The damp, stale, prison air felt cold. The frigid stone floor bit into his flesh, as if mocking the flimsy, thin mattress that was provided as an apparent defence against the cold. A few bleak rays of light from the warden’s room down the corridor struggled against the engulfing darkness and cast malevolent shadows on the walls. Though the ancient clock outside the cell proclaimed midday, not a single ray of warmth and sunshine penetrated the all-pervading gloom of the cell.
As the clock struck 12 melancholy beats, he woke up slowly from the dazed stupor that had come to account for most of his time and scoured the pockets of his flimsy, torn pants. Withdrawing a piece of scrap paper and a stub of pencil he crossed out one more line from a series of them. Five more- he thought, five more hours until oblivion, five more hours until justice is served, five more hours till he was hanged, five more hours until he was free-for ever. He felt an odd feeling of detachment as memories of his past flashed through his mind like snapshots from an album- a wasted childhood, turbulent teens and frustrated middle age. But through it all, the memory of the shining smile of his wife and the happy moments spent together pierced his heart with a yearning so strong that he felt like tearing his chest out. Even now he was sure she was petitioning the Governor for a pardon which he was certain would not come, for he knew that he fully deserved what he got. The dead silence of the prison was punctuated only with the steady tick-tack of the clock as it moved counting down the seconds till another soul returned to its maker. The mechanical sound had a cruel tone to it and he felt a wave of grief, helplessness, panic and nausea overwhelm him. Taking deep breaths, he recollected his pledge to spend his final moments without fuss and meet his fate with composure. The swarm of thoughts swirling inside his head was interrupted by the chime of the clock, as one more hour of his life ebbed away. The startling noise finally destroyed what ever resistance he had and he broke down, sobbing like a child. Even the walls seemed to mock at him, as it reflected back his wails in endless echoes that loosened him further, till he lay back exhausted and drawn-out. Presently, he got up. Looking down at himself, he wondered at his transformation from a proud composed man to a weak terrified child. Walking over to the sparse, chipped sink in the corner of his room he doused himself with the frigid water. Looking into the cracked mirror, he felt a sudden idea and even before his very eyes he saw a glint of certainty enter his blood shot eyes. Pausing as if far a last glance, he smashed his fist into the mirror.
He felt a sense of detached calm as he spent the next few hours, recounting the few happy and the many painful memories that marked his life. Finally, he heard the shuffle of footsteps upon the corridor, which he knew to the executioners – a sound his ears were straining to pickup for quite some time. And then with a calmness that surprised even him, he picked a fragment of the broken mirror and slashed his wrist deeply with it. Even as he watched the blood gushing out in a torrent, the door opened. The sight of the smiling face of his wife and the pardon in her hands was the last thing that he saw before the darkness of Death engulfed him.