Release: A Miner’s Sentence Ends
by Gregory Thompson
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
He tried to remember his little girl that last night before his sentencing hearing. He’d known it was bad. His organized plan for cashing in on his tech support role had become a cocktail of felonies with maximum sentences. He’d installed keyloggers when he serviced most of the execs’ workstations. The data from his company turned into the mortgage or college tuition payments when he sold the info to competitors. Each of which he then blackmailed for hush money. No doubt what awaited him the next day.
He’d wanted to give his daughter something to keep him with her. Her white walls blackened into shadow monsters at night. She’d always been afraid of them. So he had spent that last morning painting a night sky, sponging black paint into an intricate web over a blue base coat. They’d done it together. As he tried to replay the scene, he didn’t see his little girl’s face, only a small blue avatar, faceless, with brown hair.
Can’t even see her anymore. I don’t remember what she looked like... He tried to recall more details of her face, her clothing, but all he could conjure up was the avatar he had met at visitation.
The prison had copied his mind, but memories faded. He had tried to recall her each day, but each day she changed a bit more. Her nose became just a little chubbier. Dimples became blurs. Just as he had learned to live in the prison through habit and use, his memories and details irrelevant to his world faded. The gist was all he had left.
He had put glow-in-the-dark stars on the walls. He explained to her that they would charge throughout the day, sucking up the heat, the light, and all the good things of the day. At night, they would shine down on her and protect her from anything bad. Did I really say all that? Doesn’t seem like me at all. He laughed to himself. Guess with fifty years of rehearsal I finally got it right, though.
He replayed the kiss he gave her that night. The regret still lingered even as he watched the blue avatar tucked away in his daughter’s blankets.
Things are so fuzzy. Can’t remember if I’m remembering it right.
The red dust clouded around him. The more he replayed the memory, the more he wondered what was behind the blue avatar. He wondered what his daughter looked like, what her life had been like. His mind wandered through the possibilities, but the blue avatar sleeping in his memory yielded no clues.
Through the red haze, he caught glimpses of those prisoners around him toiling into their sentences. The prisoner idling nearby convulsed into position as his pick flew into his hand and he started mining again at a faster pace than before. Too long. Can’t take a break that long.
He wondered if he could call his family from the prison or if the prison would contact them for him. If they can reach them, would they still come for me now? If I can’t even remember what she looks like, would she even remember me?
The grey tab started to flash every few seconds. Staying in here a bit longer would be fine. Maybe I could call. Start talking again slowly. If I stayed in here, I could become part of their lives without intruding. Earn my ticket out myself. Then, maybe they’d be open to reconnecting.
Miner 1 set down his pick and blinked open the contract. He scrolled through its contents, not letting the words refocus. The bright buttons filled his screen.
He imagined himself walking out of the prison to see them. As he opened the door, two blue avatars waited for him, one tall and one short. They watched him in silence. He tried to replace their images with anything resembling what his wife and daughter looked like, but the avatars remained. He noticed his own representation in the imaginary reunion, a dull grey avatar, pick in hand.
Is this what I’ll be when I get out? How long will it take for me to leave this behind?
He hovered his eyes over the red button and blinked. A new window appeared with two new buttons. In this window, everything appeared the same drab grey. Why are they dragging this out?
“You have chosen not to accept the proffered contract. Is this correct?”
He blinked his acceptance to the “Confirm” button. Another window appeared with a timer of 30 seconds running down over the button.
“Prior to completion of your rejection, it is necessary to confirm you are solely responsible for your refusal of the proffered terms.”
The ground around the blue avatars grew red, and the walls faded away. I can’t imagine what you all have done with yourselves, but this is who I am now. I don’t know you anymore because you all have changed so much. You know me, though. Just been digging. Might seem like my tunnel’s small, but it used to go deep. Deep.
The timer released the button. He blinked his confirmation. The documents disappeared, and the grey tab sucked itself into nothing.
He grabbed his pick and started to mine again. His hole had grown over the past few hours. As he walked around the edge, striking the earth, the unevenness at the base of the hole shifted around.
Been mining to keep your lights on for years now, Hadley. That’s what I’ve wanted, anyway. Let me just keep them going a bit longer.
Copyright © 2020 by Gregory Thompson