They said they found me in a girl from school’s bedroom in the middle of the night.
I don’t remember being there. I don’t remember her parents shining a flashlight on me. I don’t remember her screaming. I don’t even remember which girl in my class it was.
All I remember is getting put into the back of a cop car, my hands zip tied behind my back, my 12-year-old wrists too thin for the cuffs. I remember my parents showing up in the middle of the night. I remember the bits and pieces I heard them discuss with the cops under their breath. I remember hearing something about charges, an offender, options. I remember not knowing what any of it meant.
I remember taking a long drive with my parents. I remember them kissing me goodbye in the rain. I remember watching them drive away in the night. I remember being taken away into a dark building which I have yet to leave ever since.
My new home was like some kind of nightmare setting where Freddy Kruger would live in a dream. It’s damp, dark, dirty and no one was ever let outside, but I would be lying if I said my life before my new home was much better.
Born an albino, my youth had been nothing but answering questions, fending off weird looks, hearing quiet snickers and facing outright insults and jokes from classmates. It seemed every few months my parents would talk about putting me in home school or a small private school, but my dad always reasoned the world after school did not take place in protected seclusion.
Even if the world was a tough, ugly place, there was no escaping it eventually.
But maybe my dad changed his tune. I now rotted my days away in this prison of sorts, rarely seeing the light, sleeping on a cot in a dusty cell and eating my meals and sharing my bathroom with a bunch of freaks.
The freaks, I haven’t even gotten to them yet.
Everyone else in this place had some serious issues. Far worse than me.
For starters, my roommate Karl was some kind of mutant mangled by his father in an attempt to save his life when he was younger. The story went his dad was a doctor who went crazy when he was around six, convinced himself Karl was dying of cancer and did a bunch of horrible experiments on him to try and keep him alive. Now, Karl was covered in hideous scars all over his body, a hideous almost teal skin tone and couldn’t grow hair anywhere on his body. This was all garnished with horrible rage issues. He destroyed our cell mirror twice in the first month of me being there.
But I liked Karl. His anger issues were understandable. I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, but I felt like breaking that mirror every once in a while. Why be reminded of the horrible hand you had been dealt in life?
Karl was the only other inmate (I will use that term for lack of a better one) I talked to in my first month at the still yet-to-be-named place. I ate lunch and dinner everyday with the other 15 or so inmates and saw them around the facility on my rare breaks, but no one ever seemed interested in engaging.
My first introduction to an inmate other than Karl was not a pleasant one.
It started out just like any other typical night. I read the crappy old paperback novels from the library after dinner until lights out at 10 pm then lied there in the dark until my body forced myself to go to sleep. It’s hard to get drowsy when you spend all day just moping around a small room, eating watery cafeteria food and reading The Boxcar Children.
I heard feet scamper outside of the bars of our cell an hour or two after lights out. I drifted my eyes in the dark over to the bars and first saw nothing, but heard another scamper shortly after once I looked away.
The noises drew me up off my feet.
“Karl. Karl,” I whispered up to the top bunk.
No answer. I hate deep sleepers, infinitely jealous.
Giving up on Karl, I tiptoed in the dark to the edge of the cell and the bars which separated us from a cold hallway. I immediately noticed wet footprints, splashed on the path of the hallways outside of our cell before I noticed something even more unusual.
The door to our cell was just slightly ajar. It was usually locked by a guard a few minutes after 10 each night. Seeing the rusted gate just a few inches open sent an uneasy tingle down my spine. I thought about retreating to my bed, but some rustling from the down the hallway kept me at the edge of the cell.
I slinked over to the door, pulled it open further and slipped out into the hallway.
Once out in the freedom of the hallway, the world lit up just a little bit more. The other side of the hallway opened up into the larger guts of the facility and let in the light of the moon enough to where the entire place resonated with a pale blue hue.
Fully exposed to the rest of the facility, my muscles tensed and my mind raced, but I heard nothing. The wet footprints stopped just a little bit past my cell bar wall.
Whatever the hell it was must have went away.
Just as I was ready to head back to my cell, footsteps approached me stealthily from behind.
I whipped around and was engulfed in a blind tackle before I could even absorb what was there.
I fell hard to the hall floor on my back with a sickening thud that knocked the wind out of me.
Perched on top of me, frothing from the mouth and pinning me to the floor with powerful arms was a boy I had seen around the facility before. Hairy and filthy, I heard he was known around the place as Stinky Junior, but I never engaged with him before. Now here he was, holding me to the dirty ground and suddenly snapping at me with his teeth.
“Help. Help. Help. Help,” I screamed out.
I regretted looking up at Stinky Junior again. His eyes were golden and wild, shining horrifyingly in the night. I looked away as he smashed his face down into mine and I felt his teeth scrape against the bridge of my nose.
My prayers were finally answered just as I felt Stinky Junior’s teeth clamp down upon my neck. All the lights in the facility flashed on.
I felt Junior’s teeth snap off of me and his weight leave my body. I stretched up to see him running down the hall away from me on all fours.
The attack by Stinky Junior kept me up all night. Well, that and the jealousy inside of me for the fact Karl never woke up during the entire ordeal.
The guards and facility staff came out when the lights came on, scooped me up, gave me a half of a check to make sure I was okay and locked me back in the cell. I swear I could hear the others in their cells snickering the whole time as well.
I explained the whole thing to Karl first thing the next morning. Reciting the incident stoked my fears of ever leaving the cell again. I was already on the thinnest razor’s edge of sanity living in the place and now I was scared out of my wits of Stinky Junior. I wondered if they had punished him or quarantined him or taken him away. No one told me anything.
I got my answer the next day. Another character I had seen around, but never spoken with, swung by the table where Karl and I were eating lunch and took a seat.
Another member of the grotesque parade, I felt our new lunch partner before I heard him speak. Stricken with a horrible skin ailment which made his skin flake and die upon his body, he looked like a dried-out monster. His skin problem was also so limiting, it made him walk permanently in a slow stagger. I guess moving too quickly made his skin fall off and opened up fresh wounds which bled and stung horribly.
“So I heard you got introduced to Stinky Junior last night,” our new friend said with a laugh and a pat on the back.
I felt his skin stick to the back of my shirt. Cringed before answering.
“Yeah, I guess.”
I looked to our new friend who was beaming with a smile of cracked lips.
He extended a hand that literally looked like it was falling apart.
“Bory man. Sorry for taking so long to introduce myself. It’s a weird place, I know.”
I shook Bory’s hand. He went on.
“But we still need to properly introduce you to this little village of the damned. Come have dinner with us in The Studio. You know The Studio?”
Bory turned his attention to Karl.
“Karl, you know where The Studio is, right? I know you never show up, but you know?”
Karl nodded and grunted with a mouthful of tuna fish sandwich in his mouth.
“Well, if mister personality doesn’t explain it to you later. Go all the way down the hallway in the corner behind the kitchen. There’s a door at the end. Just knock, we’ll be there. Come at six. Don’t be late, don’t be early.”
Bory gave me another pat on the back and was off over to a table full of freaks I had yet to be introduced to.
“You know about this?” I asked Karl.
He just shrugged and kept on chewing.
“God damnit Karl.”