Tweet Teva scraped another line into the tally on her wall. One thousand, one hundred and seventy four scratches marked the small patch of soft chalk in the granite wall. She rocked back onto her heels. The guard would come in ten minutes time.
She hauled herself onto the hard mattress in the corner. A rusted spring squealed in protest. She stretched out on her back. She let her feet hang over the end. A spider scuttled around in the corner. Teva watched it renovate its web.
The battered door swung open. A grizzled man in a dark grey uniform stood in the doorway. He held a carbine rifle across his chest. Flinty eyes glared out from below the peak of his cap.
“I know,” said Teva. She swung her legs off the bed and stood up.
“I knew you’d know,” said the guard. “You know too much, that’s your problem.”
Teva knew the way to the grey room but she allowed the guard to lead the way. She followed him down identical grey corridors, her footsteps falling on cracked grey tiles. She wondered what might happen if she rushed the guard. She could try to steal the rifle. She knew she would not. She knew the guard expected that.
A door blocked the end of the corridor. The guard inserted a heavy key into the lock. The door slid to one side.
“Go on then, they’re expecting you,” said the guard. He gestured for Teva to go inside.
“I know they are,” replied Teva. She twisted her face at the guard, a final childish gesture. He gazed at her with disinterest.
Four people sat in the grey room. Men in smart suits occupied three of the four empty chairs on one side of a walnut desk. They all wore black armbands over their jacket sleeves. A man with a shaven head sat on a low stool opposite. A tattoo of a squid clung to his bald skull. Heavy manacles bound his wrists and ankles. He stared at a spot of dirt on the grey floor in front of him.
“Ah, Teva! There you are. Have a seat,” said one of the suited men.
“Now you’re here, we can get started,” said another.
Teva slid into the vacant seat. The three men turned to face the prisoner.
“You have been charged with attempted robbery, attempted murder, actual bodily harm and grand theft auto. You have also applied for parole,” said the third man.
“We’d love to grant you parole, really, we would. But we can’t do that unless we know you’re not going to be a danger to yourself, or others. It would be incredibly irresponsible of us not to make certain, and we don’t like being irresponsible,” said the second man.
“This is where young Teva here comes in. She is going to tell us if you will break your parole. Your freedom depends on her. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” asked the first man.
The prisoner nodded.
“Well then. Teva, it’s over to you.”
Teva looked at the man. She half-closed her eyes, and let her vision drift out of focus. She let her mind break loose of its moorings, and she drifted towards the prisoner. He squirmed when she ran her insubstantial hands over his head. She stroked the stubble. He whined.
Teva remembered herself, and walked her fingers around to his forehead. She brushed the skin above his eyebrows. She saw the world as he saw it. She saw the grey floor, and the walnut desk, through his eyes. She stuck out her astral tongue and flicked it through his aura. He tasted lonely. She detected an aftertaste of remorse and grief.
She opened her eyes, back in her own body. The prisoner looked at her. Sorrow filled his blue eyes. She turned to the three men in suits. They looked at her in expectation. She nodded once. The first man broke into a grin.
“Well, young Sid! This is your lucky day! Teva here doesn’t think you’re going to break your parole, so it is with a great deal of satisfaction that I can call you a free man!”
Another guard stepped into the room and unlocked the manacles. The men in suits burst into a round of applause. Sid looked at them. He hesitated.
“Go on, son! Get out of here before we change our minds!” said the second suited man.
The guard led Sid out of the grey room. Teva heard him sob. Freedom sometimes did that to people.
The suited men stopped laughing. They turned in unison and glared at her. One of the men snapped his fingers and the grizzled guard with the rifle walked into the room.
“Take the lovely Teva back to her room. We don’t want our prize asset wandering around, now, do we?”
The guard grabbed Teva’s arm and hauled her out of her seat. He marched her into the corridor. She glanced out of the window and saw Sid walk out into the yard. The guard would take him across the yard to the other side of the prison where he would be processed and released. For now, Sid simply tipped back his head to the sky. Sunlight caressed his face.
Teva turned her face to the shadows in the corridor. She ducked into her small cell and lay down on the mattress. The spider still scampered about in its web. Teva envied its freedom to create. She sighed. She still had one gift for mankind.
She would remain imprisoned so that others might go free.