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Short story By: Terry Collett
Flash fiction

It is your final dawn; the sun leaks through the high windows of your prison cell like playful children leaving a tap running

Submitted:Apr 3, 2007    Reads: 158    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   

It is your final dawn; the sun leaks through the high windows of your prison cell like playful children leaving a tap running. You watch the sunlight play against the high walls; slowly slip down towards you as you lay on your bed. Sara, one of the wardens watching you, speaks to you, speaks your name, Molly, but you are far away, feeling a slow numbness creep into you. Simone, the other warden comes over, touches your hand, and asks how you are. You smile awkwardly, not sure, how the smile comes out. The sunlight plays. Morning games. Last morning. You sense the numbness creep up to your neck; fill your mind suddenly as if someone had plunged you under water. You panic. Wave your hands about like one drowning. Simone holds your hands to her breast to calm you. Mother would have done that, you muse taking deep intakes of breath, mother would have held me close, you want to say, but don't. Sara is with you too now. They sit one each side of you, their arms linked through yours. Their voices seek to calm you. How many hours, minutes? You ask. They look at each other and shrug. Best not to think of such is their reply, in unison, like a choir, practising word for word. You look into their dark eyes; see an image of yourself reflected back like twin mirrors. You ask for a cigarette. They search through pockets. Sara obliges. Places it in your mouth. You grip between lips as she lights it; you heave in a lungful wishing it'd kill you outright, save the trouble of the rope. An image of the old skipping rope comes unbidden; a run through against the wall of you and Tina Tarkaard playing skip rope in the playground. Funny girl with that lisp and the bangs in her hair. Kissed you once in the girls' toilets. Sara speaks. You think of Tina and the kiss. Odd girl. Simone says breakfast will be here soon. Soon? Minutes, hours? Tina goes with skipping rope; the bare wall remains. You hold the cigarette out in front of you as you watch the smoke drift upwards. Your father did that smoke ring stuff; he was good at that if nothing else. He'd hold it out; raise it, give a gentle flicker and up they would go, one after the other. You smile. Numbness or no numbness you smile. Sara takes the cigarette from your fingers lest it burns you. You stare at her; your smile goes. Simone gets up as the door opens. Breakfast. Too nauseous to eat, you say. Maybe later, you joke, unsmiling, feeling the lips strain. The wardens stare at you, then at each other. Ask if you're sure. You nod. Too sickly inside. Throw up. What a showdown that'd be. Gather round, folks. Hanging delayed as prisoner is too sick to hang today. The sickliness fills you as if bile were racing up your throat. The breakfast has gone. What a waste, Sara says. Simone says nothing. Looks at her watch. Time passing. You sigh. Watch the sunlight again. No one speaks of remorse now. What would be the point? You ask yourself, turning to gaze at Sara, who seems uncomfortable. Remorse must be genuine. If you'd felt sorry for hammering your husband to death, you'd have said so, but you don't. No use in pretending now. You're glad you did. Ought to have been sooner, you think, watching Sara look away from you. Would have saved a few beatings; would have shortened the suffering by years. Simone speaks, but you don't answer. You look at your hands. They shake gently. Nerves. The reality is out there. You try not to think, but it is impossible. Greg's head pulped. You sniff. So sudden. Not planned. Split second and whoosh…The door opens. Is this it? You brain jumps as if a thousand volts run through it. Your body jolts. Brought forward. Time. Suddenly the hourglass is emptying fast. Sara and Simone come to your side. Someone speaks but the words are shadows. The sunlight flickers childlike from high windows. Where is Tina now? The wardens take each arm; lead your forward. Your knees seem to wobble; uneasily you walk between them like one learning to walk again. The preacher man has his book; the warden and some other jerk walk, too. The lights in the passage seem a poor swap for the sunlight; they do not flicker or beam; just plain ordinary light. Words are spoken. Your feet shuffle like one who is drunk. Simone whispers to you. The words are lost. Your bowel rumbles. Is there time? Too late. A door looms large. All pause before the final curtain. All the worlds a stage, some once said. They almost lift you into the room; then stand you on a platform. Odd. Unreal. Surreal like a dream or nightmare. People speaking, the preacher man, you think if thinking is what you are doing. Words. Sara seems uneasy. Steady girl. Simone ties your ankles. The hangman stands unsmiling. So ordinary. You'd pass him in the street. He looks like the man next door. Odd. He takes out a hood. Black. Then all sight is gone. Just muffled sound. Is this a game? You feel as if you want to pee. Too late. Tina brings her skip rope. Your father's voice saying, mind how you go. And mother, where is she? She puts out her thin hand. You want to reach out, but then, you fall into blackness; you seem to leap through an eternity of space. Then thud. The game is done.


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