I had been working the night shift for months. Tonight I had been reassigned to a new position deep within the prison. The cell block was ten stories below the regular population, and it only housed a single prisoner.
My heart raced as I stepped into the elevator and inserted my new key card. It automatically registered the floor I needed and closed the doors. I could feel cold sweat beading on my brow. I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist speaking with her, to learn more about her abilities.
I had only heard stories about her, her colorless hair had become something of a legend. It had been something referred to only in sacred texts locked away in special libraries that I used to guard before I was caught reading. I was a Teal hair, which meant I had a knack for getting into trouble, particularly the kind of trouble that only arose from my curiosity.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened to reveal a single desk with a guard gathering his things.
“Guard Johnson reporting for duty!” I said, saluting him. I hadn’t needed to do the arm cross salute in so long it felt odd.
“Don’t do that shit down here, Johnson. This is where guards come to end their careers.” he snapped pointing at the large block lettered sign hanging above the desk. “It’s a simple job that few seem to be able to do. Follow the two rules and you’ll never have a problem. Break them, and, well, you’ll see…”
My eyes looked up at the sign. It was simple. Don’t approach the prisoner. Don’t engage the prisoner. I had never seen such light rules anywhere in my career as a guard.
“That’s it?” I asked as he walked to the elevator door.
“That’s it. Don’t be stupid. You can sleep. You can use the computer. Hell, you can watch porn if you want. No one cares what you do down here. There are no cameras or anything. If you break the rules, it’ll be plain to see for the next guy.” he said as he pressed the button to reopen the doors.
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t be here,” he replied, stepping onto the elevator. “It’s that simple.”
The doors closed.
I stood there, staring at the doors in shock and disbelief. I wouldn’t be here? What the hell was that supposed to mean?
I shrugged it off and took off my jacket, hanging it on the back of the chair. I sat down and took a moment to take in my surroundings. I checked the desk drawers first.
Stationary, office supplies, and a single, unopened bottle of cheap whiskey with a note:
Welcome new guy.
Don’t be stupid. If you get bored, drink this until you pass out. It’ll be better that way.
Almost as if on cue, I heard a pleasant humming from the far side of the hall. The steel door seemed to do nothing to muffle the sound. It echoed off the sheer metal walls, illuminated by a string of lights, and made it to me like the sweetest lullaby.
I was on my feet and walking down the hall before I realized what I was doing. The door got closer, five hundred feet… Four hundred… three hundred… Two hundred… one hundred… Another sign was riveted to the cell door, large and red, GO BACK! YOU ARE TOO CLOSE IF YOU CAN READ THIS! My legs stopped moving ten feet from the door, and not without a lot of effort.
My cold sweat was now dripping down my nose as I fought to remain in place. My heart beat like a drum line in my chest. It was too quick. I knew I couldn’t be down here yet. The other guard could come back at any moment. Then the humming stopped.
“It’s nice to meet you, Terrance,” she said from the other side of the door. Her voice was like a choir of angels. The way my name rolled off her tongue made it sound intimate and foreign at the same time.
“I-I-” I stumbled.
“You’re not supposed to be here, I know,” she said, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just wanted to see you a bit closer. The other guards weren’t as curious about me as you are. They didn’t want to be here like you do.”
“I don’t know that I want to be here,” I replied, finding my voice.
“Come now, Terrance, we both know that you got your cousin to transfer you down here. It’s okay. You’re the first Teal Hair I’ve ever met to be honest. I’m as curious about you as you are about me,” she said.
“You have no idea. I don’t hum usually, at least not for the guards here. They would likely try to kill me, like the last one to get as close as you,” she said, “there’s a button on the wall to your right that’ll do it real quick. Of course, it’ll kill us both. At least, that’s what I’m told.”
“Can you see me?”
“I can see all of you,” she replied. “I see everything. All the prisoners above us. The guard that just left. Even the warden, who’s currently getting fucked on his desk, by the way.”
“Beats the hell out of me. Seeing everything, charming people, controlling people, it’s all part of the hair I guess.” she said, “Sorry, by the way. I had to see you closer. I won’t force you to do anything again, it feels weird, being in someone’s muscles like that.”
“Wait… You made me walk?”
“Yeah, I could make you do all kinds of things,” she replied.
I had the sudden urge to open the door in front of me. My hand went to my key card instinctively.
“I wouldn’t do that,” she said, “You’ll be in trouble.”
“From what the last guard said, I won’t be here if I break the two rules on the wall. I’ve already done both.” I replied.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” she said. “Most people don’t really speak to me the way you do. They are more cruel.”
“I just need to know…” I said as I slid the key card into the reader.
The door clicked and popped open an inch. I reached up and pulled the door open to see a woman sitting on the floor wearing a white prison jumpsuit. If not for the shadows in the room I wouldn’t have been able to tell her skin from her clothes. Her hair was without color, just like they had said.
My mind tried to reproduce the memories of the book I had read years ago, but it failed to remember the poetic verses of the scripture.
“Don’t bother,” she said looking up at me, sounding almost defeated, “memory is one of those things that fades with time only to be brought back at the oddest of times from random stimuli.”
Her eyes locked with mine, a perfect sapphire and a glimmering emerald. The memories suddenly crashed in my head and I forgot everything I was supposed to be doing. I sat next to her, crossing my legs.
“You’re an odd sort of person aren’t you?” she asked.
“I’m supposed to help you,” I said remembering the verse my mind had lost.
“Two souls meet, buried in the darkest of dark, one without color and the other of two,
Through exploration of the imagination, and the resilience of the gems, shall the world be born anew.”
“It wasn’t you that made me walk over, was it?” I asked.
She shook her head. “It wasn’t me that chose to hum.”