No Way Out Once Inside by David S. Atkinson

Jeff honestly didn’t know how to feel about it. His stomach sank either way.

Brought in during the middle of the night, the block of cells around the lone officer at the desk ominously quiet and dark. Ripped out of his shoes during the arrest, wrists sliced by the cuffs, knocked around loose in the back of the panel wagon, they forcibly switched his clothes for jail scrubs. The orange canvas shoes were loose since he didn’t have any socks of his own.

Called out for by the desk officer when someone wanted him, had to hear when they shouted his name and come to the heavy metal cell door to be let out when it unlocked. No one told him anything. The other prisoners had to say how to use the phones, who were the bondsmen he could call, if any would even help him.

The tiny green sponge on a light plastic stick in the bag handed him with the jail clothes was a mystery until he saw it in use later. That was a toothbrush? He still couldn’t be sure.

What were the others going to do to him when they woke up? He knew nothing, a button-down straight edge who’d gotten drunk enough for the cops to get involved for the first time. His cell mate wasn’t so bad, a long-haired scruffy homeless street drunk who was good natured enough and only wanted to sleep since he had a bed for once, muttered about getting hassled by the cop who ran him in, even if his brain was perhaps a bit permanently fried. The others were addicts though, thugs, chiseled blocks of rage and muscle with makeshift white supremacist tattoos covering visible skin and even faces. They’d eat him alive.

Except they didn’t. Even once they saw him they left him alone. He finally realized he was facing more time than any of them.

Any possible relief was overshadowed by a different kind of sickness.


David S. Atkinson is the author of “Apocalypse All the Time,” “Not Quite so Stories,” “The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes,” and “Bones Buried in the Dirt.” He is a Staff Reader for Digging Through The Fat and his writing appears in “Literary Orphans,” “The Airgonaut,” “Connotation Press,” and others. His writing website is

Image: Ilsang Moon