The Indie Ink Writing Challenge actually went on for a whole week without me, one of many organizations that find they can do without me. My challenge goes out to my homeboy Lance, whose blog can beat up my blog, while I am receiving a challenge from Billy Flynn, who razzle dazzles me with the prompt "Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back." This is called "Ride The Lightning".
Everything I liked was on the tray- pepperoni pizza, macaroni and cheese, Coke, and coffee ice cream. I dove into it pretty hard, eating mindlessly until I felt the pleasant ache of fullness. Now I was sitting back, toying with the scraps, just waiting. It was all waiting now.
Wait for lunch, wait for dinner, wait for them to bring my mail. Wait, wait, wait. I used to hate it, raging at anyone who would listen when I couldn't get my papers. Screaming, fighting, sobbing at night when the loneliness consumed me. They made you wait because they could, like bullies always do.
I looked around my room. Stacks of letters, paperbacks, my posters, pens and papers. I wondered idly what would happen to all of this, after. I wondered what would happen after, in general. It was something you had to consider- it was too big and compelling not to think of, even as you knew you couldn't work it out.
They assembled outside my door, and I heard the harsh buzz and the deep thunk of the machinery being opened. TJ was there, along with Sully and Father Kelly and the Warden.
I looked at them without getting up. "TJ," I said softly, "you know it's me."
"I do, CK," he said. "But there are rules about this." He was quiet for a moment. "It's time, CK. We'll drag you out if we have to, but you don't want that."
"No," I said, "I don't." I didn't move.
"You know I didn't, TJ. Right? You believe me?"
"It doesn't matter any more, CK."
"I know. I know it doesn't matter, I know it's all over, and I know it's too late. But you believe me, don't you?"
How else? "Yeah."
"I do, CK." TJ had known me for almost 8 years, long after I had stopped being angry about it. TJ probably heard a lot of guys saying they didn't do it, but I had the advantage of actually telling the truth. I didn't do it, despite what everyone thought, and despite what the conventional wisdom said.
"It's time," the Warden said.
"OK," I said, looking down at the scraps of food on my plate. I stood up. I felt nothing. I had raged against fate, asking why and how to a deafening silence from the universe. It didn't matter what I thought, or what anyone thought, now. It was like I was watching myself in a movie. "I'm coming," I said, and smiled. Obedient to the last.
I had long since quit trying to convince anyone else. I knew, and that would have to be enough. I walked out into the hall, and they led the way towards the chamber.
"Would you like to hear a prayer?," Father Kelly asked.
"No thanks, father. Everything has been said." We walked down the hall together. I still couldn't feel anything. I smiled again. There was a certain justice to this, I thought. If they really believed me, they were going to have to live with it, not me.