A lethal injection looms in Amber’s future for the alleged murder of her family. To avoid it, she will appear on a reality show in which contestants vie for a bachelor’s love. The winner is granted freedom. The catch – the bachelor is an S&M fanatic who practices his arts on the contestants, and the penalty for losing on the show can be death. Amber knows there are tremendous risks in being a contestant, but she didn’t think one of them would be falling in love.
A lethal injection looms in my future.
During the first few months, public opinion was evenly divided: fifty percent believed I murdered my husband and daughter, fifty percent thought I had nothing to do with their disappearance. But of course, that was before the media began their relentless invasion into my story and my past.
I broke a boy’s ribs with a baseball bat when I was a high school student in Japan. We had been at a party, and he had tried to rape me, or at the very least put his hands where they did not belong. I defended myself. No charges have ever been filed.
Then the media learned about Carl, and the affair.
Eventually, they found out about the man I was seeing back in my early twenties when I was living with my mother and step-father in China. I was the last person to see him alive. He disappeared. By the time he was legally declared dead, I was safely back in the United States.
Public opinion turned. I was guilty. What had been a regional story spread like wildfire throughout America. Nightly media feeds would focus on the continuing investigation and the evidence mounting — against me of course.
Then came the leak of the mental health expert’s findings. Of course, this only added to the frenzy. Hired by the prosecutors — without examining me in person — he concluded I had the capacity to shield myself from normal feelings. So I could kill someone, and live with it.
It was just a matter of time before they finally arrested me.
I’ve been in this cell for the past six months, getting out only for an occasional visit with my lawyer in the interview room, to make a few brief appearances in court, and for my daily hour alone in the exercise yard. No one wants another inmate to kill me before the trial. I sit on a narrow bed with a thin, smelly mattress in a ten-square-foot cell, with a camera trained on me from outside the steel bars twenty-four hours a day. When I’m in the courthouse, the guards let me put on business attire; otherwise, I wear orange jumpsuits. I tell the guards they’re tight around my hips. They joke that the custom-fitted jumpsuits will be delivered shortly.
I’m guessing I should feel depressed or anxious or just plain terrified. Mostly, I just feel numb.
It’s so hard sometimes to stay strong and be optimistic. I close my eyes and see my daughter’s face on the day when she and I were last together. Still a toddler, she was learning to wobble about the house, laughing, her eyes blue and bright, smiling, always smiling at me. Her face haunts me in my dreams.
Fortunately, I enjoy reading, because there’s not much else to do. Although I never had much interest in science before this all began, nowadays I’m drawn to articles about biology and physics and astronomy. In a magazine recently, I read how human beings can never actually perceive the real world. Instead, the real world enters our senses and is translated by our brains in ways evolution dictated would be best for our survival. The reality that we believe exists is actually just a simulation created by our own minds. We can never comprehend the true nature of the universe, because our brains get in the way.
I think about that now, sitting in my prison cell, awaiting trial. I wonder if, somehow, some way, none of this is real.
I sometimes wish that what my mind perceives as reality is completely wrong, and that some of the things I have done or seen never happened at all.
Richard L. Becker graduated from Lehigh University and Yale Law School, and currently practices family law and writes fiction in Kansas. Richard’s fiction ranges from dark comedies to supernatural horror, from historic fiction to erotic thrillers. His work has been published by Midnight Frost Books.
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Author Links: Site Blog Facebook Twitter