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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

By Kenneth Heath


The Gallows

The old trap door creaked as Michael took his place below the noose. Clumsily, the hangman placed the rope around his neck and tightened it. Inwardly, I groaned, this was not right, please somebody do something.

Four years ago, he had been a happy family man. He was employed by the court to repossess goods. It was a dangerous job, but it paid the bills so that he could take care of his family. He was a member of our church, and I had been his friend and minister for 17 years. I spent the last 3 days praying with him and when he said goodbye to his wife and sons my heart felt that it would self-destruct. Now as we made our way to the gallows, every fibre of my being was screaming, “Stop! This can’t be happening.”

“Dead man walking”, a prison warder shouted as we moved towards the execution room. Immediately the other prisoners began to sing a Zulu death song. From all over the prison other inmates joined in, stamping and beating the bars in unison, raising their voices in mournful tune. The words of the song caused Michael to straighten his shoulders, lift his head and walk towards his fate with renewed dignity.

Inwardly, he was at peace, though his heart broke as he thought of leaving his lovely wife and sons behind. Penniless, they were staying with friends until they could pick up the pieces of their ruined lives and move on. Sadly, people are fickle and after the media barrage and three years of trial, there were few friends left.

He was innocent of the charges. All he had done was go to a home to repossess some furniture. While there the owner had arrived and attacked him, throwing a hand grenade and then shooting at him. He emerged unscathed from the blast and had returned fire and mortally wounded his attacker. In any reasonable legal system, he may have been able to plead self-defense, but not in Africa, where governments rewrite the Law to suit themselves. Their legal systems are now so corrupt that the truth will never again see the light of day.

His attacker was a friend of the President and from that moment on his trial had become a circus. Mobs protested in the streets and the Newspapers were filled with lies and wild stories. Members of the Police were threatened and forced to fabricate evidence. Witnesses and important evidence disappeared, and he went from being a repo man to a hired assassin over night. The guilty verdict was no surprise but the “hanging by the neck until dead” sent shock waves throughout the country.

At 3 minutes to midnight our eyes were fixed on the telephone. It was down to the wire. Would there be a reprieve? A pardon? Or some show of mercy from the authorities? Amnesty international along with most of the leaders of the free world had been calling for a pardon but to no avail. To a man, the prisoners sensing that the moment had arrived raised their voices anew, encouraging Michael to stand strong and not to falter. The executioner raised the hood and Michael smiled to me one last time, before being hidden from view.

1 minute…..30 seconds……20….15…. 10….5..4..3 a last desperate look at the telephone, I was willing it to ring and interrupt the deafening silence that filled the room. Time! The executioner pulled the lever and the trap door opened, sending my friend to our Lord and Savior. I wanted to vomit, the room swam before my eyes, every thing was happening in slow motion. The doctor came up from below, pronouncing him dead at 12 02, and as we turned to leave the room the telephone rang……….!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Grigg07/25/08
Powerful story. I wonder if this is based on a real-life experience? Be careful with generalisations though - maybe not all of African nations' laws are corrupted and manipulated. Maybe you could have used something general like "this country" or even "this African nation". Regardless, it was all the more real and dramatic for its horrible conclusion. Sad, but true.
Sunny Loomis 07/26/08
This had a punch. We should be thankful we live in this country. Always trust in the Lord, not in man. Thank you. Well done.
Mary Alice Bowles07/27/08
A very sad story. Nice writing. I hope it isn't true. May God Bless you!