I Found A Note Hidden Inside This Hollowed-Out Book From A State Prison

Flickr / lauren
Flickr / lauren

I sometimes go into Goodwill because they get good books for really cheap, but this time I scored way more than what I was hoping. I found one with red print on the sides, reading: “Property of San Quentin State Prison.” It is a hardback, 1934 copy of Moby Dick. I picked it out because I genuinely wanted to read it, but I opened it up to find the insides hollowed out like you see in movies. I used to think that was just a cliché. Yet there in the opening were several folded pieces of paper that looked pristine, as though they had never been handled more than once. I stuffed them in my pocket and waited until I got home to look over the note.

It read:

Dear You,

I know everyone says this, but I am innocent. I am writing you because there is absolutely no one left I can write to. My mother has answered none of my letters since my incarceration; my wife, Aleshia, has only visited once. And that was to say to me, “Once our little girl gets old enough to ask, I will tell her that her father died in Afghanistan in 2008.” She always believed that to be the truth anyways, long before any of this mess began. She said that I must have shed a part of myself there in the desert like a snake sheds its skin. It must have been the part she loved.

I did not murder those families in California. What’s more, I fundamentally need at least one person in the world to believe this before I die in here. I truly envy those of the Christian faith, because they can find such conviction that a Supreme Being is always forgiving them. If they are wrongly accused, they are so fucking certain that He knows the truth. If you have never been in this kind of a position, then surely you have no idea how vital that knowledge is. Because the darkness that awaits a man who is utterly isolated in his innocence, while the whole galaxy spins with the conviction that his guilt is uncontested, is a maddening kind of darkness.

Obviously I want to have my religious faith back. Unfortunately, I cannot, so long as The Thing in Cell Block B goes on living. No God could allow such a creature to exist. And not only to exist, but to evade the notice of every person in this prison. It is no Devil, because it is a part of the foundation of this entire facility. It is no Devil because it has roots that spread like a tree’s roots and they penetrate miles of earth, and they pollute the space of a million minds. It is no Devil, because there is not enough space between Heaven and Earth for this monstrous being to co-exist with God.

I first saw it on the battlefield in 2008, but now I have learned that it is spreading. I was on mop duty in Cell Block B when I found it here. Yes, even inmates with death sentences get to get out every once in a while. Usually it’s hard to come by something as liberating as mop duty, but the lack of volunteers for that particular part of the prison only serves to reinforce the existence of this inhuman thing. No one else was willing to take up the task. So every couple of days I alone am shackled hand and foot and set to work in that two-level wing.

It was festering in the brick wall between two cells like the way an infected scab festers green on your skin. Except that it looked at me beneath penetrating, opal eyes. I saw the corrupting veins go down beneath the foundation and up through the ceiling like roots and branches. This thing spread its tendrils behind almost every set of bars in the entire prison wing. But for some reason no one seemed to notice.

Although no one, not even the guards, had noticed this creature growing in the walls, they were all very aware of the altered state of the inmates there. In a warzone you can see soldiers, friends and families lose their minds a little; some people can conduct themselves in the most outrageous manner from fear or mental paralysis. Yet all that I had seen in Afghanistan could not have prepared me for the behavior of these prisoners. They are subhuman.

My mopping is never done because of them. As soon as I finish, they begin throwing their feces on the floor outside their cells like monkeys in the zoo. They push their faces up close to the bars and growl at me and pick fights with their cell-mates. The guards must have seen this for far too long because they are immune. It’s crazy to think they are more concerned about what I am up to than these men who seem to be devolving before their eyes.

I talked to my psychological evaluator here. I was hesitant at first because Dr. Sandoval is the one person in the world who has a say in my life at this point. But we had already reached an impasse too long ago. Our meetings had almost become formalities, so I figured I might as well clear up as much as I could about what’s going on here.

“Have you ever evaluated anyone in Cell Block B?” I asked him one session.

“I asked you to tell me what you have been feeling lately about your coming execution.”

“I’m scared you asshole, so just humor a dead man a little and answer my question.”

He took a moment to scribble some notes down before looking back up at me from his papers. I knew it was bad. But to hell with it, I’m pretty certain everything there is bad.


“No you won’t humor me, or no you haven’t evaluated anyone from Cell Block B?”

“I have not evaluated anyone from there in particular. But they do have a reputation around the facility. Not everyone is as good as you at adapting to prison life.”

“So they didn’t come in crazy then?”

“Cell Block B is a special placement wing for those prisoners who exhibit a lesser ability to cope with life in jail.” He picked his pen back up and kept his eyes down as he asked, “Now… Have you found it any easier to find God, considering what is coming next for you?”

Enough of that prick. You know what my answer to that was. Just like that he had set me on a mission; I had an occupation to fill the last of my time. And it is through this quest that I may yet prove my innocence to you, unknown reader, and to myself. The prisoners in Cell Block B did not come into the facility crazy. They were made that way after serving time here. Being relocated closer to that monster must have only further incensed their coming insanity.

But you are probably wondering what all of this has to do with my innocence, aren’t you? To further explain this I guess I have to bring forth a little bit of information that I am ready to share with you. I was stationed in the same Forward Operating Base just east of Kabul with the five men whose families I am accused of having slaughtered upon arriving home from Afghanistan.

Obviously if I were to have told you this sooner, you would have instantly believed me guilty. It is my hope that I have sufficiently conveyed to you that I am an even and an objective man. Or maybe you cannot see past this troubling coincidence, as the jurors themselves could not do. If you have a shred of belief, then you must allow me to explain the connection here, which will point directly to my innocence.

It was during that time that I first started seeing manifestations of this thing that lies in Cell Block B. We five had to leave the parameters in order to retrieve a supply drop that landed a couple miles off target. The crates parachuted down right on top of the gray, living thing. No one else seemed to notice the eyes. I tried warning them, but they said I must be showing PTSD symptoms because there was nothing alive under the crates. As they picked them up and moved them, it spread up their arms and over their torso.

For the next three months the evil shit clambered over their chest and dug its tentacles into their rib cage. It wrapped its slimy arms all over them and started making them change. They became always bitter and short with each other, even coming to blows with each other in a way they never had before. After three months station, we were all pulled out and sent back home on leave. I was relieved, but worried. There was no telling what would happen once the evil spread through them and their families.

We kept in touch fairly well after coming home. I even went to visit them, and they came to see me. But I was always careful not to let them get too close to Aleshia or my daughter for fear that the contagious dark matter might reach out to them. I started wondering why I was the only one who could see it.

Finally, when we were all together at a picnic in St. Burroughs Park, it had eaten them all the way through. The last inches of their life was taken from them by the evil being. I could see it coming for a mile away so I sent my girls home and said I would be coming shortly after. I had barely enough time to get away before the evil things started crunching on their bones and stabbing them with their now manifest tendrils. In their last moments of life, my friends could see the being that had come to bring their demise.

As the only one still alive, of course I caught all of the blame. The evil entity had already departed, and the wounds looked a lot like stab wounds. If I was thinking clearly, I would at least have put down the knife I had been using to carve the tri-tip before calling for an ambulance. But I was so disoriented. That did not help my case at all.

And now, locked away in this rotting prison, I am come face to face with the being once again. This thing that defies God, defies all things positive in the world. And now, I am sentenced to die because of a massacre in the park by that Thing. Whether the electric chair, or by the guards, I will give my last breath of life to fighting this monstrosity. If you, unkown reader, never have to see this being, then believe in my innocence; I trust that you can. I can now go and stake my life with the knowledge that this message will reach someone who can believe. Perhaps those infected inmates may also die once I have finished off the being, but that too is a small price to pay for the cleansing of the world.

Yours truly,

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About the author

Luke Hartwick

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