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Defending the Pack.
But in every case the combined weight thwarted her. There was no possible respite.
I could see the strain down her plump legs: as though the cast iron blocks were not just dead weights but something alive and malign, actively pulling at her like hands pulling somebody down to a watery grave. I could see the ridge of the Pony straining upwards against her vagina, as though it, too, were sentient, engaged in some terrible tug of war with the weights, trying to force Parker upwards just as they would force her down. When Parker began to wail I turned away: I could not watch: it was too obscene.
"Eyes on the prisoner," bawled Dawes.
I forced myself to watch again, but now the sound had eclipsed everything else. It was a tragic, low, agonised groan, rising and dipping, accompanied by gasping and grimacing and wide-eyed, wide-mouthed, wordless pleading.
"Everybody pay attention," shouted Hardiman, when this had gone on for several agonising minutes. "Exercise will now proceed as normal. No-one is to talk to Parker or make any attempt to communicate with her in any way. Do you all understand?"
There were mutterings of assent. Then Dawes, Hardiman and Clark began shooing us away from the Wooden Pony as though they were Police at a road accident, trying to send all the onlookers home.
We drifted away. There were mutterings and exclamations; there was even some laughter, though born of nervous tension and lacking in malice. The women began to devolve into little groups and clusters. Somebody began to throw the ball around half-heartedly.
I found myself with Micky, Prana and Rose, as though we had been drawn together by some bond of shared shock.
"That was awful," said Micky. No-one disagreed, and we looked as one across the yard to where Parker was still straddling the pony.
"Have you never seen that happen before?" asked Rose.
Micky and Prana both shook their heads.
"I think the last one was before your time," said Rose.
"She'll be sore for weeks," said another woman, joining us.
"It'll be a long time before she feels like a rub," said another.
"I wonder what happened to her?" I said.
"I can tell you that," said a girl close by, whom I recognised as the freckled girl who had complained about Dawes pissing on her on my first day at Showers. "She's my cellmate you know."
This caught the attention of a good many women, and soon an audience had formed around the freckled girl, who I gathered was known as Fran.
"You know about how she climbed into the laundry trolley I suppose?" asked Fran. It seemed everyone did. "Well, Julia Parker hasn't been in here long, and the silly thing just took her chance without thinking it through. All she saw was an opportunity to get out of this place. Anyway, once she was in the trolley she just had to wait to see what happened. She didn't have to wait long: laundry was already late because of Wilkes being ill - I heard Wilkes had appendicitis by the way, so don't say nothing good ever happens in here. She'd barely had time to get used to the stink of soiled knickers before the trolley was on the move: first across the prison yard, then onto a hydraulic platform. She felt the platform rising up, and then the trolley was wheeled into a van. A few minutes later she was in motion.
"She realised where she was. The back of the van was completely enclosed, so she was able to climb out without being seen by the driver. She doesn't look very athletic, does she? You wouldn't think she could manage it."
"She'll be a lot less athletic tomorrow," said a woman grimly.
"Her idea was to wait until the van had stopped, at a traffic light or something, then climb out of the back and try to slip away unnoticed.