A prisoner on death row reflects on his life and deeds
|Eulogy of the Dead Man
The light from the cell window grew ever brighter as the sun rolled across the sky. I lay there, just staring at no particular place on the wall. A few cockroaches slithered across the bare gray stones making up the floor of my cell. A few gnawed bones of some animal or person were piled up in the corner of the room. I could also hear inhuman moans and wails coming from below driving me mad. I had been here too long, too long for me to ever be free from the chilling images I had of this place.
Such nightmares I had in this accursed prison. Sometimes the bones in my cell came alive and turned into some demonic creature. The floor split apart and death itself would rise up and torture me. Even my family couldn’t escape these nightmares, as they would often come to taunt me in my sleep.
I never had a bed to lie upon here, just the cold stone ground that froze me every night. During the day I would stand close to my one window to avoid the cold, never looking out to see the town. The warm breeze drifting in was so alluring but it burned me all the same. I didn’t want to see the happiness outside. My cell was my home and it was all I deserved.
My mind was everywhere, racing around like a mouse in a maze. I was in the past reliving everything I had been through, all the things I had done. Sometimes I was in a distant future with a beautiful wife and some kids to call my own. An older son and a younger daughter. A strong young lad just like his father and a daughter resembling her beautiful mother. That was what I had truly wanted; only I found that out too late.
Who was I kidding? There was no future to look forward to. It was all going to be over soon, and I would drift away down the river of sweet blissful death.
The church bell outside rang throughout the town letting everyone know it was noon. There was only one hour left until I would leave this world behind and fall into an eternity of nothingness.
Once I had been a hopeful young man ready for anything the world could throw at me, but I was also foolish and stubborn. Every step I took to further along my success someone pulled the ground out from under me and I was left falling. Driven by my ambition I stepped over everyone that I could truly rely upon. My friends and family were all wisps of memories in my mind pushed back to make room for my new life.
Only fifteen minutes now until I took my last walk, to the gallows of all places. I felt trapped but free at the same time in that small cell. Doomed to live with what I had done and never being able to change it, but soon I would be free from its tightening grasp. I could hear three guards talking in hushed whispers a few feet away from my cell. They always talked in whispers before someone was executed.
A few seconds later one of them approached my cell and fumbled through his pockets for his keys. He found them and held them out towards the door savoring every moment. In this prison they never open a cell door to release a free man, it was always straight to the gallows. He slid the key into the lock and the door made a loud clinking noise. He swung the door open and motioned me outside saying simply, “It’s time.”
Even with my hands bound together I might have been able to knock them down and make for a vain escape attempt but there was no point to it. There was nothing left for me out there anyways. The three guards led me down a spiral staircase that kept going with no apparent end. We began to pass by more cells, almost all empty, but a few had what was left of people in them. They were all huddled in a corner of their cells, some completely still and silent, and others rocking quickly back and forth and muttering inaudibly to themselves. Some of them looked up at me with longing stares. They knew exactly where I was going and were envious of it.
We finally reached the bottom of the staircase and stopped in front of a big wooden door. One of the guards pulled it open while the other two led me outside. It would be the first time in 30 years outside of this horrible prison, and the last. The sunlight’s glare blinded and dazed me. It was the most pleasurable and painful experience I had ever had. Ignoring the searing pain of it all I embraced it.
As I walked down the street to the town square, mothers pulled their children behind them and watched me with worried stares. Men tensed up ready to defend their families should this poor desperate criminal try to escape. They didn’t know I was heading exactly where I wanted to go.
Some of the townspeople I could see were either shopkeepers or farmers. They were all poorly dressed, but still better than I was. I noticed an old bearded man wearing a robe sitting on a wooden bench. As I passed by he lifted his head and looked at me with stern eyes. He looked at me as if we knew each other. Before I could say anything he was out of earshot and it was too late.
Everyone backed away shunning my glorious procession down the road. I could hear music playing in my head, maybe a marching band? A marching band for my parade playing music that caused women and men to gnash and grind their teeth while their children ran away screaming bloody murder.
As we arrived in front of the steps to the gallows the townspeople started to gather around the stage. As I was led up the stairs I took one last look at the people’s faces around me. They were full of life and hope. They all had something to live for and even though they came to watch my life end I wished them luck for theirs to be long and fulfilling.
This was no execution of an infamous bandit or killer where a huge crowd gathered around to taunt the person before they died. To this crowd my death would be meaningless, just another petty criminal out of the way.
The executioner was a tall burly man sitting on a stool on the corner of the stage. As I walked in front of the noose he stood up and pulled his black mask over his head. Then one of the guards put my head through a noose and tightened it. The rope coiled around my neck like a vicious snake.
The music stopped and the whole world was silent except for the executioner’s heavy breathing as he picked up his axe and stepped towards me. As he got closer I smelled the death of hundreds of people radiating from him. It almost made me vomit, a fitting aroma for the messenger of death.
During one last gaze into the crowd I saw the old man that had been sitting on the bench. His eyes were dull gray and peering straight into mine. The second before the rope was cut he winked an eye and everything disappeared. It was over quick just like I had hoped and I didn’t have to worry about life anymore. The crowd began to disperse and return to their homes and the guards went to clean up my corpse.
As soon as I died a rush of feeling shot into me. It was pure and evil all at once, tearing me apart and throwing me away. Then I came back together and felt the same normal numb feeling I had always had.
Like waking up from a dream, I suddenly felt two people dragging me across the dirt. Could this be some sort of after life? I realized it couldn’t be because as soon as I opened my eyes I saw the same quaint little town I had been locked up in for half of my life. I was alive but the only thing I could do was open my eyes.
A few seconds later I felt myself being tossed into some kind of shallow pit. I realized it was a grave but not a formal one like you would bury a normal person in. It was a lot bigger, probably to fit multiple bodies in it. I struggled to move or make a sound but all I could do was lie there. There was no pain or feeling just nothingness. Why was I still here? What purpose was there for me anymore? Who kept me alive?
Then everything started to fade but I knew it still wasn't sweet death's embrace.