Dead Girl Walking

Axiom – You are absolutely certain you are going to hell.

I don’t like uncertainty. That’s what I told Hannah when she asked me how it was I ended up here. She said it was sad me being here, especially seeing as how I was so young and all. She said it was a real tragedy. That my Mom and Dad had failed me. And when she found out how I didn’t have no Mom or Dad no more, not since long before I started school, she said society had failed me, and that was worse. I didn’t really know what to make of that. You see, my Mom, she died when she was giving birth to me so I never really knew her at all. She was pretty, I’ve got a photo that my Dad gave me. They let me keep it when I had to give up all my possessions and clothes and stuff. They let me keep my coin too – the one with two heads that always gives the same result no matter how many times you flip it. Thatused to be my Dad’s. On his good days he used to use it to trick me; it was our game cos we both knew, well I did after a while at least, that it would always be heads, but I used to guess tails sometimes anyway. Once he used a real coin instead and it really did turn up tails, but I didn’t like that. I think I cried. I don’t remember. That was towards the end anyhow. There were less good days towards the end. My Dad started to act all weird and nasty sometimes, and he was drinking a lot, I know that now. He used to go out and I didn’t know when he’d be coming back; sometimes it’d be days and I had to go round to Mrs French’s next door cos I was only four and I didn’t really know what to do. My Dad was angry when I did that, he said she’d get him into a whole load of trouble. Then one night, he’d been drinking a lot I guess, he got real mad at me and he said about how I’d killed my Mom and how she’d been his rock and I’d taken every kind of certainty he’d ever had from his life. He shouted and he told me I was a murderer and that I was going to hell for what I’d done. Back then I didn’t know what that meant, but I was scared, cos he had this way about him that I didn’t understand. And the next day when I woke up the coin was lying next to me on my pillow, and I never saw my Dad again. I don’t know what society had to do with it, cos society didn’t have much to do with me even after that. I moved around a lot. Foster homes, then care homes. I wasn’t really allowed around society much though. Hannah said that was kind of her point.

Hannah used to visit me a lot. I wasn’t really sure why, cos I ain’t never met her before I ended up on death row, and she didn’t need to be here cos she hadn’t never done nothing wrong, but she was kind to me and she turned up pretty regular and all so I didn’t really mind. I didn’t have no other visitors, so as long as she didn’t turn up between 12 and 12.30 when I had my lunch or 4 and 5 when I’d be reading my book that she gave me, then we got along just fine and I’d sit and talk to her about all kinds of stuff, but she mostly asked questions about me.

She used to ask me about my Aspergers. Lots of people used to talk about my Aspergers; mostly the social workers, or my teachers, or the priest or people like that. I never really understood what they meant by it though because they only used to talk about it to each other and not really to me. I guessed it had to be a bad thing because they used to talk about it in whispers when they thought I couldn’t hear and they said it was why people found me difficult. When I first came to death row the prison wardens used to talk about it too. One time I heard Shelling – he’s the old grizzled prison warden with the whiskers and the bucked teeth that I don’t like too much – telling Gordon that I was dangerous because of my Aspergers. He said it was why I’d stabbed the churchwarden, which I knew was a lie because I didn’t know what my Aspergers was, but I knew why I’d stabbed Mrs Humber. I hadn’t really wanted to or nothing you understand. I just needed to make certain. It was funny though, cos Hannah once kind of said the same sort of thing as Shelling did. She said a lot of things about my Aspergers and explained that it meant that I didn’t understand other people too well and that I liked things to be a certain way. And she said that it wasn’t my fault, which I thought was a strange thing to say cos I didn’t really see how anyone could think that the way someone was was anyone’s fault exactly. Then she said that that meant that what I’d done, the murder and all, might not really be my fault neither because of my Aspergers, which I thought was even stranger because that definitely was my fault, there was no question about that.

“Do you want to die kid?” I remember the way she looked at me when she asked that question, huge, open, grey eyes beneath her thick black-rimmed glasses, hands folded in front of her on the dull square of prison table, watching while I flipped my coin and drummed my right foot like I do sometimes when something unnerves me. It wasn’t the question that did that, it was just the way she wouldn’t look away. I told her that I didn’t mind too much, because I was going to die anyway at some point sooner or later and that seeing as that was true I might as well be certain about when it was going to happen. And since I was a dead girl walking – that’s what we were called here on death row – it was like I was already dead anyway and that was kind of a relief because being dead is a pretty sure thing. She looked at me even funnier when I said that. “Do you know what’ll happen to you when you die?” But I couldn’t speak anymore because a couple of tears had started to run down her face and I get nervous when people are crying and I don’t know why, so I just nodded cos I was pretty damn sure about that.

Well the next time after that when Hannah came to see me, she didn’t ask no questions like usual, but instead she straight off started to talk to me about Heaven and Jesus and stuff. Now I know a lot about Heaven and Jesus and all that cos they sent me to a religious school after I kicked the girl in my sixth grade class who took my coin off me so bad that she had to go to hospital and have all these stitches. There was this priest there who met us on our first day and he told us all about Heaven, and how that’s where people go when they die and they’ve done good in their lives and they’ve believed in God enough. And he talked about Hell too. He said it was this fearsome place where everything’s all dark and you can’t see nothing for all the horror that’s in front of you there and he said that’s where all the bad people go, like the murderers and the whores and the folk what don’t let God into their lives and what consort with the Devil instead. Well I’d never met the Devil before, and I was no whore or nothing, but then again I didn’t know too much about God neither and I wasn’t too sure about the murderer thing, cos I knew how I’d killed my Mom and all but I wasn’t sure how much that would count. I didn’t like the way that made me feel and it sort of began to bother me and make me all nervous and I was always thinking about it, just all the time like there was nothing else in the world I could think about. And I tried real hard, you know, to get to know God and Jesus and all. I really did. I went to church all the time and said all my prayers before bed each night, but it just wasn’t really working cos they said, at the school and all, that when you went to church a lot and said prayers all the time then you’d be able to feel God was with you, and there were these other girls in my class who said that they’d heard God speaking to them sometimes and the teachers said that they must be really close to God if they heard him speaking and all. But I never felt nothing and I never heard no one either. But I did learn a lot though. Cos they taught us all the time about Heaven and all that stuff, like more than half our classes, and eventually I began to work some stuff out. Cos you see, the thing about Heaven is that getting there takes this whole lot of effort and worry, and even if you do all the effort and you try really hard and stuff with church and praying, at the end of the day its just up to God whether you end up there or not cos you might not have done the right stuff, or been hearing him right or nothing. And you have to spend your whole life like that, all worried and trying hard and all, and there’s no guarantee or anything that you’ll go to Heaven at the end of it. It was like all the teachers used to say, you just gotta have faith in God. But as for Hell well, you don’t need no faith for Hell. You just have to do something real bad. And that’s it.

And so this time Hannah was going on at me about Heaven and Jesus and stuff, and I just had to tell her straight that I was going to Hell and I knew that and it was ok. And then she took my hand, and I don’t like too much when people touch me so I don’t know why I let her but I did, and she told me that it didn’t have to be that way. I didn’t understand what she meant and I said so, and so then she told me that it didn’t matter what I’d done but that if I felt bad about it, which she knew I did, then God would forgive me. I tried to explain that God wasn’t like that and that wasn’t the way things worked, but she just kept going on and on about how I didn’t understand and that there was still time for me for change things if I wanted to, and that all I had to do was let God into my life.

I didn’t really want to do it you understand, but all Hannah’s talk about Heaven and stuff had confused me and I guess I figured that seeing as I had the opportunity I might as well make absolutely certain. And besides, seeing as I was already dead and all, what I did to people didn’t really matter all too much anyway. She wasn’t very strong at all and the book she’d given me was big and heavy and had these good thick metal clasps. She had hold of my one hand quite tight, but that just meant it was easier for me to pull her downwards towards the table. I don’t even think she saw it coming. Strange thing was, the first blow didn’t kill her, but it sure made her bleed awful from the temple right over her pretty dress and I thought I was in for a real fight on my hands when she lifted up her head so I tensed and readied myself cos I was used to fighting and scratching from my old school. But she didn’t fight me, and she didn’t let go of my hand neither. She didn’t even move apart from to look up at me. And then she told me in this voice that was real small and all that it didn’t matter what I did to her and that God still loved me, and that he’d still forgive me too. Well I was shaking by now, and that just made me even more nervous and confused and all, and every time I brought that book crashing down on her head she just kept on telling me that God would forgive me, and she was crying and bleeding and everything but she didn’t never scream. So I just kept on hitting her and hitting her cos I didn’t know what else to do, and then finally her hand went loose and I was free to go and I backed off all nervous like cos there was all her blood smeared all over my hands and I don’t like being dirty too much. I didn’t want to make my coin dirty as well, but I did, cos I needed to flip my coin right then to calm myself down. I sure hope I’m allowed to keep that coin.

They brought forward my sentence after that, and they took my book away. I don’t really mind though cos I don’t need the book and it was kind of weird anyhow and I didn’t think it made much sense. Now between 4 and 5 everyday I flip my coin instead of reading my book, which I like doing much better. Tomorrow morning I’ll stop being a dead girl walking, and instead I’ll just be a dead girl. They told me the time and everything and all of how it was going to work which I thought was nice of them because I don’t like it much when things change and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Shelling came by and said that he hoped I’d rot in Hell. I thought that was odd because I know the point of Hell is that you don’t never rot. Hell is eternity. That means it stays the same forever. I told him that, but he just spat at me so I don’t think he understood.

Hannah once asked me if I was scared of dying. I’d never really thought about that before. I don’t really get scared of much. Except for uncertainty. I don’t like uncertainty.

NB. I would like to make clear that in this story Aspergers is used as a plot point to explore a particular take on the axiom, however my portrayal of the condition is not intended to cause any offence and owes more to dramatic licence than it does to rigorous research.