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The Outsider: Chapter Six (short story)

Posted on August 2, 2009 at 1:15 AM

  In a few moments I will be dead.

  The heat is immense under this hood. I feel beads of sweat gathering across my forehead. All I can see now is blackness. I hear a man shouting accusations over the low grumble of an angry crowd.

  “This man – nay this monster – is not fit to live in our moral society. He is incapable of emotion, conscience, or ethical decision. This sociopath has been sentenced to death by guillotine under the laws of our people. He will be put out of his misery, and we will be free of his treachery.”

  I hear these words, and I know that they refer to me. But I no longer listen, and all I see is darkness. The man continues with his speech, every now and then interrupted by someone from the crowd declaring their hatred towards me. This is my execution. These are my last few minutes of existence.

  My ankles and wrists are bound with rope, and my head and body are covered by a black cloak. I barely exist as it is.

  The air is hot and moist, and I feel faint and damp under all these clothes. My limbs are cut and bruised because of the tight ropes. My legs have become very weak due to the heat, and I am suddenly overcome by a strong sense of sleep. I have to remind myself that it will all be over in a little while, so I should just keep standing until the end.

  It suddenly dawns on me the ridiculousness of this sentence. I have been sentenced to die. Not because I killed a man, but because I did not cry at my mothers funeral. As the man’s voice becomes louder and more aggressive, I can’t help but feel sorry for the people who have come to see me die. I realize now the instinct that has plagued me my entire life was right – human life is absurd.

  As the man’s speech draws to its climax I am aware of someone standing beside me.

  “Not long now,” a dark voice whispers in my ear.

  It is silent now and I hear footsteps fade into the distance. My accuser has left. It is now me and the angry mob. A firm hand grips my shoulder and leads me several steps forward. I feel the same hand gather the hood around the top of my head and draw it backwards. The veil that hid the world from my eyes – or my eyes from the world – was no more. I see my fate before me, the guillotine. It is just as I imagined it. Two wooden posts joined by a crossbeam at the top. A heavy steel knife with a slanting edge fits into grooves in the posts. And a cord that holds the knife in place. When the executioner cuts the cord, the knife will drop straight down and cut off my head. Quick, merciless and deadly efficient. My fears were confirmed, it was the perfect machine. Death was inevitable.

  The crowd begins to boo and hiss me. They spit and jeer my name. They shout, “Murderer; villain; monster; devil!”

  I look out over their faces. To my surprise they are not just the faces of men, but of women and children too. Each face is lined with frowns of disgust. Each face is full of hatred and murderous rage. They have all judged me. Eighty, perhaps a hundred people have already sentenced me to death in their minds, because I did not weep when my own mother was sentenced to her death. I look from face to face, hoping to see Marie, or Raymond, or Salamano, or Celeste. But to no avail. I shall die alone.

  I turn to the figure beside me. He is wearing a leather mask over most of his face. He is the executioner, the one who will cut the cord.

  “The time has come,” he says at last. A sinister smile snakes its way across his face.

  He grips my shoulders tightly and bends me over. He then puts his hands around my neck and pushes my head through the hole in the guillotine. He tightens the hole so that I cannot escape and takes a few steps back. The shouting becomes louder and louder now. I lower my head and notice a bucket sitting about half a foot from my chin. It is empty … at least for now. After a while the shouting dies down, until all that can be heard are light foot steps.

  I see a figure approach the guillotine out of the corner of my eye. It’s the chaplain. I raise my head to face him, but the sun is so bright now that it hurts my eyes. I squint through my sweat-drenched eyelashes. He is dressed in a black robe, with a clean, white shoal hanging evenly over each shoulder. A golden crucifix dangles from a long, beaded chain. It glints brightly in the sun. He stops several feet from where I’m kneeling, strapped into the guillotine. He stands there in silence for a few seconds, and then without opening his mouth he blesses me with the palm of his hand. Before he leaves I notice a sadness lingering in his eyes. Somewhere behind those spectacles he pities me, as I pity him.

  After the chaplain has left the crowd begins yelling and screaming abuse at me again. All I see is their faces – carved with loathing and disgust.

  The blazing sun pours down its terrible heat. My eyes sting, welling up with tears. As I squeeze them shut, I feel the sweat roll little rivers through my temples. My nostrils and the inside of my mouth are dry and hollow from the unbearable heat. The voices of savages cry out in one murderous chant: “Antichrist! Antichrist! Antichrist!”

  Mother is dead. The Arab is dead. But it doesn’t matter, the masses have already forgotten about them. They are the collateral damage of the universe. The chanting overwhelms the air, until all I can hear is white noise. My brain is numb and raw, bleeding at the core. My eyes are welded shut with heat and salt. Hear no evil; think no evil; see no evil. The pain is so great that I prey for death to end it. But I do not scream. I do not cry out “injustice”. I let go. I merely switch off. I let my soul bathe in their hatred. My heart is cleansed by their sins. I am at peace.

  And then I hear it – the almighty “SHhhhhhhhhinG!!!” followed by the roar of the angry mob. I feel cold, weightless, free, immortal, divine, and then nothing…

  I am dead. And nothing has changed.

The End

Categories: WRITING, Short Stories

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