the noose
stephen smith

“Hello there,” said the noose.

Like any sane man would, Harry Fielding ignored the rope around his neck. No great loss. It was beginning to chafe him anyway.

He stood on a platform two metres above the ground. Heavily varnished. He would have found it beautiful if it hadn’t been built to kill him.

Below him, husbands sat feigning interest as their wives sipped wine and discussed fashion. The few children attending played a game, oblivious to the damage they were inflicting on their expensive clothing. Waiters swooped in as the couples finished their caviar, filling up their glasses and toting their empty plates away.

A moustached man in a bowler hat mounted a platform on the ground, to the left of Harry. “Testing,” he said, “Testing, One, Two.”

He seemed satisfied that the microphone was working. He smoothed his moustache, adjusted his bowtie and opened his mouth to begin.

“Hello,” the noose piped up again.

“Shut up,” said Harry Fielding. “I’m trying to listen.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the announcer. “We are gathered here today to witness the execution of Harry Fielding. His crime – murder; for which he will hang from the gallows.”

He adjusted his bowler hat. “Society has been hit hard by criminals such as Mr. Fielding. It is our right, as peace-loving citizens, to strike back. Today we take vengeance. Today we stand as one and show these petty criminals we are not afraid. The hanging will take place in precisely twenty minutes, immediately following dessert. Thank you.”

The audience clapped as he stepped off the platform.


Gusts of cool wind buffeted Harry, making him sway. The rope rubbed against his neck. Already the skin there was red and swollen. Harry cursed the rope; however, the noose remained silent.

The sun fell, drop by drop, down to the horizon. The blue day slowly yellowed into the colour of fading bruises on a lover’s eye. Clouds made their way to heaven and the trees spoke in rasping whispers.

“What do you call an overweight alien?” said the noose.

“What?”

“An extra-cholesterol.”

The noose chuckled at its joke. It was the sound of dry sun and sawdust. Harry Fielding groaned.

“Be quiet,” he said.

He wanted to reach up and shake the voices from his head. Watch as they fell, one by one, to the grass. First, his friends. Then the unforgiving stares of his parents, the hurried whispers of co-workers. Finally, his wife. Her daisy coloured dress flying up to obscure her face as she fell, revealing pink underwear.

The noose was not the only thing in his mind.

“Why don’t you want to talk to me?” said the noose.

“You are going to kill me.”

“I wouldn’t do that, I was made for helping people,” it said. “Helping people have fun is my one aim in life. People can use me for climbing, sailing and even swinging. And there is hardly any chance of me breaking. I am made from hardy nylon and created by Founders, a respected company. In fact this is my first use.”

Harry laughed. “We’ll see.”

A few of the children in the audience were staring at him. One pointed and said something to the rest and they laughed, their thin pre-pubescent bodies heaving beneath their Armani suits. One of the mothers pinched her son’s arm. “Behave,” she said.

The waiters moved in again. They picked up plates and glasses, carrying them so they barely touched their hands. The tables were clear when the announcer took the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “This is what you have been waiting for.”

The crowd was silent, soaking in every word.

“It was barely three weeks ago when Harry Fielding brutally and sadistically murdered his wife of eight years.”

A few members of the crowd threw him disgusted looks. The T.V. lit image of his wife crept into his mind, hair stained rust, a dent in her head. He had looked so pathetic sobbing to the cops.

“Did you really kill your wife?” said the noose.

“Yes,” he said, “I did.”

“But why?”

“She slept with another man,” he said. “I had to do something.”

Silence. The announcer warbled on in the background, but Harry was no longer interested. He looked at the noose around his neck. Braided rope, almost as thick as his arm, it was a yellow bordering on a fantastic gold sheen. Frays of rope caught the dying sun and shone like wisps of rain on a clear day.

“Would you kill a murderer?”

The noose considered his question. Harry could almost feel it fidgeting against his neck as it thought.

“No. I wouldn’t,” it said. “I would never be able to live with myself.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.”

The announcer was still talking, his face red and traced with veins beneath his bowler hat. “…This government is rooting out the devils from our society. It is making the streets safe, our schools safe, your homes safe.” The audience was leaning slightly forward in their chairs, eyes glassy and receptive. “What you see here today is a step into a golden age – an age in which Mr. Fielding has no part. Thank you and enjoy the show.”

He walked off the platform, taking off his bowler hat to bow. His thin hair whisked in the wind. Two hooded men appeared at either side of him. They made their way over to Harry.

The crowd was standing now, jittering, edging forward for a better view. The three men started on the stairs leading to the platform.

A drone flew in the sky above him. The black shape twittered as each of its cameras moved to capture the moment. The citizens at home watched the live telecast.

Sky: cooling embers, wind. Harry’s lips burned. The executioners were on the platform. One of the men breathed heavily. The announcer leant over Harry’s shoulder. “Any last words for the murderer?” he said, gesturing to the audience.

Harry Fielding tried to think of something meaningful to say, but could not. He sighed. A hand moved to a lever. The audience gasped.

“No?” the announcer said.

Harry shook his head. Waited. The noose scratched his neck.

Emptiness.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” the noose said proudly.

The nylon tightened around his throat, rubbing against his blistering neck. Harry jolted up, a snap coming from his neck.

The crowd cheered and clapped. His vision blurred.

The noose sobbed.

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