Building 45

Literary/Arts Journal

A Cold Winter Night

by Jimmie Cohron

He found himself in the disciplinary segregation unit of the prison. Stripped naked, cold, battered and bruised, in a cell with nothing but a concrete slab and stainless steel toilet. There he hung by his arms from the food tray slot, hog-tied with handcuffs, belly chains, and leg irons; wondering how he managed to get himself in such a predicament.

The morning started out like any other. The lights turned on early, the officer rattled those brass keys that hung from his hip, and breakfast was served cold. Never a good combination for such an environment, raw ingredients for uncertain times ahead.

In that atmosphere of contempt, getting swept up in the hate was easy, like lighting a match in a book. It was an argument over a piece of grapefruit missing from the breakfast tray with what seemed a simple solution but not in this climate of distrust.

Like a hurricane the tier exploded in mayhem as 50 disgruntled personalities began to scream obscenities, rattling their cell doors and banging on the iron tables. Cold food, trash, and unimaginable things began to little the tier. The officer found himself dodging debris as he made his way off the tier.

As suddenly as the storm erupted, it ended. Everyone crawled back into bed under their covers as if they could hide. But it wasn’t over quite yet as the guards made their way back onto the tier like aftershocks from an earthquake. It was now their turn to wreak havoc. Randomly selecting individuals to enact punishment upon. Ah, this is how he found himself hanging from the food tray slot. One picked out of several to be moved to the isolation tier. The black box! So named for their ability to close an outer door, shutting off the lights, plunging one into total darkness. Even your screams were lost in this black hole.

The lunacy did not stop there, now they requested that he give up his clothes. In defiance, he dared them to come take them. The grey and black uniforms started to collect outside the cell door eager to take him up on his offer. They were coming in to enforce their will. The adrenaline rushed throughout his body and his ears began to ring. It was fight or flight with nowhere to run. The writing was on the wall but he raised his fists as the cell door began to roll open. With every able body that they could fit, they squeezed into that 8 by 10 cell. Slamming him face down on the concrete slab with a knee to the side of the head as the clothes were ripped violently from his body. Hog-tied and hung, the outer door left open allowing in the frigid December breeze with no way to escape its icy grip. Just a longing to find the warmth of his own body on this winter night.