Mark Joseph Kevlock
Getting a charge out
penitentiary had taken to executing its death row inmates with such rapidity
that a priest was brought in fulltime to deliver the last rites.
Father Finney, was that priest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
it was acceptance…on a level I could scarcely imagine.
executioner threw the switch.
room sat before me, looking the same, but without any of the people in it—no
guards, no witnesses, no prison officials.
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.”
course I did not understand.
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.
am I?” I said. “This can’t be heaven.”
is the world,” that same man replied. “We all live in it now.”
got onto a prison bus and drove quite a long way into the hills. I felt
did I get here?” I said.
chair brought you,” the man, growing ever more familiar, said. “It brought all
recognized his face: an inmate who had been executed several months ago.
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.
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.”
crowd cheered. I wondered what I should say to them.
time passed, I came to understand.
one lived in this world except the men who had died in that chair: a closet
reality. Yet everything looked the same.
sort of a society would these resurrected death row inmates build for
remembered that odd feeling I’d experienced earlier in the chair. I asked
inmate 3J27B1 about it.
body is indestructible now, Father Finney. After all, you can only die once.
That’s over for you. Now you can only live.”
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
started conducting Mass for those interested, my faith in humanity restored.
that other world was destroying itself. But, in so doing, it was giving birth
to this one.
the inmates were running it.
World without End
Mark Joseph Kevlok, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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,
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.