Snap - A Novel

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In the daylight, it's just a dank, bottomless pit of nothing. Crumbling walls and the ghostly stench of decay and a rotten foulness that begs to seep into the tender flesh of the living. In the daylight, it isn't more frightening than a childhood story of Old Man Chambers' barn that lay in an open field, listing severely to one side, threatening to collapse at any moment. In that story were ghosts and invisible creatures that fed on the insides of unsuspecting children. We all believed those stories; we could swear we saw things moving inside.

Just like the stories of this place. The residents of long ago that still roam the corridors, moaning and wailing for release, hoping this day will be that moment. Those stories were all fun. Fun to tell and fun to hear. They were harmless. In the daylight, those stories couldn't hurt you. And from a distance they were just as safe.

But at night, when the sun sinks like a ship deep into the endless horizon, over the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania, when the lights twinkle from afar, washing the sky in a pale orange hue, when the silence burns the hardest through this place and the wind begins to talk, it can be a far different story altogether.

At night this place comes to life. The creatures that hide inside, the demons that refused to leave still call this place home and we are nothing more than intruders, vagrants to be disposed of. I was once the master of the night, and of places like this. I once had it all figured out; I used to know all the tricks of the trade. At night, I was a king and with all the technology at my fingertips, nothing could sneak up on me. Nothing could take over my life and rule me. Nothing frightened me.

I'd been here almost a dozen times before. I had studied it, breathed it, lived it. During the day and even through the darkest of nights. I heard the cries and the sounds that make nightfall seem so evil and terrifying. For all of them -almost all of them, anyway- there was always an explanation. And for those that had none, they were harmless.

I can't sit in the dark anymore. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can't even write, but I know I have to. That place took everything from me and still that statement feels far too selfish. The darkness now rules me with velvet softness, subtle, hidden, and remote.

I fear what I've become. I fear the night all day long. I fear the future, and the past. I fear life, but I fear death even more; I know what's out there. I know it doesn't end when we take our last breath.

More than anything, though, I fear that place.

Eastern State Penitentiary.

Cell Block 12.

God help me.

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