At ten o'clock at night, Carl Parris got out of bed and got dressed. After dressing, he took the gun that was on the dresser and checked the chamber to make sure the gun was loaded. "Perfect, I got a loaded gun, and now I have t' find someone to shoot," he said as he sat on his bed. Should I rob a liquor store? They're easy. Yeah, why should I make work for myself. Yeah, I'll rob a liquor store, and if I have t' kill someone, then I have t' kill someone. What I gotta do I gotta do."
He left his run-down rooming house, walked across the street to a liquor store, and entered. No one was in the store except the clerk. Carl walked up to the counter and pointed his gun at the man behind the counter. "Okay, gimmie all y' money?"
"Okay, mister, take it easy," he said, took all the cash out of the cash register, and gave the money to Carl.
"Hey, there isn't enough here. Are you tryin' t' cheat me," Carl growled and shot the man. "He was tryin' t' cheat me," Carl said as he walked toward the front door, counting the money as he went.
When he opened the door, two police officers stood in his way pointing their guns at him.
Ballistics tests proved that his gun was used in five murders, and his record proved that he was a career criminal. The police ended his career.
Carl Roache pulled at his collar while he looked behind him at the packed courtroom. He turned back, faced the front of the court, and slouched in his chair. After a few minutes of slouching, he sat up. His 6'6", muscular frame was too much for his chair. Carl pulled a large, white handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his brow. As Carl leaned forward to stuff his handkerchief back into his pocket, the judge entered the courtroom and the bailiff called the courtroom to order. All stood as the judge walked to the bench and seated himself. After the judge was seated, everyone sat except Carl and his court-appointed attorney.
Carl Roche stood quietly and as still as he could, but his shirt collar, which was too small for his huge neck, was choking him, so he pulled at his collar and ripped the collar button from its stitching and sent it flying toward the judge. Everybody in front of the court room watched the button bounce several times and then roll under the stenographer’s desk. Carl’s attorney put his hand to his forehead, looked down, and shook his head in disgust.
The judge glared at Carl, and his lips contorted into a sneer, his right eye twitched, and, for a few moments, he looked into Carl’s eyes. By the time he spoke, the judge’s eyes suggested that he was going to enjoy the words he was about to speak. “Carl Roche, you have been found guilty of six counts of murder in the first degree. The jury, having found you guilty of the charges, has decreed that you shall pay your debt with your life. You are hereby sentenced to death by electrocution. Take the prisoner away.”
After the sentencing, the prisoner was shackled and taken to the van that waited to take him to the Franklin maximum-security penitentiary where he would await execution. It was a happy day for all, including his attorney.
Carl's attorney met with Carl at the penitentiary to explain the appeals process, but Carl was not concerned about appeals. He was concerned about being put to death. “Y’ gotta get me off death row,” he pleaded with his attorney. “I don't mind me killin’ people, but I do mind people killin’ me," he said seriously; his attorney cringed.
Carl heard the lawyer explain the appeals process, but he knew the lawyer was not going out of his way to keep him out of the electric chair. The attorney was no different than everybody else; everybody wanted to see the cold-blooded killer exterminated.
As weeks turned into months, Carl began to wonder if the isolation of death row would kill him before his scheduled appointment with the electric chair. He began to exercise, and, as the days went by, he exercised longer and harder to combat the isolation and boredom. He decided that he had to keep moving or death row was going to kill him.
As it turned out, it was Carl, himself, who almost cheated the state out of its chance to execute the killer, for, at his one hundred and thirty ninth sit up, Carl suffered a heart attack.
While Carl was on the operating table being saved so that he could be executed, he died. Fortunately for the state, Carl did not die permanently; he was brought back by skilled physicians who were determined to save his life.
"It was the most incredible experience," Carl blabbered to his attorney. "I actually left my body and floated up. I remember lookin’ down and seein’ the doctors working on me. Then I looked up, and above me, I seen a white light, a blindin’, bright light. As I stared at the light, it changed, very slow; it went from bright to a soft glow. Then I seen a long tunnel. At the end was a light, and there was people wearin’ white robes. They was all walkin’ toward the light at the end, and it was warm and peaceful. I felt like I was bein’ pulled toward the tunnel, but I couldn't go, ‘cause I didn’t die. The doctors brought me back to life.”
Though Carl’s grammar was killing his attorney, he listened as though he cared. "I've heard of stories like yours, Carl. People who have died on the operating table and were brought back to life claim to have had experiences like yours. They all said that after their experience, they were almost anxious to die; they wanted to get back to the tunnel. Intriguing idea, isn’t it?"
Carl was released from the prison hospital and returned to death row. When he got back to his cell, he found a book that his attorney had sent to him. It was a collection of near-death experiences. Carl couldn't read very well, so he read the book very slowly, struggling with the words as he read. The more he read, the more he was convinced that he had seen heaven.
As time went on, and as he thought about his experience, he became absolutely positive that death was what he wanted. He wanted to go to heaven. "I want y’ to stop my appeals. I wanna die. I wanna die as soon as possible."
Carl read his book while he ate his last meal. He was still reading as the priest and barber entered his cell. He continued to read about the warm glow, the light, and the tunnel as the barber shaved his head, and the priest prayed. Four guards entered the cell as the barber left.
Carl placed his book on his cot and stood up. "Okay, let's get this show on the road.” Carl walked willingly, if not anxiously, from his cell to the waiting electric chair.
The switch was thrown at 12:01 a.m., and Carl floated above the execution chamber. He was suspended in space and looked down at his body as it twitched and jerked. When his body relaxed and sagged in the electric chair, Carl felt himself being pulled by something to somewhere. Suddenly, he was standing in a warm, glowing mist. It was like fog, but it was warm and dry. The mist began to clear and he saw again what he saw when he almost died from his heart attack; it was the tunnel with the light at the end and there were people wearing white robes walking toward the light.
He looked at himself; he was wearing a long, white robe. Everything was warm and glowing and white. Suddenly, he was in the tunnel, walking with the others. Carl strained to see what was at the end of the tunnel. He imagined scenes of gardens and women and everything a person in heaven could want.
It seemed to Carl that he wasn't getting any closer to the end of the tunnel. He looked around at the others; they just walked and paid no attention to him. Carl decided he would get out of line and jog past everyone. He tried but he couldn't. It was as though he had no control over his body. It was as though he and his body were separate. He wanted to go ahead of everyone, but his body would only stay in line.
It was time to find out what was going on. Why was he walking but getting, it seemed, nowhere? He decided that he would ask the person in front of him. He tried to lift his arm so he could poke the man in front of him on the shoulder, but nothing happened. He had no control of his arm nor his mouth. His body wasn't working the way he wanted it to work, and he realized that there was no sound; there was dead silence. He heard himself thinking, but there was no sound outside of his mind. He looked down and saw his feet moving his body forward, step-by-step, but something was wrong. He seemed to be walking, but the end of the tunnel was no closer than it was when he started. When did he start? He tried to remember; he couldn't. His body continued to move forward but where was it going? "What's going on?" he screamed silently. "Why am I walking but getting nowhere? Where am I? I can't go on like this forever."
Carl was wrong. The procession of white-robed bodies continued to move toward the light at the end of the endless tunnel. Like the others, Carl would walk in this lonely, boring procession forever.
BioWhile teaching speech and English at a community college, Mr. Greenblatt wrote short stories and plays, one of which won a reading at Smith College. After retiring, he wrote short stories and novellas. Several of his stories were published in on-line magazines, and others were published in print anthologies.