You’s soft as a pillow, this place is soft as iron.
That was just one of the things his nighttime visitor had said to him, but there had been much, much more he’d relayed, words that David had felt were a joke, a bad attempt at humor, but now made perfect sense.
This place ain’t meant to help you, it’s meant to break you, and you keep pushin’, you’ll break.
He hadn’t looked at another person in what felt like hours, even when they’d been called from their cells for what passed for breakfast. David had taken the tray when his name was called, studiously avoiding raising his eyes to the guards or the inmates that appeared to come from nowhere, jostling and jeering at him, but never hard enough to spill his tray.
Don’t look no one in the eye, not even me, and definitely not the guards. You wanna get through this kid, then you listen. You look at ’em they’ll tear you up. Those guards ain’t gonna rush to help you. An’ if you look at them in the eye, you might as well yank your pants down and let ’em have it, since they’ll take it anyway.
David had been ready to laugh, to tell the man that he could piss off, he wasn’t scaring anyone. David had done his time around gangs, he’d been near and with people that could have ended his life at any given moment. But apparently the man had seen right through that attitude, because his smile had been anything but friendly.
You’s been able to run kid. You can’t run in here. They’ll flip your ass over and tear it wide open jus’ to remind you they can. Don’t be actin’ hard, you ain’t. You’ll know what hard is if you don’t listen.
Something about the way this had been said had chilled David to the core, but that had been nothing compared to what happened next.
You mind me now young’un, the man had said, You keep your head down and do your time here, and you’ll be jus’ fine. You don’t you ain’t never leavin’ this place. You wouldn’t be the only one.
That was when the man had stood up and walked away, which was a bit confusing since the cell doors had been locked as far as David had been aware. But that didn’t stop the man when he appeared to fade from existence before the lingering outline of his body simply stepped through the door.
He hadn’t slept much after that, and when the morning meal had come, he’d made it back to his cell only to look back, keeping his eyes to the floor the entire time, even though his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
There’d been no one there.
(to be continued)