Friday, 3 February 2012

Futureproofing your prison

"This is by nature of a test," said the little man on the television screen.  His face was rosy-cheeked and slightly too plump, he looked like an idealised child from an Enid Blyton novel.  "The key to your manacles has been fed to your sleeping companion.  They are comatose and will remain so unless fed an antidote, which is just outside the door to this room.  The ceiling, which you will have observed, is decorated with art deco spikes, is descending at the rate of fourteen yoctometres every nanosecond and will not stop descending.  You may choose whether to save yourself, by extracting the key from your companion, or to die together in a companionable death that will be rather more agonising for you that your anaesthetised friend."
Max produced a gun from the waistband of his jeans and shot the companion in its head.  It exploded like a rotten melon, scattering seeds everywhere.  The man-child on the television started screaming, its hands thrown up own its face with only its eyes peeking through its fingers.
"Key, huh," grunted Max, forcing his hand down the companion's neck.  The companion's body split rapidly apart, confirming that it had never been human and was, in fact, mostly deoderised pork with lumps of plaster-of-paris here and there, plus two hands and two feet for realism.
"Where did you get that gun?" screamed the man-child on the television?  "You're not supposed to have a gun!  You're supposed to be caught in an ethical quandary!"
Max's questing fingers found a key and pulled it free from the meat-sack with a sucking sound.  He looked at the television screen, a little flat-screen set into a concrete wall above a prison bunk.
"A tickle quarry?" he said, his brow creasing.  His eyebrows were the black, bushy kind that looked ready to walk off his face by themselves if you stopped looking at them for long enough.
"An ethical quandary!" screamed the man-child.  "You're supposed to care for your companion!"
"Never cared for nuffin', right?" said Max.  "Nuffin never cared noffin' for me."
"Anyway, that's not Jamie," said Max.  "Jamie snores when he's asleep, right?  And Jamie's not dumb enuff to eat keys.  That's Dave.  Dave eats keys."
"Dave eats keys?" said the man-child weakly, pulling its hands away from its face.  The ruddiness of its cheeks had gone splotchy and little white spots had appeared.  "Who is Dave?"
"Dave's my other friend," said Max. "But Jamie's my real friend.  He lets me stick it in him when he's sad."
The man-child stared at the screen, its oversized eyes somehow managing to grow a little bigger still.  Pink veins appeared in the whites, close to the corners of its eyes.  Finally it seemed to get hold of itself.
"Hah!  Well, you might have the key but that's only the key to your manacles.  You still don't have... wait, where are your manacles?  Why aren't you wearing any manacles?"
"Big fish, ain't they?" said Max inspecting the key, and wiping pieces of sticky melon from it.  "Can't wear fish, not on a Friday."
"Bu–whu–muh." said the man-child, its mouth moving like a goldfish while its voice tried to syncopate.  "Fish?  Fish?  You're supposed to be locked up, so that I can tell you that unlocking one off the cuffs will set off a charge inside the manacle that will sever your wrist and cause you to bleed to death unless treated."
"Right," said Max.  "What cuff's that then?"
"That's the problem!"  The little man-child was visibly raging.  "You're not wearing the chains!  You're not doing it right!"
"Chains?  I've got some of them down here," said Max, picking up a length of heavy chain with a metal wristcuff at either end.
"Oh... foodstuff!"  The little man made it sound like swearing.  "Fine, well, you still can't get out of the door because you've not got a key to it!  Haha!  You'll just have to sit there until the ceiling impales you, knowing that you killed your only friend to satisfy your own selfish urges!"
"Weren't my friend," said Max stolidly.  "Which end of this chain is the explodey one then?"
"I'm not telling you," said the man-child.  "It would do you no good anywa– wait, what are you doing?"
Max clicked both cuffs around the door handle and stuck the key in the lock of one of the cuffs.  Then he picked up a hand from the mess on the floor and bent its fingers around the key, ignoring the screams of rage from the television screen.  Then, standing to one size, he jiggled the hand until the key turned a little, igniting the explosive charge and blowing the handle and lock off the door.
While the man-child screamed and Max opened the door, two more people were sat in front of another television screen watching the interaction.
"But haven't you let the prisoner out now?" asked the person on the left, making a note on a piece of paper on a clipboard.
"No," said the other, picking at a freckle.  "The prisoner is the man-child."
"Ah," said the first, nodding and making another note.  "Perpetual frustration."
"And a never-ending sense of futility," said the second.  "The escaping prisoner has many more hoops to jump through, but the man-child believes he will be punished for every trap the faux-prisoner evades."
"You'd say you've succeeding in futureproofing your prison then?"
"In the sense that no-one in it has a future, yes."

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