Michael sat in the cold chair staring across a cold room at his sister Erica. She was a good sister Michael thought. She would drive an hour every day from her house in Spring to visit him. Her next test would be crucial for Michael’s future. The appeals process would give him some time to think. He knew he was innocent, yes all inmates would say that, but he truly was innocent. He just needed to find a way to show there were many mistakes during his trial. He could possibly receive a new trial if everything went well.
“Michael, are you listening to me?” asked his sister.
“I’m sorry Erica, what were you saying?”
“Due to the recent donations by an influential organization, the State of Texas has allowed inmates on death row one hour a day with a new educational program called EDAI. You were incarcerated before this program became an international sensation, it’s an educational program controlled by an artificial intelligence that will provide you with an education that was once only accessible at a university.”
“I’m sorry Erica, but how is this good news for me?”
“You know better than anybody what happened that night. You know your case like the back of your hand, what you don’t know is the legal system. Within months of using EDAI you can learn the in’s and outs and possibly find a mistake in your case. You know we can’t afford a good attorney, but you can become one.”
This didn’t seem realistic to Michael. How in the world could he become an attorney or even learn a small part of their knowledge in a few months? His sister was a dreamer but this was getting out of hand. His life was on the line and this was her answer. He didn’t expect her to find a solution for his situation but she was insistent on helping. She loved her little brother and would do anything she could to help him. He loved her for this when no one else would stand by him.
“Erica you need to stop! I know you want to help, but reading books one hour a day will in no way, shape or form help me get out of this mess.”
He regretted yelling at her, but instead of sadness in her face, he saw something else. Come to think of it, something was different about her. She was always a person of average intelligence, but the last few visits she seemed a bit more focused. She’d even got a new job, one that paid her pretty well. At first her plan was to save up so she could pay for a decent attorney, but now it seemed that idea was thrown out the window in favor of a replacement that seemed ridiculous. He realized this was the source of his anger that day, why would his sister, the only person who cared and believed in him, decide to give up and rely on him becoming an attorney, one hour at a time day after day. It made no sense whatsoever.
Erica didn’t return for the next 3 weeks, not because she didn’t want to but because he didn’t want her to. After some time to think he decided to see why she put so much faith in this educational program. He hated reading but what did he have to lose? The time arrived, he knew the guard would be knocking on his steel door any minute now to deliver some books to him. What he didn’t expect was the two small circular pieces of paper that were placed in the door slot.
“Put one over each ear. In an hour I’ll be back to pick them up. You’ll place them back into the slot, if one is missing or they appear damaged you will not be allowed to use them again.”
Michael spent the first 20 minutes staring at these pieces of paper. He laughed and thought to himself that this was just another way for the state to make me look like a fool. Did they do this to all the inmates? The prison was considered one of the worst ten prisons in the country. He spent 23 hours a day alone in a 60 square foot room. The only time outside of his cell was either during visits with Erica or his one hour a day outside. He didn’t really consider it outside, he was an outdoors type of person. He was a hunter and worked for an outdoor adventure tour company, being outdoors was natural to him. What he experienced in prison was not outdoors, even outside he was in a cage. The treatment was horrible, so he didn’t put it past the warden to add extra torment to the prisoners. Why not build up their hope then destroy it by giving them pieces of paper. Not paper to write with just worthless paper, with only three little letters branded into a small border of each piece, TQS.
“Well why not,” he said to himself out loud.
He placed a piece over each ear, then in an instant, he heard that voice. The voice that so many people around the world heard. The smooth voice of a woman, it reminded him of when he was a child and his mother would sing to him at night so he could sleep.
During the next two months the one hour per day he spent with those two pieces of paper were his daily escapes from the world he was living in. Most of his daily sessions he spent learning about law and the Texas legal system, this only lasted about three weeks. By then he could probably act as the attorney for his own case. So instead of spending every day improving on that knowledge, the paper somehow determined what he was already feeling, that it was time to learn other subjects. He didn’t question how, why would he? It was his own internal desire so why not go with the flow.
Then the woman spoke to him and asked him a question. It never did this, prior to this moment she only ever taught him what he wanted to learn. No two-sided conversation ever took place, but today was different. She asked him about that fateful night and he responded, not by his voice but through his thoughts, by visual representations of the emotions and memories he felt the night his wife and two children were murdered. He recalled returning home, exhausted after a long day of work, and making his best efforts to not wake anybody. He didn’t even attempt to remove any clothes prior to laying down in the bed and falling asleep. The next thing he could remember was the sound of his door being kicked in and two policemen throwing his recently awoken body to the floor as they handcuffed him and read him his rights. Not until he was being carried away did he see his wife’s dead body covered in blood on the same bed he’d slept in last night.
All of this was seen by ANI. She could feel what Michael was feeling as he replayed these thoughts.
The next morning, in his cell, Michael was once again awoken by guards barging into his room. This time not to arrest him, but to confirm he was alive. As he was being escorted out of his cell and taken to a visitors room inside the prison, he noticed the doors of the other cells open, and inside each of them laid a prisoner asleep on his bed. He found out later they weren’t asleep, and he was the only prisoner to wake up that morning in the Polunsky Unit Maximum Security prison.