A Brief But Lovely Light

Takeshi came to me again last night. He comes most nights, or did up until they moved me to my final waiting place. I was glad to see him again. When I didn’t see him for three nights running I thought maybe he’d decided he’d had enough.

It’s a strange thing, the fact that I can understand what he says. See, I don’t speak Japanese, and he says he doesn’t speak English. Then again, him being dead and all, maybe it isn’t so strange. Maybe it’s just how things are.

The first time I saw him I thought I must have been dreaming. I was lying on my bunk with my fingers locked behind my head whistling a tune I’d heard someone singing. I was drifting off and then I glanced  over and there he was just sitting cross-legged, his back against the wall. He was staring at me and grinning.

He was wearing ragged standard issue gear. His hair was thinning and tousled and he was missing a few teeth. His feet looked as though they’d never had shoes on them his whole life.

I suppose I should have been startled. I asked him who he was and how he’d gotten there and for the longest time he just fixed me with that grin and said nothing. I thought sure I must be dreaming and when he finally spoke I guessed it was Japanese but somehow I understood every word.

I was sure then and there that it was a dream but he spoke again and told me I wasn’t asleep. Then he said something that put a chill on me. He said he meant I wasn’t asleep in the sense that sleep was something I did every night.

That’s how it began between us. A man in my position doesn’t have much call to analyse what goes on from one day to the next. When you know the end is near and that it’s all to do with where you’ve been and what you’ve done you come to a place of acceptance. Otherwise you’ll lose your mind. It has occurred to me that might not be a bad thing but so far I’ve resisted.

Anyway, Takeshi said he’d come to me because of the tune I was whistling the first time I saw him. He told me it was an old Japanese children’s song. He wanted to know where I’d heard it. After that he came to me every night, and since a language barrier kept me from having much to do with the others I was grateful for the company.

I guess I should explain about all that. See, I’m in Changi Prison. That’s in Singapore. There are things a man should never do in Singapore. Smuggling drugs is right up there at the top of the list. So is murder. Fact is, sometimes money can make a man stupid. Or maybe it’s greed. Either way, I went down a bad path.

I told my story to Takeshi not long after he started appearing to me. He just nodded his head. I asked him how come he’d been in my place since I could tell by his clothes that he had been. He told me the old prison had been used as a prisoner of war camp and he was an inmate. Said he liked the new prison better but he’d died before they built it.

Funny how I was able to make peace with the fact that a ghost was coming to visit me every night. I’d never been one to hold with such things but I guess when your time is short what matters and what don’t changes.

It was so good to see Takeshi last night. I had one last question I wanted to ask him and I hadn’t got up my nerve before he stopped coming. Last night I made sure I asked.

I wanted to know what I could expect to see at the moment of my death. See, tomorrow is Friday and here at Changi Friday morning is hanging time. So I only have about twelve hours before I take that last long walk and feel the noose around my neck. I won’t accept the hood being placed over my head though. I want to see what Takeshi told me is coming.

He said it’s a brief but lovely light.

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