Guess what? I was about to be hanged. That escalated quickly.
Cat betrayed me. I’m not totally sure why that came as a surprise to me, considering I had given her every reason to hate me. Still, I had let my guard down when she’d kissed me, enough that she was able to stick a pair of handcuffs (where had she even gotten those?) on my hands and then tie me up. Although, she didn’t seem particularly happy about the whole betraying me thing. She probably just thought it was necessary. Still, it stung.
I had often wondered how I would die. Most likely it would be from a zombie bite, the most common killer there was. Or maybe it would be from a lucky arrow of bullet from someone I had annoyed. Maybe I would be stabbed in the back one day while I slept. Maybe poison would be slipped into my food. I might even die from something mundane, like an illness, fall or maybe radiation poisoning.
Honestly, I had never expected to end up swinging from a noose, but I understood where they were coming from. It was, after all, the staple execution for criminals. I wasn’t a soldier, so I wouldn’t get a firing squad. I wasn’t royalty, so I wouldn’t get a beheading. So, hanging it was.
I thought about what I knew about hanging. Firstly, it was illegal, but hey, that had never stopped anyone. Besides which, all the towns had their own law systems and the central government had lost any kind of control five years ago, when the nuke blew them to hell. Secondly, it was a fairly painful way to die. I would have a choice – struggle to keep the rope from choking me to death and prolong my suffering or kill myself quickly by leaping off the scaffold and breaking my neck.
That last one was a cheap way out. After what I’d done, I deserved to suffer. The little voice in my head told me there was still time to run, to fight my way out, but I killed it dead. I would be a legend, dying an honourable death at the hands of the righteous law, and I would do a damn good job of it.
They had taken my weapons, which was a pity, but I still got to die in my own clothes, which was nice. I composed myself, trying to look as regal and fearless as possible. Maybe if other people believed it, I would too.
In truth, dying scared the shit out of me. I had zero doubt that I would either disappear forever or end up in the darkest corner of hell for some incredibly painful eternal punishment, so it’s not like I could make my peace with the idea. How amusing, that I should be worrying about something I had not even given a second thought to until now. Screw the afterlife – I hadn’t died yet.
I was up on a scaffold in the one place with a wooden stage and seating for the spectators, which was, ironically, the slave market I had recently liberated. The audience was quite large, probably because I was the closest people got to a celebrity around here. Still, I must have pissed off a lot of them because they seemed really eager to see me die. My death seemed to be a spectator sport.
The people who’d brought me here were the same guys who had tried to rob me and Cat earlier. Except the guy I’d hospitalised and the one I had killed, of course. I had given myself up without a fight, but was now really regretting not firing off the rocket launcher, if just to see how it felt. Another wasted opportunity. Just like Cat.
As much as I hated to admit it, I think I had feelings for her. At the very least, I didn’t want her to die and that was a lot more caring than I was to most people. I also couldn’t remember the last time I had actually followed through on a promise. Maybe because I didn’t make them often. Okay, now that I thought about it, my motto of ‘no regrets’ was beginning to feel more and more hollow. I just had too many things that I honestly did regret.
A chill breeze ran through me, sending an involuntary shiver through my body. I wished they’d just get on with it – leaving me alone with my thoughts was making me go to dark places. Standing beside me on the stand were two of the town guard, the ones who weren’t suffering from post-traumatic stress from the battle I had led them into. Their looks were cold and hard and honestly I didn’t really expect any compassion there.
One of the mayor’s advisors, a weedy guy who I’d seen in the palace, was reading a list of all my crimes in a low tone. It was taking a while. Who had even compiled this? I certainly hadn’t. And while most of the things on there were true, there were one or two that I was fairly certain weren’t my fault. Eh, what’s a few extra crimes to the already long list I had already. Worst they could do was kill me.
I felt rough hands grab me and shove me forwards, to the edge of the scaffold. I stumbled, which wasn’t quite the serene look I was going for, but it’s hard to balance when your hands are tied behind your back. The noose wasn’t the traditional one of brown rope, but rather a long length of climbing rope. Nonetheless, my skin felt horrified as it was placed around my neck and tightened. I was briefly thankful that they hadn’t done it too tight, because I’d be dammed if I went to meet my maker all blue-faced and choking.
The advisor finished his sentence, calmly damming me to death. Okay, this was it. I was going to die. Oh well, it had been good while it lasted. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all those people I killed. I’m sorry for all their loved ones, who suffered at my hand. I’m sorry for all the people who I hurt simply because they were in the way and all those whose lives I had unintentionally ruined. Most of all, I was sorry for Cat.
It was a shame, really. Just a few choices different and it may never have come to this.
Still, one good thing about my life – I certainly lived it in style.
Goodbye cruel world; hello karma.
“Sorry” I muttered.
And then I dropped.