Жыве Беларусь!

The Smell

Every prison has its own smell.

When you tumble out of a congested meat wagon with your sacks, the first thing you see are the inquisitive mugs of the guards. Reflexively, your pores start to absorb the smell of the prison that is going to become home for you for the next months or years.

Volodarka! is saturated with anxiety.

Starting from ‘cabinets” to the ‘submarine’, from the tempo rary detention unit to dungeons, from recreation yard to the infirmary, from new blocks to ‘the red block’ — its concrete walls, tiled here and there, are breathing with apprehensive attitude. Anxiety over your fate, insecurity and frightening suspense overwhelm.

Where will the screw locate me? To the ‘blatnoy’* house? Or to the ‘muzhiks’ one? Or, perhaps, to the pressure-house’?

The investigator has come! What’s going to happen? A face- to-face interrogation? Has a sidekick started to snitch on me? Or maybe it’s time to familiarise myself with materials of the case.

The lawyer! Why so early? It was not so long ago he visited me! Is anything wrong with the relatives?

Custody prison No. 8, aka Zhodino, aka Black stork (the prison got this romantic nickname, I suppose, from the cops themselves by analogy with the Russian Black Swan to add more poignancy and importance) smells of fear. It’s penetrated the foot-worn stairs, the scrubbed floor, the cells of concrete and metal, the walls painted beige and the heads of the inmates. For 24 hours a day this place is absorbing the tumults and anxiety of those who are trapped in here.

Inmates are beaten up in Zhodino. Block wardens and the ‘reserve’ beat people for refusal to do the splits, for a rude reply back to the screw. The prison operatives beat for unwillingness to make a full confession or declaring hunger strikes. Zhodino is a ‘red’® prison. In the early 2000s here they broke down crime bosses and all kinds of prison gangsters. Their blood still smells like fear; it poisons present-day inmates and intoxicates the screws with permissiveness.

Mogilev gaol, officially Prison No. 4, smells of sleep. The staff are quiet and even-tempered (though there are always exceptions), the halls are silent, nobody is hurrying anywhere: a sleepy and phlegmatic feeling hangs in the air. About an hour before the lights-out they spread a long carpet in every hallway of the prison — to damp the steps of the screw. I was not able to figure it out for myself why this is done: to not disturb the inmates’ sleep with their steps, or so that the inmates don’t hear the screw sneaking up to the door and listening in to what the inmates are talking about in the cell? The wing is so quiet at night that while laying on a bunk you can hear the screw make a tea. Hear him boil the electric kettle, pour the water into the cup, put some sugar, stir it... take a sip...

It’s interesting, because in Mogilev they also beat the cons, because even there someone is waiting for a new sentence. But still the atmosphere is completely different. Maybe it’s because half of the population there are people with a 10-year or more stretch? They are fed up with being afraid, there is no reason for anxiety, there is nothing to wait for...

There is a TV show called ‘The Psychic Challenge’. One day watching the magicians passing with their hands and mysteriously squinting into the distance, I thought, ‘What if they could see the vibes of these buildings and places! Then over any of these buildings — Pishchalauski Castle, a former mental asylum converted into a Mogilev prison, the prison in Zhodino — over the places where the evil will of people who have once done harm to their loved ones meets the evil will of the state system, synergetically multiplying each other — they would see a giant, covering half of the sky, a black swirl which is sucking life out of those who happen to appear under it.

July 2016

Rebellions Against the Divine Hierarchy