I was done rotting in the jail cell, or so they told me. I’d shown good behavior, but my time was up and the governor couldn’t think of a reason to pardon me.
The list they handed me was on pink paper. I scowled. Just because I was a girl, they were putting my last meal on pretty pink paper. And nothing on it appealed to me. I circled nothing, and handed it back in.
The night before I was sentenced to die I was brought nothing, like I’d asked, except for a glass of water. “Gotta keep you hydrated,” the prison guards teased, “electricity won’t flow through your body if you aren’t hydrated. Remember that scene from the Green Mile?”
My sweaty palms betrayed my calm exterior. I said nothing, but rolled my eyes and shook my head at their jokes. I laid down on the scratchy bed surface when the lights went out. The tears that sprang to my eyes as I thought of all the things I’d miss pushed any thoughts of why I was here, in this very situation in the first place, out of my mind. Instead, I daydreamed about the happy times I’d had in life.
When the sun’s rays touched the ceiling, I sat up and let my feet touch the cold floor. I could hear the footsteps moments later, with the unmistakable jangle of keys, even though the doors were now all electric and remote controlled.
All those prison movies are good for is instilling fear in society.
I stayed still on my bed as the door slid open. The newest prison guard, a quaint woman named Patrice, shuffled in. “Stand up.” She ordered, without looking me in my eyes.
I did as I was told. She solidly gripped my elbow and escorted me out of the room. There were three other guards waiting for me, all with solemn faces. They flanked me as we walked down the hallway. At least they knew enough to respect me during my last few moments on earth.
I was brought into a room, pushed into an electric chair. I wiped my palms casually on my jumpsuit as I sat down. The lights dimmed. I could hear the hum of static electricity filling the room.
I counted my breaths as my escorts faded into the background. I looked out at the one way glass, trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything, on the other side. I saw nothing. Then the door behind the chair opened.
Must be the executioner, coming in to do his job. How does he even sleep at night?
Fighting to keep my breathing even, I hardly flinched when the warden appeared in front of me. He was a squirrelly type of man, always dressed to the nines, even when he was supervising us out in the hot sun. There was something about him that held my attention, but his eyes scrutinized me as they strapped me in.
He held a manilla folder. It wasn’t as thick as I thought it would be, but then again, I didn’t even know what was in it.
“This,” he began, “is your new life. There’s a passport, birth certificate, new name and identity and twenty thousand dollars cash. You have a choice, right now, right here in this moment.”
He took a deep breath. “You can become,” he peeked inside, “Stephanie Brown, a woman from Northern Nebraska who’s looking for a new start in South America, OR, you can be electrocuted. The choice is yours really.”
I looked at him, disbelief evident, I’m sure. “Has anyone ever turned you down and instead asked to be electrocuted?”
He grinned. “Actually, yes. You see you’re never allowed back in the country. No one can know that you’re alive. And we actually ship out a cadaver with your name on it, so your family will think you’re dead and gone. No one is to know about the deal, or else you will be hunted down and killed. Is that clear?”
I nodded. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but to be given the chance to leave the country paid for by the government and live free once again? Who wouldn’t take it?
What’s the catch? There’s got to be a catch.
My voice was steady. “And what’s the fine print?”
“Fine print?” He laughed. “There is none. You see we don’t like to kill people. The government doesn’t like to kill people. But, we can’t have people running around killing others because there’s no retribution. So, we ship you out of the country, you don’t tell anyone and you don’t come back, and we both win.”
“When do I leave?” I asked.
“Now.” He answered.
The straps were removed from my wrists. He disappeared, back through the same door, I’m sure. The manilla folder was at my feet.
Each of the guards looked at me, slight grins on their faces. “Stephanie, how nice to meet you.” They said as they walked up and shook my hand.
Just like that I was someone else. And she fit like a glove.