[Cara 2nd place]
By: Cara L.Kelly
The room was dark, lit only by a stream of light sneaking in thru the boarded up windows. Stewart Clery noticed airborne dust particles dancing in the reflection of the shiny steel blade of the guillotine in the center of the room. An apparatus he had used daily in his work, the device now made him cringe. He had to board up the windows to keep from going insane from the headaches and nausea clawing at his body. Only under these veiled conditions could he maintain a semblance of sane thought. The solitude and darkness helped him deal with the diseases ravaging assault on his mind and body.
His hand shook as he tried once more to take pen to paper. It was imperative he write this note, and somehow that thought helped him maintain. The throbbing in his head increased to a drum-like pounding and he fell to his knees with a flush of pain. Eyes bloodshot from fever, tear-filled with anguish, he cried out for mercy. His distorted reflection in the shiny guillotine blade shook his very soul. His body was swollen from the poison in his system, he had urinated on himself repeatedly and only now notices the large wet area on his trousers, its pungent odor violating his flaring nostrils. He slumped against the table, also a resting place for the lifeless heads of three heaven-bound rabbits.
A small cloud of flies buzzed above him, occasionally landing on the glassy-eyed skulls. The heavy pounding in his head decreased to a dull, constant throb and suddenly, with a jolt, he remembered what he was trying to do.
Stewart Cleary had worked for Animal control in Lexington, Kentucky for the past three years. Oh, it wasnt the best job in the world. There were better ones, by far. But Stewart liked the pay and the hours, and all the holidays compliant to state held employment. He had worked at odd jobs for several years before finding the security in being a State-Authorized rabbit killer. A government job was as good as a guarantee of work until retirementa beautiful situation.
Stewart was in charge of preparing and mailing out the heads of high risk potential rabies carriers. It entailed the use of a state-certified guillotine that could sever the head of any animal, from cattle to rabbits. The usual victims in Stewart's routine were raccoons, badgers, dogs, coyotes, and cattle. It was all pretty routine to Stewart, since he had taken over for his retired Animal Control predecessor: Chop off the victims head, wrap it in a plastic bag, then in a paper bag, tag it, and shove it in the appropriate size box for express delivery to the state lab for testing. No one ever complained about Stewarts work. Especially the animals. For the past three years, Stewart had chopped, packaged, and signed off hundreds of heads
Stewart was meticulous. He followed every procedure by the book. Except once. Only one time he forgot to put on his rubber gloves. He knew the routine. Especially the number ten rubber gloves, thick enough to make it near impossible for an animal to bite through while being gassed before decapitation. Now,one brief moment of carelessness was costing Stewart his sanity, his life. The blood of a rabbit Stewart had been cutting up that day was the source of his contracting rabies. Grabbing for the head, his thumb accidentally clamped tightly on the sharp incisors, slashing him open and mixing tainted rabbit blood with his own. He didn't recognize the signs of the progressing disease for some time. When he finally figured out the source of his fever and headaches, it was too late to do anything about it. Just as he knew he would lose the battle for his life, he realized his stiffened hands couldnt write his notethe only way to explain why, how and what he felt about leaving this world in such a manner. He didn't want anyone suffer as he had, to contract the agonizing disease from him, as he had from the rabbit. If he couldn't compose a note, there was only one thing he could do, one way to end this pain, yet leave the message that would clear his conscience and purify his soula message that no one could misunderstand
The end was near enough, the suffering almost over. But one final act would bring peace to his tortured brain. And he needed peace. His mind, though delusional, knew he had to work quickly before the paralysis crippled his senses. He stared through his fog at the "maiden," the blade of destruction. He knew its swift, deadly operation like the back of his hand. He laughed quietly to himself, the irony too much to resist. "It aint the back of my hand thats gonna get kissed by cold steel tonight.
A last glance around the room gripped Stewart with emotion. This was to be his good-bye: A cold dark room, lit by a sliver of light, rank with the putrid stench of urine and blood, filled with the electric buzz of carrion-eating flies, his only witnesses. He fought to keep his mind focused on the task at hand. Slowly, painfully, he laid his burning, fevered head in the bowl and felt a knot of sickness well up in the pit of his stomach. It wasnt the maddening rabies, but rather, the terror brought on by the sheer certainty of what was about to happen. He wished he could have been gassed first
Animal Control had taught him it was the states responsibility to research and contain contageous disease and the bloody scene they would find in the morning would tell its tale clearly. He pulled the cord, sending the lurtette whining its steely path downward. A flash thought sparked in Stewarts brain, just before the blade found his neck and rolled the last head of his career.
Is this suicide...or just part of my job?
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