DANIEL’S KNEE BUCKLED AT EVERY STEP HE TOOK AS HE WALKED BRISKLY THROUGH THE SECURITY DOORS of the Death Row unit of the prison. The feeling was surreal, considering he was also a guest at the same cell block just three weeks ago. However, the trauma he had experienced during his six months incarceration, was nothing compared to the numbness he felt in his limbs as he walked towards the chapel. I never signed up for this, he thought. Daniel had seen indescribable human carnage and destruction in war zones in his entire career as a military officer. Still, nothing could have prepared him for what was about to take place.
He had arrived at the prison premises in his full military regalia an hour earlier than scheduled for his visit with Calabash. During the drive, he contemplated on what to say to his friend of twenty-five years. Daniel could not find the words but the tears that flowed down his cheeks as he kept wiping his face. He had reluctantly gotten three handkerchiefs from Evelyn before he left home and was glad he did. He could see the headlines in the media already -
“BREAKING NEWS - Chief of Army Staff in Tears as Nation Survives Foreign Invasion” -
The narrative would be harmful and misconstrued. I can’t afford to be tried again in the public court of social media, he thought. Evelyn and the kids had paid the ultimate price for his career as he looked forward to his last week as the COAS.
Calabash had personally requested his presence in addition to his wife and children. A request Daniel could not deny, no matter how awkward he felt despite the betrayal. If it hadn’t been the grace of God, he would have been making the same request.
IT WAS 5:30 AM WHEN THE MILITARY POLICE BROUGHT CALABASH INTO THE VISITOR’S ROOM. Daniel could barely look at him as he held back tears seeing his friend walking in leg chains, connected to the chains around his waist and his handcuffs. Calabash had lost a lot of weight since his arrest three weeks ago. Daniel wished he could do something more to spare his life, but there was no reprieve available. The Supreme Council had handed down a death sentence by the Firing Squad in accordance to anyone found guilty of treason as prescribed by law.
After the MPs exited the room, both men stared at each other with teary filled eyes that spoke volumes.
Finally, Daniel regained his composure, still wiping his face.
“Why, Calabash? Why? I don’t understand. We were brothers. Why didn’t you come to me? It hurts.”
“Forgive me,” replied Calabash, still crying.
“I forgave you from the moment I heard of your involvement, even when I was still in chains.”
One hour had passed by as Daniel consoled his friend. The MPs returned to inform Daniel of the arrival of Calabash’s family.
“Don’t go,” asked Calabash as he held Daniels’s hand.
“I’ll be here till the last minute. I assure you, we will see each other again.” Daniel hurried out of the room into an adjacent hallway next to the chapel. He couldn’t bear running into Maggie and kids, as he held back tears.
It’s been half an hour since Daniel heard Maggie wailing when escorted out of the building. He looked at his watch and couldn't shake the dread. The soldiers were ready and in position at the prison courtyard. Daniel could hear Calabash’s voice singing through the hollow walls of the prison as six armed guards led him with the Chaplin right behind. Man of Sorrows was both their favorite song as young cadets at the academy.
“Father God, have mercy,” said Daniel repeatedly under his breath from the first volley of shots fired fifteen minutes later, to the sixth volley that followed. The walls of the prison echoed the crackling sounds of the rifle shots with an intense roar.
Silence followed, except the birds chirping overhead.
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