I looked at the man in front of me and felt overwhelmed with sorrow. Hank didn’t deserve this. Here he was, a look of peace washed over him, and yet he was going to die, and under my watch nonetheless.
We had met shortly after he transferred to this prison, when I was promoted to warden. I had developed an interest in spirituality, and I had commented to the prison chaplain that I would like to meet someone truly enlightened in my life. The chaplain directed me to Hank. Many prisoners are far more human, far more soft, then society would lead you to believe, but Hank was different from all of them, he was a true saint.
The two of us hit it off, and to the extent my commitments could allow me I would go and keep him company. Today, however, was the end of the line. Hank was to be executed, and there was nothing I could do.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be alright,” Hank smiled as he stared out into space,
“How can you say that? You’re about to be killed, and for such an absurd reason,”
“It’s not that absurd, I did kill a man,” Hank replied. But it was absurd. Yes, Hank had killed, but it was in the name of the greater good. Tensions had been running high between America and Russia. Garrisons of the two armies had met face to face. The American commander had ordered his troops to attack. He had ordered the start of World War 3. Hank refused, and shot his superior. The Russians retreated shortly after. It had all been a bluff on their part. Hank was a hero, and I told him that,
“Maybe I am, but I did kill a man,” Hank reiterated,
“But you had to kill him, you did what was right,”
“I did the only thing I could do, but that doesn’t mean I deserve to live,” Hank paused, “You see, my friend, we all have a duty, to ourselves, to the world, and meaning and purpose come from fulfilling that duty. I did what I had to, I did my duty. Now the state must fulfill its duty. I killed, so I must be killed. So is the states imperative. How can I challenge that when I followed my own imperative.”
I sighed, “I just don’t want to see you go, man,”
“I know,” Hank smiled, “But remember, as warden you have a duty too. You have to watch over these things, you have to make sure the prison is ran well. I know you respect me, and respect the sacrifice I have made. Thus, I ask that you complete your duty, as hard as it may be. If you do that, then I’m sure we will meet again in the hereafter.”
I looked at Hank and felt something swell inside me. I got up to leave and, after straightening my back, turned to Hank one last time,
“I’ll see you then.”