Tuesday, 24 March 2009 - 10:35 am

Prison walls

I don’t think any of us got a lot of sleep that night in front of the prison gates. In the morning, we were all eager to get the cars started again, though that was easier said than done. The one that had stalled didn’t want to come back to life and I ended up under the bonnet trying to figure out what was wrong with it. With hardly any tools, it was a challenge. Dillon watched me fiddling and Ben lent a hand. Sax was nearby to offer suggestions, though he agreed that he was not much use with mechanics; he’s better with electronics. The rest of the group was keeping an eye on the prison through the open gates.

The place is no more appealing in daylight. The walls are a flat, uncompromising grey even in the strange orange-tinted daylight, featureless except for the curl of barbed wire snaggling along the top and the gate we were stranded in front of. The rain has stained the signs, dribbling words together until we can barely make them out. The gates are high, metal bars that were once painted an inoffensive tan and are now faded to a sickly vomit-colour, matching the glimpses of doors and mesh and gates further inside.

The weirdest thing about it is the silence, the stillness that lives inside the crouched building. I’m not the only one that imagines eyes in the barred windows, or that feels that held breath ready to sneak down the back of my neck. The whole place has a presence, one that watches us, one that waits for us.

It didn’t have to wait long.


I had just found what I thought was the problem with the engine – the fuel line had worked itself loose – when there was a cry behind me. I turned just in time to see Nugget disappear through the gates in hot pursuit of a certain small furry creature. In true horror movie style, he had decided to go visit the prison, and because Nugget had to follow, so did the rest of us, despite our desires to the contrary. We might leave the cat to his fate inside a place like that, but a child and one of our own number is different. Conditions compelled us, and so we answered it.

The others were all following Nugget, trying to call her back without shouting; they didn’t want to make too much noise in case there was someone alive in the building. I finished up what I was doing – we might need to make a swift exit, so I wanted to know that both cars would work – before I went with them.

I finally dropped the bonnet closed and ran through the gates, only to slow to a walk as I looked for the group. Once off the access road, it was a maze of gates and mesh walls that stretched high over my head. The only reason I knew where to go was that the path only led in one direction, for all it flipped back and forth and wound around corners. I don’t know how many security points I passed; I wasn’t paying attention. I did notice that some of the gates were bent out of shape, warped by someone’s – or something’s – determination. They would never close properly again.


I found the others in a central courtyard. There was equipment lying around – weights, gym machines, that kind of thing – with padding and seats all eaten away by the rain. The prison walls rose up around us, holding a small square of orange sky between their thick grey arms. Bars prickled over the windows and, between them, the glass glared down at us.

The others were quiet and I almost asked why they were standing there like that, huddled up in a group in the centre of the courtyard. Nugget wasn’t there; they hadn’t caught up with her yet. Then I followed their gazes upwards, beyond the accusing windows to the roofline above. There were bumps in it, uneven and familiar.

I heard a skitter and nearly jumped out of my skin – in the silence, the sound bounced off every wall and came right at us. Claws scraped quite distinctly against the gutter and I recognised the way one of the black shapes up there moved. We had found the crows’ home. The murder’s home. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a good thing any more.

Even more unsettling was the fact that each of the walls that hemmed us in bore an open door. They might let the birds in, but I was more worried about what they might have let out.


Something’s happening, gotta go.