I'm not afraid as I used to be when I open my eyes and only darkness is there to greet me. In the old days, I feared the blackness and the devil, who I know yearns for my soul. I have long since gotten used to the cold walls of the cell and the emptiness that planted itself in my heart long before I became what I am.
"What day is it?" I hear someone moan in the silence before I realize that I'm the one who opened my mouth. It's not like there's anyone down here to hear me.
Investigators, night guards and the occasional cop who just wants to be sure that we're still alive are the only people who are interested in the lost souls of death row in the Texas State Penitentiary.
"Harrison, they'll be after you soon." I hear the high, rough, voice of the lunatic that plants herself in my head every time I dare to blink. I don't remember the name I call her as a child anymore, but she knows about everything that goes on in this place. She is a nameless ghost in these walls of concrete.
I don't know how long I've been in this dungeon of hatred. Occasionally food is presented out of the darkness, and somehow it finds it way into my stomach, even though I try to make it clear to myself that I don't want it. That I'd rather wait for death to come and find me.
I can see better when I close my eyes. I feel my heart relax when I conjure the mental images of the victims I had supposedly murdered.
"I am not a killer!" I scream out into the darkness. "Just let me die! What if I take away the satisfaction of you seeing the life fade away?" I ask the silence.
Sometimes, when I am extra tired, the silence talks back. Sometimes the silence bears the voice of the ghost. I hear the high rough tone ringing in my ears, even as I clap my hands over them and yell out to drown out her laughter. Sometimes I hear a chorus of screams in anything from a child's chilling soprano to a man's tenor tones.
On the good days, my mother encourages and defends. She tells me good things. She tells me that I am innocent. I even hear the voice of the attorney, Daisy Mathers, who argued in my favor during some hours of my misery. I see her in my mind's eye, describing my in the most influential way possible.
According to Ms. Mathers, I am a charming young man with innocent blue eyes. I am incapable of such violence. My lack of memory is a reflection upon my innocence. That's what I see her tell the jury in my mind's eye.
I don't remember the reading of verdict. I woke to my mother's tears, and the firm grip of the police upon my arms.
"James Harrison, you will spend the last years of your life on death row." Those are the only words that linger in my memory from the trial.
I close my eyes and tell myself about my innocence. I try to remind myself about the kind of person I am. I am, in my mind, that kind of person who would never dream to kill a man. The words I plant on my lips taste like lies as they exit my mouth. I feel a fire on my tongue that tells me I'm going wrong. But what could I be doing wrong?
His eyes brighten and the longing innocence that had settled in his pupils fades away as he lifts his head and a smile flickers across his lips. He throws back his head and a low chilling laugh escapes from his mouth.
"They deserved what came to them, dearest." He tells himself. "They were whores. They were bastards. They had betrayed me. There days were numbered. They deserved to die, they were asking for death! Who are they to decide whether or not I was justified in my actions?" He shouts out into the darkness, his loud, assertive voice bouncing off the walls.
Outside of the cold cell, the garish Texas sun shines down on a blonde lawyer, who carries a cell phone in one hand, a binder of files under her arm, and a purse on her other arm. She's just parked her car on the outside of the prison, and she doesn't look up to greet the questioning glance the police cast her, with her beach body. She only looks up to push her arm against the door to open it and walk over the desk.
"I'm here to speak to a prisoner on death row about an appeal." She asks the questioning receptionist.
"Your name?" The receptionist asks, just rolling her eyes as the attorney presses the buttons in her phone.
"Daisy Mathers." She says, tossing a piece of her blonde hair over her shoulder.
"And you're visiting?"
"Right then, a guard will be here to take you to a meeting room in a few moments." She informs Daisy, and the young woman just nods.
"Right this way, please ma'am." A security guard motions to her and she follows him down the hall.
Back in the realm of solitude, James hears the door being unlocked and squints at the light as it fills his cell. All the prison has provided for light is an already dim bulb that blew out for the last time a long time ago. The prisoner blinks as his pupils take their time to adjust before they will allow him to see who had come to rescue him from the darkness and dampness.
A security guard comes in and cuffs his wrists, he does not resist, and he gives the guards a look of sadistic interest.
"Harrison, someone his here to speak with you." The guard tells him and he laughs again. "Don't let her convince you of my innocence." He says, his tongue dragging across his lips.
"Mr. Harrison." The blonde says, standing from her seat as James enters the meeting room.
"Hello Ms. Mathers." James says in a low purr. Daisy is clearly about to say something, but she bites her lip and she stays silent as her client takes his seat.
"Still trying to clean the blood spilt on my name, are you dear?" He asks, giving her a look of polite interest.
"Well, you and I both know you're innocent." She shrugs. "You insisted so yourself when I first met with you to help you with your case." She reminds him and he nods.
"Pardon me, but I believe it was another who answered your questions in my favor." He tells her and she just looks at him.
Suddenly it's like I've awoken from a dream, and I don't remember being brought in here. I look around me, but it's just me and the blonde, staring me in the face.
"James? Are you okay? You look dazed." She asks, and I just squint at her. The light around this place hurts my eyes.
"What day is it, Mrs. Mathers?" I ask her, and she just looks at me, confused.
"It's January 17th. Why?"
"And when…" I take a gulp of air, as if it's going to be the last time I take a breath for the rest of my life, "when is the execution."
"You have one month."
We mostly sit in silence. I feel as though there are hands at my throat, hands at my sides, and hands all around me. They're ready to pull me down into the world of unrest. They're perfectly ready, no matter whether I am or not.
"James, you do realize there's nothing I can do for you anymore." I hear her voice as if she's far away. I look at her through the fog of my vision, like a child peering through prescription lenses that weren't meant for him.
"Then why'd you even come here?" I almost choke out my question, and I hope that my voice doesn't reflect the despair that lurks at the pit of my soul. Daisy looks down at her hands, which she holds in her lap. "Did you come here just to spur my hopes?" I ask her, feeling my eyes turn to daggers.
"No, James, it's not like that. I really wish I could help you." She pleads and I turn away. I don't want to admit to myself how afraid I am.
"You can't. So it's over. Just go. Just leave me in my oblivion. Just let me go." I stand up, and I tap on the door that the guard stands outside of. Daisy just nods, rises to her feet, and tells one of the security guards, "This meeting is over."
For once I don't fight as the restraints find their way to my wrists. I just walk, my head bowed, letting the gatekeepers of my personal hell take me back into the dark.
I keep the shards of my dreams under the wraps of my somber oblivion as I await my reception to the cave of lost souls. I sit and talk to the silence, and the silence replies. The ghost taunts me and her enchanting voice tells me of the horrible things I've done.
I'm glad I can't see the light of day in my dungeon of horrors. I don't want to watch as the time flies by and my life gives up a day with the sunset each night.
What is a nightmare to the average person to me is a day dream. I'm not afraid of the blood and fear that fills my heart. I feel real sorrow in my dreams, maybe even real repentance. Any sorrow that plants itself in my heart, however, seems to flicker out when my own sob awakens me.
Morning and night don't exist in our underground world. The world expects morning to bring a new day and new hope with it, but not here. Not in the world of darkness. Light has no meaning, and no message of hope to the broken heart.
His eyes dart up as he hears movement outside the door of the cell.
"Have you come to take me? Have you brought the demons? Am I to bath in the river of styx?" He asks the people who have come to take them.
"You've got the wrong fairytale, Harrison. Maybe you'll find that out when you go to hell." The guard tells him, and a smile erupts across his face.
"What if it is no fairy tale? What if I'll be seeing you there?" He asks, and the security guard lets out a kind of growl, and is about to shout his reply when his companion cuts him off.
"What have you been told about taunting the prisoners?"He tells him in a gruff voice
"The prisoners always win!" Harrison's voice carries through the hallway as they bring him out in handcuffs.
"Shut up you." Says the first guard, pulling on his handcuffs.
"Oh it seems I've struck a nerve. Insulted you have I? Which had you feared more, my words or my knives?"
"He told you to shut up." Says the second, and Harrison just smiles.
"What's the matter? Don't know how to control your own prisoners. I'm sure the warden will be interested in that." Harrison says in a tone of mock dissatisfaction.
Neither of the guards reply, not really interested in hearing the words of mockery their prisoner has for every demand that leaves their lips.
"Mrs. McCaw, he's here to see you."
"Well it seems the guards don't want me to die lonely." Harrison says with a lick of his pale lips before his eyes find the woman sitting in the meeting room.
"Oh. It's you." He says flatly when he gets a good look at her face.
"Jamie, I told you I wouldn't let you go." She says, and he gives her an unmoving expression.
"Well that's the only thing to say about you I guess. You hold to your promises. It's too bad I won't have time to relish you being left behind."
"Jamie, don't talk like that!" Her high, surprised voice rings through the room.
"I'm not your Jamie. I have no mother, and I'm not your son."
She places a hand on her open mouth, and for the first time, he doesn't smile when he sees his words have had an effect on their intended victim.
"Jamie, what's wrong with you?" Her voice is barely a whisper and tears are beginning to flow down her cheeks.
"Mother?" I ask, when suddenly I find myself planted in my mom's presence, and I wonder why she's crying. "Mom, what's wrong?" I ask but bends her head to the ground and shakes her head.
"James, no. You can't simply remedy this." She tells me, and her words are the knives I allegedly used to kill my supposed victims.
"Mom, what happened? What's wrong? What did I say?" I almost shout at her and she shakes her head."
"What happened to you, Jamie?" She asks me and I want to hold her, but she backs away from me and goes for the door. "We're done." She tells the guard, and the guard escorts her out while two cops come in to handcuff me.
"Not so clever now, are you Harrison?" One of the cops sneers and me, and I don't even ask what he's referring to.
I let the lonesome cell take me in its arms as the ghost whispers her tortures in my ear as I wait out the days until my execution. Sometimes the children start to scream and the men yell at their wives to run. I clap my hands over my ears so I won't hear their tears and their anger.
A few days before my execution, I am moved from my space of solitary confinement to a special cell.
"Welcome to your new home for the rest of your life." Says a tall, angry looking guard, who gives me a look of such disapproval that I almost crumble under his stare.
"That's right, don't you dare get smart with me." He says and I don't say anything. I just go into my cell and sit there, watching as other prisoners are brought out of the abyss. After an hour in this land as bright as paradise, my eyes start to hurt from the sunlight that spills through a small window near the end of the hall.
My first night in this new space finds me with my hands over my ears and my body at rest on the thin mattress in a fetal position. Somehow the voices of the deceased and the taunts of the ghost seem all the more clear up here in the land of the light. Even the nights are bright in this place, and I don't know how anyone gets any sleep. I can't hold back the siren that escapes from my mouth and lights of the night.
"Will you please shut up and let me sleep away my life in peace?" Someone shouts and I clamp my mouth shut, not used to the other people, the hard pressed murderers. 'And they think I am one of them.'
"Will the world miss me, my pretties?" He shouts out to the prison, letting go of another round of wild laughter.
"Shut up, Harrison." A cop replies to his taunts and he just laughs again.
"I can make as much noise as I like on the last night of my life!" He screams and a few other inmates laugh. "I know you'll miss me, and I cannot wait to see you on the other side."
"No one of us is going to be visiting you in Hell." One cop shouts and more inmates release high cackles of their own.
"Well won't you?" A woman asks, letting out a cackle. "You cannot kill us and claim you don't have blood on your own hands." She taunts, and the cop groans.
"Why must I work in this asylum?" We can all hear his groans, and his words are echoed by the men and woman who have gone mad in the time they've been waiting for death.
"Tonight we burn in Hell!" Harrison screams, and the other inmates shout their approval.
The next morning Harrison is woken early for his execution by the same two cops who took him to his reunion with his mother.
"I bet y'all can't wait to be rid of me!" He hisses at them, his usually smile flickering across his lips.
"Don't be too happy, you'll have a debt of blood to pay when you meet your maker." The younger cop tells him and he cackles again.
"My executioner is spilling my blood all over his body. He bathes nightly in the blood of inmates who have to suffer an end to this torture."
"And you don't bathe in the blood of your victims," Asks the older of the two cops and Harrison just smiles.
"They waved their own rights to life."
"And so have you."
The cops lead Harrison on the death march to execution room. Harrison cackles and laughs and shouts his farewells to the inmates who are still awaiting their own demises. They bring him to a room and as they move the curtains in front of his execution bed, a smile audience looks in on his final moments before he'll be injected and his life is drained away.
"Any last words?" Asks a young doctor, who eyes with a look of contempt that clearly says he hates his job.
"You cannot live without hatred. You cannot live without death, and without your remedies you will drown in the pools of your own blood." Harrison proclaims as he is tied down. He lets out a loud cackle and laughs a2way his last few moments of life.
I feel the restrains around my arms, and panic rises in my chest when I realize what fills the IV that the cops push into my arm. I want to scream, but I am paralyzed, and I can't tell what paralyzes me.
"Goodbye, Harrison." A cops whispers to me as I feel the life drain my very being.