Prologue: Up In Smoke
(Five Years Ago)
(Five Years Ago)
People say, time passes quick.
People say, just pay it no mind, it'll go by soon enough.
People say, tend to the moments and the years'll tend to themselves.
These people, they ain't never been in jail. Time passes like a fucking ice cube here, ain't got nothing to do but slowly melt all over the place. And the worst part is, you can't never get away from yourself. It's just you, and your thoughts, and whatever you can do to make those thoughts go away. That's the real hell of prison, if you're at all sorry about what you did: you got all these reminders that you're a bad person, and that you deserve all the shit you're forced to eat here.
It's one more day out of thirty years. Smile. Take a big bite out of that shit sandwich. Chew. Swallow. Sleep. Another day, another bite. You gotta find ways to kill your that part of your brain that measures time, or you'll go loco.
Some people spend time reading. Some go to school. Some exercise. Some sleep their lives away. And some kill themselves. Me, I smoke.
Got a system and everything. One cigarette, takes me 10 minutes to smoke it. Ten minutes where I don't do nothing but smoke. I experience that cigarette fully, completely, like I'm a fucking Japanese monk. I am the Zen Buddhist Goddess of Smoking. Completely in that moment, counting down every second but unaware of the passage of time. When I'm done, I've lost ten minutes in a haze of nicotine. Then I light another.
One cigarette, ten minutes. 6 smokes an hour. About 80 smokes a day; that's 4 packs. 28 packs a week; ten packs in a carton; about 73 cartons a year. 73 times 10 times 28 is... a lot of fucking cigarettes a year. And I've been here for nearly 15 years now.
Some people kill themselves quickly. I'm going the slow, painful route. Hacking cough, tightness in the chest, voice that sounds like I'm gargling concrete. I spend half an hour every morning coughing up bloody phlegm. I've got cancer, and it makes me glad.
I wish I had a tumor I could touch. I'd call it Tommy. I'd talk to it every day, and sing it lullabies at night. I'd tuck it in to bed at night.
But I know I have one, I've got a Tommy deep in my lungs. I feed it every day, and it's growing up so big and strong. One day, it'll be ready to go off on its own, and when it leaves I'll die. But I'll be happy, because I gave birth to something so wonderful. I made it, in my body.
I've hurt a lot of people for you, Tommy. I've killed seven cellmates for you, all of them sacrificed to cancer with secondhand smoke. Each time, you've gotten bigger and stronger. And because you're in me, I've gotten stronger.
When I give birth to you, baby, it'll be loud and bloody and violent. Just like that night twenty years ago, when you died.
When I killed you.
*** *** ***
Tonight's the night. I'm in labor, Tommy. I'm giving birth to you and the nicotine is singing in my head like angels on acid, acid that burns my veins and makes me sick to my stomach. I'm dying tonight, my dearest, my love, all so that you can be born.
One last drag on the cigarette, and exhale. I try to breathe in but you won't let me, you're filling my lungs with blood as you struggle to be born, my beautiful baby cancer boy.
The smoke goes everywhere. It stick to the walls, soaks into the mattress... and spreads out into the ventilation system.
Into general population.
Who've been breathing my smoke for fifteen years.
Oh, my baby boy. I understand now. My eyes are opened. I know your power, and know it's now mine.
The power of human sacrifice. I willingly took you into my body; I gave cancer to my cellmates; and now, everyone who breathed my air for the past 15 years has breathed you, too.
Crucifixion. The Sun Dance. Human Sacrifice. Life energy for magical power.
You don't want me to die, do you, baby? You want mama to live. You want her to spread your message across the world. I'll bear you on my back. Mama will be your camel, and you can be my hump. My burden and my source of power.
*** *** ***
It's the damnedest thing.
The night I became the Camel, the cancer left my body. I breathe easier now than I did before I was in jail. Still have the cough, though, and the gravel voice. That's my mark of power, my witch's teat. Least I don't hack up blood every morning.
Know what else is weird? So many people want cigarettes now. Smoking's always been big in prison, but I swear the entire goddamn place is hooked now. And they all want mine.
Cigarettes are money in prison. I control their distribution now. The people who used to... they all died. On the same night. Lungs filled with bloody phlegm.
Everyone in this prison is addicted.
Everyone's my bitch.
Funny, ain't it?
Smoke 'em if you got 'em...