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The seconds ticked away. Every moment was sacred. Who knows when it will be my last? Questions and regrets pounded in my mind. Neighboring cellmates clinked their chains together, matching fading heartbeats. The water dripped in the rusted sink, and the cement floors still remained frozen. Sacrificed as jailbait is one thing but sentenced to a non refundable hanging in the gallows, is hell.
Day in and day out, I have been contained in this cell. No money to my name, no granted phone calls on good behavior, just stale bread and water. Tally marks were carved into the ceiling above the bed where I lay. Six sets of five, thirty days and counting. Day after day, I wear the same grey rags. Ripped and stained, I am given nothing else. A common life expectancy for us in here is two months, three if you’re lucky. The guards don’t care if we live or die. Hell, we get new shipments every day, people from everywhere. My luck remains the same, every cell mate has a mate but me; I was always an odd number.
The guard on deck despised me. If he had any say in it, I would’ve been gone weeks ago.
“You ready, boy?” He glared at me as he laughed. His voice was strong.
“Ready for what, sir?” I stood perfectly still. Like a servant awaiting punishment. My hands between the bars, I waited in silence, any movement without permission was not taken lightly.
“The new arrival, boy.”
“Isn’t there new arrivals every day, sir?” I asked hesitantly.
“You getting’ smart with me?” his voice echoed off the walls.
There’s an odd number in the shipment today, looks like you’re finally gonna be getting’ yourself a Bunkie”
As soon as the words rolled from my lips, I heard the metal shackles hit the cement floor. Currsht… currsht… currsht… they kept getting closer, and then I saw him, an average teen just like me. His eyes were bright blue and his hair was a dirty blonde. The mud on his face made him look superior; his arms were muscular, like he could knock me out with one punch and his clothes were torn and filthy… Figures, even the newbie’s didn’t get fresh clothes. I watched in awe as the guard spoke again.
“Put him in 68F,” he choked.
“Ha, that’s me!”
“No, ya think?”
Rolling his eyes, he shoved him inside and began handcuffing him to the bed. (Normal tradition for people just admitted.)
“Get off me,” he screamed.
Without hesitation, I moved to the closest corner and watched. He was fearless. This was what I’ve been waiting for; I knew he was going to be my new best friend. Everything would be fine as long as he was here, but I was wrong. It spoke.
“What are you looking at, punk?” he asked.
“What? No. Hi.”I stuttered and rambled trying to get the words to come out.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Catching my breath, I answered, “Nothing…why? How old are you anyway?”
“Seventeen. What you in for?” A devilish grin appeared on his face.
“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Oh well, dude. Whether you like it or not were on the same side, you’ll learn to trust me.
Blood stains still remained on his hands. Scum under his nails, and mud plastered to his boots he was defiantly someone I’d fear. The question wasn’t to fear or be feared, it was the question of cold blooded murder? I could see the images flash in his eyes and my curiosity rose.
“Get your head out of the clouds man, your freaking me out.”
“Sorry,” I replied with lying eyes.
“So you wanna tell me now?” he hinted again.
“No, but if you insist, I killed a little girl… It all happened so quickly. She was playing outside on the sidewalk, and this man showed up. I watched him for hours. He kept staring at her with binoculars, and then he just attacked her. First he had a bag but couldn’t get it over her head, so he started chocking her. I went up there and fired a shot to scare him off, but then he heard me coming and moved. I thought I missed her but I froze when she fell. The guy got away and the witness saw me take the shot. They didn’t give me a chance to explain so I was brought here. That’s what you get for helping I guess. Her face haunts me. I feel horrible.”
“Calm down. I didn’t need the whole story, dude. Nobody will get you in here. You’re safe.”
“Don’t you understand? I’m sentenced to death; they’re going to hang me in the gallows.”
“Awesome, I’ve never done that before… is that the punishment for murder? Hmm, might be fun.”
His humor and optimism startled me. How could somebody the same age as me be proud of murder? Just my luck, my first cellmate is a monster.
“Damion, come with me,” the guard barked through the bars.
Watching him walk down the shadowed hallway, everything fell silent. Millions of things raced through my mind. As the water dripped from the ceiling, the echoes seemed to linger. Watching, waiting, pacing, seconds to minutes, minutes to hours, time was dreadful. Then, as before, I heard him coming a mile away. Currsht…currsht…
“Where did you go, man? Gone long enough?”
“Yep, so, what about it?”
“Were they harassing you, or did you get your phone call? Who did you talk to?”
“Chill, dude. One question at a time.”
He was right. I didn’t know how many days I was going to have left, how many questions would go unanswered.
“All I want is peace, man.”
“Screw peace, dude! What’s wrong with you?”
Before I answered, I felt the spandex rubber glove smack across my face.
“Owww, what was that for?”
Without hesitation he tackled me to the floor. The cold cement plastered to the side of my face. I could feel the blood leaking from my nose and the sour taste in my mouth. As I spit onto the floor, the beating continued for what felt like hours. Rolling over, he sat back and looked at me, a weird look that a stalker would haunt their prey with. All of this happened and the guards did nothing.
“Man, I feel better … don’t you?”
My throat was dry, and the coughing made it raw.
“Tell me something…How was beating the living crap out of me supposed to make me feel better?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?”
“Ya, bad things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Finding peace won’t help you. Serving consequences for your actions- that’s where you will find peace.”
“You think so? God hates people like us. What we did was wrong?”
“Yes, but, trust me man, you’re fine.”
Later that night his words kept repeating in my mind, one after the other. For the first time in a long time I was able to sleep when the lights went out. Not once was I thinking about suffering death or God hating me once I got to my special place. I was happy…
Today was the day, dragging me out of my cell I had no other choice but to do what I was told. The blindfold over my eyes and the ski mask over my head suffocated me. Not enough to kill me, just enough to make me weak. I followed the sounds of their voices, they seemed so far away.
“Come on, keep moving,” they would say.
How many of them I didn’t know. I just wanted to get it over with. I ran out of people to be afraid of. Taking the mask off, they wanted to see my face. One step, two steps, three steps, I reached the final one. The rope around my neck got tighter and tighter as they pulled. I still couldn’t see anything, but the talking got louder. One voice I picked out from the rest was Damion. He came out here to watch me die?
“Don’t worry, man. I’m here with you?”
“What? Are they hanging you too?”
“No, I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and I’m with you till the end.”
A man with a raspy voice overtook his.
“What are your final words?”
“May I rest in peace?”
“As you wish.”
One final breath and the lever was pulled. Only seconds passed before my soul was set free, and I was in my happy place. No longer will I be alone.