The words echoed in his ears, and the world closed in around him. Light turning to darkness, hope to despair. Guilty. But he didn’t do it. But he had known this was coming.
The evidence was overwhelming, witnesses, DNA. Someone had set him up. Who? It didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to find out from his cell.
His lawyer estimated he could get years more by appealing the decision. Those would be years in prison. He filed the appeal anyway.
His “crime” was kept secret, but the inmates found out. His first week in, a shiv to his side. He got moved to isolation. There he stayed, pacing his small cell. Alone.
Despised by the other inmates. Even the guards beat him.
Most of his days were spent quiet. Pondering what had happened. How? He sought spiritual council. The priest was kind. The only person left in this world who would be kind to him.
“Father Mark.” He spoke up. “Is suicide a forgivable sin?”
“My son,” The priest responded, “through the lord all sins can be forgiven….” A pause, “but you must not take that path.”
A few more weeks and he’d had enough. His sheets tied together. A noose formed. He was ready. Then his cell door opened. A guard.
“Inmate.” The guard paused seeing what was about to happen. “Stop!” It was too late, he kicked the chair out from under him and began to choke.
The guard rushed over, doing his best to lift him while yelling for help.
The world went black.
He woke up in the hospital. An officer by his bed. He was confused. The officer began talking. He had trouble following. Something about new evidence, the case being reopened.
Hope began to return.
A few weeks later he was free, but forever scarred by his experience. His family gone, he sold the house. He couldn’t go back there. He got an apartment.
His settlement from the government was enough to live off of. And so he wallowed. Alone, now in a prison of his own making.
It was there that he lived out the rest of his days. His only company the priest. Now his friend. Once a week they met for coffee.
Until many years later, the priest came and the door wasn’t answered. He found the spare key under the mat and entered the residence. There he found the man, deceased by his own hand.
The scars had never healed. The loss. The priest cried, then called the police. A funeral was arranged. Attended by only the clergyman and the police force. An apology too late.
For a life ruined.