Family Comes First











Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.


The aged brass clock seems to tick endlessly, reminding me of the seconds I am losing in this grimy pit.  It mocks me, each tick taking with it a part of my sanity. Each echo of the clock sounds rehearsed and military as if to keep marching soldiers in line. I guess that’s the treatment I get now, treated as another squaddie – a small spec within lines of lifeless men and women forced to exist in a shell of a life down here, though soldiers are heroic. I am anything but a hero. A small opening is situated in the top  right corner of the cell carved into the stone letting in minimal light the only indication that I knew whether it was night or day. It’s almost timeless down here, days merge into the pool of weeks and weeks to the river of months and months to the sea of years. I’m not even sure how long I have been incarcerated. I should be marking the walls, etching in the torture of time as it flies by without me.


The priest was set to visit that morning, to absolve me of my sins, to allow my last confession. I have nothing else to confess I am guilty and that is it. I’m not one to believe in a higher power or fate, or the notion that everything happens for a reason. Fate leads people to believe they are not to blame that it was fate that brought them to a decision that changed their life and if it had not been then it would have been later. Fate would be too easy to blame, if my sister hadn’t taken the responsibility for me all that time ago she would’ve encountered something else that led to her downfall. It wouldn’t be my fault. But it is.


I knock my empty skull against the stone wall in an attempt to conjure an idea of some sort, an escape route, a memory but the only recollection I have is of the colour of iron. Iron is the colour of the manacles I wear, iron is  the colour of the bars that restrict me, iron is the frozen bed frame where I lay my head and iron was the small bowl in the corner into which I relieve myself. Streams of consciousness, memories, speech, images all seem to fuse together until I can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. I am aware my harsh exterior gives nothing away, I am aware I am guilty, I am aware I am on death row ready for execution and  I am aware I seek solace in an old tune my mother used to sing when I couldn’t sleep. I revive it through a whistle though it will never measure up to the comfort I once gained from it.


The priest swirls into the cell in, a cacophony of colours painting his robes. He is brandishing a bible, holding it out as if his faith will protect him and threaten such a monstrous creature like me. I cower in the shadows as he shuts the metal gating with a reverberating clang. He pauses, his wizened features contorting in almost pity as his gaze travels around my cell before his eyes settle on me.

“Please be seated,” he croaks struggling to lift one of the metal chairs for me to sit across from him. I take it and sit staring up at his crumpled features before he inhales shakily and continues,

“You have been sentenced to death for the murder of Mariah Mackintosh. You are aware these are your last hours, I am here to help you make your peace with God for your such detestable actions. If you confess, God will repent for your sins and forgive you.”

I almost laugh at that, peace with God. I lost my faith long  ago when I realised there was no one looking out for you, there was no one protecting you but yourself.

“I don’t deserve to be forgiven, not after what I’ve done,” I say bitterly.


Bored with the conversation, I let my eyes go in and out of focus creating hazy lines in objects around me, it’s the only entertainment I can illicit from a place as  tedious as this.


“Everything that happens is part of God’s plan,” the priest counters.

“If God meant for everything to go as planned then why let my sister suffer for my sin. She’s a good person. If this God is meant to be omni-benevolent and omnipotent why does he let good people suffer.” My voice grows louder the more I speak and the more frustrated I grow.

“You must confess your sins, you have so much rage, let God relieve you of this pressure before you are relieved of your life,” the priest breathes. I inhale sharply trying to regain my composure.

“Alright then ‘Father’, I’m angry, I’m angry at God and his plan, I’m angry because a stupid decision I made years ago is taking its toll now.  I’m angry I dragged my sister into it. I’m angry it meant she lost an opportunity. I’m angry she took the blame for me and most of all I’m angry I couldn’t say sorry.” I breathe unevenly, needing to keep my anger and hysteria in check before I say something I regret.


In an attempt to calm myself down, I glance over to the small opening where a sharp point of sunrise penetrates into my cell, I often hated this part of the morning where the shadows which kept my guilt at bay  fled to be replaced with light, and in light you could not hide from your actions. Yet today I welcome it as it is the last sunrise I’ll ever see.

He pushed on, trying to extract a confession from me.

“My child, what sinful act has plagued you so?” The softness of his voice is almost painful, I haven’t heard softness like that in years not even from my parents.


I sigh, the priest won’t be able to change anything it won’t make a difference if I tell him. I need closure, I want closure, I have to have closure. I’m sorry sister, I’m sorry.

“In my youth, I decided to be rebellious and harbour an illegal substance, thinking it was cool, nothing would come of it. I’m sorry sister. My sister and I were closer than two peas in a pod and so when my parents found my stash she took responsibility for it. I’m sorry sister. My parents wildly overreacted and sent her away. I’m sorry sister. This led to her downward spiral. I didn’t hear from her for years. One day she calls me up and says she’s killed someone. I’m so sorry sister. What else could I do? I had to help her, I never got to apologise all those years ago. I’m so so sorry sister.” There’s no taking it back now. Not that the priest can change anything, not that he would. A confused expression crosses his face, he sits straighter crosses his arms, raises his eyebrows, inhales and utters the only question I hadn’t  been asked yet,

“So you aren’t guilty?”


I sigh, my ears just picking up the pounding footsteps of the guards coming to collect. It is time.

Of course I am guilty, I’m guilty of being the hands that pushed my sister off the wagon down to the dark abyss of immorality. It was I who was responsible for her actions and any further actions she may take. All that time ago she took the blame for my wrongdoing and it led to the destruction of her life. It led to her breakdown, her losing her mind. I owe her this much, she took the blame for me.


So I will take it for her.





image: Lady Justice, atop ‘Old Bailey’, The Supreme Court of Justice

courtesy of

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