Tinnitus (short story)

I wrote this short story for my Masters degree. This is a follow on from ‘One Two’. Thanks for reading!


There is a window, that is the only consolation. A window about the size of a 32″ TV screen. To see out of the window you need to stand on the bed with one foot. There is no TV in here. No radio. Sorry, a second consolation is that you can tell when dawn comes and dusk arrives. The sunsets are gorgeous though, as the sun goes down behind the bushland which begins where the prison fence ends. The length of a football field to unattainable freedom, not just yet.

Birds of prey, birds of seed and honey make a last minute dash for a final meal and a feed and a nibble and a peck or two, here and there, before the dying light turns the bushland into a silhouette of ancient giants and the moths arrive in there millions to swarm around the perimeter lights down the length of the fence. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven lights. An unfelt wind made those silhouetted ancient giants sway softly, last night, to a tune only they could hear. The moths fought furiously against this unfelt wind creating an insect storm cloud and shower of dust and bodies, too.

The light doesn’t die in here, though. The fluorescent light remains on. Twenty four hours a day. By day three the gentle hum from the light turns into a weird fairy like song that you can swear, hand to god, there are lyrics being sung. Silence is deafening, a tried and true cliché that doesn’t even come close to the god-like vice grip that encapsulates your body and making gravity, in here, feel heavier.

The grip releases, the room becomes lighter and the fairy song stops every time the exterior doors to the interior shut and it booms like rolling thunder in an echo chamber, when they come. As far as you are aware, you are the only one in here. For there are no other voices calling out except your own when you get down on your hands and knees to shout under the door to get their attention. Out of frustration you may call out, ‘Oi! Cunt!’ You’re thirsty. He or she may be back with a cup of water, or not.

Never a word when they come. They come on the hour, every hour. One shines a torch on you at night. No need, the light is on. Genius. One or two raise a middle finger and grin. A tap on the glass. You give a finger back, each time. Sometimes the door opens and they come in and ask, ‘Do you have a problem?’ They know there is a camera in here. Nothing but bogan bravado. You blow a big puckered smoochy kiss.

You may not feel like you have any dignity left sitting there in your canvas Jesus smock that has no sleeves and you are completely naked underneath. Defiance never leaves you, though. One brings food, twice a day. When the meal flap falls it sounds like a car and truck colliding. For the most part, the food goes untouched. Questions are asked. Then they send for the psychologist. A gaunt, stick insect, of a man who has one question for you only, ‘How are you coping?’

‘Sure! I am perfectly fine,’ You say, smile and grin. ‘I quite like it here.’ You give him a wink.

He’s a psychologist. He knows full well the contempt for this place that gets carried by everyone in here, them too. This microcosm. His grey hair and grey face wear the contempt hard. He said he would set up weekly meetings with you. You don’t see him, again. Ever. You are on your own.

Sun rise, sunset, birds, them, middle fingers, oi! cunt, insects and last night, rabbits were under the lights on the grass nibbling on unseen sources of food. Silence now has its own beat and rhythm, a pulse. That god-like grip is gently squeezing you. Your eyes ache. Damn light. Damnation, too.

Day four. They allow you to shower. They watch. Same as when you clean your teeth. They watch, and then take away the toothbrush, each time. Once a day. A tooth aches, now. Like you would ever harm yourself with a toothbrush. Or them. As much as you want to.

Day five comes and you struggle while trying to remember how a song goes that you know off by heart but you get stuck on the main chorus and you damn well know what comes after the chorus, like the guitar change and the drum beat, but they fade and the song switches to another tune and another and another. You promise yourself that you are not going mad. They come. They laugh. You laugh.

Don’t worry, it is perfectly normal that you are now talking to yourself by day 8 because you are craving a voice, any voice. Your voice sounds weird. You might do different voices.

She does take pity on you and asks if you’re okay and from where you sit all you can see is her pretty mouth and you find yourself wanting to ask her, ‘What’s a pretty gal such as yourself doing in a place like this?’ You smell her perfume as its invisible vapor softly wisps in bringing with it a connection of life outside of this 4×9.

The exterior door to the interior booms open and you hear angry shouting and watch from the slither of a window in the door. They are many. Amongst the many you see a large inmate inked from face to foot struggling with them. They all fall in a heap. You laugh.

You now have a neighbour across the corridor you silently hope will be decent enough to talk to, regardless of how he looks. You can’t judge any book by its cover, in here. Some books have killed. You just don’t know which one. His inked face is smeared against the glass fogging it up with a more violent contempt for them and this place than you do.

He sees you. You now become his focus. He begins by shouting at you, now, that he will kill you given the chance. You sit on the bed. No conversations will be had. He yells for what seems hours. At you. At the world. At them, when they come. Silence falls. You noticed some medical staff leave his cell. Sedation? Much needed medication? Anti-psychotics are dolled out like candy, in here.

Day 9 and they let you out into a tiny exercise yard designed for one surrounded by a chain link fence. Coils of razor wire glint in the sun. The summer heat is intense. The sounds from other yards across the way hit you all at once. Radios are playing songs you know. You can see other men, laughing, talking. One you know, met briefly, calls out to you from his yard about ten metres away, ‘What’d you do to land in the jelly ward?’ He laughs. You call back, ‘I don’t like the hotel! It wasn’t what the brochure said it was!’ He laughs again. They watch.

You finally get your first phone call. It takes a series of numbers, your prison number, a PIN, the number you want to call, punched into the phone before the call connects. You hear a monotone voice telling you and your dad on the other end of the line that this call is being made from a prison and does this person accept the call, and the voice finally says, this call is being recorded for security purposes. You just want the voice to shut up. You can hear your dad saying hello, can he hear you, too? They told you the calls only last eight minutes. One dollar per eight minutes, too.

‘Dad? I’m scared.’

Published by G.D. Ison

I'm a neurodivergent heavy metal loving motorcycle riding cat owning writer living in Brisbane (Meanjin), Australia. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. I hold a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Sunshine Coast and a Bachelor degree in the same, obtained from the Queensland University of Technology. I also hold a Bachelor degree in Visual Communication (Design) from Griffith University College of Art. Considering those academic achievements, I actually failed high school.

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