Kill or be Killed

The NYC Midnight 2015 Flash Fiction Challenge story share continues! This was my submission to Challenge #2 of Round #1. It had to be action/adventure, take place predominately in a maximum security prison, and include an ice machine. After placing 7th in Challenge #1, I knew I had to make up some ground if I wanted to move on. Much to my delight, this story came in 1st place in my group, earning me 15 points for Challenge #2 for a total of 24 points. I landed in first place overall in my group for Round #1 and moved on to the next phase. Enjoy!

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Kill or Be Killed

After spending five years in Colorado SuperMax for murder, Christopher Brody soon finds himself in the middle of a prison-wide conspiracy. Will he just be another pawn in the warden’s game or did they pick the one man who could bring the system down to its knees?

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They say it feels like a bee sting when a syringe enters the flesh, like that’s a good thing. Have you ever been stung by a bee? It fucking hurts.

I can only stare down at my arm and the bindings that hold me to the gurney as the needle slips inside.

“Just a few more minutes, Brody, and then you’ll be ready,” Craddock barks at me.

He wears a grin on his face that I can’t explain. He knows something I don’t. A second gurney stands just a few feet from me, but it’s empty.

“Where’s the other guy?” I ask.

“You’ll find out soon enough, Brody.”

He rips the bindings away, lifting me up. The room spins.

“What did you give me?”

He doesn’t answer. A door opens nearby, and I’m thrown inside a dark room. A lone bulb floats in the middle, illuminating a small circle of space. Jones, an inmate from my own wing, stands in the center. The door slams behind us. We’re alone.

“What’s happening, Jones? Why are we here?” My vision clears, and an energy I’ve never felt courses through my veins. I leap off the floor, bouncing on my toes as I embrace the newfound strength.

“I’d hoped it wouldn’t be you,” Jones says.

My body stiffens at his words. I go to ask what he means when static fills the room, and a voice we know too well bellows into the space.

“Thirty seconds. Fighters, get ready!” The warden’s voice shrieks at the end, his excitement filling the room.

“Fighters?” I ask. Jones moves his right foot back and lifts his fists before him.

“Sorry, Brody,” he says. “It’s just how it is. Kill or be killed. That’s the only rule.”

The warden’s voice penetrates the room again, beginning the countdown from ten. I hold my hands up to protest, but the look on Jones’ face stops me dead in my tracks. I move closer and attempt to prepare myself to do something I swore I’d never do again. I look up at Jones, and he nods.

“Kill or be killed,” I whisper.

#

It’s been seven days since Jones, seven days since I let myself open up to that side again. It’s taken over now.

My battered hands shake as I scoop mashed potatoes out of the tray and slop them onto passing plates. I catch Craddock’s eye at the far end of the room. He gives me a grin that sends chills down my spine.

At the end of service, I head back to clean up. It doesn’t take long for him to find me.

“You ready for round 2, Brody?” I jump at his voice.

“I won’t do it,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper.

“You think you actually have a choice?” Spittle shoots from his mouth.

“Kill or be killed, son,” he says, turning away. “You can stand down if you wish. It sure will make it easy for the other guy.”

I lunge at Craddock. Grabbing him by the shoulders, I smash his head into the ice machine, his neck snapping with the force of impact. Craddock goes limp, and he slumps to the floor. I stare down at him, my body shaking with rage.

“Kill or be killed, boss.” Adrenaline surges through me, and I ready myself for what must happen next.

I walk as fast as I can without drawing attention to myself. I’ve been here long enough. I follow the rules. They don’t perceive me as a threat.

That’s their mistake.

I disappear through a nearby door. Following the stairs, I find myself in the gurney room. The warden hovers over an inmate. I rush him before he notices me, wrapping my arm around his throat and squeezing.

“It’s your turn, Warden,” I whisper into his ear as his body goes limp. I throw him into the fight room and turn to find the other inmate blocking the exit.

“I’m leaving,” I say. “You can come with me.”

He shakes his head. “You’ll never make it.”

“I have to try.” He steps aside, and I walk past him toward an exit that I can only hope will lead me outside.

“Hey, Brody.” I turn and can only stare. Veins pulse outward across his arms as the drugs engulf his bloodstream.

“What was this?” he asks.

“Kill or be killed,” I answer. He turns to the warden huddled on the floor. Without another word, he walks into the room and shuts the door behind him.

I throw open the door and run, not knowing where in the hell I’m going. The hallway ends at a ladder leading up to a hatch in the ceiling. I climb, push it open and rain pelts my face.

I’m outside. I stand and let the rain wash over me, cleansing me of my sins.

“You didn’t kill me, fuckers!” I scream.

“Don’t be so sure.”

Pain shoots through me. My world spins, and I drop to my knees. A man in a dark suit approaches, umbrella in one hand, a stun gun in the other.

“Didn’t that seem a little too easy, Brody?” he asks.

“Who are you?” I manage to squeak out. Another shock rolls through me.

“Did you really think the warden was in charge?” He laughs, and I have to force the bile down my throat.

“You’re going to be a star here, Brody,” he says. “I had to see what you had in you. I’ll give you the night off, but tomorrow? Be ready. I want a good show.”

He turns and walks away.

I can’t go back. I can’t be what they want me to be. I whisper under my breath.

“What was that?” he asks. I gather what strength I have left.

“Kill or be killed,” I whisper, and with nothing left to lose, I lunge at him, clipping him at the knees and sending his body careening to the ground.

It’s over in less than a minute.

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