It was his first night at Gezel Hesar State Prison. It was the country's biggest prison, said to be worse than Evin, and located in the town of the same name in the city of Karaj in Northern Iran.
The cell didn't have its own bathroom. Prisoners had to ask, often beg, the guards to let them use the bathroom down the hall. Sometimes, because of this, the prisoners would piss in empty Coca-Cola bottles they kept in the cell, but this carried a risk. The guards hated it and would severely punish the prisoner if they him with his dick in his hand.
One particularly cold night, Arash and other prisoners had been trying to hold it in for as long as possible but that morning it was too unbearable. Just the other day he had witnessed the guards beating the blood and breath out of one of the prisoners in the next door cell for pissing in a bottle. So he decided to hold it in until morning. Arash and the prisoners starting banging on the walls and yelling out the cell. A guard came over.
"What is it!"
"Open the door! We need to piss!"
The guard looked at Arash with pure hate. Without saying a word, he opened the door and pointed down the hall. Arash came out and ran down the hall. He passed cell after cell. But he kept his attention down the hall. He was only a few yards away from the bathroom but something caught his eye from inside a cell. He froze. The other prisoners and guards started yelling at him to keep going. But he couldn't lift up his feet. Staring back at him from within the cell next to the bathroom were hundreds of eyes. The cell was so overcrowded you couldn't see anything else. Just the bars, bodies and eyes. Eight-to-10 per bed. Some pressed their faces and bodies up against the bars and just hanged their, hugging the bars. They weren't moving or talking. Nothing. The stared directly at Arash. The urge to piss had disappeared. The guards and prisoners behind Arash kept yelling, demanding he move. He went into the bathroom. The stench of piss and diarrhetic shit of thousands of emaciated, diseased and infectious prisoners would've normally caused him to gag but he was too disturbed with seeing the prisoners and their motionless bodies. But especially all those eyes. Just staring. Absentmindedly, he unbuckled his pants and walked up to one of only three toilets. Each toilet was separated by a thin sheet of metal. Afterward, he washed his hands in the sink. There was only one.
He walked out. More prisoners rushed in. He slowly walked pass the cell. He should've ran but he was still in shock. The yelling must've snapped some of the bodies back to life. Their heads and hands slowly moved. They blinked. They didn't plea or say anything. They just looked at him. Arash looked away. They were bodies with faces and eyes, but somehow no longer human. They were meat.
Arash and his cellmates walked back to their cell and waited for breakfast to be served. Everyone was still hungry.
Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, The Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.
Arash Pouyan was born in 1966 in Tehran. By the age of 12 he participated in the 1979 Iran Revolution. Later on he was arrested for his participation and support of the Fedaii. After three years as a political prisoner, he was released and left to Europe—where he continued his political activism against the Islamic Republic. Afterward, he moved to the U.S. He returned, briefly, to Iran in 2009 to participate in the Green Movement. Today, he continues to keep up to date with the popular movements not just in Iran but all over the world.