by Kenneth Burch
My final night of sleeping produced a nightmare of pain and pleasure. A simple but slow six hours and a wake up. Throughout the evening I wrestled with broken dreams and shattered visions of anger and sorrow. I wept as I did as a child and even for a minute may have even pleaded. I’m not sorry for I've done and would do it again if I had to. I guess this is the way it is. So be it.
There are iron bars covering the front of the six by nine-foot cell. The remaining sides are of solid concrete, several feet in thickness, and there is only one way out. His food is brought to him in the cell, three times a day. For one hour a week, he is allowed to bathe or shower, under the watchful eyes of six guards, all with guns. They watch him very carefully and wait, almost preying for the moment when they can be given the golden chance to fill him with gunfire. They stand looking around and watching his every move. He is dangerous, very dangerous and has killed as an animal does, nine years ago.
The body was found days later in a locker room, the mouth stuffed with daisies. He had been beaten to death, with what the medical examiner said were bare human hands. The victim’s torso had been crushed and every bone in his rib cage, shattered. His legs were twisted out of their sockets and snapped in three places. Arms broken twice and his head was nothing more then a mass of human tissue. His penis had been pulled completely off, ripped if you will and stuffed in the victim’s mouth, the M.E believes the victim was still alive at that point. A night watchman had reported the find, when he smelled the decaying body. Police arrived and it took the M.E two hours to remove the body, stuffed in the locker.
Locker number 138 belonged to Albert Longstein, a stockbroker with Hummer and Anderson. He was 33 years old and was making his way up through the company, with blazing speed. He’d finished law school and after picking up another degree in accounting, landed a sweet deal of a job with H&A. One year later, he was golfing with the big guns and doing whatever the boys in suits needed or wanted. While not on the record, it was known that Albert had a taste for, should we say, special things. And with his connections, was able to find and obtain them, when the need aroused.
The hour was up, timing was everything and the guards wasted no time telling him that. He quickly dried off and slipped back on the orange jump suit. His legs were once again shackled in iron leggings, as were his hands. They pushed him along with double barrel shotguns and begged him to make a move. He never replied, but that didn't stop them from asking. The halls were five feet wide and cells were mostly empty on this floor. This was death row. Cell 19 was opened and he was pushed inside, the door slammed shut behind him. He was told to back up and turn around, which he did. He placed his hands, still in cuffs upward allowing them to remove the iron bindings. His legs to were freed and he was once again, pushed with metal shotguns and again, begged by guards to make a move.
After years of imprisonment and appeals completely used up his time had come. Down the hall, 25 yards away, sat the chair. The guards here called it “The Ride” and they often teased the inmates about how lucky they were, to be taking it. The chair was combination of wood and steel, mostly black in color. It sat inside a cell of its own and was mostly surrounded with glass walls. There was a chest to its right, where all the goodies were. Guards called them the fun things, and you needed them if you were going to take the ride.
The night before his date with “The Ride” he was asked what his last meal would be. It was one of the only few times he spoke, he asked for pizza and fries and a tall glass of orange kool-aide. The warden laughed out loud for a second, and told them to get everything he wanted. That night, he ate and thought about the only thing that ever mattered to him, her.
The following morning was spent turning members of the press away. He had nothing to say and despite the questioning, showed no remorse. He spent the morning reading a book. The same book he read every morning. It was a book about a funny cat wearing a hat, and two children bored on a rainy day. That afternoon, more questions from the press were presented, and he again, declined them.
As the evening came, the guards came and removed him from his cell, his home for almost ten years. They relocated him to a smaller cell near the ride. Guards called this cell the “Ticket booth” and you had to come here first, before taking the ride. Here, he met with a priest and no one more. The warden stopped by and said his good-byes, as did a few others. He had made no friends here, but was surprised to see there were some who seemed to care.
At 11:30pm he was awakened from a restless nap and told to sit up. A guard came in and placed leg irons and handcuffs on him. Others watched always with guns at hand as his head was shaved bald. Some made jokes about how much better he looked, while others laughed on. One guard pushed him once more, begging him to make an escape, to try it now in his final hour. He looked at the guard, expressionless and said nothing. He was told to stand up. Another guard carried in a plastic bag, containing cotton and diapers. They placed the cotton up his rectum and strapped on the diaper, fastening it around his waist. This was not to mock him, but to aid in his trip on the ride.
11:45pm he makes the 2 minute walk from the ticket booth to the ride. As he sits down on the hard oak chair, his leg irons and handcuffs are removed. There are windows in front of him now, and he can see some have black curtains. A guard still holding his shotgun, whispers, “It's still not to late to make a move, go for it cowboy, if you can.” He ignores the comments as he has always done, and looks ahead out at the glass; his eyes not really fixed on anything in particular. They first strap his left leg, and then his right. Arms are next, followed by his chest. They pull the straps hard, fastening them good and tight. Another guard walks over and places electrode cream on his temples. He then, places a metal wired helmet on his head. On the other side of the glass, what little remains of his life and many others, look on. He sits looking out for a minute, mostly at nothing and waits.
They are people out there that are waiting. They have been seeking justice for almost ten years and so has he. Would they be surprised, to know that? Maybe not, but it's true, so very true.
With two minutes remaining before the midnight hour, he is asked if there is any last words, he’d like to say. He slowly shakes his head no and closes his eyes. A leather mask is placed over his head and as the procedure goes, the first of three buttons, are pushed. There is a buzzing sound from stage one and then stage two. A minute passes, and then the final button is pushed.
From the onset, 3200 volts of electricity rockets through his body. His muscles tighten, grabbing the base of the chair. They had placed a wooden bar in his mouth and his uses it to bite down on. Voltage continues to rack his body and his bowls liquefy, soaking the cotton and diapers in a burning stench. His grip continues clutching away at the armrest of wood and leather. The burning smell of human flesh works its way upward to a nose, now melting away under a heated leather mask. His eyebrows burn as the eye socks explode outward. His face burns first as the brain begins to boil. Memories dissolve away in a flash of bloody vapors.
The most unspeakable pain grips me and holds me for what seems like forever. A blinding flash of white haze forms before me and I feel released. I float from somewhere to nowhere, and begin traveling somewhere, or so it seems. I see nothing but feel everything as I make my way. I’m thinking of the ride and wondering how they knew. Is it always like this, I ask? Before me stands outstretched a vast space of foggy mist. There are sounds that race past me and for a minute, I hear her voice. I smile at her memory that begins playing as if on a huge movie screen, in space. I love her so much, so much do I miss her. So long have I waited to see her again.
I’m moving faster now, racing at blinding speeds that rip past space and time. More of those voices come, this time laughter. The sweetest sound I have ever heard, her voice. I try looking down and up only to see nothing, but I know time no longer matters. I will wait, I will allow what ever happens, to happen. Please, let me see her again, if only for a minute. I beg you.
There is a crack, followed by a sonic boom and I see the fog has cleared. I’m standing in a lush huge green field with mountains and wonderful icy peaks in the distance. Butterflies flap the most beautiful wings of patterns and colors and there are birds of perfect grace, flying high above. There are soft white and brown rabbits, running and chasing each other, as deer with perfect bone antlers leap among the green fields. The smell of honeysuckle and Jasmine drapes the air that I breathe. A perfect blue sky plays backdrop to white clouds that seemed fixed in its belly. Everything here is perfect, the colors, the smells, light and sounds. A bumblebee buzzes past me landing on daisy. I hear her, I hear her. I turn and look, my eyes widen as she appears beneath a tall beautiful oak tree. I see her smile her special smile and she comes running to me, her arms stretched wide as sun rays reflect her perfect beauty. I can’t help it now, I loose control, everything has been held inside for this moment in time. I let loose of all of my emotions and my body trembles. I drop to my knees and open my arms, awaiting the moment we touch. I feel her next to me and explode into love as I embrace her. I hold her so close, so tight as streams of joyful tears, run down my face. I have never stopped loving her, never once my love, my ever so sweet daughter.
“Daddy! I waited for you, I really waited for you!”
“I know my sweetie, you did. And now I’m here.”
“What took you so long daddy, I really missed you?”
“I know pumpkin, I really missed you too, daddy has been through so much and it has taken me so long to get here, but I’m here now darling, here with my baby girl forever. Daddy loves you so much.”
“We are here together my sweet little girl, here where no one will ever hurt you again”
I, like you, can’t but help wonder about how life plays out after we die. I often wonder if we will once again reunite with those most important and loved in our time living. For me, it’s my mother. I've always looked upon justice as a beast with two faces. One deals with the here and now, the other shows it’s compassionate face, at another time, when man has no input on the rules or decisions. I purposely avoided giving our father a name. As to who he was or what he was, it doesn't matter. He could very well have been a kind man who had gone crazy, or a crazy man with a love running deep for his daughter. Does it matter? Not really. All that does matter, is that our father in this story, loved his daughter very much, and would not only kill for her, but accept any consequence, no matter what, for her. Our children are the most greatest gifts, born of purity into a world of often horrible people, unable to protect themselves. I hope you enjoyed the story. I may have another one soon, but then again, you know how that goes.