Author: Zannier Alejandra

There is comfort in routine. Wake up, pray, shower, and get dressed. Regulation boots, black cargo pants, black shirt, and, lastly, the hood. Mollifying inertia, the only thing that keeps me going.
One hundred and thirty-eight. That’s my number. Today, I’ll add another name: Maylin Rotta.
You could say it was in my blood. My father was a black hood, and his father before him. Perhaps, many generations ago, my ancestors back on Earth were also black hoods.
When my father took the black, the hood was synonymous with justice. He was a punisher of crime and violence, the keeper of our safety. He marked the end of an era.
By the time I inherited the hood, things had gotten bad, execute-a-child-for-stealing-rations bad.
One hundred and thirty-eight. That’s my number. The number of people I’ve retired since I took the hood. Maylin Rotta will be the next.
Our station was built to be self-sustaining for eight decades. A lifespan. It’s been one hundred and fifty years. The last of the Earth natives died long ago. We found new ways to create food and oxygen but it’s not enough. Population needs to be controlled.
I pray every day. I pray for us to find a new world. A small planet to resupply. If I were a religious man, I would take comfort in this. But I only pray because it’s part of my routine.
I wish I were a religious man because that would give me the certainty of life after death.
Maylin Rotta is fifteen years old. Her younger brother had an accident and broke an arm. She stole medicine from the infirmary to help him with the pain. She was caught and sentenced for this crime. In truth, she was sentenced because we would not survive the year with the current population.
There’s no spectacle surrounding the deaths. No public square, no noose, no ax. Just a plaintive march to an airlock. People have had it with the death surrounding us. If they don’t witness it, they don’t have to feel guilt.
Once we get there, I prep Maylin in the usual way. Shackles off, flight jacket, hairband. I offer her a bible and some paper to leave a goodbye note. She writes to her brother.
I press the button to the airlock antechamber and push her inside, closing the door behind us. The second door leads to a smaller chamber. The death chamber. There’s a timer at the door, after one minute the floor of the chamber will open, releasing its occupant into space.
I start the timer. I take off my hood, but I don’t push Maylin inside the death chamber. Instead, I get in myself.
“Run,” I tell her. “Hide.”
It takes her a second to react, but she eventually does as told. After the minute is over, I fall.
One hundred and thirty-eight people I’ve killed, but not a single more.