Prompt: Witness Protection
When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?
On the day of my execution, my family had gathered early, positioning themselves close to the gallows, presumably so I could see their faces. The sky was clear, with only wisps of cloud that I watched from my window, thinking that those wisps might join together, become larger, and rain might fall from the clouds that formed, maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow someone’s birthday party would be rained on, and I wouldn’t be here.
For some reason I wanted to think of tomorrow, of clouds and birthday parties, and not reflect on my past, as one imagines the condemned to do. I’d had enough of my past. My past had led me to this tiny room, with its cracked, white porcelain pitcher and wash basin, a cot large enough for my young nephew George, but not for a grown woman, a tray of tea and stale shortbread biscuits, untouched.
The guards were kind to me, not from any sympathy, but to give their sordid jobs some dignity. Tonight they would have supper with their families, sharing from a steaming pot of pork and acorn squash stew, with a basket of dense, fresh baked bread to butter, glasses of tea for the children, black wine for the adults. I wouldn’t be here.
I wasn’t afraid at all, not of the strangers I could hear now, murmuring in the courtyard, not of my family, stone-faced and unmoving. I wasn’t afraid of the walk from the little gray room and into the corridor, then into the bright daylight and the sky with its wispy clouds, because that walk would last a thousand years, and I would think of a thousand tomorrows.
I would look at my family, what was left of them, the ones I hadn’t managed to kill that day. I wouldn’t bother with the expressions on their faces. I would stare back at them. I would think of their tomorrows.
Image: Big Blue Sky