The feet of her pajamas offered no protection as she trudged through the deep drifts. She had been crying throughout her ordeal and, when she lowered her head for protection from the wind, she almost missed a light piercing through the trees. As she instinctively turned in that direction, she heard a train whistle…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

It starts as it always has. Blinded by headlights, she runs backwards up the rainy street, getting closer to her childhood home. Tears retreat up her cherub cheeks to her nine-year-old eyes. Each step is heavy and sluggish from her tiny princess slippers plodding though murky puddles. Her favorite pale pink pajamas are covered in blood as she’s pulled in through the front door. Her back leading her up the stairs and into…

“Sammie, we’re here.”

Josh gently brushes Samantha’s arm as the fasten seatbelt sign turns off. They have landed.

“You okay?” He asks her. “Bad dream?”

“How I would know since I never remember,” Samantha says as she stretches her arms and smiles slightly at her boyfriend. Josh was such a great guy for making this trip with her. It had been almost 15 years since she had been back in Texas.

After her parents were murdered and she narrowly escaped, Samantha moved to Phoenix to live with family. Five years later, her former next-door neighbor was convicted of the gruesome killings. Now after all that time, all of the therapy sessions and the medications, it was finally coming to a close. Tomorrow morning at 12:01 a.m. Lewis Johns, former youth group leader and car salesman, would be executed and Samantha wanted to be there to watch.

“Think you packed enough?” asks Josh and he carries three bags into their motel room. The accommodations weren’t bad. There was a king size bed, standard cable channels and a small fridge.

“I don’t know,” says Samantha with a smirk. “What does one wear to an execution?” It was something she had thought about for a while after she got a call from the District Attorney telling her that she was allowed to go. At first, she decided she had moved on and wouldn’t attend. Then, after talking with her therapist, she had a change of heart.

Fact was, apart from the trial, Samantha didn’t remember much about the night her parents were killed except for a weird feeling that she would have dreams about it from time to time. However, Samantha never remembered her dreams. A few miles away, sitting in a prison cell on death row, Lewis Johns remembered the night like it was yesterday.

“I heard screams, crazy screams,” Lewis testified during the trial 10 years earlier. “When I went next door the kid was already gone. There was blood everywhere. I mean everywhere. That’s why it got on me. I am telling you all I saw was the little girl’s footprints, footprints in blood, and that is when I found the bodies.”

The jury didn’t buy it. From the bloody murder weapon to a sketchy financial background, it only took the group of seven men and five women a half hour to find Lewis guilty of first-degree murder. A few weeks later he was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Hours before his execution, Lewis’ last meal is pork chops and garlic mashed potatoes. It’s what he would always order at his favorite steak house before all of this craziness began. A pastor stops by to talk with him. They pray about all sorts of things; his soul, his sister in Alabama and a hope the Oilers will make it to the Super Bowl. Time is up and he walks the dreaded walk to the last room he will ever go into.

Samantha takes her seat next to a reporter from a local newspaper. The room is cramped with gray walls and a plate glass window in front with a curtain. She chose to wear a navy pantsuit with a pale pink dress shirt.

“Are you the victims’ daughter?” the reporter leans over and asks her.

“No,” Samantha lies, “just a cousin and, no, I have no comment.”

The curtain draws open and there is Lewis Johns, strapped to a gurney. Samantha looks at his face. She begins to think being here is a mistake. She had always hoped he was the killer though she never remembers seeing him the night of the murders. Oh, if she could just remember. Countless therapy sessions, hypnosis, experimental drugs, but nothing worked. Doctors would tell her it is normal after a traumatic experience to block out awful memories.

“Still no comment?” the reporter pries as he stands from his chair. In the midst of Samantha’s inner dialogue, the deed had been done. Lewis Johns is dead. She thought it would take longer.

Back in the hotel room, Samantha slips into bed next to her loving boyfriend. He didn’t ask any details when she walked through the door. He just kissed her. The air conditioner hums her to sleep and there she dreams a dream she will never remember.

Her favorite pale pink pajamas are covered in blood as she’s pulled in through the front door of her childhood home. Samantha’s back is leading her up the stairs and into her parents’ room. Their lifeless bodies soaked in sticky red. She pauses as blood drips down the kitchen knife in her tiny, nine-year-old hand. She smiles.