Black Petals Issue #83 Spring, 2018

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Door #2-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Inmate's Asylum-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
Nature Verses Nurture-Fiction by Donna J. W. Munro
Strange Music Follows Her Everywhere-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Surviving Montezuma, Conclusion-Serialized Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Corpse Grinder-Poem by Alexis Child
El Cuero-Four Poems by Richard Stevenson

oldsparkyelectricchair.jpg

Inmates’ Asylum

 

By Mark Joseph Kevlock

 

Getting a charge out of it

 

 

 

The penitentiary had taken to executing its death row inmates with such rapidity that a priest was brought in fulltime to deliver the last rites.

I, Father Finney, was that priest.

Each man I administered to faced his fate differently. Within the course of a single evening, the full range of human emotion displayed itself before me. Some men begged. Some laughed. Some spat upon me. Some...did nothing.

The indifferent ones troubled me, perhaps, the most. They went to their deaths as if performing a mundane task. They threw away God’s greatest gift without ever feeling the weight of their loss.

Working exclusively at the prison, I quickly became yet another cog in this great death machine they operated. In no time at all I began to feel complicit in each convict’s execution. I was part of the process. I sent them on their way, as much as any other man present. The state had sentenced their bodies. But it was I who watched each of their souls perish.

Somewhere along the way I developed the notion of saving one man. If I rescued just one of them from oblivion, I might maintain my sanity a bit longer. An inmate came along who looked like I had a few years ago, without my beard and with less gray. I devised a switch with this double, during that final time we spent alone, before he would be led to the chamber. He readily agreed to impersonate me. I shaved and dyed my hair and put on his clothes, as he put on mine. I kept my head lowered and did not speak. He did the same.

Perhaps it wasn’t indifference I had seen in those men, I thought, as they strapped me to the chair, confident in their ability to decide life and death.

Perhaps it was acceptance…on a level I could scarcely imagine.

The executioner threw the switch.

I died.

Sort of.

The room sat before me, looking the same, but without any of the people in it—no guards, no witnesses, no prison officials.

My body felt fine, but different. I was still strapped into the chair. Then a group of men entered the room. They were convicts, I supposed, still wearing their prison fatigues. Each man moved methodically, with an air of calm about him. They undid my straps and helped me to stand. A man that I began to recognize said, “Welcome, Father Finney. Welcome to the world.”

Of course I did not understand.

We walked, these men and I, down the halls of the penitentiary and right out the front gate. I saw no other living souls along the way.

“Where am I?” I said. “This can’t be heaven.”

“This is the world,” that same man replied. “We all live in it now.”

We got onto a prison bus and drove quite a long way into the hills. I felt strangely calm.

“How did I get here?” I said.

“The chair brought you,” the man, growing ever more familiar, said. “It brought all of us.”

I recognized his face: an inmate who had been executed several months ago.

There was an old stone amphitheater up in those hills. Its bleachers sat filled with dead men, who seemed very much alive. The convicts accompanying me led me out onto center stage, and then the leader addressed the crowd.

“Here’s Father Finney, come to join us. More arrive each hour through the chair. We’re growing stronger all the time. Soon, the world will be populated, and our culture will thrive.”

The crowd cheered. I wondered what I should say to them.

As time passed, I came to understand.

No one lived in this world except the men who had died in that chair: a closet reality. Yet everything looked the same.

What sort of a society would these resurrected death row inmates build for themselves?

I remembered that odd feeling I’d experienced earlier in the chair. I asked inmate 3J27B1 about it.

“Your body is indestructible now, Father Finney. After all, you can only die once. That’s over for you. Now you can only live.”

This meant that none of the inmates could harm one another. If only the world I had come from had found so elegant a solution. Peace reigned because nothing else could.

I started conducting Mass for those interested, my faith in humanity restored.

Maybe that other world was destroying itself. But, in so doing, it was giving birth to this one.

And the inmates were running it.

 

World without End

 

Mark Joseph Kevlok, dippedinforever@aol.com, of Nanticoke, PA, who wrote BP #83’s “Inmates’ Asylum” (+ “Ryan and the Monsters” for BP #47, “Which Way I Fly” for BP #45, and “When a Terrible Beauty Is Scorned” for BP #42). Besides Black Petals, he was published in Black Sheep and Byline. Published for over 25 years, his fiction and poetry has appeared in, among others: AlienSkin, Allegory, Cezanne’s Carrot, Clean Sheets, Hardboiled, Once Upon a Time, The Bitter Oleander, The Rose & Thorn, ThugLit, Toasted Cheese, and Wild Violet (where he was privileged to have served as judge of their 2007 fiction contest). He has also written for DC Comics (FLASH 80-PAGE GIANT #2), and counts among his favorite authors Robert B. Parker, J.M. DeMatteis, Anne Rice, Frank Miller, and Ray Bradbury.

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