It was a cold Autumn day, one which would remain in the memory of those who were there.
Not so much because of the almost unnaturally low ambient temperature,
but that which was experienced as a reaffirmation of a human soul being divine.
He had been expecting this day, whilst alone, afraid and unwanted.
Although his cell was small, cramped and unadorned, he’d lacked the energy to even move,
not that there was any reason to anymore.
He spent his days watching the Sunlight enter through the small, barred window
high above his head. Seeing its slow dance, from one wall, across the heavy iron-studded door,
then across the other wall, before widening and falling, then changing from bright white, to soft gold
to a forlorned, deep orange…. Then fading into nothingness.
Nothingness that segued into darkness, merely a hint on some soft breeze that something existed beyond the
cold grey emptiness.
But this day, was announced, even if he couldn’t really predict it. In the cell time held no meaning.
It was a cycle based on how long you wanted to remember.. The 7 bar gates counting the weeks, carved religiously,
until there was simply no room left. No space on which to catalogue that complete and utter waste.
Interspersed as it was with random beatings, humiliations and the repeated removal of humanity.
The lack of awareness would make him mad…… Was this all some kind of insane dream?
Until the heavy kick of a boot, the crunch of a brass knuckle, the dull thud of an iron bar..
And most memorable of all, the almost indescribable sting of the barbed whip.
And yet, when the door opened, on that cold… That cold day, that was almost an inevitablity,
he rose up and stood tall. His eyes aflame, his rags seemingly pressed, and his presence one of determination.
The guards, always willing to inflict some unnecessary pain were quiet and respectful.
In silence they lead him out, into the long hallway, flanked with the same doors, as if hewn from a single tree,
reinforced with iron banding made by some master forger. When in reality they were fashioned in haste,
made by the man who could offer the lowest price and quickest delivery. Yet, there and then…. Just like the roughly cut
brickwork, it seemed almost an unearthly, artificial replication.
Up flights of stairs, into the morning light they walked. Solemnly, slowly, each footstep bringing about a dull resonance.
Around the final corner they turned. To witness a wooden gallows, set into deep foundations, made to be
a final ‘goodbye’, for those who lived long enough to die with their neck in a noose, those who wouldn’t just
curl up in their cell and choose not to wake up again.
The head warden offered a slight nod, acknowleding their approach but no eye contact was made. He was directed
to take the final steps alone, four from the rutted cobbles that made up the base for such a platform.
With creaks and groans the wood encouraged his gait, but he took his time… And why not? What was the worst that could
happen now… If he wasn’t perceived as being on another’s timescale? He turned to face his nemeses.
The warden, instrument of his intense physical pain, anguish and fear.
And the Gaol, instrument of his intense mental pain, descent into madness, and total unequivocal hatred.
That he was placing his head into a noose was almost a relief, to find an end to years of wondering what could have been.
With his mind and body ready, he chose to make the signal himself, to end it all.
Not suicide, but merely acceptance of death, that came from a wry smile.
He took one last look, and revelled in the one last moment in which to wonder.
As the trapdoor swung open, and his entire weight rested on his throat, he knew it was all gone.
Life was being taken away from him, the fear slipped away, and…….
In that final instance, he was able to truly say, that those few memories…
Special, intense, magical, wonderful….. Might have been fleeting.
And yet, they were worth those years spent alone in penance, atoning in his own mind for the simple crime
of just being……
Not being enough……..
Yet what was a short Summer, would lead into a long Autumn.
Those corridors, stairs, studded doors, the unforgiving grey stonework, and the movement of light from one wall to the
other, would be the companions of the next sorry soul who tried to reach higher than he should have.
As for the last sorry body, he would be consigned to a shallow grave, no last rites, no marker to even give him a name.
Just another corpse, rotting beneath the soil, staring up at the sky….. But forever in the shadow of the Gaol.
Steve B 09/13