My wrists are tied tight enough to cut off the blood, but the numbness in my hands no longer matters. They drag me upstairs onto the stage and strap me face down on the board. My head is locked in place and the blindfold ripped off. There’s no anger or resistance left in me. If our roles were reversed, I’d do the same. But we lost.
The sun feels high, and it heats my body. I twist and struggle to see her, but it’s impossible. Even the sky is barely visible to me. A welcome breeze cools my face, and I breathe deeply. Flowers scent the air, and for a moment, she’s with me. It’s lavender, my love’s favorite. Or is it my imagination, as my mind overflows with her?
She loves our garden and tends to it daily. I often asked if she loved her flowers more than she loved me. She responded with a kiss every time. Her dark eyes and hair match the color of rich soil. We sat in the sun and planted each other’s feet in the cool, moist earth, laughing about what might grow. She made me promise not to risk the life we share, but the promise was broken.
After my capture, she was allowed a single visit, and I refused to accept never seeing her again. “Watching me die will be so difficult,” I said, before selfishly asking her to come.
“I’ll do this for you,” she said. “Look for me off the public square, to your left, separated from the crowd. I’ll wear the colors and patterns of the revolution, but I will be crying as the others cheer.”
The breeze dissipates, leaving a foul odor rising from the basket below my head.
There will be one more chance to see her. Prior to my capture, I learned all executioners perform the same way on their stage. Before tossing a severed head into the blood-stained bag, they display it to the crowd, first to the left, and then to the center and right. I’ve seen this many times and observed eye movements and terror on the faces of the decapitated. They were aware, and I pray my consciousness will persist long enough to see her, my last vision.
The crowd quiets, but soon they will be loud, as they were for my brother minutes before. They will cheer my ending.
The last of my twenty-five years now only seconds; I look down and see red pools in the brown basket. Some are older and darker, coagulated like giant scabs. A lock of hair floats in a fresh pool. My brother enters my mind again. His black hair. Sweat falls from my chin and creates pink splashes.
My killer approaches, and I hear him gather the rope that controls the blade above me. Listening intently, I wait for the telltale click. Anticipating the sound, I force my eyes open wide and hold my breath. Then the world spins, like it does for a child rolling down a hill. A flash of blue sky blends with brown and red, and I’m in the basket, facing up. My eyes remain open and focused. He reaches to lift me out, and the crowd screams as my head rises. I’m out of the basket and floating around the stage, as he celebrates his accomplishment. I see the square filled with people. He turns me to the left, and now I’m still. It’s the opportunity I expected, and the clarity of my vision and thoughts astounds me. My eyes search and easily find her. She is so close, and impossibly, her tearful smile brings a familiar ache to my chest.
She reaches to caress my face, and her touch soothes me. As she whispers my name, I hear a click and realize the guillotine’s blade is only now released. Pain sears my neck and throat, and she disappears in a flash of white.
I see blue sky above the top of the basket, and then just black.