This story is dedicated to Julia D. Castwyth. We were going to write this as a collaboration, but she died before we could start. This is for her, the idea that she found so intriguing. Rest in Piece, Julia.

Cold Stab

Prologue

"Ah yes, Mr. Greener, please take a seat."

"Hey, doc. Right here?"

"Yes please. Put your arms here, there we are, and your legs here."

"Like this?"

"Yes, that's just fine, thank you Mr. Greener. Now, we're going to do a few health checks to make sure you're all fit and healthy, okay?"

"Yeah, sure doc. Just make 'em quick; I'm free to go once this is over with!"

"Of course, Mr. Greener."

"Hey, doc?"

"Hmm?"

"What's with all the wires and things? It's almost like a lie detector, har-har."

"It's monitoring equipment, Mr. Greener. To make sure you don't keel over on us."

"Har-har, good one, doc. God, it'll be so good to get out of here. You ever tried the food? Don't."

"I have never had the opportunity, Mr. Greener. Lift your arm, please."

"Call me Ed. Short for Edward. Edward Greener, that's me! Hey, that tickles!"

"Sorry, Edward. Just a few more sensors and then we can begin."

"Good, that's great. You know what I'm going to do when I get home?"

"What's that then, Edward?"

"Go to church. I mean, after all that's happened, and I've come out of it alive, I think I owe it to the Big Guy. Hey, how long is this going to take?"

"Not much longer."

"I mean how many buttons do you have on that machine? Are they all really important? All to make sure I'm fit and healthy? Wow, it sure does look complicated."

"It is, Edward. I think we're ready now. I only need to push this button, and we're done."

"Really, doc? I mean, thanks! It didn't take that-"

There was a beep, a soft hum, and the sound of a body jerking against its restraints. Then, footsteps. Buckles snapped open, and somebody grunted as if carrying a heavy weight. The footsteps receded, dragging something along behind them.

"That's another one gone." Smoke curled up to the ceiling from the cherry-red end of the cigarette.

"Yes."

"They're so much easier to deal with when they don't know what's coming. I mean, we'd have riot in the cells if they all knew what was really happening."

"He was talking about going back to church, before the end."

"Ha! They all say that, don't they? 'I'll be good, go back to church, repent my sins.' Well, if you really believed in God you wouldn't have got a death sentence in the first place, would you, sonny?"

"Do you honestly think this is the right thing to do? I mean, I know that Mr. Greener was convicted of murder and rape, but he really did seem to be a new man."

"Oh, don't tell me you're getting an attack of the conscience now, are you? You're sense of morality will lose you your job one day. You know they don't feel anything. It's not like it used to be: it took two or three shocks to kill them."

"I know, but it still doesn't feel right. They don't even know what's going to happen. We lie to them."

"But what would happen if we didn't? It's the kindest way. Who in their right mind would go to death without a fight? It's either this or overcrowded prisons and soaring crime rates on the streets. I don't know about you, but I know what I'd prefer." Another deep draft, and cancerous smoke blossomed into the air.

"I know but…"

"But nothing. You're job pays the bills, keeps the wife happy and gives the kids a good education. What more could you want? If you want morality, ethics and principles go be a wildlife conservationists or something. An executioner isn't the right career choice for a softie like you." The cigarette was flicked to the floor, and a battered boot-heel ground it in. "Get your priorities right." Those boots stomped away, echoing down the corridor.

A heavy sigh drifted in the still air of the execution room, and there were a series of soft clicks as, one by one, the lights went out.

Finally, though, it was dark, and the room was left empty and silent, awaiting its next victim from death row.

Author's Note: Originally a piece of coursework, and I wasn't going to carry it on, but Julia wanted to, but since she died…I'm doing this in her honor.