Chloe in Prison Ch. 20

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Day Forty-One: Exercise

I seemed to exist more in Prana’s skin than my own. Every facet of the day I experienced as she might: the last slopping-out before her punishment; the last shave; the last breakfast. I remembered how as a child I had counted down the days, then the hours, then the minutes, before a dreaded visit to the dentist. A visit to the dentist would be nothing now, nothing at all compared to a public flogging. How could she eat? How could her bowels and bladder work? How could she walk upright?

But the day wore remorselessly on: and in that perverse way of things, time seemed to speed up on the one day I would have been happy for it to drag out interminably.

Best to get it over with, my mother always used to say about some impending unpleasantness. Only, a flogging wasn’t over when it was over: the effects lasted for days, for weeks – maybe even forever.

The one crumb of comfort I had was the ointment Raymond had given me, and I set to thinking how best I could get it to Prana undetected.

The line of prisoners shuffled along the corridors. There was little of the usual exuberance – everyone knew what was going to happen – and we seemed more like a chain gang heading for a Siberian labour camp. Most hurtful of all, to me, was the way some prisoners were bad-mouthing Prana, calling her a stupid bitch, just because their precious hour in the open air was to be curtailed.

When we reached the Exercise pen the vaulting horse was already installed, just off centre. There was no sign of Prana. Hardiman led us all inside and had us form up into a horseshoe shape around three sides of the horse. All bar two of the Wardens were present. The sky was overcast: no sun, no streaks of light, redeemed the grey.

I was facing in the wrong way, but from the expressions on the faces of the prisoners opposite I knew that Prana was approaching. We had been ordered not to speak, but I slipped my hand into Rose’s, and squeezed.

Dawes and Clark were flanking Prana, giving her shoulders a token push now and then. She was naked except for her sandals – and I was relieved to see that the hideous nappy, the cause of all this misery, had been removed. She looked very small – almost a child besides the Wardens in their bulky uniforms. I’d imagined she would have kept her head bowed – as I would have done – but she held it high: not exactly defiant, but equally not looking cowed. I was proud of her – I had a good idea of how she was feeling inside – and wasn’t sure whether to try to catch her eye. But she kept her own eyes straight ahead, not looking at or acknowledging anybody.

At the vaulting horse Dawes and Clark were joined by Hardiman and Bradley. Prana was bent over, and each of the four Wardens set to securing a limb. When Cradock had been strapped, her legs had been secured at the knees: one of my abiding memories of that day was the way her legs below the knees had flexed upwards, trembling and shaking, as though all of the movements her body longed to make were concentrated into the lower half of her legs. Prana was to be denied even this. Her wrists were secured, her waist was held in place by a long strap, her knees and her ankles were secured. Apart from her head, which she could just about turn from one side to the other, the only limbs she could move were her fingers.

Dawes made great play of spreading her tits, so they were squashed outwards against the shoulders of the horse.

I sneaked a look at the prisoners opposite me. There were the Andrew Sisters, looking solemn for once; there was Lisa, still in her nappy and sandwich board; there was Wilson and her slack-jawed friend, looking sour. Most of the women were looking down at their feet, like mourners at a funeral looking down at the grave.

I saw Megan, looking straight ahead, her expression giving nothing away. Couldn’t she put a stop to this? If not, what had Prana been paying her chocolate and toiletries and goodness knows what else for?

I heard someone stifle a sob: it was Cradock: no doubt the sight of Prana strapped to the horse brought back her own painful ordeal.

Hardiman addressed us:

“As you all know, an assault was made on a Warden two days ago in Showers. The culprit is about to be punished. You will all watch the punishment. No-one will attempt to communicate with Prisoner Kumali. After the sentence has been carried out you may resume Exercise.”

There was a general murmuring at this, and a distinct lightening of the mood. So the prisoners were not to be deprived of their whole Exercise period, as had been the case when Cradock had been strapped. I hadn’t really considered before: but it was obvious now that twelve strokes of the riding crop would occupy far less time than the seemingly endless strapping Cradock had received. Quality over quantity, I thought bitterly. But no doubt knocking a slops bucket over a Wardens foot constituted a less serious assault than throwing a soiled nappy.

Dawes, who had been carrying the riding crop, now withdrew it from her belt. I stared miserably at Prana: I was positioned Nevşehir Escort at her side, just behind her bottom – a ringside position in fact – and I could see all too clearly the red weal across her buttocks. It looked like the bar of an electric fire. Please God, don’t let them hit her there, I prayed.

All the Officers except Dawes and Hardiman had withdrawn a little way. Dawes now flexed the riding crop several times. There was a silence, as though everyone had drawn in breath at the same time and refrained from breathing out again. Somewhere in the distance a rook cawed.

Get it over, I willed.

Still nothing was happening. Then Hardiman and Dawes turned their backs on the prisoners, and consulted in a low voice. I saw Hardiman nod: then they turned back to face Prana. Still they seemed to be in no hurry.

Dawes appeared to be scanning the audience: then her eyes fixed on mine.

“Littlehayes,” she said.

I gripped Rose’s hand and drew breath sharply.

“Yes Sir?” I said.

“Come here,” said Dawes.

I started to shake: my first thought was that they had changed their minds and were going to flog me after all. My legs were wobbly as I walked over to them.

“Littlehayes,” said Hardiman, bearing down on me. “You’ll be pleased to hear we’re not going to thrash your friend after all.”

“You’re not?” I said, too bewildered to express relief.

“No,” said Dawes, with that nasty smile on her lips. There was a pause – clearly I was expected to say something – but I could only gawp from one to the other of them, until Dawes said:

“You’re going to do it for us.”

“What?” I said.

“You heard,” said Hardiman. “You’re going to give Kumali twelve strokes with the crop.”

That was too much for some of the prisoners: I heard mutterings, protests, even a cry of ‘no’. Hardiman silenced them with an order to shut up.

“Here you go,” said Dawes: and she held out the riding crop.

The world seemed to be spinning around me. I stared at Dawes; I stared at the riding crop; I turned and stared at the girl I loved, bent over the vaulting horse. I stared at the prisoners, waiting with baited breath.

“No,” I said.

There was a sharp collective intake of breath; someone tutted; somebody spoke my name.

“Excuse me,” said Dawes: “I don’t think I caught that.”

I was shaking so much I could scarcely get the words out.

“No,” I said again. “You can do what you like to me: I won’t do it.”

“Chloe!” said a voice – Rose’s.

“Silence,” commanded Hardiman.

This was it: there was no doubt in my mind what would happen: when they had finished with Prana it would be me strapped over the horse, feeling the wrath of Dawes and Hardiman expressed through the riding crop. I waited for the thunder to roll.

But instead of bawling me out, Dawes was staring into me, and if anything the malicious grin had grown wider.

“Noble little tart aren’t you?” she said.

I said nothing.

“You realise I could have you thrashed for refusing to obey an order?”

“Yes Sir,” I said.

“We’ll leave that aside for the moment,” said Dawes: “and I’ll give you a minute to change your mind.”

“I won’t change my mind,” I said, though I was quaking inside.

“Pity,” said Dawes. “Pity for your friend, that is.”

“Great pity,” said Hardiman. “Because if you decide not to give her twelve strokes with the riding crop, Officer Dawes and I will each give her twelve.”

“And even you with your University education should be able to add that up to make twenty-four,” said Dawes.

“Oh my God,” I said.

“Certain you won’t change your mind?” asked Dawes, again proffering the crop.

I looked around me desperately, looking for help, an answer, a way out. I looked down at the concrete and I looked up to the sky. There was silence; absolute silence, in which you could have heard the proverbial dropped pin.

Then out of the silence I heard a still small voice:

“Do it Chloe.”

I looked at Prana, but her head was turned away, and she spoke no more.

I took the riding crop out of Dawes hands. Then I flexed it in the air: it was thicker, and had a greater heft, than any crop I remembered carrying on a horse. Dawes placed the palm of her hand on Prana’s right buttock, and ran it down the back of her leg, stopping just above her knee.

“Between here and here,” she said. “And use all your strength.”

“Because if we decide you haven’t,” said Hardiman, “we shall discount that stroke and make you do it again.”

I stared again at Prana’s legs and bottom, at the tender, vulnerable flesh so brutally fettered and exposed. If ever a body was made to be loved and cherished it was Prana’s, and I longed to sink to my knees, and stroke her, and press my cheeks against her, nuzzling and whispering endearments. Then I looked at Dawes, grinning with malice. My grip tightened on the crop. One slash would wipe away that grin. One full-bodied slash, using all my strength… if I judged it accurately Nevşehir Escort Bayan enough I could cut her cheek in half, maybe even take out her eye. I trembled with fear and longing. They would kill me afterwards – but I would have scarred and maimed her for life. I flexed the crop, waved it up and down in the air, making swishing sounds, each one louder than the one before.

“I love you Prana,” I said.

Then I drew back my arm and brought the crop slashing down onto Prana’s behind.

Prana screamed: her body thrashed against the restraints; the prisoners let out a collective gasp.

“Not hard enough,” said Hardiman. “Do it again.”

I leaned over, almost retching. But I knew Hardiman was right: at the last second I had been unable to go through with the blow, and had checked my arm.

For all that, though, an ugly red line had appeared across Prana’s bottom.

I took a deep breath and pulled back my arm: I eyed a spot just below the red line: then I let fly.

This time Prana’s scream could have brought down city walls: her legs juddered against the restraints, her fingers clawed at the air; but I shut my ears, drew back the crop, and struck her again, and a third time, wildly, with a crazy abandon, and would have struck again had not Hardiman caught my wrist in mid-air.

“Wait,” she said.

My eyes were streaming, but wiping away the tears with my sleeve I saw why I had been checked: Prana had lost control of her bladder, and urine was bubbling out of her vulva like water from a hillside spring. I watched it stream down her legs, switching from one leg to the other, twisting like a liquid ribbon before splashing onto the concrete between her feet.

“I’m sorry Prana!” I yelled, but Prana was screaming so much, so consumed with the pain, that I doubted she heard.

The flow became a trickle, a misty spray, leaving wet bead-lets and necklaces of piss down the length of Prana’s legs. Hardiman released my wrist.

Then I struck. Again and again I hit her, wilfully deaf to her screaming, wilfully blind to the angry stripes lining her bottom, merging into each other to form a raw red expanding colony of pain.

I landed one on the crease where her legs met her bottom, and she screamed like somebody having a child torn from her womb. Then I aimed lower, inching my way down the backs of her legs, until they, too, were lined with stripes like the bars of an electric fire.

“Twelve,” said Hardiman. “You can stop now.”

I threw down the crop, and stared at my handiwork: the searing heart of pain I had imprinted on the girl I loved. I felt dizzy and groped vaguely for something to support me. I heard Dawes speaking:

“From now on you will have no contact of any kind with Kumali,” she was saying. “You will not speak to or signal to each other; you will not pass messages…”

There was more, but I did not understand it, as I slumped to the ground.

At first I thought I was in a children’s playground: there were voices of differing pitches, there were feet running and walking, socks and sandals and bare legs. I heard screaming in the distance: someone has fallen and hurt themselves, I thought anxiously, and tried to get to my feet. Then Rose swam into my vision, and Micky and someone I did not recognise.

“Are you all right?” Rose asked.

“Rose: what happened?” I asked: I was sitting on the concrete with my back propped against the mesh.

“You fainted,” said Rose.

It all came flooding back to me: I groaned.

“You drink this,” said the person I had not recognised: it was Officer Raymond, who was handing me a plastic bottle. I took a long swig of water, and handed it back.

“You are good now?” Raymond said.

“Yes,” I said.

“OK, I go now.”

“Rose; Micky,” I said.

“It’s all right,” said Rose: “it’s over now.” I looked from one to the other of them and saw the concern in their eyes. I remembered that the last time I had spoken to Micky it was to tell her to leave me alone. I hadn’t the strength to apologise: but I put my hand on her knee, and she covered it with her own hand.

“It’s Prana who needs comforting,” I said: we could all hear the ghastly sounds she was making, even though we seemed to be on the far side of the yard.

“No-one’s allowed to speak to her,” said Micky.

“Rose,” I said suddenly, trying to stand up, and clutching at the mesh. “How long have we got left?”

“Not long,” said Rose. “Sit down Chloe, please.”

“No,” I said: “we’ve got to get the ointment to Prana before Exercise is over. You have still got it, haven’t you?”

Rose tapped her bosom.

“Thank God you brought it, not me,” I said.

“That’s all very well,” said Rose: “but how are you going to get it to her?”

“Give it to Lisa of course,” I said.

“I suppose so,” said Rose. “But we must be careful: it’s Raymond who’ll be in trouble, as well as us.”

“Just give it to me Rose,” I said: “I won’t have you taking risks.”

“Not a chance,” said Rose: “I’m coming with Escort Nevşehir you.”

“Where is she?” I asked.

“Over there,” said Rose, pointing to where Lisa and her friend Dianne were standing. “But watch out for Dawes and Hardiman: they’ll be watching you like a pair of hawks. You did hear what Dawes said?”

“About messages? Yes Rose, I heard.”

With Rose at my side and Micky trailing behind, I marched up to Lisa and Dianne: the latter was looking decidedly worse than when I had last seen her: there were bags under her eyes and the corners of her mouth were turned down.

“Lisa,” I said, trying to position myself so that Lisa stood between me and the Wardens: “I need you to do something for me: I need you to give Prana something.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” exclaimed Dianne: “Did you hear what that Dawes woman said? Don’t you think Lisa’s got enough trouble already?”

“Butt out Dianne,” I said: “I’m talking to Lisa.”

“What is it?” asked Lisa, in her high, baby-doll voice.

“Rose has got some anaesthetising cream in her bra,” I said. “All I want is for you to give it to Prana in your cell.”

“No way,” said Dianne. “She’s not doing it.”

“Dianne,” I said: “if you don’t shut up I am going to go to Megan and tell her you’ve been spreading it round that her cunt smells like a drain. Work out for yourself what the consequences will be.”

Dianne glowered at me, and put a hand protectively on Lisa’s shoulder, but she held her tongue.

Lisa started to cry.

“Lisa,” I said. “Prana got into this mess trying to help you: now you can do something for her.”

“But how can I?” she asked, looking down helplessly at her get-up: the nappy bulging between her legs and the sandwich board with ‘BEDWETTER’ written on either side.

“In your nappy,” I said. “It’s only a small tube. Micky, Dianne and I will shield you from the Wardens: then Rose will slip the ointment out of her bra and down the front of your nappy. OK?”

Lisa fixed her blue, watery eyes on me and nodded. Dianne hissed.

Micky and I positioned ourselves behind Lisa with Dianne just to my side. It took just seconds for Rose to extract the ointment and slide it down inside the nappy, where only somebody in the know could have distinguished it from the larger bulge.

“Do I say anything?” asked Lisa.

“No,” I said. “Just tell her it’s from me. And to keep it hidden: though she’ll know that anyway.”

“Now go away,” said Dianne. “All of you.”

We started to walk away: the temptation to go as close to Prana as I could was strong, but before I could make a decision the whistle blew. There was a general movement towards the end of the yard where we already happened to be, and the opportunity – if that’s what it was – was gone. As we shuffled into line I saw Margaret walking towards us: the last thing I wanted was another confrontation, but although she didn’t speak to me, after hugging Rose she put her hand on my shoulder briefly, then went on her way.

I had one last glimpse of Prana: as we filed around the perimeter of the fence, everybody’s head turned towards the vaulting horse where she lay. She was no longer thrashing against the restraints: all the fight seemed to have ebbed out of her body and she lay there limply, her face mercifully turned away, the marks on her bottom the colour of raw steak. She was no longer screaming: the sounds she was making rose and fell, and varied from sobbing through a spectrum of groans to the most plaintive and heart-rending wail.

Days Forty-Two to Forty-Five

The fever had set in soon after I had returned to my cell. By morning I was delirious, too weak to stand, and burning hot – so much so that Rose persuaded the Wardens to call the Prison Doctor. I remember a gaunt, white-coated woman with teeth like yellowing piano keys, who inserted a thermometer into my rectum, but little else.

I was excused shaving and slopping-out. For two days I lay on my bed and sweated, staring feverishly at the ceiling or else drifting off into sleep. At times I lost track of where I was, or, rather, where my body began or ended: for it seemed I was lying in a coffin, so small and constricting was the space around me; yet at the same, or another time, I seemed to have swollen, expanded until I had filled-out the cell and was pressing against the walls and the ceiling. Always I seemed to be drenched in sweat: many times Rose washed my forehead and other parts of me with a cold flannel, but almost at once I was burning again.

By the third day I was able to eat, and start worrying.

“We’ve got to work out a way of sending messages,” I told Rose.

“Chloe: I can’t do it,” Rose said. “Dawes will be watching, not only you and Prana but me and Lisa as well.

“A jungle telegraph, that’s what we need,” I said. “I tap on the wall and everyone passes it on.”

“Chloe: you’re rambling. Stop thinking about it, you’re still not well.”

Well or not, I couldn’t let go:

“Then we’ll do it through some intermediary: you take a message to Margaret, or Naomi: they talk to Dianne and she talks to Lisa who passes it on to Prana. Simple.”

“It would be like Chinese whispers,” Rose said. “And anyway, what are you going to say? ‘I love you Prana’? Sure, the women would be queuing up to risk their backsides for something like that.”

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