The Watch and the Way Out

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“MacArthur” said the guard “Visitor.”
Eric sat on his bunk with his head resting on his hands. He had accepted only one visitor in his 15 years on the Row and that was his mother. She had died 4 years ago. As the guards shadow fell across him through the bars of the door he raised his head.
“Not interested.” Eric said, his voice cracked from lack of use.
“It’s not your choice, MacArthur.” The guard wrenched open the door and stepped aside to let in the visitor, a slim guy in a sharp grey suit. He thrust out a hand.
“Mr. MacArthur, very nice to meet you.”
Eric didn’t offer his hand in return, didn’t even look at the odd young man. Instead he focused on the grey stone of the wall opposite, not letting his eyes stray from the cobweb crack running across its surface.
The visitor realised a handshake wasn’t forthcoming and drew his hand back, seemingly unfazed. He turned toward the guard and gave a slight, dismissing wave of the hand that royalty would be proud of. The bulky guard didn’t look particularly happy about it but he left the room with the keys at his belt jingling like loose change. The man in the suit waited until he was sure they were out of earshot and then squatted down next to the bunk so that the two men were at eye level, even though Eric still refused to look away from the wall.
“So... Eric.” He said “You’re probably wondering why I’m here.”
“Unless you’re here to let me out then I don’t really care.”
The visitor laughed at that
“Well that’s up to you actually.”
Eric finally looked at the man in the suit. He’d been waiting 15 years for the needle but there was still a sliver of hope for rescue. The man smiled.
“Who are you?”
“No one important. Just a man with a gift to give.”
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pocket watch on a chain. Shining silver, with a 5-pointed star engraved on the casing. He held it from the chain and let is slowly spin, the star almost glowing in what little sunlight came through the cell window.
“What the hell is that?” Eric growled.
“It’s yours, if you want it.”
Eric’s brow furrowed with confusion. Before he could say anything his visitor interrupted.
“There’s not much point in time-keeping on Death Row, I know, but I think you’ll see that this watch is worth a lot more than that.”
Eyes locked on the smooth lines of the star, Eric held out his hand.
“A good choice.” The man said with a chuckle. He dropped the pocket watch into the inmates waiting palm and then stood up. He straightened his collar and ran a hand through his hair.
“Goodbye Mr. MacArthur.” He said as he turned to the door “And good luck.”
The heavy iron door closed behind the visitor with a sound that was almost musical.
The links of the chain slipped through Eric’s calloused fingers as he held the watch. His thumb brushed against the rim and it sprang open with a click. Eric didn’t know what he’d expected to see but it certainly wasn’t this.
A message scrawled across the inside of the watch where normally there would be the mechanics of time-telling. His weary eyes read the words and letters that seemed to shimmer, it never even occured to him that such a message should never be able to fit inside a small pocket watch. The one thing that caught his attention most was the first line.
A wish he thought to himself one wish
It didn’t take him long to decide on what that one wish would be.
He held the watch in his hands, bowed his head, and wished.

Not 2 minutes later he heard footsteps ringing down the corridor outside. It sounded like a whole crowd of people, not the singular clonk-clonk of guards boots that he was used to. The door swung open on its rusty hinges and three men entered, carrying the interconnected cuffs that were placed on his wrists and ankles whenever Eric was allowed outside his cell. Eric smiled, the first time in over a decade, and stood to allow the manacles to be placed on him. A guard took each arm and led him out of the cell he called home.
An elderly man in the black and white collar of a priest, and another in a wrinkled black suit, waited outside. Eric shook his head at the holy man as the guards led him down the corridor.
“Eric James MacArthur” said the man in the suit “For the crime of first-degree murder, two counts...”
Eric wasn’t listening and his smile didn’t falter as he walked down the Row, past his fellow inmates, and to the room where he would die.
“By the authority of this state...”
A guard unlocked his cuffs and he shrugged off the chains with a sigh.
The straps went around his body.
“You are sentenced to death...”
The table was rigid and cold against his spine.
“Do you have any last words?”
Eric settled his head back against the padded rest and looked up at the ceiling.
As the needle entered his vein, a freezing sensation in a place usually so warm, he clutched at the silver watch but it was already gone.
“Thank you.” He said.

Created: Feb 25, 2014

Tags: theme, inmate, wish, death row, watch, magic, fiction

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