Step. Step. Step.
My boots seem louder today. Even walking across the damp grass and loose soil of the grounds, the stepping fills my ears, ruining any hope at a train of thought I might have had.
I’m going round in circles. The park isn’t all that big, and this is the only place I can walk freely. Even so, I can see the many imprints of my shoes in the dirt, telling me how many times I must have travelled this same path today.
No-one else is walking in the park. They’re not allowed. For the next hour, this park is mine and mine alone, to do with and explore as I so please. That’s the thing, you see; everyone gets a last wish. This was mine.
I’m not dying, well, not right now anyway. I’m told I’m being executed in an hour’s time. Put to death for a crime I’m not sure I committed, in a country I still don’t understand.
They took me into prison as soon as I’d stepped off the plane, dragging me by the shoulder with guns pointed at me, screaming in a language I’d not yet found time to learn. I was thrown in a cell and seemingly forgotten for a week, and then … well, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve got a whole hour, haven’t I?
When they brought me in, we passed a reception area. There was a secretary working there who looked as shocked as I was at my arrival, though I wasn’t checked in and we only remained in that room while we waited for an elevator to appear. I was then taken down.
I was thrown into a room, well, a dirt floor with four walls. It was large, huge in fact, though I wasn’t given much time to appreciate it straight away, as once the doors were open I was delivered a sharp blow to the head and thrown to the ground, where I lay for a good time.
Thinking about that now I can’t help but touch the scar on my skull as I continue stepping the park grounds. Of course it’s completely healed now, but a faint dent in my flesh reminds me of every detail of the recovery.
Once I’d awoken, I found myself exactly where they’d left me, prone on the ground in a small pool of my own blood. The wound wasn’t serious, though it was very visible and certainly quite painful.
Exploring the room revealed little. It had an earthen floor, with concrete walls. It was, simply put, a huge box. A toilet in the corner that offered no privacy was the only change in the room. No bed, no seats, no windows, nothing but the floor.
I was there for at least a day before anything happened at all. In that time I did little but panic, and attack the elevator door. Whatever I did, it wouldn’t open from my side. I did, however, discover that the door itself contained another door, much smaller, and both un-openable from my side and too small to escape through even when opened.
I discovered the use of the smaller door on my second day in captivity. As I was pacing around the room, desperately trying to make sense of my situation, the metal door slid open, and through it came a small package, tied in brown paper.
I remember rushing straight over to it and tearing it open. I think I remember hoping for some form of escape within that little box, or perhaps I just wanted to ease the panic of the past day. Either way, I tore into it eagerly.
Within was a self-heating box of rather unappealing food. Some orange slop, with a supermarket bottle of water next to it. I had not been passed a chance at freedom, only lunch.
I was only in that hole for about a week, though guessing the time became difficult, if not impossible, without any sunlight, and only the arrival of lunch as the single consistent thing in my day.
I was lying down, dreaming of better times, when the door blasted open. Through the wrecked passage came a small army of the men of my home country, shouting for me to come with them, and the bodies of my captors lying at their feet. I rushed to join them and….
No. If these are my final moments, I’ll live them in truth and sanity. I won’t lie.
I was in there for months, if not years. No-one came to rescue me, and all that ever happened was a single food package would come through my doors, once a day, every day. I was never saved … and why would I be? I’m not important to my country, it can function without me. I’m just some person who got caught up in something he shouldn’t have …
But I still don’t know why I’m even here! Maybe I did commit this awful crime, maybe I didn’t. I’ve not lived a perfect life, but I can’t think of anything I’ve done to warrant this.
Stop it. I can’t start thinking about that again. They wouldn’t give me a trial then, I won’t get one now. I’ve accepted that. I have to live these last … oh god, twenty minutes, to the fullest.
After however long I was down in that pit, I was eventually brought to the surface. Of course, I was chained and gagged, but seeing the sunlight for the first time in around a year was still marvellous, even with the terrible circumstances.
I was yelled at in a language I don’t know for a few minutes, before a man began to translate for me. He told me that for my crimes, I would die in two weeks time. I’m not sure whether I thought it would help or not, but I began to quickly try to explain myself in my language. I was yelling and stuttering, and the translator simply gave me a blank look before saying a quick phrase to the yelling man.
After that, no more words were said, and I was thrown back into the hole. It was another two weeks before I was brought up again, just a few hours ago. Strange, time seems to be different these days.
I was led into a room, and was forced to endure a very one-sided conversation in a language I still have no way of speaking or even recognising. I wasn’t even offered a translator this time; I suppose even they know that whatever I’m told now is meaningless, or perhaps it simply didn’t matter.
After that, a short blindfolded walk left me in another, similarly dank and dark room. This was just a couple of hours ago now.
Anyway. This time a man who speaks my language was presented to me, and for once I had the chance to speak as well as be spoken to. Well, to a degree, I suppose.
‘You have had the two weeks you were promised. Your crimes have not diminished, and you are to be executed shortly for the good of our nation. However, as is our custom, you will be offered a final grace. A sort of peace offering to the heavens, and to your soul. You may request someone be brought to you, to be given a particular meal, or given any object or desire. You’ll understand when I tell you that you cannot use this boon to escape your fate,’ spoke the short, hairy man.
‘What are these crimes I have committed? Why am I to die?’ I asked; no, perhaps begged is a better word.
‘Your boon. Please choose it. Will it be a person, an event, an item?’ As soon as he spoke those words, Lisa’s face exploded in my mind. I’d thought about her all too much over the past year. We’d not seen each other in a long time, and I expect she has no knowledge of my situation whatsoever. She probably thinks I’m just keeping to my aggressive old ways.
‘Do you have access to parks? Fields?’ I asked as I thought
‘Yes, we do,’ came the reply. ‘Does that help your choice?’ I could see a small hint of sympathy in his eyes.
My mind was still awash with mine and Lisa’s lives. So separate, yet so damned entwined. I sometimes think it would have been better if she’d never met me, and from the position I’m in now, I know, and have done for a while, it would have been better for me if I hadn’t met her. Though I suppose, in a way, neither of us could have lived without the other.
No. I know.
‘I’d like an hour or so in a park. A completely empty one. Alone. You can guard it all you like, but I’d like it to be private.’
‘Very well. There is a park nearby. Come.’
‘Hang on! One other thing. I want a notebook.’ I had to jump to stop him from leaving the small room we were inhabiting.
‘A notebook? Fine.’ I couldn’t help but notice the look of confusion on his face turn to one of sadness at that moment. ‘I … I have to add something. I highly doubt you’re a criminal, or that you did anything they say you did. But our people want blood, and criminal or not, your blood will clean our hands. Either way, I’m sorry.’
I expect my face at that moment turned to one of both deep trouble and anger, at the knowledge that I was simply a scapegoat for some real, awful criminal. ‘Ok. Thank you for telling me. In a way, it does help.’
With that, he scurried out of room, leaving the two guards to escort me away. I was led from office to office, and then from one heavily guarded reception to another, until finally the small man returned, hugging a notepad and pen tightly to his oversized chest.
‘The park outside is yours. You have an hour, and here is your notebook, the best I could find.’
Without a word I was then escorted to this very park where I now sit, writing down everything that comes to my mind. The bench I sit upon is cool, but from its position I can see the many paces I took across the muddy track, as I tried to regain my mind before writing the last words I’ll ever write. Executed without trial, that’s what they’ll say. Executed without trial for a country my superiors told me would soon be falling to the might of their own.
I’m running out of pages. I suppose they didn’t expect me to need all that many in just an hour, and I guess they were correct. With a cursory glance to my watch I can report I have a grand total of seven minutes. Seven minutes left to live, it just doesn’t seem fair.
I guess if I have so little time left, I should write what I meant to. For almost an hour now I’ve been putting off writing about it, even thinking about it, but now I suppose is my last chance.
Lisa. Saying her name is hard enough; writing it, seeing it here on the paper in front of me: it’s killing me. I was offered a single chance to see her, one chance before I died to say the words I’d never said before. Instead I chose this. I chose an empty park, and an empty booklet that I planned only to fill with empty words. I guess it’s true, what they say, everyone dies alone.
But I don’t regret it. I could have had them call her, and had her come out here. I could have said the words that I hadn’t before, fixed what I’d broken so long ago. Restore what was lost; but no. That wouldn’t be fair on anyone.
Three minutes left. I can see one of the guards talking on a radio. I don’t know how I’ll die, and it somehow seems right that even now, a few minutes from death, I don’t even know why I’ll die.
I said one last thing to that chubby little man that I omitted from this record until now. Saving it until I felt ready. I asked him to send it to her … to you, I suppose. Lisa, I hope you’re reading this now.
The men are walking over. There are four or five of them, coming to bind me and take me to my execution. I promise you one thing now, I went out fighting.
I don’t want to die. The field isn’t long, and as I desperately scrawl these words they draw ever closer….I don’t want to die, please, I don’t … I …
Seconds left to live. They haven’t broken me for a year, they won’t now. I have one last thing, one thing I can write before they take me. Yes, write the words I could never say …
I’m so sorry Lisa.