The Drop

The man stands waiting with his back to the desk.
It is dim in the room. Pale light struggling through the small barred window falls on to the tiled walls and floor. The shelf opposite the desk is stacked with dressings, rolled bandages and a large, rust-coloured bottle of iodine to disinfect caning wounds.
I try to swallow. Bile pools at the back of my tongue but my throat is too dry to get rid of it.
The man takes out a little notebook and pen from the pocket of his khaki shirt. His black fringe hangs in limp strands over a forehead that is pitted in the middle with a bullet-hole-shaped scar. His dark eyes are sunk in deep hollows beneath twitching eyelids.
I search his face for any acknowledgement of what he does, why he has me here. He remains expressionless.
‘Please step on the scales,’ he says.
I shiver even though it must be at least thirty degrees Celsius.
‘Leave your shoes on.’
Warm sweat dribbles down the back of my neck as I step onto the scales in front of me. The man leans forward and starts moving the little metal weights that slide across the bar.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
I turn my face away, clenching my teeth hard. I stare at the narrow examination bed. At the locked medicine cabinet. At the two guards standing watch by the door. And finally I come back to the scales.
The man clunks the last weight into place and steps back for a moment to make sure the beam stays even. I blink. I’ve lost more than ten kilos since coming to this place.
The man writes my weight down in his little notebook. It’s all very scientific. They use a system devised by the British in 1888 called the Official Table of Drops—bloody Peng had told me that.
‘It’s a manual for working out the length of rope,’ Peng had said. ‘It depends on your weight.’ He’d stopped by my cell, uninvited, after the pardon board rejected my appeal. ‘If the rope is too long, it rips your head off. Too short, you strangulate.’ He put his hands around his throat and made choking noises.
‘Okay,’ the man says. ‘Step down now.’
I step off the scales. My prison coveralls, damp from sweat, chafes at the rash on the inside of my thighs.
The man closes his notebook and nods to the guards.
‘You have any questions?’ he asks me.
I shake my head; I can’t speak.
‘I will see you tomorrow morning,’ he says.
I have no choice. The man is my hangman.

By Suvi Mahonen

The Drop

Suvi  Mahonen

Surfers Paradise, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Beginning sequence of ‘The Drop’, published in Verandah 22

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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