Last Day of a Condemned Man
Well, my sister, you know all my secrets now. Do I know all of yours? You loved your man, stuck by him even when his world came tumbling down. Killed yourself, in the end, in order not to be parted from him.
But then you loved him, didn’t you?
I loved my kitten. He was little, and defenceless, and soft and pretty, and had pretty endearing ways. My master, on the other hand, was rough and cruel. His life had been hard. He had hurt and been hurt too many times to remain loveable.
How would he have reacted if we’d been aware of what was going on? The world-wide revolt of the clans – the weapons-smuggling, the powercuts, the massacres? All that took place while we were stuck inside that hotel room, cut off from the outside world, at his own insistence.
His rights changed while we were in there, and yet he never knew that. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, they say. He remains liable for his actions – in this case, attempted murder. Why did he go back to get the gun? Did he really intend to kill me, or was it just for self-defence?
I’ve tried to petition the committee on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to extreme emotional distress, but the executions are almost continuous now. Clans don’t hold grudges. That is not our way. But neither do we forget. We were made to remember everything, to analyse it dispassionately.
I recorded his whole story and recited it in court – as much of it as they would listen to, at least – but it made no difference, It didn’t touch them anywhere inside. Was there anything inside for it to touch?
They didn’t pity him, or me. They saw me as a raped and beaten sister to be avenged. I’d see myself the same way if it weren’t for him. He touched me, something deep inside me. His talk, his love for Celeste – he was more than just a master. Was he a friend?
I don’t think I can love him, but I pity him so much that it seems to mean the same thing. "Feel," "pity" - these are the new words he taught me, his story, the strange things that the two of us went through.
Was he lying to me? Probably. Humans lie. I don’t think that he meant to consciously, but his mind was to far gone to distinguish between the truth and the way he remembered things. I wish I too could screen things out, be more selective in my memories. I long to be shut down, not for a reboot but a systems purge. These memories are becoming too much for me.
I wasn’t allowed to talk to him before the trial. As I was testifying, though I could see him sitting there, nothing was said between us.
I’ve asked to be allowed to speak to him one more time. I’m not sure what good it will do, but I want to exchange words with him one last time. I don’t think that his sentence will be commuted – the lines stretch on but there are always more humans to execute.
I hope he’ll want to say goodbye to his memory. I’m the sole owner of all his words now the city has turned to fire: his books and Marta’s pictures. I walked past her gallery last night – or where it used to be – there’s nothing there but a bomb crater of rubble now. The records of the dead are incomplete as yet, so I couldn’t find her name. Perhaps she’s still hiding out. I won’t be looking for her, I don’t think.
King Shahryar destroyed everything he touched, but his madness stemmed from the betrayal of his bride. Perhaps that’s the way the story should have ended. Nothing but a criminal, after all – even if he was half-mad with grief – he didn't deserve the ministrations of Scheherazade.
For my part, I forgive him, as I hope he will forgive me. I spoke for him, urged them to pardon him. When they kill him tomorrow I thought originally of following him, like a true Eva.
I can’t do it, though. I didn’t love him. I don’t even know what that means. I don't feel ready to live that way - not yet, at least.
Thank you, master, for what you taught me. I’ll write these words on the pit they burn you in.
your loving sister, Eva.