Thanksgiving Special: The Verdict

Readers,

I decided I'd give you all a slightly different kind of treat today for Thanksgiving. This is a short story I wrote about two months ago, and I hope you all enjoy. It has absolutely nothing to do with computers/Linux/Open Source but I think you might enjoy it. I'd love your feedback.

Remember, today is THANKSgiving. Be thankful for the friends, family, memories, and things you have been blessed with. Now, on to the story.


The Verdict


Note to reader: All characters and places are fictional. No ethnicity, culture, or system of government is represented in any part of the story.

I waited in silence. There were no sounds except the dripping of a leaky sink down the hall. The only light in my small confinement came through a small slot in the door. The floor and ceiling were cement and there were no other openings. There were four cinderblock walls painted a dull grey. A small cot occupied almost a third of the cell, and a steel toilet fastened to the wall was the only other furnishing.

I stood up and started pacing the small cell, trying to organize my scattered, drug-thirsty thoughts. Although the drugs had been out of my system for days, my body and mind screamed for them. The longing occupied my every thought, and all I could think of was how in the world I had gotten here. I couldn't remember what had happened, and the parts I did remember seemed like a puzzle, whose creator forced every single piece into the wrong spot: nothing made complete sense.

My whole brain was a haze of fogginess. But, like a lighthouse beacon slicing through the thick fog, there was one thing I knew: I was alone. Utterly and completely alone. Abandoned by the human race, abandoned by any sense of hope, abandoned by any glimpse of mercy. The only thing that had not abandoned me was life itself. But soon even life would be taken from me, when I would be strapped to the chair. And death is no good companion.


From what I could remember, it all started a few hours ago when I was on the way out of the bar and I noticed two rather finely dressed young men. Their suits and velvet ties told me they must have had enough cash between them to set me up for a few days or even weeks. With the hopes of cash in mind, I pulled out my small revolver and bumped into the first guy. He grunted and I slurred into his ear, "Move into the alley!" I nodded my head towards the crooked lane a few feet away.
He backed up a few steps and started moving into the alley; his buddy followed, seeing the black metal of my revolver glint in the street lamp light. They were trying to act calm, but their eyes darted from my face to my gun in fear.

"Hey, buddy, we don't want any problems. I don't have any cash, but take this gold watch; it's all I have."

He started to reach into his coat pocket, but my crumbled judgment and tense hand misjudged his action. BANG! The man with the watch fell back and cried out in pain while the other man started to jump for my gun. BANG! BANG! Two bullets thudded into the other man’s chest; he lay gurgling and gasping on the ground. His lungs were obviously punctured, and he wouldn't have long to live.
I got scared, started to panic, and emptied the rest of my 3 rounds into the first man. He lay still, dead, lifeless. What had I done? I stood there, unable to move. I couldn't think straight; all my body wanted was drugs, and I knew I needed money to get them. I frisked the first man and found no cash, only a gold watch and a few credit cards. I took those. I moved over to frisk the other man but stopped as I heard sirens in the distance.

I had to get out of there. I started to run, but only stumbled a few feet before tripping over a bag of trash in the alley. The sirens were getting closer and my heart pounded faster. Sweat poured down my face. The sirens arrived and the alley was flooded with light; I was momentarily blinded.

"Drop to the ground and put your hands on your head!" the loudspeaker boomed.
I didn't know what else to do, so I did as I was told. A dark figure approached and since I still held the spent gun in my hand, I tried to hit the figure with it. I missed and a hard blow to my head knocked me cold. Only blackness remained.

I woke up in a small room. A very bright light shone down from the ceiling and my head throbbed with pain from the bludgeon's blow. I sat up as far as I could. I was cuffed to the bed I lay in. The bed itself was bolted to the wall and floor. I couldn't quite remember what had happened.

A policeman came into my room and told me I had less then a half hour before I had to be dressed and in the small speed court in the prison hospital. I was still only half-conscious but the guard gave me my clothes and told me to put them on. In less than ten minutes another guard joined the first and escorted me to the court room.

The court room was small. It contained one long table and about a dozen folding chairs. In the middle of the long table sat an aged man with a very stern face. On his right side, a woman sat looking through a rather large folder filled with many documents. On his left side sat a young man who looked to be no older then twenty-three and fresh out of college. He had a very sad face, as if someone very close to him had just died.

The guards sat me down in front of the long table, each taking a seat beside me. It wasn't long before the hearing was begun. The judge had the lady to his right begin by showing the contents of the folder. As the woman began to talk about each document or picture, I realized that this was the evidence against me. The judge looked over each article somberly.

Once he had seen most of the contents he stopped the young lady.
“I want to hear what the guilty party has to say for himself.” His voice was deep and rich. He looked me in the eye, and waited for my excuses.
“I can explain,” I said, my mind still hungering for its drugs. “I was drunk and on crack. It wasn't me who did this crime. I didn't want to, the drugs made me do it, and I needed the money. I didn't have any money.” This made sense to my foggy and unfocused brain; each of my reasons seemed like valid points that no judge could hold against me.

The judge looked me straight in the eye and said slowly, “You've been convicted of double homicide, possession of drugs, robbery, and carrying a firearm you are not licensed to own. Because no one has come forward to claim to know you or to be you relation, we have no reason to have you in a county prison. All evidence is against you, and your own testimony reveals that you do not deny your own crime.” He paused and whispered something to both of his companions. Each nodded their approval. “The verdict: death row. You have 3 hours until you are to fulfill your sentence. There is no reason to lengthen the time before your sentence is to be taken into effect. You've proven that you're only a hindrance to any kind of moral society; therefore you will not be permitted any rights. Your sentence is final.”

With that final remark, he signaled the guards to take me away. I still couldn't comprehend what was going on. Why hadn't the judge listened to me? Why had he been so unmerciful to me? My reasons seemed so valid, so human, but here I was headed for death. I had nothing, no one, and nowhere to go but down.
The guards led me to a small holding cell. One of them unfastened my cuffs and shoved me in the cell, then closed the heavy iron door behind me. I was alone. Utterly and completely deserted.

I waited in silence. Each second seemed to last an eternity as my dark end drew closer and closer. My head was a wreck, and I had a splitting headache. My body seemed to scream with longing for drugs. At least it took my mind of my impending doom.

I paced, sat, or lay in my cell for about two hours. My headache had let up enough for me to get a hold on what was going on. I heard footsteps coming down the hall accompanied by what sounded like a man sobbing. The footsteps drew closer and I went to the small slot in the door to peer through. There, about to pass by my cell, was a man whose face was so blotchy and disfigured from weeping that it was hard to tell who it was. As he drew closer to my cell I recognized him; he was the judge who had unmercifully sentenced me here.

I flew at the door in anger, and screamed at him as he drew near my cell. “You unmerciful judge!!! I hope you're sorry! You don't have a heart!!!” I could see that my words stung him, as foolish as they must have sounded. He looked up from the ground and into my own angry eyes. I spat in his face, expecting him to lash out at me. Instead he spoke softly saying, “Justice is simple: for your wrongs someone must die.” He continued down the hall as I cursed after him. I wanted nothing more than to tear him apart, make him feel the pain he had put me through. My rage was boiling over; my limbs shook with anger.

Then, all of a sudden, as if a wave had hit me, my anger turned to shame. I fell to the ground convulsing and weeping uncontrollably. My body shook as I sobbed and sobbed. The pain from my head and body was gone, and everything seemed to come into focus as if a mental fog was lifting. I could see the evil in my heart. The truth about my state. It was my fault, all of it; no one could be blamed but myself. I had taken the drugs, I had drunk too much, I had pulled the trigger. As each of my wrong deeds dawned on me, it felt as if I were being punched with an iron fist. I was nothing, a nobody, a wretched and wicked man who had destroyed the lives of those who deserved everything.

I wanted to be free of it all. I wanted to get out of this cell, to start over, to begin a new life. But there was no hope. The wrongs had already been committed and my sentence had already been placed on my head.
At this point, the lights in the hall dimmed, as if a large current of electricity were being drawn out. They must be testing the chair for my punishment, I thought. I hated the reminder of my impending doom. My record was now black and rotted through; no good shown through its scared immoral statements.
The weight of my wrongs was too much for me to bear and I lay shaking on the ground, waiting for the warden to escort me to my doom. I could hear him now, his footsteps thumping down the hall like hammer blows to my temples. As he drew closer, my disgusting life started to replay in my head. Each moment was filled with crime, each second a memory wanting to be forgotten. There was nothing good there, but there was no way to turn it off.

The warden stood outside my cell. He fumbled with the keys, then unlocked the door. The light from the hall was so bright my eyes had to adjust. I slowly rose to my feet, knowing this was the end. I had nothing left. No hope, no family, no friends, nothing at all. All I had was a rampant record of crime and deceit.
The warden placed his hand on my shoulder and waited for me to adjust to the light. He stared at me. At first I thought he was scrutinizing me, looking at me like the piece of dirt that I was. But I met his gaze and noticed that something wasn’t right. He had a very strange look in his eye, as if he had just witnessed something inconceivable. I'd never seen this look before; it was odd, eccentric, quizzical, and very unnerving. I shifted my weight, expecting him to grab my cuffed wrists in case I tried anything funny. But he didn't. He just stared at me.

“Sir, who are you?” he asked. What kind of a question was that? But he kept looking at me sincerely, not waiting for an answer.

“You won't believe this. I don't believe this. But your record is clean. It's white as snow.” I looked at him. What kind of horrible joke was this? What did he mean? My record was completely horrid; there wasn't the faintest glimpse of white on it.

“Sir, your penalty has been paid. You're free to go.” At this he unfastened my cuffs and stepped out of the cell. I couldn't believe him.
What did he mean? How could this happen? I had so many questions, but all I could voice was a meager,

“How?”
“About five minutes ago, the judge who sentenced you to death was electrocuted in your place. I don't know why he did that. It doesn't make any sense. But he left you a note. It's in this envelope. He told me not to let you open it until you were out of these walls.” At this, he handed me a manila folder and led me out of the cell. He took me to the office where I was given civilian clothes to put on and then escorted to the front gate.

I stood there in front of the prison in a daze. I should be dead. And now I stand in front of the very place that was supposed to have been my death chamber. I looked at the envelope I held in my hand: the only thing besides the clothes on my back that belonged to me. I opened it with eager hands, hoping for an explanation, or something that would tell me I was not imagining all of this. Inside were two pieces of paper. One was a letter, and the other a legal document.

I read the letter. Then the legal document. I couldn't believe what I read. It didn't seem to make sense. I put the documents back into the envelope and started walking to the limousine that waited for me a few feet away.

A new day was dawning, and a few birds were chirping. The sun had just risen and was flooding the field in front of the prison with glorious rays of golden light. The light sparkled on the dew like a million stars. They seemed to celebrate. They celebrated the birth of a new man.
“Home please,” I instructed the driver.
“Yes, Mr. Kettlewitch, Kettlewitch Manor it is.” And off we drove, leaving the prison, and the profligate wretch inside, behind. Never to return again.

The Contents Of the Letter
As Written by Judge Kettlewitch
Dear Sir,

When you read this, you will no doubt be in quite a state of shock. The events that have just taken place will have swept you off your feet (metaphorically speaking). I am enclosing a legal document entitling my estate, large fortune, and freedom to you. In fact, you are no longer the man that shot and killed my two sons and left my grandson (the young man who sat on my right during your trial) fatherless. You are now Jason R. Kettlewitch, one of the richest men in the city. On paper, you are dead. You were killed a few minutes ago, strapped to an electric chair. The old you no longer exists.
I want you to take the life that I have given you and make something of it. The kindness I've shown you should be reflected in every step of your new life.
In front of the prison will be your driver, waiting in your car. You are to get into the car and instruct him to drive you home.
I trust that you will be not be unregenerate, and the only thanks I require is that you live like a changed man. You may never understand what has just taken place. But know this: You were deserted and rotted, and a wealthy judge gave you everything.

Sincerely,

The Now Deceased, Jason R. Kettlewitch



(c) Philip R. 2008

1 comments:

Dr. R physco said...

Very interesting phil, i like your site. ah, nepharious intrigue! like the writings.


-Wanderer

http://onewanderer.wordpress.com