This is my second attempt at the BlogBattler’s January writing prompt “bucket”. My first effort proved to be a little too experimental even for my tastes. I might yet find a way to fix it and if I do I’ll post it. In the meantime, my second attempt is in every sense shit (~1090 words, a tad over the limit).
Prison is an education. I’d read that somewhere. I never really understood it. I certainly didn’t understand it that first night the door to my cell slammed shut. I’ve no idea when I finally managed to drop off, how long I listened to the banging and caterwauling of my new friends, eager to welcome the fresh meat. It was a miracle I managed to get any sleep that night. I don’t recall what I dreamt. I do recall being startled awake and laying there for a moment unsure of the cause. I reasoned it was the deafening silence, or maybe the staleness of the air, either way when I opened my eyes I was in no doubt that I was in a coffin. At such times instinct takes over and my fingers were scrabbling at the lid before I even fully understood my predicament. That’s when things went from bad, to worse.
My heart was racing before I touched the aforementioned lid. Real horror though was watching the lid recede away from me as I sank into a deep dark bottomless pit. Thankfully, a sharp crack to the back of the head brought me to my senses. That and ricocheting off the cell floor back towards the ceiling. My relief at not being buried alive was short-lived as the floor, this time, fled from my grasp. Instinct was still very much in command at this point and like a drowning man, arms and legs flailing, I was desperate to grab hold of something, anything. For a split second, I thought I felt cold metal, but my foot only succeeded in punting it across the cell as I arced upwards. Bumping hard against the roof I tried fruitlessly to find some purchase on its smooth surface. From there my journey continued towards the small porthole on the far wall. Upside down and slowly spinning I admired the universe of stars beyond that window, right up to the point my face hit the glass and with hands hopelessly squeaking against the cold glass I was off again. It was somewhere on the way back towards the cell door that I formed a firm conviction that something was most decidedly amiss.
My life, as it was, continued in this vein for several minutes. In that aeon, I learnt that aimlessly scrabbling at each new surface for the most part only made matters worse. Alternatively, the careful application of an arm or leg could be used to reduce my momentum. My final traversal across the cell would not have threatened a snail and I was confident that I’d be off this particular roller coaster on my very next landfall.
It, therefore, came as something of a surprise to discover I wasn’t alone. For hung in the centre of this meagre expanse floated a dark sphere. I watched in wonder as a distant sun rose behind this new dark world, creating a spectacular dawn. Only the epic chords and bombastic drums of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra were missing. Wonder faded when I saw the handle turn into view, the sun glinting along its curved length. A bucket?
Oh god, the bucket! I’d questioned its purpose on arrival. At best it was a joke, at worst, a human rights violation, this was the 23rd century. Far from being an anachronism, I was advised it was standard issue, at least until the new Governor found the budget to fix the plumbing. Unimpressed and with no intention of using the antique, I’d put it out of my mind. For all of thirty minutes. The thing about cryogenic sleep, the thing that no-one likes to discuss … well, let’s just say some bodily processes cannot be denied, not after two and a half years.
That was the stomach-churning, abhorrent sight that slowly drifted towards me and there was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid it. One way or another I was on a collision course with planet Poop and there was no rainbow sunrise that could put a silver lining on that realisation. I had about two minutes to ponder my situation and to curse the folly of bunking off so many science classes. Of course, I tried to grab the bucket and stop its progress as it came into reach. Newton, unfortunately, had the last laugh as the contents of the bucket continued, unbounded, on their original trajectory.
With more well-practised flailing, I managed at best a passable impression of a muck spreader. In the process, making a worse situation very much the worst. Surprisingly I managed to come off fairly unscathed during the sickening rendezvous. When I plucked up the courage to look back, the cell was a constellation of spinning yellow and brown globules, almost beautiful suspended in the suns rays. Almost, but for the gut retching smell. I think I must have given up at this point, just closed my eyes and went to my special place.
A click and hum alerted me to the next chapter of my nightmare as the bright lights of the cell flickered on to reveal that my nightmare nebula had pulled itself together into several large globules, not unlike a scatological solar system. Even more disconcerting were the globules slow inexorable movement towards one end of the room. That as they say is when the shit hit the fan. Literally, as the air conditioning system, that had also decided to kick in, put my previous muck spreading efforts to shame, efficiently turning the large planetoids of filth into a streaming torrent that flowed out across the ceiling.
You might think, my nightmare would have ended there and I wish it had. I’ll let you decide the worst part of what was still to come. For most, it would probably be when the gravity popped back on. Another inspired budget-saving initiative of the new Governor, along with turning off the air conditioning overnight. For some, it might be slipping in excrement and falling against the touchpad that revealed the fully-functioning bathroom facilities. For me, it was walking out of my cell the next morning to the cheers and howling laughter of my fellow inmates. I was not the only new fish that took a bow that morning.
Prison is an education. It’s true. I discovered a passion for physics, mostly out of necessity, granted. Nevertheless, necessity certainly proved to be the mother of my reinvention. The skills I learnt in that cash-starved hell becoming the key to my survival, inside and out.
Image courtesy of NASA