The Last Night
by Andy Hollandbeck
Johnny lay in a clearing, damp, uncut grass around his head, staring at the night sky. At this moment, Johnny had everything he had every wished for for the last twenty-three years.
To be outside. . . to be alone . . . to be free.
Johnny knew he couldn’t enjoy it for long; one of the guards had taken care of that. Even now, he could hear the search dogs yowling their way toward him.
But it didn’t matter. He could feel his warmth quickly draining from the hole in his side. But still, he thought, this is a natural coolness, not the conditioned, recirculated, artificial coolness of my prison cell.
He studied the patchwork clouds illumined by the full moon, trying to pick out shapes like he had done as a child.
Every cloud looked like a key.
The dogs were getting closer. Johnny could hear the jingle-jangle of their collars and tags, the grunts of their handlers.
But they wouldn’t find him in time. Even now, the clouds dimmed, the dazzling moon fading into a hazy tunnel. Johnny knew that soon, very soon, he would be in a place without locks, without cages.
The authorities would eventually find his body. Will they be disappointed, wondered Johnny, to find a smile on my face? To know that I had died happy? To know that I had died a free man?
With that thought, a door unlocked and opened, and Johnny stepped through.
[Andy Hollandbeck is a copy editor from Indianapolis.]