By: Byron Merritt
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The footsteps were getting closer and closer with each tick of the small clock mounted on the wall outside Raymond Thompson’s cold, dim cell. He could hear them coming, the click, click, click of shoe soles against the gray cement floor announced their inevitable arrival.

Raymond lay curled in a ball on the musty mattress, his stomach full from the steak and lobster dinner he’d recently finished.

Click, click, click the sound continued to echo toward him, almost speaking to him. It was a familiar sound. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, Raymond recognized it.

Click, click, click.

His father’s footsteps used to make those sounds, but never so evenly. They staggered and swayed with a brain awash in cheap whiskey or wine — whichever was more readily available.

Nearly every night he would come home looking for Raymond’s mother. Angry and wallowing in self-hatred, he sought her out so he could expel the demons that had accumulated within him during the day.

But Raymond grew up knowing instinctively that this shouldn’t, this couldn’t, go on. So he stepped in to help take the demons away, and the "Old Man" was willing to oblige him. The fists would land on Raymonds small, feeble body but he would not cry out. Even at the age of twelve, he knew better than to give into petty feelings of human frailty. To cry out would be shameful. To speak with someone about it would be intolerable. So he maintained his silence. Not a sound, not even so much as a whimper, ever crossed his lips.

He never cried out until his mother’s funeral some fifteen years later, her broken spirit finally lying in peace on a warm, rose-colored mattress within the casket. For Raymond, it was too much to bear.

After the funeral he went and found the "Old Man" with bloodshot eyes sitting on a barstool on main street. The gun echoed loudly as Raymond emptied it and blood ran swiftly across the floor.

. . . Click, click, click the footsteps closed in and slowed. Two men peered through the bars. It was Sergeant Brinks along with Raymond’s court appointed attorney, Mr. Powell. Raymond stood unsteadily on his feet and swayed slightly at the thought of what was to come.

"You’ve been granted a stay," Mr. Powell announced with a satisfactory smile upon his multi-chinned face. Sergeant Brinks stood to his right, stone-faced and bored.

Raymond sank back onto the bed.

Click, click, click the footsteps went back down the cellblock, away from Raymond. But the sound would remain with him. So Raymond lay back on his tattered, smelly mattress and, for the second time in his life, began to weep.

When, he thought. When would the click, click, click of the footsteps finally stop?

[ end ]


Byron Merritt is a full time ER nurse and part time author. He’s established his own writers group in Monterey, California known as Fiction Writers Of the Monterey Peninsula and its members have been meeting and critiquing their writings for over two years. Byron is also the grandson of the legendary author, Frank Herbert (of Dune fame) and has written a retrospective article about his grandfather that is currently running at He is also a member of the Herbert Limited Partnership, the body responsible for the maintenance of the Dune books and its continued success. Byron has also published a previous story with Shadowkeepzine earlier this year entitled The Trouble With Joran, a science fiction spoof for the adult parent with teenagers...but not necessarily on Earth. For more information about Frank Herbert, be sure to check out for "Frank Herbert Lives."

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