Calamity | Over the River: TEoJK #3

Backwoodsmen

• • •

Calamity

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

Over and over again the voice spits those words through the speakers in the ceiling. Or perhaps they’re behind the walls. Or perhaps they’re beneath the floor.

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

Or per–… mayhap the voice is inside Jonathan Knox’s head. Mayhap there is no voice, mayhap it’s simple hallucination… or mayhap Jonathan Knox has been imprisoned down here in the prison room for so many days? years? decades? centuries? that his psyche has finally broken. The skeletons in his closet have regrown their innards and outtards. They whisper to him like devils trapped in a drained well.

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

Or maybe the voice is real. He recognizes it, after all, and it’s certainly not his own voice. Jonathan Knox does have a voice, though he’s not certain what it sounds like. He’s able to whisper when he’s feeling particularly energetic, but those sounds are only the ghosts of words, not the real thing, merely puffs of arid, stinking air; they don’t have much of a tone to them. The words spoken by the hidden speakers, however, have enough tone for everyone involved in their petty little charade. Their tone is not a friendly tone, no, it’s more slimy than anything else, hateful and slimy and all sorts of sinister, but Jonathan Knox knows where it comes from. Sometimes he forgets, sure, but in the end it always comes back to him. It’s like the voice in the speaker itself, in a way; sometimes it goes quiet for a long, long time, but in the end it always reminds Jonathan Knox of the truth of his life:

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

This is the one truth above all others, one of the few truths of life Jonathan Knox can say he knows for sure. He knows his name: Jonathan Knox; he knows his whereabouts: the prison room, bottom floor of the Compound ‘neath Atacama; he knows why he’s here: so he may witness the downfall of his species to the slimy webb’ed hands of the genetically superior Neptunian High Race of the Dali Straits (not that Neptune; this Earth isn’t even in that solar system); and lastly, he knows whose voice incessantly reminds him that Jonathan Knox is, in fact, hard to kill: a Neptunian ambassador who wears a skinsuit to appear human, an extraterrestrial empath who passes himself off as a kindly aged preacherman deemed Reverend Neil Campbell. He also knows what home is, or rather, what it should be: a warm and cozy place to sit in the dark and be away from the rest of the world.

Aside from all that, nothing. One day very long ago, too long to know how long, Jonathan Knox woke up in the prison room strapped to an upright metal table plugged full of needles, tubes, more tubes, and more needles. Nothing has changed since.

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

The prison room is not home. The prison room is dark, yes, but it’s not warm, nor is’t cozy. The prison room is unbudging restraints binding Jonathan Knox to a slab of metal. The prison room is tubes and needles pierced into Jonathan Knox’s hide, delivering nutrients and exfiling excrement, keeping him alive without the need for him to eat, sleep, even breathe. The prison room is eternal life. The prison room is an undaunting Hell. The prison room is catatonia with enough brain fog to shut down a highway, and the prison room is not home.

All Jonathan Knox wants in life – the only thing he has left to want – is to go home. Escape is impossible. Despite the hazy state of his mind Jonathan Knox knows and understands that escape from the prison room is impossible… but that does not mean he’ll never get home. There is a way out. What’s more, he is consistently reminded of that way out by a voice transmitted through speakers hidden in the ceiling, the walls, mayhap even the floor.

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

Hard to kill. Difficult, but not impossible. The prison room is not home – the prison room is life, and life is torture. Life is constant sensation without the ability to feel. To escape from the prison room is to go home, to escape from life is to die. In order to finally go home, Jonathan Knox must find the sweet, warm, cozy embrace of death, and then he will be free. Then he will be emancipated. Then he will be home.

But until then, he will be strapped to the upright table in the prison room and a veritable carrot will be dangled before his face, just outside his reach. To run in place without the ability to move one’s legs; this is the fate of Jonathan Knox.

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill.”

“Jonathan Knox is hard to ki..”

The voice coming out of the speakers deepens as it trails off into silence. Jonathan Knox’s drooping eyelids do not open any wider, nor does he feel any excitement for this twist in the plot, but he does notice it all the same. Unblinkingly, unbreathingly, undyingly, Jonathan Knox staringlys at the smooth blue wall before him.

“Knox?” a voice says from behind. A voice he’s never heard before. “Jonathan Knox, you still with me, kid?”

Jonathan Knox doesn’t move, for he is physically unable. He’s strapped to a metal slab and loaded up with needles and tubes that keep him alive enough indefinitely.

A man with dark skin steps out from behind the table and stands before Jonathan Knox, looks him all up and down. The man is clad in a gray politician’s suit. His hair is salt and pepper swept back over a chocolate scalp, his upper lip resembles the bottom of a cleaned paintbrush, his eyes dart about Jonathan Knox’s face like busy water skippers over the surface of a pond. How did he get in here without the wall opening up into a door?

“You’re alive, Knox, but you’re drugged to shit. It’s all these damn tubes and needles,” the apparent politician says, jostling the tubes and needles with one hand. The needles jiggle and rip and tear around beneath Jonathan Knox’s skin. “Don’t worry, I think I can fix this.”

The brown-skinned man in the gray suit waves his hand as if he is a magical negro stereotype, altering the chemicular composition of the various fluids being constantly pumped into Jonathan Knox’s empty husk. Suddenly Jonathan Knox’s mind is clear as an open blue sky, suddenly Jonathan Knox is awake and alert, suddenly Jonathan Knox can feel again!

“Who are you?!” Jonathan Knox belts, much louder than he means to. “Help me, you have to help me! I’ve been trapp–”

“Yes, for a long time,” dismisses your magical negro. “Trust me, I know all about it. I’m here to bust you out, but you need to do something for me first.”

[to be cont’d]


This has been the beginning of the first subchapter of the first chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:

Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox

Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

The Fall of the Seven Earths

I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.

If supporting The Hillside Commons is something you want to do, click here.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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