Writer’s note: My parents brought this to me a few weeks ago, a story I wrote as a 17-year-old high school senior that earned me an “Excellent story 98” from my senior composition teacher. I submit this to you with no edits. Another note at the end will address a few other things.
“The End and the Beginning”
Darkness. The sun rises in the early morning mist. A shadow approaches. Shades of gray. The shadow forms a man. Breath appears in the chilly air. Thudding of feet on the tarmac. The man is close. Details can be seen. Dark hair and dark eyes show a face that has grown old before its time. A young man who has seen more than many men two times his age. Dressed in blue denim and black hightops, the clothes are dusty and worn from much walking. Many road and many days make a man hard and old.
Isaiah. The name given to him years ago. A last name he cannot remember, and does not want to. In the real world, names do not matter. Only faces. Deeds. The deeds he has performed are known to many, and feared by more. Relationships are a casualty in this line of work. Besides, who will trust him if they know his craft?
On an Arizona road to another job. Usual payoff, usual risk. He carries his equipment on his back, the equipment of a man who knows death. Up ahead is a sign. “Calhalda-1300” it reads. He has arrived.
A small town. Here to fill the gas tanks for passing travelers in the desert. Small mines outside of town. The bread and butter of a western community. There, the place he was looking for.
He entered the store. Musty. Dark. The community gossip center, also known as the general store. From condiments to condoms. Isaiah smiled grimly.
“Can I help you stranger?” There was an unfriendliness and suspicion in the voice that only years in an isolated community can foster.
“I’m looking for a Mr. Jonathan Roberts,” replied Isaiah. “Would you know his place of residence?”
“Well, I would probably know because I am Johnny. Who are you?” replied the proprietor.
“I am Isaiah. You sent for me,” he answered.
Johnny’s face went white. “I didn’t expect you quite so soon. I guess it’s for the better. She needs you. Come with me.”
Johnny led Isaiah through the back of the store. Isaiah noticed the large array of goods. With only a sixty watt bulb to light the way, he had to be careful of the supplies in the aisle.
They reached the back and began to ascend some stairs. As they reached the top, Isaiah noticed how dark the apartment appeared to be, not only in terms of lighting, but also in terms of decoration. The walls were all painted a dark blue, possibly black. There were also many crucifiction scenes adorning the loft. Those were not the typical christian (writer’s note: I didn’t capitalize Christian, thus the 98 instead of a 100 from Ms. Spencer) scenes, but seemingly more graphic.
At the top of the stairs, the turned right and entered a small bedroom. In the bedroom, darkness again. The smell of death. And there, on the bed, lie the woman.
She was probably in her early sixties. Not that it mattered. Cancer had eaten away at her body and soul. Now she was just an empty shell of a formerly vibrant woman. Now she wanted to die. That’s why Isaiah was here.
“Hello, my dear, ” a week voices asked from the bed. “Who did you bring with you?”
“It is him, love,” squeaked Johnny.
“Then let us get it over with so that I may meet my maker,” she said. “I have been waiting many days, you know.”
“I’m sure you have, ma’am,” replied Isaiah. “Shall I begin?”
The woman nodded. Isaiah set his pack on the floor and opened it. The sound of the zipper penetrated the room, bringing a grimace to Isaiah’s face. He withdrew a small pack and opened it. He took out a syringe and inserted the small dose of cyanide.
Isaiah then walked to the bedside. “My dear woman, if you have anything to say, you should say it now.”
“Johnny, come here,” the frail woman commanded. As Johnny knelt by her side, she said, “You know this is for the best, don’t you.” Johnny nodded as she continued, “We will see each other again on the other side, my love. Now kiss me and leave.”
Johnny gently kissed her cheek as tears streamed down his face. He gripped her hand for the last time, stood up, and head bowed, left the room.
“Don’t worry, ma’am, there won’t be any pain,” Isaiah said as he inserted the needle.
“Son, after the pain I’ve been through, it wouldn’t matter anyway,” replied the old woman.
Isaiah injected the poison, and sat for five minutes as her breathing slowed and finally stopped altogether. He then threw his pack over his should and went down stairs.
Euthanasia. Mercy killing. Whatever the name, not matter how grim the job, he would be there. The silhouette of the stranger began to disappear in the distance. No one liked the job, but it relieved the pain of many a person and brought peace to a soul which had not known peace in a long, long time. The shadow of the man was now gone, but the man himself would never, ever be forgotten.
Writer’s note: I re-wrote this piece a year later for my freshman composition class in college. The stranger then rode a motorcycle, went a to a private home and not a store, and I think I spent more time describing the condition of the home and the old woman. And yes, I I’m reasonably certain received an A on it as well, but I don’t have a copy of that revised piece.
As for what was going on with my 17-year-old self that prompted this dark short story, I have no idea. Probably the two issues I felt strongest about at the time were freedom of speech (I did my senior composition research paper on Broward County’s (Fla.) attempt to censor the 2 Live Crew) and homosexuality, when I was a much more Christian, much less enlightened, gay-hating individual (grew up and got over it). So I’m not at all sure where this statement on euthanasia came from.
All in all, I think, for 17, not bad. I cringe at some of the dialogue choices, now I would have added a bit more suspense to the stranger and his purpose, and I don’t think I would have added that last paragraph, but that’s a much older, somewhat wiser writer’s opinion.