The harsh lights flared overhead. Cam threw his arm over his eyes to block them out. He wanted to enjoy the peace and solitude of the quiet darkness. He might not have too many more chances. He might not have any.
The pounding of drums echoed loudly in his ears as the guards heavy footfalls fell. Where would they stop this happy morning? He was dying with anticipation.
That last thought made his lip curl up in a snicker. The sameness of the morning routine was used to inspire fear, bored Cam. At least, that’s what Cam told himself every morning.
The guards approached.
Cam’s arm slipped shakily away from his eyes. It was some time before he was strong enough to rise. He would live to wake to the blazing lights of tomorrow. He rebuilt his wall of nonchalance as he listened to the commotion begin down the hall, as he knew it would.
“No!” the young voice screamed as the shriek of iron bars sliding open filled every corner of the room. Cam closed his eyes. They were taking Kaleb.
He rolled off his cot in a smooth motion, the momentum bringing him to his feet. He took the single remain step to the bars. “No!” he screamed, echoing the little boy. He pounded his fists against the cold metal. Cam took back every thought of relief he’d had. He would give anything to have had the guards stop at his cell instead of continuing down the row to his little brother.
As the party passed Cam, he launched the small attack he could from the inside. His arms reached out between the bars and started tearing at the guards. The unexpected attack caused the guards to lose their hold on Kaleb.
The young boy scrambled to his feet and squeezed through the bars into Cam’s cell. The bars weren’t as close together for the older kids as they were for the younger kids. Kaleb’s arms were wrapped securely around his brother’s neck. Cam felt the hot tears on his skin. He held Kaleb tightly in the circle of his arms. The brothers hunkered down in the far corner of the cell, whispering fiercely but incomprehensibly to each other, as the guards were figuring out what had happened. The cell door shrieked open and Cam placed himself protectively in front of his brother. Rough hands grabbed at them.
“No! Stop! You can’t!” Cam yelled. And finally, “Take me!”
As a unit, the guards turned to look at the head guard who stood motionless outside the cell. He shrugged, indicating that it didn’t matter either way.
The guards held Cam tightly as pair split off to return Kaleb to his cell. Cam gave his little brother a weak smile. Kaleb didn’t smile back. Tears were nearly blinding the boy’s vision. Cam noticed that the world was starting to blur around the edges.
“Be strong, Kaleb!” he yelled.
One of the guards drove a fist into his gut. “Quiet!”
Cam went with the guards, not fighting. As they passed the cells, none of the other boys would meet his eyes. Cam didn’t resent them for it. He had been the same way for all the others in their final walk. Such was life on Death Row.
He was to be executed before the firing squad in the courtyard of the prison. It was the same place the prisoners were allowed to have their recreation once a week. The guards shackled Cam to the far wall. Four gunmen stood twenty feet away from him. As one, they raised their guns and aimed.
Shouts arose from the top of the left wall next to the main compound. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter to Cam. He’d purchased a few more days for Kaleb with his life. That is what mattered. His head dropped to his chest. He closed his eyes and waited to die.