural death, whichever occurs first. You have successfully completed your first sentence, and will now undergo temporal transference, your consciousness transmitted to your physical body in 2051 where you will begin your second term.” said the woman. “Do you have any questions?”
“No, ma’am.” said Patrick.
The woman tapped several times on her tablet, and Patrick suddenly felt a searing pain from his temple, his vision obscured by a blinding white light. After a few seconds, the pain was gone, and his vision returned.
A man in a navy lab coat standing beside him said, “Mr. Stephens. You have just completed temporal transference. It is May 3, 2051. The second term of your sentence has now begun.”
Patrick was led back down the hall to his cell by a tall prison guard with a thick mustache. The clock showed the time as 10:07. He looked at the name badge of this guard and remembered the man who would be his jailer for the next 7 or so years.
“Officer Thompson – could I request a book from the library? Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler.” asked Patrick.
“I’ll check on it. Brown bag lunch will be delivered at 12.” said the guard, as he closed the cell door.
Patrick looked around his 8×12 foot cell, sighed, and then dropped to the floor and started on a set of push-ups.
I enjoyed this but would love to know where you came up with the “17 life sentences” for 3 counts of murder?
Thanks! Honestly, the number 17 was selected at random, but the idea here was a move away from the death penalty in favor of extreme length of prison sentence, made possible through a form of time travel. I just wanted a number large enough to convey a severe punishment.
Oof… Being in jail for 1190 years. Still, imagine all the books he could read.
Very nicely written. I especially like how well Patrick’s resignation is conveyed.
Thanks, Glenn. What would a millenium of solitary confinement do to someone? Perhaps change them for the better. Perhaps make them lose all sense of reality and humanity. Perhaps allow them enough time to find a way to escape? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…