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March 2012 Volume 14 , Issue 3 submit to us!
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The+Hangman
by Thomas Edwards -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

 . . .  . . . has been found guilty in the court of our king . . . "

The voice battled through the gusting wind, echoing off the walls of the courtyard, before being swept away into the ether. The voice emanated from the pulpit to his left, the king's steward; a weasely sort of fellow, lank hair, squiffy eyes and a tone of voice that made you long for a strong drink. He wore clothing which he believed made him look dignified, but instead encapsulated the essence of one who wished to be imposing; essentially he looked a bit of a tit. He held himself with an air of superiority, nose turned, arms outstretched as he read the long list of crimes from the grandly ornate parchment.

" . . . ..A dastardly, deceptive man brought to justice and caught by our majesty's royal . . .  . . . "

He zoned out, thinking of his family, what would his wife be doing? Looking beautiful no doubt, her long hair tied back, revealing her beautifully soft face. Perhaps she would be cleaning the house, a task he always dreaded, never seemed to get the hang of brooms. Maybe she was out in the orchard, picking apples with young Stanley. Oh how the boy had grown. It felt like a matter of days since he had held him in his arms, a vague resemblance to both parents, shooting up in size to become the handsome son he now was. A smile spread across his face as he remembered the time, a few months back, when Mrs Gillingham had "paid" them a visit. She had come striding up to his house, her gangly fingers dragging the tip of Stanley's lobe, her skinny arms trembled as the muscles contracted, holding that vice like grip in place. Stanley yelped and howled as his legs stumbled behind him struggling to keep up with his body, while he was led like a mouse up to the site of penitence. He smirked as he remembered having to use all his concentration to avoid sniggering as Mrs Gillingham reiterated how Stanley had been caught stealing her turnips. Poor bugger, he may be a handsome lad, definitely he got that from his mother, but he did have flashes of pure idiocy.

" . . . .without which no one could feel the safety which permeates throughout his kingdom . . . "

Boy, this guy couldn't half talk some shit. It seemed as though he opened his mouth and a sluice of idiotic flattery poured forth, oozing out like the conniving, little, flatulent rat that he was. Almost every day you could hear the pompous sycophant proclaiming "the King declared this", or "All hail our mighty sovereign". He loved to be heard, to feel important, to feel as though his life had a meaning. Unfortunately for him everyone in the city detested him, and instead of ballads to laud his triumphs there were limericks to mock his compliance. The King's little whelp, his lapdog, his voice to the world through which he remained distanced. All eyes, all the hatred was trained solely on the poor Steward.

" . . . .to have touched a nun on her posterior during the Sabbath . . .  . . . "

He snorted out a little laugh as he heard that one. "Well as long as she was a pretty one I suppose" he thought to himself. He scratched his leg; the worst thing about these damn clothes was their itchy qualities. He had asked many times to change the material, but lo and behold it didn't fit into the ‘image that the King wished to portray". A black cloth sack with eyeholes cut out. It made him look more like an agitated pumpkin than the King's executioner. The rest of his uniform, a monotone, hemp jacket with matching trousers, made him feel grateful that his face was under cover. One lonely Saturday he had devised a beautiful new uniform. He had come up with a slick, black, leather jacket, with a stitched message on the back ‘life ends here'. It also contained a pair of black trousers, thick riding boots and a well contoured mask, instead of this wretched potato sack. He was hoping to talk to the Steward about it one of these days, once he had mustered enough courage of course.

" . . . .the King has deemed it necessary to sentence the aforementioned to death by hanging . . . ."

And hanging, how tedious it was, yes he was allowed to decapitate the odd person here and there, but he wanted something new, something exciting. He had heard of a town in the lowlands of France which used a fascinating device, a form of cage with spikes. The prisoner was left inside to ponder, whilst every one of his movements caused his skin to be pricked and so out dripped his life, drip, drip, dead. Unfortunately this idea had been knocked back due to ‘over-use of our Iron supply'. He had proposed a new idea, which he had heard from a travelling Chinese merchant. This method was called ‘A penchant for paper'. It involved the continuous slicing of the said prisoner with paper, a slow painful death . . .  Unfortunately, it was deemed far too slow. The Steward claimed "The crowd will lose their willing, we need to keep it quick and snappy". Other ideas of his had been equally shot down; Rock Squishing ‘too messy', Torso Stretching ‘too stretchy' and the ingenious ‘Phagocytise victuals unto demise". This final option was rejected due to ‘a stupidly complicated name and a waste of precious foodstuffs'. One of these days he hoped to get something fresh out there. Something that would keep the crowd entertained and help kill the monotony of hanging.

" . . . .where his soul will be judged to spend his time in damnation with the daemons . . . ."

The wind picked up, flapping the material around his legs. The Steward's words floated to him. He was wrapping it up. Always the same speech, always the same damning words, the only differences were the crimes. Still, no matter how many times he had heard it; there was always that nervous flutter in his heart . . . . When to pull the lever? There had been that incident a few months back where poor Mr Smith, a local grocer, had had his neck snapped a few minutes earlier than expected. The vile anger that had flown from the Steward after that one had been rather scary. He felt as though it could have been his neck next in the noose. Thankfully, after a good night's sleep and a slap up meal the anger had abated, receding to the obsequious words of old.

" . . . our father will administer the final blessing . . . "

He gripped the lever tight. The time had come, all that was needed now was for the priest to give the sign, and all would be done. How very simple it all was; pull, drop, snap, gone . . .  . . . well maybe the occasional kick or two. As his eyes gazed over to the priest striding to him, he couldn't help but notice the condition of the rope. Fraying on the edges, being slowly torn in two by the cross beam. It had only been used twice, damn cheap imports. He had warned the Steward about cost cutting techniques; definitely a point to be raised in the next staff-meeting. The priest had reached the edge of the gibbet. He was a new one, "I wonder where father Donald is today?" he thought to himself, as the priest extended his arms to the accused . . . 

" . . . may God have mercy on your soul . . . "

Pull, drop, shake, a kick and going, going, gone. A groan rose up from the crowd. A deep groan; it had been a while since he had heard one of those. Each prisoner created a different effect upon the crowd, some were groaners, some were cheerers and others brought floods of tears. It was one of unknowns of the job. He brushed his hands together, clearing the small shards of wood from his gloves. He hopped down from the scaffolds. The hanged-man swung, as the hangman strode with intent to the doors before him.

 
 
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Features -- March 2012 -- Beginning Month Issue
 








Thomas Edwards
-- Additional Work --