As Jimmy descended down into the jail below precinct 27, it was difficult to shake the sensation that he was passing into some other place, somewhere that didn’t quite exist in the same sense that the station, or the street. Going into Pigtown felt similar, perhaps. Crossing that liminal space between the normal world–if that world of suburbs and skyscrapers and children could be considered normal–one could sense that the rules had shifted. Each person might describe this differently. Some felt a new spring in their step, a sensation of opened opportunities where none had existed before. Others felt it as an oppressive threat, a hidden terror around every dark corner, though few could resist the parallel urge to see what those terrors might be.
Descending that first stairwell, Jimmy found himself in another hallway, identical to the one up above, but the light was dimmer, the concrete cracked, walls bulging and pulsing, almost as though they were breathing out the moans and screams that came from further below. The cells here were not entirely empty like the ones above, though there were only a couple of prisoners here. One clad in a full rubber catsuit, who seemed to be struggling with it fruitlessly, looking for a zipper or closure at the back of his neck that no longer seemed to exist, his panic rising, though the bulge of excitement in his crotch could not be discounted either. Another fellow was sitting with his back to the wall, high on some party drug, both hands wrapped around a cock rubbed red and raw, with a huge sack resting on the ground between his legs. Another gout of cum erupted from the head of his cock, rolling down the shaft, and as Jimmy stared, he swore he saw a pulse, or a wave try to extend itself from the puddle of cum accumulating around the man, and then recede, almost like the semen itself was alive. He hurried past them both, the men far too preoccupied with their own problems to notice Jimmy, who made his way to the end of the hallway, down another identical stairwell, and again, found a hallway lined with cells.
This time, though, the lights were dim and flickering, more cells were occupied, the walls seemed to have grown broader. This was enough for Jimmy to feel that he ought to turn around and climb back up, but when he turned around, all he found behind him was a solid brick wall. This was, of course, impossible. He had stepped off the stairwell just a moment before his bravery failed him, but when he pressed on the brick, it was solid and unyielding, though the stone and mortar was quite a bit warmer than the air around him, nearly the same temperature as his own flesh. He shuddered, certain somehow the wall was feeling him back, hardening further, thickening, or perhaps engorging. He retreated away down the hall, towards the staircase at the other end, hoping, perhaps, that one would rise upward. He kept his eyes straight ahead, not willing to look at the strange inhabitants of the cages on either side, at their oddities, the ways they now failed at being entirely human, the reasons, he assumed, they were all caged now. He had not yet seen a guard or officer of the law, which only increased his sense of unease. The staircase at the far end only sunk deeper into the earth, spiraling now. He no longer had any sense of being beneath the precinct above, but he no longer had much choice but to venture further. The oppressive urge to sleep that had been so constant for hours now had left him, and even if it had remained, he doubted that he would have been able to at all. He continued down.
Each level was larger than the one before, each time the staircase would seal up behind him, the light grew dimmer, the path through the cages more labyrinthine. The cells were no longer only built into the walls, but now also free standing. In large areas, there would be open spaces with a cross, a stand holding whips and floggers, or any assortment of other BDSM gear, some that Jimmy recognized from his early ventures into porn, and some that he certainly did not. It was a couple levels further down that he saw a guard for the first time, with a prisoner bound to a cross, lashing them roughly, wearing something between a police uniform and an executioner’s garb. He hit behind a cage and took a long way around, now finding himself wondering if he’d slipped into hell, or was perhaps dreaming all of this in a chair up in the waiting room. One level deeper, he was spotted by a pair of guards about to unlock a cage and drag a prisoner out for punishment. Jimmy tried to run, but the two guards chased him down and tackled him, the prisoners around him jeering and hooting and calling, shouting for the guards to rape him, to beat him, to shove him in their cage and let the prisoners have their way with the freshmeat.
In the end, all they did was tear off his clothes, collar him, chain his ankles and wrists together, and march him deeper still into the jail, but that was enough to have Jimmy in tears, begging for understanding, trying to understand why they were doing this to him. The guards would simply slap his ass if he got too loud or whiny, and tell him that they were taking him to The Warden, to see what was to be done with the freshmeat.
Jimmy was led deeper into the jail, down to levels where limiting walls could no longer be seen in the darkness, where the cages and dungeons were truly a maze. The guards moved through the space unerringly, the captives cringing away as they approached, or pushing forward, scarred and bruised, begging for more. The guards were more numerous, but were far outnumbered by the captives. They would punish one, shove it back into a cage, and move onto the next without a moment’s rest. They came, at last, to a man larger than any of the other guards he had seen thus far, smoking a cigar, with a silver badge on the chest of his leather shirt declaring him the jail’s warden, and the guards told him that they had found an oddity–freshmeat roaming the upper levels, and didn’t know what to do with him, beyond strip him, bind him, and bring him to the Warden, of course.
The Warden looked at Jimmy, a bit puzzled himself, took a drag off his cigar, and asked him what he thought he was doing, trespassing in his jail. Jimmy, after a few false starts, managed to get out most of the relevant details, starting with Shadow stealing Marlon away, his troubles with everyone forgetting, filing a report at Precinct 27, his dream, his encounter that night with the shade that resembled Marlon so closely, who was then taken by the cops down here, into the jail, where Jimmy had gone as well, once the precinct had mysteriously emptied for the evening. The Warden listened rather intently, and Jimmy concluded his story with a request–he just wanted to know what he could do to get his friend back to the way he’d been. There had to be a cure, certainly.
The Warden just laughed, a deep belly laugh, hooked a lead to the collar around Jimmy’s neck, and tugged him away into the dark. “There’s a lot you don’t know, Freshmeat,” he said, “but one thing I can tell you, for certain, is that your friend is gone.”
The Warden said nothing else for a few minutes, until they rounded a bank of cages, and there, bound to a cross, was Marlon–or at least, the shade that had taken his place. He was still in his leather gear, unlike most everyone else in the jail who had been stripped naked–aside from those with clothes that could not be removed, or which the guards had secured on them purposefully. The chains binding him were not mere steel, but in the dim light of the jail, were glowing bright enough that Jimmy had to shield his eyes for a moment to let them adjust. Marlon was struggling against them, and as he did, he seemed to be warping, his body trying to slide away into the darkness around him, only to be dragged back to the chains holding him in place.
“Shades are a menace,” The Warden said, “Ever since the first, Shadow, who you had the unfortunate chance of encountering, we’ve been struggling to contain them. We’d done well, securing Shadow and caging most of his converts. We’ve been hunting him since his…escape, and were lucky to catch this one early, but I suppose we have you to thank for that, in one way or another.”
“But…what happened to Marlon?”
“That thing devoured him, more of less. Took his place. We don’t know what happens to their remains, but we know that the shadows grow as the flesh wilts, the shades taking their form, and their place, once they’ve drained enough from the people they used to follow around. They pretend well enough, but here, watch,” The Warden said, took the whip wrapped around his shoulder, cracked it hard against Marlon’s chest, and the whip bit into the leather like it was somehow soft, the shade letting off a screech far outside something a person could make. “See? It pretends, but it’s nothing like us. If it were up to them, all of us would be devoured. They want nothing beyond our complete decimation. Likely this one pursued you due to a lingering emotional connection, but don’t be fooled–if you hadn’t escaped, that shadow under you would have taken your place by the end of the night.”
Jimmy just stared at Marlon, the shade staring back, eyes full of disgust, but also fear and anguish. Could it feel those things, or was that just another trick, trying to earn his sympathy, hoping it would try to free him? The Warden unhooked the chains securing Jimmy’s wrists and ankles, and lastly, removed the collar around his neck. “You, on the other hand, aren’t even a resident, and so are beyond our jurisdiction. I’ll be sure to mention the security breach to the Commander, when we next speak, but you are free to go–my guards will escort you back to the surface.”
“What happens to that? What happens to everyone here? None of this can be legal, none of this is even possible.”
“Ah, the possible! Your laws hold no sway here, neither those of man, nor those of nature. We hold back the things that would devour this whole city if we weren’t here to stop them,” The Warden said, “the shade, along with the rest of our prisoners will remain here forever. They are aberrations. Any one of them could warp the surface irreparably in a matter of nights. Pigtown would become a Hell on Earth without me and my fellow guards keeping the filth in line.”
Jimmy couldn’t seem to turn away from the shade, bound to the cross. The fury and rage and sorrow he felt were as limitless as the darkness and as loud as the screams surrounding him. Without even knowing why, he took a flogger from a stand, strode forward, and whipped it across the shade’s face. It screeched, deep lines appearing in the surface, returning to their proper form in a few moments–almost. It had his face. His lover’s face. It was the greatest insult. He whipped it again, the Warden holding back one guard who stepped forward to stop him, and shook his head.
The jail would always be short on guards–there were simply too many in Pigtown that required containment. If the freshmeat wanted to help, so be it. The Warden would be happy to add him to the ranks.