The hood itches, I wish they’d just show my face so the bastards know. It smells, too, like the vomit and blood of a thousand men. I hate it. They think that the time in the dark will show me regret, will make me fear God Almighty, but I’m not afraid of God. I’m not going to Hell. It isn’t my time, no matter what they think.
I can almost make out the voices. They’re loud enough I can recognize who is talking, but not quite hear what they’re saying. I’m certain that was the Judge, letting everyone in this little town know how horrible a monster I truly am. He doesn’t know how true his words are, but I’m going to show him soon enough. That cheer means he’s just announced my execution. Hanging isn’t the worst way to die. If you’re lucky, the force of your body dropping against the rope will snap your spine clean. It’s a bit of pain for a split second, but then it’s over. You’re dead before your feet stop kicking. It’s not much worse if it doesn’t snap your neck. The air in your lungs burns at first, and your face practically boils, but then it slowly fades away, like going to sleep. All in all, I’d rather be hanged than shot. Shooting is messy and slow. It hurts the whole time, too.
That creaking is the cell opening. They’re ready to lead me to the gallows. Well, that’s just fine by me. I’m ready to show them what a monster really looks like.
Yeah, no trouble, deputy, I wouldn’t dream of causing trouble now.
The pressure on my wrists is a lot less. He disconnected them from my feet so I could walk. That was mighty thoughtful of him. I’ll have to repay that kindness in a few minutes. Unng… damn, I should have known he’d walk me into something. He has to get his revenge somehow, right? I heard one of those kids was his oldest daughter. I hope he didn’t see her body. I’d hate to have left that kind of unfinished business lying around for anyone to find. Now, those kids died a good death. There’s absolutely no pain at all when you breath in the gas. You just go to sleep and never wake up.
I don’t care what these people say, I have morals. I don’t cause children pain, I end their suffering. They’re sick and diseased and I make that go away. No, that doesn’t mean I’m not a monster. I’m just not the kind of monster that a child should be afraid of.
The boards are creaking under my weight. That’s interesting. Maybe the moment of reprieve will be when the entire gallows collapses as they try to hang me. That would be truly dramatic. My heart is beating a little more rapidly than I’d like. It doesn’t know that I’m going to be fine, it is afraid of the noise. I never have liked this much noise. The crowd is screaming and spitting at me. I grin beneath the hood. I’m covered from head to toe, it’s the deputy that is getting spit on. He doesn’t deserve it. He’s been kind, even though he never understood.
Then again, perhaps he did. He was her father, after all, he knew how much she was suffering. Perhaps, yes, I will reward him. He was kind to his daughter. He has mostly been kind to me. I don’t know that he walked me into the desk on purpose. Maybe he did. It’s a small thing now.
The light is blinding. The hood has been pulled away and as I blink to clear the sun from my eyes, a face comes into focus. It was a pretty face once, but now, it has been withered and torn with age and disease. She spits directly into my face, and the snot of it runs down my nose and cheek. I stop grinning. She screams at me some more, but I ignore her and push myself past her. In the corner of my vision I see her being pulled away by a tall, young man. I imagine it is her son, but he could be her lover.
Perhaps he’s both. I’m not here to judge.
I walk out onto the platform, jutting out into the middle of the crowds. There is a sea of bodies on all sides, winding down the dirt roads and flooding over into the alleys of the buildings that line the streets. Where I am standing is the exact center of this town, where two main roads converge at perfect angles.
No, preacher, I won’t be needing you to read me my last rights. I’m not going anywhere. He’ll be here soon, and you’ll understand my salvation.
The noose is around my neck, hanging loose. It’s weight is somewhat comforting, like a warm hand fondling my throat. I’m standing on the trapdoor when the judge asks me if I have any last words.
I begin to recite the oath I was taught so many years ago. I can feel the crowd shudder back from it and I know that I will be saved when I see the sky beginning to darken. I roll the Latin from my tongue, building to a thundering crescendo of voice. Soon I will be free and they will all know that what I do is for the good of all. I end suffering and disease. I am their savior, their hero.
There is a glint of light from the top of building ahead of me, on the right hand side of the street. I look up as the rifle cracks. Damn, I was almost free. How did he know? I just wanted….