“Hey! Help! Get me out of here!” Raphaël shouted, pounding the door with all his might. He felt Thomas's weight right behind, pushing against the door and cackling like a madman. Farther away, he heard the other two panicking, shouting at him to stop and asking what had gotten into him. Gradually, the screams became more distant, more muffled. The door, which had been slightly ajar, barely opening one or two millimeters when he hit it, now seemed to fuse to the frame, and all he could hear was the cold echo of his palms against the steel.

“Where are you? Let me out!” he cried, but complete silence was his only answer.

“Damn, damn, damn,” he thought frantically, “what the hell is this?”

He found himself in total darkness, as if isolated from the rest of the world. His five-sided concrete coffin, marked with scratches, left him little room to move. He continued to push the door, but it seemed to weigh a ton. To knock on it, but no one answered. To shout, but even his echo now seemed swallowed by the darkness. He tried to catch his breath and calm down: at the moment, he didn't care about making a spectacle of himself, being seen as a coward, but he felt that if he gave in to panic, it would seize him like a monster and he would start screaming to death.

“Calm down... Don't panic...” he thought, but already, crazy ideas were crowding his mind: “He's here, in this room with me, watching me!” He couldn't help but think about Mitch, what he had screamed just before dying, and a parasitic thought told him the same thing was going to happen to him.

“He just has to reach out to me, breathe his death breath on my neck, and I'll go mad in here, I swear,” he told himself. He forced himself to control his breathing, close his eyes, and think of nothing, but the poison of panic was spreading in his skull, urging him to scream, throw himself against the walls, scratch, scratch with his nails until they bled, until he lost them in this coffin.

“If I turn around, I'll see him, he really exists and he's right behind me, we are two in this small room I'm sure of it I know it,” whispered his inner voice; but he forced himself to focus, close his eyelids until it hurt. While he silently prayed in the dark, he didn't see the two round eyes watching him from the corner of the room. Pupils of a washed-out blue. A gaze that enveloped him like two clawed hands. The thing didn't move, just lurking in the shadows, watching.

“Don't panic don't panic don't panic don't look behind you don't look behind you,” Raphaël recited aloud like an ancient mantra. The two eyes began to slowly approach him, and that's when the door opened.

He fell forward and sprawled on the ground in front of three pairs of sneakers. The light almost blinded him, and the teenagers' screams buzzed in his ears. He got up as best he could, still trembling. Michelin was still clinging to Thomas's arm while Emilie was yelling at him:

“Damn, you can be such an idiot sometimes! You have to stop that shit, it really makes you stupid!”

He, however, was still laughing.

“You're the only one who finds it funny,” she continued, “you really deserve a kick in the balls!”

“I'll be happy to deliver it,” Michelin replied.

“Are you okay?” she asked, turning to Raphaël, looking embarrassed.

“Yeah, more or less...”

“Oh yes, it was just a little joke, nothing serious!” Thomas cut in.

“Shut up, I'm sick of you!” Emilie complained.

He now had red, bulging eyes and was fidgeting all over. He freed himself from Michelin's grip, much heavier than him, and said cheerfully:

“It was just for fun, there's nothing in that room! Can't we joke anymore!”

He took his backpack off his shoulders, opened it, and rummaged inside:

“And even if there was a monster in this damn prison, let it try to mess with me! I'll welcome it with this!”

He pulled his hand out and triumphantly brandished a pistol. Emilie shrieked in horror at the sight of the weapon, but Michelin said nothing: he must have known. The pistol looked heavy, real, and deadly. Thomas pointed it erratically as if it were a simple water gun. The magazine protruded from the steel handle by a good ten centimeters, and a small mechanical plate extended from beneath the hammer.

“Look at this jewel, boss!” he exclaimed, now pointing it at Raphaël. “This little beauty has been modified, it's got an automatic conversion thingy!”

He pointed with a trembling finger at the small metal plate. “With my extended magazine of forty rounds, I just have to keep my finger on the trigger and this firecracker will act like a damn machine gun! I bet it empties completely in less than two seconds!”

Raphaël stood agape, horrified: where had these kids gotten an illegal weapon, and applied an even more illegal modification? Thomas was now peering into the barrel, trying to see God-knows-what.

“Be careful with that, man,” Michelin said warily. “You should put it away...”


“Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down Mimile,” he retorted, now pointing the gun at her nonchalantly as if he were simply pointing a finger, but it immediately silenced her. “You're blowing my ears out, you're not funny! I'm just saying you can't be safer than with me! Even if there are ghosts, monsters, or a damn wild bear, I've got everything we need! So relax!”

He put his weapon in his bag, to Raphaël's great relief.

“Look, I'll go too if you want, we're here to have fun!”

Before anyone could react, he threw himself into the isolation cell and pulled the door shut behind him: it slammed with a supernatural force that made the whole group jump.

“See, everything's fine!” his muffled voice said from the other side of the steel door. “But damn, you shouldn't be too tall here! I almost touch the ceiling! Hey, Nono...”

They heard him chuckling, unable to continue his joke:

“Nono... Seriously... If we had wanted to lock you in solitary...”

His sentence was cut off by laughter.

“... I think the door wouldn't have closed! Damn my man, you'd just fit in there!”

Arnaud said nothing, just frowned and clenched his fists. They heard Thomas try to push the door from the inside, but it didn't budge. Then dull thuds followed.

“Ha-ha-ha... Really funny guys, I can't believe such a good joke...”

He threw himself against the steel plate, but even though Raphaël, Emilie, and Arnaud were only a meter away, all three stunned, it didn't open.

“Okay, okay, the joke was lame and not funny, I'm sorry. Now don't be kids and open this damn door!”

He delivered a half-dozen powerful, muffled blows to the middle of the door, as if using his head. Emilie was the first to snap out of it:

“You, stop being a kid!”

And she threw herself at the door trying to open it; still firmly anchored.

“Come on, guys...” he sighed. Then: “DAMN, WHAT IS THIS THING??”


“Thomas??” Emilie called, pulling harder on the door. “What the hell, open this damn door!”

Arnaud joined her and pulled with her, but the two teens couldn't even budge it an inch. Inside, Thomas had fallen silent. No sound came out of the isolation cell.

Raphaël stepped back from this scene: he only wanted to leave them behind and get out of here. First a drugged-up thug, and now a weapon... No matter what, he was never setting foot in this town, or even the whole region again. But he should take Jordane and leave right now...

Without warning, the door gave way and the two young people were thrown to the ground. Thomas was sitting in the cell, looking dazed.

“Uh?” he said simply before slowly getting up. He ran his hand through his curly hair to dust it off, but still looked calm and dazed, his eyes bloodshot. The other two got up, but instead of scolding him, Raphaël noticed they were wary of him, as if waiting to gauge his state. He took this lull to try to excuse himself politely:

“Okay, I've seen what I needed to, but I have an appointment and need to go. If you want to stay longer, I can leave you here...”

“What are you talking about, man,” Thomas said calmly.

“He's right,” Emilie whispered cautiously, now clearly frightened. “We should all go, I told my mom I wouldn't be late.”

“But,” he protested, “we haven't finished the story! We haven't even started the story of the riot!”

“We can always read it in town, at the café,” she almost pleaded.

“No, that's too lame! Since we're already here, let's make the most of it! Boss, go on, tell the rest!”

“Listen,” Raphaël replied, as if walking on eggshells, “I need to go. We'll finish another time.”

He was suddenly completely uninterested in the notebook, and this whole damn prison. The discomfort had already set in, but he saw Emilie growing more and more horrified looking at Thomas, as if she understood something very serious. It was high time to get away from this madman. But just then, he reached into his bag again, and a second later he had Raphaël in his sights.

“Give. Me. The. Notebook. I want to hear the rest, even if I have to read it myself.”

Then, with a nod towards Emilie:

“And when I'm done with this story, it's your turn Mimile. You're going to tell me everything you spilled to the cops, especially about that weapon. They don't like snitches in this damn notebook either...”


Raphaël, Emilie, and Arnaud followed Thomas through the corridors of block A, their hearts filled with fear and minds overheating. Raphaël tried to analyze the situation with the little information he had: they had met Emilie at the police station, where she had evidently been interrogated. Given her reaction to seeing the weapon, and what Thomas had said about snitches, that must have been the focus of the interrogation. Had Thomas already used it? He couldn't answer that question, but he knew this young man was dangerous: drugs, and a firearm. He had seen too much of the effects and misdeeds that come with substance abuse, but this was the first time he saw someone wave a pistol under his nose, and it made him extremely nervous. Of course, he could try to run away; but he didn't know if Thomas would shoot and he didn't want to test that to find out.

The others didn't seem eager to take initiative, and they clearly knew him well: so it seemed wiser to imitate them and cater to his whims. He seemed pretty stoned, maybe he would settle down at some point, or let them leave, and they could make it back to the car to escape to the city. There, the police would have no choice but to take them seriously.

“That looks like the exit,” Thomas said ahead of them, pointing to a series of wide-open gates.

Raphaël had given the notebook of Eustass to Thomas without any trouble, and he had said that since the riot started in block D, they would all go there first before continuing the reading. Emilie was pale, Arnaud's lips were so tightly pressed they had almost turned white, but they continued to follow him without protest. Raphaël wondered what Emilie had told the police, and how far Thomas would go upon learning it. He concluded that all three of them could very well die here.

Block D, housing the most dangerous inmates, was also a large complex of gray concrete; but the grilles on the front of the cells had been replaced with heavy steel doors like the isolation cell. The guard stations were more numerous, several having been torched. The isolation grids of zones were closer and bigger, though also all open. The few brown stains on the ground left no doubt about their origin: there were handprints and dragging marks. In their center, the ground was still gouged by the impacts of sharp objects.

“Even if the carnage took place in all the blocks of the prison,” Thomas announced in a powerful voice as if addressing the entire building, “it was here that it had its genesis. I feel like a pilgrim finally arriving at the holy land, at the cradle of his beliefs. Do you feel that? Do you feel this energy that haunts the place?”

He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a handful of pills which he stuffed into his mouth like Skittles. No one said anything, perhaps everyone hoped he would drop dead from a heart attack and that would be the end of this awful day.

“Even the silence has a particular flavor here. As if the walls whispered their story to those willing to listen. We are in a place that was baptized by blood that night, and it has retained all its splendor. It should be a place of worship, no doubt.”

“That's it, he's completely lost it,” Raphaël thought.

“Alright, let's continue our story. Some might say that I'm reading the Bible of this blessed place to you...”

He produced a light laugh as he said these words. Then, in an almost ceremonial voice:

“When I arrived in my new cell in block C, the news had already spread. Not bad, for a block that was supposed to be protected and isolated from the others. Even here, the fury was beginning to rise. The inmates, all nobodies who had committed the worst categories of crimes, were beginning to ask questions: snitches were everywhere, everyone was under surveillance and could get caught at any moment. And the guards could now murder an inmate without any embarrassment or consequence: how far would it escalate? Here too, people were tired of looking over their shoulder, of being mistreated by the staff, and living in unsanitary conditions.

I was trembling: I knew it was only a matter of time before they discovered I had snitched. I bitterly regretted my decision and hated myself for being so weak. I should have taken courage and endured the suffering, as long as I respected the only thing we had left here: the code of honor. Now, I didn't even have that, and it seemed that whatever path I took to try to escape my misery, I would inevitably end up in the same place.

The day passed, and everyone was talking about Mitch's incident. Here, the atmosphere was still much less tense; but in the meantime, the pressure was rising even more in block D. The inmates were outraged at having lost their only source of liquid escape, their ray of sunshine in a flask. They blamed the guards for confiscating the alcohol, they also wanted revenge on the guy who had snitched. But above all, there was Mitch's death. Prison life was already complicated enough, but when the new wave of uneducated brutes showed up to replace the good guards and keep an eye out for less money, things got worse. There, too, the uniform was king. You had to pay under the table for everything (it becomes complicated to find money for someone who rots here for several decades), keep your eyes down and your tail between your legs to not get beaten or end up in solitary, and always show your teeth to not become the new victim of the block. Fighting other prisoners was one thing: it had become more and more frequent for fights to break out due to a lack of resources, boredom, or paranoia. Plus, with the recent overcrowding, everyone was stepping on each other's toes. But now, the guards were sending a message: anyone who defied their authority would be liquidated on the spot. It was the last affront to their human rights that overflowed the vase.

Like a Faraday cage, the echoes of discontent, violence, revenge, resonated throughout the block, feeding again and again. That day, the altercations between prisoners multiplied by the hour, several ending up in the infirmary. The guards were starting to get scared, the electric air sending shocks at every sideways glance cast on them, so they easily used their batons to separate the troublemakers, further fueling the beast that would be born at nightfall. Then, in the evening after dinner, a small group of inmates from block D decided it was time to act: the dark clouds were saturated, now the lightning would strike. The administration had pushed them to the edge, them the forgotten of society, so they were going to remind the whole world that they existed. And when everyone was listening attentively, they would lay down their terms.

The plan was simple: take control of a zone, capture the staff there, use them to move to the next zone freeing as many people as possible, and continue until they had the entire block. Then move to block A. Then B. Then, they would all go together to block C to settle their scores with all those damn snitches: besides, the night Mitch got caught, people saw an inmate hanging out with a guard. The next day, that inmate was transferred to C. Coincidence? No, they knew who had snitched. That night, they were finally going to unleash all the rage they had accumulated since their arrival here. The pressure cooker was finally going to explode, and it was going to dirty the walls, for sure.

The implementation was even simpler: the city couldn't defund the concrete walls and the steel security grids, but it had done enough damage in terms of personnel. There was a weak point in the system: the infirmary. In addition to the medical staff, it was guarded by a finite number of guards. Sure, they had weapons, but their numbers were limited. What was incredible, and what the inmates exploited to perfection, was that communication between isolated blocks was faster than between the undertrained guards and their radios. So, the group from block D spread the word: send as many people as possible to the infirmary.

They brought out their finest Sunday shivs and sharpened toothbrushes, and started slashing. Fights erupted everywhere: they would choose a victim to stab viciously, then a trusted man to whom they inflicted superficial wounds, or even just smeared with blood. They were all sent urgently to the infirmary, one dying and the other pretending. The guards from each block brought in the wounded in droves, overwhelming the staff instantly. It was like a massive pile-up in front of a hospital's emergency room, with the injured arriving from every door. These fools took a while to understand: it was when there were four viable inmates for each armed guard, two inmates bleeding out per nurse, and seeing their colleagues from each block arriving through its entrance, that they realized what was happening. On the other side, the guards responsible for the main areas' security were busy beating up the attacking inmates and shackling them, unaware that they would be freed immediately after and seek revenge fivefold.

In the infirmary, it started with a look: Joël, incarcerated for setting fire to a building and turning five families to ashes, now smeared with the blood of the poor guy next to him, spotted a guy from block A who was alert.

With my luck, it had to be Mathia.

Around them, it was complete panic: the guards had brought in too many people, and the armed guards were yelling at those still trying to get into the corridor. Nurses ran around in all directions, their gowns covered in blood. About fifteen inmates were moaning and screaming, their guts mashed.

That's when Mathia and Joël nodded at each other, and the hostilities began.

It was Joël who started it: he spotted a guard busy giving orders left and right, a shotgun slung over his shoulder. He lunged at him, but the guard saw the movement out of the corner of his eye. Without thinking, he brought his weapon to his hip and fired: the blast, as powerful as an explosion, stopped everyone in their tracks, even Joël. He was blown backward, leaving his slippers in place. He fell to the ground with a hole in his chest, and his blood started to flow for real. For barely more than a second, which seemed to last a minute, everyone froze and watched the man on the ground, their mouths agape and ears ringing. The inmates were the first to react: Mathia charged at the guard who hadn't had time to reload and pinned him to the ground. He was imitated by all the other fake injured: more shots rang out, a man had half of his face torn off and collapsed onto a hospital bed. Another guard, a newcomer, swept the room with the barrel of his weapon, panicked, when he caught the gaze of an inmate really dying on his bed, a hand pressed to his stomach. The unfortunate inmate lifted his free arm in front of his face to protect himself and was instantly swept away, along with the top of his skull, by a volley of lead. He fell forward, and the contents of his half-burning brain spilled onto the floor. The infirmary buzzed in complete chaos, the medical staff trying to escape or hide, the inmates throwing themselves at the guards and seizing their weapons; but after a moment, barely twenty seconds, the prisoners had taken control, with only three human casualties.

The seven other assailants, four from block D, two from block B, and Mathia from block A, had now tied up the guards and the staff with tape and lined them up on their knees against a wall. Five of them had recovered a weapon: without further ado, they seized sets of keys and plunged into the corridors to catch up with the escapees and continue their advance. The two remaining in place seized whatever sharp objects they could find and finished off the injured one by one, slitting their throats with the speed and efficiency of butchers. When the scalpels or bistouries broke in the throats of their victims, they switched to bandage scissors or forceps. Once the job was done, only the penitentiary staff remained, waiting for their fate. The nurses were spared, at least for the moment, but the guards were not so lucky.

On his part, Mathia moved quickly along the corridor, shotgun in one hand, the collar of a guard he had seized in the other. He arrived at the guard station separating him from the first cells, in front of the closed security gate. Seeing him, the man inside displayed an almost comically surprised expression and began to fumble on his desk, probably looking for his radio. Mathia fired at the reinforced glass, which instantly whitened from the impact of the projectiles, holding up but so frightening the guard that he fell backwards and couldn't get up right away. Seizing the opportunity, Mathia grabbed the keyring from his hostage and opened the door to the station. Inside, the young uniformed man begged him not to shoot, to spare his life: he had a family, a newborn child. Mathia simply ignored him and pressed the button to open the gate: what the young man should have begged for was to be killed right away. During the night, each guard would endure unimaginable tortures, and the outcome would be the same: they would all be dead by morning.

A very unpleasant alarm sound went off, and the gate opened. Mathia heard the cheers of the prisoners from adjacent cells, whistling and applauding.

“If I open the doors, it's for you to join us!” he shouted.

Then, as the prisoners cheered him on fervently, he hit the general cell opening button and continued on his way, leaving the young man where he was: already, enraged inmates were rushing toward the guard station to take care of him, patting their liberator on the shoulder as they passed.

On the other side, in block B, everything unfolded just as rapidly: armed prisoners were breezing through security barriers like butter, rallying more and more inmates and catching undertrained guards along the way. The crowd of criminals gradually flooded the corridors like a contagion. Some of them decided to stay in their now-open cells, not wanting to participate in the raid but promising not to hinder it: some were nearly at the end of their sentences and did not want it extended. At first, they were left alone, but when the escapees gained access to the cafeteria, they retraced their steps, and stabbings with knives and forks began to rain down.

In block D, it was different: once the doors opened, no one chose to stay. On the contrary, everyone participated in capturing the guards, piling them in a room, and stripping them: already, the inmates were lining up to take their turn with them.

And so, in less than twenty minutes, blocks A, B, and D of the Duli penitentiary center were completely controlled by the inmates. Armed with knives, batons, or even steel bedposts, the prisoners had organized themselves to keep all the guards hostage and torture them to pass the time, or murder those who refused to partake in the carnage. Some settled scores: in block B, a man who had been tormented by a gang of bikers for years took the opportunity to jump on one of them and plunge a spoon into his orbit, his eye splattering on him as if he had squeezed a raw egg. The others seized him, and while two held his arms, the injured man took his time carving him up with a butcher's knife brought from the kitchens, his one remaining eye wild in its socket.

But the mission was not over yet: now, they had to take block C, and then the fun could really start. The very first conspirators, three murderers from block D, recruited two other guys who looked tough enough for dirty work to storm block C, round up all the snitches on their list, and keep them awake all night. In addition, they had found out who had sold out Mitch: a certain Eustass.

“I know what that guy looks like, I'm coming with you,” Mathia said, fury in his eyes.

The band of five psychopaths, hands full of weapons and keyrings and pockets stuffed with oxycodone pills pilfered from the pharmacy, headed towards block C, thirsty for blood and vengeance. Before setting off, for fun, they agreed to call themselves “the death squad.”

Ironically, after everything he had put me through, I think it was Reiner the guard who saved my life that night. And it was hearing his voice crackling through the general loudspeakers that I knew what was happening, along with all the prisoners in block C: “Attention all! General alert! Escaped prisoners! I repeat, escaped prisoners! Close all exits, lock down all gates! Emergency protocol!”

My heart nearly stopped at that moment. I immediately understood what was happening: that was it, they had had enough. The powder keg had finally exploded, and the carnage wouldn't stop until all those who couldn't defend themselves were dead. And of course, I was one of them; but now that I was in block C, there would be many more steps before I met my end. I think it was that thought that gave me the boost: the image of my genitals stuffed into my throat, maybe no eyes, no teeth, my backside on fire and bleeding. That's what allowed me to leap up, well before everyone else, well before the guards who were casting bewildered looks everywhere, as if discovering for the first time that we had loudspeakers, and wanting to see them to make sure they were really there.

I ran to the main guard post of block C: inside, a man in uniform was pulling his hair out, lamenting his fate, seemingly looking for a particular button on his dashboard filled with beeps and alarms of all kinds. Above him, I grabbed the lever of the power breaker for the main gate and pulled with all my might, before he had time to say “Hey!” The lights went out in the corridor in front of me, and the gate locked down completely. The guard tried to grab his baton to wield it at me, not sure if I was on his side or not, when footsteps were heard in the dark.

We stopped dead and tried to peer into the darkness in the corridor in front of us, on the other side of the out-of-service gate. There were several sets of footsteps, with a very slow and confident stride. And also a moan, with little cries and hiccups.

The footsteps approached, and the full death squad emerged from the shadows: five men armed to the teeth, one of whom, appearing to be the leader, was seated on his mount that advanced at a walk. His steed, a guard on all fours and completely naked, his face bloodied and feces running down his legs, had a gag and tape around his mouth, but his sobs could still be heard.

“Damn,” the guy on the far left said, pointing at me, “he's the one who ratted out Mitch! This son of a bitch!” I recognized Mathia, covered in blood, but clearly not his own. Their eyes were all red.

He approached us, us still unable to move like two idiots in a guard post, and he slid the key into the lock, but nothing moved.

“Bitch...” then, looking up at me: “you're the one who locked it, asshole?”

I didn't even have time to open my mouth, didn't even have time to think about doing it, when I saw a reflection glint in one of the men's hands. Both of us, the guard and I, ducked, and a deafening blast shattered the glass of the post, just below our heads. Shards flew everywhere.

“Don't kill them, idiot! We need them alive, at least the rat!” someone yelled.

The guard got scared, and that fool tried to run: he took two steps out of the shelter, and another gunshot swept his legs from behind, like a tackle. He collapsed to the ground, one leg broken and the other dangling at the knee by a thread. He screamed, blood flowing profusely.

“Shit, this bitch jammed!” I heard.

It could have been a feint, a ruse, but I didn't question it. I took the chance to run off, deep into block C, anywhere but safe.

“Pfeu!! You think you can run away like that, man? We're gonna find you, you can believe that! We came for you, and we're gonna take good care of you!” I heard behind me as I ran until my lungs burst; but I never saw them again.

I ran through the block, everyone around me bustling like panicked ants. Some barricaded themselves in rooms, but I knew they would eventually give in to the assaults of the other inmates. Others returned to their cells and hid under their beds, like children. There were those who talked about reasoning with them, but they would be the first to die.

I arrived at the cafeteria and stopped dead, trying to catch my breath: I realized that I was like everyone else, I had been running in circles all this time. I didn't know where to go, nor where to hide. And then, for the very last time, the block's loudspeaker came on, this time with a voice I didn't know, terrified and in tears: “The death squad has found a way through! They're roaming the hallways, hide well! May God help us all...”

So, I found a closet, a tiny thing in the kitchen of the cafeteria, and I hid. I wedged myself in there, couldn't even move an inch, but I stayed there until morning. And all night, I heard distant screams, gunshots, laughter, and cries.

But when I hadn't heard anything for several hours, when I understood that it was all over, I came out. The sun had risen, the silence was implacable. I had cramps everywhere, a backache, and I was on edge, but I left the cafeteria.

The main atrium was a true carnage: I walked through a pool of blood that covered almost the entire ground floor. There were corpses everywhere, never in one piece. From the second floor hung about fifty people in a regular row, like decorations, their feet dangling in the air. I walked through the entire block in unbearable silence, only the corpses following me everywhere. I crossed the yard of block B, several people had been lined up against a wall and then murdered. A body hung by the feet from a basketball hoop, headless. I came back to the main entrance as if I were the last man on earth. It was only when I arrived at the very last door that I saw all the cop cars, waiting for a signal, or maybe even the army to enter. Without asking questions, I lay down on the ground, arms over my head, and waited for them to come in.

In the end, of the two hundred sixteen prisoners and twenty-one staff members who remained that night, I was the last survivor. It took them eight months to identify all the bodies, but strangely, five were missing. Three from block D, and two from A.

But that's where the story ends. At least officially.

What this story doesn't tell is that the five missing people had briefly formed a group, 'the death squad', to settle their scores with everyone who had wronged them, prisoners and guards alike, and in particular the one who had committed the irreparable, me. What the story doesn't say is that they started piling up victims in a room, torturing them at length before killing them. They weren't lacking in imagination or commitment, but they couldn't find the one they wanted most of all. They swallowed oxycodone pills like candy and ran around block C, their eyes redder and drooling, overturning everything in their path. They became increasingly enraged, slowly turning into monsters. The drugs were getting to them, or maybe they were possessed, but they started killing everyone indiscriminately. They let their guns spit, played with blades and ropes, and in one night, they had killed every living being, except for me. In the end, they were no longer human, their eyes had popped out of their sockets and they had bitten off their tongues from clenching their teeth like sharks. In the end, no one knows what happened to them, but it's said that they became one with the prison, and that they still haunt it, even today.”

“And that concludes the book by Eustass,” finally said Thomas. “Did you like it?”

The audience was tense, each waiting to see what would happen; but it was Emilie who broke the silence with a voice trying to be confident:

“You made up the ending.”

“Not at all,” he simply said.

“But yes,” she protested, “I'm not stupid, if no one survived except Eustass who was in his closet all night, how do we know about the squad? And then, you told things he couldn't know, about the infirmary and all.”

“It's true, but I know all that.”

“And how?”

She was almost shouting, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And it was with a calm and seriousness that sent shivers down the spine that he replied:

“I was there.”

No one knew what to answer, no one even dared to move. But Raphaël had a question burning on his tongue: he absolutely had to ask it, even though he already knew the answer, but it was impossible. Yet, he knew he was right. Thomas turned around and looked him in the eyes, two red orbs with dilated pupils that were soon to pop out of their sockets. He smiled broadly and sent him an almost telepathic message: “Go ahead, ask your question.”

So Raphaël spoke up:

“Is it you, the thing that lives in the isolation cell?”

Thomas burst into laughter and bit his tongue sharply: blood began to pearl at the corner of his mouth.

“Yes. I hesitated to take you, until I saw what he had in his bag.”

He pulled out the weapon and examined it with ecstasy, his eyes now truly bulging out of their sockets:

“It's magnificent. He wouldn't have dared to use it against you, but me, I love carnage, I need carnage! When he stole Eustass's book from his mother last night, she was still up. He used this against her, as young and scared as he was, and that's what woke me up. And now, it's in my hands! I'm giving you a ten-second head start, after that, the carnage begins!”

A shrill sound screamed throughout the building, and the metal grilles of all the surrounding cells closed in unison, producing a metallic clamor that echoed throughout the atrium. Emilie looked around her in horror and disbelief.


Raphaël's blood ran cold, sending an icy wave through his body: he felt the same thing as in the mine when he had faced that wolf monster.


He leapt to escape. He headed for the exit and threw himself at the bars, which were now closed. He shook them, tried to pull, but they were securely locked.


He turned around in panic: he caught Emilie's gaze, on the verge of tears and completely lost.

“What's happening? What are you doing?” she asked him in total confusion.

“We have to get out of here,” was all he could reply.

His gaze returned to the atrium: was there another way out? He had no idea at all, and if he risked it, he could end up trapped...


A thought struck him: the circuit breaker. If he had heard the alarm and the doors had closed, it meant the power was back. If what he had said earlier was true, the opposite had worked for Eustass.

He went to the empty guard post, a few steps away, and spotted the famous handle, in the closed position.

“What's happening?” he heard behind him, then: “Five...”

He pushed the lever up: an alarm went off and a green light came on, but the grate didn't move.

“Damn it, damn it, why isn't it working... No, don't panic, don't panic, think...” he thought.

“Tom,” Michelin said in a frail voice, “what's happening man, what are you doing to us?”

He had remained standing in front of him, nervous and hesitant, not understanding what was happening.


The buttons. He had just restored the power, now he had to open this damn door. He bent over the control panel and his heart sank: there were buttons everywhere...

Emilie was now right behind him, hovering around him like a mosquito with a lamp, looking dazed.

“Is he alright? What's happening to him? What's all this about?”

Desperate, Raphaël started to hammer the buttons randomly.


One button opened the cells on the first floor behind him, another turned on the old neon lights which exploded, spewing shards of glass on the floor.


It was when he pressed the last one that an unpleasant siren pierced their eardrums and the door in front of them began to open. He wanted to leave the guard post, but Emilie stood in the doorway, motionless, just waiting for someone to explain what was happening.

“Move!” he shouted.

But she remained motionless, her eyes glassy.


He abruptly grabbed her by the shoulders and directed her out of the way, then he took her arm and dragged her towards the slowly opening grate, much too slowly. Not enough for him to pass through.

“Man, you're seriously freaking me out!” Michelin said, still standing in front of a Thomas who was clacking his teeth so hard that Raphaël, looking at the scene over his shoulder, saw a small piece of tongue fly and crash to the ground.


The gate finally opened wide enough for them both to pass through. Thomas slowly raised his weapon and pointed it directly at Michelin. Michelin let out a small, nervous laugh and said in a high-pitched voice:

“Listen, everything is going to be fine, we're going to...”

It was as if a million lions were roaring right in their ears: the weapon spat out a burst of flame, sending bullets as rapidly as a war gun. The sound filled the atrium completely, so loud it seemed it could push the walls. Michelin's stomach exploded, and he was cut in half on the spot, sending a cloud of blood into the air and hundreds of red, sticky pieces crashing against the walls. A rain of empty, burning cartridges fell to the ground, but Emilie and Raphaël's ears rang so loudly they didn't even hear the clink of metal on the concrete floor; however, their noses were invaded by the smell of gunpowder, soon accompanied by the scent of blood.

Michelin collapsed in two distinct halves with a dull, guttural noise: his face still moving, expressing a mix of astonishment and incomprehension. Emilie screamed at the top of her lungs, a shrill sound that could tear one's ears off, then she was covered by the noise of the second volley that poured down on the unfortunate man, finishing him off. Thomas turned to them, his eyes bulging red:

“I hope you last longer than that one...”

He let out a distorted laugh, his jaw clicking and rows of teeth grinding, or rather sanding against each other. Raphaël grabbed Emilie and they fled down the long corridor. They reached the end, the last guard post before the exit, and Raphaël threw himself at the locked gates. The post was right in front of him, its circuit breaker clearly visible; but it was on the other side of the bars. He shook the steel structure more out of panic than to really try anything. It was their only way out, and it was blocked: in a few seconds, they would hear footsteps arriving accompanied by an infamous laugh, and the fire would spit to disintegrate them both.

“Over here!” he heard.

He turned to his left, at a fork, and saw the slightly narrower corridor disappearing into darkness. He couldn't make out anything in the shadows. Well, yes, a very slight humming. Like a purring, almost imperceptible.

“But move, damn it! He's coming!”

He came out of his stupor and headed in the direction of Emilie's voice. As he went deeper, the sound became more audible: it seemed like a straining engine. He turned at a right angle and arrived in front of a gate that separated him from a room filled with heavy machinery, hooks hanging from the ceiling, and laundry baskets overflowing with blackened moldy fabrics.

“Hurry up!” Emilie called from the other side of the gate: a pile of metal laundry bins had been overturned, and one of them was blocking the closure. He jumped over the half-sunken obstacle and passed through the gate pressing on it to join her. She kicked the bin, which freed the mechanism to allow the door to close behind them.

The room was in chaotic condition: the large industrial dryers had their portholes broken or even torn off, machines overflowing with rotten laundry or toppled to the ground. The linoleum was black in places, probably due to puddles caused by water leaks left to fester in the dark.

He didn't have time to study the place in more detail: already, the sound of teeth clicking could be heard nearby.

“Over there!” Raphaël said when he spotted a loading zone: a gate and a small guard post isolated it from the room, and even though the cage was well closed, the post had its security glass lying on the ground, intact but dirtied by impacts. He went first, closely followed by Emilie, and not so far away by the monotonous voice of the demon inhabiting Thomas: “How did you get in there?”

They reached the access ramp and jumped to reach the open air. They arrived in a dirt courtyard with various markings on the ground that once welcomed trucks filled with dirty laundry on arrival, and clean on return. One of them lay in a corner, its four tires flat and its bodywork eaten away by rust. A large electric gate topped with two guard towers blocked the passage; but to their left, at the end of the courtyard, a section of fence that separated them from another block had fallen to the ground. They exchanged a look, but before they could even open their mouths, they were interrupted by the shrill alarm of the doors opening: Thomas was arriving.

No other choice but to take their chance: they ran towards the other block, crossing the flat, exposed courtyard, making them easy prey. Just under a hundred meters separated them from the new obstacle. Raphaël jumped over the roll of barbed wire on the ground then walked on the fence to get to the other side. Emilie tried in turn, but being smaller, she caught her foot in the wire and fell to the ground, letting out a cry of pain.

“Damn it! My foot! Help!” she screamed.

Her leg was caught in the sharp trap, the barbs tightly clinging to her jeans.

“Help me!” she implored, reaching out her hand. “I don't want to die, help me, please!”

He tried to pull her by the arm, but she began to scream as her pants tore: a red stain appeared on the fabric, and blood started to flow onto the ground.

“It hurts too much!!” she yelled, tears in her eyes.

He tried to think of a solution, but already, the silhouette of Thomas appeared in the distance, descending from the loading ramp as well. They were in the middle of the courtyard, nothing to hide behind or protect themselves with. There was the back building they hadn't visited yet behind them, its entrance seeming open, but it was still a good twenty meters away.

He looked at Emilie, pleading to be taken out of there, then, a hundred meters away, he distinguished Thomas slowly raising his armed hand: that was it, this was where he was going to be shot down. He thought of taking Emilie on his back, pulling her out of there and getting her to safety. He even thought of running away, leaving her to her fate and taking care of his own survival. But he just stood there, motionless. He could do nothing but watch Thomas in the distance, Emilie's hand still gripping his sleeve. Like a deer caught in the headlights of a semi-truck on a night road, he stood there motionless, staring death in the eye. Everything happened in slow motion: he first saw a small light emerge from Thomas's hand. It danced like a candle in a breeze. Then he saw the dust rising in bursts around them, whistling in his ears like whip cracks as the bullets whizzed by. And finally, the distant and muffled rumbling of the weapon, a sharp and cutting original sound dulled by the distance and the echo between the red brick buildings. No bullet hit them, some having crashed into the facade behind, others leaving tiny craters up to ten meters from them. Emilie screamed, her face buried in her arms, plumes of dust rising all around her, but Raphaël remained standing, simply paralyzed. Thomas – or rather the thing inhabiting him – lowered the weapon in the distance and seemed to utter a curse: he must have run out of bullets.

Raphaël, with considerable effort, managed to break free from his paralysis. He grabbed Emilie, apologized in advance, and pulled with all his might. The barbed wire initially clung on but as he pulled her far enough, it was caught by the structure of the fence on the ground and let go, tearing off the bottom of her jeans, her shoe, and shreds of skin with it. She screamed even more, but once freed, she clung to him to stand up. She leaned on him, limping to the door behind them, one foot bloody and a shoe missing. They managed to reach the building, leaving a red trail on the earthy floor. Looking back, they saw Thomas advancing towards them with a measured step.