I breathe in.
I breathe out. For desired results, repeat 17’280 times per 24 hours.
Until I hit 70, I count. For desired results, repeat 70 times per minute. Repeat 4’200 times per hour. A total of 100’800 times per day. Since I’ve been here, I have taken 32’536’000 lungs of air. My heart has slammed against my chest 183’960’000 times. And I have listened to what feels like an eternity of screams echoing through the halls of my secret prison every night. There is no hope in a place without light. No light, no air, nothing to breathe in, nothing to breathe out. My fingers skim the contours of my face. Approximately 1’825 days I have gone without seeing myself. 60 months. 5 years. The colors of my eyes are unknown to me. If I saw them by chance, I might mistake them for grey, as I haven’t witnessed a color of anything but violence since I got here. Here, where is here? Here is nowhere. Nowhere you would ever want to be. Maybe we are the lucky ones though; the ones with a warm meal to put in our bellies, even if there is but one a day. A day. A last day. My last day. Today I will leave this icy cell, so I’ve been told. My throat is coarse from the absence of words. Words I have not spoken in most of my 5 years. We do not speak here; we are not permitted to. There are cameras everywhere in this place. I could not see them at first, but with practice, you begin to see more clearly the small cracks and holes the make way for miniscule lenses. The utterance of a word. The tickle of a moment releasing itself through your lips. It is a crime here; when they hear you, they punish you. I don’t remember much from the first time, but the second; I remember that. I’m sorry, I had whispered. To whoever might’ve been watching over me. My mistake. My heels bled raw from being dragged across the stone floor.
My face turned swollen, and if I were allowed a reflection, my skin was most probably purple, or a dark shade of blue. Blue. I miss blue; the color of the ocean, of a pretty dress. The color of the sky, and the flash of bird’s wings. Red. Red was the color of my bleeding lip. Dripping dripping dripping down the side of my face. The silver of a knife had gleamed across my chest. The warmth of my own blood soaked my rags. The rags I wear every day. They have not been washed. I have only felt water once a week in my time here. Once a week we are allowed a bucket of frigid cloudy water to clean ourselves. Here’s the catch; a drop of red will be spilled for every drop of water. My sanity is kept through the transfer of ink to paper. The words I write down; these words are my only friends. 513, 514, 515 friends I can count. I’m a popular person. No one ever told me why I was sent away, but it’s not too hard to guess. My mother wouldn’t touch me, my father couldn’t speak to me, my class mates were scared of me. Maybe it will change when I leave? Maybe they realized how much they missed me while I was away. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be welcomed back lovingly. The screams are starting up again; night is falling. I should rest before my big day tomorrow. I’m smiling right now, smiling from ear to ear; I’m excited. Goodbye friends; I’ll see you soon!
The next day
We dragged her out of the cell, but ended up getting a gurney anyway. The day before, a couple of the guards had told her she would be let out today, but I guess she’s forgotten their promise already. Usually she’s fairly cooperative, I wonder if the small, sane part in the back of her barely-there consciousness is aware of what is really happening. The two men that accompany me fetch the prisoner, strapping her limbs down tight so that she can’t escape, or roll of and hurt herself. Her soft, white scrubs make her look more like a nurse than a patient. She was so pretty in the pictures we saw of her from before the incident, I wonder what triggered her. Or maybe she was insane all along, and no one cared enough to notice. Her school records state that she did well in school, but was a bit of an outcast. One time at home, as well, she called child services, but when they investigated her family, it looked like she’d made everything up. Perhaps she was crazy. Oh well, the matter doesn’t concern me; I’m just here to move her to the finishing room. The finishing room; what a morbid sounding place. They might name it something less obvious, but then by the time you’ve condemned yourself to that fate, you can’t care too much, can you?
“Hey Morgan, what did she do to get here exactly?” I ask the man to my left. We take a sharp left and stop in front of the clear glass doors that four will enter, and three will walk out of.
“She tortured a kid and left him to rot in a gutter somewhere. She would’ve gotten life, but her progress in the asylum hasn’t been great. Screaming every night, scribbling nonsense into a book then reading it aloud to her “friends”, she doesn’t sleep you know. She says goodbye to the air, then stares at the wall for hours and hours.” Morgan shakes his head, “One time Marcus took her notebook while she was being washed, and she’s explained the whole place as a sort of hell. Maybe that’s how she sees it, but jeez, she’s got some twisted thoughts. She’s convinced herself she’s innocent you know, that she’s the victim here. She thinks she’s being held captive.” I hadn’t realized she was that far gone.
“Wow,” I said, “She really is bonkers.”
“Yeah, given what’s going on upstairs, I reckon we’re doing her a favor.” Morgan has a point. She can’t be very happy. The door buzzes and we push ourselves and the gurney through. Marcus walks in behind us and helps Morgan slide the patient off the gurney and onto the metal bed. We keep her on the stretcher so that the restraints don’t have to be removed. She’s starting to look panicky again. The room is white all around. There is a one way window connecting us and the next room over. On the other side are a few of the people who run the place, and a doctor of sorts that will help things run smoothly. I was chosen to give the dosage; it wasn’t something I wanted to, but I didn’t object. I find a small syringe with a long tube connected to it. I was told that is an IV injection; inter vein, so I find the spot on the inner elbow where most vaccinations go. As I begin to insert the needle, the girl on the table, who must be only around 25 years old, starts to hyperventilate. I tell her to calm herself, that I’m only giving her the medicine needed to leave the hospital. I draw back on the syringe to make sure I have pierced the vein. A dab of blood appears in the tube, so a press down and watch the clear liquid escape from the needle to her body. Within seconds, the light begins to leave her eyes. A minute later, the doctor walks in, and as the patient’s chest stops rising, he fills out his forms. All of a sudden the girl on the metal slab doesn’t look like a crazed murder. She doesn’t appear anything out of the ordinary. Her blond hair is floating in waves around her face, and the pained expression she always wore has faded into a serene smile. She is a slender woman, quite beautiful in fact. It seems a shame that someone so lovely could be so mentally ill as to do the things she’d done. She did though, and she paid with her life. That’s how the death penalty works. That’s how Washington works.
Penalties, by Sabrina Amber F.
Inspired by the death penalty that is still active in much of the United States, including Washington State where death by lethal injection, and death by hanging are still two very real possibilities for those who have committed extreme crimes, including; child murder, torture, serial killers, etc.
© Copyright 2016 S.Fitz. All rights reserved.
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