Chapter 7: Beauty Outside of Hell To buy any or all of my drug war and prison thrillers on Amazon go here- http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00571NY5A
Following my directions I knew I was getting close. I looked out the window and was amazed by the beauty of the remote town that housed Pelican Bay. Ancient redwood trees soared hundreds of feet in the air like they were reaching out to the sky. An abundance of wildlife enjoyed an unspoiled nature of paradise. I watched a magnificent California Condor soar through the air effortlessly and another smaller bird dive down to a river flowing through the forest. A sign on the road stated the cities nickname, The Redwood Gate to the Golden State. I passed a diner and found the street to Pelican Bay, Lake Earl Drive and turned right. A sign said that Pelican Bay State Prison was 2.7 miles away.
Driving the last couple of miles to the prison compound the energy changed. The noise from the teeming wildlife stopped as if something tantamount was on the verge of happening. I began to make out the sounds of guns firing. At first, I thought the echoes of rifle fire was in response to a riot on the Level 4 side of the prison where prisoners were allowed a limited program on the yard together. My mind instantly remembered all the riots I had been in, or watched from my stomach on a number of prison yards. Past scenes flashed by of men dressed in prison garb being pulled by the unseen force of willpower, punching, grunting, kicking, yelling, and stabbing at each other to their own destruction. I waited for the accompanying sound of the deeper, more explosive block gun, it wasn’t present. Nor, was the sound of the high pitched alarm. I listened on the edge of my seat waiting for the sound of an adrenaline charged guard from a gun tower yelling over and over through a loudspeaker to, “Get down!” It didn’t come, only the reports of rifle fire, it wasn’t a riot.
I realized the explosions from guns being fired were coming from the gun tower prison guards, but it was target practice. I remembered that on Level 4 prison yards they did that once in a while or when the yard was on lock down. Maybe the Pelican Bay hunger strike shut the whole prison down.
My body was tense and I realized my hands were gripping the steering wheel like a vise. The prison was coming into view as the forest opened up to fences filled with barbed wire. Inside the fences, in contrast to the forest, the prison was filled with tan concrete buildings. I had to slow down because a California State Prison bus was in front of me waiting for a guard to open the first fenced in corridor to enter. A dirty cloud of exhaust lingered in the air over the drab green colored bus. The smoke slowly lifted over the tinted windows covered by steel bars. I watched a Pelican Bay prison guard, dressed in a green uniform over laced up army boots, take his time to get inside another boxed in fenced cage on the left side of the bus where he pressed a button and the gate for the bus opened. Two other Pelican Bay prison guards walked up with rifles and stood posted as sentries waiting. The door to the bus opened and two prison transport guards walked out holding rifles and greeted the Pelican Bay prison guards and handed them some papers. Another Pelican Bay prison guard walked up with a long thin piece of silver metal with a mirror attached to the end of it facing up. He walked around the edge of the bus with the mirror close to the ground while he examined the under carriage. Finished with his circle he nodded to the guard in the enclosed cage and the bus entered the corridor with another dark cloud of exhaust rising in its wake.
I turned left and drove around the outskirts of the prison and knew I was passing the Maximum Security side of Pelican Bay. Through the barbed wire topped fences I saw the parts of the buildings the prisoners lived in that I remembered so vividly. Five buildings went by in a tilted 180 degree circle and then the next prison yard came into view and I turned the corner and passed two more prison yards. A sign directed my path to the left to park in the visitor parking lot.
The parking lot for visitors was full. At least the prisoners were getting visits during their hunger strike. If I was right and the prison was trying to keep the prisoners from finding out that their hunger strike was building momentum by keeping their mail, it wasn’t working.
On my way to the visiting room I realized that most of the other visitors were media representatives. Some were outfitted with hats that signified which branch of media they were representing and I noticed that all of them had media passes hanging around their necks. I saw a forty something young black lady with a hat that signified she was from a radio station and noticed her name and nickname on her press pass hanging from her neck, Washina, Sista Soul.
I was hungry for conversation after the fourteen hour drive, and curious. “Hi Sista Soul, who are you visiting?”
Sista Soul scrunched up her eyes like she was analyzing me to see if I was trustworthy so I smiled as big as possible. She must have seen something in my character that soothed her soul because her eyes crinkled a little. She asked, “Are you the FBI?”
I laughed, “Not quite, I’m an ex-convict worried about my friend. I don’t think he’s been getting my mail.”
Sista Soul smiled as deeply as I was smiling and her whole face turned into a glow that centered on her eyes. She said, “He probably isn’t getting your mail. The media showed up right as the prisoners started hunger striking and there were groups of protesters already here. The prison kicked the protesters out but they couldn’t keep us out…