By Carla J. Dow
The coarse rope scratched against his cheekbones as the noose was forced over his head. It sat heavy on his shoulders like a threat, pressing against the bobbing adam’s apple that danced with fear.
His body deflated as the sanity slowly dripped from him like melting ice-cream left too long on a sunlit windowsill. He had always been uncertain, but there had always been tomorrow, another chance. Now it was all dissolving into a senseless puddle.
He stepped onto the stool, his long feet hanging over the edge of the scuffed yellow plastic seat, bright like the centre of a daisy or an innocent sun painted in a child’s playtime picture. Yellow is the colour of happy things.
He closed his eyes, desperate to shut out the bright cheeriness of the inappropriate yellow. He sees dark shadows haunting his mind. This may not be his decision but it is his will. Isn’t it?
He looks across the branches of the tree that is his gallows, through the orange and brown crisp leaves turning, exhausted from a summer of growth, to the dry dark of winter. He meets her unwavering gaze. He can feel her fear in the breeze.
She nods at him, a swift jerking movement that is so definite he knows there is no going back, no lifting the rope from around her throat.
His legs weaken. He imagines the coarse roughness of the rope tightening around her delicate long neck. This is real. This is the end. Isn’t it?
“I love you.”
Her words are barely audible, rolling off her soft tongue and jumping across the branches of the tree. The moment is so sweet, so intimate, that he dreams for a second that they won’t do it, that they will step down, step away, and embrace in relief. But as the hopeful corners of his mouth lift, her small feet kick out at the chair, toppling it with abandon to the mossy earth.
Her legs flail desperately as if they had no part in her decision, as it they were trying to save her. He looks back up to her face, the vessels in her neck bulge against the rope, her eyes are wide and staring. Unseeing. Desperate.
He closes his own eyes, wanting to escape this, wanting to leap down and take her weight, stop the choking, stop death.
But there is only one way to finish this now. His feet creep forward on the yellow stool. It wobbles uncertainly.