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“You have been found guilty. The sentence is death.”

He stared at the judge, unable to believe what he had heard. It wasn’t until the guards took hold of him and began to lead him out of court that it struck home.

“No,” he shouted. “No, please, I’m innocent!”

He struggled against the guards until, with one jolting and painful shock from their batons, they pacified him.

He awoke to find himself in a comfortable bed, soft pillows beneath his head and warm covers across his body. His chains had been removed. On a chair nearby, neatly folded, he found fresh clean clothes, made from luxurious materials.

A door stood open nearby. Beyond it, there was a bathroom with hot and cold water, soap and expensive shampoo. A far cry from the dirty shared facilities of the prison.

He washed and dressed before he even thought to try the other door.

It opened, and he stepped out into a beautiful garden.

Apart from a few brief moments as he was transferred from prison to court, he had not been outside for over a year. He stood just a couple of steps away from the door and gazed in wonder up at the sky.

“Are you hungry?”

Startled, he brought his gaze back down to earth. A beautiful dark haired woman stood before him. In her arms she held a large basket laden with bread, cheese, meat and fruit.

“Starving,” he replied. “But what’s going on here? What is all this?”

She smiled. “This is your new home. This food is for you. And I am here to… welcome you.”

He snatched a hunk of cheese and a loaf of bread from the basket and tore into them hungrily. The cheese was soft and creamy and it melted in his mouth.

“Wait,” he said. “Welcome me?”

“Oh yes,” she whispered seductively.

He grinned. “So much for the death sentence, eh?”

She laughed. “Oh, you’re still under sentence of death. You just get all this until you are executed.”

He stopped eating. The cheese had turned to ash in his mouth. “When is that?”

She smiled coldly at him. “Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week, or next month. You won’t know until it happens.”

He felt cold despite the sunshine.

“How?”

Her smile widened. “It varies. Sometimes it’s poison. Sometimes it’s a sniper. Perhaps they will have me stab you in your sleep. You will never know.”

He looked around at the luxuries which surrounded him, and felt no joy.

© Kari Fay

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