Stockyards
By
Nicholas Ivan Ladendorf


I can hear him breathing from the bunk below. It? even more terrifying than the sound of being sentenced. The breathing is amplified and enhanced with the echoes of ?ife without parole? I? trapped here in his stockyards for the rest of my life, and now that he? arranged for me to share his cell; I am in a continuous state of fear.
The worry lines are becoming etched into my brow. My finger tips are raw from gnawing at the nails for hours on end. My muscles and nerves ache from sleep deprivation...
In here showing fear is a dangerous thing. I would have been killed in the yard long ago, but no one wants to replace me. They stay clear of me, seeing themselves in my place. This place is hell for us all, but they know I have the Devil? personal attention.
Not that they are immune to his presence. The titanium bars and cement may contain us, but his travel isn? so restricted. They know they are in just as much or even more danger than I am. That is why many of them have also taken up sleeping in the yard under the protection of the sun, so they can keep vigil at night.
In the morning I will feel cramp from lying here so stiff. The only movement I make in the night is the shiver that goes through me whenever I hear a grunt or a shift of weight from the bunk below.
There will be no rescue from him, even if he wasn? controlling the bureaucrats in charge of this place, and the guards. No one cares about a bunch of cons sick from fear, being slaughtered like cattle.
We have to save ourselves. The only way to do that is to kill the beast, and because I share his cell, the others look to me to do something about it. But killing the Beast is easier said than done. Hell I saw someone try the first night I was here.
I was just sitting down for the first of my ongoing struggle against prison food. The crap in here ranks just below hospital food. As I said you can? show fear in this place so I took my tray to the table that was eye-ing me the hardest.

?ake some room fellas I said just forcefully enough to be confident.

?hat fo? one of them, Del, bit back

?ou don? have to worry about me; I only fuck with those who fuck with me. Fair enough??/p>

Del was about to say something, but I got a nod from the alpha male of the table and they made some room. I was always told on the outside, that if you ever go into prison, the first thing you do is knock out the biggest guy you can find. When you?e here, you realize that the biggest guy isn? just a bully who can? fight, he? hardened. That and he? surrounded by thirty guys you have to get through first. So that advice is bull, but go in with the attitude that you will knock out anyone who gets in your way.
The alpha male, Derron, asked me ?hat brought you here??/p>

? bus. I almost said to be a smart ass but then went with the truth ? killed five guys for raping my wife and daughter.?/p>

Del smiled in provocation ?ou married your daughter??/p>

What I did was a reflex, but it was a good reflex. If I had fought Del things would have turned ugly. Even if I would have won and not gotten jumped by the others, Del would be bitter, and I would have an enemy. But I couldn? back down either. I grabbed his thumb and pulled his arm behind his back. ?hat? my family you?e talking about!?/p>

Del made a fist with his free hand, so I pulled up on the restrained one and jabbed my index and middle finger into the nerve in his armpit. I saw Derron raise his eyebrows in an impressed shrug. I then told Del ?ou just stick to honkey jokes until we?e friends. Then you can tease me about my family alright?

?eah he grunted out as I released his arm then added ?hen I hope we?e cool.?/p>

Derron nodded, I? like to think it was because he approved of how I handled it, but sometimes black guys just seem to start nodding like they just caught a beat that no one else can hear. Then he leaned forward and asked me ?id they die? Your family I mean.?/p>

I relaxed myself. I couldn? let them disrespect me about my family, but I couldn? let them see it as a weakness. ?o, they pulled through My wife got her face all cut up and my daughter is in a coma. I think that? why I lost my case, because I took revenge even though they?e both alive. ?/p>

?t sucks. I added to put a lighter cast on it though it tasted bitter to do so.

Derron nodded ?ow you won? get to see them no more.?/p>

I nodded with him for a beat ?eah, I knew it before I acted. It was completely, whatdoyoucallit, premeditated. But I had to do it, and do it myself, out of principle. You screw with someone? family and they kill you, that? the way it should be.?/p>

Del, wanting to show everyone that the arm lock wasn? a big deal added ? would?e done it for you but I was busy.?/p>

Then he put his hands up like they were holding onto two bars and he was looking through them. The way he stuck his lip out made me laugh, and Derron took notice of that, so I added genuinely ?ou?e alright?

?el said Del.

?ike the computer? I stuck out my hand.

?ne less ?? he added and shook.
Derron gestured behind me. I turned and noticed that while I was dealing with Del the guy on the other side of me got up as if to get out of the way of the violence. Just the guards watching me relaxed, the guy who had jumped up, shanks the beast.
The beast had his back to his attacker so he didn? see him until the shank was already in his jugular. The beast swung his arm backwards, shattering his attackers arm. It was so surreal because it seemed like a swat from the beast but it caused the bone to stick out and for blood to gush out. The guards cleared the way to retrieve the man with the broken arm the beast pulled the shank; a spoon sharpened on the handle, out of his neck and licked the blood off of it before sliding it across the table to his crony.
Not one of the ?orrectional Officers took notice of the beast. They made the rest of us move back to extract the injured inmate, but seemed oblivious to the beast and his sidekick. One of the first officers on the scene added absently ?e must have slipped?
The beast paid no attention to the guards. Guns waved just inches from his head and yet he sat in front of his barely touched meal conversing with his follower. Even the shank didn? bother him, blood sprayed out of his neck profusely, but he just pulled the small knife out like a bur. The clothing was definitely stained but the puncture was just a scab by the time his would-be assassin was dying in the infirmary.
About a year later, after I? been accepted as part of Derron and Del? clique, more or less the same thing happened. The beast shrugged off the attack and later that night another man died. No one was surprised, and it would have been pretty unremarkable until Del said ?ext time one of you crazy bastards goes after him use a wooden stake!?br> Before that no one gave a verbal indication of what the beast is. We all knew and was aware that everyone else was, but no one ever said anything. Still to this day no one has said the word for it, but there isn? any need to.
The breathing beneath my bunk takes on a panting quality. I hear it every night now that I? in this cell. It will speed up and then drop off until it begins to sound like the ocean. When I first heard the panting that first night I thought he was about to tear my throat out with his fangs, the way I see him in my nightmares. Then came the slow rhythmic breath and I squeezed my eyelids tight imagining him hovering over me ready to strike. But it didn? happen. Not that night or the next thirty. And now that I think of it, I don? think he has fed on me once. Everyone, even Derron, has woke up feeling drained, except me. My exhaustion is from lack of sleep and nerves.
This should make me feel better but it doesn?. He obviously has an agenda for me and if it doesn? involve feeding I don? even consider what else it could be.
I lean my head up; eyes still clenched by the lids, even after all this time. But tonight I force myself to open them and I see the mist rise through the bars. The mist I first saw from my cell above this one, the mist that is in the form of a man.
It may have been as long as a month after being incarcerated here that I saw the mist for the first time. I was definitely here long enough to be terrified of the beast. I was already having nightmares and pumping other inmates for details on previous assassination attempts. It? easy to fixate on things when you?e in the hoosegow because you need a way to pass the time. But fixations easily become obsessions, and I was treading the line before I saw the mist. And that was all it took.
I remember that night so clearly. I was awake, even though it was four in the morning. It was like I drank three espressos, I was so wired. It had been lights out for hours but I kept getting up and pacing. When pacing became too monotonous I climbed back into my bunk and stared out the bars into the court. And that is when I saw it.
At first it was just movement that my eyes caught. I stared and stared to see what had moved but it couldn? be seen at all at first. Then it became a wisp of smoke. I studied it. And just as it was about to loose my fascination I realized I recognized the shape.
It wasn? like staring at the clouds as a kid that could have been the shape of anything from ?unnies to ?acuum cleaners? This mist was definitely the beast, not just in the shape of him, it was him. I knew with all my heart and soul. It was even rising out of the cell below the one I was in at the time. It was rising out of the cell I? in now.
The translucent form floated three stories above the floor to the cells that face mine. The thing that really blew my mind was watching the form of the beast pass through the bars. Subconsciously I must have been thinking that the titanium would stop him, because it gave me a headache to watch.
Then I realized what the beast was doing up there. He was going to feed on Del. I?e never been the kind of person that could accept helplessness, so I did the only thing I could. I screamed. I called for the guards. I called for God and Jesus. I screamed until my throat was raw and my cries became a murmur?br> The guards found Del dead in the morning, but it wasn? bloody. When I told them the beast had done it, they said it wasn? bloodless either. They told me that the county coroner would have noticed significant blood loss. I didn? believe it and neither did the rest of us in this cell block.
Del? humor made this place tolerable, and killing him was the last straw. All the fear meant nothing; they all rallied behind me in the plans to kill the beast. That is they until he arranged for me to move into his cell.
My breath stops for a moment as my subconscious completes an observation. I can see the mist traveling across the court, but the breathing hasn? stopped. My mind struggles to grapple the implications. This means either the mist isn? really the beast, which I know it is, or something else is in the cell with me.
After Del? death was the first truly organized strike against the beast, but unlike tonight, it wasn? against the beast directly. The first part of the plan was defensive; we fortified our cells against the abomination.
We knew garlic didn? do shit against the beast, so we were forced to call out the big guns. We had several of the guys write to local daises of the Catholic Church until they agreed to bless our cells and baptize us as we swore to repent. The warden was convinced this was some mass parole board con, but even he couldn? write off all the Muslim guys going in on it too. And believe me, Islam is the preferred path of redemption in here.
The Warden was right about one thing, the move was political. The outside doesn? care what happens to us, I know I didn?, but they do care about Corrections Officers. If the blessings worked, the beast would only be able to feed on guards, and then something would be done.
The plan relied on ensuring the beast had no other source for blood. Only one prisoner besides the beast himself refused the blessings, his little groupie. Many considered this the best part because the little asshole turned out to be a child molester. That kind have short life spans in here. Derron was to personally take care of it.
I wasn? there but the way I heard it happen was like this. Derron and three other guys cornered the little pervert in the showers. He was barely a hundred pounds so they figured four hulking black guys could snap him like a twig.
One of them hit the bastard in the kidney to put him down fast, and as he coughed and kneeled down the other two guys each took an arm. They held him up so Derron could have the pleasure of beating the pervert to death. That? when the story gets as hazy as the steam of the showers.
Some say it was supernatural reflexes others say the creep hadn? washed the suds off when they grabbed him, but what ever it was he got free. Once free of the thugs the pervert pulled a shank out from his long bushy beard and jabbed it straight into Derron? dick. The guy from behind picked up the beast? crony by the neck. The pervert started kicking and thrashing and his foot stomp the spoon shank and drove the sharpened handle deeper into Derron? manhood.
The water around their feet became tinted red as Derron bled, but that didn? slow the other three from beating the pervert mercilessly. Two shower heads had to be replaced and several tiles were cracked.
The pervert is dead, we know that much, but the three guys that did it we know little about. They may still be in solitary after a stunt like that, but some think they?e been transferred or killed by the beast or guards under his thumb.
It doesn? matter now though Del and Derron are dead. The beast will pay for that. I peak over the edge of the bunk and I see the beast sound asleep. Was I mistaken when I thought I saw the mist leave the room? Or is that not really the beast below me?
I cautiously crawl down and inspect. It is definitely the beast. I should just kill him and be over with it, but I go to the bars and survey. The mist form is in the cell of a new arrival, armed robbery.
I look back and forth to make sure both the mist and the ?an are in two different places. What the hell is going on? I need to figure this out! No I just need to finish it tonight. Now.
I break the hidden seam in my bed. Bits of wax fall out as I pull free the stake. The wax was sculpted into a dildo with the stake as a core. This is how smuggled it in here. Desperate times?br> I hold the sharpened piece of wood above the steadily breathing body. I reposition my weight for maximum power. I look up through the bars at the mist which is unaware of what I am doing Until I bump the bed.
The gaseous head turned toward me and illuminated the room... The former terror of seven eleven wakes up and screams. The thought that I blundered the entire operation passes through my mind just as the illumination that filled the robber? cell is channeled into the hand of the mist and then into a bolt of energy.
The stake flies out of my hand and I am knocked into the wall after the bolt strikes me. I am stunned but aware of the mist returning to the cell. The already dark room becomes black and the spots in my eyes fade.
At first it feels l like it? the yard where I woke up, sleeping outside on sunny days, but I soon realize it isn?. The grass has grown long and free in this place, I lie still, watching it dance in the wind. I realize just how hardened my heart has been over the years as long forgotten feelings flow into it. My soul has been hibernating in dried mud like an Australian toad, and these feelings are the summer showers to reawaken it.
My delight fades as I realize the summer showers never last long. They are just a recess from the hardened earth. I sit up to raise my head above the tall blades of grass, and overwhelmed not to see fence, towers or razor wire. A sweet bubbly sound is carried on the wind from behind me. It frightens me and I am unable to turn around to face it. Tears run down my face.
I do turn in little time, and see a young girl, more of a teen really, running through the field chasing butterflies. I don? dare let my hopes creep into my conscious, or I will be broken. When I see her face my hopes are realized entirely but I deny believing them. But I can? doubt them when I look into those eyes that are so much like mine.
The eyes lock on to mine and fill with delight. Joy flows through me and my heart struggles not to be carried away with it.
But it does the second the tiny arms wrap around me and I hear my own voice say ? missed you so much baby. Repeating it a few times then adding ?s your mamma here with you??br> My eyes swell with tears until they overflow and run down my face as her tinny voice fills my ears ?o daddy, but the man says it shouldn? be too long ?il I get to see her again.?br> Suddenly I remembered that the last thing that happened before I awoke here. The beast blasted me with some sort of energy. I clasp her by the shoulders and hold her out in front of me ?hat do you mean baby? We?e not dead are we? Is this heaven?
Her giggle raises goose pimples all over me ?o daddy. The man says that I am just sleeping while I get better.?br> My mind starts to think; up to this point I?e only been feeling in this place. Everything seems to have a logic but it isn? logical at all. It? intuitive logic. Thinking is a chore in this place, but feeling is very easy. My daughter interrupts my train of thought ?he man also says mamma needs to get better before we can live together again.?/p>

?hat man are you talking about baby? I ask.

?r. Long-teeth. She replies as I feel two cold eyes bore into my back. I spin around and see the beast. In this place his ears are pointed and he has long fangs jutting from his mouth. I instinctively shift into a stance that shields my daughter behind me as I yell ?et the hell away from my daughter you monster.?br> ?addy Mr. Long-teeth is my friend! Her voice pleaded making my heart ache from simultaneously from the realization that the beast has been doing god knows what to my daughter and the desire to look into those hazel eyes as she pleas. I tell her ?e? a bad man baby, we can? trust him.?br> ?e only looks bad daddy, he? my friend! she insist. Dust flies through my mind as memories become unlocked. I remember that my daughter had always been a better judge of character than me. But the logic of this place is seductive. The beast has manipulated her. I reassure her ?et daddy handle this baby.?br> I stare down the beast. He stands in a shadow cast by the lone dark cloud on an otherwise bright blue sky. He waves his taloned hand at my daughter then stops as he sees my disapproval. He straightens his dark clothes, ornate and black like something out of a Shakespearian play, then gestures for me to come closer. I hesitate but he simply continues to beckon and adds ?ou can visit her again soon, but now we have things to discuss.?br> I went with him, only because I know that my daughter couldn? have handled watching a fight between us. Her bond to him seems very strong.
It? dark and dank when my eyes com open, and my eyes adjust to see the menacing form above me. Back in the cell, the beast has no fangs and his ears are rounded again but that isn? what makes my actions possible, it? the rage. With out thinking I am up and have slammed the beast against the titanium bars. The stake in my hand rockets towards the sternum of the abomination in the time it takes to blink.
Which isn? fast enough. The beast disarms me with one hand then lifts me by the throat with the other. My body begins to adhere to the ceiling giving me despair with the knowledge that I can? protect my daughter from the beast, I can? liberate the rest of the guys from him, and the suspicion that he has also been visiting my wife.
The second my body is firmly pressed against the ceiling he lets go of my throat. I stayed flat to the surface that opposites the floor. The beast paces, playing with the stake, as he apparently decides what to say to me.
I begin to remember that first night in this cell. The way he smiled at me. I could see the gears turning in his mind. Him telling me that I would be a much more suitable roommate than a child molester and then introduced himself by the name I never use ? am Damien Xavier Brunswick.?br> He still paces, which relaxes my nerves, because I can see he isn? confident of how to deal with me. Apparently still uncertain he begins ?ou were right to tell your daughter that I? a monster?
?hough I would never harm her?r your wife for that matter. His words come easier to him as he matches the cadence to his pacing the small quarters ?ou see I am helping them deal with their trauma. I can visit them when they dream, which means I have access to your daughter any time I want.?br> ?ou think that helps her you pervert! Stay away from my daughter you bastard! I scream struggling to be free of the ceilings grip. The beast begins to laugh and covers his mouth. ?? sorry I shouldn? have worded it like that, but you see, to me the mind is a computer which is online when the person sleeps.?br> I listen, hoping that like a Bond villain, the beast will give me the means to destroy him by telling me his plans ? have been doing massive work with your daughter to repair her psyche and head traumas. Anyone but her father might have noticed that her dream self was that of a little girl and not of a young lady.?br> He? right, like many fathers I am guilty of forever thinking of her as a little girl, so it didn? seem strange to me at all that she acted so out of synch with her physical age. The beast walks to the wall turns and walks back still talking but now studying my reaction ? have your wife in a mental institution while I work on her. She? only been in there the last few months because we have reached a critical phase and I wanted ?rofessionals to monitor her.?br> I am horrified; the idea of the beast conditioning my family into his pawns is more than I can bear. I want to curse him and curse him out but my tongue became swollen as the impulse struck. ?t took me several months to convince them I was there to help them, but the human subconscious always assigns my kind fangs, claws, as markings of a predator. Which I am, but a predator is more than a killing machine.?br> ? predator also needs to reproduce, which is why I am doing all this. I imagine fissures across my heart as it again hardens like mud in the desert sun ?t? why I paired myself with that loathsome Dr. Kestler. The one your friend Del referred to as Kestler the molester. He was indeed scum, but he made an excellent tutor into the workings of the mind, especially once you came into my plans. He was a certified child psychologist and knew quite extensively the effects of sexual assault at the various stages of development.?br> I get a gleam of satisfaction as I envision Kestler? fatal beating in the showers. Then I get a pang of loss as I remember the terrible way Derron died. The beast walks for a beat then continues ? seem to be getting off of the point. I am not after your family. I want you to become what I am. A vampire.?br> Years of avoiding the word and the beast says it so casually, as if it? something natural instead of supernatural. As if it? a nine-to-five job. I? a banker. I? a stockbroker. I? a vampire. It isn? that I didn? know but it just felt safer not to use the term. The vampire clarifies ?ut that word doesn? mean what you think it does. We aren? dead or undead. We?e more like wizards that can cast powerful magic.?br> He puts his hand to his temple ?ut that magic takes fuel, so we siphon it from those who don? know how to use it. ?br> He cups his hands and pretends to drink from them ?t? the life force that we drink we don? need blood. We can just take what we want right off of the aura that surrounds all living beings.?br> His mouth bends into a smirk as he reflects ?t can be a harmless process on the ?ictim but, you see, I am a bit of a glutton.
He licks his lips ?he more I drink the more powerful I become. And as you?e seen I have consumed enough to perform some impressive feats.?br> ? have holed myself up in these stockyards to feed without harming the innocent he stops and smiles up at me ? am contributing to fix the over populated penitentiaries in this country.?br> ?nd I am doing more than clearing out bodies. I?e become the salvation of many in here! The beast trembles with reverence ??e given the scum in here something to fear. Something to treat with respect.?br> ?nd there are other overpopulated prisons out there that could use their own vampire. They have lost faith and fear and need it recovered. My tongue returns to normal and I drop to the floor nearly busting my face on the concrete. The beast kneels down beside me to inspect for damage ?e my protégé.?/p>

?o to hell! I don? believe any of this crap! I don? believe you?e helping me, my family or society! Everything you touch dies! I respond and Brunswick counters ?o you really think your daughter? subconscious was green fields and butterflies before I did my work? Do you think that she? that resilient after being raped and beaten by five grown men??br> I may or may not have whispered ?o? All the anger and energy I had drained from me. The last time I saw my little girl. I was on bail, and she was in her hospital bed. She looked so at piece despite the physical damage. I feeling so relieved that she wasn? seeing what? happened to her or her parents. But if the beast is telling the truth, it was much worse for her than I could have imagined. Was she caught in a loop, reliving the assault over and over? Was she being chased by horrible monsters? Or was she just a scared little girl hiding under her bed from unseen horrors? What ever it was, I can? dispute, that it wasn? the sunny fields I saw her in. He has helped her, but I still can? trust him.
? sense that you are at least partially accepting the truth. But I wonder why you are still holding on to your hate towards me? Is it because I killed your so called friends? I glare up at him- I had collapsed and started crying as I realized what my child had been going through. I clenched my teeth too emotionally exhausted to attack him. He turns his back to me and looks out the bars, overseeing his stockyards ?hey were in here for reasons you know. Derron was a drug dealer and pimp, complete lowlife. And Del, oh he was a real bastard?e recruited kids off playgrounds for his gang.?br> I didn? want to believe it. And when I start to I tell myself that they were being rehabilitated, their lives were worth something. Tears pour down my face and the beast turns towards me and responds as if he were reading my mind ?t wasn? that they are worse than the others. They didn? really deserve to die per se. But I had to get rid of them, because they were in my way to you.?br> ?hey couldn? touch you and you know it! the beast shakes his head back and forth ?ut they had touched you. You had found the smudge of good in them, and you became friends under the banner of killing the beast. I had to get rid of them because I couldn? expect you to eat your pets.
?? getting the impression that I don? get a choice in this? The beast turns away again and says very distantly ? wouldn? expect you to volunteer to become a monster.?/p>

Continues ?nd that is what I want you to become. It? possible to be a vampire and not kill or cause any harm to your livestock. But I need a killer. A glutton like myself that drains the body dry,?/p>

?ell I? sick of the propaganda. So bite my neck and get it over with. I ask trying to sound tough but the pain from being dropped to the floor makes it impossible. The vampire chuckles ? would if I needed blood, which isn? the case. To make you like me I must consume your entire essence, and then return it. Your soul will learn from mine, speaking that language most people only gleam in deep friendships or romances.
My longings swell within me as the language the beast mentions percolates to my surface thoughts. A language spoken years ago when a tiny hand clasped around my thumb and I stared into those beautiful unfocused hazel eyes. A language written in the margins and between lines in letters that were so common when I first came here. But the language has faded on those old letters and the new letters came with wider chasms of time between them until they stopped coming at all.
?ou son of a bitch. I say looking into the beast? dark eyes ?ou made my wife forget about me, you?e the reason the letters stopped.?br> The beast considers this, but seems to be telling the truth by saying ?t needed to be done. She couldn? recover when she was worrying over you being in here. You will see her when she is ready and you have mastered your powers enough to go into her dreams yourself.?br> ?ike I said, I don? expect you to volunteer for this. You can choose not to become a vampire, but that choice means that I will stop healing the physical and emotional damage your family has gone through. And while your family suffers you will continue living out your sentence until you die an old man.?/p>

?hat doesn? sound like much of a choice to me.?/p>

?xactly. If you allow me to transform you then you will have the power. In time you will be able to either manipulate the system or physically free yourself if you choose. You will have the power to visit your family in their dreams if you wish. But if you choose to go against me all you will have is your spite.?/p>

I tell the beast ?ou realize that I am in here because of spite.?/p>

The beast lost his confidence and pride as he realized that I am capable of doing that. I could abandon my family and myself. I could live happily with my spite. It? bitter yet exquisite. That is why I am here; I brutally murdered five men despite knowing I would go to jail. The beast is speechless as I reintroduce him to humility, he doesn? hold all the cards.
But we both realize that just because I have the power to do so, doesn? mean I will. I have suffered enough for the sake of pleasing my spite and I am not going to have my family suffer anymore if I can help it. With that realization between us between us Brunswick draws my entire soul into his body. Then regurgitates it back.

***

Perhaps days later I woke in an infirmary of another prison. When I am deemed well enough, I am assigned a cell with an arsonist that begins to quake instinctively at the sight of me. His fear wafts through the air to me and it is the most delicious thing I have experienced.
I smile as I begin to think of uses for my new roommate, which in part scares me. I realize that I am rapidly becoming like Brunswick. I thought that I wouldn? be a glutton like him. I could be a vampire that feeds here and there just enough to survive. I wouldn? do any real harm. Maybe making exceptions for prisoners that really deserve death. or at least those who are going to be released only to repeat their crimes again. I can see the world the way Brunswick does, because when he took my spirit into his, he left an imprint.
And now I am the beast with my own stockyards.

 

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