At fifteen, I was a witness.
An enormous steel door cranked open in the distance and launched his cries into the stale, cold air. His heavy steps clamored on the slate pavers and I heard hesitation in the back and forth shuffle he seemed unable to control. As he moved slowly up the ramp towards me, his breath clouded and fused with the death that engulfed us. He didn’t look up.
A noose was placed around his neck; eyes saucers of spilled black tea, dark and brimming. His lashes were long and caught in the tiny pieces of cool, blue light filtering through cracked slats of wood. He was massive and mesmerizing, stunning. It was impossible to look away.
My heart galloped as the straight end of the noose was pulled taut. He bucked frantically, but was dragged off his feet, head ramming into the stone wall beside him. Dazed, he’d slumped to ground, groaning and moaning, tears wetting his panic-stricken face. The bolt went straight through his skull, centered just above his eyes and a long, straight metal prod was inserted, meant to scramble his brain. He fought and flailed and I’d felt his desperation clawing its way into my own rattled organs.
He finally looked up and our eyes locked, both begging.
“Kill him,” I’d choked. “Oh please dear God, have mercy and kill him.”
They used the noose to rope his legs and in an instant, he was on his back, all fours up in the air, slit open straight down the middle. His body shuddered and his sweat christened the ground below him before the blood could reach it. His insides oozed and steamed as his valued parts were scooped for market.
It was the most brutal thing I’d ever seen and like the beast, I was gutted. Running off, fighting through tall grass and bursting out into the misty morning air, I was sure I’d never kill a living thing as long I lived.
The door protests loudly at my intrusion, but she doesn’t look up.
The room is shadowy and the rain pelts hard on the double-glazing. Cool blue light steals in through a crack in the curtains.
She’s lying on the bed; what’s left of her anyway. Trying to raise her wasted hand is exhausting. She surrenders after only a moment. There’s hesitation in the back and forth breaths she seems unable to control. She groans and moans, as tears wet the cheeks of her panic-stricken face. Dazed and scared, frenzied, as fear and death vie for her attention.
My hand rests over her heart and it’s clear we’re not beating in time. Hers is slow and labored; mine races to keep up with the trampling thoughts littered over my aching soul.
She finally looks my way and her gaze locks on mine, eyes big and blue, brimming; an ocean’s waves spilling onto the beach. And it’s obvious we’re both begging, only for two very different things; I’d give anything if life would sustain her. More than anything, she finds torture in each extra minute.
Every raindrop punctuates her silent plea.
“End it. Oh please, please help me. Have mercy and end it.”
And, I do.
At forty-five, I’m a participant.