My name is Mathias Whitlock, and I am a criminal.
I won’t tell you what I did yet for I’m writing this to be read, not abandoned. So, you’re going to have to wait until the end of this story.
Today is June 7, 2004, my final day in the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. I never made very many friends here, but I also never caused any trouble. I did what I was told and behaved, because what else was I supposed to do? I sat and stared at the cracks in the walls, pretending that they were divisions between imaginary nations on a map. That was my entertainment for years. I ran, I worked, I ate, and I slept. A never ending cycle of praying that I’ll distract myself enough to not listen to my head. I didn’t have time for trouble.
My sentence was supposed to end after my death. Somehow the judges on my appeal had other plans. Don’t ask me how, or why, that’s not what this narrative is about. This story is about what came after I left this abhorrent place. Quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting my release to be so stubborn and emotionless.
On the early side of the morning, a guard I’ve seen five or six times woke me with his graveled voice, “Whitlock. Pack your things”. Normally that would force a wave of anxiety down my body, but I went to bed the night before, knowing it was my last time sleeping on a mattress so thin you could feel the metal board beneath it. I sat up and wiped my eyes after a yawn, and realized I didn’t have anything to pack. I actually had nothing to pack. Why would that guard tell me to gather my things if I didn’t have anything to gather? Sure I had to change and maybe throw some things out, but that always stayed a mystery for me. Around a half an hour later or so, another guard came around and told me it was time.
I didn’t say bye to any other prisoners, or even look at them. I just consistently watched my feet glide over the floor tiles over and over again until I arrived at the facility front entrance. It felt weird wearing normal clothes, uncomfortable almost. It felt like the first time I wore my prison uniform. As soon as I arrived at the front desk, I signed some papers, asked a few questions, and that was it. I said my goodbyes quickly, and simply just walked out the front doors. It seemed unprofessional, but I wasn’t going to complain.
As soon as I took a step into freedom, I took in a big breath of air. It smelled like a new beginning, even though the prison yard smelled the same.
“Alright, now what?” I looked around feeling just as terrified the last time I was standing here. There was nobody. No bus, no pedestrians, not even a car on the main road in front of the building. It was foggy, which is weird for June, but that was the least of my worries. I had maybe forty dollars in my pocket and my ID.
The cold started to get to me. I figured I should walk. I would have gone back inside and asked to make a phone call, but I had nobody to crank, and if I did, that contact would be on my actual phone, which is in the lake miles off the 40. So I walked. I trudged along that main road hoping that someone would see me and offer a ride. Nobody came. I paced through the mist for an hour or so before I came across a nice mini-mall. Then, things got weird.
There were some cars in the parking lot, not many. The outlet was shaped like a cornered half circle, with two entrances and exits. In the distance further down the road I could see some more buildings, but maybe someone here could help me find a motel or something.
The main shop was a grocery store which had a name I can’t remember. It was small, and vintage too. To the right of the two front sliding doors there was a single column of green shopping carts. It seemed like all the carts were there as if nobody was inside, but I went through the doors anyway because otherwise I’d starve.
The light was bright, blinding almost, and every aisle looked pretty much exactly the same. To my left there were a couple of registers, but only one cashier. She was looking at me. I looked away quickly and stood there a few seconds to let my eyes adjust, then looked back at her. She was looking at me, as if she was praying for mercy. A couple seconds went by and I turned my head back to the aisles.
“That was weird,” I thought to myself. The sun was starting to shine brighter and I was losing time in the day. So, although the unwieldiness may have caused this situation to be even more awkward, I walked over to the girl at the cash register. I would’ve gone to another person but she was the only one there. As I approached her, I could tell that she was a nice, caring girl. I mean, you can never know until you talk to them, but she seemed like a familiar, welcoming human being. I got to the register island and looked at her. She was doing it again, staring at me like I was going to hurt her.
“A-are you ok?” was the first thing I asked her. She didn’t respond. She just looked at me, with bulging, frightened eyes. They were bright blue and had a slow back and forth shake to them, like she couldn’t focus. Was there something on my face? Look, I know what I did was bad, but I thought I at least deserved a response, I mean does everyone know who I am?
After literally no response from her, I turned back towards the entrance, and walked out of the store. That was the most eerie thing I had ever experienced. I didn’t have time to think about that, though. My anxiety to find a place for the night made my stomach churn. Now that I look back, I don’t know how I appeared so calm. As I walked out of that creepy store, I noticed that the whole parking lot was completely empty. Rows of paint and curbs, but no person whatsoever. At that point, I knew something wasn’t right. I jumped to the conclusion that something universal happened that changed the world while I was in prison. Making guesses wasn’t going to fix anything though, so I kept walking. I know, boring, right?
I kept walking down the road until I got into town. It was exhausting. The heels of my feet were peeling off and my limbs were sore by default. Eventually though, I stumbled into the center of the nearest town, and finally, there it was. The bright lights that say:
It was a miracle.
I can perfectly remember the moment I saw it, and felt a warmth inside me that I haven’t felt in years. It scared me. Excitement for me usually ends with a point lower than rock bottom, always deeper than last time. And just as expected, that joy was quickly cut short.
As I approached the fresh and nicely built motel, painted with nice coats of blues and whites, and topped with excessive detail, I began to see the inside of the entrance and the front desk. There was a lady there. She was petite, and fragile looking, with long gray hair. When she saw me walking up to the doors, she had the same exact face as the girl at that register in the grocery store. The bulging, shaking eyes begging for forgiveness. It was frightening seeing a stranger be so scared of me. She got up from the front reception desk, centered right across from the entrance, and quickly paced through the glass entry.
“H-hey what are you doing?” I yelled out of frustration and confusion. I started running towards the door and by the time I got there, it was already locked, and she was standing on the other side, with relief in her eyes.
“Please. I really need a place to stay….please.”
Those were the exact words I said. I remember it perfectly. That stupid woman wouldnt say anything. She turned off the lights, and the open sign, then walked away. I hadn’t felt more lost than I did at that point. The only time I’ve ever felt more perplexed was the day I got sentenced.
I stood out there for a couple minutes, pacing and contemplating, before coming up with an extremely terrible plan. I walked around the building to see what behind it looked like. There was a tall metal fence that divided the main road and behind the motel. It didn’t take much energy to jump it, and it didn’t make much noise either. Once I got over it, I kept my back against the building wall, crouching down every time I passed a window as I walked to the other side. My goal was to try to find an empty room. I figured that sense it’s closed, there’s not going to be anyone coming into that room anytime tonight. A couple rooms down, there it was. An empty bed, and organized decorations.
“Thank you God”
The window slid open without a struggle. I crawled in and jumped on the bed with relief. I didn’t care to shower or change. I just shoved my face into the pillow and tried to pass out. However, suddenly I heard a knock on the door. My eyes burst open and stared at the blank wall since the bed was pushed against the corner of the room. There was that fear again. That ocean of anxiety consuming every muscle in my body.
Should I answer? Or should I hide, or leave?
I didn’t know what to do, but I had to decide quickly. I decided to leave and find another place to stay. I couldn’t get caught breaking the law again. I jumped out of the bed and hustled towards the window. But when I stepped out, the most horrifying event I’ve ever experienced occurred.
Huddling all around the grassy field behind the motel were dozens of people. All of them with their phones out, filming me out of horror. Each person’s face looked exactly the same. Terrified with beady eyes, and a slightly open frown. I stood there, in front of the window, silently. A couple seconds later, I moved slightly towards my right. The people in that direction took more than a few steps back, as if they were trying to protect themselves from something.
WHAT DO YOU GUYS WANT FROM ME?!
I screamed like it was my last breath. And again, this time sending chills down my spine, they said nothing. All these strangers just looked at me, horrified. I began to cry. Then suddenly, I got dizzy. My legs trembled and the ground pulled me back down, and all I could see was a blinding light. It was a ceiling. It was a ceiling.
The ceiling with cracks on the walls that look like nations on a map, and beneath me was a mattress so thin, I could feel the metal board beneath it. It took me a while to sit myself up. Today is June 7th, 2004, the day of my execution. The day I’ve been dreading for years. The day I never came to terms with. I decided to write this throughout the day, today. It’s for nobody specifically to read, but I felt like writing about a chance at the real world again. The regret that swarms my head every second is agonizing.
Finally, I will leave on this note. I’ve just finished my last tray of fries, and it’s time. I wish I had time to tell you what I did, but you can already assume. All I have left to say is that I hope I don’t go to hell, but instead, dream forever.