It was the rigid cuffs and hobble chains for me again. The same attire I had sported many times since the trail two weeks ago – which was a bit over the top, if I were to be asked. I had taken the damn whip for some quick laps, not to pack its boot full of TNT and drive it into the next public building. But the new nation-wide zero-tolerance doctrine had diffused into all layers of the penal system. I only got a quick glance at the bus that would bring me and six other female prisoners to our new home. As soon as the steel door to the remand centre’s vast garage opened, the guard next to me pulled a hood over my head.
“Hey, what the fuck—”
“Shut up, or you get your bitchy mouth stuffed, too.”
Protests from my fellow convicts told me that they were dealt with equally. I remembered the officially stated reason for this measure to be preventing agitation and spitting. That the person was kept disoriented and literally off-balance was considered a bonus. Take it from me, being marched along whilst restraint and hooded is not suited to strike one’s ego. I, for example, felt particularly vulnerable and helpless. The guard manhandled me into the vehicle and stowed me in a seat to the left. A strap of some sort was pulled across my rump, thus pinning my already trapped arms against my body. I assumed it to be a safety belt, yet doubt that they had my own safety in mind. Through the thick, dark hood I could hear the bus door being closed. A moment later the chassis vibrated under the starting engine.
The second the bus pulled out of the remand centre, I had to pee. I always have to pee during long rides, no matter how often I have gone to the loo before the start. But I reckoned it to be a wise approach to keep my “bitchy” mouth shut and just avoid the thought of running water. Speaking of which: the little I had been able to dig out about the Deepfall Advanced Correctional Centre was that it was located somewhere near the Deepfall River, best known for its – who would have guessed? – eponymous, impressively deep waterfall. The whole region was rural, to say the least; maybe a sawmill now and then. Apart from that, I didn’t know what was waiting for me. They hadn’t exactly sent me a brochure.
It is astonishing how hard it is to tell the passing of time without visual input. Maybe I dozed off during the ride. Maybe the low-frequent diesel sound lulled me. Be it how it may, I startled as the bus stopped for good and the chief guard officially announced our arrival.
“Welcome to the DACC. A word of advice, lasses: better behave like good fillies now, or you won’t enjoy your stay.”
Whatever that was supposed to mean…
Out of the bus we went, and finally we were released of our hoods. I never had much sense for nature – I like boutiques, sushi bars and old-fashioned record shops. But even, or mayhap especially, for me the sight brought before us was just breath-taking: over what I could only describe as a patchwork wood land a plateau of immense proportions rose into a crystal-clear sky. The whole area below was covered by mixed forest with a certain inclination to pinewood. All imaginable and unimaginable variations of green and orange stretched towards the horizon, only interrupted by sparkling surfaces of ponds and lakes. And above all thundered the mighty Deepfall itself, dropping over 200 metres from said mountain plateau, feeding the torrent named after it.
It drags me down to mention that I beheld all this through a four metre high double fence, crowned by rolls of razor wire. Not that I had expected my stay here to be an adventure vacation in the first place. The guards from the bus lost no time ushering us towards the camp’s main building, already accompanied by DACC-gaolers in grey and white uniforms. The hobbled pace we moved in gave me the opportunity to throw glances left and right. At the western side, nearest to the river, several barracks stood in formation. Like all buildings, they were white and of modern appearance. I noticed a scaffold like platform with an upright beam rising from it, facing the barracks. Its purpose I couldn’t tell, though. The beam was far too sturdy and too short to serve as a flag pole.
I wasn’t able to catch more of it, at least for now, because the narrow road we were marching on made a turn to the right and left the barracks behind us. But not to worry: There was more to see. My charming group of seven passed a building utilised as mess hall and another one serving as barracks for the guards. The fact that we didn’t meet anybody struck me as strange, for this institution seemed to be sized for quite a number of “guests”. Every so often my gaze wandered northwards. There, close to the rock face, stood the only structure not made of stone but of steel girders and corrugated sheet. In front of it numerous enclosures were located. They resembled corrals of some sorts, and now I also got an idea of the corrugated building’s purpose. It was a barn.
I already knew where things were heading to: anger management programme with animals. You know, some bad boys petting horses and generally doing all crap of outdoor activities, and magically turn into the nice guys next door. I had always reckoned this cuddly approach to convert bullies and bruisers into valuable township members borderline ridiculous. It may sound hypocritical coming from a convicted offender, but hey! I’d never beaten or threaten anybody! Kick somebody into intensive care, you are misunderstood; take a posh car for a joyride, you are in for a two-year stint!
The main building at the eastern side was the largest one. Amongst other departments it held the hospital ward, which turned out to be our first stopover. Still in chains, we were waiting in a corridor whilst one after another was led into the doctor’s office. It took awfully long for each of them to reappear. Corresponding to the initial letter of my surname, I came last, and it had been the better part of two hours I had languished in that corridor for.
The doctor was female, and so was the nurse. I had by now reached the conclusion that the DACC was a girls-only club, inmate-wise, with mixed staff. Pillow fights every night. Once I was freed from my shackles and down to my undies, my blood pressure was measured and my healed ribs checked again. Then they put me through my paces with a resting and stress ECG, for some reason followed by a balance test. And, of course, the ever-popular finger up the front and rear. What exactly would I have shoved up my arse during the ride from jail to this gulag?
A tetanus jab was next, but then the strangest thing happened: I was bid to sit in the menacing dentist chair I had wilfully ignored during my check-up so far. Gingerly I let my precious body glide onto the cold faux leather, only to have it suddenly strapped down with sturdy belts.
“Oi, what the—”
“Head back, please…”
The doctor pressed her latex-gloved palm against my forehead and pushed down. Seconds later another of those belts was pinning me to the head-rest. I was now restrained at calves, wrists and forehead. Good thing I floss. My state of alert went up another step as the doctor retrieved from a nearby tray an item which I happened to know to be a Jennings gag.
“Open up, please.”
She gave a staged sigh as I failed to comply.
“We don’t want to bother the guards outside, do we?”
I supposed we didn’t.
Once I had reluctantly accepted the gag between my teeth, she cranked it open with clinical efficiency. This action immediately put a great deal of strain on my jaw muscles, and the lady doctor only stopped as a dry snapping sounded from my joints. Then she gave the Jennings another notch, presumably to punish me for my insubordination – but I am guessing here. Maybe she was a sadistic bitch on general principles.
I was convinced on a fundamental level that my jaw would be dislocated any moment. The doctor however showed a lot more confidence in my anatomy and took her time to go through her routine. With professional serenity she checked my teeth and tongue. After that multiple kinds of, for lack of a better term, templates were pushed into my mouth. They seemed to be designed for measuring all aspects of my oral cavity, because now and then the doctor mumbled numbers or codes to the nurse. For the grand finale a long, slightly curved chrome probe founds its way to the entrance of my throat. I supressed the rising urge to retch, only to have the doctor push further. Eventually I fell into a violent coughing fit until my eyes teared up. She pulled out.
“Very strong gag reflex from mark 3 on.”
I could have told her that if she just had asked (although the lucky lad with whom I had discovered this characteristic of mine hadn’t had any check marks on his cock).
The nurse loosened my tethers.
“You may dress again.”
Never before I had been so happy to don a neon-coloured jump suit. Which, by the way, is a nice transition, because the next stop for our little fellowship was the clothing store. It seemed white was the new black: We were asked to change into white canvas shoes, white 3/4 trousers and white t-shirts with a black DACC logo on it (a stylised horse head or knight from a game of chess). I wasn’t particularly fond of white clothes, but they were better than the jail jump suits. The one thing besides the colour that spoiled the looks for me was the numbers on each shirt, right below the logo. In my case it read 1317, which I believed to be some kind of code. Surely I wasn’t the one thousand three hundred and seventeenth visitor, given this institution’s – allegedly – revolutionary concept.
Two additional sets of clothes, a towel and items of personal hygiene were handed to us. Three sets of clothing seemed a bit scarce, but who was I to comment on the supply situation? Holding our new belongings before our chests, we lined up in front of the building. After a fashionable delay two women appeared from the entrance. The first sported a guard uniform, albeit with black accentuations instead of grey. She held the door open for a stern-looking lady in her forties, wearing an equally stern-looking suit.
The younger one positioned herself self-importantly before us, and with disbelief I noticed the object in her right hand. If I wasn’t totally mistaken, the guard was wielding a riding crop.
“Welcome to the DACC. I am your group leader and therefore your direct disciplinarian. You will address me as ‘Miss Kandrin’ or ‘ma’am’. Before you are assigned to your barracks, the warden will address a few words to you.”
Whilst Kandrin was beginning to circle us, her boss stepped forward.
“I am warden Navier, I am in charge of the Deepfall Advanced Correctional Centre as well as of the special programme you are now part of. A programme that provides cleansing of criminal and anti-social behaviour, a character catharsis, without the negative effects of prolonged incarceration. Many elements will strike you as unorthodox, even strange. But they are fundamental to your rehabilitation and shall therefore be welcomed by you as a chance, maybe your last chance.”
Navier made a dramatic pause to bathe in our undivided attention.
“Beyond that, you are privileged, and I am not talking about the opportunity to redeem yourselves here instead of doing a partly considerable prison stint. During your abidance within this institution you will learn to appreciate the value of basic amenities. Food is a privilege. Clothing is a privilege. A bed is a privilege. Sleeping is a privilege. Speaking is a privilege. Furthermore you will learn that this is a Zero Tolerance Zone.”
Here we go…
“Misbehave, and your privileges will be cancelled. Here are rules. Here are penalties. You follow the former, you avoid the later. In my experience adolescent and young adult offenders have been grown up in the delusion that obedience, discipline and respect towards authority are dispensable in the best case, and reprobate in the worst one. Here, you will show obedience. Here, you will uphold discipline. Here, you will…”
“… respect authority.”
Good thing there were no fascistic undercurrents around here…
“You may have noticed the relatively low security level, but don’t be fooled. The DACC is located in a particularly remote area, surrounded by about 1500 square kilometres of woods. The next major settlement, if you must know, is half a day’s march away.”
Under my breath I hummed the “Duelling Banjo” notes from Deliverance, much to my direct neighbour’s and – of course – my own amusement. The very next moment the right side of my face was on fire and my head flew to the left. Unbeknownst to me Kandrin had walked up behind me and must have been standing there for some time. The cunt had hit me with the leather flap of her crop right in the face! I barely managed to keep my gear from falling to the ground.
“Thank you, Miss Kandrin.”
Thank you for what?! The warden hadn’t even heard my intermezzo! But, naturally, she assumed that lashing a prisoner’s face was in order for the sake of obedience, discipline and crap!
“You, girl, step forward.”
“Me, ma’am?” I asked in my most innocent voice.
Of course me, I just tried to buy some time. Yet this attempt was quickly undermined by a crop stroke to the back of my thighs. Damn, that thing stung!
“Alexia Wert, ma’am. At your service.”
“Did you pay attention to what I just said?”
“Absolutely, ma’am. Well, then I might not have made myself clear enough. So allow me to clarify some of the finer points, especially for you: The moment your sorry arse crossed the entrance to my institution, there was no ‘absolutely’ anymore. There was no ‘at your service’ anymore. And there certainly was no ‘Alexia Wert’ anymore. Was that now clear enough for you, Thirteen-Seventeen?”
I may be big-mouthed, but I am not a masochist. I knew that Miss Cuntling was still having her whip in readiness.
“Very good. Miss Kandrin, will you please see to it that our newcomers are familiarised.”
“At once, ma’am.”
Navier turned on her heel and strode back into the main building, leaving us safe and sound with the Cuntling and the rest of the guards. At least her “few words” had finally found an ending. If I had to listen to any more of her authoritarianism rubbish, there would be a good chance for me to choke on my own vomit. However, Kandrin grasped the opportunity to aggrandise herself.
“From now on every one of you will answer to her number, and only to it.”
She closed in to me and pressed the crop’s flap under my chin.
“It’s easy enough to remember, don’t you think so, Thirteen-Seventeen?”
“Yes, ma’am; the square root of 1,961,459.”
I made that up, of course – for the sake of lightening the conversation. Miss Cuntling, however, decided to misinterpret my good intentions.
“You arse is so on my list, missy, and no mistake.”
Sounded almost like a challenge…