The Criminal



The Criminal



  It was a simple enough task: go to the supermarket and buy milk. But when you get there, you can never just get milk, can you? As soon as I picked it up (one pint, semi-skimmed, organic, an excessively happy cow on the label), the wife texted: Get a bag of brown sugar and a cucumber too. Then, in-between getting the brown sugar and the cucumber: We need eggs too, twelve. And before I knew it, a series of texts had directed me to gather nine unique items, held loose in my arms, the prospect looming of having to walk out of there without a re-useable canvas bag or anything, and with the bag charge they’d brought in…it was a nightmare.

   I put everything on the belt of checkout 5, and got a strange look from the woman on the till. That was the first clue that I should’ve run straight out of the place and never come back, but I just smiled at her like the fool I was.

   She asked me, “Do you need any help with your packing?”

   “No,” I replied, still smiling like a pervert, and her look of incredulity intensified.

   After she had scanned everything, she then asked, “Do you need a bag?”

   “No thank you,” I said. If I had strengthened my smile any more I would’ve burst a blood vessel.

   “Are you sure?” she said, staring at me intently.

   “Yes, I’m sure.”

   “You don’t want a bag?”

   “No, I’m walking straight to my car.”

   “You don’t want a re-usable bag?”

   “We have them at home.”

   “Then why didn’t you bring one today?”

   “It’s just the way things have worked out.”

   “Are you sure you don’t want a bag?”

   “Yes!” I nearly shouted, and rather than ring up my stuff and ask for money, she called security over on her mic.

   The security guard was a big fellow, bald, rotund, and with a hostile face composed of dirty grey lines.

   “Sir, if you’re not going to accept a bag, I’m going to have to ask you to come with me,” he grumbled, grabbing my right arm tightly.

   “Oh come on now,” I said, not wanting to physically resist such a slack brained-looking heavy. As I was dragged along the line of tills the other checkout servers looked at me with disgust, before a group of teenaged hoods beside the entrance cheered me for some reason.

  I was escorted upstairs, past the offices, and down a long dark corridor to a cell, fitted with a bench, a sink, and a toilet, the light fixture hidden high above the ceiling panelling, and told to wait.

   “What have I done wrong?” I asked the security guy. “Please, can you just tell me that?”

  He grinned: “You know what.”

  He then shut the door and locked it. It was the last time that door was ever open.

   After waiting five minutes, I checked my phone and found I had no signal. It must’ve been all the steel in the roof just above me.

   After another ten minutes, I started to get worried and banged on the door, without any response.

   After an hour, the slot in the bottom of the door that I hadn’t noticed until then slid up and my first meal as a prisoner was granted me: beef curry and tri-colour rice from their own brand microwaveable range.

   I banged on the door again, demanding to see someone, but still received no answer. I was hungry, and was at any rate thankful for something to eat. I was sure the whole thing was a massive mistake, and it would all be cleared up shortly.

  I’ve been here for around two years now.

   My cell is about ten feet long by eight feet wide, and I can at a minimum wash myself in the sink, but I have not had a bath, or a change of clothes, or read a book, or seen a TV show, or heard music in all this time.

   Three times a day I am fed microwaved atrocities that should not be: Persian curry. Chicken Tikka pork rolls. Chinese-style fish teriyaki. Tex-Mex poutine. Crispy Brazilian noodles. Horrible, all evil. The smell is just as bad as it is at eating as it is at excretion.

   The slot is not tall enough for me make a lunge and grab for anybody’s hand, and I have long given up trying to communicate with my captors. It’s pointless; they treat me as less than an animal.

   But just the other day, a crack suddenly opened up in the back wall, and, knowing that such a break must arrive at some point, and having held onto a blank piece of paper and a pen that I have kept in my inside coat pocket since my imprisonment began, I have written this request for help and will shove it through.

   I miss my wife and family, I miss coffee and greenery, I miss Dylan and Young, I even miss work and adverts on TV, and my stupid neighbours and hateful street kids, I miss them all!

   I am going insane in here, deranged! I cannot drink the bitter water of the sink anymore! I cannot stand any longer these fucking awful, nuked, pseudo-multicultural meals! I cannot stand the boredom! Oh, the boredom! You have to help me! You have to rescue me! Go upstairs! Break down the doors! Break down my walls! Free me!

   But if you cannot, if this note should reach you through the ages browned and ripped, and without a clue of true origin, remember this: always take what you are offered. The consequences could very well be cold-blooded.


Harris Coverley


Harris Coverley has had fiction most recently published in Caustic Frolic, The Scribe Magazine, and After Dinner Conversation, amongst others. He is also a Rhysling-nominated poet, with verse in Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Ariel Chart, New Reader Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Manchester, England


  1. strange and disconcerting... perfect short fiction for this day.

Previous Post Next Post