He sits in the drab, gray cell. A standard, plain, 6-by-8-foot enclosure. His prison. The beginning of his eternal punishment. He is sitting on the floor. Thinking. That’s how he has spent most days. Sitting with just his damn thoughts. But this is not any day. This was the day. So today his thoughts are much more putrid – venomous and poisonous, swirling around his mind. Eating away at his sanity like acid. He moans and groans with the pain of them. He realizes he is not acting like the other prisoners. They often start praying. He does not. He has never been religious. No god has ever helped in his life before, so why would one choose to now, after he has murdered and stolen and kidnapped?
From the start he said he did it. The thought of pleading innocent never occurred to him. He was guilty and knew he should be punished. God, he wanted to be punished. But not killed. He has always thought no human has the right to take another’s life. Especially after he did.
His every hour is haunted by what he did: The utter madness that overcame him. The weight of the gun in his hand. The small twitch of a muscle in his finger that killed them. The piercing bang as the gun went off, ripping apart the peaceful night. The huge recoil that he wasn’t expecting. The surprised, confused, scared looks on their young faces. Their bodies had not flown back like in the movies; they had slowly fallen backwards. Then the adrenaline as he ran. And the low as he realized what he had done.
So, yes, he knows he did wrong. God, more than wrong. He is no psychopath.
He knows he has to die. Texas wants him dead. The families want him dead. He almost wants himself dead. But he does not. Another death won’t make peace. Forgiveness makes peace. Every major religion teaches forgiveness. They must forgive me, he thinks. Not that he thought he should be forgiven. He certainly would never forgive himself. But for themselves, they should. Then they might be at peace.
He can hear protesters outside the prison shouting “The death penalty is racist!” and holding posters that read “Today this man will be murdered” in thick, black lettering. And underneath is his mugshot. The same photo has been in every newspaper in America. And his name. The name that has been on front pages and web pages and spoken about and read about and thought about.
God, what will Sandra tell his son when he asks, “Where’s my daddy?” Will she reply, “He was executed for armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder”? No, she is too kind. And, God, he has said he is sorry to her. And his son. He would do anything to change what he has done.
He sits back down on the cold concrete floor and waits like he has been waiting for so long.
Finally the guards come in their blue uniforms and caps to take him away. To finally do what needs to be done. To kill him.
They take him by his cuffed hands and lead him down the corridor. Through glass walls he can see the room. Inside is a bed that looks like a medieval torture machine. Ha, shows how much we have evolved in 900 years. We still execute each other, he thinks. At least he will be given a drug and not be beheaded, but that gives him little comfort.
In the small room there is a table with a Bible. He could have asked for a priest but didn’t. The door opens and a guard comes in, followed by his parents. The victims’ families could have been here but thankfully are not. The thought makes him sick and nauseous. He still can’t comprehend what he has done.
His siblings are not here either. Nor is his girlfriend. Or whoever she counts as now. This gives him some relief. He hugs his mother and whispers in her ear, “Don’t blame yourself. I made a very bad choice, but it was my own choice. You only taught me good.” She releases him and says, “We forgive you.” He shakes his father’s hand and starts to cry. “Godspeed,” they say, and leave.
He is taken to the room and strapped to the bed. He has been told that the drug should take three minutes. That means he will probably die at 6:53. Nothing exciting or memorable. Probably the last thing he will see is the blank expression on a guard’s face, or more dull gray ceiling.
The drug is injected, and he feels light-headed and wonders what is to come. If judgment awaits he will definitely be going to the bad place. Maybe this is all a dream and he is about to wake up. Or maybe just peace and rest. He opens his mind’s eye and sees ….
Blackness. He is dead. His heart has stopped. His organs are failing. And hardly anyone cares. Just one less bad person in the world, they will think. Wherever he is, he is not at peace. And neither are the families. Forgiveness brings peace, not more death.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.