Tick

Tick-tick-tick, I count ticks, and wish I didn’t.

I am at 90,000 when the security bell sounds, and the doors to the Death Wing clang open. I know it’s something for me. I am in the pre-execution holding cell, sometime tomorrow, I’m told, the governor will make his final decision on the matter of my life and death, like he is the one that owns my soul. Torture would be making me wait. So I wait.

I lose count waiting now for my visitor, annoyed because 90,000 was the longest I have ever counted to.

I start again, because a week ago I decided that if I don’t look at the clock set in the middle of the wall opposite my cell, then I can imagine time has stopped, and they won’t pull me and make me decide whether I should fight to avoid dying or just go with it, because fuck-it, death happens regardless of a souls ownership. So instead of looking, my evil mind keeps track by counting.

I feel the presence of my visitor looming, but ignore it, pretending to be busy, because dying is hard. I work my eyes over a bit in the book of Matthew, fear the one who can kill body and soul.

Kill body and soul.

It’s the nightmare of my death that I know I don’t own my soul anymore, or my actions, and I wait for the presence to instruct me. Stand against the wall, put your hands here, something, something, are you going to kill yourself? Do you know you are subhuman? Piece of shit? Murderer?

I know what defines my existence, but nothing comes, the presence doesn’t say anything, and I find myself looking at the words Body and soul over and over counting the ticks of the clock.

I get to 1234 and decide to look up, and I see a man I once held as a baby.

The transformation is instant. I don’t want to die. I want to take it all back even the time I’ve spent alive and go back to those sweet moments when this man was firstborn, and he slept on my chest warm and safe.

I meet his eyes. They are blue, like mine. His face, like mine and her’s. His mouth, a stern thin-line, and it makes me think of a cop asking, do you know why I pulled you over?

I know why I got pulled over, I gave permission to the warden for family to visit, but knew they wouldn’t. I expected to die, never seeing or speaking to my son, ever. I look at the stern man and his close-cropped hair, and I feel both fear and a longing. I don’t know which would be worse, the words, I hate you and am looking forward to your last smoking twitches, or daddy I love you.

I stand up finally, still counting those ticks of the clock as if they alone are keeping me sane. I am up 4568, when I stand opposite the bars. He can reach in and touch me if he wants. The priest I get to talk with, on the hour, will grab my forearm when we pray, and its almost as good as I remember sex being.

The man who looks like me and her doesn’t move to touch me, or to take his eyes from my face. And that’s best. It seems he is trying to memorize everything about me. I want to ask, what do you see, but don’t. I know already, this is his right to stare and be here and talk if he wants to.

When my count gets close to 10000, he asks the question I knew he would ask.

“Did you do it?”

I turn and lay my eyes on my bible, knowing he doesn’t need an answer, he knows the truth already. The whole world knows. But with my back turned, I nod, and fifty ticks later, I hear his footsteps work their way back toward the gate, which buzzes open and closes with a clang.

I know I will see him one last time, him and the rest of her family, and I am okay with that, all I want to keep is my soul, but know Lorraine already has claim on it.

Published by Bryan Aiello

Raised on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bryan served in the Army, graduated from the University of South Florida and now calls Brooklyn home. For more of his fiction and updates on his podcasts, follow him on Twitter: @bryaiello and Reddit: /u/voyage_of_roadkill.

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