The Day Of Reckoning

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Constance reflects on the past and enjoys life during the final moments before her execution.

Submitted: November 06, 2011

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Submitted: November 06, 2011

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death, life, heaven, fiction, fantasy, dark, hell, short, story, judgment, makind

The Day of Reckoning

For Jen

Constance awoke in the darkness to the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the corridor. It was still dark. She turned toward the slit that was her only window and could tell it must be at least an hour before sun up. Usually there was dead silence at this time. Obviously today was the day.

Constance listened, motionless in the blackness as each step grew louder than the last. She could tell now that there were several guards coming onto her floor. Today was the day, and there was nothing that could be done about it. Finally the footsteps stopped. She could hear the electronic tones of the high security keypad on the door. She sat up and rose to her feet, brushing the hair from her eyes. The door finally swung opened and a huge guard, at least six foot six and dressed in black uniform stepped in. “Constance…today is the day your sentence is to be carried out.” He said with a slight German accent. “All of your appeals have been exhausted. You will pay for your crime at six fifteen this morning. Do you understand what I have just told you”?

“Yes I do. I knew this would happen some day. I accept my punishment”. She did. She had no fear.

“Is there anything I can get for you”? The guard looked at her with compassion.

“Yes please. I would like a cup of coffee, with cream and sugar. I don’t want anything else.”

“As you wish”. The guard disappeared leaving the door open. It didn’t matter at this point. There were so many guards on the floor now escape was impossible. The inmates had resigned from life long ago. The prison system had been designed to make the prisoners accept their demise. Some looked forward to it. 10 years of nothing had done this to Constance. No entertainment, human contact, or personal possessions. Not even time out of the cell. Every day was exactly the same. Wake up and eat Breakfast, Pace the cell and have lunch. Look forward to dinner & then bed. Constance was ready to move on.

Constance walked over to the small window and could see the stars and faint lights in the distance. To the east the sky was beginning to develop a blue haze. She could hear murmurs from the other cells. Someone was crying. They never came for one person at a time; they always “cleared out” five or six sometimes more. Constance could see headlights coming down the road, moving silently through the winter darkness. Most likely family members and friends of the condemned.

“I have your coffee for you.” The guard said from behind her. “I have to ask you though, to drink it quickly so we can proceed.” He said as he sat down in the small chair in the corner. Constance took the coffee and went back to her spot at the window. It was the best cup she’d ever had. “What is your name”? She asked the guard.

“Franz” he replied quickly as if he knew the question was coming.

“Franz, tonight you will finish your shift and go home, have your dinner and maybe play with your kids. I on the other hand will be gone. Of course I should have thought of that before I committed my crime.”

Franz shifted his position and bowed his head slightly. He made no response to this remark. He knew he wasn’t very good at this.

Franz and Constance made some small talk for a while. There was no animosity between them. They were not enemies. Franz was doing his job as a guard. Constance was a person who’s life went wrong. There was no reason for one to hold anything against the other. Guards and prisoners had no contact until the last day. With no contact there were no fights, attacks or riots. No guards who treat the prisoners unfairly, and none that became friendly with the prisoners and ultimately corrupt.

Another guard appeared in the doorway and informed Franz that it was time. Franz and Constance stood up simultaneously and headed for the doorway. “You know” Franz said. “You are a very beautiful woman, and you seem genuinely kind. I’m sorry.”

“So am I in a way” she said and stepped past him into the hallway. “I enjoyed talking with you Franz”. The other prisoners came out with their escorts one by one. There were five in all, including another woman. These people had been her neighbors for years and she had never seen them before. The guard in the front nodded to the one in the rear and the procession began to file along the corridor, and down the stairs. It seemed like an eternity before they reached the steel door that led to the outside.

The sun was beginning to rise over the desert. The sky above was a brilliant shade of blue and had not one cloud to fault it. Rays of golden light were begining to show over the mountain tops as the night faded away. Constance pulled up her collar as the wind blew over the sand. It was a cold morning.

The guards led them to the place where there was a gathering of family, friends, and former lovers. People whom the prisoners had had no contact with for years, as visitation was abolished a quarter century before.

The priest was standing there in his floor length black robes to greet them. “You may all have five minutes with your loved ones” He announced. The guards stepped back and the condemned mixed with the spectators.

He was here. Constance never expected this. She really thought she would be alone for these final moments as she had no family. But Joshua had come. They made their way to each other through the crowd.

“Constance”! Joshua said somewhat choked up.

“I didn’t expect this. Why did you come?”

“You did what you did, and it took me years to come to terms with it, but I have to tell you that I forgive you.” Really, he wanted to ask her why she did what she did, but there was no point after all this time. And oddly enough, there was nothing left to say to each other after nearly ten years of total separation. They embraced. To the right somewhere a man was saying, “Don't worry about me. It doesn’t matter anymore”

The warden appeared from out of nowhere. A huge fat man with white hair, he struggled to climb the steps to the podium to make his speech, which was standard. The condemned stood before the warden.

“What we have to do here today is always unfortunate. Never the less you have shown us that you can not live by the rules of society. You… John, you committed a most brutal robbery at a bank, and shot three innocent people. Two died. Two lives were cut short. Julius…you served a five-year sentence for a previous crime, and having not learned your lesson, you murdered the policeman who prosecuted you. Krisinda, you are an arsonist who was trying to commit an insurance fraud in the tenement you lived in. You thought the building was empty, however you did not realize the old couple in the flat above you were home. They died. Josef, you plotted against your own country. Constance…you put a gun to the forehead of your significant others former lover. You thought something between them was rekindled. You didn’t mean to shoot. The gun went off however, and here you are.

Turning back to the crowd, and pointing at the condemned with a sausage like finger he went on: “But all of these people have been successfully reformed. They are reformed! They are ready to serve their fair sentence. Is this not true”? The Warden asked turning to the prisoners. No one protested. It was true. They were ready. They all understood. They were reformed.

The morning sun was blinding at this time. It was a brilliant winter morning. Cold and clear. The wind blew lightly. Constance did not listen to the speech. She was busy looking into the distance at some birds in flight. She noted the snow-capped mountains in the distance and thought about how small they looked. Except for the far off cooling towers of the artificial oxygen plant, and the main road there was nothing man made to violate the landscape. What a perfect day for this, the day of reckoning! The priest was praying. Constance straightened her posture. She had done wrong, and it was just that she pay for it. She was almost proud to meet her demise. Looking over the crowd she noted Franz off to the side. His eyes were fixed upon her. When she met his stare, he smiled slightly at her. It was a smile that said “I don’t know anything about you, but for some reason I will never forget you.” “I know you’ll remember me, even after Joshua has long forgotten,” She said quietly, but unless Franz could read lips he would not have known what she said. She saw Joshua. He had a look about him that displayed both sadness and apathy at the same time.

Constance felt nothing for him. Did it really matter now that everything had played out the way it did? She thought about how quickly life can change. In a matter of seconds making a bad decision.

The Warden climbed down the stairs bent over and sideways, his fat belly quivering like gelatin with every laborious step. Constance breathed a deep breath. The world grew dim around her and began to fade away. There was only the sky, a pale blue firmament above, taking over, and there was Franz watching. The condemned fell into line, single file with two guards in front and two in the rear. The warden nodded to the guards in front. None of the condemned hung their head or bowed their shoulders. The spectators watched as the prisoners were led away. Constance kept her stiff posture, and held her head high as they were led away.


© Copyright 2017 JD Arnold. All rights reserved.

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