Absolution

Then, there was this one girl, who loved being choked, and bound in electrical wire. She liked being humiliated and begged for me to cut her. That was only ever going to end badly.

I have now been on Death Row for 12 years, 4 months, 27 days and around 22 hours. I rarely sleep as I relive the horrors that I have perpetrated over and over again. My pleas for clemency to the parole board have been refused. My application to the state Supreme Court to review the DNA testing and selective witness testimony has been denied. It has been determined that I received a fair trial and I was justly sentenced to death by a jury of my peers.

Even the thousands of online signatures and the celebrity endorsed campaign did not move the Governor to grant me a stay of execution. It was an election year and he had to be seen to be tough on crime. This corrupt democracy continually erodes everything that makes us human, perpetuating the cycle of persecution and massacre. Just click the right box, flick the right switch, prepare yourself for mewling pitifully in the abattoir. And now, I must come to terms with the tangible possibility of my own mortality. It is an inescapable awakening. An indelible truth. A state-sanctioned butcher’s slab in the mausoleum.

I honestly didn’t know that her daughter was watching. I didn’t know that she was pregnant. I didn’t realise that her daughter saw all of those sordid things. She witnessed my artistry with screwdrivers. She saw all of the spattered red and panic. She watched the blackness seeping out of me, and the pools of redness spreading out over the floor. Her Mother pleaded me to tie her to that chair with duct tape. She craved the torture, with all those odds and ends, pieces discarded, bits and bobs strewn across the floor, slithering amongst boxcutters and wire coathangers: all that gristle clogging up the waste disposal.

My only solace has been found in the cool, echoing chambers of the penitentiary chapel. Father O’Flannery lets me alphabetise the hymnals and light the candles before his Sunday sermon. His fingernails are always so scrupulously clean, with a pale white band around his wedding finger, glaringly white, revealing the past, capturing the future. The warm, reassuring timbre of his voice temporarily soothes my woes, and tends to drown out the incessant jangling of my shackles.

My friend Henry sits with me during Mass and helps me remember all the words to the prayers. I never learned how to read, so I have to try and memorise them and learn them by heart. Henry loves the fizz and crackle of the Eucharist on his tongue. My friend Henry reminds me to stand up and sit down at the right times during service. We used to share our sandwiches at lunchtime, but no one else knows that he is dead. He was my first victim, murdered under the bleachers in middle school. They always thought the perverted gym teacher was the one, but they weren’t even close.

Father O’Flannery always gives me a rye little smile when I come to him on bended knee, like all of those other little blonde boys that came before me. Father O’Flannery seems to understand me, he teaches me about original sin. He explains that we were all born sinners, so it was almost predestined that I would end up this way. Father O’Flannery seems to believe me and he sympathises with me when I tell him about all the things my real Father did to me. He understands when I tell him that I didn’t ever mean to end up drinking every day, trying to kill the memories that kept me awake every night.

I would make confession and he would count out the Hail Mary’s. He would absolve me of my sins. He would promise me that I would find forgiveness in the arms of the Lord. Father O’Flannery used to stroke my hair when I would weep over the noxious liquids destined for my demise, waiting to rip away my last breath. He reads to me when I can’t sleep and he teaches me words like “predestined”. He intervened when those boys on my block were stealing my commissary. He seems to genuinely care about me. He never asks me about my crimes, all those bodies, all carved up and hidden under tarmac and left decomposing in playparks.

There is one thing that will always haunt me when I lie awake, endlessly staring at the concrete ceiling above my bunk. The image of my wife standing just inside our screendoor, with her hair gently undulating in the wind, her soft hands cradling our little girl, brushing away her tears, as the police came and took me away. I don’t know if she ever believed that I never meant for this to happen, she looked right through me when she found out that she was the same age as our little girl.

She sat there, unerring, infinite, unshakeable through every day of my trial, surrounded by salivating journalists, feasting on the sordid detail of my sins. I think she remained convinced of my innocence right up to the day that the foreman read out the verdict. Then I watched, powerless, as the colour drained from her eyes, and her quiet dignity dissolved in the explosions of flashbulbs and the braying of all of those monsters and demons in the court room. I read in the newspaper that those parasites camped outside our home, begging for an exclusive interview, to meet the wife who married a butcher, but she would never allow them condemn my name.

She stood in solidarity during every one of my appeal hearings, until the morning of the sentencing when she heard the details of the crime of the little girl. Then, I watched her lose faith. She stood up, she hesitated, just for a second, brushed her hair behind her left ear, chewed on the inside of her cheek, just like she always used to, and she couldn’t even bring herself to look at me, as she turned, and walked out of the door. The last I heard, she had moved away and changed her name in a vain attempt to give our daughter a semblance of a normal life, away from all of the torment that I created for her, the shame etched into her face, our perfect little daughter, blissfully unaware of my downfall as she played jumprope and gleefully clambered on tyreswings: exuberant and free.

I tell all of this to Father O’Flannery and he sits and listens patiently. I tell him all about them. He waits for me to dry my eyes and then he always quotes a passage from the scriptures. He always knows just exactly what to say. He says that everything will be alright and soon I will return to the kingdom of Heaven and the Lord will cleanse me with his everlasting light. Then he reminds me that I need to warm the oils for anointment in the last rites for the guy in the cell next to mine. With this stark reminder that here death is never far away, he sneaks me a Baby Ruth bar and tells me to get on going.

My wife only ever came to visit me on one occasion. She came to tell me that my Mother had passed away and the doctors said it was from a broken heart. I couldn’t believe how much she appeared to have aged in such a little time. The lines on her face were growing deeper and the silver sparkles in her hair belied the strain and burden that I forced her to bear. Her voice was hollow and she couldn’t bring herself to look at me. She flinched when I tried to hold her hand, pulling it away, the glaring white band on her wedding finger, glaring at me in judgement. And then, she was gone.

Now, my time has come. They take me down into the little green room where my final meal is laid out. They fulfilled my final request as they handed me a photograph of my daughter, all grown up and healthy looking, so full of life. She looked just like her Mother, that same slightly forlorn smile, her lips curling downwards at the corners, with just a glimmer of fractured sadness. I will never forgive myself for failing her, that I will never be able to make things right. Then they tell me that it is time.

They take me along the corridor and I finally see the gurney, silently awaiting its next passenger, destined for eternal sleep by crucifixion. I hope that it won’t hurt too much as they strap me down. The blind on the viewing area raises up and I see the families of my victims. I feel the resentment burning out of them. I tell them that I am sorry for what I have done, but they just want to see me perish. They need to see me die, just so that they can get a sense of justice and finality. They cannot wait to see me suffer, just like they have done. Even they know, that none of this will make it better.

Then I see her, standing there, holding hands with Father O’Flannery, his carefully manicured fingers gently caressing her skin, with the gleaming gold of a wedding band reflecting under neon lights. His leering face floats behind glass as I realise the crushing truth of his betrayal.

I realise now why he was never available for confession on a Wednesday.

Conjugal visit day.

Then, I see my daughter, her face exactly like the photograph, standing next to the Warden, as he checks his watch for a third time, as the silent vigil of the telephone extinguishes my final hope of absolution, as he nods towards my daughter: my flesh, my blood, as she flicks the switch.

I feel cold seep into my veins, and as my eyelids begin to flutter, I see my daughter’s beautiful, innocent face, contorted in hate, as Father O’Flannery grips, ever so tightly onto my wife’s hand, as a single tear glides down her face, and then, there is nothing

but

silence.

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