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Ross 1

Bella Ross
Dr. Suhr-Systma
English 181-001
4 October 2016
Project 2 Part 1 Final Draft: Chapter 12.5

I open my eyes. I first notice that its freezing, then how bright it is, and finally a hushed
chatter off to one side. Where am I? I look over to my right theres a big crowd. What are
they all here for? I try to remember. Remember anything. My name, who I am, where I live.
I dig for a little while, but I dont get much. Im in Mankato, Minnesota. The date is
December 26th, 1862 (Weiner). No name, nothing about myself. Fine. I can work with that. It
must just mean that Im not that important. It must mean that it doesnt matter who I am, it
matters what I do here.
How awful is this going to be if it doesnt even matter who I am? If all that matters is
what Im about to do? I wonder what hell Ill be subjected to now. Am I going to have to
choose whether to kill a child again? Will someone tell me theyll shoot me if I dont shoot
someone whos already dead? Im so tired of this. If the point of this whole thing was to teach
me that I shouldnt have shot people in a bank, then it can end here. Trust me, I get it now.
Whatever. The most I can do is try to figure out some basic information about myself.
Theres no mirror around, so I look down at my hands. I can tell that Im white, but not much
else. My hands look kind of weathered, but thats probably normal for the time, right? I dont
know if Im ugly or beautiful, if Im rich or poor, if Im young or old. I dont feel too old. I

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mean, I could be older. Like, maybe up to forty. But not old-old. I dont think I have arthritis or
grey hair or anything yet.
I look around again. Im next to some type of platform, in a town square or something. I
think for a second that I might be in a play or some type of performance, but that doesnt make
any sense; its not a real stage. The crowd is quiet, like theyre waiting for something. There are
a bunch of Indians being walked over to the platform, led by some people who look like they
could be cops.
I try to gather clues from my clothing, but they dont say much. When I look over to my
left, I see that everyone else wears identical clothes: hat, jacket, boots. Maybe its military
clothes. Those cops I saw dont actually look much like cops. I mean, I dont really know what
cops from this time look like, but this seems a little too formal. And cops wouldnt be leading a
bunch of Indians somewhere, right? Thats something the military would do, I think. This whole
thing definitely seems more military.
Then I look up. I see nooses.
I know what this is. I watched this on the history channel. Good old Abraham Lincoln
sentenced 38 Indians to be publicly hung, because of a massacre against white settlers
(Weiner). Lincoln. You know, the one that everyone loves? Im not his biggest fan.
I mean, dont get me wrong, he did some great stuff. But he did some fucked up stuff
too. Like this. It wasnt like a bunch of Indians went and killed a bunch of innocent white
people, unprovoked. It was a war. The USA broke their promises and stole land, and Dakota
Indians were starving, so they fought back (Lawrence and Oyake). People on both sides died.
Thats how war works.

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Besides, Lincoln never executed any confederate soldiers, so theres really no way to call
this fair (Weiner).
There were 303 who were sentenced to death originally. Lincoln brought it down to 38
(Weiner). So I guess its better than it could have been.
I watch as the Indians are led forward. Why am I standing here? What am I doing here?
Who am I? Then I realize my role: Im the one that cuts the rope. Im the executioner.
No, this cannot be happening. This cant be real. I cant do this! What am I even
supposed to do here? Do I even have the control to stop it?
Should I stop it? It would probably be the right thing to do, but can I just change history
like that? If I stop it here, does it stop in real life too? If it stops in real life, would that change
If I change everything, would that even be a bad thing?
Maybe one thing would alter another, and then another, and if Im lucky, it could all work
out and come back to me. Maybe my father wouldnt leave, maybe my father wouldnt die.
Maybe I wouldnt be shuttled from foster home to foster home. Maybe I wouldnt have shot
people in a bank.
Or maybe itll fuck everything up even more.
I cant do this. I close my eyes. I squeeze down hard, trying to force myself into another
body, trying to get out of here. I start to open them maybe it worked, maybe I dont have to
do this.
No. Of course its not that easy.

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Im being punished. For what I did in the bank. This is hell: having to kill, again and
again and again and again. Over and over, until the end of time. Im sorry, okay? Im sorry
about the bank. I was angry. I get it now. Im sorry. Please make this stop.
But nothing changes. Im still here, holding a knife and a rope and thirty-eight lives in
my hands.
The Indians are wearing some type of hat. A cap made out of cloth or something. Its
rolled up so you can still see their faces, their painted faces. Their stoic faces. They dont look
sad. They look happy, even (Heard). Eager to get on with it, maybe. Were the prison conditions
that bad, that theyre looking forward to being hung?
Maybe theyre just trying to be strong. Maybe theyre scared. Maybe they cried earlier.
Maybe theyre holding back tears now. Maybe theyre struggling underneath the surface.
I always struggled. I never bothered to keep it underneath the surface, everyone always
knew I was miserable. I wonder if the people in the bank struggled too, and if they kept it
underneath the surface. The people in the bank, with their beautiful faces and beautiful children
and beautiful lives. Maybe they were scared, and they cried earlier, and they were holding back
tears then. Maybe everyone always is, not just me.
Maybe Im not alone in this. Yeah, my particular struggle is pretty specific, but Im
probably not alone in the act of struggling. Im not the only one without a family, or with a
shitty one, and Im not the only one who doesnt understand who they are. Im not the only one
whos ever felt this way. Im not alone in my loneliness.
Then they start to sing. Its their death songs. And it sounds
Um, bad?

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Like, really bad. Super loud. And super bad. I dont mean to be disrespectful or
anything, but I thought the death songs would be kind of cool. That it would be the only good
part about this whole thing. Im just a little disappointed.
And then I realize why it sounds so bad: theyre all singing different death songs.
Theyre all singing different songs, and theyre all singing at once, on different keys with
different words and everything (Heard). Its like a tone-deaf choir with no conductor, and they
all brought different sets of sheet music. I didnt know that there were different death songs. I
thought there was only one.
Jesus Christ, its loud. Youd think some of the soldiers would tell them to shut up, but
they dont. I guess they dont care anymore if Indians sing before they die. Whats the point in
trying to strip someone of their culture if youre going to kill them in a few minutes anyway?
Still, its surprising.
Theres one who looks young. Maybe sixteen (Heard). Sixteen years old, and hell die
today. I wonder if he actually killed anyone. I hope he didnt. I hope he dies innocent.
But, then he would be dying for nothing. So I guess I hope he did kill someone, so that at
least this would be happening for a reason.
Im not listening to any one song in particular, but I guess one guy pisses off the crowd a
It is I, he sings. I dont get it, but the crowd looks pretty mad. Then he keeps singing
and I understand. Hes basically telling everyone that if they see a body with the head cut off
and placed on its ass or something, then he did it (Heard).
Ha. One final fuck you to them.

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But, did he actually do that? I really hope not. I really hope hes just saying it to piss
people off. Its hard to laugh at death now and to hear about killing. Youd think Id be
desensitized. Im not. Now that Ive seen it, now that Ive done it, I understand. I see how
horrible it is. I get it in a way that only killers understand.
I change my mind. I dont think the joke is funny. Dont get me wrong, I get where hes
coming from. I understand wanting to insult a ton of people who came out to watch you die.
That makes sense. But killing doesnt make sense.
But who am I to talk? Ive killed a million times now. Im gonna kill again. Im gonna
kill this guy. I should let him have his joke. He should be able to have a laugh one last time,
The death songs stop, and the audience shuts up too.
Oh, god, this is really happening, isnt it?
I need to figure out how much control I have over this body. I want to stop this, right?
Can I stop this, or will this body take over? And even if I do refuse to cut the rope, cant
someone else just come and do it? Isnt this all just inevitable anyway?
No matter what I do, thirty-eight people die today. Whether I cut the rope or not, Ive
killed them. Because standing by and doing nothing is just as bad, right? But what can I do
besides stand by? I cant fight everyone here. Either way, Im screwed. Im a horrible person
no matter what. Im evil that was decided in the bank, so Im condemned to do evil things for
the rest of eternity. Im evil, so does it even matter what I do here? Is there any redemption for a
Someone beats on a drum once. Thats the signal. Three beats (Heard). I should stop
this, right? Killing is wrong. I should at least try to stop this. One of them is a kid. But these

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Indians might have killed people too. There was a massacre. So if they killed people, do they
deserve to die? Is this justice?
Another drum beat. But the massacre was justified, right? Because so many Indians had
been killed. So really, it was the massacre that was justice. Is that how justice works? Is it just
violence caused by violence causing more violence? Is that justice, or is that revenge?
Are the two really that different?
The third drum beat. I need to stop this. I need to end the cycle here justice, revenge,
whatever it is, it doesnt matter. Nobody else needs to die. I need to stop it. But this body takes
over, and I feel my arm start to swing. I try to fight it but theres something inside of me,
something from the real person, that wants to kill. I cut the rope, and thirty eight bodies fall.
Except one body falls too far. The rope breaks and he lands on the ground (Heard). I
dont know if I should be hoping for him to be dead or alive. If hes dead, then its over. No
more pain. If hes alive, maybe he can make a run for it.
But it doesnt matter, because they string him back up. I feel like vomiting.
Once its all over, the audience starts to cheer. Theyre cheering for killing. Theyre
cheering for revenge, or justice, or whatever this was. Theyre cheering for the death of a child.
A child I killed. I close my eyes, and I scream.

Works Consulted:

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Heard, Isaac V. D., and Henry Whipple Benjamin. History of the Sioux War and Massacres of
1862 and 1863. 290-298. New York: Harper & Bros., 1865. Print.

Weiner, Jon. "Largest Mass Execution in US History: 150 Years Ago Today." The Nation. N.p.,
29 June 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2016. <


Lawrence, Elden, and Ehanna Oyake Wichohan. "Battle History - Two Perspectives." Wood Lake
Battlefield. Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.