's 2016 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Kira M.

We used to call him Zero. He had been in the jail longer and anyone else, some joked that he used to be a guard. He had to at least be in his early twenties, but he was locked up here with a bunch of hardened criminals. Nobody knows exactly how the nickname Zero came about; he had zero friends, zero hair and was obsessed with numbers. But either way, that's what everyone called him, including staff members. Whenever he did speak, it was only with yes or no answers: 1 being yes, 0 being No. 

He was relatively harmless, never made a ruckus and stayed to himself; of course this made him the perfect target for bullying dick heads. People would trip him, throw food on him, spit in his face; yet nothing ever seemed to phase the guy. The only thing that would set him off is if you stole one of the notebooks or legal pads he was constantly writing in. I remember when some huge skin head, easily 6.5 feet and 300 pounds snatched one from him during lunch. He dangled it above Zero's head and mocked him.

"Lets see what your always scribbling here... numbers. Big surprise. So you want this back?"


"Say it like a person, you fucking freak!"


"Do it or I'm going to wipe my ass with it, you faggot!"

Everyone in the lunchroom stopped and stared at the scene, we all knew Zero was about to get his ass kicked. But then, Zero stood up and cleared his throat.

"19...12...9...16... 2...18...15...11...5...14... 10...1...23"

"You fucking queer, I bet you take it in the ass, don't you!"

The nazi pulled back his arm and made a fist, but as soon as he swung, Zero moved slightly to right. The dude lost his balance and slipped, hitting his mouth on the table. I have never seen so much blood in my entire life, apparently the guy's jaw broke and we never saw him again. Nobody fucked with Zero after that. 

Due to budget cuts, prisoners started being housed with one another; I was lucky enough to get bunked with Zero. His only personal items were ink pens and the stacks and stacks of used notebooks all filled with random numbers and math problems. He took bottom bunk and I got the top. I knew he didn't talk, so I asked him if it was alright to just talk at him, otherwise the silence would drive me crazy. I told him how I got caught up in heroin and was arrested, told him my favorite things on the outside, talked about how I couldn't wait to see my daughter. He would nod and sometimes let out a small laugh if he liked the joke I told him. I left him alone and he left me alone. 

One night I couldn't sleep, just tossing and turning. Ruminating about shit.

"Hey Zero, you up?"


"Hey I know you won't talk, but what the hell did you end up in here for? You seem like a nice guy, I can't imagine you doing some heinous shit."

There was I pause, and then a sound of scribbling. He ripped a page off his bright yellow legal pad and handed it up to me.

"I'll show you..." 

Now, at this point I figured he was going to rape me or some shit, because that note was mad creepy. But instead, he stood up and stretched out, and wrote something down. Then he put his hands on the cell door. I sat there in bed watching him. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled. Then in a hushed voice he said:


He stepped back, wrote something else down and lay back in his bed. After a minute or two of thinking this dude is fucking nuts, I finally asked him what the fuck that was supposed to prove. He handed me a note that just said one word.


And with a small click he snapped his fingers. Silence. Then the familiar noise of the cell door unlocking and it slowly creaked open. I nearly shit myself. This dude just said some numbers and literally snapped his fingers to make a jail cell open. Frantically, I got up and closed the door. Then I looked him in the eyes and asked him what he just did. He shrugged his shoulders and went back to writing. 

"So your in jail because you can unlock doors?!"


"Well then what the fuck was that, why are you here, what the hell did you do?!"

He handed me a note. 'Do you want to see your daughter tonight? Do you want to see why I'm in here?'

I thought it over and nodded. Yeah. I do. I don't want to let her grow up without a dad just because I'm a fucking dope fiend. 

Zero got out of bed, slipped on his sandals and grabbed a fresh notebook and pen. He wrote a note that said 'don't worry they can't see us just stay calm and follow me.' He repeated the door numbers then said some new ones.

"2...5... 21...14...19...5...5...14"

After a moment we slowly crept out of the cell, and I followed Zero. He stopped occasionally at certain cells and put his hand on them. 


He did this twenty or thirty times, sometimes right in front of guards. We made our way to the main exit, helmed by two armed guards. Zero stopped and wrote something down, before standing next to them. 

4...9...5... 20...15...7...5...20...8...5...18...


He snapped this fingers and immediately the guards fell down as the gate unlocked. We ran past the gate and out into the free world. We stuck together until we reached my home. He handed me another note. 

'Visualize this symbol and repeat the numbers listed. You're family will see you after that.'

"So where are you going to go now? Do you have a home, or a plan? Would you like to stay with us?"

He smiled and shook his head.


"How can I thank you then?"

He shrugged, and for the first time he actually spoke words.

"Don't worry about it kid, I'm not the type to get tied down to one place. I'm a wanderer, have been since the Mayflower, I'm just a rat on another sinking ship. Go see your family, who knows? Maybe I will bump into you someday."

We shook hands and I watched him walk under the street lights till I couldn't see him anymore. I sighed, and opened my front door and quietly shut it. My wife and daughter were curled up on the couch, they must've fallen asleep watching a movie. I stroked my daughters hair and a tear rolled down my check. Smiling, I pulled the note out of my pocket and read the instructions again. I looked at the strange symbol he drew, it reminded me of a hieroglyph or something. I looked at my beautiful girls one more time before imagining the symbol in my minds eye, and read the numbers.