My first BlogHop! Penance is a story inspired by my trip to Eastern State Penitentiary this summer, a truly awesome place if you get a chance to visit Philadelphia. At the end I’ll include some photos from my visit too.
Be sure to check out the link to the other BlogHop stories included below!
He hadn’t even wanted to come on this vacation but when you were sixteen you didn’t get much say in family trips. They didn’t even let him drive the rental car. For most of the drive Jeremy was stuck in the backseat waiting for it to be over.
His sister navigated from the passenger seat, badly if anyone bothered to ask him, while his mother looped around the city avoiding one way streets and shifty looking neighborhoods. They weren’t city people, but they were, or at least his Mother and Sherri were, haunted places people. Now they were driving around Philadelphia trying to find Eastern State Penitentiary. ‘Good Halloween fun’ they dubbed it; but he wasn’t convinced. So some people saw shadows, who cared?
After what felt like hours, and multiple unheard complaints, they turned a corner and a giant stone wall loomed ahead. It was bizarre to see it tucked right in next to the homes and businesses of the city, even Jeremy had to pause his complaining at the sight of it.
Inside they ducked around pipes to get to the front desk. They were early for the tour but were handed audio tour headsets to keep them busy. Jeremy dejectedly took the headphones from the docent and followed his family inside the prison. Signs encouraged them to ‘press 1’ on their players to hear the history of the building. With everyone at slightly different points in the narration it was hard to stay together.
Eventually in the cell block they paused to re-sync. Punching in #11 they all hit play and were told about how the cells differed from the way they were first built. Jeremy stopped listening after a few sentences and just followed along behind his mother. Everyone stopped to group around a cell door, only a narrow bar blocked entrance. The interior was set as it would have been at the opening of the penitentiary. A small sign reminded ‘ Do Not Enter.’ Lagging behind Jeremy had other plans, dropping his recorder he ducked under the bar into the small room.
Suddenly it was dark. Only a narrow window on the wall opposite where he entered allowed any light in. Spinning around, he noticed the door had slid closed. When he rushed to push it open he found it was no longer there, just a square opening about three feet off the ground remained. The narrator had said that; the doors they had now were not in the original plans, the only doors were to the solitary yards and were under the windows.
He rushed to the other side, running his hands along the wall, sure enough he felt the edges of a small door. It wouldn’t budge. Frantically he pounded the door, calling out to anyone who might be able to hear him; there was no answer. Now he thought. They had said that too, inmates had to be silent. As much as it pained him he stopped screaming, took a few deep breaths and tried to calm himself. He wasn’t sure if he was more scared or angry. His stupid sister had planned this trip and now he was locked in a prison cell and all he could think about was that annoying narrator droning on about the history of the prison; no not a prison, a penitentiary. People were supposed to be sorry here.
Jeremy was sorry now, sorry for coming into the cell, sorry for tossing aside the recorder, even sorry for all the complaining. He didn’t even know where the feelings came from but they were there. He wasn’t angry anymore, but he was still scared. He sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands. The only sound in the room was the creak of the bed as he shifted his weight forwards.
A second later light filled the room. Startled he turned, the cell door was full sized again and wide open save the thin metal bar. He could see his mother across the hall peering into another room. Quickly he staggered through the opening trying not to draw attention to himself. He failed. Sherri tugged their mothers’ arm and they both pulled off their headsets.
“Jer, it clearly says not to go in there. Why can’t you listen? You might actually learn something interesting.”
He covered the few feet between them quickly.
“You know, this place is kind of cool.” He didn’t have the same enthusiasm as them but he knew better now: you shouldn’t mess with Eastern State Penitentiary. It was still handing out sentences to those who misbehaved.
Be sure to check out all the StoryTime BlogHop Participants:
J. Q. Rose Sorry
Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
Barbara Lund Spooky Space
Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
Sherri Conway Ants
Elizabeth McCleary Over James Henry Wilcox Dead Body
Canis Lupus The Picture
Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
Bill Bush Trapped
Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
Viola Fury 911
Juneta Key All Hallow’s Eve
C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful