Top

The trial was fast and efficient. Even the man whose trial it was couldn’t help but be astonished by and respectful of the seamless grace of the proceedings, free as the were of all tedium and obstacle. There were no motions of continuance, no evidentiary discovery, no securing of witnesses. No one bothered to indulge in jury mix-and-match. No jury was assembled. The court did not see fit to make time for persuasion or argument. There was no room for suggestion that the facts given were not quite the facts as they were. No, the facts were the facts. They were stated plainly, almost pointedly so, by the prosecutor and absorbed by the judge, sitting at his bench statuesque and priestly, with his eyes closed as if in meditation.

Advocate? What is this “advocate” of whom you speak? Time is short, and our man could only be allocated so many resources. He was given a table and a chair, which he assumed was his own and which no one insisted otherwise once he took it. He was given a notepad, I remember this much. I’m not sure when or if he procured a writing implement.

But even with all these materials he could not avoid condemnation. It was furthermore decided that he should be hanged. Though the wait for his hanging was longer. The gallows, it seems, were to be bespoke, and required twice-daily measuring of his weight and the circumference of his neck. Still, once the moment came, they gave him assurances that he could make a final statement, provided that he “keep it brief.”

So on a beautiful spring day, the condemned man stood before a sizable audience and cleared his throat as best he could to make the following statement:

“I have to admit that this method of execution would not have been my first choice. Frankly, I find hanging the least conducive to a society that by all other appearances has progressed so far away from it. Not that I could settle on a personal favorite. I could never settle on anything. Perhaps that is my problem? That is a rhetorical question, by the way.

“But I would still have liked the option of having options. Would it have been any more offensive to your sensibilities for me to be poisoned? Or shot at close range? Or shot by many people slightly further away? Would it not have been just as efficient—and much more optically impactful—to be beheaded? To be ripped to shreds by feral dogs or pulled apart by irate horses? Something to think about for the next person.

“And yet, I’ve long had a vision of a moment just like this one. Not quite fantasy but not quite dream, either. A hallucination perhaps; or maybe a premonition. Something implanted in me from God only knows how long ago telling me that this was just how I would end up. This is what every event of my life was leading to all along. And, once led, that I would have to make a modest defense of myself to you, my regretful peers. Not for my life, this is true. Not even really for my innocence. Admittedly when I was accused of my crimes I was not altogether persuaded that they were mine. But in general I like to keep an open mind and I was willing to be convinced. No, I suppose what I really want to defend is, maybe, my dignity, I guess? Or, if it is not too provocative, that my soul might be salvaged hereafter. I’ll just leave it up to your interpretation.

“I, in the prese—”

“Guilty or no,” the hangman intoned, “he was in need of editing.”

The spectators nodded in compliance and formed lines at the food trucks.

Chris R. Morgan is a writer from New Jersey. His Twitter is here, his blog is here.