A thick leather Strap is looped around his upper arms and chest. The leather is fed through a brass buckle and secured.
As it is tightened, restricting John Bastion’s breathing, two more guards loop slimmer straps over his wrists and lower legs.
The guards wear black hoods and tighten the straps to the point John loses feeling in his toes and fingers. He can’t help whimper a little when one of the men gives the straps one last tug.
He is held fast to the chair nick-named Old Sparky. It’s a seat 614 men and a few women have died sitting in. He will be the first since 1972. He will be the first since New York reinstated the death penalty.
“Too many brutal criminals need to face God,” Said Richard Bucco, the former State’s attorney from Staten Island who had ran for governor, promising to end urban blight and wage a war on vicious criminals who take advantage of the weak. He won the position and followed through with his promise to be tough on crime.
Maybe it was bad luck John got picked up for rape and murder when he did. Just a few years earlier and he would have spent the rest of his life in lock up. Free medical, free meals, free lodging and maybe a chance to be a better human being. Eventually he would have died, all men do, but his chances at a natural death would have been better.
Bastion struggles a bit testing the straps, but quickly stops, he is secured tight to the chair and does not want to give those in the observation booth a show of his death. Go out like a man. Go out like the innocent man he claims to be. Stoic, like he faced death every day and this was nothing new. It was better to just to get it done with and not be a spectacle. Nothing can stop it now and it was best not look like a pussy. A lot of the guys talk about not giving observers the satisfaction of showing fear. A lot of the guys only talk though. John has the privilege of being the first to go out like this in a long time.
“It’s what they want,’ said Bruno, a transvestite from the South Bronx who got into a habit of murdering his Johns. ‘They want to see you squirm. Oh, and go empty. They fill you with food so you shit yourself. It’s part of the show. Don’t give ’em the satisfaction.”
Going empty is not an issue for John. He couldn’t eat his final meal. A large cheese pie from Original Rays on 102nd in Morningside Heights. It looked several days old and the crust was hard as rock. He hadn’t had an appetite for weeks leading up to it anyway.
“A looming death can do that,” said the priest who gave him his last rites.
“You know I didn’t do this?”
“My son we all know guilt, yours is the deed of doing, mine is the deed of living and with our guilt we all face God for the ultimate judgement. Confess and face him with a clean conscious.”
“Go fuck yourself pedo,” John laughed relishing the look of disgust on the clergy’s face as he wiped away some spittle that hit him.
That last bit of freedom waiting for the guards to come and escort him to Old Sparky felt like a lifetime ago, but it was probably no more than three hours since.
The preparation for John’s state sanctioned murder continue as another guard places two electrodes on him. One is attached to John’s scalp and the other to the inside of his left thigh near his groin. The hair had been shaved away from both spots, but with little care and small cuts that have just barely clotted sting when the salty saline seeps from the sponges as the small copper plates are clamped down into place.
Ice cold shivers of fear shoot through John’s body. Its almost time. His jaw quakes. His hands clench in anticipation of the pain of death moments away.
How is he going to die?
He feels so healthy.
“Does the condemned have any final words?” The voice comes from under one of the black hoods. John does not know which man spoke the question.
It does not matter.
His eyes rove to the two way mirror and his mind plays over the deed that landed him here. She had shiny blonde hair and yoga pants. So light. So soft. It was so easy. She wasn’t the first either, but like dominoes when he got busted all the other names and dates and crimes came spilling out.
At the cusp of the end of his life John wonders again how he could live with himself. Even his attorney made comments about how difficult it was going to be to get him off, “best plead.”
John ignored the advice and every motion his lawyer attempted was denied. The whole trial felt done from the start.
After the jury came back with a guilty verdict he whispered to John as he was handcuffed to be brought back to Rikers, “Never saw anyone get a guilty verdict so quickly. At least you won’t get sent to death row, they haven’t killed anyone in this state in more then 63 years. We will appeal”
But with a verdict that man was no longer obligated to be his lawyer. the new guy pushed for life, but John got death. Others stepped in for the appeals, but failed. They were mainly pro-bono lawyers looking for tax breaks and came and went. An Amnesty international team showed up once, but John refused to admit to any wrong doing and they failed their appeal attempt also.
John clenches his eyes shut and moves his lips in an inaudible “no,” and shakes his head indicating he has nothing to say. He would just beg anyway. He doesn’t want to die today. The nightmare of being here and no one believing him declare his innocence and being slammed through a system of appeals, being denied every opportunity to correct what he viewed as a major failure of justice, why should he die because of some wrong headed choices, it makes no sense to him.
Plus he knows who is in there watching. The honored states guests here to see his last day on Earth. His victims loved ones, the jury who condemned him, some witnesses for the state and the asshole key testifier for the State’s case. If the glass wasn’t a two way mirror John is sure he would see him standing there with a smug look on his face.
If he were allowed just one more murder it would be that man.
It was past midnight. It was Inwood Park on a trail in the hills. No one should have been able to see yet this guy did. John knew it was bullshit. No way he saw anything. But he gave perfect testimony and John knew he had to be there to know what he knew.
John did it and that man was there watching the whole thing. He went to the police as a witness.
And John hasn’t seen the sun since.
He imagines the sun moments away from touching the horizon, a sliver of orange before bursting free with the promise of a new day. By the time it slunk free of the horizon the world would learn he was dead.
Slivers of masking tape are placed over his eyes shutting the bright florescent bulb lit room away just as tears begin to roll down his cheeks . He feels a coarse sack being pulled over his head. It smells like rotting teeth and mold.
Footsteps and a slamming door.
Then he feels alone.
The room is cold and quiet. Nothing except his labored breath against the burlap hood.
He flinches, but it is nothing.
He knows any moment it will come so he braces.
An eternity passes. A phone rings once behind a door. It is faint. He imagines someone saying hello and then listening as the Governor commutes his sentence giving him a second chance at life. Maybe this time he won’t be a rapist murderer. Maybe this time he will do good with his existence and give back.
He wants so bad to try again, but then exquisite pain. His body is forced up and away from the wooden chair. He feels his arm and leg bones snap against the straps. His jaw bites down and he tastes coppery blood filling his mouth as his teeth clash through his tongue and crack against the strain.
His pain lasts for several minutes until it is followed by blackness.
But not nothing.
With the memory of the pain of death still fresh in his mind he hears the tick of a clock and the clump of heavy boots down a linoleum hallway and the metal clang of a cell door being opened. He hears Bruno complaining about something in pigeon Spanish and the response from his neighbor telling him to, “Shut the fuck up.”
“Before you meet our Father, would you like to confess my son.” It’s a familiar sickly sweet voice. Fake, maybe enjoying getting to see him die today.
The blackness vanishes when John finds he can open his eyes. The priest sits in front of him, wearing the same neat white vestments and purple liturgical stole. The same bible on his knee. The same look of pitiful sorrow on his face with a glint in his eye like he knows.
John knows also now.
He knows what to expect and all his bravery is gone. All his stoicism leaks out in one greasy stream of diarrhea filling his only pair of undershorts. He can’t help himself now and begins to scream. He screams and screams until his throat bleeds. He screams until the guards come to drag him to his death again.
He screams as one of the guards yells over him, “Dead man Walking.”
He screams as they lash him to Old Sparky. He screams as the phone rings. He screams as the 2000 volt shock begins sending him into blackness.
And then again.
And again for eternity he screams and begs over and over, “Please no, Please not again. Please! Please! No!”