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By, Craig S. Kiessling
This piece is a short story that I wrote as a timed exercise of 45 minutes, beginning with one word, and that word of course was...
There it was - The Chair.
The Chair was big and The Chair was bad.
His spine cracked like someone snapping in rhythm as Rodney slowly straightened from the back-wrenching position he suffered every day as he scrubbed the shiny walls.
He dropped the sponge into the bucket and wiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm.
It was dark as hell in the hallway, but there was no mistaking The Chair.
Was it the dead echoes of past sinners going to meet their maker or was it The Chair's sheer power that first caught his attention? He was not sure, but one thing was certain: the big, hulking shadow on the other side of the thick glass was definitely The Chair.
"Hey, Slim! Don't look at that shit, man. Just scrub the damn walls, okay?" said the man standing guard by the doorway. Ever since Rodney broke Tanik's arm in the cafeteria just to get more mashed potatoes, he had been known as "Slim."
Rodney blinked, reality coming back to him and ran his fingers through his greasy black hair. "Uh, sorry, sir, but--well, you ever been in The Chair?"
"What the hell are you talking about, Slim?"
Rodney's ears prickled and seemed to pull back a bit as his eyes grew large with some hidden fury.
"Now listen, I ain't ever talk to nobody but you, man. An' now I'm askin' if you ever been in The Chair, Goddammit!"
The guard seemed to shrink in as though Rodney's voice were squeezing the very life from the stocky, uniformed man. He was silent, obviously trying to come up with an answer that would satisfy.
Just as he began to clear his throat and step forward, a yellowish flash of light blasted through the glass.
Rodney jumped back agains the wall, eyes widening, and gasped for air.
"Wh--wh--what the hell, man. Turn it off!"
"Oh, shit! I knew I never shoulda let you in this damned hallway. C'mon, Slim, you gotta get outta here. Now!"
Rodney did not immediately move. He could not move. There was now a blackness surrounding The Chair that was blacker than any darkness he had ever seen. And yet--
Rodney's head pivoted on his neck and he stared at the guard.
"What in the hell is going on, man?" Rodney's voice
shook with intensity.
"Okay, you stupid sonofabitch, you wanna know `bout it?" the guard said. "Go ahead, look at it, you dumb-ass."
Rodney wanted to turn his back to The Chair and look but was mortally afraid of what he'd see. Yet,
something in his gut urged him, pulled him to look.
There was an eery greyish glow now surrounding The Chair, and he could have sworn there was a little
girl sitting in there, holding something in her lap,
and--and--and she was smiling. Her eyes were glossy as she looked straight at him.
"Whatcha' gonna do now, Slim?" came a little squeaky voice from inside the room, almost penetrating Rodney's skull.
The keys jingled as the guard unlocked the door.
Rodney felt pulled again.
He plodded almost unconsciously across the room toward the open door.
He felt something pulling him towards the glowing chair, still holding the holographic image of the little girl.
Invisible hands wrestled his body. Rodney was strong, but he could not control a single muscle of his entire massive frame.
The smell of burning was strong.
Rodney couldn't see the guard in the dark, but he could feel his sadness.
A bright flash of yellow, then applause.
After the light, only a single image imprinted itself on Rodney's mind; rows and rows of people in the dark, and all eyes were on him.
His mind was a blank, save for this one image. He tried to think, of something--anything--but he could not.
The smell of buttered popcorn filled the theater and made him feel sick.
A soothing voice spoke inside his head.
"Remember, Slim. Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and, well, then it's just a sad movie."