Genre: Post-Modernism, Existentialism, Nihilism, Psychological Drama

3 minute read | Short Stories | Fiction | By: Atman Brahman

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The Gallows of Indignation

The feeling in the air was solemn and somber. The audience was a mixture of area officials, local congregants, general spectators as well as body-part collector warlords and alchemical item seekers. Strange events always seemed to attract the strangest attendees.

A deafening silence stirred the audience as two men emerged and were being escorted towards the gallows, the center stage. One of the men had his hands tied firmly behind his back, as he walked slowly in his ankle shackles with a black hood pulled down over his face. The other man followed closely behind and the escort, a large behemouth of a man, walked in persuit.

The sound of the gallows’ steps was so hollow and ghostly, but clear and loud through the silence of the onlookers as the two men ascended to their fate. A man yelled out in excited anticipation; his own life-light brightened by the extinguishing of another. The executioner methodically circled the gallows in a calm ceremonial manner. He walked up the stairs onto the platform with the two men after careful inspection of the structure.

The first man was guided into place by the executioner’s unforgiving hands. The other man soon followed and assumed his position above the trap door. The ropes were smoothly lowered and the executioner performed the critical task of placing each rope around the two mens necks. Both of them shivered as the prospect of what was about to happen set in. Some legal proceedings were being read before the crowd, although it was just a murmur in the background against the dramatic scene before them on this day.

The black hood was pulled from the face of the man. He felt pained by the light of day, squinting his eyes and looking down helplessly, trying to avoid the situation he was in, and the shame of his ending. He broke down, “Forgive me father for I have sinned. I know not what I do before I do it, and my intentions matter not in what is ultimately done. I accept my sin and my curse which accompanieth.”

With tears flowing from his eyes he raised his chin and saw the judgement of a thousand eyes upon him before he noticed he was not alone. “Two people that are born together are called brothers and sisters. What are we when we die together?” He gasped exhaustively. “I have committed treachery to my God’s name and I belong where I stand at this moment. What sin have you committed that brings you here today, brother?”

With a last spirited calming in his voice, disparagingly, the other man looked up to him and proclaimed, “I swear allegiance to no creator. Maybe that is part of the reason I am here today. Many have killed or been killed in the name of their Lord. I serve no god and I am here today under voluntary circumstances.” The prisoner now realized the mans hands were not tied; no hood and no shackles. In that moment they were equal.

“But why would you be here of your own accord? Surely you must be insane,” The murderer said to the nihilist.

“Do you suppose these officials to be so ruthless as to put an insane man to death?” The nameless man replied. “Is it me that is insane, or is it this life that is insane?” He replied again.

The executioner interrupted, “The end of life is an agony experienced by those that value it.”

“And so you no longer value life. Is that it brother?” Said the man in shackles.

With a solemn sigh, the free man said calmly. “This life is a slow agony. We enter in agony. We grow in agony. We leave in agony. Much of our despair is caused by our clinging to life, fear of death, worry of the end. The end is always and has always been a solemn, ever-looming, sad macabre and I’ve decided against that. At the pinnacle of my life, difficulties resolved, this fine day, a smile on my face, I choose to end in happiness.” The executioner’s heavy hand dropped the lever. The sun shined gently down. The birds quietly cooed their lullaby and the breeze calmly flowed through, but neither of the men were there to experience.

*Disclaimer: Some of this story was generated through the use of AI. All italic text was created by the AI Writer.

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Featured Image: Copyright Matthew Lee High