(From the Writer’s Digest creative writing prompt An Ocean of Crabs)
The door slams behind Amber Rose with a finality that still gets to her, no matter how many times she enters the maximum security facility. The guard escorts her to the private visitation room, most often used by lawyers who were arguing their charge’s case and on occasion, as was the case this time, by the media. As she steps into the room, she sees him sitting at the table. His legs are shackled and his hands cuffed to another chain around his waist. She never gets used to seeing them like this, either.
She sits down across from him and places her audio recorder on the table. “This is the interview of Joshua Myers by Amber Rose, August seventeenth, nineteen eighty-nine at five-thirty-two p.m.” she says as she hits the record button. “Thank you for agreeing to the interview.” She focuses on the young man before her, whose attention has settled on her with an intensity she finds almost as nerve-wracking as the lock of the re-enforced steel doors of the prison.
He shrugs a red jumpsuit-clad shoulder. “What have I got to lose? I’m scheduled to die tomorrow.”
A knot forms in her stomach at the finality of his words. “Tell us what happened that night, Josh. In your words.”
He takes a deep breath and looks down at the table’s stainless steel finish, his eyes losing focus as he travels back in time. “It was ten years ago now. I met Holly when my mother and I were vacationing on the Oregon coast. I was sixteen, she was fifteen…so beautiful. Her hair was the color of honey.” He glances up at Amber, his gray eyes studying her for a moment. “Just a little darker than yours. Her smile…”
His eyes close for a moment as he thinks about her, and continues slowly. “My mother was an addict, a hippie still stuck in the ’60’s. She was always trying to find the meaning of life through different substances…LSD and ‘shrooms mainly. Well, I took part of her stash and her half empty bottle of gin and met Holly at the beach that night. We found this little cove between rock outcroppings that we were secluded, like we were the only people in the world.
“We felt invincible. We’d only just met, but we both swore we were in love. We fooled around, drank the gin and got high on my mother’s drugs.” His words slow, and Amber can see his jaw clenching as his emotions build. “We laid there on the sand, watching the sky change colors as the rocks swayed with the breeze. Holly wanted to go skinny dipping, but when I looked out at the waves it looked like it was a bunch of crabs rather than water.”
Josh looks up at the reporter, his eyes focused and intent. “I had no idea what we were getting in for when I brought the LSD out that night, and not a day goes by that I wish I hadn’t. I watched her running out to the water, and as she did it looked like she turned into one of them…into a crab. I was seriously trippin’. I couldn’t move, and I passed out. Too much booze I guess. When I woke up the next morning, she wasn’t there.”
Waves of grief radiate from the prisoner as he tells his tale, and Amber can see a tear sliding down his cheek. “What did you do then?” she asks softly, resting her forearms on the table.
His Adam’s apple bobs as he tries to swallow the lump in his throat. “I traced her footsteps into the water, and I must have still had the drugs in my system, because I swear it looked like her two feet turned into eight pointed ones, like crabs have…just like I thought I saw late the night before. She was just….gone.” He lets out a ragged breath and meets the wide eyes staring at him across the table. “They found her body that night, washed up on the next beach. The cops came and got me, decided that I must have raped then drowned her, and no one cared that they pinned it on me. I was just an outsider.”
The chains clink as he shifts in his chair and leans forward, his tone suddenly urgent. “I didn’t do it, Ms. Rose. I could never hurt my Holly. They’re going to put me to death tomorrow, certain that I killed her. The wounds that they said were on her body she didn’t have when she was out there with me. Please, find out what happened to her.”
Amber nods, biting back her own emotions at his heartfelt plea. She pushes stop on the tape recorder and gets to her feet. She steps around the table and takes his hands in hers. “I will, Josh. I promise.”
The heels of her pumps echo in the hallway with each step as she leaves, her mind and heart in turmoil. She prays the state’s new DNA tests will find something new in order to stay the execution. If there is ever one thing she’s sure about, it’s that Joshua Myers didn’t kill her cousin.