Time to share a piece of my fiction with you.
They were killers, rapists and abusers. As hard as any men could ever be. But every night they listened to Jeremiah sob quietly into his pillow and it broke their hearts.
By comparison he had done nothing, that they could see, that warranted him being subjected to the punishment bestowed on them. They deserved it. He was hardly more than a child.
They talked long into the night and when the guards came with their dogs at 5am, they were tired. But they were always tired. It was the nature of their lives.
Shackled together, the ten men, with Jeremiah last in line, shuffled out to start a day of hard labour under unforgiving skies.
What looked like a beautifully choreographed line of men, swinging their pick axes in time to the lament they chanted, was in fact a chain gang, all sentenced to death and waiting their turn.
When the heat rose Jeremiah was unchained, as he was every day. The boy was responsible for trying to quench the thirst of the other prisoners with what little water the guards made available.
They of course had everything they needed to make the day more bearable and its heat more tolerable.
The irrigation ditch that the condemned men were digging grew deeper and wider with every stroke.
For men half-starved and with death hanging over their heads they were strong. Strong of body and of will.
At noon the guards called a break and led the line of bedraggled souls to the shelter of the trees.
Not out of kindness but to ensure they were able to work another seven hours after this short respite from the midday sun.
Huddled in a group, threatened with a whipping if they spoke to one another, the offenders tried in vain to nourish themselves on the thin gruel and dried bread.
But they had no need of words. There plans were made and while the three guards and their dogs feasted on cold chicken and fresh bread, they made their move.
They had no fear in their hearts or minds because what was there for them to fear? One way or another they would die before the year was out.
Before the guards could cock their pistols they had risen as one and knocked them to the ground.
The dogs went berserk and tore at the bare flesh of the chain gang. Muscle and sinew swam in pools of blood as the nine men pinned their captors to the ground.
No cries penetrated the air. They were determined to see this through and they knew they were suffering nothing other than what they had bestowed on others.
And when finally a shot rang out from the lookout tower they rolled, those that could, from the bodies of the guards, savaged by their own dogs in the confusion.
The six that remained, half alive, waited and said silent prayers for their friends who lay with their throats torn out and flies already coming in for the feast.
The guards were not dead but they would most likely never work again. The dogs could not distinguish one from another when the smell of blood had started to fill the air.
When the Jeep finally arrived with back-up, the remaining prisoners were executed on the spot. A bullet to each brain ended their lives and they lay on the hard earth, united with their cell mates in death.
The guards were the first priority of the back-up team. Getting them out of the sun and off to a hospital was top most in their minds.
And so it was a while before they noticed that there were only nine bodies rotting slowly at the edge of the woods.
Jeremiah had been given instructions and had run like the wind when the prisoners had pounced.
His child like legs had carried him far and he only vaguely heard the shots ring out as his saviours had died.
He cried for them and prayed to God for their deliverance. He owed it to them to grasp this chance of freedom and he would.
They would not have died in vain.