Enter the Darkside

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Start your story with somebody taking a photo.... view prompt

14 comments

American Urban Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

      Orange County Jail deputy Dung Nguyen was lean, petulant, and, according to his more experienced fellow officers, “squint-eyed.” Only six months on the job, he had become notorious amongst his co-workers for his short-fused temper. 

           “Hey, Snoop, look at the camera,” Nguyen said to Tay Schwartz, in reference to the inmate's hair style. Tay's corn rows, however, were not as neatly groomed as the rapper's. 

           Schwartz’s left eye was blackened and lower lip split. He had been apprehended after attempting to shoplift boutique urban apparel at Fashion Island, a premier shopping destination in Newport Beach, California. The set of Graffiti-label white denim jeans and jacket he wore had been mangled by the officers arresting him.

           Intake at the jail didn’t remind Tay of anything he had ever seen on the satellite TV prison-drama series, Oz. When protagonists were introduced to the show, they walked directly into the common area of the fictitious high-security institution.  He watched the program with bong-hit cable-nerd devotion, and would have been bored had the forever process of jail intake been realistically depicted on his beloved syndicated series. 

           Rather than feeling intimidation resulting from stares that said, "I'm stabbing you as soon as I get the opportunity," or hearing exclamations that tested his nerve, Tay’s first incarceration experience lacked dramatic tension. Tay didn’t witness scenes of small talk about fresh arrivals’ chances of survival.  What intake at the jail definitely did was test his tolerance for bureaucratic procedure.

           Upon being called “Snoop” by Nguyen, Tay heard the inner voice of Darkside, his alter ego, speak. ‘Did that officer of the law make an attempt to incite me, by referring to you as a rapper with a mediocre style’ asked Darkside.  'Are you really going to comply and look into the camera, or are you going to smash your right fist into this Asian pig’s squinty left eye, then follow up with a solid, knock down jab to the chin?' 

           'Go for it,' whispered another, female, voice in Tay’s head.

           Before Tay could respond to either Darkside’s or the anonymous woman’s incitation to violence, he heard Nguyen bark, “Don’t make me tell you again, look up at the camera!” 

           Tay heeded the command and heard the female voice whisper the exclamation “punk bitch!” as the deputy took his picture.

           On Tay's favorite T.V. program, there were no nurses who took temperatures and vitals as soon as detainees arrived. No chronic health problem assessments or inquiries regarding protective custody concerns. No pat downs or squat and coughs. No photographing, and, most significantly, on Oz there was no waiting.  

           Before being summoned by Nguyen the squint-eyed, Tay had been sitting in a reception tank with a single sink and toilet unit, concrete floors and cinderblock walls painted a greyish hue. The fluorescent overhead lighting buzzed and the tank was kept cold by central air conditioning. Tay had waited in that cell for hours as it had slowly filled to twice maximum capacity.

           After Nguyen had finished putting Tay through the routine motions of new detainee photographing, he looked at Tay menacingly.

           Tay felt words of rage stick in his throat, and he succeeded in holding back the urge to utter them. Instead, he voluntarily coughed. Nguyen said, “Hold it, Phlegminem. Before you move on to classifications, pay attention. You aren’t in good hands with Allstate here, there’s no flowers you can pick for mommy at OC Jail. You're at the bottom of the food chain here, so don't get any big ideas.” He continued to scowl at Schwartz.

           'Do it,' said Darkside to the mind he desired to take possession of. 'What are you waiting for? Go hard. Knock his lights out. We got to act on big ideas to do big things. Don’t be chickenshit, muthafucka!'

Schwartz hesitated.

            'Deck that nigga! Do it for your poppa!' the daemon of his unconscious commanded.  At the thought of his father, Tay snapped, thinking he had nothing else to lose. 

           As he lunged at Dung Nguyen with a leaden right that connected with the left side of the deputy’s face, he heard the voice of the daemon shout 'that’s it, push it to the limit!' 

           The blow split the deputy’s brow. He staggered back, face bloody, and Tay followed up with a jab to the chin that knocked Dung ass-first to the ground. 

           Before Nguyen could get back up, a host of other deputies were upon Tay. He was an easy enough target for a dozen deputies, who proved their loyalty to their stricken fellow officer by demonstrating no sympathy for this fool who had transgressed against the most serious rule of inmate conduct.  

           One of the deputies who joined the fray after the others had beaten, immobilized and cuffed Tay, asked in exasperation, “Where do you get the balls, punk? One of our people? Are you out of your frickin’ mind?”

           Darkside implored, 'Do not tell them about me, young Tay. You are not crazy. You mustn’t give in. Keep doing the proper thing.'

           As if by an act of karma, Tay’s own left brow had been lacerated when the vengeful deputies sent him to the ground face first. The blood oozed from the gaping wound onto the rubberized floor tiles.          

           “What the fuck happened here,” asked a Lieutenant who arrived at the scene as the swarm of deputies squirmed over Tay’s prostrate body.

            “Siamese Nguyen was given a bloody eye, Lieutenant,” said one of the officers who was not busy restraining Tay. The wisecrack elicited chuckles from some the goon squad and a frown from deputy Dung. 

           “Hold ‘im down,” the red-faced Lieutenant said, sensing his deputies needed reinforcement to continue to twist Tay’s legs into uncomfortable positions and bend his manacled hands at the wrist in such a way that had Tay grunting in agony.

           As they tried to put Schwartz on his feet, he turned his head and spat at the deputy who was attempting to secure him by holding onto both Tay’s blood-stained shirt and his arm.    

           The deputies savagely threw Tay to the floor again. 

           “Faggot pigs!” said Tay, after he hit the ground a second time, the impact taking most of his breath.  

           A spit mask was placed over Schwartz’s head and face, and medical staff brought a wheelchair to the location of the ongoing fracas. As he was rolled toward a psychiatric crisis room, Tay twisted and repeatedly lunged forward in the wheelchair, prompting more hostile reactions from the officers who thwarted the convict’s feeble attempts to kick and headbutt them.

           After he was dropped onto a filthy foam mattress in the padded crisis room, deputies roughly pulled off his pricey sneakers, then his socks, and a nurse cut away his designer clothing and underwear.

            “I will fry your ass if you keep moving,” said the hulking deputy on Schwartz's back. The other deputies as well as the nurse had left the padded cell.

           'Tighten your asshole, and you won’t feel the shock, soldier Tay,' said Darkside.

           Tay continued to struggle and the jail cop fired his taser into Tay's back.

            When darkness enters the souls of misguided young men, unfortunate events are bound to happen. 

           Tay’s heart stopped as the deputy continued to send an electrical surge into the young man’s body, even after he had ceased to breathe. 

           The next morning an article entitled “County Jail Code Blue” appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. It stated, “Taylor Schwartz, aged 26, was taken to College Hospital by paramedics who responded to a report of cardiopulmonary failure at Orange County Jail. A jail psychiatrist stated that the young man exhibited behavior consistent with schizoaffective disorder. An evaluation of Schwartz’s mental condition is pending.”

May 06, 2022 06:20

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14 comments

00:48 May 12, 2022

What a mashup! Gritty urban drama + police procedural + psychological thriller + comedy. Add the theme of jails-aren't-mental-health-facilities underpinnings, and you have a rich satire at its core. Whatever it is, I need more of this -- I think you found your tribe for a novel. From the plucky Vietnamese deputy to Tay's fractured personalities ("Darkside" is a great name), you have an embarrassment of riches of rich, nuanced characterization. I need Tay back alive -- there are infinite more stories he needs to tell. Brilliant line: "bong...

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Mike Panasitti
01:05 May 12, 2022

Thanks for the book. At times I feel richly embarrassed with the characterization in this series of two (so far). Although there's humor here, I'm not certain that the aura I want to create is satirical. However, I'll keep the option open since you have labeled it as such.

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01:19 May 12, 2022

Satire = goal to improve society by pointing out its flaws Yep.

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Mike Panasitti
02:50 May 12, 2022

Thank you for clarifying. My dictionary might be dated. Yep again.

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Graham Kinross
02:21 May 26, 2022

This reminded me of Moon Knight or Fight Club. The split personalities also made me think of Legion, the X-men inspired show. The Darkness in this reminds me of Chaos from the 40k universe that corrupts people and is born from peoples worst thoughts.

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Mike Panasitti
03:12 May 26, 2022

I am familiar with some of the references. Fight Club is a little before Tay Schwartz's time, but it was a movie that led me to glamorize violence during a dark period in my life. Thanks for the comment. I'll look up Legion and Chaos. They might play a role in Schwartz's immoral universe. If they do, I'll be sure to give a shout out to Graham Kinross.

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Graham Kinross
03:20 May 26, 2022

Thanks. Chaos is a force in the Horus Heresy books about the Warhammer universe.

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01:34 May 12, 2022

This is really easy to read and very vivid. One of your best stories! All the small details and the slang made it work really well. Just like so much what we read about in the news, it shows how a young kid being angry one day could lead to him receiving a death sentence without a trial and its all just part of the system. If you expand this into a full book someday, I think you could add a character with a goal, a guard or psychologist trying to help inmates or maybe someone watching it all and suffering as a result, a family member or a ...

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Mike Panasitti
02:48 May 12, 2022

Does a compassionate public defender who is genuinely concerned seem like a suitable additional character? Thanks for the book and suggestions.

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03:07 May 12, 2022

Agree, a public defender would be even better, contrast of different background and stuff to make a lot of conflict... thinking about it all reminds me of 'the wire'. Short stories seem really different than novels though, and Enter the Darkside is a perfect glimpse into the life of another person for a day.

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Sharon Hancock
01:29 May 10, 2022

I thought this was going to be funny at first, or about super powers, but you surprised me and it ended up being extremely sad and unsettling. I’ve heard people say they didn’t get treated properly for mental illness until they went to prison…this poor guy in the story didn’t make it that long. I feel the racial tensions and the cop vs street folk tensions in your story and wish there was a solution to all that in the real world. Great job! 😻

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Mike Panasitti
02:13 May 10, 2022

Sharon, thank you as always for your comments. I apologize you found it unsettling. Fret not...the protagonist survives! And from personal experience, I can say that mental health treatment in prison is really inadequate. This story will be continued...

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Sharon Hancock
18:54 May 10, 2022

No need to apologize…unsettling felt appropriate for the situation, although I do tend to sympathize with the underdog. Looking forward to reading more!

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Mike Panasitti
06:31 May 06, 2022

This is the second submission in a series about existential issues facing urban youth. The first story in the series is entitled "Stick."

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