Join our amazing community of book lovers and get the latest stories doing the rounds.

We respect your privacy and promise no spam. We’ll send you occasional writing tips and advice. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Short Story Contest 2020-21

Death Row Sun Melancholy

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

When the sound of a pop surfaced back to my ears, I froze in place. In that moment, the howling murderers, rapists and what not phased out of both – my vision and my hearing, no offence but they were still in their cells, unlike the tall gentleman whose back stood unchained in front of me. My senses were reinstated by the reassuring voice of the man in the uniform who said, ‘Forgive me for repeating, but let’s go through this for one last time. Like the warden said, we don’t usually allow prisoners without handcuffs.Well, Mr. Hatcher here, his behaviour and you being a famous newspaper-man convinced us to let you two… talk. I’ll be following at all times, like the warden said, and if at any point the situation seems dangerous,’ he looked away from me to the gentleman without the cuffs, ‘I’ll interrupt.’

I exhaled the longest breath of my life, time was passing slowly, and I wasn’t much interested in meeting criminals for coffees, especially ones who had a couple of days to live. My eyes met the officer’s – I had to say something. So, I muttered, ‘I understand that very well,’ I remember how weak I sounded. The officer gave Hatcher a pair of sunglasses, I couldn’t see the man’s front, he was still facing the wall, only then he turned around and said, ‘Feels great to be out of the iron, you know,’ Hatcher paused, my eyes followed his head staring down at my chest, ‘You don’t have one of those nametags? Or do you? I’m sorry I-I, can’t remember your name, I forgot.’

‘That is not of your concern, Mr. Hatcher. It’s the interview that you should focus on,’ I was trying to sound tough, I pulled out my modern recorder from my breast pocket as I continued, ‘as a matter of fact which has already begun,’ and click. I was so young then.


Every so often, as we moved along the prison corridors, people would look, some would say something, mostly to Hatcher. He would ignore it, for the most part, but when sunlight came through some open door, or window, Mr. Hatcher, in his sunglasses, would look away to that as if nothing else existed in the world.

‘So, you’re a diabetic,’ I intervened.

‘What are the chances of that in prison, right?’ Hatcher smiled into the light, and then we heard a meow – a ginger cat with glaring eyes. It took me a while to realise that a cat had walked into our conversation.

‘It’s a privilege, isn’t it? To adopt a pet, in prison?’ I asked rhetorically.

‘They say it gives us a sense of responsibility,’ Hatcher rubbed the cat’s chin, ‘but I wouldn’t call it a privilege.’

‘Where is the cat going to go after, after you–?’

‘After I die tomorrow?’ Hatcher’s eyebrows drew closer, but I couldn’t tell where his eyes were, or where they were looking, and his glasses were too dark, even in the light. I almost thought of calling security, but then the cat meowed, and he looked down.He said, ‘he’ll still come around.’

He let go of the cat as we watched the animaljump out a small window, and disappear into the outside world. Hatcher kept looking at the cat, or the window, and said, ‘He is free.’

‘What is his name again?’

‘I never gave him one.’


A few minutes later we found ourselves on the way to the prison hospital with the officer still following us from a distance, but I felt rather comfortable with Hatcher by now, something about him fascinated me. He was silent, a day before his death. Whatever happens to the ones who say live every day like it’s your last.

Although I still did not know what to make of him, I had many questions for Hatcher, but I didn’t know which ones to ask. Only then I heard Hatcher say, ‘Isn’t it funny?’

I was alerted, he once again started reminding me who he is, and why am I there.

‘What is?’ I spoke.

‘The fact that today they’ll give me a shot to save me from diabetes, but tomorrow they’ll give me a shot to kill me. It’s redundant, what a joke right?’

‘Well, just in case your sugar levels–’

‘Are you married?’

‘Why would you want to know that?’

‘I’m only asking because the girl that works in here, the blonde, who gives me the insulin shot, she’s pretty nice. I’d like to take her out, only if they weren’t taking me out, ha!’ I remained silent, because I knew he wanted to talk, he just wanted to do something.


After winking at the young blonde nurse as he got the last injection that was saving his life, Hatcher and I found ourselvessitting on plastic chairs in the outside recreational area between the prison and its hospital. The officer figured out some paperwork he had to every day; Hatcher was allowed five minutes more than the other prisoners to sit outside. I investigated the distance, and with no other prisoner around – the place felt, rather peaceful.

Hatcher’s eyes remained sealed to the sun.

‘You know they only allow us an hour outside of the cell. An hour,’ Hatcher said.

‘Well, you do have the unfair advantage of five extra minutes. I know that’s not a lot, but, with no else around it must be something.’

‘Five minutes,’ Hatcher smirked at the sun and we sat in silence for some time until I felt as if the recorder with the straight line on the screen and its red blinking light pressured me to say something. ‘When a person, who finds himself in the situation that you are in, and is this close to–’

‘What situation? Why are you so afraid of just saying it?’

‘Well, okay, prisoners on death row, like you. When they are this close to the end, they begin to act in a manner that is not identical to their usual behaviour. Take for example, an expressive or a violent person, by this time, tends to get rather silent, and a person who might’ve not believed in God begins to believe suddenly. So, I’m only trying to figure out what you–’

‘Do you know my crime?’ Mr. Hatcher interrupted, still looking at the sun.

‘Yes, I’m aware of it,’ I said as my eyes jumped between the corners of my vision, without moving my head, looking for the officer, and just then, he came in my view.

‘Do you know at what age I did it?

‘Yes. I’m very aware of it as well.’

‘Well, what’s the difference between them and someone like me?’

‘Look, Mr. Hatcher, I’ll be very frank with you. I’m only here to observe how your last day goes, it’s a rare opportunity for a journalist, but frankly, I don’t give a shit that you accepted to volunteer for this. I don’t think any prisoner on death row would like to spend their last day sitting around talking about nothing, but I’m only obliged to hear what you want to say, and not give my opinions on the prison system of this country, or any country.’

I looked down at the recorder, the screen was a waveform chaos, like mountains, mountains of my unjust anger. I regretted it instantly, but I knew this article would be something I’ll never write now, but at that moment, I only worried what I would say to my boss who commissioned this ‘rare opportunity.’

Hatcher sighed, and then said, ‘What is the title of the article you’ll be writing on me?’

‘I-I haven’t decided that yet.’

‘Say it.’

‘I haven’t decided-’

‘Say it!’

The sun lost its colour for a second. My heart skipped a beat. The officer began to approach, but something within me made me shout: ‘It’s all fine officer. Please. Let us be.’ The officer didn’t stop, I shouted the same thing once again, and I could see him examining Hatcher’s behaviour, as if he was a guilty dog, and this was the owner’s warning. Hatcher remained still.

Judgement Day of a Prisoner on Death Row,’ I said.

Hatcher let out a laugh, and said, ‘Did you come up with that? Because if you did that’s shit.’

‘Like I said, I haven’t decided yet,’ I said. His laugh was comforting, the only thing convincing about him.

‘You know, earlier, when you talked about privilege? This is privilege. When I sit here for five minutes. Every day. I wonder if people even give importance to five minutes anymore. I hear the world outside is fast.’

‘It is fast, and it’s getting faster, but it’s actually slowing us down,’ I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could tell Hatcher was intrigued, I continued, ‘I remember how I got into journalism, I would go around the townrecording my conversations with friends and family with a tape recorder my father gave me when I was a child.’

‘You know I got in here when I was a child.’

A vision of my childhood flashed by my eyes. How could someone, at such a young age, do something like what he had done? I was looking at the sunlight, and so was Hatcher, the sun used to be brighter back then, even though it’s getting hotter now.

‘I was stupid back then,’ he continued, ‘I wish I had known.’

‘Known what?’

‘Known that the world was going to be as cruel to me as I was to it. That it would not help me but torture me over something I did so long ago, every day.’

‘Long ago does not diminish what you did–’

‘Well then why didn’t they shoot me right there then? Why keep me here all these years and remind me every day, every second the one mistake I made? Their answer to what I did as a young kid is to kill me?’

His tone had alerted the officer, who I could see approaching us. I didn’t stop him. Perhaps, the biggest mistake of my life.

I asked him, ‘Do you want to live?’Hatcher turned his head to me, but he said nothing, I continued, ‘what would you want do, then?’

‘Do what? I don’t know, get a job at some flower shop, get my cat, and ask out that blondie. Oh and–’

‘Let’s go Hatcher, that’s enough,’ the officer interrupted as he began to take Hatcher towards the prison.

‘No, not today,’ he calmly said resisting the officer, who surprisingly let go of him, ‘Thanks officer. Like I was saying, ask out that nurse, and–’

I couldn’t tell in the moment, but the officer pulled out a stun gun, ‘Step back!’ He shouted aiming the gun at Hatcher’s torso, and then he took a shot.

‘There was no need for that!’ I shouted at the officer.

‘Sir, I know what I’m doing! These assholes don’t deserve anything. Y-You should step back, I should’ve known this maniac would snap someday.’

I couldn’t say anything further. I only looked at Hatcher as he laid on the floor, shaking. ‘Come on now, you bat,’ the officer said, who’d started dragging Hatcher when he stopped moving. Only then Hatcher’s glasses dropped revealing his dying eyes, but Hatcher still looked at the sun, knowing this was the last time he will get to.

Help arrived late, as it usually does. The officerand a couple of other people told me to end the interview there, and to not mention that such a thing had ended it. In a matter of seconds, there was a chaos, out of the entire crowd, I saw the blonde nurse look at me, and she looked empty.

As he and the other officers took Mr. Hatcher away, he only said one thing, ‘Please tell me your name? Please tell me your name, please?’ Again and again, and again. The other officers said things to him, probably involving swears too. They took my recorder away for privacy purposes. I didn’t complain. I stood in silence. I looked at Hatcher, he didn’t give up on his question, but I didn’t answer. When I looked at the sun, I didn’t look back, his voice was louder than the crowd, it echoed, even outside, as if nature gave him that power, it called for him, to end the pain. I didn’t look at the crowd, until I could not see or hear anyone.I thought about hislast words to me: ‘Please tell me your name.’

When everyone was gone, I stood alone, outside, with the recorder still going, and in the distance, by one of the windows of the prison, I saw Hatcher’s cat. The sun didn’t shine anymore, if it ever did after that day. I don’t think it did.

I told my boss, whatever. I was scolded, for a few minutes, like a child.

Two days later they told me he had died, not because of the shot, but the night before. No public records otherthan cause of death was cardiac arrest.

I never wrote that article.

Udbhav Rai

Udbhav Rai is an eighteen-year-old writer residing in India. His creative inspiration comes from writers like Philip K. Dick and Albert Camus. After recently being published in Flash Fiction North, he aims to write hybrid-genre stories that stem from little things as individual emotions to larger subjects about existential crisis.

Write A Comment