A Hell of a Thing – Prompt Inspired

The same prompt as last time, but a different story I tried out. Just as old but much shorter, and a very different tone. Here’s the prompt again to refresh your memory:

It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have.”
-Clint Eastwood as Will Munny, Unforgiven

Your prompt is to write a story expanding on this quote. Feel free to interpret it in any way you like.

It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have. But let me tell you, it’s so much easier when you know that they sure as hell deserve it.

Frank had done so many things to deserve this death. From the way he treated his birth family when he was young, to the way he treated his many foster families during his turbulent youth, to the way he treated his own wife and children; nobody I had ever sent through death’s door was more deserving of it.

He had been imprisoned consistently for a long time by the time I fiddled the system to get inside and meet him. It had been so long that I’m sure he struggled to remember what it was like to be free, except perhaps when he thought far, far back to his too-few years of youth.

Being in that prison was hard on Frank, but he survived it. Well, he mostly survived it – he is, after all, nearing the end of his sentence. But there were certain people on the outside who thought it best and more fitting that someone should, to put it delicately, speed up his exit. They wanted to respect the wishes of the real victim in all this, the man they had lost.

And that’s where I come in. It’s what I do. Killing people is my job. What puts food on my table. I put on this uniform and I enter the prison of restrictions and control, I become part of the monotony of their forced routine, and then I “free” them.

Yes indeed, it’s a hell of a thing. Sometimes my job gives me pause, and I wonder if death is truly the right path. But I look into the eyes of people like Frank and I see… nothing. They are empty. Then I look at the people on the outside, at how badly they need this, for closure, and because it’s what the person they have lost would have wanted, and needed. And I realise that it is absolutely the best path for all.

Frank sat in his chair looking up at me, confusion in his eyes. The same look that so many of them wear when I visit them for the final time: a look of empty, scared, and hurt confusion. Sometimes they have been wearing that expression ever since I met them, as if they cannot quite believe that they’ve finally been locked up in prison, away from everyone that ever mattered to them.

Some look at me with resignation, if they know what’s coming. Or a fierce determination to go out strong and proud. Some look at me with a weariness that words cannot even describe. They are tired of their life, and I am happy to end it for them. Others cannot even look at me at all. But however they look, whoever they are, they all get the same end.

He had already taken the pill, had our Frank. I handed him the glass, the lethal dose swirling around in the bright orange juice, and smiled kindly. A moment of understanding dawned on him, and he knew that the liquid was to drink. He reached his wrinkled hands out and wrapped them around mine, knowing that we both needed to hold the glass for him to keep it steady. His skin felt like rough, frail paper against mine. His grip was weak.

Frank’s daughter sat next to him, a hand on his knee and a tear in her eye. His son stood by the window, staring out at the glorious sunset that was slowly sinking behind the mountains, as his wife rubbed his back soothingly. A smiling photograph of an elderly woman sat on the sideboard, watching over the scene.

Frank drained the glass, and his misty eyes met mine. “Thank you, my dear. That was lovely,” he croaked, his eyes shifting in and out of focus. “Probably the best glass of orange juice I have ever had. I sorely needed it.” And with that Frank settled back in the soft leather chair, closed his eyes, and got the end that he deserved.


This has become particularly important to me now that, since the time I wrote this, one of my relatives has been diagnosed with dementia. Maybe I will rewrite it sometime and see if this adds a new perspective.


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