Unrepentant he glares. His undisguised anger boiling, seeping. He points with a finger of his mind, and he accuses.
“Your crimes are too great, too heinous for you to dare to counter so,” I declare.
His defiance lessens none. His stare remains spiteful.
I turn to the jury—these fine twelve clones of justice—and all give a slow, and solemn nod.
“Your Honor,” I address the Judge, “the accused here before you, as you can well see, offers no admission, no remorse. No, your Honor; not even a single tear has he shed for his terrible trespasses.” Now it is my finger that extends, seemingly of its own accord, and finds its way to point at the Accused.
The Judge, looking much like the Jury, closes his eyes, and offers me, and all those bearing witness, the same slow nod of understanding. He is guilty, it says. Proceed. And so I do.
“The charges are as follows, your Honor, and esteemed members of the Jury…”
I clear my throat. The accused snickers.
“He who stands shackled before you, my dear peers, has many crimes; any of which singularly uttered, and convicted of, would damn him. So let us not toil, brothers, with a lengthy oration of the Accused’s many felonies against us. Instead, let me bring to light but one … Treason!”
The Jurors look to one another, shock unhidden from expressions. Further away, in the deep dark, the Witnesses murmur amongst themselves, their many voices a hum, a beehive of a thousand androgynous clones.
A wry smile curls at the corner of the Defendant’s mouth.
“Yes, Treason,” I continue, “against a hundred years of meticulous tradition, against—dare I say?—Family!”
The courtroom explodes in an uproar. Shouts fly, spittle sailing close behind. Twelve Jurors’ fingers point, untold others from the shadows thrust their digits at the Accused, and, more importantly, the Judge himself stands, and points with his oaken gavel.
“Guilty!” he declares.
“Guilty!” follows the Jurors’ chorus.
“Guilty!” comes the affirmation from the multitudes in the dark.
Now it is I who smile.
The Accused is hauled away to his fate, and we, his judges in this, follow to bear witness to the end of rebellion.
To a tall post he’s chained. Log and tinder are piled below.
I am handed the torch that will end this, and bring the course of the Family’s dark channels back to an even flow.
Stepping to the timber stacked high, I lift my head to gaze with satisfaction one last time so I might take with me his terror, and know my righteousness—the righteousness of us all—was well founded.
My shock nearly drives me rearward, as I see no terror at all, but instead that same sneer, that same mocking mouth that hints at knowing something of great consequence that all of us have somehow failed to recognize.
I linger but an instant, then turn away, dropping the torch upon the fuel of his much deserved end as I do so. I hear flames crackle behind, and walk away. The faces of the Judge, Jury, and glowing masses in the dark, stare up at the Convicted.
Yet they do not gloat. They instead gasp. Then, as before, they all point.
I turn to see him, the Convicted, my Nemesis, my defeated foe, engulfed in flame. He screams not. He smiles still. How? Why? A singular thought had by all minds whose eyes behold what mine do.
Then I am answered.
My robes catch fire. My hair ignites, then my body, as if one of the logs from the inferno of the Condemned, bursts into roaring flame.
I scream, harmonizing with the Judge, Jury, and all the Witnesses as they too burn.
Over the great din of the whipping flames, and with the last of my consciousness, I hear him, the Condemned laughing, and I know the truth…
He is me.
He is us all.