Red Cell: The Betrayal Prologue
The noose hung heavily from his neck. Its weighted burden pulled at his spine, impatient with its tangible, downward tug. The coiled bands of the coarse rope embraced its duty by constricting the thinly wrapped cloth collared beneath his bearded face.
At his shoe-tip, a hinged, executioner’s door was squared into the concrete. Far below it lay another floor, but in between he could see a great expanse of dizzying emptiness through the cut-away slits that edged the wooden false-floor in front of his feet. A wave of vertigo made him want to steady himself against the railing, but his arms were bound tightly behind his back. Because of the rope around his neck, leaning forward to rest his chest was not an option.
Looping through an iron beam clamp above him, the slack of rope dangled from the ceiling, swaying with the free frolic of horrific playfulness. The rope’s swinging passes caused him to blink intermittently as jerks of light battered his eyes.
A strobe effect of continuous bright bulb flashes haunted the dimly lit balcony. The stains of soul-thirsty apparitions seemed to leak from peels in the ceiling’s plaster. From behind each metal railing, other shadowy horrors sprung toward him with each flicker of light.
As if in a defiant statement of purity, he was dressed in an untucked all-white cotton kurta with simple buttons down the front and intricate embroidery on the left chest side. The square-cut tail of his shirt hung over the khaki pants at his waist. For the bindings at his wrists, his sleeves had been slightly rolled to his forearms. Smartly dressed, he could have passed as a common businessman on any marketplace corner instead of the hate-filled terrorist that he had become.
A guard cloaked in a black mask urged him forward onto the platform with a pull of his arms. Dragging his unhealed leg forward with a limp, he unsteadily stepped onto the floorboards as sagging creaks uttered their anticipation. Raising a free hand, the guard offered him a blackened hood.
“Do not cover me!” the condemned man spat and shook his head violently sideways. “What? Are you trying to be humane? This,” he said, thrusting his chin toward the noose near his shoulder, “is no more humane than what America has done to any of us. And you want to hang me for fighting back? For trying to rid our lives of the humiliation and disgrace they have caused us? Their greed has led brother to fight against brother! And you are condemning me for trying to end all of it? Am I not the humane one?”
From the floor below, a man pulled away from the corner where he had been standing, mixing into the crowd of witnesses. He wanted a closer look above at the bound man he had once called “Brother.” It did not matter if he was seen—no one else here would know of the two years he had spent holed-up in a secret training facility working closely with the younger man to learn the tactics of cyber espionage. Using his skills to obtain falsified security hadn’t been that big of a challenge and was worth the risk; he owed this much to this man.
Half-hidden in the shading, he pulled his cell phone from his jeans pocket and hit the video icon with his thumb. He swung his arm around to pan the crowd; there were others that would want to see this and perhaps even use it to promote their cause. He would have it all uploaded to the internet in a matter of minutes. The recording would ensure his friend’s legacy and the disposal of each person identified from this video would be his eulogy.
“The Americans…they have turned me over to you—my own country—as a symbol of trust,” he began. Though his rendition had ended with a death sentence for his role in the Chicago attacks the previous year, he chose now to make his final plea. His unblinking stare bore through the silence of the room, demanding each and every person’s attention, his hate-filled eyes intent upon persuasion. “They expect justice on my behalf to be served. You are my witnesses that I have done nothing wrong. They are murderers of innocent lives. The only true justice is for them to experience the very same. Take America’s destruction of Hiroshima. They killed millions of blameless civilians; it wasn’t considered a crime of war. They called it justified! How is that any different than my part in attacks against them? With what they have done to the rest of the world, were my actions not also justified?”
With a soldier’s sense of duty, the hooded guard ignored the comments and pulled the hardened slipknot to the doomed terrorist’s shoulder in preparation for the drop. The looped rope pressed down on him, a weighted reminder of the direction his life was about to take. The prisoner’s gaze automatically dropped to the flat timber below his feet. The boards sagged, a lip of edged wood revealed the trip door bowing beneath his body. Its hinges held firm, not yet ready to give in.
An unwavering voice from a few feet behind boomed through the silence, “FIVE!”
“American foreign policy deserves retaliation!” he implored with an emphasizing down-thrust of his shoulders.
“Think of all the violence, assassinations, overthrown governments,” he stammered trying to appeal to any faltering sympathies. And with begging tipped at the rise of his eyebrows, “Torture tactics?”
“You can’t do this to me!” he pleaded through
short-breathed screams, considerable
fright clenched at his teeth.
And then he spotted his friend. As their stare connected, an instant, unmerciful streak of sweat from his brow cut a sharp line down into the pulled corner of his lips.
Wild-eyed, the man about to be hanged tensed.
With a slight bend to his knees he braced himself for the drop as if preparing to make a leap. The grating sound of the lever and the creak of the hinges below his bound feet began to whine in unison. A simultaneous shudder riveted through his body as his back straightened with rigidness.
Unhinged, the door sagged. Giving way to his weight, the spreading wooden planks fell open past their stationary frame. The folded slack of rope began to pull apart with tension. A sudden catch of air seized at the back of his mouth and stiffened his chest.
Before his final breath could dissipate through unresponsive lips, he made his last rancorous petition to the world. Instead of a cry of absolution, his evil soul wailed out for desperate vengeance against the one responsible for his imminent death. The video recording below would ensure the sharing of his venomous last request. Sealing his doomed fate, the perpetual fury of his voice echoed throughout the room, battering its palpable heat into every eardrum. The haunting tone, a shrieking bawl, stretched out with an undying last consonant sound, “WILL CONLANNNN!”