Death Watch

You do something you shouldn't and you get caught, sometimes there's mercy for you.

Sometimes there's just death. And time, and you wait.

Death Watch by Steve Prusky

The dead man gazed through the narrow wire mesh glass opening in his cell pondering a life he would never live. Well past the triple rows of concertina wire, and the steep twenty-foot high earthen berm surrounding Ely State Prison, dim sunset flooded the snowcapped Nevada White Pine Mountains a darker desert fawn. Night crept up their rock-strewn slopes. The highest peaks turned shades of storm cloud gray, then darkness soon swallowed those too denying him one last glimpse of faint light.  
“Sliver of a Moon tonight, overcast too, not much to see past dusk,” the death watch said.
“Total darkness; a fitting end,” the dead man said. Stricken by a thousand-yard stare he gazed at the blinding formless night beyond the thick glass. The mountains slept as peaceful as the dead veiled in a burial shroud of gloom.
The death watch rose from his prison issue chair, turned his back to the dead man, and cast an eye upon the clock above his perch. He bent his upper torso forward so that it was parallel with the floor, clenched his hands behind his lower back and raised his arms as high as they could go. “Gotta limber up come times like these, takes my mind off what I gotta do.”
“I’ll try that some day when stress becomes too much to handle.”
Never seen a dead man so tranquil, so passive as you,” the death watch said.
“Kismet, I don’t fear it now.”
“Not sure I’d face my fate as serene as you.”
The flat black hands on the wall mount clock opposite the dead man’s cell circled toward his last hour. One minute stole the next, shortening a moment of his life a second at a time.
“I take solace knowing when it'll happen. The uncertainty of the moment is still a mystery to everyone that side of the bars,” the dead man said.
“Skimmed through your court files this morning,” the death watch said. 
“A litany I bet; lengthy as a Tolstoy novel.”
“More like a collection of Elmore Leonard’s best crime stories. Armed robbery, possession with intent, grand larceny, trafficking,” the death watch said. “Thirty out of your fifty-five years on this earth in prison. Now this?”
“Didn’t figure the jury to hand me the noose, I counted on life without like everyone else.”
“Locked down alone fifteen years between appeals you must have brooded on this day. Did the jury’s reasoning for so harsh a sentence ever occur to you?”
“Hadn’t considered it.”
“You’re not here for murdering a smack back whore, the jury condemned you for squandering your only chance at life.”
The death watch stood up, looked up at the time and broke out a ring strung with jangling jail keys. He unlocked the dead man’s cell door with a rattling brassy knell. The dead man peered through the slit glass opening beyond the slumbering mountains into the void of infinite moonless night.
Steve is a native Detroiter turned toughened Las Vegas citizen of the streets these past thirty years. His work has appeared here before as well as The Legendary, A Twist of Noir and others. Find Steve on Facebook.