Richard Markinson is on death row and chose the electric chair called Yellow Mama for his method execution. After eighteen years of waiting, the chair failed to kill him three times. Now the prison will try lethal injection only to unleash a horror the world has never seen.
Richard Markinson sat in the faded yellow, chipped painted chair for the third time in a year to have electric currents pass through his body until he was dead. The chair remained in the attic of the state prison for over eighteen years waiting for its selection of execution by a condemned inmate over the new preferred method of execution, lethal injection. This year, Richard Markinson selected Yellow Mama for his choice of execution in the state of Alabama for his crime of murder of three convenience store employees over a botched robbery. This choice was not over the preference of execution over lethal injection but for the explanation that this particular chair titled Yellow Mama could not end his life. The Yellow Mama possessed a certain air of mystery exploited by Richard Markinson. As long as it was his method of execution Richard Markinson could not die. He believed also sitting in the chair granted him immunity to death he hoped to exploit.
The court convicted Markinson and through months of fighting with lawyers he refused an appeal and accepted the granted verdict of the death penalty. The year was 2002. That year the prison retired Yellow Mama and threw her in the attic while waiting for the next victim, only upon the victims’ demand for death by electric chair. Markinson has been on death row for eighteen years. This year he sat on Yellow Mama for the first time. The prison staff strapped Markinson in and applied the soaked sponge to the top of his skull. They turned the chair on. He giggled. He laughed. He had the time of his life.
The staff was confused as to what happened with the failed execution. Not at first, they knew Markinson was crazy. It wasn’t uncommon for inmates to act out beyond the pain in enjoyment. The time he spent in the chair, at first, didn’t bother them either. In 1983 a death row inmate was strapped in for fourteen minutes before the chair finally killed him. His lawyers pleaded to turn it off to save him but the executioner ignored the pleas and continued on with the frying. In 1989 another prisoner had complications. The chair had its jacks connecting electricity reversed and lacked the necessary voltage. The chair took nineteen minutes to kill the inmate.
But this was different. Markinson seemed to enjoy being on the chair, to be fried. After six minutes they couldn’t take it anymore and it was clear Markinson wasn’t being fried. It was strange. They have never had a failed execution before. Immediately they made sure Yellow Mama was hooked up correctly with its jacks connecting electricity to the chair. It had been eighteen years since she last fried a victim. Everything else they tested the chair on afterward fried what needed to be fried. They hooked it up a second time and readied it for round two for death row inmate Richard Markinson.
The chair did nothing.
Richard Markinson walked out alive.
It bamboozled the staff even more. Yellow Mama burnt the first hand that touched it when they released the straps off of Markinson and they even managed to burn a rat with the chair afterward to ensure that it could fry.
The third time was a charm. So Warden Hildebrant hoped. The third time they sat Richard Markinson in Yellow Mama and fried him for thirty minutes. They kept the witnesses and lawyers out. Nobody believed they attempted another execution on him after the second. Nobody believed he survived the first two attempts even if they witnessed it. How can a man survive over two thousand volts of electricity coursing through their body? Twice? No one can. But Warden Masters believed something about Markinson was unnatural to allow him to survive two execution attempts.
The guards brought Markinson back to his cell for the fourth time. They didn’t drag him or toss him in his cell. You think they were walking the Queen of England back home. They were careful not to upset Markinson or make him uncomfortable. When Markinson was placed in his cell they cut off the light and walked to the office. The walkway glowed green with walkway lights along the path reflecting off the linoleum floor. Hanging lighting above swayed left to right with a squeak keeping inmates from sleeping most nights.
Masters pondered at the lingering thought of how Markinson survived not one, not two, but three execution attempts. How could a man survive such high volts of electricity coursing through their veins? Failure clouded his mind and it would be his legacy unless he corrected the situation. The only correction was the death of Markinson.
The file cabinet sounded as if a train was derailed when Masters forced it to open. He thumbed through manilla folder after folder searching for the file on Markinson. He slipped it out plopping it on his desk. Masters had an urge to know more about Markinson and the murders that landed him on death row. Even the court information, such as why didn’t his lawyers appeal the death penalty?
In 2002 Markinson was convicted of killing three convenience store employees when he attempted to rob the store on the night of March fourteenth. The camera has Markinson scouting the outside, and after twenty minutes of looking out from the comfort of his vehicle, he got out, pulled out a twelve-gauge, and stormed inside. Two employees were behind the counter with one restocking a shelf. Two customers were in the store to give their recount of what happened. Neither were injured, and on the footage were shown no signs of notice from the killer. One was filling up a frozen slush at the drink machine while the other was picking out his beer. Markinson pointed his shotgun at the two behind the counter yelling at them, asking them where the third employee was. Both of the customers gave conflicting stories about what happened next.
Kevin, the man choosing his beer, told investigators that Jonathan, the tall one behind the counter with his slicked hair styled past his eyes, was ordered by Markinson to give up the cash, tell them where the other employee was, and then get on the ground in front of the counter. Kevin then recounted Markinson telling Laura, the employee with big bushy hair behind the counter, to shut the fuck up and lay down. Craig, the guy filling up his slush, heard no orders to give up cash or where Toby was. Toby was the employee restocking the shelf in the back at the time Markinson barged in.
Markinson, on the camera, had shot up at a light shooting it out. Kevin and Toby heard Markinson whisper. His whispers scared Kevin more than the shotgun. More than the threatening look and vile situation. His whispers spoke of the yellow god, yellow crawls, yellow tentacles, and yellow tears. The camera shows Markinson turning around, holding his shotgun pointed at the floor and his mouth was moving. He was facing Toby. His body showed no signs of yelling or out of control behavior. Whatever he was saying, he was calm. Kevin spoke adamantly that what he heard was of cursed words he was unfamiliar with and they began to deteriorate into an unworldly language as Markinson kept his demeanor stern while facing Toby as he spoke.
The camera shows Markinson returning to Jonathan and Laura behind the counter. He lifted his shotgun towards them. Toby rushed Markinson with whatever he could find off the shelf to hit Markinson with. Cans of soup. Markinson was smacked in the back of the head, he twisted around knocking Toby down with a swoop of his legs with his shotgun, while preceding to blast Toby’s head clean off at point blank range. The two behind the counter stood like statues at the sight of their coworker being bloodied murdered. Markinson lifted the shotgun back to his side, reloading with a degree of patience and turning around to face the other two clerks, Jonathan and Laura. Nobody moved. Mouths remained closed. Markinson appeared to consider the situation. He lifted up his shotgun. Aimed it at Jonathan and Laura. And with two pumps, three seconds in between, maybe enough time to give Laura thought about the situation, he killed them both. They called it a botched robbery. The footage shows that, they said. Craig and Kevin said otherwise. To them, even to Craig who claims he heard Markinson’s demands upon entering, it appeared that Markinson was under the possession of something ungodly. Otherworldly. This was no mere robbery.
The court documents Masters has in the file are not much help. Markinson’s lawyers struck a deal for him to plead guilty in exchange of spending his remaining days at the latest Black Field State Prison in Alabama. Home of Yellow Mama. Each lawyer involved was baffled by this request, well, Markinson’s lawyers were not. They were known as the worst lawyers ever in legal practice for gladly handing their client to the state on a silver platter. The state, in turn, gladly accepted the offer. Outside parties fought against it, claiming Markinson’s lawyers were not fighting for his best interests. And so eighteen years went by before Markinson got his wish. The death penalty. Death by electric chair. And the electric chair in Black Field State Prison was known as Yellow Mama.
Black Field State Prison lay barren with not but a gas station in miles surrounding the prison gates. A shallowness filled the insides and the quiet did not comfort Masters as he sat in his office. He shoved his coffee mug across the desk from him and glared at the windowed door staring out into the green hall. Unable to find the answer to his question he stepped out of his door and glided down the tiled linoleum to stop before Markinson’s cell.
“How’re you, Warden?.”
“Hello, Markinson” Masters not answering his question stared down into the black of the cell, knowing somewhere in there lay a man unable to be killed by over two thousand volts of electricity. The warden figured an answer lay inside this black cell with a man he had no idea how to describe or figure out.
“How can I help you, Warden?” Richard Markinson said. His speech ended in a sizzle like a steak frying in a pan over a fiery stove. The black split with a lanky, hairy arm swooshing in view followed by pale eyes. But they weren’t pale. They were blue. Baby blue eyes. Markinsons’ eyes.
Warden Masters twiddled his fingers but keeping them behind him not wanting to show hesitation and anxiety in the face of a death row inmate. “How’d you do it?” Masters said.
“Keeping it simple?” Markinson said. “That’s good. Straight to the point. How’d I do it? You mean how did I survive two thousand volts of electricity in Yellow Mama?” Markinson’s tone ended in a sizzle, it always ended in a sizzle. His pale blue eyes twitched. The walls of the cell hid in the darkness of the cell but something moved inside other than Markinson. The warden kept his eyes on Markinson and kept his wariness to himself.
“Yellow Mama kept me alive,” Markinson said. Masters caught a hint of calm and indifference in how he spoke. His body was even more still than his voice. He stood straight yet he was short. His pale blue eyes stared through Masters and it wasn’t an uneasiness Masters felt, it was fear. But of what, is what made him most afraid. Markinson stared through Masters and never moved a muscle, only his pale blue eyes twitched at the sight of the prison warden.
Warden Masters mimicked Markinson and stood still staring directly at the death row inmate. He didn’t dare move. He was unaware at the time but his eyes twitched just the same as those eyes staring back at him. “How did you survive? What makes you special?”
“I believe, Warden.” He stretched out the world believe and ended with the frying pan sizzle and twitched as his mouth shut.
“Believe in what?”
“In Yellow Mama, of course.”
“The electric chair?”
“Yes, the electric chair.”
“Why would that make you immune?”
“Make me immune? Warden, it imbues.”
“Imbues with what?”
“Immortality. A second chance to serve.”
“You’re making no sense at all.”
“Warden, you ever look at that chair? Read up on it. Sit in it? It’s not a chair, Warden.”
“What is it?”
“You’ll see. Soon enough, you’ll see, Warden.”
“Damnit, Markinson. I’m tired of your goddamn games. Tell me what makes it special!”
Markinson laughed. “Sit me in it a fourth time and you will see.”
“How about we just do lethal injection? It’s our prerogative now. Or shoot you.”
“That would be even better. It would please Yellow Mama. Sacrifice me. Martyrize me.”
“You think I’m bluffing?”
“No, I know I’m good as dead at your hands. But that ain’t up to you.”
“It’s up to Yellow Mama?”
“Of course. Everything is up to Yellow Mama.”
Warden Masters realized his hands shook in front fiddling with his fingers, an act he only did when he was under stress that he tried hiding from friends, family, strangers, and especially undesirables like prison inmates. Sweat poured down his head. He hadn’t felt anger, it was a certain degree of curiosity about how Markinson could survive three execution attempts and if he could survive and it wasn’t a botched execution, times three, then maybe Markinson wasn’t bat-shit crazy.
“We’re going to do a lethal injection, tomorrow night, Markinson.” Masters knew lawyers and any person questioning routines and procedures weren’t worrying about a guy like Markinson and weren’t wandering around a southern prison doing OSCHA checks to ensure prison inmates on death row were being treated fairly so he also wasn’t worried about doing a fourth execution attempt, albeit with a different procedure, on Markinson. He stared into Markinson the way Markinson stared back. It was a contest. Masters knew he was losing. Markinson saw right through him. Even with a twitch of the eye, all the while Masters fiddling his fingers with an unrestrained discipline.
Markinson retreated back into the darkness. “That’s fine, Warden,” he said. “I’ll be waiting here in this cell tomorrow then. You come take me out and we’ll try this lethal injection shot and see how it does.”
Normally a person may have taken what Markinson said as a threat. “Come and get it!” But not Masters. He knew Markinson meant what he said and was just as casual and nonchalant about what he meant just as he said. Masters was curious as hell to see what would happen and wanted to go through with it right here right now just to see. But he’d have to wait til tomorrow.
It took a phone call to set up the lethal injection and a sense of patience in the warden. He needed to be finished with this botched execution business. Preferably as soon as possible before word got out to the press that a man sat in Yellow Mama three times and escaped with his life, three times. It would make the prison and the warden look incompetent, which he didn’t want nor needed.
In twenty-four hours time the warden’s problems would be over. Richard Markinson would be dead and out of his prison and problems. Warden Masters waited in his office as long as he could then went home. He barely said anything to his wife besides, “what’s for dinner?” Talking was out of the question. He wanted badly to sleep, wake up, and half hoped that all of this was a dream. Maybe he could sleep through tomorrow and by the time he woke up Markinson would have already received the injection and be dead. His problem would be dead. His embarrassment and failure would be through. But failures and embarrassments could not be killed by lethal injection. Masters would soon find that out.
Masters walked to Markinson’s cell with two guards and a doctor. Markinson was sitting on his bed staring at the wall. Through the wall, it looked like to Masters. No person stared at the wall like that, even prisoners in solitary confinement. Markinson sat silently with his arms crossed staring through the wall like he was trying to see through it. It was an ugly wall, the last place of design was a prisoners cell on death row. No interviews were conducted here, not even having to mention the lack of need to take care of prisoners or please them with proper interior design the walls were painted an ugly eggshell white. The paint was chipping off the cement. Cracks were showing.
“Markinson,” the warden said. His voice trembled. His hands were sweaty. “It’s time.” The warden, two guards, and a doctor stood outside the cell bars. Each wondered similar thoughts. What was going to happen when they stuck that needle into the skin of Markinson?
“Are we doing it here, warden?”
“Good.” Markinson rose, wiping his eyes out from the strain of staring at the eggshell cracked wall for god knows how long. The guards told him he can sit. They went in, restrained him, and the doctor prepared his arm with an alcohol pad. “This quick, warden?”
“We need to get it over with,” Masters said, “its long overdo.”
They said no last rights, no prayers of any kind, nothing. The doctor prepared Markinson and stalled no further. He injected the needle into Markinson’s left upper arm. Markinson sat calm as a tree in a forest. As calm as an ocean’s wave on a sunny day at the beach. Music played. The guards looked at each other. They heard music. The doctor recognized it later as Johann Sebastian Bach. Masters ignored it, staring at Markinson sitting on his bed as his eyes went back and he slanted sideways towards the wall. Markinson felt calm, a certain air of relaxation for the first time in his recent memory. This business is concluded. Markinson is dead.
The volume of the music got louder. Violin strings screeched then shrieked. Like yelling banshees. The piano became violent. Loud volcano bursts. The opera music became abysmal. Evil. The four men in the cell covered their ears. Then the lights went out. They were alone in the dark cell with a dead man. Before they could react, the cell door closed. Slamming with a force unknown.
Markinson’s eyes opened shaking the three grown men. Staring at Markinson they were no longer concerned with the music, the closed cell, or the lights. This deadman stared at them with new eyes, yellow eyes! Markinson spoke, “stay with me.” The four most certainly did not desire to stay.
The guards reached through the bars trying to unlock the cell. The emergency lights guided their hands. Masters saw something out in the dark. Something bright, yellow, and moving through the green mile. He heard a slithering sound. Something wet. But there was no water, no liquid of any kind. Afterwards the floor was completely dry and devoid of anything but what the thing left.
They saw something in the dark. It rolled in and out in a yellow flash of brightness. As it passed a light Masters saw something he later described as an octopus tentacle. Metal bashed together as the cell doors up and down the hallway opened, all but their own cell they were confined in, once guards and masters of lock and key now reduced to lowly inmates and prisoners. The situation quite reversed.
Henry and Tomlin saw them. The doctor, Leeman, and Masters saw them, too. The yellow tentacles swooped in one cell at a time going down the hall grabbing inmates and ripping each apart. Legs were flown in the air, torsos smacked into the ceiling, and heads rolled down the hall. Pieces were missing later on suggesting whatever the ungodly beast was, it ate them or destroyed the missing limbs. The warden and the doctor pleaded, begged, Markinson to end whatever ungodly event he created. Masters knew somehow, they created this with the injection of Markinson. Blood appeared pouring down the hall away from the beast as if it were trying to escape in a river away from whatever created it. Whatever that released the river of blood. The blood – Masters thought no amount of bodies in the prison could have produced. There was more blood than that of a hundred, a thousand, bodies. The smell of rotting iron filled Masters nose. The four men scrambled trying to break through the bar ignoring all season and logic of their attempts to break the iron bars. His thoughts were a drunkard’s thoughts and sounded like a lunatic after the events to the investigators. He wondered if he would be committed? They all wondered if they would be in a padded, yellow, cell, after these events.
The large beast the size of a diesel truck passed their cell, with its skin shining yellow in their eyes nearly blinding them. None of them could believe what they saw. Nothing on earth looked like what they saw. How was it possible? The beast reshaped itself to squeeze down the hall like a liquid unable to separate, a gel. This beast moved like it was the world moving around it. It pushed bodies of torn apart inmates away as it slithered along. But what shook them most was the yellow they saw. The yellow was like looking into the sun if it was stripped of brightness and could be seen with open eyes. But the damage that would do would be disastrous. The horror it would spawn would be permanent behind the eyes and in the mind. This yellow otherworldly beast slithered and rolled past their cell ignoring the four of them.
Markinson remained frozen on the bed with the yellow in his eyes dissipating as the otherworldly beast left the green mile. His face grinned and smiled as if pleased with what monster he unleashed upon the world. The warden and doctor continued to shake Markinson to end this and they finally received their wish. As soon as the yellow faded from the hall, Markinson drooped over and forever then, was dead. The cell door opened, releasing the four of them back into the world and out of their prison. Did Markinson do it to keep them safe or to have them bear witness? They wondered where this otherworldly beast wandered off to and what goals it had in mind for its newfound jungle gym called Earth?
Henry, one of the guards, went blind the next day. The night it happened, Henry appeared fine by a checkup. He woke up the next morning wondering who turned off the lights. He opened his eyes, and wondered why his eyes weren’t opening. He poked his eye trying to open his eyelid not realizing they were already opened. His eyes bled trying to see.
The doctor’s sight was never the same again. He never went blind, but he couldn’t read. Nothing. He had no problem seeing. He could see just fine, just not read. He could read off a chart for sure, all the letters of the alphabet. But if you put any two together, it was gibberish. His career was through.
Tomlin, the other guard, claimed his senses were off. Something he tested with doctor’s visits but none could conclude a diagnosis. He described later he felt like he was always drunk. His equilibrium could never be quite right. Whenever he walked he bumped into everything, falling down frequently. His sense of smell was nearly destroyed. His taste was that of an alcoholic who drank for the past ninety years and couldn’t taste a damn thing. All the taste buds weren’t burnt away.
Masters had no issues with his equilibrium. His taste buds were quite fine, better actually, he tasted more flavors than ever before. Even his sense of smell was as perfect as ever. The problem that crept into his life was his sight. Not that it disappeared, or was deteriorating, but it was growing. And not that it improved, but that he saw things only seen in nightmares. Things he wished he never saw. Things only children saw. Monsters in the night, tentacles molesting him, yellow flashes throughout the day, strangers with yellow eyes, even ordinary people appeared different to him. The things they changed into he discovered, they changed into the very beasts they were. The men with tentacles were bad men, rapists. Liars tongues were snakelike. Thieves were covered in suckers, like that of an octopus. Evil men were red-skinned and horned. But not on their heads, all over their bodies. Actually, they were thorns. These men were deviled and sinful with all manners of evil. Markinson gifted Masters with true sight, the ability to see people for who they truly are. Afterward the realization, upon waking up Masters turned to his wife to give her a kiss only to fill the two-slit tongue kissing him back. He opened his eyes to see that she embodied all that he had seen. Red-skinned, thorns, tentacles, suction pods, and the slit of the snakelike tongue. It was even yellow. He laughed later. Shouldn’t the tongue have been silver?