The Inmate at Beechwood- Aman Thukral

Beechwood Penitentiary, in spite of being a large and complex underground facility, housed only one inmate within its metallic walls, in a padded cell, at the end of the corridor on the lowest floor. Sat inside was Bryce Felhart, a convicted serial killer, a blotch of colour between the pristinely white padded walls, chained to the floor. He looked as if he was meditating, sitting with scarred and bruised legs folded with a face at ultimate rest and tranquil – a face which had seen an ocean of blood flow. Every so often, he looked around, then straight up to one of the four cameras placed in his room and gave a cocky smile.

It was through one of those cameras that Dr James Zelinsky observed the murderer. He had been summoned as an expert consultant to assist with the case regarding Bryce and his string of murders. A meticulous man, he noticed every sliver of detail, every minute movement that could speak for convict’s character. A guard beside the psychoanalyst cleared her throat, “Are you ready, doctor?”

The sudden noise disrupted his investigation. He shook out of his trance-like state and replied, “Yes, I am.”

The guard nodded and opened the door to Bryce’s cell. James took a breath, thanked the guard and entered the lair of the monster.

Felhart’s eyes followed James as he sat down in front of him. A long silence followed as both men examined each other. Bryce would often break into laughs, and give mocking and jeering glances while James took mental notes quietly. It was James who broke the standing silence.

“Good morning, Mr Felhart. May I call you Bryce?”

Bryce tilted his head. He gave an arrogant smile and said, “Call me what you want. Although, my personal favourite is ‘Brighton Bay Butcher’. I did so love it when they called me that in the papers. Good use of alliteration.”

James was indifferent. “Alright, Bryce. I’m Dr James Zelinsky, and I’m here to talk to you.”

“They sent another shrink? Jeez, man, isn’t three enough?”

“Evidently not. I have come to find out about the motive behind the mur- “

“Yeah, yeah. The motive behind my truly shameful sins.” Bryce replied sarcastically. “Damn me to the pits of hell, praise be Jesus.”

James looked at him, expecting an answer. Bryce sighed and said, “I’m gonna tell you what I told your predecessors. I don’t know! It kinda felt like the right thing to do, you know?” He paused. “Actually, you don’t know. Why are you so quick to judge murder anyway? It’s not like you’ve tried it.” His face lit up. “Or have you? That’ll be an interesting story.”

“I appreciate your attempts at humour. It tells me that you’re comfortable with the conversation. But alas, back to the core topic. Why did you kill all those people?”

“Doc, I don’t know what else to say. Mayhaps there’s a chance that it was completely thoughtless and random?”

“Was it?”

“Am I the psychoanalyst in the room?”

They both settled at this impasse. Bryce continued with his condescending expressions while James sat quietly, until he spoke again.

“I can help you, you know.”

Bryce gazed at him for a moment and burst into a robust laugh. “My god, you’re dumb!” He relaxed and said, “I have five life sentences piled up, with half an hour in the chair daily. Do you know how it feels when a thousand volts surge through you? You’re just an innocent ‘feelings doctor’, you can’t make any real change!”

“I could have the current reduced.”

Bryce’s face fell for a microsecond but lifted back up. “I’ve killed two guards. You won’t make a dent.” He looked at the cameras. “Isn’t that right, brethren of the fallen?

“You’re deviating from the topic with your irreverent little comme- ”

“Fine! It’s because I liked it!”

Silence followed as both men formulated their thoughts. Bryce continued: “I like killing people, slicing their skin, seeing their blood flow, imparting enormous amounts of pain.” He leaned forward aggressively. “I’m an addict, doc. You figured it out!” He started clapping in a mocking fashion.

James nodded, still pondering. He spoke staccato, “I don’t think you’re addicted to murder, Bryce.”

Bryce spoke in mock surprise, “Look at this guy! You did something nobody else could and you can’t accept it? Maybe I should kill more people to prove it.”

James was his indifferent, usual self and got up to leave the padded room.

Bryce was in shock. “So, I guess it was just a waste of time, huh?”

James stopped before exiting, turned around, and stared at Bryce in distaste. Then he turned back and walked out of the cell, leaving Bryce perplexed for the first time that day. Bryce tried to return to a meditative state, but now the ominous words of the psychologist stuck with him, troubling him.

Bryce was securely strapped to the chair in the cold, dark room. The restraints on his arms and legs did not allow for even an inch of movement, and the metallic surface of the chair was chilling and uninviting. Pads were attached to his bare chest, which was on display because of the uncomfortable obtuse angle the chair’s back made with the hard seat. Wires extruded from these pads and ran into the walls, one of which contained a one-way mirror. He was surprisingly calm, because of months of torture sitting in the very same chair. He breathed heavily, his breath being the only sound in the still room, echoing and resonating off the walls adding to the room’s eeriness. Now, he just waited for the torment to begin.

Behind the one-way glass on the wall sat the guard and Dr Zelinsky in front of a control panel. They watched Bryce like hawks, noticing every movement, counting every breath. Soon, Bryce got impatient.

“Is there a power outage? Knew you cheap dirtbags couldn’t pay the bills.”

No response came. The room returned to its silent state. Soon thereafter, he started again:

“Did someone kill the guard who’s on shift today? Hello? Anyone there?”

No response. Beads of sweat were starting to form on Bryce’s forehead. Yet, he laughed and said, “Gatterman, you there? Remember that time I maimed and killed Rosenmund? I did not know he could hit those high notes!”

The guard in the control room winced. She set up the system, muttering, “I’m going to show this sick son of- “

“Don’t.”

James’ hand stopped the guard’s hand. He pulled it away from the panel and rested it.

“Do not activate the current,” James instructed.

The guard turned around and spoke in protest, “This is a bad person we’re dealing with, Dr Zelinsky. I’d advise you not to show him any mercy. He has hurt a lot of people and if let loose, will continue to kill.”

“It’s not about mercy.”

James paused. “See, he isn’t addicted to killing, he never was. He’s addicted to pain.”

“Throughout my time with him, he was obfuscating and dancing around questions. So, when I let him think I was stupid and underestimate me, he slipped up. He talked about the pain as if he revered it. And when I suggested the notion of taking it away or lessening it, he broke. Every addict does.”

Bryce’s breathing became laboured, oblivious to the conversation in the control booth. He yelled, “Are you putting on a show? Waiting for the popcorn?”

The guard ignored him, and asked, “Then why did he kill those people at all?”

“He experimented with self-induced pain, as is evident by his scars, but soon realised that one day, he would bite off more than he could chew and kill himself. And murder came up as the perfect solution–– not for the bliss of ending others’ lives, but for getting arrested after multiple counts and subjecting himself to eternal torture, feeding his addiction. He knew that you could torture him, but not let him die. It was perfect for him, heavenly.”

Bryce’s nostrils were flared, his lips smacked and he blinked long and hard. He could not speak, as he was gritting his teeth.

“He went to extreme lengths just to satisfy this addiction. He gave up a normal life, murdered people to ride the high. And now, he is in his personal hell.”

James turned to the guard.

“You want him to pay for what he’s done? Then don’t turn the current on. For him, there is great pain in painlessness. He’s going through withdrawal now, and THIS is real torture. Let the scales balance. Let him pay for the crimes he has committed.”

Bryce was writhing visibly on the chair. He could manage to shout out a few words.

“Turn… it…. ON!”

In the following half hour, Beechwood Penitentiary witnessed the loudest screams it had ever experienced, for they were howls of true, absolute pain.

THE END

 

-Aman Thukral, Amity International School, Noida

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