The Mouth at the Mound
by C.G. Aaron
The river was low the first time that I died. Not that there was any direct correlation between the deep muddy water and the cause of my initial demise. It’s just something you notice. Most folks drive by the river enough that they tend to ignore it, but I don’t. I try not to anyway.
That particular day sticks out in my mind. I guess that’s no big surprise given what would transpire. The Kanawha River hung low on the great pillars that shot up and out of it like thick elephant legs. Cars and trucks whizzed along on the bridge above, eight lanes of citizens minding their own business, trying to get somewhere on time. Just a year before, the Elk River had rushed toward the Kanawha quick and high, washing away great swaths of residential hillside, stranding folks without bridges to cross and without clean water to drink. Just a few years before that, a huge vat of poison was loosed into the river, a side effect of a greater entanglement, but that’s a different story for a different day.
This story isn’t a story about a river at all. In fact, the story of my first dance with the reaper actually revolves around a tall pile of cold dirt and rock. I awoke that day as I typically do. Stiff muscles barked displeasure at signs of morning movement. The bare steel floor of my cell was cold against my feet. The red light on top of the camera in the corner provided my only morning light, a singular burning ember in a windowless room.
“Lights!” I commanded, and was rewarded with a loud metallic CLANK followed by the cold wash of sterile fluorescent light. I stretched deeply and walked over to the corner of my cell. Looking up into the steady red ember of the camera’s electric eye, I shouted. “So, you going to let me out so we can start this lovely day, or am I just going to sit and shiver?” The metal door clicked and creaked slowly open on massive hinges.
“Follow the line!” barked the man’s voice on the intercom. A series of flashing red L.E.D. bulbs chased one another through the hall and into the darkness.
“Yeah, yeah. Just like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.” I muttered under my breath as I followed the blinking lights obediently.
I didn’t deserve this. According to 12 of my peers and the State of West Virginia I deserved it, but justice was far from the courthouse on that day. I was put away on trumped up charges and manufactured evidence. They knew what they were doing. They knew they needed me down here, and they were going to get me here no matter the cost. What’s a little injustice in the name of safety? I couldn’t blame them. It was a good fit, me and them, but I didn’t deserve it.
Thank the Lord I wasn’t serving my actual sentence. Twenty to life in a State penitentiary didn’t suit me. It likely don’t suit anybody. No. I was lucky in a way, if a framed man can be called lucky. My sentence was commuted and I was placed in the care of the State of West Virginia Department of Health and Well Being.
The West Virginia DHWB, as it is known, is a massive government bureaucracy. It’s an easy place to lose track of the exact whereabouts of certain convicts who might be of some greater service to the citizenry. So, there I was, housed in a secret facility located on an island in the middle of the Kanawha River, buried a mile below a surface covered in twisting chemical pipes.
I was a M.O.T.H. man.
Check out next month’s issues for the continued story!!