A continuation of my other story "Guilt", about a soldier in the middle east
|The gallows drew nearer and nearer, my destiny was at hand. My “escort” pushed me in attempt to make me move quicker and when that didn’t work he took my knee out from under me with his heavily notched nightstick, causing me to fall onto one knee. The pain throbbed throughout my knee and rang all the way to my mind. I knew this brute had little patience, for he had often been my torturer in “prison”. Still, I refused to quicken my pace, and I slowly rose to my feet and began my sluggish approach towards fate. Obviously not pleased by my display of apathy, the brute smashed his nightstick into the back of my skull, adding yet another notch. I fell to my knee and proceeded to collapse to the ground. The sand teased my face as I slowly inhaled, I felt unnaturally dizzy, and I could not stay focused on any one object no matter how close. Looking up from the sand, I saw a colossal shadow approach me, I promptly began to slip in and out of consciousness, and I soon completely succumbed to the growing darkness. Shucks, I so wanted to see my last few minutes of life.
I awoke to the sensation of being of being enveloped by water. The water coursed down my face, and it similarly trickled down my spine. I went to feel the back of my neck when I realized I was completely shackled. I didn’t need to feel my neck to realize that the blow to my head had drew blood, for I could feel something thicker sprinkle down my vertebrae, incoherently causing a shudder throughout my spine. I shook the water from my face and upon doing this I heard a crowd cheer their approval. Only then did I bother to look up at my surroundings. I was in courtyard, the giant courtyard with the gallows located center stage. This courtyard was barren; it was a wasteland beside the gallows, which were no less impressive than their location. This courtyard may have been barren, and coated with sand and the occasional underbrush, but it served its purpose, for it was large enough to hold a crowd of thousands. And, that seemed to be the case this day as I felt the hungry gaze of an entire civilization feast upon me. I locked gazes with them, not one singly, but I locked gazes with what in my mind appeared to be the eyes of the entire group. With that acknowledgement, cheers for Allah began to pollute the atmosphere as my new “escort” unshackled me.
“You are nothing here American,” he whispered into my ear.
“I never was” I say matter of factly, to such an extent that the man seemed to be taken back for a moment, a moment of hesitation, perhaps.
“You don’t belong here fool,” He whispers more menacingly this time. I don’t need words to display my message as I merely lock eyes with him. He understood and managed to nod his head. He grabbed me and led me to my own personal staircase of destiny.
As he pushed me up he whispered “My pity goes to you American,” and he slowly slipped away back into the waiting arms of the blood thirsty mob. I stumbled to a crouch, for my hands were stilled tied tight behind my back. I was swiftly grabbed by the neck and lifted to my feet. I gazed upon the weasel who had been my own personal torturer while in the prison. He stared me up and down, then began to smirk, “I won,” soon graced his lips as he began to scream to the mob below in Arabic I couldn’t understand. He ripped my meager clothing off of my body leaving me completely nude in front of the mass of people, he wanted to steal all honor from me; he wanted me to break. But, you can’t break that which is already broken. The sun began to shine upon me further highlighting my nude figure. It seemed almost as if its pale yellow glow shined upon me exclusively.
The weasel grabbed a whip, wishing to give his people a show, and began to whip me. I refused to give them the satisfaction of my screams, I began to think of Andrew, Sgt. Hanson and my last time spent back home, anything to distract myself from the searing flesh across my back. It was while thinking of my last stay in America that I began to realize that I deserve this fate. I had out of feral rage and insanity, killed an innocent old man. I could use insanity as a legitimate excuse, to justify my actions, but that doesn’t change the fact the old man is dead. It then occurred to me I was dying a well deserved murderer’s death. The weasel of a man pumped his fist in the air drawing another roar from the crowd, and he used the same fist to uppercut my chin, for I had fallen to knees during the whippings. I fell backwards from the sheer momentum of that punch, and I lay sprawled across the balcony of the gallows, nude, with the pale sun consistently beating down upon me.
The weasel approached me and lifted me to my knees so that he had to stoop to be at eye level with me. Holding his hand upon the bottom of my chin forcing me to look up, he purred, “After your demise we will feast upon your innards.” He was obviously proud of himself, considering his twisted, deprived smile.
Well at least until I replied, “I’m just glad to be of use.” This undoubtedly issued another heavy punch knocking me to my back once more. He then lifted me again in the same fashion he had done before. “From personal experience, I’d recommend salt,” I calmly stated. He bellowed with rage and punched to ground once more, but this time he followed up with a series of kicks stealing the wind from my breathe. The persistent little man lifted me to my knees, again, lowered his face within inches of me and began to accumulate saliva, thinking to spit on me. My hands were tied, my feet were tied, but, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of superiority, and it soon dawned on me that neck wasn’t shackled. When he put his face close to mine to ensure the aim of his spit, I quickly snapped my head forward, head-butting the man. He scrambled to a stand, clutching his nose, which was spewing blood, and began to curse wildly. The mob was a hush now, and all eyes were upon the weasel. He began to scream at the executioners, in Arabic, but yelled once in English to ensure I knew the meaning of his yelp-like screams. He ordered my death. The crowd began to screech wildly in a craze driven by their own blood-lust. A man, large in stature, lifted me into the air while another man slipped the noose around my neck. My well deserved fate was now fully and irrevocably at play. I began to feel a slow, steady jerking upon my neck as the large executioner hoisted me in the air through a series of pulleys. In most countries they would by some means drop a person when they hanged them, which would often result in the snapping of the victim’s neck, but here it was different they wanted suffering, and they accomplished this by slowly raising the criminal, which slowly and effectively strangled the victim. I could’ve been somewhere else enjoying a quick a death, but, no, I was lucky; I got to slowly yet painfully, watch my own death
Being hanged is a peculiar thing. I was aware it was happening, but I couldn’t feel it, my mind was elsewhere as I stared into the eyes of the savages, the savages whom appeared to be savoring my death as a starved man would a fine meal. Along with hunger, within their eyes I found utter despair and hopelessness. I realized they were not like this; the circumstances of their world forced them into this barbaric living. But, they refused to accept help, their pride would not accept it, and they resented us for putting them into this situation, where help was available, but unattainable. They are Masters of their own destruction, I realized, and there was little we could do to change that.
I was brought to reality as the mob began to unleash a barrage of rocks upon my nude body. I was completely numb all over, and I couldn’t feel it, but I didn’t miss the malicious hate with which they threw their small boulders. With each rock they threw their hate. Their hate of their present life, their hate of us for living the luxurious life they so wished for and their hate of the unfavorable hand lady fate had cast down upon them. I knew my last breath was coming close, and I began to subconsciously gag for breath, but the effort was to no avail. I was hopelessly doomed. My eyes dimmed and I thought of the legacy I wished to leave behind, a legend of bravery, heroism, and honor. I considered the legacy I had left behind, a legacy of destroyed potential, thrown away life, and damaged emotions. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt the sharp pang of regret stab my heart and it felt as if it almost gave the killing blow itself. My eyes were struggling to stay open, and I now tried to breathe through elongated gasps, but I made no progress as I was going deeper and deeper within myself. I had barely noticed the savages had begun to chew ferociously on my toes, feet, and legs, resulting in a large release of numb blood. I knew my time for this earth was now measured in mere seconds, and I couldn’t help but think of the grizzled old veteran who I had met upon entering this war.
“Do you know where you are son?” he had gruffly inquired even though he did not expect an answer,
“You are in hell and you aren’t escaping alive,” He had chillingly, yet calmly stated, with disgust clear in his eyes. The man had said that I was his replacement, and he was no longer needed here; he had killed himself the next night.
As I caught my last glimpse of hell, which was curiously occupied by the thunder of an American chopper landing in the courtyard, I wondered who my replacement might be. And, with my last thought in hell, I prayed for whoever that replacement might be, for I knew, just like the old veteran, that he wouldn’t escape hell alive.