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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    LIFE SENTENCE by Brandon Layng
    May 2, 2008  Short stories   Tags:   

    I am not a smart man. I’m not stupid either. I never figured out how a BluRay disc could hold more information than a DVD. After all of the books I’ve read while in here you would think I would have come across something or other that would have explained that to me. It’s funny, I use to watch a lot of movies when I was on the outside and never understood how it was all made possible. All of that information packed onto a flat piece of plastic. I remember seeing all of these movies about guys in jail who had libraries to check books out of or at least carts that one of the old-timer screws would walk around with and hand out books. Thanks to the money my wife puts into my canteen account I’ve been able to buy books written by all the greats, even a few of the not so greats.

    You have a lot of time to kill when you’re in for life and the reading helps to keep your mind off of the times you watched a guy get his face stomped or when you got beaten for not washing your hands before using the phone on your first day in. Escaping into the world of Poe or Hemingway drowns out the sounds of the new guys getting raped in the night by their cellmates. That was the way of life here in Maxwell Full-Term Penitentiary.

    Maxwell’s Pen is a super jail, built with sponsorship by the Maxwell Corporation, developers of non-lethal weaponry and pharmaceuticals. This is the kind of prison they talked about twenty years back; a large capacity facility intended to house convicts with a life sentence.

    The only way out of Maxwell’s Pen is death – by another inmate or your own hand.

    I’m writing this where I can in the pages of a worn copy of Farewell to Arms with a stubby little pencil I have to keep sharpening by rubbing against the walls. I’m not sure why I’m writing and I’ve read enough to know few people do when they start to write about what led up to their deaths. Maybe if there are any survivors, they’ll find this and read it or just as likely some alien anthropologist will read it a thousand or so years from now and discover what wiped out the human race.

    I wish I could see my wife and son to know they are…

    I catch myself thinking about my wife and son. It’s hard not to. My wife hasn’t been in for a visitation for over a week now and I’ve been in lock down for three days. There’s nothing I can do. If the power fails I might be able to force the cell door back on its sliding track and that’s if starvation doesn’t kill me first. So it’s no use thinking about them.

    I said earlier that I’m not a smart man or a stupid man.

    I may not know much about technology but I know common sense told me the Gun Ban of 2028 was one of the more stupid things the world could have done. Bullets are one of the few things that would be guaranteed to penetrate through their skin. What’s happening outside of this cage proves my point. Most of the others are quiet now, except every now and then I can hear the sound of one of them feeding. That ripping slurping sound. Most of the screams have stopped but at night I hear some of the guys crying. I get chills when I listen to the sound of a grown man whimpering. I can honestly say I prefer it when they pray.

    I ended up here after a long day of work. I was a middle-income factory worker making expensive boats I’d never own for people who paid guys like me to do their work at their own factories. I got home and I knew something was wrong when I saw the front door was open. I checked the ground floor for my wife (our son was at school thank God) when I couldn’t find her, the shotgun in the basement was my next objective. It was kept it in a cabinet downstairs so it wouldn’t be visible when we had company over. A man has a right to bear arms to protect his family and I wasn’t going to give it up. There were signs of a struggle in the laundry room, the detergent spilled out onto the floor, clothes pulled from the hanger where my wife hung them to dry. I was angry. I could feel it growing in the pit of my stomach like a rotten jalapeno pepper fermenting. Someone had been or was still in my house and the thought enraged me.

    Going up the stairs to the second floor as quietly as possible, I saw our bedroom door was open a crack. Before I saw the door, I could hear the sounds. The grunting and heavy breathing. Not even for a moment did I assume my wife was having an affair. We have a happy marriage and times may have been tough but we were in it together for the long haul. The sounds made the pepper in my gut turn sour. This man had invaded more than just my house.

    So I could catch the bastard by surprise I gently pushed open the door. There he was, on top of my wife, who was naked and tied to the bed. I saw the tiny cut he’d made above her breast, the red syrup pooling in her cleavage. He was thrusting himself inside of her, oblivious to the muffled whimpers she made behind the tape on her lips and oblivious to me standing in the door way with the shotgun leveled at his hunched back. She saw me and her eyes were pictures of fear. I still see the way she looked as I laid on my hard bunk at night.

    I stepped forward. My footsteps were dampened by the pile carpeting. At the moment of cumming he flinched as he felt the cool steel barrel at his temple. His body jerked and came to a shuddering stop and then I pulled the trigger.

    My wife sold the house after I was convicted, said she couldn’t get the guy’s brains out of the carpets and walls. She was always on my side, by her, I did no wrong.

    That’s how I came to be here, keeping company with the dead. One count of first degree murder and one count of possessing an illegal firearm. They made an example of me to warn all others who still believed in the right to defend themselves.

    The idea for the gun ban came in 2027 when the United European Alliance, the council of all the countries of the European continent, confiscated and destroyed all registered firearms, the public’s and the authority’s. The European authorities were outfitted with Maxwell Corporation’s new Tasers. They came in all shapes and sizes and were pretty effective on living people.

    It wasn’t long before other governments followed suit. They may have been disposing of their guns but Maxwell Corporation developed other technologies that took their place and were helpful in encouraging the more reluctant countries. Murder rates were halved and the population hit an all-time high. Maxwell stock soared and over the next fifteen years they were the saviors of mankind. The pharmaceutical division developed a treatment for AIDS and a new drug that reduced the fatality in most forms of cancer to less than twenty percent of what it was.

    I see my cellmate has started to twitch again. I don’t have much time. I don’t think he’ll be able to get himself out of the bed sheet noose wrapped around his neck but there is no way of knowing. I’ve heard the bars bending in some of the other cells which means they grow stronger when they die. I don’t think they are strong enough to make a hole big enough to get out though. If they had I would have seen some wandering around the walkways.

    As I was saying… to the world, the Maxwell Corporation was a miracle worker.

    Two years ago they announced they had created a vaccine against the common cold. No more sniffles and sneezes. The sale of tissue papers dropped overnight and the world rejoiced. Governments mandated the inoculation of everyone in the general public. The mandate did not apply to us lifers. The only inmates in here who had their cold shot are the newbies, like my cellmate. He joined me about a year ago along with another fifteen percent, roughly, of the prison population. He was just a kid himself yet he raped and strangled a little girl. I said the murder rate went down, not wiped out.

    Flu shots and booster shots. We’re all inundated with needles being stuck in our arms our whole life. I don’t understand why the scientists of the world didn’t see it coming.

    No one really knows much about the common cold. It’s afflicted the human race since God knows when but the answers to its riddle has always alluded us. Has the strain of the Rhinovirus ever changed? It did when we tried to wipe it out.

    I heard one of the guards talking while I was out in the yard, he said the World Health Organization thought that the vaccine interacted with all of the other antibodies that formed in the body after you were given an injection for all the other things, the flu, polio, etcetera. When the new organism’s host died it assumed control of the body. Kind of like when your parents die and you inherit their house.

    People still die and at greater numbers because of the population boom. Day by day the number of infected grow. The only problem is the virus needs to consume living flesh to survive.

    I hear someone screaming somewhere down the walkway.

    All of the guards left to go be with their families. I wonder how many of them have become? They don’t have guns and the Tasers don’t stop the infected. What effect could electricity have on something that is already dead? The guard who I had heard talking said the only way to stop them was to cut off their heads.

    This whole thing is like a bad zombie movie from back in the 1980s, except “zombies” isn’t really the right word for them. Their skin gets thicker when they die, almost scaly with hard boils. I don’t know that from the guard. I know it from my cell mate who hung himself an hour ago. I’ve been watching him change as the virus wakes up inside of him. I watched as different parts of his body twitched, new rooms in the house being moved into.

    I pried a bar from the bed frame, pretty much useless unless I can figure out a way to use it to damage his brain. At least it’s something. A chance to defend myself. Having it in my hand makes me more confident and it calms the shakes that make it hard to write with this pencil. It’s barely bigger than a thumbtack now. I know there is no chance of me getting out of this cell but I’d rather starve than end up the main course.

    It sounds like something just ripped behind me.

    42 Comments

    1. Awesome write Brandon!
      I love the way you started the story right in the middle of things. Great story-telling my friend!

      ~Jess

      Comment by Jessica Lynne Gardner on May 2, 2008 @ 10:34 am

    2. Strong storytelling. Good job. I appreciated the forethought you put into the story, disarming the populace so that they wouldn’t have the tools with which to fight the zombies.

      Smartly done. Bravo.

      Comment by Patrick M. Tracy on May 2, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

    3. Excellent work, Brandon! I know that creepy, uncomfortable, trapped feeling is going to follow me for a while. Damn… 🙂

      Comment by Jodi Lee on May 2, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

    4. Excellent story!
      Zombie stories don’t interest me all that much but this story hooked me from the first paragraph!

      Again, great work!

      Comment by Isaiyan Morrison on May 2, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

    5. Nice dude; good choice of gestalt!

      Comment by Zombie Zak on May 2, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

    6. Hey thanks everyone for stopping by to have a read. It makes me shiver to think of how much you’ve enjoyed it and you can be sure there will be more from where this one came from.

      Comment by Brandon Layng on May 4, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

    7. Well written story with brilliant suspense, I can’t help but notice your opinions on guns seeping into the storyline though.

      Comment by Flytch on May 5, 2008 @ 11:02 am

    8. Great story! I need more stuff like this for my magazine!

      Comment by doc on May 5, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

    9. Hey Brandon, Great Story!

      Comment by Jeanna Tendean on May 6, 2008 @ 7:42 am

    10. This is a nice piece of work. But then again, I like all your stories…you’ve got talent! Keep up the good work! You put good detail into it, so that as I’m reading, I can actually picture the poor doomed soul’s struggle as the story unfolds…rip, slurp, rip, crunch…yikes!!!

      Your sis in law,
      Erin

      Comment by Erin Layng on May 6, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

    11. pretty graphic, loved it Bro!!

      Comment by Adam Layng on May 6, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

    12. wow. nothing more to say. wow.

      Comment by Tiz on May 8, 2008 @ 9:21 am

    13. All you guys and gals have got me blushing or is that blood dripping from a head wound because your compliments have knocked me senseless? Either way thank you for taking the time to read, I really, really appreciate it.

      Comment by Brandon Layng on May 8, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    14. Kudos to you Brandon. Great story. Visually brilliant too!

      Comment by Charlotte Emma Gledson on May 9, 2008 @ 4:14 am

    15. Hey B-man…nice work, buddy! 🙂

      Comment by James F. Reilly on May 21, 2008 @ 11:21 am

    16. Excellent! I feel bad for the guy

      Comment by Paris on May 28, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

    17. Really liked this story. Nice lead in, great detail. Nice work!

      Comment by Kevin White on June 4, 2008 @ 11:36 am

    18. OMG!!! This story was fabulous! I enjoyed it from beginning to end, I couldn’t stop reading it. Excellent tale Brandon. I loved it!!!!

      Comment by Mary on July 30, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

    19. Good job, Brandon. Well thought out and expertly executed!

      Comment by Lincoln Crisler on August 2, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

    20. That’s one hell of a way to shift the balance of power as a result of a world-wide weapons ban. lol Nicely done, my friend! I enjoyed it from beginning to end…or is that the end? Hmmm…

      Comment by Dave Rex on August 3, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

    21. Sooooo good !! i loved it !

      Comment by TigerLady on August 3, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

    22. Good story, but wish hadn’t make vaccines the cause; mine was the very first class of grade school kids to get the amazing blessing of the newly invented POLIO vaccine, back in the 50’s — my five yrs. older brother’s generation & all before, not so lucky. Every year, until the Salk Vaccine & Sabin Vaccine, hospital corridors would have “IRON LUNGS” with little kids in them, lined up wall-to-wall as far as the eye could see. Polio was a dreaded Summer fear for every parent. My sister-in-law got the Polio when she was little, & now suffers from “post-Polio syndrome, which sucks. We could have totally WIPED OUT Polio by now, but it still exists it small pockets — in IRAN, some of the Muslim fundamentalist Clerics, the Taliban, etc., are preaching that the World Health Org. workers who bring the Polio Vaccine for their people, are trying to kill them, for ex. Ignorance, fear, suspicion is keeping the godawful scourge of the Polio Virus alive on our Planet. I just hope to God it doesn’t MUTATE, into a form our Vaccines won’t work against, that would be as scary as Zombies, to have Polio stalk the World’s childrn — our children here in America — again, believe me!

      Comment by AtomicWarBaby on August 4, 2008 @ 2:36 am

    23. great story, and just my type of story too! great job, keep up the great work!!

      Comment by Alayna on August 10, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

    24. Great story! I could see it all very vividly as I read. You do a wonderful job of pulling the reader in. Keep doing what you’re doing!

      Comment by Rebecca Benston on August 10, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

    25. Great piece! I really enjoyed it.

      Comment by Amy corwin on August 11, 2008 @ 8:23 am

    26. Bravo! An absolute masterpiece! This story is worthy of imprint in a book or magazine and I hope that someone is smart enough to pick it up.

      Once again…BRAVO!

      Comment by Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc on August 11, 2008 @ 11:40 am

    27. My honest opinion is that this is great, may sound better as more of a full size story tho, but the words used are great and the idea behind the story are great, good on you Brandon for doing this

      Comment by Martin (Blind Ambition) on August 11, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

    28. Thank you to everyone who has commented so far. It gives me great encouragement to seriously consider turning this into a novel within the next two years.

      AtomicWarBaby;

      I can understand some of what you went through. My Uncle was stricken with Polio as a child and it left him crippled to a wheelchair for most of his youth, he only was able to walk again through rigorous therapy. Still, he has been left with a great deal of health issues as a result.

      What I wanted to do with this story was focus on how sometimes as a race (more especially our governments) we can be so eager to defend ourselves from some minor problem at the risk of leaving ourselves open to something bigger with only a wish and a prayer to help ourselves. Every whole is made up of people just like the main character, people who are well-intentioned but make choices that affect more than simply one person. In the end everyone has to deal with those problems. Half of which come from things we don’t understand.

      I still don’t understand how pits in a piece of round plastic can reproduce a voice or image. It baffles me, even after it’s explained because it shouldn’t logically happen. It’s plastic not organic vocal chords or eyeballs.

      Comment by Brandon Layng on September 23, 2008 @ 12:23 am

    29. Hey, this was just great! I’m a total fan of this genre, and you just nailed it! And though I know it was your character, I agree with the gun view; guns don’t kill, just people. But it was suspenseful and sadly believable. Keep writing, you have a knack!

      Comment by ashes7811 on September 23, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

    30. Atomicwarbaby. It’s pits in the METAL sandwiched between two thin sheets of plastic that the data if a disc is imprinted on. it is awesome though. When I was just out of college I was told video Laserdics was the end all be all of digital storage. Now I have a basement full of those damned things.
      At any rate, this was a fantastic story with all sorts of cautionary elements ranging from firearms ownership ( I am right there with you on that one ) to corporate greed and our bind faith in government. This is prize worthy writing.

      Comment by Andre on December 28, 2008 @ 5:30 am

    31. bradon great start and i hope you have only started; i hope all the great feed backwill in courage you too give us much more from your furtile BRAINNNN !!! Sorry couldent resist I have been in spired and will post in the near future what i want is what youve achives BELIVEABLITY awesome dude felt like i was there in the cell reading over the guys shoulder. creepy good stuff. more please may i have more! new fan.

      Comment by chris warchild on February 8, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

    32. Just an update; I will be starting work on “Life Sentence” the novel, within the next two months. Check out the MySpace page for updates and I’ll make sure to post a comment back here as I can.

      Comment by BrandonLayng on February 22, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

    33. I can picture those thick skinned bastards in my head and I swear that sound of ripping fabric will haunt my sleep tonight. I truly do hope you make this tale longer. You know I want to be a first round reader, right?

      Comment by Ray Gunn on February 27, 2009 @ 12:43 am

    34. Fantastic start Brandon! Do keep writing, keep excited, finish it and let me know when it’s published! All the best,LA:)…aka MartiniMaiden

      Comment by LauraA on March 3, 2009 @ 10:58 am

    35. I loved it! Not sure if I should have the swine flu vaccination though now!

      Comment by Harold on July 21, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

    36. Very good, man. Carry on!

      Comment by Cherry Darling on December 8, 2009 @ 5:43 am

    37. are u going to finish the story

      Comment by stephan on April 5, 2010 @ 6:35 am

    38. B:
      Regarding “I still don’t understand how pits in a piece of round plastic can reproduce a voice or image. It baffles me, even after it’s explained because it shouldn’t logically happen.”

      Basically, the information on a CD, DVD, BluRay disk is just written there.

      In analog systems ( records or the old fashioned phonographs ) the groves in the plastic (or wax or clay) were cut by a needle vibrating in time to the sound — so, when you played the thing back, it forced the needle into the same vibrations. That made the sound.

      Digital systems are more like text in a book actually, it’s easier to think of it like Morris Code. Every time the computer “sees” a specific pattern of “pits”, say … — …, it translates them to “S O S” so we can read it. For music, it translates the patterns into tone and frequency. For pictures, it translates the patterns into the color and position of each pixel in the frame.

      It is just like the words on a page, they have to be processed through your mind to make sense of them.

      Comment by zombob on May 21, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    39. Thank you Zombob. I didn’t realize that the actual concept of how it’s read changed that much when everything went digital. Since writing this story, I’ve had the process explained to me several times. But you know what? I still don’t understand it. I get all the technical stuff of how it works. Like the character in the story, I guess the question is really “why does it work?”. It’s a strange kind of magic to me. A Rainbow makes more sense to me for some reason than how a piece of plastic can record sound. I’ve heard that some old pottery has been found to hold a recording of sounds made in the room while it was being molded. I think it’s interesting.

      * An update: I’m still working on the first draft of “Life Sentence” the novel as well as a long novella version of another TotZW’s story, “Orphan Mary”. Both are progressing nice, if a little slow. I haven’t given up checking the stories for new comments so, so long as they are here, I’ll keep looking back for any new comments. Plus, I’ve subbed a new zombie tale to this wonderful publication, with another one waiting in the wings, we’ll have to wait and see if they show up.

      Comment by BrandonLayng on June 29, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    40. Very Good. As a former guest at our local D.O.C. I can truly relate to that feeling of hopelessness. Being in a cell with a killer is one thing, but sharing a cell with a zombie… That bar would have probably found MY eyesocket before his…

      Comment by Oppressed1 on July 14, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

    41. Wow…I just love how the main character takes his time to observe how long the human body takes to change. Unlike me, I would have done anything but that. Screaming my head of like a crazy maniac. Aha, great job.

      Comment by Nasha on March 12, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

    42. lol, thank you Nasha. I guess spending so much time in jail, he learned there’s no sense being in a hurry — you’re not going anywhere fast. Patience and observation born of incarceration.

      Oppressed1, I appreciate the input. I totally agree with you. After seeing how tough the “Rhinos” are, I wouldn’t take my chances on hoping a pipe would save me from being eaten. Good thing for this guy I’m working on a longer version of this tale, so I needed him alive.

      Comment by Brandon Layng on June 24, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

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