The Execution - A Short Story
Terre Haute Penitentiary
Terre Haute, Indiana
November 1st, 2016
Prisoner #112263 a.k.a. John Doe was set to be executed at midnight. You wouldn’t think he was capable of killing upon first meeting him. He was a handsome middle-aged man, but he was handsome in the old ways: jet black hair with an aged baby face, a beauty mark on his lip and a lean body. You would think he was the resurrected Elvis, the Sun Records one, when you first lay eyes on him. The guards found his sincerity and quietness disarming; they even come to like the guy until they were reminded of his crime.
His very existence was shrouded with conspiracy theories because he had no identity before April 30th, 2014. The F.B.I., C.I.A., and some men in suits who only said they worked for the government were perplexed by this mystery. No fingerprint records, no school records and not even a social media photo could be found of John Doe before his arrest. He refused to give his name only admitting to his crime and pleaded guilty in court. John Doe didn’t even decry the judge giving him the death penalty.
I was sent by my temple to give John Doe his last rites before his execution. One of the few details the man has given of himself was that he was Jewish. I couldn’t say I was too happy with the assignment given the nature of his crime, but my curiosity and the excitement of possibly knowing his true motive superseded my disgust for the man. Too bad I can’t tell another soul if he did confess to me.
The guard walked me down the cold and quiet green mile and to a foldable aluminum chair in front of a cell. An inmate walked pass me pushing a cart with what was left of John Doe’s last meal. He must not have been a practicing Jew because there was some leftover bacon on a plate. As the inmate walked pass me, I was given my first glimpse of the murderer and was taken back by his looks. He did look like a young Elvis with a beauty mark, but an Elvis aged heavily by guilt. He was reading the Torah and praying silently, asking for forgiveness from God. Maybe God will forgive him, but I doubt it.
He didn’t acknowledge me at first, so I gave the plexiglass a few rattles with my knuckles to get his attention. He slowly looked up, and there was a small smile of relief on his face. I sat down on the chair, adjusted my kippah and pulled out my Torah. Before I can give my name, John Doe asked the question which haunts me in sleep. The question that has become a clique but now is a curse to me.
“Rabbi, if you can go back in time to kill Hitler would you do it?” John Doe asked with an uneasy gaze.
My first thought was that the man was insane for that being the first thing he asked me and I felt like I knew where there was going and I wasn’t going to play his game.
“Mr. Doe, I am going to be blunt by not giving into your delusional question. I’m here to help you make peace with God by having you confess to your horrible sin. Now let’s get started…”
“Rabbi, I only ask you to entertain my question because it will aid in my full confession. I know I disgust you, I disgust myself for what I had to do. But, please bear with me so I can finally speak the truth to you before I die.”
I hesitated for a moment to entertain an insane murderer, but I wanted to know the truth; to see the mystery behind John Doe.
I exhaled deeply, “It’s wrong to kill a person. God forbids it in the commandments, but he also allows for justice too. My grandfather was a Polish Jew during Hitler’s reign and the only member of my family to survive Auschwitz...”
I took in a long deep sigh as I remembered the stories my Bubbe told me when I was old enough to understand the horrors of the Holocaust.
“I don’t know what I would do. Do I break God’s law to stop the Holocaust and World War 2? Maybe, I never given thought to such a question because the war and the extermination of our people did happen and we can’t change it. That’s my answer. What does this have to do with your murdering of Ron Boon?”
John Doe looked down at my feet for a few moments and took a deep breath.
“When I was first asked that question, I was positive I would do it without thinking twice. I would walk up to Hitler and blow the monster’s brains out and prevented millions of people from dying. I never knew how wrong it feels until you did it.”
A tear trickled down John Doe’s cheek, but he regained his composure.
“I know how insane my confession will sound. I know you won’t believe me, I wouldn’t believe it if I heard it, but please hear me out. Listen to it, and I can give you undeniable proof of it at the end of it.”
I sat back in the chair while laying the Torah on my lap and prepared myself for his insane confession.
“My name is Isaac David. I am 38 years old, I was born in Chicago, raised in Wrigleyville, and my birthdate is October 31st, 2005.”
I stood up to walk away until he said, “God demands you to hear my confession, no matter how mad it seems.”
I was reluctantly reminded of my sacred duty to serve God in any and all capacity, even if I didn’t understand it.
“Continue,” I said in frustration.
“I was raised in Chicago and grew up worshipping the Cubs and physics. On my wall hung posters of Ben Zobrist and Stephen Hawking, an odd combination. Thankfully I was offered both a baseball and an academic scholarship to MIT in 2018, sadly on the same day Hawking died. I felt like it was a glorious sign from the universe, at first, but now I know it was an omen of what was to come for me. I graduated with a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics by 2024 and was offered jobs with DARPA, Space X, and NASA. But it was CERN I was gunning for, and it took me three separate applications to finally get accepted.
There was turmoil already brewing in Washington by the time I moved to Geneva. A young industrialist named Ron Boon who made his fortune off of cryptocurrency and real estate was gunning for the White House. He was born around the same time I was, and he wasn’t legal yet to run for President, but his charisma and his hostile rhetoric was winning support from the voters who felt disenfranchised and undermined by the politicians in office. The U.S. was no longer a world power by 2024 due to an endless war in the middle east and democracy being hollowed out and replaced with cowardly but powerful politicians, who were controlled by an oligarchical mess of greedy industrialist. Greed had mutilated true capitalism, and the land of democracy was no longer home of the free. I was happy to leave.
Ron Boon was a man of pure Id, but he was sincere, which was refreshing compared to the marionettes called Congress. I was in the airport waiting for my flight to Geneva when I saw Ron Boon giving a speech on the steps of Congress. His aggressive and expressive hand gestures, his talks of nationalism and his blame on immigrants seemed familiar to me. I couldn’t…I wouldn’t assume at the time, but now I know that I had watched the genesis of America’s Hitler.
I was glad to have left the U.S. and lived in a scientist’s paradise. I was living in a beautiful country which was surrounded among openminded and rational people in a country where science and rational thought was celebrated and not shunned for the facts it uncovered. But, most of all I was working on a classified project funded by the EU, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. The project was to see if we can use the particle accelerator to manipulate space and time. It took us 15 years of research and experimentation, but we had finally found a way to travel through time.”
Mr. John Doe or Isaac David, whatever his name was, had me hooked. Not because I believed him, which I didn’t, but it was a good story he was spinning.
“Ok, I’ll bite. How did you break the laws of physics and God?” I asked.
Isaac had a small smile of excitement until he realized I was entertaining him and I still didn’t believe him.
“I’m going use an analogy so you can understand. Imagine our dimension as an entire river. Space/Matter is the water in the river. Water because matter transforms into different states and it is always changing. The stream bed is time because time is what moves space and matter forward and changes it. Time is the barriers, the control, and the constant.”
“Uhh, time is not always constant. I know a little bit of physics, and I know time can be bent. Our famous Jewish physicist proved this.”
Isaac smiled in delight which made me unconsciously smile.
“Yes, Rabbi. You are correct. Gravity can warp time. Keeping with the analogy, if the stream of water is space/matter and the stream bed is time, then gravity would be some variation. Depending on how dense the gravitational field is, then it could be a simple boulder in the river which slightly interrupts a stream, a dam which controls the flow of the river or a canal which connects the river to another river or another body of water.”
“You have my curiosity but how’s this bullshit suppose to help you time travel?” I asked as my curiosity grew.
“The sun has a dense enough mass to bend the path of light. The sun is a boulder. A Black Hole is like a dam because it completely interrupts space/matter. We used gravity to create a canal, a wormhole, through space and time.
The first time we sent a quark two seconds in the future and found it unchanged. Then we received a molecule in our vacuum chamber out of nowhere. After 5 minutes we cleared the chamber and added an identical molecule and made it disappear. It never reappeared until we realized that the molecule, we initially received was the one we thought we sent forward but it went back into time. We had sent something infinitely larger than a quark into the past. We have earned our place with Newton, Einstein, and Hawking.
This was in 2040, and the world was on the brink of another World War. President Ron Boon had taken office young and declared himself, with the blind loyalty of his party, the U.S.’s first magistrate a.k.a. Dictator. It was slow at first. He chipped away at people’s privacy and rights, took control of competing businesses and blamed the sorrows of America on immigrants, gays, Muslims, the news, and anyone who opposed him. He sent troops into Mexico and Central America and annexed their countries. England and Australia supported him, but the rest of the world was prepping for an all-out war against the U.S.
I had moved my family out of the U.S. and into France. The Americans who were intelligent enough to understand history, saw it repeating itself and fled to Canada, South America, and Asia. The rest were blinded by the evil of President Boon, or they couldn’t afford to leave. A national draft was established where every young man and woman had to either join the military, work for the war factories or go to the concentration camps where they kept the POW’s, immigrants and dissenters.”
Issac stopped as he turned his head in an attempt to hide his tears.
“September 7th, 2041 is the day the world ended. The fucking greedy bastard nuked Ottawa because Canada was the only one willing to oppose the U.S. The Canadians never had nuclear weapons actively, but they had made a secret pact with the E.U., Russia, and China. The E.U. agreed with the pact for honorable reasons, but China and Russia wanted to take their competitor out of the picture. Russia and China aimed their nukes at the U.S. and ordered the President to surrender. But Boon never cared what was best for his people, and he acted out of hate and impulse. He ordered a preeminent strike on Moscow, Beijing, and Paris.
Immediately there was a mutiny among the military with most of the Generals and Admirals refusing the order, and they went to arrest President Boon. But a few sons of bitches were blinded by their patriotism and stupidity, followed the order and shot nukes at Paris and Moscow. Moscow was able to shoot down most of the nukes, but they missed one, and the Kremlin was gone. Paris was turned to radioactive ash. England and Australia shot its nuke, and mutually assured destruction was actualized.
Hell was created that day. Fire and brimstone rained from the heavens and turned the Earth into ash. There were weeping and gnashing of teeth for anyone who survived. The sun was blotted out by the nuclear clouds and what was left of the world was slowly dying on a planet called Hell.
In 2042, what space program was left of humanity sent survivors to Mars and the Moon for the continuity of our species. Switzerland was the least, but that’s like saying that a certain tree had some bark left after the forest was incinerated. Fortunately, we had a plan.
The greatest scientist and engineers left in the world worked underground for nearly two years. We split into teams who built, calculated and reimagined new technology and equations that bordered on the supernatural. The will of man can rival God if motivated enough. By 2044, most were dying from starvation or radiation sickness, but we succeeded in creating a time machine.
It was a sphere built large enough for one person to travel in. The shell was made of an intelligent alloy which adapts and changes to extreme pressure and temperatures. It was reversed engineered from the cephalopod’s ability to change its body composition, skin texture and heal itself. The sphere was only a life raft and had no propulsion. The collider had enough power to fling the sphere to what we estimated to be 2025 — enough time to assassinate President Ron Boon before he gained power.
I was asked to be the one to go back in the past because I was American and it was my great discovery that will save humanity. The downside was that this trip was a one shot and one-way trip. One shot because the gravity needed to send the sphere back was going to destroy the facility and possibly the Eastern Hemisphere.
Rabbi, you have to understand how desperate we were. Not only was humanity being extinguished from Earth but the planet may never be home to life again. The environment will never be hospitable even to the most resilient microbe which would’ve evolved to become the next dominant species. We had our miracle of science, and we needed to save not only mankind but life itself.
I was given gold bullion to trade for cash when I arrived in 2025, in addition to an antique smartphone to help me on my dire quest. The last was a 20-year-old Glock from a former NASA scientist and Naval Pilot; he asked me to save the American dream before it became the world’s nightmare.
We tearfully said our goodbyes and the scientist, engineers, and physicists who survived the apocalypse made peace before they gave their lives to send me back into time.
Strapped into the spherical raft with a viewscreen taking the place of a porthole, I watched as they bravely switched on the collider and prepared to die.
A deafening and violent sound of thunder followed by a strange sense of weightlessness caused me to feel an overwhelming fear until the raft suddenly accelerated to a few G-Forces. I forced myself to stay conscious as I looked through the viewfinder and saw…”
Isaac lunged forward from his cell’s bed and threw up violently into the toilet. If this was all an act, then it was the best fucking acting I’ve ever seen. He sat down next to the toilet, exhausted from the vomiting and continued his fantastic story.
“Using the analogy about our reality being a river and the wormhole acting as the canal to an earlier part of the river, then what I saw was the dark and terrifying forest surrounding the river, and it was insanity. The laws of physics were no longer applicable as I saw fiery planets floating on oceans of black mold. I couldn’t make sense of the objects I was looking at nor could I tell if they were creatures but they were the size of mountains and they were looking at me. I cried for God and wished to go back to the apocalyptic world I left because it was far less terrifying then what my mind could fathom.
One of the large Lovecraftian creatures reached out with its oscillating symmetry like spindle claw for me, and I screamed as I took the Glock and put it against my head. The raft was then flushed with bright light, and I felt weightless and peaceful as I saw through the viewscreen for a brief moment of what I can only describe as the symmetry of existence. For a brief moment, I saw the multi-verse and the micro-verse in its entirety.
The next thing I know I crashed hard onto the solid ground and the sphere-raft rolled for a while until it stopped. The viewfinder showed the light from the sun, trees and ironically, a river. I crawled out of the hatch and cried in happiness as I felt the luscious green grass, the cold forest air and washed my face in the clear stream. I selfishly spent the night in the forest basking in the warmth of a small campfire I made. I wanted to enjoy Earth again before the war.
That morning I hesitantly turned on the antique phone and waited for a signal and the GPS to come on. The phone picked up a signal and started to boot up. I had landed somewhere outside Roanoke, Virginia but I shrieked in horror when I saw the date. It was February 11th, 2014. At first, I thought it was a good thing that I was given an extra ten years to complete the mission, but then I realized the monster I was sent to kill wasn’t a grown man but a boy.
I set the rafts to self-destruct to make sure the technology couldn’t be used before it’s time and hiked my way to Roanoke. I found a gold dealer in town and traded some of the gold bullion for cash. I bought a used gasoline-powered 4Runner and drove with a vengeful determination to Georgetown, where Google told me the monster lived with his wealthy family. The closer I got the more my anger subsided and gave way to doubt as I realize I was about to shoot a boy and not the monster he would become. I glanced at the Glock handle protruding from the open rucksack and was immediately reminded of how he destroyed all of life for his fucking ego.
It was dusk when I arrived on Prospect St., outside of his family’s colonial mansion. The rage got me ready to pull the trigger as I imagined me easily walking up to him and emptying the magazine into his head. He’s guilty no matter how much my consciousness reminded me he was just a child.
Then I saw the child Ron Boon, innocently walking home by himself while carrying his baseball equipment. I realized we ’re the same age and if we met when we were young, then we may have bonded over baseball. The rage started to fade as an immense shame and fear replaced it. The Glock trembled in my hand, and I couldn’t force myself to get out of the car and kill the boy who would become the devourer of worlds.
He walked inside his house, and I sat in the 4Runner for hours and cried. I was tormented by this simple decision. What difference does it make if he is a boy or a man, he is still going to destroy the world? I forced myself to drive and found a hotel nearby where I didn’t leave the room for a week as I tried to rectify the dilemma for myself.
Is this boy responsible for the decisions he will make in the future? Can he be changed, maybe influenced not to become the worlds’ last dictator? Can existence risk him continue to breathe? Should this boy die to save Earth? One soul for the entire planet. Is it his fate to become the destroyer of worlds or was it the wrong choices he made?
These existential questions plagued me for that god-awful week as I fell sick from the heavy burden. The solution I came to was to stalk him. I had time to do it and maybe gathering more information about Ron would guide me on if killing him is the best choice.
I spent nearly two months watching the boy and his family. The father was a greedy bastard who committed treason just for a good deal. His mother was indifferent as long as she was fed expensive wine from Spain and Oxycontin. But, Ron himself seemed well-adjusted. He had friends, played sports and even had a part-time job working at his father’s firm.
I began to admire this boy and nearly stopped comparing him to his older self until that fateful sunny April weekend. I always kept my distance and never came within 50 yards of Ron, but I needed a closer look. There was a national park nearby where he would go hiking in, but I never followed him because I didn’t want my cover to be blown. I found myself trekking after him with the Glock hidden underneath my jacket. His hike seemed unremarkable, but I kept my 50-yard distance until I lost sight of him. I spent a few minutes trying to find him until I heard muffled squeals coming from an overhang near me.
I approached quietly to the edge of the overhang and witnessed the gruesome truth. Ron Boon was standing over a sleeping homeless man, and he was pouring his canteen onto the man. The bum was too drunk to notice the smell, but the stench of kerosene stung my nostrils. Ron lit a match, smiled and flicked it onto the homeless man.
The man woke up screaming and began rolling in the dirt and leaves but that only spread the fire across his body. I found myself paralyzed by the shock of the gruesome act as I watched in horror as Ron laughed as the man cried for help and tried fruitlessly to pull off the layers of clothes, which was charring his flesh. Ron hideous laughter stopped when he looked up and saw me.
We stared into each other’s eyes and at that moment was when I knew this fucking kid is going die. I reached into my pocket for the Glock, but he began to run. I stumbled and fell over the overhang, landing next to the dying homeless man. I stared into the dying man's eyes and saw every life Ron Boon has killed looking back at me. I picked myself up and ran after him. He was 40 yards ahead of me as we ran towards the trails mouth. I was picking up speed and was getting closer to him until he ran into a public area and began to scream for help.
Ron got the attention of a few parkgoers and a Park Ranger. I stopped and tried to hide, but he pointed at me saying I killed a homeless man and I was trying to kill him. A few people saw my face and the Ranger reached for his gun.
Time slowed down, and I had a clear shot at Ron, but I would have risked hitting the Ranger and a family down range of Ron. I instead fired one shot in the air, which caused everyone to run and the Ranger to take cover. The chaos bought me time to run back into the woods and look for a way out.
It took me an hour of running, but I was able to escape the park and made it back to the hotel unnoticed. I put on the news and watched as Ron Boon pined the homeless man’s murder on me. There was a manhunt for my description, but thankfully there were no photos of me. I grabbed whatever I brought with me from the future and changed hotels so I wouldn’t get noticed.
I spent two weeks hiding in a motel, waiting for the manhunt to dissipate. I dyed my hair and grew a beard to disguise myself and went to check out the Boon family house. Nobody noticed me, but the family hired private security to watch their home and followed them anywhere they went. My heart raced as I tried to come up with a solution and I cursed myself for the one place where I know I can trap him and get him by surprise. In killing a monster, I was going to become one.
On April, 30th 2014, I had destroyed anything that would identify who I was and prepared myself for the atrocity I was going to commit. I prayed to God for another way, but I knew deep down that there was no other. I waited in the tree line outside Ron’s school and waited for him to go to class. The two ex-military guys sat outside in their blacked-out SUV, and there was no armed security. I prayed to God to help me find another way and if there wasn’t then let me complete my mission. I hated myself and cried for what I was about to do, but it needed to be done.
I saw Ron sitting next to the window of his classroom and knew I had him trapped. I snuck into the back entrance and walked quickly down the empty school hallways. Every step closer to the classroom made my heartbeat loud enough to cause a painful humming in my ears. Tears were flowing from down my cheeks, and I swung that classroom door open. All their eyes were looking upon me. The teacher stopped her lesson in froze in shock. Ron and my eyes met, and I hesitated for a moment.
But my hand didn’t as I raised the gun at him and unloaded the magazine into him.
The screaming…the screaming. I can still hear the kids screaming as they ran out from behind me. I fell to my knees with just me and the corpse of the child Ron Boon, who would never become the apocalypse.
I brought the gun to my head and kept pulling the trigger in the hopes there was one bullet left because I couldn’t live with what I just did. I still killed a kid. I heard the door flung open behind me followed by multiple expletives and orders from Ron’s bodyguards for me to drop the gun and get on the ground. I wanted them to shoot me and was about swing the gun around to them so they would be forced too, but I felt a hard boot in my back, and I fell hard onto the linoleum floor. They jumped on top of me and restrained me.
I kept screaming, begging them to shoot me but they didn’t want me to take the easy way out.
I refused to give away my identity and the reason why I killed Ron Boon. I was interrogated by every U.S. agency with an acronym. They had no fingerprints, no DNA and no one from the public could identify me because I was never arrested or had my fingerprints taken when I was a kid. The circus of a trial brought out every conspiracy theorist nut in the world trying to figure out why a man with no identity would kill a child in school. A few of the crazy ones got it right, but who would believe them?
I offered no defense and accepted the guilty verdict. The Judge had a constant look of disgust on his face throughout the trial, only smiled when he sentenced me to death, and I gladly accepted because I couldn’t live with the guilt of killing a child, even if he were to become the harbinger of the apocalypse.
Now we’re here, Rabbi.”
I was dumbfounded by his story. I went from just entertaining this man with his cry for help, and now I found myself believing him. Was it true, did he save the world and stop the apocalypse? Or was it a mad man’s delusional attempt to justify himself for killing a child in school?
The clock struck 12, and the heavy march of boots was heard from a distance. The guards were coming to take Isaac to his execution.
I snapped myself out of the rabbit hole of thought and confusion and remembered what Isaac said in the beginning.
“You offered me undeniable proof of your story, tell me now before they take you away.”
The march of boots echoed faster and harder, and Isaac motioned me to lean in which I immediately did.
“On November 7th, the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series in Game 7. They will win in an extra inning, there will be a rain delay which will work to the Cubs advantage, and the final score will be 8-7; Zobrist will be awarded the World Series MVP. That was one part of history I wished to relive. Too bad I will never see it, again.”
The guards walked passed me as I dumbfoundedly sat in my seat with my Torah falling to the ground. Is this man a saint or a monster? Was his incredible story true or a complete utter fabrication from a man wrecked from guilt from killing a boy?
John Doe, or Isaac David, made his bed in the cell and then thanked the two guards for how they treated him during his incarceration. The guards tried to keep a stoic expression on their faces, but a single tear from each gave their true feelings about the man they were about to execute.
Another guard retrieved me from the stupor, and I was escorted into the chamber where they strapped Isaac down to a gurney in the shape of a cross. I gave him his final rites and held his hand for a moment. His final words to me were, “Did I do the right thing?”
I couldn’t breathe at that moment. I wanted to believe him. I desperately wanted to believe John Doe was really Isaac David and his incredible story was true, but I couldn’t. I said nothing but cried as he was injected with the poison, and he went into a deep quiet sleep and then died.
September 8th, 2016
I made a few calls the day after John Doe/Isaac David was executed and found a boy named Isaac David who attends a synagogue in Chicago. I thought about seeing the boy for myself to see if he was the younger version of John Doe but I dismissed the idea because it was crazy. Am I going to believe a man traveled back in time to stop the nuclear apocalypse? If I did, then I would be as mad as John Doe was.
But last night the Cubs won the World Series. The first time in over 100 years. And they won exactly like Isaac David said they would. I sat in front of my T.V. and began to cry tears of sadness and gratefulness. I’ve met a man who saved the world, and I didn’t believe him. I got in my car and drove all night to Chicago to go to the synagogue where the young Isaac David attended.
The Rabbi knew the David family well and said the boy was genius and an athlete, even going as far as calling him the next Einstein. He told me that the boy was playing in the park next to the synagogue because the schools closed for the Cubs victory.
My heart raced in anticipation as I walked across the street and saw the neighborhood kids playing baseball in the park. But then I saw him. Like a teen Elvis with a birthmark on his lip, Isaac David slammed a home run out of the park, and everybody cheered, calling him the Jewish Zobrist.
Isaac caught me staring with a wide smile on my face and came running towards me.
“Hello, Rabbi. Did you see how far I hit that ball? I must have sent it into Lake Michigan.” He said with an exuberant youth.
“That you did my son. That you did” Were the only words, I found myself saying to him.
He started to walk away until I called him back.
“Yes, Rabbi,” he said with a bright smile.
“I wanted to let you know that you are and will always be a good man and the world is going to be a better place because of you.”
He awkwardly smiled at the compliment but sincerely thanked me for it. He ran back to the game and his friends as I found a park bench and watched the children play a game of baseball.