Peter Tennant
A March to the Scaffold
        The killer is called at 7.15 am, though he has been awake long before that, in his mind going over and over again the sequence of events that led to this moment.  He gets up, attends to his toilet, gets washed and shaved and dressed. The prison guards bring him breakfast, a plate piled high with sausage, eggs, bacon, all the toast that he can eat, a mug of steaming coffee. They want his last meal to be memorable.
        The guard captain enquires if he wants to see a priest and confess his sins, but the killer declines. He reads the daily paper, not really interested, but feeling he should make some effort to find out what's happening in the world on this momentous day. Anything to pass the time.
        At 10.15 the guards put on the leg irons and handcuffs. The killer shuffles out to the van which is waiting to carry him to the place of execution. It is a nice day, almost perfect for a killing, as he wryly observes to one of the guards, an uneducated lout on whom all irony is wasted.
        Traffic is thick. The trip to the square at the centre of town takes longer than would normally be the case, but fortunately they have left in plenty of time.
        Before they get out of the van one of the guards offers the killer a blindfold, which he refuses. Police have cleared a path to the scaffold. The killer's leg irons are removed and he is frogmarched through the jeering crowd. The scene all seems somehow unreal, as if it is happening to somebody else, not him. He is an observer at his own execution. People are shouting, but he can't make out what they are saying, waving placards filled with words that mean nothing. Someone spits at him, a thick glob of drool that runs down his left cheek. He has no doubt the crowd would tear him apart if the guards allowed them to do so. Their fury is beyond his comprehension. If they hate him so much for the crime he has committed why are they all so eager to imitate what he has done?
        And then he is standing in the shadow of the scaffold and all other thoughts are pushed aside.
        The killer's alarm goes off at 7.15 am, dragging him free from a night of troubled sleep. He gets up, goes to the toilet, gets washed and dressed and shaved. His wife serves him breakfast at the table in the kitchen, a bowl of cereal, toast and marmalade, juice. She wants the food to take his mind off what the day holds in store.
        The killer sees his wife off to work and his daughter off to school. He kisses them both on the cheek. Alone at last he settles down to read the morning paper, indifferent to the news that it contains, but needing the structure the act of reading gives to his life. He is a methodical man and this is his morning routine, no different today from any other.
        At 10.15 the official car arrives that will take him to the place of execution, a sleek black limousine with smoked glass windows. The killer sighs, pulls on his leather gloves and picks up the bag containing the rope. It is a nice day. He wishes it would rain. Rain would better suit his mood.
        There is a diversion. Protestors, both for and against the execution, have blocked several roads. His police escort ensure that he will arrive on time regardless.
        Before getting out of the car the killer slips over his head a mask made out of black silk that will disguise his features from the crowd. He is not ashamed of what he does, but the mask is a necessary precaution if his identity is to remain a secret and his family spared the consequences of this act. Armed police hold back the shrieking crowd. He walks between their ranks, head high held, his steps slow and measured, the rope now taken out of its bag and draped over his arm like an item of clothing. His eyes are fixed straight ahead, focused on the work that awaits him, indifferent to the jeering onlookers and their demands. He is simply a man going about his business, concerned only to get the allotted task done with the minimum of fuss.
        Seen through the eye slits of the mask the scaffold grows steadily larger until its structure seems to encompass the whole world.