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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 103: Hastings 165
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Once in the hall, Lauren was handcuffed to a second guard. They thus escorted her into an elevator and down to the ground floor; she sensed her possessions shifting from somewhere below her to somewhere above her, but lost track when the elevator doors opened and they hurried her through the lobby and out front to a waiting truck.
It was a prisoner transport of some sort, with heavy wire-reinforced glass windows in the rear and a space with primitive seating and no access to the cab. The two guards lifted her in and seated themselves on either side of her.
“So,” she said, “have you ever heard that Jesus died for your sins?” Again getting no answer, she began presenting the message once more. “You see, God loved the world so much that He sent His only child to die for us, so that anyone who trusts Him can live forever.” She continued like this for the ride, perhaps about twenty minutes, and then the van finally stopped. A moment later the doors opened, and her guards raised her to her feet and escorted her onto a sidewalk and into a set of double doors in what appeared to be a basement of a large building. They took another elevator, and then were standing in an empty hall where a short wide hall led to another double door.
“What happens now?” she asked, and got no answer. “I take it this is my trial. When do I meet my defense attorney? I’m afraid I don’t have any money; do I get a public defender?”
A man in a robe entered from the far end of the hall and said only, “It’s time,” and her escort indicated that she should walk to the double doors. When they reached them, one produced a key, unlocked and opened the doors, and as they swung wide indicated that she should pass through.
She was in a cage. It reminded her of the dock in old British crime dramas, as it overlooked a room in which people were seated, with a separated table and seats toward the front and a larger table and three chairs facing toward the auditorium space. Conspicuously absent was any space for a jury, and any table for a defense attorney.
With practiced precision the guards removed the cuffs from their own wrists one at a time, securing one to the bars of her cage before removing the other and doing the same. They then stepped back to the door; she heard it close and heard the lock click into place, but after listening for a moment decided that they were still in the cage with her, standing probably to either side of the doors, possibly in front of them.
“All rise,” someone said, and as the gathered spectators arose three men entered from behind the large desk, and two more from a side door to seats at the smaller one. The three took seats and the one in the middle said, “You may be seated.” Everyone sat but one of the two at the smaller table, herself, and her two guards. “Bring the third case,” the middle judge said, and the man at the table whom Lauren was now labeling the prosecutor began to speak.
“Lead citizens,” he addressed them, “I present the case of Jane Doe number eight hundred forty-seven. She gives her name as Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings, but it appears that no such person exists nor ever has existed. It is claimed that she is mentally delusional, believing that she has been to other worlds and comes from one of those other worlds. She also believes that when she dies she continues to live, and that others can similarly die and return to life in another world.”
“Fact-finder,” the lead citizen said, apparently addressing the prosecutor, “I gather you have concluded that this is not a harmless delusion. Why?”
“Sir, the woman includes in her claims parts of an ancient and discredited religion once known as Christianity. She claims that an ancient charlatan named Jesus was executed by the Roman government and returned to life to make it possible for other people to live forever in a supernatural realm with a deity called Father. Such beliefs enjoy popularity in small pockets periodically, and are deemed dangerous, because those who believe them refuse to acknowledge that the State is supreme and that they exist solely to serve the State. While she has been held in the state mental treatment facility, she has presented these claims to the workers, some of whom are poorly educated laborers susceptible to such lies.”
“And your recommendation?”
“It would be difficult and costly to house such a dangerous person, as she seems very effective at promoting her lies and has apparently even used tricks to cause people to believe she has supernatural powers. In order to minimize exposure of the citizenry to her falsehoods, we are recommending a public termination, to be televised as a warning to others who might hold similar errors.”
The three judges, or lead citizens as they were apparently called, conferred among themselves quietly. Then again the middle one spoke.
“Your recommendation is approved. Remove the prisoner.”
It was a moment before Lauren realized what was happening, but as the guards stepped forward and began to transfer the cuffs from the bars back to their wrists, she found her voice. “Wait,” she said. “Is that it? Don’t I get to say anything in my own defense?” No one answered; she continued, “Come on, even in Rome prisoners were permitted to defend themselves. Have you no concept of justice?”
The guards gave a yank on her cuffs, apparently still not willing to speak to her, and she stumbled toward the doors. Again a guard produced a key and unlocked them, and they led her out.
She expected to be taken back to the truck, but instead when she got off the elevator in the basement she was led to a section of rather crude cells, cinderblock walls with drab paint, no windows, and heavy bars. There was a commode in the cell, and a bed-like shelf topped by what seemed to be plywood, but nothing affording the slightest bit of privacy or comfort. As they transferred her into it, they secured the cuffs to the bars, locked the cell as they exited, and then removed the cuffs from her wrists and took them away with them.
She was not quite alone. There was a uniformed officer sitting at a desk near the entrance to the area. There was a second set of bars between him and the cells, and he seemed to be occupying his time with paperwork. She saw no other prisoners, but wasn’t sure whether she had simply not seen them or whether she was alone.
Once again, she realized, she had a captive audience; and they couldn’t kill her twice in the same world (well, it occurred to her that she had been killed twice in the same world by Horta, but that was different, as the second—no, the first—well however you counted it, one time she was actually killed by her own spell drawing her in as it killed him). She might as well preach the gospel to the guard here.
So once more she began.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #310: Versers Mobilize. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: