Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Execution

In 700 words, gather together three or four ordinary people. Let them meet in a businesslike environment—a conference room, a grade-school classroom after school hours, a hotel room that is part of a suite so the bed is out of sight. These three or four people are going to decide to put someone to death. They are not government officials, rogue CIA agents, Mafia lieutenants—they're just plain folks. And the person they choose to execute is also a run-of-the-mill person just like them, except he is slated for death. Stay in this room. Don't follow through on the death sentence. Simply watch the group decide who needs to die and why. Choosing the victim is going to be hard. Keeping the group from simply going after someone who has angered them or cut them off in line or slept with their spouse—that is going to be your problem. This group of executioners should know one another but not terribly well. Don't tell us why or how they've chosen to do this; just accept the situation and try to let them accept it, too. POV—the executioners', as well as the intended victim's in a sense--will matter a great deal. One POV will predominate. You probably want to tell this scene from a dramatic perspective, allowing only spoken words to come out (don't show the executioners' thoughts).
(from prompt #12 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Serial Killer
"Serial Killer" by 'abnelphoto.com'"

The man at the pulpit, clearing his throat, said “She’s as good as dead anyway.”

“Right, but. What does that mean? Why are we, why are we getting involved then? Why get our hands dirty?” said the woman wringing her hands, staring up at the pulpit.

The third person, a young man, kept his eyes straight down and his arms crossed.

The man at the pulpit cleared his throat again, awkwardly, and the little chapel’s acoustics carried the noise too far. The woman wringing her hands jumped like she was being followed. The young man stayed still, standing slouched against the left wall of the stage that held the man at the pulpit. His shadow, in the dim light, fell around his feet and from above it looked like a dark child hunched over in grief.

“We aren’t. Getting our hands dirty, I mean. We are, well. We are cleaning someone else’s hands. We are,” and his voice started to rise,” we aren’t courting trouble by eliminating it, are we? Are we getting involved in a mess? We are involved, involved enough to gather. And now, I am standing here telling you all that we are not getting our hands dirty! We are cleaning the dirty hands of someone unable to do so herself. What is best for all involved,” and he looked at the young man, at the woman wringing her hands, and then at the shut door behind his audience of two, “is to simply, painlessly, stop the misery. Put an end to it.”

“How?” the young man asked without raising his voice, just raising his head enough to project. To avoid speaking directly to the ground.

“I don’t know if, well. This could be a bad idea? But I, um, think we could send her somewhere? To a home, or uh, what do you call it? A place that specializes in this.” The woman wringing her hands shifted in the pew a half dozen times before completing a sentence. Her jacket was stiff and gray with blackening circles under her arm pits. She also seemed to be shrinking inside her suit, like she was physically regressing to match her age to her infantile demeanor.

With a deep sigh the man at the pulpit spoke. “We talked about that, honey. And I don’t mean to be, uh, crass. But that’s stupid, and you know it. A place that specializes in what? Anyway we need to get to the point.”

“The point being, we want to kill her? Sure. Let’s kill her right now. Like you said, she’s as good as dead.” And with that the young man started to walk toward the shut door.

“She cannot live. She cannot. There is no…why can’t we just say it? You both can blame me! I am her mother’s pastor, I am this lamb’s shepherd. I will live with it. I will. And I will live with your anger, and with her mother’s. But not with the knowledge that I, that WE, sat idly by. What did you think…” he looked towards the woman wringing her hands, “when you found the little bird? With its twisted head? And what did you think, young man, when you found the cat’s tail in her lunchbox? Did you think that nothing would come of it? That, well, sometimes little girl’s like to mutilate their pets? That no one would notice or retaliate? Someone noticed, and now we have to do something. But I need you,” and he looked toward the young man’s back, which was still except for shallow breaths, “to be with me.”

“I’m with you. I don’t want to discuss any more. I’m with you. I’ll just stay right here and pray, and you boys can go while she’s sleeping. Don’t tell me anything.”

“I agree with you, sir, that things cannot go further than they have. I agree that she is as good as dead.”

"So, then, let us pray for her soul, for the strength to follow through on this agreement..."

The three heads bowed down. The man at the pulpit cleared his throat for the third time, but the echo didn't frighten the woman, who stopped wringing her hands. And the young man's slouched back began to straigten as he prayed.

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