As his final foot came across the threshold, the door was pulled too behind him, the reverberation of metal on metal ringing through the air and breaking the quiet of the morning for an instant before echoing away elsewhere.
He shivered involuntarily, a mixture of the cold and the suspense. Suspense? Maybe not the right word. Excitement perhaps? Was he excited? Not really. But he wasn’t afraid either.
The men stood in formation around him, one on each corner so to speak and one out in front – on point he thought to himself, leading us to…hmm, leading us to what exactly?
As they began the almost silent march forward, the only noise being the padding of their rubber soles on the landing, he sucked the cold air in as if it was his last. It almost was, the chill of the air catching on his lungs and forcing his body to contract. He composed himself and kept with the steady paces of those around him moving forward. He would not falter; he would not give any of them that. He couldn’t believe it was cold. Although removed from the warmth of his room he was still inside.
He sensed being watched from both sides as they crept forward, this unusual formation and arrangement, but he maintained a forward glance, his head held high, and the soft white skin of his neck glistening under each fluorescent light as they passed under.
His thoughts turned to why he was here. Why was he here? What had he done to deserve this? An error of judgement? He almost smiled to himself. And this was now to be an error of judgement. Well certainly for him anyway.
They turned a corner, the pace constant, never changing. Not too fast, not too slow. Everything had to be like clockwork. Perhaps he should mess it all up? What would they do then? But no one ever messed it up; everyone stuck to the pattern, the routine, like lambs to the slaughter. Oh, now that was dark. He just wanted to laugh aloud but he knew he couldn’t, he had to remain composed. It was a serious business this. Not every day that you…
Another corner. That was the second. Four to go. And then lift off. Or not as the case would be.
Tramp-tramp-tramp, all of their footsteps went. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to….Christian soldiers? Now there was a conundrum and a half. How did anyone ever get that to make sense at all? Crusades, ancient and modern, all in the name of God, all in the name of love. Ah, U2, what a song. Love and racism, another periplactic mix. Did that word exist? Periplactic. Sounded great though, what had he meant it to mean? Who knows but what a word to leave behind. It deserved to exist. Well he had just given it life. Shame there was no one to share it with. It’ll just be my little secret. Take it to the…
I wish I was…afraid? Nah, don’t want to be afraid. Keen? Er, not really. But I just keep walking, and I just keep thinking these incessant thoughts. Another corner, three down, three to go. Halfway there. Halfway where? Now that was a question he had always wondered about. And soon to find out. Hmm, I could ask him all about those soldiers I suppose, was any of it, is any of it, worthwhile.
I wonder if God is a woman. What was that film? Dogma, that was the one. Never really got all of that. But what was God? Some people said God was all around us, in all that we see. Stigmata film, that had said all of that, God is in everything we see. Hmm, not sure about that. But proper stigmata, what was that all about? Maybe this Christian stuff, Jesus and all that, maybe it was true. Spooky. Oh well, I’ll see.
Another corner. My God they’re coming quicker now, over halfway, only two to go. He felt the shortness catching him as he rushed to breath. Slowly he thought, breathe in slowly through the nose, imagine it floating up around the head and gently out through the mouth. Now, a much better way to be carrying on.
God is all around. Love is all around. That was a song, that Scottish band, the singer with the constant grin. Maybe he was just happy. Lots to be happy about, to look forward to.
Another corner. The penultimate one. Only one to go. Be strong. Not sure what for but be strong. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Or tie you down. Hmm, very apt.
The final corner. Now I’m looking forward all right. The final door. The man on point opening it and we’re all through. The biting cold of the wind tore into him. His neck exposed to it but no way to protect or conceal. Ouch, that’s cold, that really hurts.
He took in the new scenery. The dull brightness of the morning light peering over, the sun awakening for a new day. Each new day brings new beginnings. Maybe. Today. It looks like this now. But will it later?
He felt numb. The cold. It wasn’t fear. A step into the unknown. He had to stop this black humour, it would get him into trouble. Always would his mother had said. Ah well mammy, you’re right again!
Voices around him but he didn’t really know what anyone was saying. It was as if he was being spoken to but no one wanted to address him, or look at him directly. Cowards, the lot of them. But not me. Hey, wasn’t that a James Cagney line when he was…
He felt the hood on him, the blackness overcoming him immediately. A muffled silence, what now, what next. What did he feel? He felt something slipped over the hood. It wasn’t a something, it was a….
He heard the scrape of the lever exactly in the moment that he dropped.
© Mark Davoren