A young man turns eighteen and takes on the world.
“I'm not standing here right now,” said Marcus Harvey. “I'm in my house in Swizerland. Far, far away. Nobody can stop me now.”
It was 4:00 am in the morning. Time for breakfast. Marcus Harvey put on his clothes, brushed his teeth, and got dressed for breakfast. The smell of eggs and oranges filled the air of his home as he prepared for this momentous day.
“Graduation,” said Marcus. “Graduation. That's all I need. A new lease on life. I'm gonna move out, get me a fly ride, and then, sooner or later, I'll be playing with the big boys. Damned if life isn't good!”
Just then, the alarm sounded. There was a kingdom awaiting for him as the metal door slid open. The other inmates at Harrington State Juvenile Penitentiary in Harrington Massachusetts filed into the line.
“You know the drill,” said Harry, the floor manager. “You get one plate. If you don't eat now, you don't eat. If you're not sitting in your seat in ten minutes, you don't eat. No exceptions!”
Marcus Harvey was full of joy and a little apprehension, because he was finally turning 18. Finally, after all these years behind bars, he was becoming a man. Something had gone incredibly well for him. He didn't know what, but his life was changing. Other inmates didn't push his buttons like they used to. Or maybe he'd just gotten used to it.
“Ready for your new life?” said Brian, Marcus's buddy for all these years. “Are you ready to get out there and see what you can do?”
“Yeah, man,” said Marcus. “Everything's going right my way. I'm gonna make this world scream my name.”
“Make it scream my name too, while you're at it,” said Brian.
“Will you go to Time Square?” said Thomas, the biggest guy on the block. “Will you go to New York and see Times Square?”
“Maybe,” said Marcus.
“Will you marry a supermodel and drive a Ferrari?”
“No,” said Marcus. “Lamborghinis got better top speed anyway.”
“Oh, cool, bro,” said Thomas. “I'll never get out of here.”
“You've go two years,” said Marcus, tears welling up in his eyes as they were walking toward breakfast. “You've only got two years. Don't lose them. Don't miss out.”
“I won't partner,” said Thomas.
The inmates stood in a long line at chow hall and grabbed their plate. With a little cookie that tasted like plastic, they sat down and got ready to eat. There were no fights or arguments today. Today was Marcus's big day. Everyone sat quietly and tried to get to the next sequence of events which was waiting just around the corner.
Marcus quickly picked a seat, towards the windows, and sat down to eat. The food was fragrant, nutritious, and everything that a man needed to grow. These four walls sheltered him from the wind the rain, the snow, and the storms; the floods, the groans, the deaths, and the loans. Marcus couldn't possibly have been more thankful for what he had amassed these past four-and-a-half years.
“It's not fair,” said Brian, tears flowing in his eyes. “It's not fair! Why do you get to go, and not me?”
“Hey, I don't make the rules,” said Marcus. “Besides, we're black men.”
“So?” said Thomas. “What's that got to do with anything?”
“Don't you read, man?” said Marcus. “Listen up, because I'm about to drop some knowledge on you. Something you have never heard before.”
“Yes?” said Brian.
“Black men survive longer in prison...than on the outside,” said Marcus.
“What's that supposed to mean?” said Brian. “That we're-”
“That we're gonna make it,” said Marcus. “We'll make it, and then we'll look back at this and laugh. 93 years old. If you can't do something great, you know. We're gonna make it, and that's the end of it.”
“And you family?” said Thomas.
“I'm better off,” said Marcus. “I can't say the same about them.”
“Marcus Harvey!,” said an older guard with a big hat. “My office, five minutes.”
“That's my ride,” said Marcus. “Don't forget. What you're doing in here is living. They, on the outside, are the ones dying.”
“Okay,” said Thomas. “You enjoy yourself. Don't do anything.”
“I won't,” said Marcus as he walked towards the main office. “Don't worry.”
An air of accomplishment surrounded Marcus as he headed towards the main office. Sheryll, the locker guard, handed him a bag with all of his possessions in it: a copy of Pokemon X/Y, a Tupac CD, A portable MP3 player, the socks he came in with, Jay Z's biography, and his old house key.
“Where you going?” said Sheryll. “Not far, I hope.”
“I'm going wherever I want,” said Marcus. “From now on, It's wherever I want, in no time flat.”
Officer Kennet's office was sterile and stifling, sort of like a school teacher's office. It was inviting for a kid who had spent so many years in public schools in southern Massachusetts.
“Marcus Harvey?” said Officer Kennet. “Have a seat.”
Marcus sat down in the functional, but only marginally comfortable chair in front of Officer Kennet's desk. His body had adjusted to the stiffness. He had made his life here, and now, life was only beginning.
“Marcus Harvey,” said Officer Kennet. “Birthdate: 4, 29, 2001; social security number: 555-55-5555”
“Yeah, that's me,” said Marcus.
“You were tried for murder at age thirteen-and-a-half,” said Officer Kennet.
“For which you received life without the possibility of parole,” said Officer Kennet.
“You were ordered to spend the first few years of your sentence in juvenile hall, and then, upon your eighteenth birthday, you were to transfer to Dark Horse and serve out your life sentence,” said Officer Kennet.
“Yeah, that's me,” said Marcus.
“You have graduated from this portion of your sentence,” said Officer Kennet. “You are now to get aboard the white limousine and you are to transfer straight to Dark Horse. In spite of popular rumor, life in prison is not a joke. There is 'one week vacation' between sentences. You do not get to go on sabbatical, meet the president, meet NFL cheerleaders and anything else. You... are to report directly to Federal Prison and serve out your sentence immediately.”
“Can I go back to school for graduation, then?” said Marcus.
“As soon as I'm finished speaking,” said Officer Kennet. “I am now finished speaking.”
“Great,” said Marcus. “And thank you for your time.”
Marcus then got up and strode out of Officer Kennet's office. He made a bee line for the prison classroom. This being his eighteenth birthday and last day on the ward, he had officially graduated from high school.
“And here he is,” said Professor Sharpe. “The Golden Boy! How you doing champ?”
“Thank you, thank you,” said Marcus ever-so-gracefully. “I thank you so much for your help. I mean it. Everyone here helped me so much. I'm so happy that I was able to be here. Thank you; everybody.”
“Thank you, Marcus,” said the class.
Marcus had done it. So many kids he knew hadn't made it this far, but he had. High School graduation. It was a time of imminent relief: for parents, students, teachers, society at large. Everyone wanted to touch that brass ring, wanted to be there. Everyone wanted to walk across that stage, say goodbye to the old them, and be introduced to the new, brighter self. Not everyone was as lucky as Marcus was that day.
“Hey, Teach – Mr. Sharpe – what was my GPA?” said Marcus.
“You did good,” said Mr. Sharpe. “Really, really good.”
“Is that a 4.0?” said Marcus. “4.0 good?”
“Close,” said Mr. Sharpe.
“Okay, everyone,” said Marcus. “I'm out of here. Remember. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Pay the price, and you'll be free. Just like me.”
With that, Marcus Harvey left Harrington State in the “white limo,” on his way to Dark Horse. Most of the other “graduates” with him were around eighteen or nineteen as well. They had a few “trustees” as well.
It was shaping up to be a fine day. The sky had cleared up, and everyone was calm, just enjoying their only ride in a while.
“Thy sky, the sky,” said Marcus. “It's so beautiful.”
“Don't look at it,” said one of the trustees. “You'll miss it; you'll be crying for weeks.”
“What's there to miss?” said Marcus. “It'll always be there.”
“It will be there,” said the trustee. “But you won't.”
They arrived at Dark Horse, another term for Massachusetts State Correctional Facility, and disembarked and handcuffs and leg irons. They took roll, and then waddled. Marcus nodded and said hello to each guard he passed on the way in.
“Hello,” said Marcus. “Nice tie. Beautiful out, isn't it?”
A few of the guards nodded back.
As soon as Marcus got in, he was searched, given his new uniform, and told where to sit in the waiting room.
“What's this guy like?' said Marcus, to the man sitting across the room. “Is he mean?”
“He's real nice,” said the man. “You'll get to know him. And everybody else here. You'll see. What's your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Dietrick.”
“Are you new the new guy?” said a man standing in the doorway.
“Are you Captain Fisbeen?” said Marcus. “Are you in charge here?”
“Yes, I am,” said Captain Fisbeen. “And you must be...”
“Well, Marcus,” said Captain Fisbeen. “In my office.”
Captain' Fisbeen's office was neat, clean and warm. The floor had just been waxed, the file cabinets dusted. There was a Mac Pro in the corner, along with all of the trappings of a professional office. It didn't take a lot to be impressed, in this line of work.
“I am Captain Fisbeen. I am the governor of Dark Horse.”
“It looks to be as big as a state. It's got enough people.”
“Some would argue...that is, to say, some would argue that we have to few.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Well,” said Captain Fisbeen. “You will be placed in Block D with the other murderers. Under no circumstances are you to interact with the general population. If you're caught fraternizing, you go to the hole.”
“If you kill anybody, you catch a case.”
“If you miss a meal without permission, you go to the hole.
“If you don't wash your clothes, or if you don't eat, we will put you on tranquilizers, then you go to the hole.”
“If you try to get into the hole without permission...”
“You have to set me free?”
“No, you go to the hole.”
“Okay,” said Marcus. “I think I've got it.”
“Oh, and one more thing,” said Captain Fisbeen. “Your family is not going to be visiting you. I doubt that you could afford a lawyer. The people here are not your friends. You have been duly tried and convicted and you will serve out the rest of your god-given natural life in this facility, come hell or high water. We're counting on you.”
“I thank you for your vote of confidence,” said Marcus, as he stood up and grabbed his clear, plastic bag. “Can I head on over now?”
“You may,” said Captain Fisbeen.
With that, Marcus Harvey made his way to Block D, with the other murderers. Murderer's Row, it was called. Nobody left here alive. The lowest of the low. The best of the best. They made their lives in the shadows of the penitentiary. they massed an army. An army of men who, for one reason or another, could not make it on the outside. Some were set up. Some tried, beyond trying, to set someone else up. And it all fell through.
This was Marcus's first day, and he was already starting to have doubts. How did one actually...survive with a life sentence? Did life on the inside count? Was it only real living if you got your moment on social media, or in Hollywood?