It was a grim place, but a safe one. The chipped paint on the bricks the worn lino on the floor, it was familiar, secure, predictable, but outside something terrible awaited me. If only I could stay here in this little cell I could be happy. The air hangs still in the room, there is a rising tension as no one has spoken for the last few minutes and the silence is getting to me.
Click!, the key turns in the lock and the heavy iron door swings open and she walks in. Mrs Green, "noosem Green", the hangwoman. I feel my flesh tingle in terror as she walks towards me. She is about forty with short blond hair, a squat women dressed in a short black leather jacket and black slacks. I notice the pinkness of her lipstick and the parsing blueness of her eyes. I find myself standing looking directly into the hangwoman's eyes. They study me intensely mapping the features of my face looking for to find what is within me. Then she smiles a thin sickly menacing smile.
"In a moment I am going to take your life, now it matters to me not what you have done, the court has said you must hang and I am the one to carry it out. What concerns me is how you face up to that sentence, how you feel about your hanging"
The face comes closer to mine until we almost touch, her breath smells of violets and I can see the wrinkles around her nose
"What ever you do it is going to happen. I am going to stretch the pretty little neck of yours with my rope. Now! it will be easier on me and a lot easier on you if we get this over with quickly. You let me do my job and I will make it as easy for you as I can. Is that a deal?"
I nod and manage a feeble "Yes, Mrs Green" my voice squeaking with emotion
She flashes another icy little smile at me and says
"There, that's a good girl I knew you would understand"
"But Mrs Green" I stammer " I don't feel very brave"
"There's no need to worry, you don't have to be brave just let me do my job"
I look back into the hard blue eyes and say pathetically, almost in tears
"Will it hurt?"
She holds my shoulders and looks at me quizzically
"of cause! it hurts! what would be the point hanging you if it didn't hurt? But the choice is up to you go screaming and pissing your pants or quick and easy. Which is it to be then?" she squeezes my arms tightly
"Oh! quick please, please quick" I beg
"Very well, turn round" she says
I turn and she grabs my wrist, in a moment she has it held fast in a leather strap. Then the other hand is secured as she works the buckle tight. I shiver with fright and I think I hear her purr like a contented cat. She spins me round to face her.
"they don't pinch do they?" she says in a half mocking way
"Come with me"
We walk out of the cell she leading with my escorts holding me up on each side. I don't know if it is the fear of what is to come next or the difficulty of walking in these dam heals that causes me to stumble along the corridor and into the exercise yard. Our little party walks briskly to keep up with Mrs Green. Her bovine hips sway from side to side as she almost sprints down the alleyway between the condemned block and the outer wall towards the cold meat locker. We turn and there it is, the execution shed a low lean too with a large central door that swings open to reveal a heavy beam with a noose dangling from it. My legs feel jelly like and the escort need to hold me steady while I walk the last few yards.
Mrs Green turns and holds out her hands to stop me just in front of the rope, its deadly O covered in soft brown calf leather. I feel some unseen person place something around my legs, just above the knee and draw it tight. Mrs Green puts a finger under my chin and raises my head.
"Look at me" she says
"It is my duty to inform you that the sentence of the court will now be carried out on you. You shall suffer death by being hanged by the neck until you be dead, your body to be interred in the prison grounds"
"Now before I finish my preparations I do like to add a little comment of my own. The face you see before you is the last you will ever see and my hands will be that last to touch you, not a lover or a mother, but an executioner. Worry not, I shall take good care of you and hope you will think about what has brought you to this unhappy end. Think on this last moment in this world before I have the pleasure to send you out of it"
I look into those eyes for the last time, they are without pity, the lips curl into a cold friendless smile as she takes out the white hood of an inside pocket and shakes it out ready to go over my head. The movements are slow and precise as she draws it down over my face, her pink lips form a silent "good bye"
The world is gone and I am cocooned in a sift cotton sack, it undulates against my face as I breath, gently brushing my cheek. It smells of cheep perfume sprayed on to hide the stench of death and the fear of the other heads that have worn this bag upon their heads. Then under my chin I feel it slip serpent like about my neck, the noose. It slips round gently then there is a short and sudden violent tug as Mrs Green brings it tight about my neck. It is secured so firmly it becomes difficult to swallow.
And now I am alone the hands that supported me are gone and I sway slightly giddy to be free. In that moment I realise I have surrendered all, there is nothing more to be done to me. I am free, I have no more decisions to make, nothing to strive for. In a moment I will hang, my end squalid and violent, but there is nothing I can do about it and that lightens my heart. BANG! and the moment is gone.
An hour later Mrs Green stands beside the slab beneath the gallows, looking at the naked body of the woman she has just stripped and taken down after her hanging. The face does not appear to show any signs of the frantic struggle between life and death, which marked her end, though about the neck is a dark read rope mark with heavy bruising on the left side. There is no other evidence of the violent end that this poor woman met, except the gouge marks on her wrists as she fought against her bonds.
"Silly, silly, silly girl" says Mrs Green to herself
"Well! it is all over now" and she touches the reddened grove about the corpses neck
"see it was all for your own good"