Those Who Are Condemned to Die

Those Who are Condemned to Die must first lose their freedom. Therefore on the day of their fate their hands are tied and their feet manacled. Escape, like mercy, is one of many hopes from which they are now bereft.

Then they must lose their sight. No witness to an execution wants to meet the eyes of the condemned, for fear of what they might see there. For fear that they might see humanity and not unblinking evil. And so Those Who Are Condemned to Die are blindfolded to the horror and hopelessness of their rapidly shrinking future.

Without sight, the strongest of the human senses, the other senses are sharpened. What are the last sounds heard by Those Who Are Condemned to Die?

The nervous banter of the souls unfortunate enough to draw the short straw that deems them Lord High Executioner for a day. They will talk among themselves of course. They wouldn’t, indeed they couldn’t, try to converse with the men they are there to kill. That would be awkward. After a while, the banter dies and the only sound is the wind blowing, an occasional cough, and the deafening din of the final inhalations and exhalations of Those Who are Condemned to Die.

Like a whip-crack: A barked order in the language of the locals. The gentle rustlings of movement. Those Who are Condemned to Die can only guess what is happening. More silence. Another whip-crack from the lips of the gunnery sergeant. A series of metallic clicks: the sound of the safety catches on the rifles being released.

Then comes the roar. A deafening, pounding roar like torrential rain on a tin roof. Do Those Who Are Condemned to Die realise that they are the only people in the world who can hear that roar. It is the sound of their ultimate adrenal release coursing around their bloodstream. The final great fear. Is this breath my last or do I have time for one more?

The last sound they hear comes from a long way off. For Those Who Are Condemned to Die, the report of ten blasting caps and the whistle of the spinning missiles so soft it could be their imagination. Belying the hardness of the bullets that rip apart the soft flesh of Those Who Are Condemned to Die.

They’re gone now. Their faces are no longer recognisable having been chewed and devoured by fat, blunt, hollow lumps of lead. The faces that their new mothers and fathers once gazed upon with pride and awe. The faces that lovers have memorised in the joyful instant of petite mort. Faces that have smiled, frowned, laughed, wept and kissed. Faces of humanity. Now they’re all just dead flesh, sacrificed for political expedience as strangers in a strange land.

Were Those Who Are Condemned to Die blindfolded simply so those that pulled the trigger did not have to look them in the eye when they did so?

When the church bells tolled to mark their passing as the church bells always do, did anybody ask “For Whom?” Did anybody care?

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