Death At Dusk

The ceremony begins with applause, a wretched thunder of gnashing death pleas and repugnant gaiety, as the priest and the cloaked one approach their post. All eyes were on the hooded individual – the star of the evening – but something tells me they did not share their spectators’ vivacity.

“Alright, everyone calm down now,” the cleric commences, with a single hand motion taming the despicable fiend roaring through the viewers. “I’d like to remind everyone that we are gathered here to witness justice, not to stir the sparks of a claiming inferno. Before the execution, I’d like to read the offender a few lines of scripture I feel will provide him some clarity in his final moment to request the forgiveness of the Father.” A relentless breeze sends waves through the priest’s white gown, exposing his pale, quivering legs. Either this was his first execution, or second thoughts were fogging his consciousness.

“I never turned to God before, and I’m not doing it now – just move on with it,” the felon demands, triggering a commotion among the spectators. Stones and handfuls of dirt pelt the platform.

Guarding himself with his Bible, the minister tries to establish order. “Now, now! What will any of this petty violence cause? As he’s so indecently declared, his conscience is clear because he’s refused redemption from God! Let’s not lose our civility and goodwill simply because this man has chosen the path of fire! Animosity is exactly what he wants – look at him grin!” The priest gestures toward the accused, his face completely obscured by the hood. “And if the ultimately judgment is what he desires, who are we to keep him from it?” He clears his throat. “Executioner, do what needs to be done; I am finished here.”

As the holy man hobbles out of view a goliath wielding an oversized obsidian blade takes his place. The slayer pushes his victim over a wooden bench, sending the audience into frenzy. The various howls and curses rumble the very earth on which we are standing. Even the starlings perched on the wrought iron fence encompassing us all appear impatient and edgy.

My glare meets that of the prisoner, my brown eyes melting into his. His face illuminated by the final light of dusk, I fall to my knees, subjugated by confusion and gloom.

The prisoner is me.

“Wait!” I yell. “Don’t do this!” Regardless of the effort, my words are lost in the deafening uproar, and the execution carries through as planned.

Just Breathe

“It’s such a beautiful, foggy autumn evening,” I observe in between gulps of hot coffee. “Babe, I’m going outside to sit on the patio. Care to join me?”

A smirk appears on Marybeth’s masterfully painted face, and her gaze meets mine. “Seriously?” she asks. “I didn’t spend two hours putting on makeup just to have it smudge before work.” Then, before handing me an “I ❤ Illinois” coaster for my coffee mug, she adds: “What’s with your sudden interest in the weather, anyway? You wouldn’t give two shits about it before we married.”

I want so badly to say: “Yeah, well you weren’t so bitchy either,” but I restrain myself and manage to pull my lips into a painful smile before heading outside.

A steady, cool wind greets me, twisting and knotting my long hair. I can’t help but smile as I recall the times daddy and I would rake leaves, only to have the breeze blow them away in complicated spirals.

I take a seat by the black square table my friend Julie had given us as a wedding gift, and I take a deep breath. As I inhale, I imagine that I am stealing tufts of cloud – an angel somewhere must be dead tired from my inhalation of her comfy bed. The brisk tufts that fill my lungs leave a warm impression in my throat. When I exhale, I’m not just clearing my lungs of the obscuring fog cloud; I am ridding my mind of the tension of a stressful marriage and permitting an inflow of sparkling, cinnamon bliss. Nature is a beautiful thing.

But suddenly, the sensation in my throat intensifies; the fog’s warm touch shifts into a stinging poke and finally a fiery stab. Air hot as molten metal flows down my gullet, but I can’t scream or motion for help; I can’t even breathe.

It’s not until the rapidly increasing weight of exhaustion is too much to bear and my breaths turn into constricted wheezes that I make the stunning realization that this isn’t fog that I’m breathing.

As I collapse to the ground, I notice a faint shadow of a bomber jet disappear into the horizon.