A man dressed in a pale blue gown walks hurriedly down a deserted white hallway. He is breathing heavily after being lead up a long series of stairs by the other man accompanying him. To the left and right of him, he hears faint sounds of beeping as he walks past each non-descript white doorway. The overwhelming smell of disinfectant and cheap deodorizer leaves him slightly dizzy and with a sour aftertaste in the back of his throat.

The man is tall and bony, with a disconcerting face composed of deep wrinkles, a lipless mouth, and a crooked nose. Despite the mostly unappealing face plastered under a greasy unkempt head of brown hair, his radiant green eyes glimmer beautifully under the pale lights of the hallway. Like luminous green marbles dancing in a black void, his hypnotic eyes are in stark contrast with the ugliness of the rest of his face.

The man surveys the doors at the end of the hallway and strides confidently up to a large wooden door that reads “Henry Crown M.D.” He nods to the other man with him and pushes past the unexpectedly heavy door, almost unable to contain his excitement. The man quickly sits down on a beige padded chair, facing Dr. Crown who is sitting opposite him. The office is cramped and windowless, with fluorescent lights buzzing steadily overhead. Medical devices and a couple cheap pastel paintings line the sightless barren walls and there is not a spot on the recently cleaned tile floor.

“Hey doc, are you new here? I’ve never seen you around before,” says the man, breaking the uneasy silence in the room.

“Just got hired,” mutters Dr. Crown dryly as he fumbles around with a manila folder.

“Oh that makes sense, I heard they were bring a new doc in. But anyway, I know why I’m here, so can we hurry this up? I have shit to do!” exclaims the man with a sense of arrogance.

“Very well. My name is Doctor Henry Crown and I’m here to administer a short series of exit tests to make sure you are physically and mentally rehabilitated enough to resume your life outside these walls.”

Explaining the procedure further to the man, the doctor begins to apply several pads connected to what looks like an EKG machine.

“Ok fine, lets just do this. I can’t wait til I’m outta here,” says the man half listening.

As he waits for the doctor to finish connecting him to the machine, he quickly glances at the small screen on it which seems to be reading his heartbeat, blood pressure, and a couple of other metrics he couldn’t quite decipher. He looks at the side of the machine and his eyes trace each bold, spray painted word as it spells out “Property of San Quentin State Prison”

“I still can’t believe I got parole after only twenty years…” the man says deep in thought, “I’m lucky considering the things I did to those people. But I’m a changed man now!” he declares.

Seemingly happy with himself, the man quickly moves on.

“Doc? Are we almost done here?” the man asks in an annoyed tone.

“Yes, I’m finishing up now, this machine will give me the necessary information on your vital signs,” explains the doctor.

“Hey Doc?” asks the man with a now childlike demeanor, “do you think the world has changed much while I was in here?”

Looking the man directly in the eyes for the first time, he responds slowly, “Yes, more than you could possibly know.”

Before the man even notices, Dr. Crown pushes a button on the machine.

“Here we go, you’re one step closer to your freedom,” the doctor says enthusiastically.

A smile creeps across the man’s face as he hears the word “freedom.”

The smile is interrupted when the man seizes violently as a thunderous crack echoes throughout the room. As the sound dies, so too does the man, and he slumps down in the beige padded chair. His haunting green eyes remain wide open in a state of utter shock and horror while a crimson thread trickles slowly from his nose. The green of his eyes and the deep red of his blood coalesce to form a perverted yuletide visage.

Dr. Crown takes the papers out of the manila folder from earlier. The cover reads, “Top Secret: U.S. Department of Justice Merciful Execution Protocol.” Dated January 24th 2054. On the next page, there is a picture of the now dead man, his green eyes seeming to penetrate the flat paper.

A further description reads: “Mr. Edward James Collins was convicted on April 22nd 2034 on 3 counts of child murder, 3 counts of forcible sodomy against a minor, 1 count of attempted child murder, and 1 count of aggravated mayhem. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and qualified for the merciful execution protocol. The justice department established this protocol after the abolishment of the death penalty in 2031, to clandestinely eliminate the extreme overcrowding in our prisons as well as to systematically eliminate people with a genetic disposition for violent crime. The accused are not to be made aware of their fate, and the execution shall be carried out be a medical professional using the machine supplied to painlessly euthanatize the accused. Failure to comply with the rules stated in this manual shall result in criminal prosecution...”

Dr. Crown sighs deeply and signs the rest of the documents. After double checking them, he calls to the other man waiting outside of the office.

“Mr. Williams, can you clean this scumbag up and send his body to the morgue, we’ll make it look like an embolism or heart attack in his sleep.”

“Yes Sir,” Mr. Williams answers.

“Oh,” says Dr. Crown remembering what else he had to say, “make sure you notify the justice department and tell them the execution has been carried out successfully.”

“Yes Sir,” he answers again.

Mr. Williams wheels out a gurney from the hallway, his U.S. Marshal badge swaying like a noose as he heaves the dead man on top of it. In doing so, he finally closes the man’s terrified green eyes, already a paler shade than they were just minutes ago.

Doctor Crown watches this and comments, “Poor bastard didn’t even see it coming… they never do. Always so naïve to fact that they don’t deserve the freedom they think they’re getting. Well, this piece of shit is certainly free now…”

“Damnit!” exclaims Doctor Crown, interrupting himself.

He quickly stands up from his chair, rushing to grab some cleaning supplies, “we have another one in five minutes and there is still blood on the floor…”

Dr. Crown trails off while Mr. Williams leaves the room. He walks hurriedly back down the deserted white hallway of the prison infirmary. As the wheels of the gurney rattle and squeak under the added weight of the body, he ponders to himself, “I hope the coffee in this place is better than the other three prisons Crown and I have been to this month…”