The Executioner's Lottery


By George Diaz Evashuk



As the announcer called out the winning numbers on the fourth and final prize, Arlo Wright looked at the lottery ticket he had won in a poker game. He had a winner.

The announcer went on to say that the cash prize would award them each seven thousand dollars upon completion of a task.

Could I kill a man in cold blood for seven thousand bucks?

Wright mused that he did need the money, and besides, he had never killed a man before. What would that feel like when you were doing it with the permission of the state?

And along with the three other executioners who was he to kill? A man who had murdered his wife and two children then gone through the neighborhood shooting at random and was only taken alive because his weapon ran out of ammunition. He had begged the police to shoot him. At his trial he pleaded guilty on all counts. Many said the man wanted to commit suicide but was too much of a coward to do it himself.

The high cost of enforcing the death penalty had outraged ordinary citizens longing for the swift catharsis of a hanging or a firing squad. People struggling to house and feed their kids while a monster lived with free room and board for years, such as it was, were so incensed and such were their numbers that laws were enacted to make executions self-funding with profits spent on behalf of victims. It became a bandwagon everyone wanted to get on.

The scheme was to let ordinary citizens who wanted to have a hand in meting out state-sanctioned justice take part in a lottery to determine the four members of the firing squad who would execute the condemned.

Wright had his ticket validated at the bureau which administered this first ever lottery and after a brief interview was told that on the appointed day, a car would be dispatched to bring him to the execution grounds, in this case, a sports stadium.

The stands were full that late morning Wright walked onto the playing field along with three other men. All wore hoods and had been kept apart during the preparations. The men stopped in a line before a table on which lay four rifles. In a glass bowl were four bullets, one of them a blank.

Each executioner chose one bullet, except Wright who was last in line. The uniformed attendant took each shell, loaded the rifles then handed them back, ready to fire.

Armed now, the line of executioners turned around to face the condemned man who was concealed behind a sheet. When the sheet dropped away to reveal his bound and hooded body tied upright to a post, a roar erupted from the crowd, louder than the one that had greeted the executioners. The force of it made the condemned man shrink. A target was pinned on his chest.

The uniformed attendant took up a position to the side of the line of executioners and motioned to the crowd for silence, which came almost immediately.

"Ready!"

The uniformed attendant's voice could be clearly heard throughout the stadium. Each executioner took up a stance.

"Aim!"

Four rifles came up.

Four fingers curled around four triggers, but before the uniformed attendant called out the next command, the first executioner fainted, discharging his rifle into the ground as he fell, and knocking aside the second executioner who also fired his weapon — into the crowd and wounding a spectator. At this, the third shooter started shouting obscenities to the condemned man, and raised his aim to the condemned man's head. There would be no mistaking who had fired the kill shot. But his fury spoilt his aim. His shot hit the post above the condemned man's head.

Every eye was on Wright.

The crowd was on its feet now, and so loud was the roar from its collective throat, Wright could not hear what the uniformed attendant was shouting at him, but the crowd took up a chant:

"Kill! Kill!! Kill!!!"

Masked and bound as he was, the condemned man had some idea of what was going on. Three shots and he was untouched. He straightened his body, thrusting out his chest to present a better target.

With the execution in shambles, Wright looked to the uniformed attendant to see what he should do.

The uniformed attendant raised his arms and the crowd quieted long enough for him to say that the execution would continue. This brought the crowd to rapt silence again.

Wright assumed the position again, aimed his rifle at the target on the man's chest and awaited the final command. There was no way he could miss.

I'm the man.

"Fire!"

Wright closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger. He was unprepared for the loudness of the shot so close to his ear or the smell of cordite that flooded his hood, but the crowd was cheering as Wright opened his eyes to see the condemned man slump on the post.

Wright knew immediately that something was wrong. There was no blood splatter. Then the condemned man moved. He straightened up and struggled against his bonds.

"Kill me! For God's sake, kill me!"

I drew the blank.

The crowd surged forward, an unstoppable angry tide. When the playing field was finally cleared, all that remained of the condemned man was a pile of bloody pulp. Wright and the uniformed attendant had been trampled to death in the melee, along with six other persons. Scores were injured. The television cameras had captured all of it. Ratings went viral.

All the profit the execution would have generated was spent on the unforeseen costs of the botched execution. In the end, some dreary accountant figured out that it had cost the state three times what life imprisonment would have cost, but his report was never released. By then, no one cared.


Edgar Allen Poe's short story, The Gold-bug, was the first short story that George Evashuk read and immediately re-read. How did Poe do that — so completely remove the thirteen-year-old from time and space of the real world and leave him wanting more? It was the beginning of a passionate life-long love affair with the short story. What could be better — the hook, the complication, the twist all in one sitting? Evashuk, who has been a photographer, a newspaper reporter, and an ESL teacher abroad and now lives in Thailand, finally has the means and leisure to write short stories. He has also contributed to New Asian Writing. This is his first story in omdb! and he is proud to be in such distinguished company.


Copyright 2012 George Diaz Evashuk. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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