October 2015

Two men sat opposite one another at a wooden table. Two lamps illuminated the cold stale room. One of them being faulty it flickered on an off, briefly leaving one of the men sitting in near darkness for a split second. The young man, Alistair was his name, sat slumped back in his chair staring at the older man in front of him. His wavy raven hair girdled his pale face. His dark eyes were nearly hollow spheres above his high cheekbones. The artificial light nearly made him look alien. They hadn´t shaved his hair, which was the custom at the psychiatric facility, due to an appeal to his religious rights. He was half native American, inherited from his mother, and to his surprise, he had been granted the request. He had always preferred his hair long.

Attorney Ernest Kaufmann, sitting opposite of Alistair, puffed his cigar, his hand casually flipping through the nearly a half a foot-tall stack of papers. Some of these were dating back to the early 90s, while others were still warm as they had just left the printing machine. Smoking wasn´t allowed in the psychiatric facility but they had made an exception for Kaufmann since he had been the defence attorney, or rather babysitter, for the worst offenders in the area for over 20 years.

Kaufmann who had kept his gaze on the files for the past few minutes raised his head to meet Alistair´s eyes.

"Your mother, she died of cancer during your senior year in high school. What about your dad?"

Alistair sighed. The two of them had been talking for hours. He was surprised they hadn´t been interrupted. Perhaps Kaufmann had once again used his influence to keep the guards away.

Alistair placed both his palms on the table and scratched it with his fingernails. They were long and dirty, making him hide them by curling his hands into fists.

Kaufmann still staring at him took the stack of paper and straightened it.

"He´s a piece of shit. He left our family a couple of weeks before she died. For another woman and their secret child." Alistair said in a calm voice that didn´t hide his disgust.

"So, you´re telling me your traumatic family history has led to your vicious crimes?" Kaufmann asked in a rather professional tone as he wrote notes on his notepad.

Alistair sunk back into the chair. "I´m not trying to tell you anything."

Now Kaufmann was the one to sigh. He put his pen down and folded his hands together.

"Look, boy. I am trying to help you here. These guys out there will fry you once they get a chance to. We need to get you a life sentence, in the least, else you´ll end up on Old Sparky faster than you think!".

The electric chair had always fascinated Alistair as a child. But to sit on it?

"What if I´d rather die than to rot in prison for the next 60 or 70 years?" Alistair replied, exhausted and careless now.

Kaufmann's gaze softened. "What about your sister? If you die, she has no one left for her to turn to."

Alistair´s gaze hardened. "Are you saying she should visit me in prison every week? Is it really worth it?"

x

The police sirens she had been hearing, for what appeared to have been hours, were slowly fading into the distance. She could still see the blue, red and white lights blinking, as they were reflected on the walls of the other buildings. They illuminated the kitchen through the window every other split second.

A plethora of police officers and other special forces were on their way to the edge of town. The entire town was surrounded by a thick forest and there were only two exits to the highway. She tried to convince herself that they weren't on the way to the asylum, but there was no other possibility - the direction they had taken, led straight to the asylum, nowhere else.

A little fire might have broken out. But why so many police cars? And she hadn't seen any fire trucks.

Cathryn turned away from the kitchen window and leaned against the sink. The kitchen was buried underneath shadows of blue. But the piles of dirty dishes, pots and pans were still visible. She couldn't hide the mess, even in the pure darkness that had been dominating her apartment for days.

The static TV noise, coming from the living room, was the only thing audible now. She hadn't turned the TV off since the connection had broken hours ago. She was too afraid of the silence and the dark memories that would pop up in it. The cold, grey light of the TV found its way through under the kitchen door. It was comforting. Other lights would have been too painful in that situation. She preferred the red candles on the couch table.

A peeping noise dragged her out of her brooding state. The washing machine. She headed to the laundry room.

x

Alistair woke up to complete darkness. Normally the yellow light of his solitary confinement cell illuminated his room 24 hours a day. He sat up carefully, rubbing his face. His head was throbbing and he had no ideas how much time had gone by. He only remembered being escorted to his cell, as usual, after his conversation with Kaufmann. After that, he had fallen asleep after receiving his nightly prescribed dose of tranquillizers and sleeping pills. He knew the sleeping pills, while helping him fall asleep easily, left him feeling wrecked the next morning, accompanied by sheer schizophrenic nightmares. This, on the other hand, was the worst state he had ever been in. He thought about requesting an alternative when the tiny window of his cell door opened to the outside world. Guard Ben Miller´s face appeared, sweat trailing across it. His worried expression made Alistair nervous.

„You okay there, buddy? Sorry about the lights!" Ben said not moving an inch and staring right into Alistair´s soul. „Uh, I´m fine, thanks! And you?" he answered without thinking. He wasn´t used to guards treating him in a civil manner. „Look," Ben started, fumbling for something in his pocket „Something´s up. I have a bad feeling about this. We need to get outta here." He activated the mechanism that opened the cell door and finally more golden light started trickling into the dark room Alistair was in.

What was going on? He had no time to ask that question aloud as an explosion occurred. He was momentarily blinded and his ears felt like they were being shredded. The shockwave threw him against the back wall of his cell and onto his bed. Once recovered he breathed in the odour of burnt flesh and something chemical. He slowly got up and snuck towards the entrance of his room. The door had been blown off its hinges. He had a hard time believing he had actually survived this horrendous explosion and considered it to be one of those nightmares the dreaded meds used to give him. „Ben? " he called but there was no answer. He peaked beyond the threshold and saw Ben. His body was on the floor, limbs spread in all directions. Blood everywhere. Alistair looked up and down the long hallway. The door to the other solitary confinement cells was still closed. He didn´t plan on opening them. He knew he was here because he was insane and his comrades over there were just as insane as him, if not even more so. He wouldn´t risk it.

He walked over to Ben´s body and grabbed his gun. As he searched the guard´s pockets he found a key card that led to one of the utility rooms on the same level. Remembering the direction Alistair always came from after his sessions he looked towards it. Where had the explosion come from? He slowly and carefully moved down the hallways. In the distance, he saw a figure leaning next to the open entrance of one of the cells. It was barely visible in the shadows but Alistair could tell how tall and intimidating the guy was. As the guy stood up straight and waved at Alistair, he recognized him immediately. It was Thompson Otis, going by the nickname Tommy.

„Aah! About fucking time," Tommy exhaled as he lifted his arms into the air and stretched. He seemed to enjoy his new found freedom. Alistair discovered the pump gun in the other mans´ grasp. Tommy was infamous. He had been in this facility since the late 90s. He occasionally enjoyed raping newcomers in the more communal cell block. What the hell was he doing in the solitary confinement area? How had he escaped from his cell?

„Careful there. The rest of these doors might open anytime. How´s it going, man?" Tommy said, grabbing Alistair´s hand and doing one of those gang greetings. Alistair, while still wary and confused, was glad the big guy didn´t seem to want to give him any trouble.

An alarm started to go off and the doors to all the other solitary confinement cells started opening. Some inmates rushed out of their cells screaming and dancing in ecstasy. Others slowly crawled out, wary and nearly delirious. Tommy aimed at them with his pump gun and fired. The bullets exploded on impact, killing three of the inmates at once. Chaos broke out. The ongoing brain-numbing alarm was now joined by a cacophony of screams. Crazy men screaming for their lives.

Like a magician pulling a rabbit from his cylinder hat, Tommy managed to produce a machete that he quickly handed to Alistair. „We need to get to the other cell block. Shit is going to get real in here soon! We gotta get our asses outta here as fast as possible" Tommy yelled, desperately trying to get his voice heard over the rabid noise around them. Alistair, not knowing what else to do, nodded. They both started running down the hall.

x

Officer Brad Baily desperately attempted to button his shirt as his colleague rushed their police car down the road. „Damn it!" Brad cursed as they took a corner and that one particular button slipped out of his hand the third time in a row. „Man, I told you to wear a T-shirt instead of these shitty button-down shirts they make as wear. Nobody´s gonna notice anyways underneath the jacket" his colleague Tucker Johnson said, smiling and shaking his head. Both of them had been awoken by a desperate call from their boss. Something crazy was going on at the psychiatric facility. Several staff members and guards had been killed and the police needed all their men to face the problem. Brad had rushed out of his house without even buttoning his shirt. His colleague was right. After this was over he would tell his wife to buy a couple of white basic shirts at Wal Mart.

The police radio went off „S.W.A.T. is on their way. Over". The car skidded for a moment as his colleague stared at the radio and then at him. He gulped "This is bad. If they´re calling the guys from the metropolitan area...Shit, they´re going to come over with helicopters!" Brad looked out of the window into the night sky. No helicopters were visible yet, neither were the stars.

x

„What exactly is going on here?" Alistair asked as they had made it to one of the utility rooms, looking for anything useful for their journey. Tommy chuckled as he stuffed several guns and corresponding ammunition into a duffle bag. „You see, I got my eyes and ears everywhere. One of the guys you were with when you killed all those people...You see, he hung himself this afternoon after he found out he was being sentenced to death. Now, this is where it gets strange: Rumor has it, he came back from the dead and killed all of the staff members at the morgue." Alistair felt his stomach drop. Kaufmann hadn´t told him about that. Had his attorney even known what had happened? Daniel had killed himself. He shook his head and kept quiet, searching the utility room for more items. His duffle bag was soon filled with a dozen or so of box cutting knives.

Thompson eerily reminded Alistair of his dad, despite the obvious differences. Thompson was over 6 foot tall, black and a former football player. Alistair´s dad was a short, stocky Italian immigrant, sports not being his cup of tea.

In his 60s now, Thompson Otis had kept his weight steady in the past 20 years since his initial sentence. His curly black hair had turned white and he kept it as short as ever. His wide lips curled up into a smile when he took on his sophisticated persona, the former football player, socialite and millionaire. He was a human magnet within social settings. He had the natural charm of a sociopath seeking to fit into society. He was able to imitate the eloquent speech of his upper-class comrades while falling straight into street jargon if he had to associate with gang members. He was like a chameleon.

Alistair had been a toddler when the murders of Thompson´s ex-wife Lauren Otis, née Baker and her male friend Ryan Lance had occurred. Back in 1994, Thompson had been arrested for killing his ex-wife and her male lover in front of their house. The killer had used a knife and slashed her neck so hard, she was nearly decapitated. Her lover´s abdomen had been entirely gutted. To this day, the question whether Thompson had truly killed his wife had remained an everlasting mystery. He had been declared not guilty but had ended up in prison soon afterwards for armed robbery.

Alistair´s pristine logical mind told him that Thompson was undoubtedly guilty and a cold, calculating killer, but when he looked into his eyes he immediately felt this odd kinship. Memories and the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with them would boil up within him. The memories of his early childhood when he had been part of a happy family and when his dad had been the best dad in the world. Before everything had gone to shit.

Soon the two made it to Cell Block A. The air was filled with the sounds of sheer hundreds of voices and the treacherous alarm. The building was shaped like a cylinder. It had a courtyard in its middle that you could look down to. Most of the cells had regular old-school bars. Some had been opened and quickly abandoned by their inhabitants that had mostly gathered on ground level. Men with sweaty faces and mindless eyes were staring up at them. With their arms stretched out in between the bars, they pleaded to be released. Some of them even tried to grope the two. Tommy quickly shot a couple of them with one of the smaller handguns he had picked up. The chaos on the lower levels had increased so much that it reminded Alistair of orchestra players tuning their instruments. Only that in this case the tuning never reached its goal.

Curious, the two bend over the rails to look what the commotion was all about. Several guards had been surrounded by dozens of angry and insane men. Their gazes spoke of pure terror at the inevitable. They were clearly outnumbered and in big trouble despite having their guns. One of the guards had managed to kill 4 inmates before he was overwhelmed by the pack and crushed to death. „Are we gonna pick sides?" Alistair asked as he turned to look at Tommy. The other man shrugged, thought for a moment, then shook his head. „Nah. Just let the chaos unfold. It is only to our benefit. I gotta save bullets, too. We need to find a smart way around this mess." he said, then turned around and tried to open several of the heavy doors. The first one didn´t budge and the guard key Alistair had picked up from Bens body wouldn´t work. As they tried to open the next door a voice behind them made them turned around.

„Put your gun down! N-now!" a baby-faced inmate was looking at them. He shakily held a handgun and had it pointed at Tommy. Alistair recognized him as Albert Ross. Albert had been born mentally disabled and lived with his parents. He had spent most of his time hanging around concerts and public events, only to leave early before he had to catch the next bus. His entire daily schedule had been dictated by public transit. Until one day he had shot his parents with their shotgun. The entire ordeal had been a huge shock to the community. Other than what had happened at Alistair´s high school.

Tommy carefully dropped his firearms and raised his hands so that they touched his shaved head. He seemed nervous at first but then his features relaxed. He was whispering something that Alistair couldn´t quite understand except the word „safety". Did that mean he was safe? What...Yes! Albert hadn´t unlocked the safety of his gun. It wouldn´t fire. Alistair shot forward to attack Albert. Albert pulled the trigger several times – it was all in vain. The machete sunk into the young man's head and he collapsed onto the floor.

The rest of the way they used Alberts body as a shield to protect themselves against the gunfire and knives being thrown at them. Their path led them from room to room, hallway to hallway, building to building. The entire facility was a treacherous labyrinth of insanity. There had to be a way out of this madness!

At one point, they reached the cafeteria. The chairs had been shoved to the walls and the tables hat been stacked up in the middle of the room to build a barrier between the area Tommy and Alistair had come from and what lay beyond.

The two of them faced a group of about two dozen staff members that had gathered on the other end of the mess hall. Alistair couldn´t tell their faces apart. They were so similar. A lot of them had knives and cutlery in their hands. They were ready to fight. He knew that from looking into their frantic eyes.

Tommy stretched and cocked his head from side to side. „Looks like it´s melee time! I wanna give ´em a chance, you know? No more explosives...for now." He winked at Alistair and grabbed his pump gun as if it were a baton. Alistair tightened his grip on the machete. As they moved towards the other group something odd happened. Their movements were no longer their own, it seemed. After climbing over the tables they clashed with their enemies. It was as if their fight moves had been choreographed by a higher being to match the oncoming attacks. Without suffering a single scratch they managed to take out one after the other with sublime ease. Alistair was amazed to see how both he and Tommy, a 200lb former football player, moved with feline grace. Their own strikes were hard and relentless. Alistair cut through myriad throats and abdominal arteries within less than a minute. After a dozen of staff members was dead, the two paused in the middle of the mess hall, between bodies, puddles of blood and chairs and tables dumped chaotically everywhere. They breathed heavily but not in a way that it suggested exhaustion. They were in a state of arousal. The rest of the staff had scurried back to the other end of the room. The fear of their impending doom twinkled in their eyes. Where they still willing to fight? Alistair wondered. „Whatever this is...I need more of it" Tommy said, as he looked at Alistair. He nodded in response. Then they charged at the rest of the group, continuing their deadly dance. They made their victims expire even faster and more efficiently. Their movements, once again, aligned so gracefully with all that happened around them. It was uncanny. „I think they call this Zen", Alistair whispered. Tommy nodded. „Uh Huh".

The pair watched the dying people around them when one of the windows was shattered by a blazing gunshot. „Shit!" Tommy yelled, grabbed Alistair´s arm and pulled him onto the ground. Within a few seconds, the rest of the windows were destroyed by unrelenting gunshots. They crawled carefully towards the windows. As the gunfire seized, Tommy pulled himself up high enough on the windowsill and caught a glance at what was going on outside. „The cops are here. Get your guns ready! We gotta kill as many as we can if we wanna make it outta here.", Tommy said and started preparing his firearms and ammunition for the great shoot-out.

x

The police car slithered to a halt as it met with all the others of its kind. The psychiatric facility was surrounded by over twenty law enforcement vehicles. Officers Tucker Johnson and Brad Baily just got out of their car when the sound of gunshots rang in their ears. They saw as a panel of windows was shattered by bullets. A third officer met them, sweat trailing down his face. The scleras of his eyes were reddened. He, too, had had a sleepless night.

„What the fuck going on?" Brad Baily asked the officer. He was both concerned about what was about to come and annoyed he had been robbed of his sleep.

„Major break-out. The situation is out of hand. These motherfuckers are killing everyone in sight"

„I don´t see anybody up there. Why are they shooting at the windows?!" Tucker asked.

The officer sighed and looked at the ground. He seemed to be occupied with the leather of his shoes. „The higher-ups ordered a full-blown raid. No witnesses."

Brad felt a knot building up in his abdomen. No witnesses. They had to kill everyone inside the building. Guards, staff and inmates. The big, bad rich guys would save a lot of money and a lot of trouble. He wasn´t cut out for that. He wasn´t ready for blood. He didn´t want to kill anybody.

For the first time, fun fire emerged from the building. Someone was firing from the previously blown-out windows.

The three officers quickly ducked behind the car. The fiasco began. Gunfire was emerging from all sides. The sound of the shots could be heard from miles away. More windows were blown into bits. Officers dropped dead next to their cars, their expressionless eyes staring up into the night sky. „Ah, fuck!", Brad screamed as the windshield of his car exploded and the glass shards rained down on his head. A sharp pain emerged as his ear was cut by one of the shards. He turned around to face the others. Tucker grinned at him. What was the hell suppose to be funny about all of this? Something was off about his friend´s face. Something foreign had invaded his features. His partner turned around and opened one of the backdoors and started rummaging. After a few seconds, he pulled out something from underneath one of the seats.

„What the...", Brad started but was interrupted as something detonated all too close to his head. It left him nauseous and he was about to throw up his midnight snack he had eaten before leaving the house.

„This is what I have been waiting for. This is the real deal." Tucker said as he loaded the weapon he had grabbed from inside. It was a machine rifle. „I fucking hate this existence. Life is so fucking bland. I am tired of it. I want to go out with a bang," Tucker said, breaking out into insane laughter as he met Brads dumbfounded gaze. Then he got up and started firing at one of the assailants.

x

Alistair grabbed Tommy by the wrist and pulled him down to the ground. The other man writhed in pain. Blood covered his face and he pressed his hand to the wound. A bullet had grazed Tommy´s face. His left cheek had a nasty tear in it. „I´ll be fine," Tommy said and forced a grim smile. Alistair shook his head and leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes.

The shoot-out had been going on for only 10 minutes but he felt like he had been battling for hours. He had done some fucked up shit in his life but this orgy of violence sent him into this never before felt the rush. He loved it. It was addictive. But it also drained him. The death and destruction had gone by in a blur. Until then they had been forced and able to kill everyone in their path. Prisoners, guards, staff and now those cops. It was like a rush. An orgy of violence. He got drunk on the violence, akin to a former alcoholic having his or her first drink after years of staying sober. It had been so long. He needed more. But he felt warm and tired. Like the afterglow of passionate sex. It left him dazed and confused.

More and more police vehicles arrived. His sane and logical side told him his time had come.

Tommy heaved himself up and tried to sneak another look at what was going on outside. Alistair raised his arm in protest, but then he heard it. The flapping of sharp helicopter blades. He turned around to see what Tommy was seeing. He could barely make out the pitch-black S.W.A.T helicopter against the night sky. „This is bad," Alistair mumbled under his breath. Tommy chuckled. „Do not despair." The older man picked up his explosive weapon. He carefully aimed it at the helicopter, steadied himself and pulled the trigger. Time stretched. Nothing seemed to happen, at first. The sound of the blades kept closing in on them. Then the helicopter was hit. Fire emerged from its body with an earsplitting bang. The aircraft started spinning around its own axes, showcasing the flames in all their beauty. Alistair heard police officers barking orders at one another, others just screamed and fled like a timid fawn fleeing from a big bad wolf. Those that didn´t make it were doomed as the helicopter crashed right into the police cars that had gathered in the courtyard. Metal clashed against metal - bending, folding, melting and groaning. Ever-growing flames rose towards the sky, like the tongue of a gigantic, hideous dragon, hungry for the pain and the flesh of its victims.

Alistair was impressed at the inferno. Tommy turned towards him, grinning from ear to ear. They high-fived.

Alistair did not know what happened after the grand explosion. The past, the present and the future seemed blurry. Somehow, he and Tommy had made it out of the building. The flames in the courtyard had already spread to the front of the building, licking at everything. The police officers that hadn´t been killed on impact burnt to death, suffering horribly. Only a few made it out alive, suffering hideous injuries. Some were so severe that a handful of them ended up dying at the hospital, later that night.

As Tommy and Alistair got onto the streets, the two stole a car. An alarm went off, as they smashed it, but it didn´t seem to attract any attention. It was no surprise to them. After twenty minutes they reached the high-rise building Alistair´s sister Cathryn lived in.

„Okay. I gotta head over to my Mom´s house and then get the fuck out of this god-forsaken town." Tommy, said as Alistair left the vehicle.

„Wait, before you go. How the hell…? I mean...what…?" Alistair couldn´t scramble the words together, to ask all his questions. How had he escaped his cell before all the others? How had they made it out alive, through all of this mess? Was it even possible? Alistair didn´t want to think about all the other odd stuff that had gone down. Otherwise, he would lose his mind completely and never return from the abyss.

Tommy laughed. „Always remember, Alistair. You were at a mental institution. Don´t forget that. Take care, man." The man waved and took off.

For a moment, Alistair looked after the vehicle that shrunk as it moved into the distance. The cold October night wind was blowing through his dark hair. Goosebumps spread on his pale skin. He slung his arms over his body. The cold temperature was nagging at his body. He had nothing but his grey jumpsuit from the prison and the machete. Tommy had the duffle bag. The man was more adept at using firearms than him.

From far away he saw a car parking in one of the streets. A man got out and moved in his direction. Alistair spun around and walked into the building. The main doors were always open. He entered the elevator and pushed the button for the 7th floor. The guy had looked all too familiar. He had to act fast.

x

Brad Baily burned. He felt the red heat of the fire consuming his skin. He wasn´t prepared to die but he wanted to. Just so the pain would end. He saw nothing but flames and grey smoke fogging the surrounding area. The black night sky had turned an ashy warm grey-tone. Brad tried to move away from the main fire, but every movement was met with hot fury. The green grass beneath his fingertips was wilting in front of his eyes. "Help me," he whispered, not knowing who he was addressing. He was sure Tucker and the other officer had died with the rest of them. He was on his own. Why was this happening to him? What had he done to deserve this immense suffering? He crawled further across the grass, away from the heat that threatened to burn the flesh off his bones. He crawled and crawled, further and further across the grass. Then everything turned white.