Sooooooo this one is a solid like…100 words over where the TTH prompt wanted me but I GOT CARRIED AWAY I’M SORRY. I’m still really pleased with this, though, and it’s started to give me some ideas for a book I’ve been wanting to write for years now. I’ll let you be the judge of who these characters are.
They didn’t understand. He wasn’t sure they could.
He’d tried, for years now. Showed them every way he could without beating them over the heads with it. He wasn’t just aimlessly wandering; he knew where he was going and what he was trying to accomplish in the end. Was there an easier way to do it? Maybe. He’d never really asked all that much. Sure, he’d had a bit of a breakdown the night before. Begging for some other way, any other way, to do this.
But there was no other way.
All his friends, none of them got it. You’re innocent, right? Why aren’t you appealing this? Take it to the courts or something; you don’t have to be here. It was true, of course. Most of them were here under wrongful charges. But going through appeals processes one at a time…it wouldn’t work. There wasn’t enough time. But one high-profile botched execution… That might turn the tables.
It felt like it was the dead of night, though he really had no idea if that was true. There weren’t any windows in his room. Just the heavy weight of blackness and silence. The weight of his purpose, of the reason he was here. The reason he’d spent three years on death row, the reason he’d been trying so hard to get just a tiny fraction of the truth drilled into the minds of everyone else here. It’s going to be fine, he kept reminding them. It’s supposed to be like this. You’ll be fine without me. I’m doing this for you. Everything’s still all according to plan.
They doubted him. They questioned him. Even when he insisted that eventually, one of them was going to tell the guards…no one believed him. Not until the jailers had shown up last night and dragged him out. Not until he’d urged them not to fight for him, to let him go.
He’d seen Cary creep in, hoping to be unnoticed until Cary sat down next to him. And he’d seen the horror in Cary’s eyes as he was pulled out of the room.
So he wasn’t surprised to hear Cary’s voice on the other side of the door now. “Josh? Shit, man, I…” He could hear the other man fall to his knees outside the door. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I thought you’d fight back. I thought…you just needed one more push, man. I knew it was in you, I just thought…”
“It’s okay, Cary.” My voice was even and soft. “You did what you had to. You did what you were supposed to.”
“Then why do I feel like shit?” Cary was fighting so hard to keep his voice steady.
He swallowed. “Because doing the right thing isn’t always easy.”
“How is this the right thing?!” A bang on the door; Cary’s fist pounding the metal. “Out of any of us, I’m the guilty one. I actually did what I was put here for. Maybe the sentence is harsh, I don’t know. But Josh…we all know you didn’t do anything. You got framed, and now because I opened my big mouth for what, thirty bucks? You’re gonna die.”
“I know. It’s fine.”
“It’s not fine! I was supposed to be your friend! You…you trusted me, and I shit all over that.”
He chuckled. “Someone was going to do it, Cary. I’d rather it be a friend than an enemy.”
“Do you even have enemies?” Josh didn’t respond. “Why are you doing this? You’re not getting anything out of it.”
“I don’t need to. I know that you all will, and that’s what matters.” He stood and set his hand against the metal of the door, willing any of his calm to go out to his friend. “Go back to the others, Cary, and know that I forgive you.”
He heard his friend’s choked back reply, and then footsteps walking away.
This evening would come soon enough. And then…then, it would all be finished.