Saturday, 26 March 2016
Working Title (part 4)
Nimet saw the piece of paper and felt her jaw wanting to slide open. For some reason, the presence of paper surprised more than the presence of a live, rampaging dinosaur would. She wondered how anyone had managed to get a scrap of paper into the Writers' Gaol and, if such a feat was so easy, how come it had taken her a week of imprisonment to see one.
Seven days had passed since her fateful meal with Emily and since then, no further details of the plans had been given. The escapers had started using her as a messenger, taking messages from one table to the next. The sci-fi writers told her to tell Hemming a piece of ‘material’ would be prepared pretty soon and then Hemming told her to tell Emily that he’d managed to get the lemons to work. Upon telling Emily this, Nimet was told to go around everyone involved to tell them all to get ready for the plan to be carried out.
Once a week, there was a whole prison assembly. Emily explained it was one of the recently joined governor’s ideas; get all the inmates in one room at one time to inform them of any regime changes and then make an example of anyone who tried to break the rules. It also meant that it was the best opportunity for chaos, and that was exactly what Emily wanted.
The room began to flood with prisoners, each of them being escorted by their own personal guard. As soon as they were in the room, however, their hands were uncuffed and they were left to their own devices. Nimet quickly navigated towards Emily, who was in turn waiting with the scientists who’d so far turned up.
“Did you get it?” Emily said. “The material?”
The lead scientist, a tall woman with bushy hair, looked over both of her shoulders and then reached into her pocket. What she pulled out was a square of paper, maybe no bigger than a piece of toilet roll. Emily accepted it and looked it over. “That is incredible. Absolutely incredible.” She said. “Well done.”
“Thank you.” The scientist said. “We were only able to synthesise one sheet but given time, I’m confident we could make another.”
“If all goes well, you won’t need to.” Emily said. Through the corner of her eye, she spotted a guard approaching. She quickly passed the piece of paper to Nimet. “Go give this to Shaun, will you?”
“Of course.” Nimet said. She had a full and honest belief in the power of the written word, but even she doubted that a single piece of paper could break them out of the Writers’ Gaol. It all came down to Shaun.
She wove through the writhing crowd of prisoners, sneaking under arms and bustling through chairs. She’d never liked being small; it had always been something her mates teased her about but she was now beginning to appreciate it.
She was just stepping under the barrier made by someone’s arm balanced on a chair when she caught a glimpse of Hemming on the other side of the room. She raced forwards and caught up with him. “I’ve got the ‘material.’”
“You have?” He said. There were bags under his eyes and his nails were freshly bitten. His skin was paler than it had appeared in the whole time Nimet had known him. The only part of him that had colour on it was his nose, which was red and runny.
“Yes. It’s incredible.” She passed it to him covertly.
“Thank you.” He slid it into his pocket. “I’ve got the lemons too; the doctor said I needed Vitamin C just like we reckoned it would. I’m going to use my finger as a stylus, so bear with me.”
“Okay. I’ll go tell Emily.” She paused a second, on the verge of turning away, and then turned back to him. “My mum read me your short story before she passed away. I knew every word off by heart.”
“That’s not hard.”
She smiled. “I never really got it when I was little; I only liked it because of the silliness of having a longer title than the body of the story. But I think I understand it now. ‘Once, I saved her.’ You believed you failed someone. You lost your love. You broke your own heart. I don’t know for certain but that’s the feeling I get. I think that, when we escape, you need to go and find whoever this magical person is and I think you need to say sorry.”
“How old are you, girl?” Hemming said.
“Old enough to recognise a broken man when I see one.” She said, hurrying away before he could say anything. The guards were quickly forming a ring around the huge columns of chairs. She took a seat next to Emily, a few rows behind Shaun. “He’s got the lemons.” She whispered. “He said he’s using his fingers, so he may be a few moments.”
“Right, of course. The calmer the room is when he’s finished, I suppose, the more chaos that’ll be created. Now, be quiet. Speak whilst the governor’s speaking, you get a longer service. I’m currently serving two lifetimes.”
There was a sudden thudding as the door on the stage at the front swung open. Everybody who hadn’t already sat did just that, taking their seats on the rows and rows of chairs. Nimet stared at the back of Hemming’s head for a second and desperately hoped that her prep talk had worked. The Blind One had told her plenty of times the emotion could be a wonderful motivator and, when she’d seen Hemming looking terrified, all she could think was that he needed that extra motivation. Hopefully, it’d pay off.
The door opened and out stepped the governor. He was a small man, ugly looking and smarmy. He wasn’t wearing glasses, although Nimet could tell from the way he was squinting that he should have been. Probably didn’t want to risk being given any material to read. He took a seat in one of the prearranged chairs, next to the head of guards, and looked forwards at the crowd. “Hello everybody.” He said. “Another a week, another day. You’re all closer to freedom than you’ve ever been before. So, please, listen when I say, work with me. With the wardens. Do all you can to make the rest of your sentence peaceful, relaxing. Repent your sins, overcome your mistakes, please don’t make this harder than it has to be. Because if you do, if you think you can mess with us-“
Before he could continue, one of the guards noticed Shaun, sat with the piece of paper resting on his knee and a lemon in one of his hands. “Oi! You!” The guard shouted, marching towards Shaun. “What’re you doing?”
Shaun quickly finished the sentence he was tracing with the lemon juice, poking down a huge full stop. The guard raised a taser, pointing it at Shaun’s head. “Pass me that piece of paper. Now.”
“Is there a problem?” The governor demanded, from the stage.
“Nothing I can’t handle, sir.” The guard said. He poked his taser a little harder and said, “Give me the paper.”
Letting the lemon fall to the floor and squidge against the white marble, Shaun passed the piece of paper over. The guard slid his taser away and studied the paper. When he saw no words, he sniffed it and said, “Thought you were clever? Using invisible ink? Thought that was clever did you?”
Shaun sighed. “Yes. Yes I did.”
“Well, you’re not.” The guard reached for his lighter from his belt. “Let’s see just how clever you are when we see what you’ve had to write.”
He lit the lighter and the lapping flame began to roast the paper. The words began to appear, browning suddenly as the rest of the paper remained white. The guard’s eyes danced across them. There were only ten. About halfway through, however, he suddenly remembered who he was dealing with. The award winning short fiction writer. He finished reading the sentence and found himself incapable of moving. He was too inspired, too saddened, too overjoyed by what he’d just read. He didn’t notice as Hemming leapt up, grabbed the taser and spun the guard around. He held the taser to the side of the guard’s head and shouted, “No one go for their weapon, or I’ll fry him like a fish.”
Emily and the scientists leapt out of their chairs too, grabbing the nearest guards unaware and drawing their tasers. Emily jumped a top a chair in front of the stage and pointed it straight at the governor. “We’re getting out of here even if we have to sting every last one of you.”
“Even if you get past that door, you still won’t make it anywhere. The automated systems will shoot you down.” The governor said, squinting harder.
“I think you’ll find that’s complete nonsense.” The scientist said. “There are failsafes in place, triggered by certain criterium. Such as, for example, children being threatened.”
Emily grabbed Nimet, heaving her up and putting the taser to her head. Nimet struggled but she couldn’t quite get herself free. She felt terrible words, curses and profanities, rising to the forefront of her mind. She swallowed them and stayed silent. She supposed this was still all part of the plan.
The governor sighed. “She may be a writer but she’s still a child. Guards, do as she says. Let them go.”
Emily grinned and set about leading the scientists and Hemming across the room. They hauled themselves onto the stage, walked straight past the governor and then through the door which he’d entered by. Security cameras with machine guns connected spotted the sight of the taser against Nimet’s head and instantly deactivated. Emily grinned and they set off even quicker.
The corridors were longed and grey, feeling oddly cold as if there were anti heaters in them. Nimet felt Emily’s grip loosening as they ran until eventually they got to the fire exit and she was dropped to the door. There was a huge set of stairs leading upwards to the emergency exits. The scientists sighed, complaining about their lack of exercise. Emily shook her head and began to climb.
After about twenty steps, she turned to Nimet and said, “Sorry about threatening you. It was the only way I knew we’d be able to get past the security system.”
“I wish you’d told me.” Nimet said.
“I needed you to be surprised.” She said. “I’ll tell you things in the future.”
“You say that like we have a future.” She laughed. “There’s a reason why nobody has ever escaped the Dark Tower before.”
“I hate that name so much.” Emily said. “It’s so… incorrect.”
Nimet shook her head and they kept climbing. They climbed for what felt like years, with no guards attempting to follow. By the time they reached the top of the stairs, she felt almost ready to die. She reached for the plastic bar that crossed the emergency exit. She pressed it in felt the doorway squeak open. Half a dozen alarms went off but they ignored it, stepping through the opening crack. Light flooded down, blinding them. Nimet stumbled forwards, across a few metres of gravelly stones. She kicked one and heard it clattering away. When her vision regained, she saw they were once surrounded by crop fields. She would have liked to go out with some wooden boards, to have made some crop circles, but such days of childhood innocence were long gone now.
There was a sudden screeching of engines. Cars seemed to pull out of nowhere, spinning around to a dusty stop. The doors kicked open and men jumped out. A few of them were grabbed by the sight of the Gaol’s opening the ground but the majority, the professionals, kept their mind on the job. They reached for their Tommy guns and raised them, pointing them straight at Emily. Nimet stared at the men and observed they were all wearing a white flower on the lapel of their long black jackets. The wind played slightly with their bowler hats but not enough to dislodge them. A man climbed out of the car with a loud hailer.
“You scientists, Carmine Leone sends his regards.” The man said, his accent heavy. “Rest of you, get in the goddamn car.”
Nimet looked at Shaun Hemming who looked at Emily. She shrugged, walking over to the car. “It’s not like it can get any worse, is it?”
And so with that, the three of them climbed into a gangster’s car and left the sound of gunshots behind them.