AUTHOR'S NOTE Last chapter! The anonymous reviewer was right, this is David Gale from The Life of David Gale. Thanks for reading, everyone!
DISCLAIMER I don't own The Wizard of Oz or The Life of David Gale, but I do own the idea that the characters are related.
"I'm sorrier than you can know."
Professor David Gale lay back on his cot, letting the San Francisco postcard fall softly to the concrete floor of his cell. "Thanks Berlin," he whispered bitterly. "You're only a few years too late."
Berlin was his past. Prison was his present and death was his future. There was no escaping it. Lying on his cot in the small prison cell, he was privy to long periods of contemplation. It didn't take much to spark such inner diatribes, as David had not abandoned philosophy when the University abandoned him.
A year. It had been a year since his conviction. A year spent in prison for the death of his last confidant and friend. He could remember his sentence hearing. It didn't come as a surprise to be put on Death Row. Rather he regarded it as solely ironic.
"Heh." David laughed. "So long Death Watch."
Death Watch. So long had he devoted his energy to his anti-Capitol Punishment organization. He'd put his life into it and now it couldn't save him. Ironic.
He loved irony.
Leaving the postcard forgotten on the floor, David got up from the cot and walked the few paces to a barred, gritty window. Past the shadow of the hulking brick prison, Texas sun shone glaringly on yellow plains. His eyes dropped to a framed photograph sitting on the slim window ledge. A young boy with his forehead against David's.
His son Jamie.
Tears welled up in the man's eyes as he held the frame. When he'd lost Jamie, he'd lost everything. The picture was all he had left. It was the one mercy bestowed on him to be able to keep it with him, even in prison.
Slowly, David slid off the back of the frame as he returned to the rock-hard cot. Two other photographs, one in normal condition, the other yellowed with age, fluttered out of their hiding place behind Jamie.
He picked them up and studied them, one at a time. The first one was of a young boy from the 60's, standing between a happy-looking couple. He remembered that picture being taken.
It was shortly before his father had left for war in a small Hell called Vietnam. David remembered after the war, too. After his father had been driven mad by the horrors he'd seen and could no longer interact with anyone.
They called it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But all David knew was that his father was taken away from him. His mother lost her will for anything after his father died and sent David away.
The second picture showed happiness, also. A young girl in a pretty dress smiled at the camera. She held a small black dog that stood out against her white pinafore. She was a farm girl, that much was clear.
She was Grandmother Dorothy, his father's mother. David knew little about her. He knew that she was an orphan raised by her aunt and uncle. He also knew that soon after his father was born illegitimately, Dorothy had lost her mind and had to be put in confinement. She lost her son, her sanity, and her dignity into a world of mental torment.
David slipped the pictures back into their hiding lace, again turning to the picture of Jamie. He laughed softly. Everything in his life was ironic.
Dorothy had grown up an orphan. She'd been raised by her aunt and uncle. Bu then she'd gone mad and lost her son. He hadn't grown up with parents either. When he finally started a family, he was destroyed by horrors beyond his control. In consequence, David had grown up without a father and, to some extent, a mother.
Now Jamie was suffering the same thing. Beginning with Dorothy and her illegitimate son, the Gale name seemed doomed to broken families. David just stared at the happy image of him and his son – the only person who really mattered to him.
Then mechanically, almost unconsciously, he reached down to the floor and picked up the postcard. He slid it into the frame, another piece of his past hidden from prying eyes. Even from his own prying eyes.
"I'm sorry Jamie," he whispered to the picture. "I'm sorry for everything. But you're free now." A single tear slid down his cheek. "Your daddy's gonna die…but you have a new life now. With – " His voice caught. "With a new daddy." He couldn't stop the sobs rising in his chest. "I hope he gives you a better life than I could!"
When his weeping had ebbed, he replaced the picture back on the windowsill and lay down to sleep away his sorrow. He fell into nothing – the abyss of slumber of a man living out such a nightmare that he has nothing left to dream.
Only one thought gave him solace. His life was forfeit, but at least the cycle of his family was broken. Jamie was no longer his son. No longer a Gale.
And that meant he'd be safe. Forever.