Barnes & Noble.com
As Nick Hines arose at 5 a.m. on March 28, 2005, other than the fact that it was his thirtieth birthday, the day ahead held no promise of being anything more than ordinary. He was up, as usual, before the rest of his family, and after a quick breakfast he would head out the door and make his way down Route 47 to Montrose. It was just a typical Monday in every way, except that this Monday was to end with cake and ice cream after supper. Long before the birthday party though, Nick’s ordered life would begin a spiraling downslide into chaos.
Hackett State Prison wasn’t such a bad place, for rapists, pedophiles, and murderers, but Nick was none of those. For him, an innocent man, Hackett State Prison was a living nightmare, Hell on earth, and a cold grave, all rolled into one. He had been beaten, raped, and robbed within the walls of Hackett, and all in his first week there. Who knew what week two would yield?
By the end of week two, Nick knew exactly what. He was now the girlfriend of Willie Carver Maxwell, the biggest, meanest, and most black-hearted inmate at Hackett. Before he had entered Hackett, he had thought his life over. Now, two weeks later, he knew it was. It would be only a matter of time, probably not too far down the road, when Willie would tire of him, and then he’d be up for grabs anew. He couldn’t imagine his life sinking any lower, but then again that’s what he had thought before, so long ago it seemed, as he had huddled in the corner of his kitchen awaiting the six a.m. freight to Atlanta. He had known then that there was always farther to fall, but it wasn’t until now that he could put a name to the hole he had fallen down. The name of the hole was Hackett, and he was at the very bottom of that hole. If he was to fall any further, he’d need a shovel to do it.
Life was made even more unbearable by the fact that he received no visitors–ever. Had his parents been living anywhere near, he was sure they would visit, but his dad had followed his dream to Alaska, and both he and his mom were now living in Anchorage. Had Gayle been alive, she would have come, but unfortunately, she no longer graced the world with her presence. And Levi, yes Levi would have come often, but again…No, the cold, bitter truth was that no one gave a damn about Nick Hines anymore; no one.
The plumbing at Hackett was ancient, and in deplorable shape, the toilets prone to clogging up almost daily. What better job, that of sewer cleaner, to assign a man in Nick’s situation? As luck would have it, he did draw that assignment, that of keeping the sewers flowing. For eight hours every day, he worked in urine, feces, and everything else the inmates flushed down the prison toilets.
Yet, despite his losses and his current situation, which in all likelihood was to be his permanent situation, Nick held out hope for the future. Every day, after finishing his sewer work, he would shower and then satisfy the desires of Willie Carver Maxwell. Then, he would shower again, go to his cell, and pray to his Father in Heaven. It was through his prayer that he gained the strength to go on another day, and it was through his prayer that he held out hope.
But the day came that a new inmate was introduced into the population, and the new inmate, one Wilson Roberts, had designs on Nick. Willie Carver noticed the interest Wilson had taken in his property, so he confronted Roberts about it in the exercise yard. The problem for Willie was that Wilson was just as big, and just as bad as he was, and the fight ended with both men on the ground, exhausted and beaten. Neither man now had an indisputable claim to Nick, and in Willie’s convoluted mind, that was unacceptable. If he no longer had a confirmed claim on Nick, then he certainly wasn’t going to allow Wilson to have one. So, Nick paid the price, as Willie got up from the ground and shoved a shiv between his ribs. Nick fell to his knees, holding his side, as blood oozed between his fingers. “Oh, God help me,” he mumbled, before falling to his back, and passing out.
When he awoke again, he was in bed in the prison hospital ward. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious, or what his condition might be, but he did know he probably wouldn’t be going back to his sewer duties any time soon. That, coupled with the fact that he was away from both Willie Carver and Wilson, made the stabbing almost worth it.
Trying to find a more comfortable position, Nick rolled over in bed and noticed no pain coming from the area of his wound. He reached down and pulled up his gown, searching in vain for where he had been stabbed. There was a bandage where the wound should have been, but beneath it, nothing but unbroken skin. “Huh, don’t that beat all,” he said to himself, and then he looked around the ward, noticing for the first time, that he was alone. Each of the other seven beds in the ward was empty, and there was no sign of a nurse, or doctor anywhere. He got up from his bed and walked, quietly and cautiously, to the ward door. Fully expecting to find it locked, he tried the knob, and to his surprise, the door opened for him.
Once in the outer hallway, he listened to the deathly silence of the prison, thinking that it must be the middle of the night. That thought was quickly dispelled, as he rounded a corner and saw daylight coming through a barred window. He continued down the hall, encountering no one, until he came to the barred door that led back into the prison proper. He gave the bars a push, and they swung away from him. That’s funny, he thought. That gate is always locked. He proceeded into cellblock A, discovering all sixty-five cells were empty. Further investigation revealed that the same was true of cellblocks, B, C, and D. There was not one prisoner, guard, or visitor to be found. Other than himself, Hackett State Prison was devoid of all human life.