Stories, Poems, Essays
by Jens Grabarske
The Gallows Road
The last walk of a man. But is he guilty?

This story was written for the City Theatre of Aldradach in 2018. It was performed on the Drachenfest. The current version was published in the anthology “Tales from Aldradach”.

One hundred and thirty steps left in my life.

The sweat runs into my eyes, but I can’t wipe it away, my hands tied behind my back, my arm half-twisted. The steps only so far as the rope between my ankles allows. Step by step. Around me the crowd, they clamour and shout, but I don’t hear anything. I don’t see anything. The executioner pushes me on. I only feel my beating heart. And the salt on my lips.

One hundred and sixteen steps left in my life.

“Maria…” I think. I think of her soft lips and her beautiful breast I remember how our bodies entangled and enwinded, how we grabbed each other as if we were out of our minds and how she shouted my name. I glanced at her afterwards and the stars faded and I said that I loved her. I didn’t want to taste anything else anymore than her lips. I didn’t want to feel anything else anymore than her hand on my chest. I didn’t want to hear anything else anymore than my name, how she uttered it. The way only she did.

Ninety eight steps left in my life.

A stone hits me. The guards reestablish order. But only with a grin. I no longer have the right to be unscathed. My bare feet look for a proper footing and I stumble, I stagger on. I see them already, the gallows. I see the crowd that is waiting for me. The hatred in their eyes. Some hold rocks, as if I was still able to flee. As if I wasn’t soon facing a higher court. They shout my name and others with them. “Bastard”. And “murderer”. What do they know, Maria.

Sixty six steps left in my life.

“Guilty” is a word. How insignificant it is when it’s human beings who are using it. What do they know about you and me, Maria. They don’t know how much I loved you. I didn’t have an advocate in court. The judge said, I wouldn’t need one anyway. There was only one punishment for my crime. Only one punishment, he said. But what is death, Maria, compared with the punishment not to be able to lie next to you anymore - not to be able to touch you anymore. At that spot, you know the one I mean. The spot, where your voice says “Stop it!” but your face says “Go on!” All of that is over, Maria.

Thirty eight steps left in my life.

It was our secret, you said. You were promised to Markus. We knew that. But we were in love. Every night I sneaked into your chamber and at dawn I left the house. I was like a shadow. A shadow that loved you, Maria. And every morning saying goodbye was bittersweet. We knew the danger. If Markus found out, you said, if he found us both, then I would die! You were afraid, but oh, the fear made the game even more exciting, more enticing for you. And so you let me in. First into your chamber, then into your bed and then into you… You were so warm and soft. And I was as happy as a man can be.

Thirty four steps left in my life.

And on one horrible night, Maria, I stayed until dawn and longer than that. I held your lifeless body in my arms and cried bitterly. I should have fled. But I could only hold you in my arms, Maria, as usual, while the blood ran down your throat and over your breasts. Your eyes didn’t stare at me, but at a ghost far beyond what we will ever perceive or understand. Soon that which you always feared would happen, happened. Your maid entered to wake you and saw both of us in bed together. But she also saw that nobody would be able to wake you anymore.

Twelve steps left in my life.

The guards arrested me, Maria. But I was the victim. It was a conspiracy. The matter was clear as day - for the court - and the verdict was found quickly. But how would they know what had happened, Maria? I now have to face the final court, but who atones for my sins? Who puts in a good word for me with the gods? It’s me who was suffering.

The last step in my life.

I ascend the scaffold and the noose is put around my neck. The executioner and the judge read the case and the verdict. Like I had spoken my verdict some time ago. You said that you were out of town. We couldn’t meet. I climbed up to your chamber anyway, I don’t know why. Maybe I wanted to smell the pillows one more time. To lay in your bed and imagine that you were there. But you were there. But you weren’t alone. It wasn’t Markus, his name was different.

But you pronounced his name the same way in which you had always pronounced mine. I didn’t speak. But my dagger did. He announced the verdict and executed it. Executed you and the unknown man.

Whether I would like to say a final word, the executioner asks.

“I loved you, Maria. Wherever you are now, I want you to know that. Because I don’t think that I will see you in a moment.” And then there was only darkness.

Last modified on 2020-04-02