The Nahaul Part 1

I

I stepped onto the second prison bus hoping that this one could provide some relief to the scorching heat of the desert but my hopes were blown away, like the brains of that teller I offed just six months ago. I had just spent several hours on a transport bus from Springfield to Houston, a bus with windows that didn't open. I muttered something about the heat and one of the guards hit me in the back with his little stick. I'm from Missouri for Chrissakes; did they really expect me to love the damn weather? The only thing that seemed nice about the bus was a little fan that the bus driver had pointed at his face. There was a radio too; it was playing' a pretty popular song that seemed just right for the bus ride, Tennessee Ernie Ford's new song, "16 Tons." The short, plump warden looked over his sunglasses at me and wiped sweat from his forehead with a dirty rag that looked like it had been used to clean grease off the floor of a mechanics garage. He looked over the top of his sunglasses at the clipboard and then he looked at me.

"You Frankie Malone from the Greene County Jail?" he asked. His voice was annoyingly high pitched and squeaky.

I nodded and brushed some hair out of my eyes, "Yeah, I am, who wants to know?" I couldn't help but smile. I knew by just looking at the little prick that he would be fun to mess with. One thing that really worried me was respect. My dad once told me that in prison, if you don't kick someone's ass or make someone your bitch the first week, you get the shit kicked out of you everyday until you either die or somehow escape…and I didn't want to make anyone my bitch, much less be one.

The warden continued to look over his glasses, "Don't mess with me boy, you'll regret it."

"Sorry warden," I said, smiling. "It won't happen again, sir."

"Watch your mouth, smart ass, and call me Boss, not warden." The little man was wheezing slightly. "You can sit your dumb ass next to the Negro over there. If I hear anymore smartass shit coming from your mouth I'll have you beat to a bloody pulp." He pointed to a large black man whose eyes were as dark as his skin and his forearms the size of my head. He looked at me and patted the seat beside him, smiling.

"Shit…" I said as I walked over and sat down, "Uh, hey man, what's going on?" I chuckled nervously and he only stared at me, "I-I-I'm Frankie, nice to meet you."

The black man looked at me for a second and held out his hand. "Hey Frankie, I'm Luthor, I'm from Chicago. It's nice to see a new face."

I nodded slightly. Uh oh, I thought, too late, I'm done for.

"You're the last person to be picked up," Luthor said, his deep voice rumbling like a diesel engine, "I've been sitting on this damn bus for days, we've just been driving around the Midwest area picking people up."

"Everyone on this bus is from a different place?" I asked.

Luthor nodded, "Yeah, mostly from around here anyway, there are a couple guys from around Florida, and we had to pick them up at an airport in Dallas."

"What the hell are we all doing here anyway, and why gather so many different people?"

"I think it has to do with the severity of our crimes or how much publicity we got from them. Something like that at least."

I nodded, "I guess what I did was pretty big, there were reporters following me all the way to the station."

Luthor looked at me for a moment and said, "Say, what did you do anyway?"

"Ah, well," I started, scratching my shoulder nervously; "I robbed a bank and… killed a teller. But she deserved it. The broad pushed the alarm after I specifically told her not to."

Luthor laughed out loud, "Ha, amateur, I killed the cracker who raped my sister and then I killed his wife and kids."

A chill ran down my spine. I'd never met anyone who had done any type of crime, outside of stealing money from a rich old lady. This guy talked about what he'd done as if it was business as usual and this was something else that worried me. A few more inmates, making it twelve of us now, got on and the bus doors hissed closed and the engine came to life. The grinding gears, followed by a strong jerk forward, sent us on our way. For several minutes everyone on the bus was completely silent. I was surprised that even the warden and the guards weren't harassing us. I took the time to get to know the guys around me, looking to see whose ass I could kick. There was a bald man with a scar across his right eye and a bushy red beard. Luthor said his name was Henry Forman from St. Louis and he had killed his wife and brother when he found 'em bouncing in his bed. There was another bald man but this guy's head wasn't shaved, he looked like the oldest one on the bus. His name was Walter Henmen and he used to be a doctor in at a hospital in Little Rock…until they found out he'd been touching his female patients while they were gassed up. The real sick thing is that he was a surgeon who worked in the children's wing of a hospital. One other man that struck my interest was a little skinny guy with black hair everyone called Canary Harry, nobody really knew what he did because he didn't really talk. Luthor said he was the only one on the bus before him.

Finally the warden stood up and began talking again. "Okay now listen up you creeps. We're heading for the Linkman Coal mines, where you will be spending the next six months; I don't want no trouble, either. I have permission from the state to do anything I need to set ya straight. Just know that if you misbehave, you won't be able to find your way out of the mine shaft." The warden and his guards laughed.

The warden went on to explain how since all of us were lifers we were going to be used to mine deep into the earth for gold…or something like that. The strange thing was the place was a coal mine. I would have asked why we were digging for gold in a coal mine but one of the guards was giving me a funny look. Plus, it's not something I was looking forward too anyway. I'm not to keen on the idea of not being in the sun for six months straight, but what was I going to do about it? Luthor asked why we were doing this and the warden just told him to shut his damn mouth. He said something else too but nobody heard it but his guard buddies. That really pissed me off, it made me want to hurt 'em. I could tell Luthor didn't care, however; all he did was look out the window.

Hours went by and I began to really wish I had stolen a watch from that guard, Simon, when I had the chance. The idiot had taken it off and put it half into his back pocket. The heat wasn't getting any better than when we had first left. Everyone in the bus was sweating like a pig and stinking up the whole place. I asked for some water and one of the guards, a guy named Herman, spit on me and told me that would have to do.

I leaned over and whispered to Luthor. "If my hands weren't cuffed right now, I'd smash that pointed nose of his right into his head."

"You'll get your chance, man, just calm down and wait," Luthor said.

I looked at him, confused, but he didn't say anything else. I sighed and closed my eyes, trying anything to block out some of the bright sunlight.

II

Just as I was finally getting comfortable, the bus grinded to a stop and the doors whooshed open. The warden began barking orders, and we followed the guards out.

"Single file," one guard named Alvin said, "No trouble or I'll break your legs, MOVE IT!"

The five guards led us into the cave which was dark and cool. I was actually starting to feel pretty good when Herman shoved his gun in my back.

"What about the handcuffs, boss?" Forman asked, "How the hell are we supposed to do any work with these things on?"

"I'm getting to that part, scum, just keep your fucking mouth shut," the warden said, "Okay, undo 'em."

Our handcuffs were removed, and it felt good. My wrists hurt like a bitch and felt like they'd been in shackles for weeks. Luthor growled after the guard removed his cuffs, causing the guard to jump back slightly and all the inmates laughed.

Canary Harry was handed a cage with three yellow birds in it. When I approached him the little things began chirping like mad.

"What are those," I asked and for the first time I heard Canary Harry speak.

"This is Tweety, Sweety, and Peety," he told me and I rolled my eyes. "And they'll tell us if poison gas is leaking into the mine so we can get out as fast as possible." Harry smiled. "I'm the one who's supposed to watch over them."

I chuckled. "Kinda like the birdman of Alcatraz, huh." I leaned down and looked closer at the yellow birds.

Canary Harry shook his head and pulled the cage away from me. "No," he said matter-of-factly. "That guy didn't really raise birds, that was just a rumor."

I raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "Whatever you say man. Why do you get to watch them?"

"Because," Harry said. "I've had experience in caring for birds, that's why I told everyone to call me Canary Harry."

"You told people to call you that?" I asked. "That's pretty weird, man."

The Warden cleared his throat. "Enough chit chat, ya'll better listen up cause I'm only gonna tell ya this once." He clapped his hands together a few times and he was handed a clipboard. I couldn't help but chuckle, those guards were treating him like a king. "Before each lights out time I will take roll, if one of you is missing no one else will sleep until you are found. Understand, scum?"

All twelve of us said "Yes, sir!" at the same time. The way the warden smiled I thought he just might be getting off on us saying that, but I tried not to think about that.

We were led into a small shack that looked like it was fifty years old and about to collapse at any minute. The windows were barred and there was a large chain wrapped around the door. The warden pulled a large key ring from his pocket and fiddled around with them for a few seconds before using a small rusted key to unlock the chains. There was just enough room inside our new cell for the twelve of us, the warden and his guards had another place a few yards away, it looked a lot nicer.

"THIS is where ya'll be sleeping. Lights out is at 2200 hours, and I expect you all to get plenty of sleep, as the next day will begin at 0600. Eight solid hours of sleep. Are there any other questions?"

The guy next to me raised his hand, his name was Mike the Wire. Luthor said that he killed fifteen people by strangling them with a string of barbed wire, "Yeah, where are we? What is this place?"

The warden smiled, "Not that it matters but we're right on the U.S./Mexico border, in a few weeks we should be joined by some Mexican prisoners as well."

"Why the hell are we going to be working with a bunch of Spics?" The Wire asked. "Is this some sort of government thing?"

The warden looked at The Wire. "You don't worry your pretty little face about that, all you have to do is dig."

All of us started whispering, but we stopped as soon as the warden continued the 'tour'. "Over there," he said, pointing to a broken down shack, "is the med-station. The doc should be here by tomorrow, he has to be transferred from a joint up in New York."

"Hey boss." I said. "Are you saying that our doc is a lifer too?"

"Exactly," was the reply I got. "We figured we could save a few bucks by bringing him down here. Not to worry, though, all he did was help with some patient suicides." His laughter made me cringe. He sounded oddly amused by the whole prospect.

Luthor, who was standing next to me, shifted his weight, causing a guard to jump back. Luthor laughed at the wimpy guard, who promptly hit him in the stomach with the butt of his shotgun. Luthor fell to one knee as his breath forced its way out without coming back in, and I thought he was going to strangle that guard until the warden spit on the ground in front of him.

"Listen, you colored bastard," he said. "I don't want any shit from you. You continue to misbehave and I'll have you strung up like a hammock."

Luthor was shaking with anger and looked like he was about to burst but he quickly got it together and stood up, "Yes, boss. Sorry, boss." He sounded strangely subdued

"That's better," the warden said.

For the next several hours we were locked in our bunk house, waiting for the food and water supplies to come. The heat was unbearable, and for a moment I thought about licking the sweat off my own arms. I took some time to learn about the rest of the inmates. One of them was a man called "Mallet" because he snapped while workin' in a factory where they make planes and smashed in the brains of several of his co-workers with a large hammer claiming that they were demons. He was muttering something to himself, and really pissing me off.

"Hey, Mallet," I said, "why don't you shut your fuggin' mouth. You're going to make us go crazy."

"I can't sto-o-p," Mallet moaned, "The v-v-voices are talking to me, w-w-warning me…"

I raised an eyebrow. "What in the hell are you talking about?"

"T-T-They're saying that…we're all going to DIE!" Mallet cried, "All of us! Those things in the mine are going to eat us alive, all of us!" He continued screaming and ranting and making me sorry I'd spoken to him in the first place. Soon several of the guards came in and wrestled him to the ground, cuffed him and drug him outside.

"What are you gonna do to the poor guy?" I asked one of the guards when he came to lock the door. "He belongs in an asylum."

"Well," the guard said. "He's had some sort of mental breakdown and is currently being strapped to a bed in the med-building."

"Are you going to send him back to his prison?" Henry chimed in.

The guard, Nigel I think his name was, shook his head. "Nah, he's going to be left like that until he calms down and the meds take effect. Then he'll be put to work at one of the deepest points in the mine." Without waiting for another word, Nigel closed the door and latched it.

I laid back down on my crappy cot and put my hands behind my head. "That's rough man, I'd hate being in Mallet's shoes right now."

The sun was finally setting, and the heat had finally become tolerable, when the supply trucks began moving in. Several of us looked through the barred windows. There were around a dozen large trucks waiting in a line next to the big warehouse. Men-other prisoners it seemed-were rushing back and forth between the trucks and the warehouse.

"Jeez," I said to Luthor. "You don't suppose that those guys are miners like us."

Luthor shook his head. "Nah, they're probably just the manual labor that stays above ground, I think we and the Mexicans that are coming are the only ones going into the mine."

"Well, I hope some of them speak English," I said. "Otherwise I'll regret not paying' attention in Spanish class."

Both of us got a good laugh outta that and Luthor said. "Yeah, but at least you got to go to school, I can't even read; I was lucky to have my own place by the time my Ma died. It was just my sister and me. I'm pretty sure she was some kinda genius or something."

"Why's that?"

"She taught herself to read, it was amazing." Luthor's eyes were beginning to tear up. "I was so proud, she was even going to teach me to read; too…until that goddamn asshole showed up. He was following Sherry every time she went to the store or something. One night I went with her, but I stopped to talk to one of my friends, and she went on ahead. When I got to the store, the clerk said he hadn't seen her. I ran back toward home when I heard her crying in an alley."

Luthor was shaking' now, his fists were balled so tightly I thought he might cut himself with his own fingernails, but he didn't stop talking', "That son-of-a-bitch was on top of her. His pants was around his ankles and her dress, her favorite dress, was torn to shreds. When I saw it, I snapped. I tackled the guy and shoved my foot into his crotch, while he was crying and begging for mercy, which was funny, I might add," he said that with a small smile that made a chill run down my back, "until I snapped his neck. My sister was screaming at me to stop, but I couldn't…After smashing his face to a bloody mess, I took out his wallet and found pictures of his wife and kids…I found out where they were and…." He sighed. "I killed them all with a bat I kept under my bed; smashed all of their faces while they slept."

I stared at the black man. I could see him doing that to the guy maybe, but not his family. "Why'd you have to kill his family, too?" I asked.

"Can't explain it, really I can't. The rage was controlling me the whole time, and when I was done I wasn't sorry. I still ain't."

I scratched my head and said, "No offense, man, but why didn't they just lynch you when they found you? I mean, normally that's what happens to black people who kill white people."

Luthor shrugged. "I was pretty damn sure that was going to happen. Just as the crowd was tying the rope a couple of guys dressed as army men showed up and…'rescued' me."

"Army guys?" I asked, "Why would they be there? That doesn't make sense!"

Luthor nodded, "No shit, but I'm not going to question it, they saved my life. If I would have died I probably would have gone to Hell, and this place is better than hell I guess."

I shrugged and looked outside. "Hmmm, I guess they're done, see, they're getting back in the busses." The trucks started up and drove off, followed closely by the prison busses. "I guess it's just us now, man."

III

"Yo, Frankie, wake up man!" I heard Luthor say. "Get up; you gotta check this shit out!"

I grunted and sat up in the bed, "What the hell do you want, man? I'm trying to sleep over here."

"It's bad, Frankie, real bad," Luthor said. "C'mere and look out the window!"

Everyone else around was still sleeping, which bugged me. I walked over to the window and looked out. Several guards were gathered around something lying on the ground.

I wiped my eyes and pressed my face against the bars. "Is that blood?" I asked, feeling fully awake now.

"I saw it all," Luthor said, sounding rather calm. "That was Nigel. He was walking around out there and these dogs, five or six of them, attacked him, man. They ate him." Luthor's shook his head slowly. "I ain't ever seen anything like it. Those dogs just tore him to pieces."

"Ah, shit…are you sure they were dogs and not wolves?" I squinted as I looked at the shadow of the corpse. "Because I don't think there're any dogs in the desert."

Luthor nodded and took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. The big, black man looked uncharacteristically shaken. I had a feeling he wouldn't ever be the same. Just then I saw one of the guards walking toward us. He unlocked the door and stepped in.

"What're you two doing awake? It's past lights out!" Herman said. "Get to bed."

"Wait," Luthor said. "I saw..."

Herman stopped and turned around. "Really. What happened then?"

Luthor told Herman exactly what he had told me. Herman scratched his stubbly beard and asked Luthor a few more questions, but Luthor just kept repeating everything over and over. After standing there for a few seconds, obviously rather frustrated and exhausted, Herman walked out the door.

I smiled. "Hey, the dip shit forgot to lock the door! C'mon, let's get outta here!"
Luthor gave me a funny look. "Are you stupid, boy? We're in the middle of the fuckin' desert; where would we go?"

I sighed. "Yeah, you've gotta point there." I looked out the window again and saw several guards placing Nigel's body onto a carrier and then into a truck. "I wonder where they'll put him."

"That's the least of our worries," Luthor whispered. "Look, over there." He pointed towards the storehouse.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw what Luthor was talking about. Several shadowy figures with glowing eyes were watching the guards' every move. I got a strange feeling when I looked at those things. I wanted to scream and run as far away as I could. Luthor grabbed my shoulders and shook me like a madman.

"You okay, Frankie?" Luthor said, snapping me out of my daze. "I said, 'Are you feeling all right?'"

Without taking my eyes off of the window, I said, "Nah man, I ain't feelin' so good right now…I think…I'll go to bed now."

"Good luck," Luthor said, "I don't think I'll be able to get back to sleep." He sighed and went back to his cot.

I can't really say what came over me; I really felt like I was going to hurl, until I passed out. A few seconds after my head hit the pillow; I fell asleep and dreamed about those crazy eyes.

In the dream, I was running from the eyes. But they weren't dog's eyes; they were wolves. The hallway I was running down seemed to never end, and the farther I went the brighter the eyes got. And then I tripped over something and fell flat on my face. The ground was really, really cold and there was the faint smell of penicillin. Suddenly the eyes disappeared, and I was alone in the dark. I tried to sit up, but something was holding me down. I started struggling, but whatever had a hold of me wasn't letting go. Then the eyes came back, only this time I could see who they belonged to. There must have been fifty old and scruffy looking dogs standing all around me. All of them were drooling rivers, I guess they were hungry. One of them bared their fangs at me and my mouth snapped shut, seconds later they were all on top of me. But instead of ripping me to pieces the mongrels just pinned me down. Something else was standing in front of me. I felt a hand grab a hold of my hair and pull my head up. The thing standing in front of me was tall and skinny with long arms and legs. It opened is mouth showing off a red glow and rows of sharp teeth. It looked like it was laughing but the only thing I heard was what sounded like the screaming of a thousand voices. The shadow raised its other clawed hand and plunged it into my face.

I sat up in my bed, screaming like a banshee. The other inmates all sat up as well, except for Mallet, he was in a pill induced coma.

"What the hell are you screaming about?" Henry said. "Did baby have a nightmare?"

"Shut up, asshole," I said. "Yeah, I was having a nightmare; those dogs that ripped Nigel to shit were chasing me and this other thing gouged my face out."

Luthor grunted, "Just go back to sleep, there ain't been any dogs hanging around since they found Nigel."

I sighed and closed my eyes again. Soon, I was asleep again.

IV

A loud whistle woke me from my sleep. Luthor was standing next to his bed putting his clothes on.

He looked at me and said, "Hey, better hurry up and get ready."

I stood up and popped my neck. "Yeah, yeah, at least we won't be bored."

Luthor chuckled. "That's the least of our worries, friend."

"Why's that?" I asked, putting my shirt on.

"Well, they found another body this morning. This time it was that guard named Alvin. He was torn up just like Nigel."

I shivered despite the heat. "Damn it, I knew this wasn't going to stop."

"What?" Luthor asked. "Did you dream about the dogs or something?"

Before I could answer the lock on the door clicked, and the door opened. The warden and two guards walked in, followed by a skinny, pale man who looked like he was about to puke his guts up all over the floor.

"This is Doctor Richard Halloway, the guy I was telling you about yesterday; the one and only Doctor of Death!" He slapped the doctor on the back.

The warden and guards laughed and the doc said, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't call me that. I was only doing the suffering people a favor."

"Whatever you say, Doc," Warden said. "But we won't put up with any of that shit around here. You'll live and work in the infirmary without complaint. Is that understood?"

"Yes…boss," Halloway said. "Loud and clear."

The guards escorted the doc out, and the warden signaled for us to follow him. He led us to a pile of picks and shovels that looked taller than I was. The equipment was old and covered in rust. The warden picked up a pick and held it in the air.

"This..." He cleared his throat. "…is what most of you will be using in this dig. Some of you, the ones I see as most trust worthy, will be working deeper in the mines with the heavy machinery."

He dropped the pick back onto the pile, and we all lined up and took our turns picking up the equipment. Henry, Herman, Mallet, and a guy named Bill, all trustees, were sent ahead of us by trolley. The dark mine sent a chill up my spine and the smell of oil was strong. I tried to ignore the smell, but I couldn't.

I whispered to Luthor. "Shit, this place smells worse than the outhouse my uncle has on his farm."

"I suppose we'll just have to get used to it," Luthor replied "There ain't much we can do about it."

The trolley made its way back up to the surface. I could have heard that thing from a mile away, it squeaked so loudly. The old rust bucket looked pretty dangerous, and I really didn't want to get in, but when I felt the barrel of a shotgun in my back I was quick to comply. The trolley car was narrow; only two people could sit beside each other. I had to sit next to a guy named Killian who was from, I think, Miami.

"Howdy," I said, trying to make some kind of friendly conversation. "What're ya in for?" I figured that was the standard.

Killian, a large black man like Luthor except he wasn't all muscle, looked at me and said, "I…had some fun…with a bunch white girls back home. No big deal, really, except when one screamed I bashed her brains in with a lead pipe." He laughed, and I leaned away from him slightly.

"Heh…" I forced a laugh, "I-Interesting, I guess."

The trolley started up, and we were on our way into the mine. The sunlight slowly faded to nothing, and the number of lanterns on the wall was getting larger and larger. I looked back, and I couldn't see the entrance anymore. The smell of oil was also getting stronger. The first time the trolley stopped three guys and a guard got off. The second time two guards left and finally, when I thought we couldn't go any deeper, the rest of us were pushed off. There was Luthor, Walter, Killian, The Wire and myself as well as four guards with batons and shotguns.

"All right, punks," one guard said as the trolley made its way back to the surface, "Get to work and no funny stuff."

I drove my pick into the hard rock. This is it I sighed to myself This is where my life ends.