By Carly Powell
His eyes were steady, unlike his shallow breathing. He stared straight ahead. He thought of the irony in his life as of presently. He had been put away for just shy of two decades for the very crime the people on the outside were now being encouraged by the government to commit. “Murderer!” they all shrieked as they aimed their guns and home-made and sharpened kitchen knives at his prized throat. His only comfort was that he wasn’t the only one with a target permanently engraved in his dirty, dehydrated skin. There were others; he didn’t know how many, or where they were, but he knew they existed, at least a few million, all with the same three deep red circles that formed a target on their foreheads. His footsteps were silent beneath the deafening bass of the industrial sized billboards that boomed with the voice of the local newscast.
In other news, national debt has already decreased by five percent since the President announced the initiation of the Better Citizens program last month which entails the releasing of millions of prisoners into sectors six through fifteen—also known as “the hunting grounds”, where citizens who have bought hunting licenses in the last three months to eradicate those prisoners in return for five hundred dollars per head and significant income tax deductions. Stay tuned for the weather with Ethan Morte at seven. I’m Sheryl Nex, stay wealthy Washington.
This was the first time Bennet had seen sunlight in over four months. The guards had kept him along with all the others in windowless cells in order to disorient them when they were finally shipped to the hunting grounds. He suffered as the target of the sun’s persistent beam. The rain drops he felt on his deep white forearms came from his forehead. He watched as his arm hair curled in a slow cooked death. Knowing that his death sentence was about to be carried out in a most inhumane manner, Bennet recalled the night he had received it, and thought of how stupid he was for ever trusting her.
His right palm had cried with nervous sweat, moistening the white jewelry box he had kept near his heart in the left chest pocket of his uniform for the last two months. It was the first time it had been removed since he purchased it in that desert. It was modest, though it shined like the lightest light that impossibly glowed from her dark brown eyes.
His eyes were steady, unlike his shallow breathing. He stared straight ahead. He could see her, but her vision of him was blocked by the paid romantic waiter who was bribed to keep Bennet out of sight until he was a foot away from her. One foot, and then he would kneel. And then he would ask her what he had wanted to beg her to do from that very first night at the Cucina Cucina. That was his plan.
It was almost time. He had made eye contact with her. Without warning, a young, cleanly shaven man in what looked like a suit made especially tight to fit around every one of his tan muscles walked briskly to the side of his lover and sat down. To Bennet’s dismay, this man’s lover, and his lover, was the same woman.
“Bennet!” Kelly always had a breezy tone in her voice when she said his name.
“Kelly.” The solemn in his voice was obvious. He remembered the intense need he had suddenly developed to put an ice pack on his burning forehead. Why was his arm wrapped closely around her delicately olive shoulders? With a nervous smile that was only meant for Gabe, Kelly fought out a whisper. “Gabe, this is my husband, Travis”.
“Hey man” Looking back, Travis seemed rather…perfect. Gabe felt sick just recalling his face, and remembered how he had quickly shoved the little white box of dreams into his front pocket.
Gripping Travis’s hand with clear hatred, Bennet had looked into Travis’s eyes and choked out the only word he could muster.
After sitting across from Kelly’s betrayal, Gabe had looked at Kelly with despair and said, “How are you?”
Bennet didn’t remember why, but Kelly had excused herself from the table. Bennet and Travis were left alone. Desperately holding his fists under the table and mentally begging them to stay there, Gabe stared at the white cloth on the table.
“You okay buddy?” Travis’s words still rang with scary resemblance in Bennet’s mind.
Bennet couldn’t stand the moment that seemed to last for hours. He stood up, and misinterpreting his angry power, flipped the dining table over, spilling the salad on Travis’s tailor made suit.
“What the hell man??” Travis exclaimed with what seemed like genuine and distressed confusion.
Bennet knew he didn’t owe him an explanation. He didn’t owe anyone anything. He turned around and ran for the front door. Before reaching it, he ran into the cause of his heartache.
“Bennet, where are you going??” Kelly stopped him dead in his tracks, only for a moment.
Bennet left her standing there; staring at the glass door her true love had escaped through. Neither party would ever return to that restaurant. Later that night, Bennet waited for the couple to leave the restaurant. The confrontation between Bennet and Travis was expected. But Bennet never planned on fighting to the death. That’s just how it turned out.
A puddle of teardrops pooled under Bennet’s dark blue irises and became a continuous stream as it dripped down his reddening cheeks. He would never have her.
A guard pushed Bennet at the small of his wet, salty back as he growled, “You ready murderer?”. He was ready. Another man with a set of keys most prisoners would kill again for took Bennet’s hands and unleashed them from the cuffs. “It’s only fair”, the man said.
The gate that separated Bennet from the ones without sin slowly rose, revealing over one thousand money deposits in the form of prisoners.
The deep purple blood from Bennet’s target turned to a rosy red. Bennet lay motionless on the cement as his body was trampled by stampeding jail birds. As a last reflex, his palm unclenched. A small white box opened as it fell from his grasp onto the ground, disclosing the diamond encrusted band he had tried to give to Kelly nineteen years before.