Imprisonment by Aanya Pratapneni

A man stood by his bed, his eyes fixed on the little square of light on the floor. He searched behind the bed for something, and pulled out a small pebble. He scratched his name on the wall under the story that had taken him almost a week to write. Once he set it down, he started to read out loud.

“The little cat flap at the bottom of the door opened, providing me with my first meal of the day. Though they were probably drugged, the meals at Oakside were much better than I had expected when I first came here. Then again, I wouldn’t have known what to expect, seeing as this was my first time in a prison. Most of the others were either here because they had been transferred due to their being high threats or because they’d been convicted several times. Even so, I think almost all the others still had more freedom than I did.

You know all those movies that show you what life’s like in prison? They’re almost completely true. Everyone’s supposed to get free time, where they get to get out of their cells and do things with the other inmates in the prison yard. If they get into fights, they’re isolated for a few days, maybe a week at most. Except that’s not really how it is for me. I don’t get free time. I don’t do anything with the other inmates. I’m going to be kept in isolation forever.

Everyday, during rec hours, I lie in my hard bed; eyes shut, and just listen. Listen to the voices of other men shouting. I envied each and every one of them. Envied their free time, their fights, their freedom to do almost anything. But that wasn’t even the worst part of it. The worst part was that the warden had been so cruel as to have given me a cell right next to the basketball hoop. And the one window in this cell being almost as high as the rim didn’t help much either. I would listen to the clinking of the metal chains of the net and within seconds, my eyes would start tearing up as I drifted away into the past. 

Almost everyday before the Incident, my son and I would be up and ready at 5:00 for a rigorous hour of basketball. I’d been training him for seven years and he grew better every day. Whenever he scored, I’d tell him with a smile, “When you’re famous, tell them you were taught by none other than the best – John Peterson”.

That was before “John Peterson” became a name associated with crime, with fear, with terror. I never would have thought I’d be spending the rest of my life in prison. Then again, who would have? There must be two other people in the whole world stuck in the same situation as I am. I can’t even begin to imagine what my son is thinking of me right now.

Had he ever come with his mom to see how I was? Maybe he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. They’d probably moved homes, trying to start a new life, one free of me. What if he would become a basketball star, and I wouldn’t be there to see it? God, I knew this would be hard but I never expected it to hurt this much.

That was another thing – since I was to be kept isolated, I never had any visitors. Basically, all signs of life were present only outside of that window. That window was the only thing between the rest of the world and me. That window was the bane of my existence, and I really hated it.

On my first day here, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and see if anyone outside would talk to me. So that’s what I did. No one replied though. I just got banned from getting any visitors and the other inmates were told someone had just gotten locked inside a storage room and was calling for help. 

I guess my cell actually used to be some sort of storage room or garden, because the floor was covered with about four feet of mud. I probably should’ve learnt my lesson, but just two months later, I was getting really desperate for some form of human interaction. So I made a mound of mud by the window. Obviously, I was caught, and the mud was removed from my cell, but that short glimpse remains to be the only view of humanity I’ve had in these past three months. 

Ever since then, I’ve really hated that window. My attention always drifts away from what I’m doing, whether it’s chipping away at the wall or just lying in bed, to the little square of light cast on the floor by the window. Sometimes I would listen to the wind whistling outside and sometimes I’d even be able to feel a slight breeze on my face, the smell of fresh air overwhelming my senses. 

The window was always at the back of my mind, taunting me. It was a reminder of my sparse surroundings. It often flooded me with a wave of nostalgia as I recalled my son, out there somewhere, beyond the window. It was a reminder of everything I would never have. 

If you are reading this, whoever you are, know that you were not the first, that there was another like you. And remember, if you pay attention, soon, you will find a way out. I wish you the best of luck.

-John Peterson”

The man checked the clock on the ceiling. Two minutes to 12:00. He walked over to the door and sat down against it. Slowly, the square of light from the window moved a centimeter, and the outline of a door seemed to appear out of thin air. The man walked over to the door, and pulled it open. He took one last look at the four grey walls, and the window that had held him captive for three months, and disappeared.