The chapel door creaks open displacing the silence. A woman appears with rags and a bucket. She places them on the alter at Jesus’ feet. She kneels before the crucifix and genuflects. Rising to her feet she reverentially backs away.
Rays of late May sunlight stream through the chapel window, prisms of peach and gold cast stripes across the turnkey’s sombre face, like God’s fingers resting on his furrowed brow.
At the rear of the chapel the turnkey sits poker straight on the high oak chair. He gazes over his flock of prisoners, solemnly muttering their laments. The burnt orange light haloing their bony heads.
Skeletal elbows rest on scrawny thighs, forehead tipped forward in penance. For some it will be the rope that snaps their neck.
Outside, the sun sets deeper into the earth. The light has changed. The chapel is inferno red and filigrees of dust hover in the still air.
Another woman appears. She nods respectfully towards Jesus and begins a conversation with her friend. Proudly, the woman tells the story of her great great great aunt and the love token she made for her sweetheart who was once here. Family folklore, she laughs.
The turnkey clanks his keys. It’s time for the prisoners to go to their cell. The boys rise and drift out of the chapel.