By Sean Dempsey
John awoke with a start as his bedroom door was kicked open.
In a blur of confusion and panic, he found himself dragged out of bed by burly Policemen who blindfolded and transported him, half-naked, to a parked car. It sped off into the night immediately.
At last the vehicle stopped and the blindfold was ripped from his head violently. John was then hauled through dimly lit corridors of an unknown building. He stumbled and pleaded for answers, his heart pounding in his chest. “What’s happening? Why am I being taken like this?”
The sullen guards remained silent, their faces hardened with indifference. They were mere conduits, following orders from above without question. John’s mind raced with possibilities, but none seemed to make sense. He had always been an honest man, leading a simple life in the small town he called home. He couldn’t fathom why he was being treated like a criminal.
As they reached the end of the corridor, a heavy wooden door creaked open, revealing a large chamber bathed in a foreboding darkness. In the center of the room, a magistrate sat behind a grand oak desk, his stern gaze rose from papers on his desk and became fixed upon John. Behind him, a panel of hooded figures concealed their identities, their faces obscured by shadows. John couldn’t tell in the darkness if there was ten of them or a hundred. But their cold eyes stared down at him…
John’s heart sank further as he was led to a chair before the magistrate and his hands were soon bound by hard iron shackles. The room was filled with an air of secrecy, of ominous authority that sent shivers down his spine. Fear mingled with confusion, but he refused to let it consume him completely. His voice trembled, yet he mustered the courage to speak. “Please, sir, tell me why I’ve been brought here. What have I done?”
The magistrate’s voice dripped with disdain. “You stand accused of a grave crime, John. The evidence against you is overwhelming.”
“But… but I haven’t done anything!” John protested, desperation creeping into his voice. “Please, give me a chance to defend myself. Let me see the evidence!”
The hooded figures whispered among themselves, their voices a haunting chorus. Then, one by one, they turned their cloaked heads towards John. Their eyes burned with an unsettling intensity, their features completely hidden from view. The silence that followed was more damning than any accusation.
“Silence! Your crimes are laid bare; the specifics are unimportant,” the magistrate finally declared, his tone resolute. “You are to be sentenced to death, for the sake of justice and the preservation of order.”
John’s heart sank further into his chest, his eyes wide with disbelief. “But… but I am innocent! I beg you, reconsider. I can prove my innocence if you allow me to present my case.”
The magistrate’s expression remained unchanged, his resolve unwavering. “Your pleas fall on deaf ears, John. The decision has been made. Your guilt is beyond question. The more you protest, the more your guilt is certain.”
Tears welled in John’s eyes, a mix of frustration, anger, and profound sadness. How had he found himself in this situation? “Just tell me my crime so I may attempt to refute it. I am surely guilty of no offense! Bring forth my accusers! Bring out the evidence.”
The magistrate banged a gavel and with a sneer dismissed the prisoner. “Justice will be meted out forthwith! The condemned shall have no more voice in this sanctuary of justice!“
As the guards led him away from the chamber to the killing floor, men and women from the balcony booed and hissed. “Silence the prisoner!” They shouted with a rage and a fury that was so captivating and rapturous John himself seemed caught up in the frenzy. The chorus was deafening and surreal. He was both part of it and the focus of it. The chants calling for his execution were mesmerizing. John was sure justice would be swift.