Under the former El Presidente de los Estados Unidos, Marco de Fuerza, the U.S government exterminated its people for the smallest of crimes. That was before El Presidente, Jesús Salvada, brought life to our dying country. He untied the hangman’s noose; removed the head of the guillotine program; gave the firing squad to the lethal injection crew.
“Mr. President we gotta do something,” T.R. Reems, the white-headed leader of La Partida de los Republicanas pleaded with his superior.
El Presidente wore his usual attire, a red and black charro suit with cowboy boots and a large black snakeskin cowboy hat, faced away from the congressman and admired the majesty of Mt. Charleston’s snow-blazen peak from the balcony of the Hotel Chateau penthouse, high above the forever infamous New Capital City. He drew deeply from his green label Marlboro. “You know, my father loved these mountains. He used to take us sometimes and make us climb with him to the top. I pretended to hate it. But really, i loved it. I never told that to him though. But that was before–” he motioned his hand towards his luxurious apartment and the city below him, “– before all of–this.”
The congressman squinted through his sweat-covered glasses towards the waning desert sunset. He breathed the sweet siren aroma billowing from the surplus of gambling and fornication below. The pungent haze flowed to his nostrils from over fifteen-hundred feet below.
The congressman interrupted El Presidente’s nostalgic gaze, “Sir, my people elected me for one reason.”
“They want the death penalty back Sir. They need it. They don’t have any other way of handling the situation.” he said in his sprawling southern drawl, “they got used to having it for so long.” the heavily perspiring congressman leaned against the gilded banister while pleading for his blood-thirsty friends, “SIr, we ain’t got any other way to do it. When you took it away, you should have seen ‘em; the worst people we’d ever seen started coming in and absolutely wrecking our beautiful cities. And we’ve been locking ‘em up like crazy, but we’ve done ran out of anywhere else to put ‘em. Sir, our prisons are f–”
“Your prisons are bonita; they are a beautiful red rose compared to the rest of the world. You should see those hellholes I used to stay in. Go to Guatemala and Colombia and see how much better your people have it than those animals. So yes, your prisons, are hermosa, very pretty indeed.”
The congressman sighed, “Yes, Mr. President. The renovations ya’ll did to our federal buildings are wonderful. But now, we’ve run into a problem with our prisoners not wanting to leave. Maybe the accommodations are too nice?”
“If you want to make a person well, they should be comfortable, no?
“But forcing us to give a 15×15 room to every one of ‘em is a little crazy, don’t you think?”
“Crazy?” he shrugged, “Too much? Tell me, how much space do you think you personally need, right now? When you go home at night, how much space is enough? You don’t live in a shack, do you? Surely, you don’t sleep in a cardboard box?”
“But Mr. President, I’m not a prisoner.”
El Presidente strolled toward the belligerent congressman, stood before him, and exhaled thick, white smoke in his face, “Imagine, if one day, those people found out about the real you. What if they met your friends? What if they knew where you spent that stolen money or they knew what you still do in your spare time? You would like your future home to be comfortable, no?”
The congressman closed his eyes and nodded.
“I’m glad you understand,” Presidente Salvada inched closer to his subordinate.
The congressman suddenly complained, “You’re right; but–”
Salvada grabbed the congressman’s black sport coat and swung his fat, old body halfway across the gold-plated aluminum ledge of the hotel balcony. “Or maybe your people would enjoy watching you die for those sins, right now!”
The congressman’s upper torso dangled over the city like a swollen, suspended meteor waiting to wreak havoc on the earth below.
“Everybody look up here! Ever wanted to see a fat pig fly!”
Congressman Reems gasped, “Mr. President! Please, don’t. Please. You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
El Presidente smiled, “But, why? As much as your people love to watch others die!” He struggled to keep the old man from toppling backwards towards the less-than-innocent city below. Salvada cleared his throat spat in the congressman’s face, and threw him to the chateau’s glass floor; sweat and urine smeared across the immaculate flooring. Salvada walked over and stood above the crying old man and said, “Allow me to make myself clear. As long as I’m the boss, there will be no government-sponsored murders, and EVERY ONE OF YOUR PRISONERS gets a 15×15 cell or next time, you will suffer so much that you will beg for the death your voters crave for.”
Salvada’s guards dragged the fat, sobbing congressman into the gold-trimmed elevator and sent him back to his world below.
El Presidente Salvada leaned against the banister and gorged his body with the aromatic evidence of a million poor decisions, the smell of a city made rich on the profits of elaborate addictions.
And so it was.
Three years passed; the southern district prisons overflowed with sunburned inmates demanding for a 15×15 cell they’d never receive.
Devin Carlos’ recent conviction was for the involuntary manslaughter of his ex-girlfriend. He was only 24, and had received a 45-year-sentence with zero chance for parole; the judge decided that Devin would be a perfect subject for the first public use of the Rapid Sentence Fulfillment Machine.
“Can’t we save some money and just hang these idiots? Wouldn’t that be easier?” The State News had asked.
“Shouldn‘t we be concerned with the possibility of irreversible damages to the environment from this machine?” the Partida Izquierda asked.
An enamoured Christian Coalition leader rallied for its use, “But think of all the justice that could be handed down with this awesome contraption!”
The night before the first sentence fulfillment, State News interviewed El Presidente Salvada concerning the machine.
“God created all men equal, right? And every time the sin confess up, every man and woman on Earth gets a chance to do what’s right. These people, I’m sorry, these criminals, they chose the wrong thing at the wrong time. And maybe they deserve to die, but I will not–no, I cannot cast anothrr murderous stone.” El Presidente said.
“Some people see robbing time as being out-of-bounds for our society; do you believe this particular machine goes too far in serving justice?” The young blonde-haired female state reporter asked.
El Presidente bowed his head and thought for a moment. He looked up again, stared deep into the camera lens, and answered in his signature suave style and said, “It’s my ultimate responsibility to make good decisions. And I feel that, at least in this moment of our colorful history, we have done just that; we have made the best decision.”
The inmate received his final briefing by a middle-aged stiff-jawed male soldier and a petite female scientist wearing a white lab coat and glasses.
“Remember,” the soldier said, “we can’t interfere after it begins.”
“He’s right,” the female scientist said, “you’ll be in there for a relative forty-five years. If you have any unfinished business, you might need to wrap it up when you go to the podium.”
The inmate laid his chained hands across the metal table in front of him and asked the scientist, “What if I die?”
“Mr. Carlos, the machine is perfectly safe for humans.”
“No, what if I die before I’m supposed to get out? Like from a heart attack or something?”
The scientist lowered her gaze, “You know–what if you died in a normal prison? It’s kinda like the same thing, but in the machine, you’ll die alone. But you know what, most people would probably prefer it that way–alone.”
The cell door creeped open and a tall, bearded man in his late 50s limped into the spacious holding cell.
The female scientist turned toward the door and said, “Professor Espacio, you made it!”
“Oh course,” he laughed, “there’s no way I would miss the inaugural demonstration of such an amazing machine.” He looked at the startled soldier and said, “Dr. Calendario, ahem, I’m mean Rebecca, was my brightest student. I always hoped she would accomplish something spectacular! But this is beyond my wildest dreams!”
Dr. Calendario blushed. “Oh, professor. It was only because of your remarkable teaching ability–”
“It’s seven o’clock, Docs. We’d better get going,” he looked at the prisoner and said, “Just think, if it all goes well, you’ll be home in time to catch your story on the 11 o’clock news.”
Dr. Calendario rolled her eyes.
The machine purred as they entered the converted lethal injection chamber, with a viewing area on the other side of the glass wall. A small seating area teemed with the cameras and crew of State and anti-State reporters. The prison staff had seated the Carlos family and the family of the victim in the front row adjacent from each other. Both moms, crying–both dads, no-shows.
The soldier escorted Carlos to a podium in front of the viewing area windowpane.
Frank Hix, the newly elected leader of La Partida de los Republicanas, stood beside him and spoke, “Good evening y’all. We’re gonna make history, tonight. Hopefully, if it all works out, our prison systems are going to really start shrinking and then we’ll sart humanely doing prison sentences without wasting a bunch of money–and time– on prisoners.” He motioned towards the prisoner, “Now we’re going to let the prisoner say a word before we take him inside the chamber.” Congressmen Hix stepped aside and Carlos took his place at the podium.
An entire planet’s full of televisions tuned to the event. It was the largest live-streamed program ever, having slighly more viewers than the first human steps on Mars.
A woman, obviously pregnant, flung up from her seat on the front row and yelled, “It’s not true! Tell them, Carlos! Tell them what really happened!”
A soldier rushed forward, placed a firm hand on her shoulder, and lowered her slowly back into the chair.
Carlos slowly turned and shuffled to the door of the chamber. Two soldiers struggled to open the heavy lead door. As the door opened, Carlos caught sight of the room he would spend the rest of his life.
The holding cell was almost bare. It contained a bed with no sheets, a massive closet filled with ready-to-eat food packages, containers filled with hundreds of gallons of water, a large bookshelf with selected titles by the family of the victim, one tablet of writing paper, a pencil, a waste-combustion toilet, dry shower, daily health scanner, and a closed circuit television.
As per the Congress of the Americas ruling #4.2.5, “Each rapid-sentencing-fulfillment prisoner shall be provided a closed-circuit television connected to a live feed of the family and media viewing area. This feed shall provide the prisoner with sufficient evidence of rapid-sentence-fulfillment.”
Carlos stepped through the doorway and into the white-walled chamber. A soldier unlocked the chains from Carlos’ hands and feet. He handed Carlos an instruction manual for the time-cell, slowly backed out of the room, and closed the windowless door.
El Presidente viewed the event on his antique gold-plated television set from his Hotel Chateau california-king. The first lady, Emily Salvada, rested her book on the comforter placed her hand on his chest and said, “You did the right thing, no?”
El Presidente sighed, “If it works…I don’t know, this is too much for me. I wish I could turn it all off and go to bed.”
“But he’s a killer, right?”
“But, if they’re mistaken, how could we restore this man?” This had been Presidente Salvadas’ private concern since the machine’s inception. “There’s no way for redemption. It’s not right.”
“It’s like you’ve always said: it’s what the people demanded,” Emily said, lifting her book from the bedspread.
“No, the people prefer death. This is just a weak substitute.”
The television network displayed a countdown timer for 45 minutes along the bottom of the screen.
A female reporter said, “Ok, folks. It seems they’re about to start the fulfillment device in just a moment.”
Another reporter read, “If you’re just tuning in, the actual event begins at 7:30pm EST and ends just around 8:15pm EST. If successful, the inmate should re-emerge from the cell having aged forty-five years. As we understand, the prisoner will experience the full sentence in his own relative experience. Forty-five actual years in the chamber.”
“So, each minute in our time,” the female newscaster added, “will equal a full year for the prisoner.”
“Prison staff have fitted the chamber in order to sustain the inhabitant for the full 45 years through futuristic food storage and ingenious waste management solutions.”
“Sadly, we won’t be able to provide a live feed of inside the cell because of the rate of speed at which the event will take place, and for other national security and media storage reasons.”
The camera cut to Dr. Calendario and her team of white-coat technicians manning a control control panel in a small lead-lined room, with an 8in thick window, facing the machine’s entrance.
“I wonder, if this goes badly,” Emily asked, “who will they blame? The almighty El Presidente Salvada, or the lady Einstein on the TV?”
The door to the machine vacuum-sealed behind him, Carlos looked at the countdown timer, above the door, behind him.
He walked to the twin-sized bed and scanned the chrome bookshelf beside it. Its shelves overflowed; by law, all of the books were selected by his victim’s family. He was thankful that her mother had great taste in books and irony: As I Lay Dying, A Death in the Family, To Kill a Mockingbird, Shawshank Redemption, A Wrinkle in Time, The Time Machine and many other books with ominous titles directed at the theme of the event.
Carlos laughed at the facade.
On the bottom shelf, stood a collection of Mexican Revolutionary biographies and other revolutionary literature from many other times and many other places. Most of the titles were in Spanish.
“Genius,” he said, as he found another shelf with titles devoted to learning Spanish.
The chamber shuddered. He asked the thunderous room, “Is this going to hurt?”
The countdown timer clicked to 44:364:23:59:59. A television screen, above the foot of his bed allowed him a view of the inanimate audience outside the machine. The unexpected start of the machine had jolted the crowd backwards, but to Carlos, they hadn’t moved, and he wouldn’t see the motion of their backwards jerk for at least two days. Even then, they would have only begun the initial movements from their startled shock, and they also wouldn’t finish being surprised until four days after they first began to flinch.
Carlos reclined in his bed, removed a thick yellow book from the shelf, and began to read Spanish for Dummies.
44:364:23:57:34 to go; he had a lot of work ahead of him. Many people were counting on it.