According to the Florida Department of Corrections, more than one hundred people have registered on the waiting list to see an execution.
Write about one of them.
Imprisoned. Entrapped. Surrounded by criminals who have done too much to be forgiven, the small boy let out another small sob. He had been there a week, and his mother back home made no effort to ensure he was not hung at the end of the month. The man who sat next to him in the cramped cell had protected him thus far, but was going to die in two days, unless his unreliable friends really did ‘pry open the walls to let everyone out!’
The man looked down at his youthful ward. “Hey, kid, chin up.” he warned gruffly. “You’ll get his attention if you keep that up.”
The child became silent as terror settled in his belly. He was too scary. Last time he caught his attention, he was stabbed. The wound in his side still ached, and every morning and meal, he felt so much pain that it dizzied him. He gritted his teeth together and hugged himself, then pressed his soft, round face into his guardian’s side.
The large man rested a hand on the boy’s head, nearly hiding him from view, save the child’s unusually large ears, which stuck out between the man’s fingers.
Neither said a word for several hours, until the bars of their stone cell rattled open. Six guards stood there, blades bared openly. The one at front wore black that was bordered in gold. The rest wore red bordered by black. “Will.” the black-clad man called quietly.
The large man glanced down at the child beside him, then stood. The child remained asleep, unaware that his only shield was walking away. Will did not look back, nor did he say good-bye. An early execution could only mean a bribe, or that there was absolutely no chance of redemption. He closed his eyes briefly in the doorway, then stepped out to the welcoming party of rapidly-locking shackles. The icy metal dug into his thick forearms and calves, but he kept quiet.
The man walked in silence, surrounded by guards. He thought it odd that only he was being taken away, and soon found out. Someone made a bribe– but it was not for him to hang early. He was set free, on the condition that he keep hidden for five years in a house paid for by his benefactor and known to the guard, and then he leave the country.
Will was stunned, and numbly nodded. “Can I make a request?” he asked.
The man in black frowned deeply, his stance a warning.
“There is a little boy in there. Can I trade places with him?”
“No. The boy will not go free.”
Will clenched his fists and paused. Just as a guard unlocked his shackles and began to lead him to a back door, he paused and looked back to the man in black. “May I be present when it is his time?” he asked. He couldn’t change the way the boy would die, nor could he change when, or stop it without money.
The man in black looked at Will closely. “You may be present, in disguise, and in the front row. You will not speak, you will make no move to let him know it is you. You will watch in silence, surrounded by guards.”
The former prisoner lowered his head. “Yes.” he agreed. He hoped the boy knew his eyes well enough to find some reassurance. He hoped the boy would not be attacked too often during his wait. Slowly, he exited the building, and climbed into a dark-windowed carriage.
Inside, Will’s friend grinned at him. “I told you that I would get you out in one piece!” he bragged. Will looked away. “Wait, why aren’t you happy?”
“Never mind, John. Nothing to be done. You must have spent your entire fortune to get me out.”
John frowned. “Tell me.”
“There’s a little boy in there, called Jacob. The charges are too big for his hands, and he’s going to die at the last of the month. Someone is paying his way to the noose with a lift instead of a drop. He’s going to die in pain, slowly, because someone out here doesn’t like him.” He paused a few moments. “I have been given permission from the head guard to be present.”