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Death Rattle

September 16, 2013

Juan stood in the cement slathered courtyard, sweat running down his unshaven beard. His finger trembled against the steel trigger, a rattle from Death’s parched throat. Five strangers lined up beside him – three to the left, two to the right.

“Ready!” called the captain, beside him the armorer who loaded the guns. Juan caught the armorer’s gaze and felt a twinge in his left eye. Why would he gaze at Juan? Why would he gaze just so?

“Aim!” the captain’s voice pitched up, tension building. Juan watched the damned man struggle against his ropes. Over the courtyard wall, a woman’s cry echoed forth. With a deep breath, Juan steadied his hand and squinted down the barrel sight.

“Fire!” The captain’s voice echoed off the far wall, meeting the blast of five muskets blowing smoke led by flaming fingers of execution pointed at the condemned. Juan’s own finger stayed trembling against his un-pulled trigger. As the smoke rose and his vision cleared, Juan saw the prisoner standing in his own urine, shaking from head to toe, crying and still clearly breathing.

How could he pull his trigger now? Juan dropped his rifle to the ground knowing his turn would come tomorrow.

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