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Authors: Simon Janus

The Scrubs

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THE SCRUBS

 

 

By Simon Janus

 

 

 

This book is comprised of works of fiction.
 
All names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are factiously used.
 
Any semblance to actual persons, living or dead, real events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

© 2008 Simon Wood.
 
All rights reserved.

 

Cover art: Robert Pratten © 2010

 

 

About the Author:

 

Simon Janus is the horror identity for the award winning thriller writer, Simon Wood.
 
As Simon Wood, he’s the author of four thrillers and two short collections.
 
As Simon Janus, he’s the author of the acclaimed
Road Rash
and
The Scrubs
.
 
Learn more about both Simons at
www.simonwood.net

 

 

THE SCRUBS

 

James Jeter, the notorious serial killer with a sixth sense, holds court inside London’s Wormwood Scrubs Prison.  He’s the focus of the “North Wing Project.”  Under the influence of a hallucinogen, Jeter can create an alternative world known as “The Rift” containing the souls of his victims.  

Pardons are on offer to inmates who’ll enter The Rift.  Michael Keeler has nothing to lose and little to live for.  He’s sent into The Rift to learn the identity of Jeter’s last victim.  

It’s a mission where the guilty can be redeemed, but at a price…

 

 

Author’s Note

 

Wormwood Scrubs is the actual name of a functioning prison located in London, which is known affectionately as
The Scrubs
.
 
The Wormwood Scrubs described in this story is wholly fictional.

 

 

What They Are Saying About
The Scrubs
:

 


The Scrubs
is one merciless piece of work.”

— Gary A. Braunbeck, author of Coffin Country

 


The Scrubs
…it’s a journey to a
Twilight Zone
of our time.”

— Mort Castle, author of The Stranger

 

“Lean, mean fear machine -
The Scrubs
is gruesomely inventive entertainment.”

— Simon Clark, author of This Rage of echoes

 

“This is, simply put, an incredible novella.”

— Michael Arnzen, author of Bitchfight and Play Dead

 


The Scrubs
is a superb, fast-paced journey through the hell of incarceration…and way, way beyond.”

— Tim Lebbon, author of Dawn

 

 
“If you are looking for a quick read that is sure to leave you breathless until the final page is turned, you cannot do any better than
The Scrubs
.”

— Horrorworld

 

“This is a fascinating, disturbing journey.”

— Dark Discoveries Magazine

 

“A surreal horror trip.”

— Horror Fiction Review

 

 

 

Index

 

Chapter One:  
The North Wing

Chapter Two:  
Cady’s Cover

Chapter Three:  
The Rift

Chapter Four:  
The Rules Change

Chapter Five:  
The Boy

Chapter Six:  
Lefford and Allard

Chapter Seven:  
Failure

Chapter Eight:  
The North Wing II: Rebellion

Chapter Nine:  
Keeler’s Return

Excerpt from
Road Rash

Excerpt from
Dragged into Darkness

 

 

Chapter One

 

The North Wing

 

 

The steel mesh sang with the impact of their boots.
 
It was the only sound to be heard in the cellblock, other than the grumbles of disapproval trickling out from behind brick cell walls.
 
Keeler tried not to listen to his fellow inmates.
 
He knew what they thought of anyone volunteering for the North Wing project.
 
In most of their minds, he wasn’t much better than a squealer.
 
Bollocks to ‘em.
 
If it got him a pardon, what did he care?
 
He was buggered if he was going to rot in the Scrubs until he died.
 
Keeler stopped and waited for the first prison screw to descend the encaged spiral staircase before he followed.
 
The second screw followed Keeler.

The screws didn’t say anything to him.
 
Their opinions weren’t much different from those of the inmates.
 
It probably had a lot to do with them knowing as much about the North Wing project as general population.
 
Only a select few knew anything about what went on there.
 
Even as a volunteer, Keeler didn’t have a clue for what he’d signed on for, but in a few minutes, he would find out.

Fear gnawed at Keeler as he followed the Scrubs’ maze of neo-gothic corridors passing cellblock after cellblock.
 
His dread squirmed under his skin.
 
The sensation was so intense he snatched a glance at his arm, expecting to see fear manifesting itself as a parasite writhing under his flesh.
 
One of the screws noticed him flinch.

“What just crawled up your arse, Keeler?” Taylor asked with a smirk.
 
“You getting a little nervous or something?”

Keeler swallowed and shook his head.
 
He was lying, of course, and Taylor knew it.
 
The screw’s little knowing nod and the cruelness in his eyes let Keeler know he wasn’t fooling anyone.

“I wouldn’t worry too much, Keeler.
 
It’s not like you’ll be all alone.
 
You’ll have your playmates with you.”

“Very cozy,” Barker, the other screw, said.

Keeler said nothing.
 
Screws were nothing worth wasting your breath on—just a bunch of wankers who couldn’t make it in the real world.
 
What kind of man volunteered to spend his life in a prison?

“Give Jeter, Lefford and Allard our best,” Taylor said and laughed at his own joke.

Keeler sniffed.
 
He would hardly call Jeter, Lefford and Allard playmates.
 
They were all lifers like him, but that was their only bond.
 
Lefford and Allard he knew by sight.
 
Jeter, he’d never met, but his reputation preceded him.
 
He was a scary fuck, a sociopath that no one wanted to come within pissing distance of.
 
He’d been the project’s first volunteer.
 
Handpicked, according to some.
 
That had been six months ago and no one had heard anything from him since.
 
Lefford and Allard followed a couple of months later.
 
No one had heard from them either.
 
But what made Keeler’s balls wither on the vine were the screams from the North Wing that routinely shattered the night’s quiet.
 
Whatever the hell they were doing in there, he hoped to Christ they’d improved conditions for the volunteers.

They stopped at the modified entrance to the North Wing.
 
Taylor pressed the call button next to a pair of heavy-duty steel doors.
 
The doors had no visible lock or handles.
 
A closed circuit TV camera trained its gaze on Keeler.
 

“Wait there,” a voice barked from the intercom above the call button.
 

The wall and steel doors were part of the recent construction that isolated the North Wing from the rest of Wormwood Scrubs.
 
The clash of architecture between old and new wouldn’t have impressed any art critics.
 
Utilitarian dullness and neo-gothic weren’t a match made in architectural heaven.
 
The annexation had increased the prison’s overcrowding problems, which raised tensions between fellow inmates and between inmates and screws.
 
Petty squabbles turned into fights more often than they used to.
 
Overcrowding was an easy label to stick on the problem but it was more than that.
 
It was the North Wing itself.
 
Its secretive status unsettled everyone.
 
It was a part of the prison that inmates had no control over.
 
Whatever the screws liked to think, they didn’t run the show.
 
They had everything above the surface, but the inmates had everything else.
 
A lot of people would have paid good money to know what was taking place on the other side of the doors.
 
Keeler was about to find out and all it had cost him was a signature on a Home Office disclaimer.
 
But waiting for the doors to open, he wished he could take his ink back.
 
An electronic hum preceded the clunk of the locks snapping back into place.

“Not going to wish me luck, then?” Keeler asked.

Taylor sneered.
 
“You don’t deserve a pardon.
 
Not for what you did to that kid.”

“You sound jealous, Taylor.”

“Shut it, Keeler,” Barker said, sounding tired.

The doors slid back.
 
Two riot-clad armed guards filled the doorway of a dimly lit antechamber.
 
Taylor and Barker stiffened.
 
Keeler knew why.
 
These weren’t prison screws under the full-face helmets, that was for sure.
 
They were too lean.
 
Too prepared.
 
These guys were special—and had no place in the Scrubs.
 
It was impossible to tell their affiliation.
 
They reminded Keeler of paramilitaries from some banana republic.
 
What are these fuckers doing here?
Keeler thought.

“We’ll take him from here,” a muffled voice ordered from under a helmet.

The riot boys snatched Keeler from the screws and bundled him through the entrance.
 
Taylor and Barker tried to follow, but one of the riot guards snatched up his stubby assault rifle and aimed it at the prison officers.
 
Taylor and Barker froze.
 

“No unauthorized personnel,” he growled.

No further explanation was necessary.
 
The vicious little gun muzzle spoke volumes.
 
Taylor boiled, bringing a smirk to Keeler’s face.
 
As the doors slid shut, Keeler blew the screw a kiss.
 
His enjoyment of the moment ended there.
   
The guard with the itchy trigger finger turned his aim on Keeler, the other one grabbed a bicep and they shoved him to the center of the antechamber.
 

The antechamber was a checkpoint.
 
A glass-fronted observation room ran the length of one wall.
 
Another riot clad guard, minus the helmet, entered the observation room and noted Keeler’s arrival in a logbook.
 
The guard spoke into the microphone in front of him and with a sour note in his voice said, “Tag him.”

The trigger-happy guard re-aimed his weapon at Keeler’s face, while the other guard produced a polished steel identity bracelet and slipped it over Keeler’s wrist.
 
He squeezed it together until the bracelet closed tight against Keeler’s skin.
 
Keeler tried to loosen the bracelet, but it would take bolt cutters to remove it.
 
He examined the writing engraved on it.
 
NORTH WING was all it said.

“Just so they know where to bring you if you should get lost,” the guard said.

“Thanks,” Keeler replied without gratitude.

The guard in the bulletproof box buzzed them through.
 
“Welcome to hell,” he remarked without a hint of humor.

Keeler swallowed hard.

“This way,” the guard who’d searched Keeler ordered and shoved him through a second set of doors into the North Wing.
 
It was a hell of a lot different from when he’d last been in here.
 
The cells were gone, as were the upper floors.
 
There was nothing between the ground level and the prison rooftop except gun nests.
 
Teams of three well-armed guards occupied each nest, intent on claiming their prey—whatever that turned out to be.
   
Technology filled the void on the ground.
 
Various consoles, like some tin pot NASA mission control, littered the dimly lit area.
 
The critical ops seemed to be focused on the North Wall itself.
 
The concentration of machinery and manpower made it impossible to distinguish what was so important about a stone wall.
 

“What in God’s name is going on?” Keeler muttered under his breath.

“Shut it,” the guard growled and shoved Keeler towards the epicenter.

Lab coated technicians noticed Keeler and his chaperones approaching and parted to let them through, but the multitude clustered around what seemed to be a giant chair.
 
It had to be at least ten feet high.
 
The monstrosity was cumbersome in its construction and spewed a trail of cables and tubes connected to various computers and medical devices.
 
It was designed for a single man, but big enough for a god and fitted with steps on either side for mortals to climb.
 
The seat itself, dwarfed against the immensity of the structure, didn’t look comfortable.
 
Padding was scant and ergonomics non-existent.
 
Keeler’s only comfort was that the seat wasn’t for him, as Jeter was strapped into it already.

Keeler didn’t acknowledge his fellow lifer.
 
Shock prevented him.
 
The Jeter he and everyone else in general population feared wasn’t the Jeter before him now.
 
At the time of his arrest, Jeter had been a lean, handsome and debonair sociopath who could charm the birds from the trees and onto spikes.
 
That Jeter bore no relation to the wretch sitting in the chair now.
 
His wasted body barely held the rags hanging from his frame.
 
It took a moment for Keeler to realize the threadbare clothes were Jeter’s prison issue blues.
 
Jeter’s hands had mutated into claws.
 
His overgrown, talon-like fingernails clawed at the ends of the metal armrests.
 
Blood dripped from split quicks.
 
His whole body was one piece of knotted sinew.
   
During his trial, the newspapers had always commented on his piercing stare.
 
Keeler didn’t have to worry about that stare now.
 
Jeter’s eyes had been sewn shut.
 

Jeter’s body, like the chair, spewed cables and tubes like ectoplasm.
 
Sensors monitoring brain, heart and respiratory functions ran in messy tangles.
 
Catheters trailed from his groin area, discolored from use.
 
His mouth was muzzled and a food tube disappeared into his nose.
 

Keeler liked to think it was Jeter’s rank stench that was making him gag, but he knew it wasn’t.
 
He feared he was witnessing his future fate.

O’Keefe, the prison governor, stepped down from a console looking pleased with himself.
 
In tow was the deputy governor, Cady, O’Keefe’s second in command and lap dog.
 
Cady looked how Keeler felt.
 
Keeler guessed this was his first visit to the North Wing, too.

“I see you’re admiring the Throne,” O’Keefe said.
 

“The what?”

“That’s what we call it.”

“Fit for a king?”

“Not at all.”
 
O’Keefe smiled.
 
“Fit for a killer.”

“What happened to his eyes?” Keeler nodded at Jeter.

“He gouged them out,” O’Keefe replied like it was no big thing.
 
“You can see the scars where he clawed at his face.
 
The Throne takes some getting used to.
 
Don’t look so worried, Keeler.
 
The Throne is Jeter’s domain, not yours.”

Keeler tore his gaze away from Jeter’s scarred face to O’Keefe.
 
“What have I volunteered for?”
 

“You’ll soon see.”

“I think you owe me an explanation.”

“I don’t owe you a damned thing,” O’Keefe snapped.
 
His change from affable to angry startled everyone, attracting stunned glances from the technicians and Cady alike.
 

“Okay, I take it back.
 
I don’t want to be a volunteer anymore.”

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