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It must have been almost noon, or so Harn thought as he eagerly awaited lunch time. Not because he was particularly hungry or because Tuesday's lunch special of sloppy gray meat chunks was especially appealing, but because it meant that he got to get the hell out of his cell for a moment for a change of scenery.

Prison was an exercise in patience that could push even the most accomplished Jedi Knight to the breaking point, but Harn had become a master of the routine that kept his mind occupied, which mostly consisted of a healthy diet of masturbation and push-ups. However, today they just weren’t doing the trick.

He rolled onto his side to face the wall where he had plastered a cluster of pornographic images; an assortment of partially nude females in extreme bondage poses (as extreme as the screws would permit anyway). The girls had dark hair and dark eyes—always dark hair and dark eyes.

He fixated on a girl with a gag in her mouth and a rope bound from her neck to her ankles with her mascara smeared as though she had been crying in fear. They were obviously staged; cheap counterfeits of the real thing, but most days they did the trick.

Harn fondled his flaccid penis with his hand and tried to imagine the girls’ pain to bring himself to erection, but the excessive use of the same images had robbed them of their luster and him of his ability to transpose his fantasies into them, and as a result his cock remained soft in his hand and his frustration turned to anger then to dull aching boredom.

So his mind drifted back to creating images from the peeling paint chips hanging from the ceiling, and then there was a knock on the sliding food tray window. It slid open with a violent clung and a guard’s voice called in "Harn, you got a visitor," he said with Nazi-like authority.

A visitor… on a Tuesday? This didn't add up but Harn was open to anything that could break the monotony.

Then there was a buzz overhead as the guards in the control room unlocked the door and the clinging sounds of heavy metal components banged out as the door crept open.

Harn, not wanting to appear too eager, remained laying on his back while a tall slim man entered the room. The man was white and in his early sixties, judging by the leathery texture of his skin and silver of his hair. He was dressed in a black shirt like a priest’s but carried himself with the uptight, irreverence of a bureaucrat.

He sat across from Harn and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. "Do you mind if I smoke?" the man asked politely. Harn rose to the sitting position in his cot to meet the man's eyes. "Do I strike you as the type that would give a fuck."

The man gave no reaction other then to spark his lighter and draw smoke coyly. His eyes were a steely blue with a faint clouding of the lenses bestowing him a corpsey effect that even Harn was unnerved by.

"Let me get one of those" Harn gestured to the man's cigarette.

"Sure... if you don't mind that they're filterless." he handed Harn the pack.

"Last time I checked, I still had a cock between my legs" Harn lit up his cig and blew smoke threw his nostrils.

"So what are you anyway… some kind of a priest or something, come to hear my confession and save my soul?"

To this the man laughed for the first time revealing his large tobacco stained teeth; the combination with his ghostly eyes was even more unsettling. "I suppose that you could say that," the man replied.

"So what now… do you want me to tell you all about my crimes… all the details of how those girls suffered so you can go back and jerk off in a pew?"

"I'm less interested in the details of your crimes then I am in the circumstances that led you to commit them."

"And what the fuck difference does that make?"

"The difference is, Mr. Harn, that I need to determine if you might be capable of true empathy for your victims or not. This would indicate your eligibility for the Penance Program that could in fact save your very soul from damnation." The man's face was stern without an ounce of humor in it now.

Harn didn't care about all that eternal damnation crap. In his view of the world this body was all that you got and your only reason to exist was to extract as much pleasure as you could from the moment, which incidentally meant inflicting the maximum amount of pain on others. But, what he did hear were the words "eligible" and "program" which were common in the language of prison bureaucracy, and to him they meant opportunity.

"Well shit mister, what would you like to know?"

"For starters... your method of killing was somewhat… unique."

Harn had trouble suppressing his smile, the word unique was the kind of ego boosting validation that he loved to hear.

"How so?"

"We'll most serial killers like to experience their kills up close. They prefer maximum involvement of their senses at the moment of death, but your choice to enclose your victims in a box and listen to them suffocate was somewhat separated from the experience. Can you explain that?"

It sounded like an accusation and hit a nerve with Harn.

"I didn't need to see their suffering first-hand to understand that they were. I was more interested in how they suffered."

The man made a note in the yellow pad on his lap. For whatever reason Harn hadn’t noticed it until this very moment.

"Sure, but what was it specifically about the act of dying in that manner that you find so appealing? Say for instance was there an event in your own life that you relate it to?"

"An event… sure there was an event" he put a mocking edge to the word. "When I was a boy, my sister and I were raised by my aunt, as I'm sure you already know."

"I am aware of you mother's abandonment."

Harn's cheek twitched just below his eye. "That's right, so bla bla bla we went to live with our aunt Therese in her massive old estate. This place was like old plantation big, and creepy as all hell!"

"It was in the cellar that I found it behind a pile of wood. It was… an entrance… it was the entrance." Harn smiled and licked his teeth.

"There was a small crawl space that burrowed under the stairs, about three feet tall and two feet wide, only large enough for a small child to fit into, but it was dark as all hell."

The man took notes attentively and lit up another cigarette. "What significance did the darkness hold?"

"Significance? Shit… I don't know. It was fucking scary, that's for sure. The not knowing of it… and the tightness of the space. That night I prayed that I wouldn't never be put into that hole and trapped in there. It was the worst fate that I could imagine."

Harn was suddenly very self-aware. He felt as though he had dropped his guard down and was being too honest with the man. He needed to stay vigilant. To only tell the man what he wanted to hear in order to be considered for this new program, whatever it was—it was sure to be a step up from solitary.

The man also noticed a change in Harn's demeanor and feared losing his cooperation so he shifted his approach. "You're clearly not like other killers that I've seen. There's something special about your case."

Harn was skeptical toward this line of flattery, but he couldn't resist allowing the words to pour over him like a thousand roses blushing against his skin.

"So what did you do next?" the man asked.

"Well… the crawl space was just too perfect. I had to use it and my little sister, Abby, was the only other person around." There was a tinge of pain in his voice that the man read as remorse. Perhaps this monster was capable of remorse after all.

"Yes. Go on… what happened to Abigail?" the man insisted with the zealous vigor of a bloodhound that just caught a whiff of its prey’s stink.

"I told her it was just a game. I tricked her into going into the crawlspace. She begged me, with those big doey brown eyes of hers, not to, but I knew all the right buttons to push."

"She used to nag me to take her fishing with me all the time, and I would always refuse. I knew how much this meant to her so I offered it as a bribe. Right before I shut the door, she looked back pathetically and made me promise not to lock her in. So… I promised." His eyes were glassy now staring off into a different time.

"But you didn't keep that promise, did you?"


"Why not?"

Harn looked up at the man with a perplexed continence as though the question of ‘why’ had never even occurred to him to ask before, or what the point of asking it would even be—why does the sunshine or the rainfall—that which is, just is. Harn hadn't had any choice in so far as the option was concerned.

"What does it matter now? She's gone… they're all gone."

"It matters…" the man's tone had begun to rise with indignation and anger, "because she trusted you and you betrayed her. You remember, don't you? The way she screamed in the dark! The way they all screamed!" the man was standing now shouting down into Harn's face.

"Yeees!" Harn cried back and buried his face into his hands and began to sob hysterically. The man realized his own loss of composure and sat back down slightly embarrassed.

Harn's loud sobbing changed inflexion to sound more like laughter and he raised his face from his hands. There were no tears or signs of sadness, instead only a beaming grin as bright as Christmas day. "Yes I remember the way that they screamed and I enjoyed every wonderful fucking minute of it!" and he continued to laugh.

The man, in the priest’s clothing, made one last note in his pad then signaled the guard that was waiting in the entry. "I think that will be all Mr. Harn."

Harn was pleased with himself for his joke. "What do you think priest, am I a candidate for your penance program... can you save my soul," he boasted sarcastically.

"Well Mr. Harn, you are a sadist and a psychopath who displays no remorse for his crimes and although you can sympathize with your victims, you lack the capacity for any natural empathy. So to answer your question… Yes, you are in fact an ideal candidate for the penance program."

The guard returned with three others wheeling a large machine. Harn's confusion turned to panic. "What the fuck is that?"

"That is a respirator Mr. Harn. You can not have contrition without penance and you can't serve penance without remorse. So I'm going to teach you empathy for your victims by taking away your senses and condemning you to the very blackness that you did them."

He pulled a long needle with an electrode attached to it from his case. "Wait! No!" Harn pleaded as the guards wrestled him to the ground.

"It will only hurt for a moment Mr. Harn" with that, the man drove the needle into Harn's right eye. The tip super heated and his eyeball collapsed like a shrinking raisin with its fluid contents spilling down his cheek. He screamed and blacked out.

The man proceeded to do the same to Harn's other eye and then both his eardrums. They sliced out his tongue and cauterized the wound before feeding an intubation tube down his throat and into his trachea, which they connected to the respirator. Finally, they severed his spinal cord at the level of his neck leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Harn awoke acutely aware of the pain in his eyes and ears and mouth throbbing incessantly, but that was all… he could not hear or speak or see or taste or touch. He was entombed in the darkness of his own mind with no sense of time or waking reality. He would lose the ability to know where his nightmares ended and his insanity began, and as a result he would spiral deeper and deeper into the abyss of madness.

Credited to: Martin Vang

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Written by MartinVang
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