Twelve Days to Live

A story by Ken Ramsley

Available on Amazon Kindle

If a hard story about a workin’ stiff gettin’ all locked up like a dog makes your stomach turn – don’t read no more.  I went back and added some stuff later so you don’t think I’m a lune.  But I didn’t mop nothin’ up nice and clean.  I left what I said the way I said it ‘cause after what I been through, there ain’t no way to clean nothin’ up.  You get what you get, and if you keep on readin,’ it don’t matter one bit to me if you don’t like what you seen.  You had your chance to stop.


One way or the other, I got jus’ twelve days left to live – 278 hours all told, and nothin’ I say here changes what them robots got in store for me.  Sometimes I pray to God that he’ll end the whole world instead.  But, when I think it through, it ain’t right to pray like that ‘cause if the whole world’s gotta kick the bucket to get rid of them black-ops guys in their black-ops suits and their greasy black-ops hair, then a lotta kids and decent people out there ain’t gonna make it either.  I got 277 hours and 35 minutes left, and after two years stuck in holes like this, I ain’t askin’ God for nothin’ no more.  He ain’t got amnesia.  He knows I want out.  And after what I been through, and all the different places I been in, the time for askin’ is long gone.

Funny thing how I ain’t dead set against the death penalty, like when they put them mean dogs down sometimes.  It ain’t okay when there’s hope for a decent dog, like a regular dog turned all scared and jumpy ‘cause it got cornered and beat up.  A dog like that, they ought’a wash up and feed it lots’a good chow and give it a warm place to sleep and scratch its ears now and again, and hope it starts feelin’ good about itself – ‘cause a decent dog that sees somebody still carin’ won’t go bitin’ for no good reason even if it was kicked.  But a mean dog – the kind that hates itself and everybody else – it don’t care nothin’ about hurtin’ no one.  And it don’t matter if it’s got a full belly or a warm bed on a cold night ‘cause a dog like that – it don’t care what happens to no one, and it’ll keep on hatin’ itself and wantin’ to bite any chance it sees.  A bad dog like that is as good as dead, and there ain’t no harm in puttin’ it down.

That’s how I think about people who done bad things.  Most know they done wrong, and after they get out they can do better.  But a killer killin’ like it don’t matter, you put him down like them mean dogs.  Nothin’ you do is gonna make’m feel sorry or live clean again.  Them kind’a people don’t give a rat’s ass if they kill you or anyone else and you ain’t gettin’ no apologies outta them ‘cause they ain’t got nothin’ left to give.  When the time comes, you put’m down quick and clean with no noise and hatin.’  You don’t make’m sweat and shake and squirm on the way out.  You don’t make’m cry and yell and beg.  Nothin’ you do is gonna make you feel anything good about killin’ him, and nothin’ you do is gonna make him pay on the way out.  You ain’t gettin’ nothin’ back, so you get the job done right and quick.

That’s what I’m thinkin’ about tonight – mean dogs that deserve to die, and lost dogs like me that don’t – ‘cause as far as I can see, I’m sweatin’ and shakin’ and squirmin’ for nothin’ I can think of.


I suppose I could speed things up and pop the letter keys off this board and choke myself.  But it hardly makes sense ‘cause they’re killin’ me anyway in 275 hours, and I’d jus’ be savin’ them the work.  The keyboard and screen – I found them here a few days ago when I got dumped in this cell.  The keyboard’s bolted to a metal shelf and the screen is stuck behind a window like they got in banks.  On the screen, next to a bunch of funny pictures I see a clock down in one corner, so that’s how I know how much time I got left.

My bunk’s a concrete slab poured into the wall with a mattress pad and a wool blanket to pull over for sleepin.’  One end of the pad is thicker for a pillow.  It ain’t bad.  I seen worse.  Up inside the ceilin’ behind a cage I got a lightbulb so I can see okay.  I got a food slot so I don’t starve.  Beside that, I got a door with no handle, a shiny metal sink, and a metal shitter.  I sit on this cement bunk to peck at these computer keys.  All real organized.  All the necessaries of life.

The guy who set me up with this typin’ machine says he’s usin’ what I write for research in case there’s anythin’ I’m sayin’ here worth readin’ by brainy people.  Maybe he’s on the up and up.  I don’t see it helpin’ my case none, but now that I’m on the clock I may as well be sittin’ here typin’ instead’a sittin’ here starin’ at the floor.  Either way I figure they’re readin’ everthin’ I write, so if it makes’m sit around tryin’ to see if I’m writin’ any secret messages, at least I can waste their time.


Every day before lunch they stick me in a room with a skylight up in the ceilin.’  I don’t know if the light comes from the sun or is jus’ somethin’ made to look that way.  If it’s sunlight, it’s the first I seen in two years.  The guard says I can wander around for exercise or jus’ stand there for all he cares.  I don’t do any sorta routine ‘cause routines make the time go too fast, and killin’ time ain’t a problem I need to fix.

After I get back from the sun room they send in a paper cup with water and chow plopped like dogfood on a paper plate.  The food guy walks by the slot, stuffs the plate and cup in as fast as he can, and walks away like he’s punchin’ a clock.  If I don’t want it, it ain’t his problem.  He don’t leave a fork, so I tear off a piece of the plate and shovel the chow in any way that don’t look like I’m eatin’ like a dog, ‘cause I ain’t a dog.

The night before I die they say I can have whatever I want.  Why they put people down on a full stomach don’t make sense.  But feedin’ people special chow for a ‘last meal’ is one of them things that’s been goin’ on for as long as they been puttin’ people down – like maybe if they give the guy decent chow right before they kill him, they don’t feel so bad about fryin’ or gassin’ or choppin’ his head off right after.

Nothin’ makes no sense anymore and there ain’t no one to ask why.  When they’re gettin’ ready to put you down, you stop bein’ human, like them guys stuck on the planet of the apes with them apes stuck on a story that don’t add up.  You say that you done nothin’ wrong, but you may as well be apin’ and hollerin’ like Cheeta, for all they care.  Once they twist your arm and get you to say what ain’t true, the rest don’t matter.  After that, you’re dead on your feet – and dead men got nothin’ left to say.


I can’t make no headway pryin’ letter keys off this board.  They’re too small to choke on anyways and I’ll jus’ barf’m up or shit’m out.  I suppose there’s somethin’ sharp inside this keyboard, but the thing’s all bolted down and I can’t get at the screws.  So that leaves typin’ or jus’ sittin’ here starin’ at the floor, and I suppose I’ll stick to typin.’

A teacher once told me I oughta write the way I talk.  That’s why all the funny spellin’ here.  She says that people like me got somethin’ to say even if we ain’t got fancy words comin’ out.  I guess I’ll never know if she was right.  Fancy words or no fancy words, I didn’t do nothin’ wrong.  And after that, I told all about it the way they told us to.  That’s all I ever did.  I told my boss ‘bout what went down ‘cause we’re suppose’ta report any shenanigans we seen that don’t add up.  Then, outta nowhere, I’m down some hellhole like tellin’ the truth was the worst thing I could’a done.

Okay, before I start soundin’ like a lune here’s how it got started…

Jus’ outside’a Washington I was a cleaner at a fancy government lab where they check everythin’ right down to the dirt under your fingernails before you got the job.  My life’s as borin’ as all get-out.  Nothin.’  Not even a parkin’ ticket, so I get my nametag in no time flat.  Most places don’t take long to learn my way around.  But before I start in, they send me off to special government security trainin.’  That’s where they blab about how it ain’t nobody’s business ta’see what goes on and it ain’t for us to find out ‘cause our job’s about swishin’ johns, sweepin’ floors, emptyin’ baskets, and fixin’ leaky faucets.

After a while I’m gettin’ pretty good with the doors – the codes and all the abracadabra.  But that ain’t the end of it.  Instead of regular trash paper I’m bringin’ out confetti, and instead of tossin’ stuff into a dumpster I’m pitchin’ most everythin’ into a furnace ‘cause they say it’s all super-secret government paperwork and it’s gotta burn till there ain’t nothin’ left.  Nice work in the wintertime.  Hotter’n hell in the summers.  But the place pays good and one thing that keeps you goin’ every place I ever been is sockin’ away enough dough to be thinkin’ about retirin’ before I’m too old to walk no more.

Anyhow, a couple years back, I’m at home about to head in for work when I get this phone call – some guy tellin’ me he’s standin’ in the parkin’ lot ‘cause he left his wallet in one of them labs.  The wallet’s on his desk, and he says he left his nametag and car keys in there, too.  “So why are ya’ callin’ me?” I ask.  And he says he’s got a date with some hot babe and he ain’t goin’ nowhere without his keys and money.  So, he calls me figurin’ my shift is startin’ up and it ain’t no big deal to run in and grab his stuff.  I got half a brain to think it might be a scam.  So I ask him about the buildin’ and the labs and he talks like he works there.  Maybe it’s my supervisor testin’ me, or maybe it’s all on the up and up and this poor bastard ain’t screwin’ nobody tonight the way things stand.  Either way it ain’t worth stickin’ my neck out, so I tell him to call somebody else and hang up with him still yackin’ on the other end.  Next mornin’ I tell my boss about the whole thing, word-for-word jus’ like I’m suppose’ta.  And I figure that’s the end of it.

A few days later I hear this poundin’ on my door in the middle of the night, and jus’ when I’m rollin’ outta bed, a bunch’a government black-ops guys come bustin’ the door down like the place is on fire or somethin.’  I give’m hell for bustin’ my door, but they don’t say nothin’ ‘cause it’s jus’ a bunch of guys doin’ a dirty job like robots.  The next thing I know I’m wakin’ up cuffed and blind-folded inside a big-ass cargo plane – maybe a C-130 – good-sized rig with four props flyin’ to God knows where.  I try sleepin’ ‘cause I figure I’ll be needin’ it.  But it ain’t easy sleepin’ on a metal floor with a headache like my skull’s about t’bust open.

After that, I’m inside a small cement room with a metal table lookin’ into a mirror on the wall in front of me.  I can see myself, and a door behind me.  My head’s still poundin’ bad and I figure they must’a drugged me a couple’a times ‘cause most everything is fuzzy about how I got here.  Lookin’ in the mirror I’m wearin’ work clothes, but not mine, gray shirt and jeans, kind’a baggy.  I don’t remember puttin’m on – but then I do, sorta like a dream.

I can hear people talkin’ outside the door.  They get all quite jus’ when the door opens and this guy walks in – creepy like them robots that busted my apartment door down.  Lookin’ at me funny, it’s like he’s got two or three ideas in the back of his head and can’t decide where to start – skinny guy in a black suit with black hair greased straight back cut all fancy like how he looks is a big deal.  So I figure he ain’t the boss ‘cause most bosses ain’t that edgy and worried about how they look.

I’m thinkin’ ‘bout all this when the robot guy slaps a red folder on the table right in front of me real dramatic-like – sorta like he’s been practicin’ for days and now he’s gettin’ the chance to do it for real.  Then he drags up a metal chair, scrapin’ it on the floor, sits across from me and leans in with bad breath.  If I was mean, I could’a bit his nose off.  That’s how close he’s leanin’ in.

By now I see that I’m in the same sort’a metal chair, except I’m cuffed to mine, so I ain’t goin’ nowhere in a hurry ‘less I want to be draggin’ this chair along for the ride.  I was in the service and I remember the drill sergeant jus’ starin’ and sayin’ nothin’ at all.  So, I sit there starin’ straight back at this robot, sayin’ nothing,’ eyeball-to-eyeball, nose-to-nose.  Finally I figure all this starin’ ain’t worth the trouble and ask him why I’m in  here – and the guy laughs – jus’ laughs like I’m jokin’ – like it’s the funniest thing he’s heard in ages.  And he keeps on laughin’ right out the door with that red folder tucked under his armpit.

That’s when I figure this ain’t gonna be over anytime soon.


Sample End

Total Length: 34 pages

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