Bury Me
Author:Tara Sivec

My body glides easily through the water, my legs kicking harder to push me closer to the wall. Tilting my head to the side on the surface, I take one last huge breath before diving under, flipping over and pushing off the cement side with my feet to send me soaring in the opposite direction.

My muscles ache with each lap I swim, but it’s a pain I welcome. It reminds me I’m alive, I’m still fighting, and I’m getting stronger, as opposed to the agony I’m forced to endure on a regular basis.

This is my treat for being good. This is my reward for doing as I’m asked and never questioning the things that are done to me. My lungs are on fire as I push and pull my arms through the cold water, but I don’t care. This is the only place I feel in control of my life. I’m so tired of the tests that I’m never going to pass and the pain inflicted on me in the hopes that it will change everything about me. I’m never going to change. I’m never going to be a different person. I was born this way, I will stay this way, and I will make them pay for what they’ve done to me.

Stepping down off of the sprawling front porch that wraps around the entire front section of the east wing of the prison, I take a minute to stare up at the front of the huge stone structure. Made out of its original brick and mortar, it’s quite obvious that Gallow’s Hill is a very old building constructed a very long time ago, with its Victorian Gothic style and pointed turrets on top of each guard tower. The building has remained in surprisingly good condition on the outside, needing only a few repairs here and there to fix a leak in the roof or wayward crumbling bricks. Since the prison relies on grants from the state in order to make any type of repairs, only the most detrimental ones are fixed immediately, the ones that would prevent us from conducting tours. As long as the peeling paint, crumbling stones inside the cell blocks, and loose floorboards throughout the prison add to the creepy factor of the tours and don’t pose a threat to any visitors, they are pushed aside for more effective ways to spend the small amount of money the state gives us to run the facility.

Aside from the retelling of true events that have happened here and the invention of completely outrageous myths that people buy into, the building itself is one of the main draws for tourists. It’s huge and ominous, even in daytime. Pulling up the long, winding driveway and getting a first glimpse of it through the trees makes visitors feel like they’re starring in their very own horror movie. At least that’s what all of the tourists say. To me, this place is just home. It’s where I was born, where I grew up, and where I celebrated birthdays and holidays. We had family picnics on the lawn during summer days and caught lightning bugs in mason jars when the sun went down. It all sounds so perfect and idyllic as I stand here thinking about it, but something tugs at the back of my mind making me question the things I know. How can we be such a perfect, normal family after the way my father spoke to my mother yesterday? How can I have all these wonderful, happy thoughts in my head, but at the same time see a photo in our living room that makes me want to scream that everything I know is a lie?

After an hour of staring out my bedroom window and not seeing any sign of people working around the grounds today, I quickly dressed and hoped my instincts were right and that Nolan isn’t here today. I’m tired of the cloying, musty scent of the prison walls. I’m tired of the dreary darkness of being stuck inside, and I’m tired of being afraid to go anywhere just because of one guy. This is my home and I’m not going to allow him to make me feel fearful anymore.

Turning away from the building, I make my way down the sidewalk and around the side of the building, headed toward the lake located about an acre away.

With my face turned up toward the sun, I let it warm me as I make my way down to the lake. I let the chirping of birds and the soft breeze that rustles the leaves in the trees take my mind off of my troubles. Regardless of the fact that the 150 acres of land surrounding the prison used to be a place for inmates to farm and be forced to work relentlessly under the boiling sun all day long in penance for their sins, it’s still a beautiful area. Filled with rolling hills and lush green grass as far as the eye can see, it now resembles acres and acres of a park-like setting, instead of a prison farm. Gone are the fields of soybeans and corn the inmates were tasked with cultivating day in and day out. When the prison was shut down, my father let everything grow over, no longer having the benefit of a few hundred workers to keep things going. I like it much better like this, where I can roam the grounds alone without having an escort because when the prison was open, there were shackled inmates everywhere who could pose a threat at any moment, not that I could remember such a time.

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