Down the Line

Down the line we went, shuffling timidly as the guards watched like hawks through mirrored sunglasses. Step by step, we moved along. Slowly, desperately trying to delay the inevitable or at least prepare ourselves mentally for what was to come. Each one looking down, avoiding eye contact with the prison guards, keeping their gazes firmly glued to the man in front of them.

“They can’t keep doing this to us! This is a free country!” whispered the man behind me. I didn’t bother respond. It wouldn’t do any good to discuss the situation. Probably just make it worse.

He continued, “This has to be cruel and unusual punishment or somethin’ right? Maybe we should get a lawyer, see if we can do anything about it.”

The thought stirred a slight bit of hope inside me, but something still told me that it would only worsen the already awful dilemma we faced. Slowly we marched on, further and further down the line. The smell thickened, almost making me nauseous. I looked up at the balcony overlooking the large room. Several guards stood together, rifles in hand, smirking down at us. They must enjoy seeing us do this every week.
The line stopped. Hope! I could see at the front of the line a man had halted. He couldn’t bring himself to move any further. Whether it was fear, hatred, or defiance, it was only a futile attempt to resist the inevitable. A guard quickly shoved him along with the butt of his rifle and the line moved on.

We were so close. Oh god the smell. It was awful. I picked up the cold metal tray on the counter next to me and moved forward, tears slowly welling in my eyes. How I’ve made it this far, survived this many times, I will never know. There were only three men in front of me now. I would soon have to face this evil once again. Two men ahead of me. I thought about running, I began scanning the environment around me, looking for a way out or a path through the guards. My grip on the tray tightened. Only one man ahead now. I forgot about any hope of escape and took a deep breath. I slowly looked up at the sign posted on the wall ahead of me. Even though I look at it every week, I still felt the urge to drop to my knees once I read it…


It was my turn. I held up my tray and let the burly man pour the sickeningly brown concoction into my bowl. I fought back tears as I walked over to the table with the other men and sat down.
I looked down at it. It was an abomination. A crime against humanity. I couldn’t even understand how it was considered food. This dish brought murderers and bank robbers to tears.

How…how could any man serve this to another human being. I lifted my spoon and closed my eyes as I brought it to my lips.

I will not describe my experience of eating it. I just can’t. What I will say is that tears were shed, blood was spilled, and men were broken.

Some inmates argue that the aftermath is the worst part. I could agree. This chili had the power to clean out your colon in under two hours. And you felt it every step of the way. Slithering through your intestines like a plumbing snake.

My cellmate and I continuously fought over the small metal toilet in the corner of our cell. We ended up taking shifts. One of us got it for 3 minutes, while other stood back desperately clutching his rear end, trying to contain the beast that was awakened inside of our digestive tract. Our cell block was filled with screams of agony. They say chili night is the best time to escape, because no guard dares enter the prison blocks due to the permeating stench that could strip paint from a wall and bend a steel beam.

After three hours, the block became quiet.

“Is…is it over?” I heard a voice ask from down the hall.

Yes. It’s over.

Credit To – H.P. Hatecraft

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