• Jabe Stafford

One Page Worlds - The Family Prison

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Jump in and tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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“You ain’t an adult,” my cellmate grunted. I ground my teeth while she ranted some more. “An adult’s sixteen and you don’t seem no sixteen-year-older.”

Scratching my unshaved face, I rattled off the answers to the usual questions I got each time. “Beard. Appearances. Used it to buy a lot of beer.”

I stood and ignored the older lady Warden Rutz had chucked me in with. The cement walls were more interesting. So was the toilet seat. And the window. Bars thick as the ones on the old school’s front doors kept us in and let the marsh weather in too.

“Rainstorm’d wash the blood off,” I said, unsticking the deep red stained part of my gray-green prison uniform. Then I glanced at the lady. “That how you shower? Rainstorms?”

She pointed at me with a shake to her hand. “It all coagulated and stuff. You did some crazy, din’t you?”

Hot jeez, she can pronounce ‘coagulated’ but says adult like ‘add-dult?’

“Din’t you?” she blurted.

“Lost the Warden’s fight today,” I said, staring out the bars at the half-dead swamp and the bloated flesh floating in it. “He thinks we’re toys. Pisses me off.”

The lady gasped and scrambled away to the back corner of her bed slab. “You that Warden’s son? That Scotty Rutz?”

“Listen, crustbucket,” I swore through gritted teeth. “I am not my old man or my brothers. No snapping prisoners’ necks for me. I’m getting out of here before I’m sixteen.”

“Ah,” Crustbucket said, gears spinning behind her mad black eyes. “Yer daddy threw all of ya in here. He hoped ya’d all toughen up and be guards. Kill prisoners fer practice.”

So a brain did live in there. I jerked a thumb out the window. “You’ve been in here since before the O-Pop Wars, right?”

“Ha ha hee,” she sniggered. “Oh. Pop pop pop.”

And that’s why the Wardens named it that. So simple crustbuckets like her would think wars were fun. I inhaled the moldy air and said, “Killing for money used to be called bounty hunting. Now it’s population control. Wars. Sport killings. All of it.”

Crustbucket pointed at me again, expression lit like a lamp. “Same as what you—oh, sorry Scott. Sorry Scott. You ain’t a sport killer. I been in here long time. No news but whatever’s people screamin’ about. Can’t tell news from nonsense.”

My vision swam and I stared at the swamp. Sorry Scott, huh? Better than killing machine at the family prison. If the old man couldn’t profit from getting me into population control, maybe I could profit from making him think I’d changed my mind.

“I ain’t did but a little thievin’ and sniffin’,” the old lady said. “Guess I might die in here. Ain’t entertaining enough to kill me in them prisoner fights.”

A grin grew across my face. “Hot jeez that’ll work. Want to fake-die and escape?”

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