For The Tainted Ones

 

*Art by Ben Mauro*

I’ve felt this way before.  The air growing thick with the scent of iron, the sound of clattering metal shackles, and the shattering of brittle bones as the flesh attached to them is torn off piece by piece always drills into me an overwhelming and sobering sensation.  Death is just around the corner, and yet every time that I try to reach it, the thing vanishes, almost like it never existed and leaving behind just traces of the body it had just gotten done dismembering.  It’s been like this down at the state penitentiary for months now.  One night out of the month, an other-worldly being will find its way into this building and claim a victim.  Almost all of the inmates here are set for either life without parole or are living their final days out on death row, but saying that I still don’t feel some lick of sympathy for the poor souls who end up being victim to this thing would mean that I’d lost all sense of my own humanity.  Chasing this thing was going to require more of me than just running in guns and flashlight blazing every time the lights go out.  Considering how the lights would soon be going out permanently on this place if I didn’t get down to the bottom of these killings, I was going to have to get creative.

I’m a 37-year-old prison guard and have worked in this facility for almost five years, while having almost 19 years in service.  My entire life has been spent serving my community by looking after and safeguarding the worst of the worst in society.  The pay hasn’t always been worth it, but the job itself was worth it enough to me for me to stay.  Most people would have left this job after seeing what I’ve seen, but I’m no quitter.  I’m tough as leather, always have been.  So, for me to say that working here at night left a feeling in me worse than finding out that I’m drinking a four-hour old cup of joe the hard way, it was up to me and a couple of the other guys tasked with this place to stop these killings.  It was hard enough to explain to the families of the victims how their precious son or brother ended up being murdered in the facility without a trace of their person to speak of.  It was even harder to try and keep their lip shut about losing their family member here.  If we were going to keep this facility from being shut down and condemned, we were going to have to think big.  Texas couldn’t lose its biggest facility for the worst of the worst.  I needed to do something to keep this place alive so that we had one last place in this world to hide and bury what Mother Nature never bothered to get rid of herself.

With all of the other officers having given up on this old place, I had no choice but to reach out for some “external” help.  I reached out to an old colleague of mine and tried to get ahold of some investigators who would know what to look for and, better yet, be able to put a stop to this thing and its “late-night eating habits”.  He was a weirdo at the best of times and a downright creep at the worst, but if anybody was going to know how to be able to corral these things and get them out of my penitentiary, it’d be him.  He was always dead silent walking into a room, but the moment you strike up a conversation, you couldn’t get him to shut the hell up.  New conspiracy this, new conspiracy that, I just wish that I could sometimes get him to shut his trap.

Well, for once I wish he would open his trap.  He arrived not long after I left him a voicemail regarding the most recent incident.  This was the third death and the public wasn’t going to take it lightly.  For once, I had him shut up and I need his motor mouth to start moving.  I waited there for what felt like half an hour as he inspected the cell where the last killing had occurred.  The entire time, he had nothing to say.  He almost always talked while on the job.  Something he saw must have caused him to shut up.  It felt like it was going to take tools fit for a jailbreak to pry his mouth back open.  He ran his fingers all along the cell.  He touched everything from the bars of the cell to the floor.  We tried our best to clean up the mess that was left afterwards, but the stains left behind by this creature were as hard to clean up as blood.  It’s almost like he was a blood hound on a trail, desperate to find a lead.  After he finished his inspection, he spoke up.

“Well, Jeremiah…I wish I had a better answer for ya, but I’ve got nothin’!”

I wiped my hand across my face in full on frustration at this nitwit.  “Look, Brady.  I brought you down here for a reason.  This is the third person we’ve lost mysteriously in the last few months.  Whatever this thing is, it keeps coming in and eating these poor bastards alive.  What’s worse is that we can’t seem to clean up the stains it leaves behind, and I don’t think that all of them are blood stains.”

Brady knelt down as I kept talking and ran his finger underneath the spot where the bed frame was and stood up, his hand revealing whatever that liquid was that the cleaning crew were supposed to clean up.  My first thought was about how the cleaners failed to do the most basic of crap.  Brady thoughts were different.

“Ah, crap!  I told those damn cleaners to clean this place up!  Why the hell can’t they do anything right?”

Brady felt like he was onto something with the slime in his hand.  “Hold on now, Jeremiah!  I think I’m onto something with this.  I have to look around this rooms some more.  He walked over to where the window was and saw that there were more stains like the ones that were left on the floor, only this time, it formed what looked like a ring.  This stuff was new.  I had never seen something like this before.  Brady spoke up again.  “Look at this, Jere!  You see this ring right here?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Whatever the hell it was that came in and ate one of your prisoners left a mark where it came in.  Call me crazy, Jere, but I think that this thing came in through the wall.”

I let out a laugh straight from the belly.  “You gotta be outta your got-dang mind, Brady!  There ain’t no way in hell something could’ve come through those walls!”

As I collected myself from a quick bout of what I assumed to be comedy, I saw the face of what looked like an oncoming tragedy hang over Brady’s face.  “I’m not joking here, Jere.  There’s only one thing that I know of that could’ve done this sort of thing.  I’m gonna need some time, but I think I can get you an answer for what’s going on.  Whether or not I can stop it is a different matter.”  And with that, Brady packed his things, wiped the slime off into a bag he had in his pocket and took his leave from the prison without saying another word.  I was dumbstruck by the sight of it all.  For the first time ever, I had bone-headed motor-mouth Brady looking more scared than a deer caught in a lion’s jaws.  This was something that I was going to have to give him time to work on, assuming there was something helpful that we could get out of this mess.

I waited until the next day to see if Brady had something for me.  Normally, I would reach out to Brady and get a slew of things from him to run his mouth about.  This time, he sent me straight to voicemail when I tried to call him.  I called him again, hoping to get something back from him.  I was sent straight to voicemail the second time.  “Damn it, Brady.  I need your help now more than ever.  Lives are on the line.  My job is on the line.  This prison is on the line.  Pick up the damn phone.”  I called him a third time.  Finally, he answered.  He sounded groggy over the other line, as if he had just woken up.  It was 2 in the afternoon.  “Brady?  Are you there?”

“Yeah, Jere.  I was up all night looking through my resources and a database.  I just woke up from a cat nap is all.”

“Brady, lives are on the line right now.  I’m not sure how much longer this prison is going to stay open.  At the rate we’re losing inmates, we’re bound to have the prison shut down and have our badges revoked.  This is unacceptable.  I need answers and nobody else is willing to help.  Everybody’s given up except for you and me.  I need you to tell me what the hell this thing is.”  I took a deep sigh in, trying to compose myself again.  I needed to keep from sounding like the world was collapsing around me, even if it felt like everything was breaking down.  “What do you got?”

Brady let out a groan and tried to collect himself on the other line.  “I know you’re not at work, Jere, but you may want to head back tonight.  I think that this thing that keeps eating your death row inmates isn’t doing it by mistake.  It’s doing it with a purpose.”

I didn’t understand what he meant by that.  “What the hell do you mean, Brady?  Today’s my day off!  I can’t go in tonight.”

Brady sighed his frustration and tried to clear his head enough to tell me what was going on in his head.  “Jeremiah, you’re not dealing with some wild animal.  You aren’t even dealing with something that’s human.  You’re dealing with something far worse than any of that.”

I kept getting frustrated.  “Speak English to me, Brady!  English!”

“You’re dealing with a monster, Jere.  This thing is like something straight out of a horror novel.  It’s uncanny how it managed to just vanish through the wall like that. I have a feeling that it’s getting hungrier though.  You told me how it’s getting more frequent with its killings.  I’ve only seen something like this once before, and the people that it marked didn’t make it out alive.  You’re dealing with something eviler than the worst inmates you’ve got locked up in there.  You’ve dealing with something straight out of Lovecraft.”

The more he talked, the more he confused me.  It was always like this, but it was even worse considering how much was at stake.  “Brady, I’m only going to ask you this one more time.  What the hell do you mean?”

“This thing isn’t from Earth, Jere.  It’s a creature from nightmares that comes out every few centuries to claim the worst of the worst.  I need you to be there tonight, Jere.  If precedent serves me right, this thing is gonna kill again.  The only difference this time is that it’s going to go after one of your own if it means it can get to another one of the inmates.  They only ever go for the worst of the worst.  The documents that I’ve got from the past talk about how they only go for people that are ‘tainted’, meaning they only go for the worst of the worst.  If one of your men’s up to no good, it’ll know and go for them next.  Now that we know what this thing is, it’s gonna kill again.  We need to get everyone out of there ASAP, Jere.  This thing isn’t gonna stop.  It’s claimed the prison and it’s not gonna stop until all of the people it’s claimed in there are gone.”

For once, he started making sense.  I just wish that it was some good news.  “Alright, Brady.  I’ll see what I can do.  Meet me at the prison after I give you a call.  I may need your help.”

I hung up the phone and got dressed in my uniform.  I was ready to fight for one of my men.  I wasn’t ready to give in.  I couldn’t let them come for my men.  I couldn’t let them come for me.

I received a call from the prison at 8:30 that night, telling me that there was an issue going on and that the prison was understaffed.  I had the perfect excuse to go in.  I called Brady and told him to meet me at the prison at 9 PM, sharp.  We both made our way to the prison.  As we arrived at the prison, alarms went off.  Things were in chaos.  It was an attempted prison break.  I grabbed body armor and a shield.  I told Brady to wait outside and got on the radio, hoping I could get some answer back as to what was happening.  Radio silence was all I heard.  I signaled Brady to grab a shield and grab a gun and prepare to head in.  I signaled to him that I was going to open the door.  He readied up and we both made our way.  What we saw was beyond belief.  Blood was strewn all over the floor.  All of the lights except the red emergency lights were on.  Blood and bits of flesh were everywhere.  Clothing from inmates and officers alike were strewn about everywhere.  They were the only traces of the body this thing ate.  I looked over near the emergency exit and found weapons and badges in a pile.  Whatever it was came in and was ready to commit to their work.  I looked around the corner to see a creature walking on all fours.  Its body reflected like black paint on a car.  It had a lean figure that reminded me of a panther.  It had nothing to its face but a row of sharp teeth.  When I looked over at it, it screeched and ran off down the hallway.  I slipped over the streams of blood trying to chase it.  But right as I rounded the corner of the hallway it ran down, it vanished.  All that was left was the blood and Brady.  I had no way of explaining what had happened other than the evidence from the last few killings.  What made matters worse was the new evidence the creature left after the killing.  On the wall were these words, written in blood.

“We only come for the tainted ones.”

I felt a pit in the bottom of my stomach.  I failed to stop it from happening.  Everything I was working towards solving ended up crashing down on me.  I thought that it was over, the creature had won.  But Brady didn’t think that it was over.  We both left that night disgraced.  The FBI opened up a case on me and Brady, airing out all of our laundry and linking us to the deaths of everyone in the facility.  We were both charged with the manslaughter of hundreds of people and were sentenced to life in prison.  The prison was shut down during the case and considered to be condemned.  It was clear to me that the FBI were content with shoving this under the rug and trying to hide that this ever happened.  They planted evidence to indicate that Brady and I killed them off, despite us never having had the manpower or anything to our disposal that would’ve allowed us to get rid of them all in the span of 30 minutes.  They scrubbed the security footage and labeled all information associated with the case as “classified”.  At least for them, it seemed like the case was closed. 

Unfortunately for them and for me, Brady had a point when he said that we were all marked by this beast.  I keep hearing weird noises at night and seeing weird figures at night coming down the halls.  I think that this creature is hunting me down.  I admit that my past wasn’t the cleanest, nor was I the best person in my former line of work, but I don’t think that I deserve a fate like that.  Either way, whether or not I think it’s wrong for this thing to kill me, I feel like my time is just about up.  I figured that I’d write this out, in case I could find some way of getting this out to someone before it gets scrubbed like everything else.  To those who are out to harm the little guy in this world, remember that there’s always something bigger and worse that’s ready to eat you alive, sometimes literally.  As for me, I’m pretty sure that I’m damned to a fate worse than prison.  My soul might as well be claimed by this thing now.  After all, it only comes after the wicked.  It only wants the tainted ones.

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