* * *
Steven staggered into his cell. He saw that his cellmate wasn’t inside, and a wave of temporary relief washed over him. His thoughts focused on the trial. Why hasn’t anyone examined the broken bathroom door? he thought to himself as he climbed to the top bunk. I tried to save her, and the door is the proof! Otherwise, why would I break down the door? He knew after the revelation at the trial that he was done for. Her message to me said that ‘he’ told her that it was the only way! How could ‘he’ be me?
Steven was shocked that Robert had revealed the arguing and constant fighting to the jury and the smug prosecutor. The prosecutor’s satisfied smile haunted Steven. Now, more than ever, everyone was convinced that he had forced Lindsay to kill herself. Steven flinched at the sound of ill-maintained metal-on-metal. His cellmate had arrived.
Steven heard labored breathing as his cellmate stood at the head of their bunk bed. “Hey, little lamb,” he said, and Steven froze. Steven tried to make himself as small as possible.
“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.” Steven could hear the smile as his cellmate whispered the nursery rhyme in a lilting singsong. Steven suppressed the shudder that ran through him. He clenched his teeth and refused to give him the satisfaction of a response.
Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do to a bully? Steven thought.
The man stood by Steven’s head for a few terse minutes. A belly laugh erupted, and the man said, “Careful, little lamb, the big bad wolf is always hungry.”
Steven felt the unwelcome presence of his cellmate retreat, and Steven allowed the shudder to overwhelm him. A slight gasp escaped his lips when the bunk shifted, his cellmate settling on the bottom bunk. An eerie whistle sounded from below to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Steven closed his eyes tight and thought, What’s going to happen to me?
* * *
Steven stumbled over unseen obstacles as he scurried backward down the hallway. Lindsay lurched with an unnatural gait. She smiled at him, her skin pale. The hallway stretched to infinity. The gash in Lindsay’s arm dripped little sprinkles of bright red blood with each step. Each crimson drop struck the floor and pooled like she had won the blood lottery.
Inset into the long hallway were too many bathroom doors to count. Each one complete, but as Lindsay walked by, a cursory glance transformed them into the remains of the bathroom door he couldn’t forget no matter how much he wanted to. He grabbed the doorknob to the closest undamaged door and wiggled it with a desperate longing to get away from the ghostly apparition.
“Steven!” Her voice echoed as if she called to him from across a chasm. “Why do you want to leave me?”
Steven stopped his struggle against the door and looked into her lifeless eyes. “You’re not real!”
Lindsay’s happy smile turned into a scowl. “Are you happy now?” Bloody tears welled in her colorless eyes. “I did this to make you happy,” she whispered. “You didn’t want me around anymore.”
“I never wanted this,” Steven pleaded. He squeezed his eyes closed. “I’m not responsible,” he whispered. His eyes snapped open. “This isn’t my fault!”
Lindsay’s face fell, and her eyes narrowed. “You did this!” she wailed, a strange wind blowing her transparent hair up to frame her face. “The voice said that this was what you wanted!”
“No…” Steven tried.
“You wanted me dead!” Lindsay screeched.
“No, I didn’t!” Steven screamed the beginning of a tantrum and bolted upright in his bunk.
He was drenched in the sweat of his night terror. He clenched his fists to stop shaking. With an unsteady hand, he pushed his soaked hair back and swung his legs over the side of the bunk.
I didn’t kill her, he assured himself. I told her to ignore the voice!
Steven took several breaths and descended from the top bunk. He stood barefoot in the middle of his cell trying to regulate his breathing and pulse. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. I need to get out of here, he thought. I have to prove that I’m not a killer!
“Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?”
A meaty hand clamped across Steven’s mouth. A bulging arm wrapped around his chest and pulled Steven into the bottom bunk. He bucked against his captor, but he was flipped over and forced onto the thin mattress, face buried in an equally thin pillow.
Heavy breaths sounded in his ear. “Little pig, little pig, let me in.” The creepy rendition of the nursery rhyme was accompanied by a rough tongue that mingled with his earlobe. Steven almost barfed at the unwelcome contact and the smell of the brute’s fetid brain breath. For a moment, Steven almost welcomed the prospect of drowning in his own vomit.
Maybe it’s what I deserve, he thought for a moment. My punishment for always fighting Lindsay.
The pain of the backs of his legs being pinned down was suddenly absent, and Steven felt something touch the inside of his thigh. A realization of what was about to happen hit Steven as if he had stepped in front of a freight train. He screamed into the pillow and thrashed his legs. The brute slammed a fist into Steven’s kidney, and a rush of air escaped his lips.
Steven felt his pants yanked down, undergarments torn, and his head twisted to the side, a hand covered his mouth again. Steven bit the hand, and he was rewarded with a bellow of pain from his attacker and another punch in the kidney. The punch left him paralyzed. Tender numbness settled into Steven’s body.
“Be a good little lamb,” a voice whispered and dry cracked lips pressed against Steven’s cheek. “Salty,” he declared, tasting Steven’s tears.
The source of the rustling behind him was obvious, and without his consent or wishes, Steven was blinded by intense pain.