“Have a seat, please.”

Remy Jenkins sat in the cushioned chair facing a large two-way mirror. He fixed his hair and winked at his reflection.

On the other side of the mirror, the family of the grocery store owner who was brutally murdered for less than five dollars watched Remy’s arms get strapped to the chair. They wanted to see justice, the death of a murderer.

The chair was a work of genius. It was said to be the most humane way to put prisoners to death for their crimes. He was the latest to receive his punishment.

The grocery store owner’s family hated that he was going to die so easily. Killing a man with a crowbar should not be taken so lightly, they argued. He should suffer! Yet, the law is the law, and he had his rights. He was to die by the chair.

He was allowed to choose from several environments to die in. He could be an astronaut, president, cowboy or nearly anything else any man or woman wanted to be during childhood. The intent was to sooth the prisoner before he or she died. The prisoner would simply watch a movie of sorts and within seconds, he or she would be painlessly put to death.

Remy chose the cowboy option. He was always fascinated with the old western movies as a child. His favorite was John Wayne. He was always so gruff.

Round leads were glued to Remy’s temples after he was completely secured in the chair. A sleek helmet folded down and over Remy’s head. The machine powered on with a subtle electric hum.
At first he saw nothing but blackness. Then a faint smell of whiskey and chewing tobacco began to permeate. Slowly a picture of a crude wooden table slowly came into view. There were several men sitting at the table. Some were wearing Stetsons. Nearly all were weathered and looked tired.

Remy was entranced by the realism of what he was seeing. He felt as if he was actually part of the environment and not just a spectator. The dealer shuffled and looked to Remy, “You in?”

Remy quickly tossed in a coin. His arm had moved involuntarily. Evidently I’m reenacting a scene, he surmised, I must not have any control of what’s going on. The thought of having no control unsettled him. The coin rattled and rolled in a small circle before settling on the table.

The dealer distributed the cards. The first Remy got was an Eight of Spades. Remy’s hand automatically picked it up and held it close.

The second card slid to him. It was an Ace of Clubs. Good card, Remy thought.

The third slid to a stop in front of Remy. He picked it up and it was another Ace. An Ace of Spades. Remy tried to remain stoic. No need to tip off the other gamblers, he thought then again it wouldn’t matter much. He remembered that none of the people could see his cards, so he smiled. The fourth card slid to Remy and he picked it up. It was another eight. An Eight of Clubs.

He analyzed the cards for a moment before realizing their significance. Dead man’s hand. The hand Wild Bill Hickok had when he was murdered. Someone had snuck up behind him and shot him in the back of the head.

Remy tried to jump from his seat, but to no avail. He could not move. A last card slid his way. His hand involuntarily reached for it. But before he could pick it up off the table, a loud blast rang behind his head. The picture faded to black again.

The chair succeeded as always. The bolt slid quickly through the base of Remy’s skull and into his brain, effectively killing him. One of the grocery owner’s family members fainted. Seeing a man struggle against the restraints just before dying was too much for her to endure.

"Dead Man's Hand"
Copyright: © 2009 Brian Barnett
Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky.To date, he has published over forty-five stories since he began publishing in November 2008.

He has been published by MicroHorror.com, Flashes in the Dark, Static Movement, The New Flesh Blogzine, Midnight Screaming Magazine, The Monsters Next Door, Sonar4 Ezine, Blood Moon Rising, Flashshot, Black Lantern Blogzine, Dark Fire Fiction, Burst Fiction, The Daily Tourniquet, Yellow Mama, The Lesser Flamingo, and The Short Humour Site.

He was co-editor the anthology “Toe Tags: 21 Spine-Tingling Tales from the Best New Authors of Horror” with William Pauley III.

Dead Man's Hand - Originally published by Flashes in the Dark - 6/15/09


  1. Very cool! What a great idea, and you executed it (pun intended?) very well.

  2. Woah! Not what I expected. Great story.

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