I wake up to the echoes of dripping water. The air cool and moist. I am not in my bed. I am sitting somewhere.
As I open my eyes, I see rusted bars in an empty cell block and rubble along the floor. This is an old prison. I recognize it. It's deteriorated a lot since I worked here, but it is the old Essex County prison, there's no doubt about that.
The chair is rigid and square. My arms are strapped down, pressed against some copper plating. My neck is locked to the back, and I guess that my legs are locked in place, too, though I can't see them. I try struggling, but it's futile. I don't think I would be able to get free under normal circumstances. But based on how sluggish I'm moving I'm pretty sure that I've been drugged.
"Well, look who's finally joining us," someone says from behind me. I know that voice. Why do I know that voice?
"We've been waiting. We didn't want to start without you." The voice is taunting me. Where do I know it from?
"Are you comfortable? I have to admit that these chairs are so stiff, but then, so are so many of the occupants." Laughter starts echoing down the cell block. There have to be a hundred men here. I don't see anyone though.
"What… what is this?" I slur my words, my tongue and lips also struggling to recover from whatever toxin they've given me.
"Why I thought you knew. This is your trial!" A rowdy chorus of hoots and cheers comes down the cell block like a wave. Men are clapping and stomping, delighting in my pain.
"Trial? Trial for what? I didn't do anything." I say, trying to protest.
"Like that really matters." The voice is right behind me: soft, almost a cooing. I can feel my captor's breath and smell it, but I can't turn my head to see who it is. He then trumpets, "So, you are going to deny the charges?"
"Charges? Charges for what?" I'm trying not to panic, but I know it's getting through. I'm scared. I don't know who these men are or what they are planning, but I know they want me to suffer.
"Bailiff," the voice cries, "Read the charges."
He clears his throat and starts talking in a higher pitch, but I know that it's the same man, "Officer Ronald Campion. Born, seventh of October the Year of our Lord one-thousand, nine-hundred, and seventy-two are hereby accused of being an ass." The cell block erupts again, this time in vulgar, riotous noise. "And that you, with malice of forethought, acted with cruelty and malevolence towards your fellow man. You left men to die in solitary confinement. You beat men until they could no longer eat except through a tube. You destroyed evidence that might, no, that would have let innocent men out of this particular corner of hell." He stops and there is silence. The air is still. Even the distant drops of water stop. "How do you plea?"
"What?" I pause, this is unreal. Then I recognize the voice, "Wait. I know you." I say. "You're Shane Franklin. You were here back in 1995, right?"
"A lucky guess." The voice isn't nearly as smug now.
"You were a piece of shit then and you're a piece of shit now." These assholes can't scare me.
"Ronny-boy, I asked you a question." He croons again.
"You let me up you little fucker."
"I asked you A QUESTION." Shane's shout is punctuated by a swift movement in the corner of my eye. Something large, heavy, and blunt smashes into my leg. That shit broke my leg!
"What the fuck?" I say, fighting back the pain.
"Guilty or not guilty?" He asks.
"What the fuck?" I shout. This is lunacy. This is all lunacy.
"Your honor," Shane continues, "The defendant is refusing to enter a plea."
"Well," he answers himself, "then I submit we answer for him. And I say, GUILTY." Another wave of hoots and whistles comes out of the cells in another wall of sound.
"Guilty? I'll show you guilty you little…"
He interrupts me, "You'll show me how?"
"I'll ring your little neck you worthless cock-sucker."
"I'm afraid it's a tad late for that. Don't you remember what happened?" His voice has taken on a distant, floating quality, "Don't you remember what you did?"
He finally steps into view. His face is deformed on one side. Someone had beaten him to a pulp.
"Don't you recognize your handiwork?" He asks. His smile only goes halfway. The other half is too pulverized. Suddenly the men in the cells start stepping into the dim light. I recognize face after face of the prisoners, men who I watched during my tenure as a guard.
"Well, Officer Franklin," he tilts his head as he speaks, "I'm afraid that you have been found guilty." I suddenly feel diodes being pressed to the top and sides of my head, "Do you have any last words before we carry out your sentence?"
I don't know what to say.