“Are you ready to see your enemy?” the announcer boomed, just feet in front of me. I could tell now that the raucous mob saw the shape of somebody tied up just behind the red, silk curtain. A wave of despair and horror hit me as I put the pieces together. The curtain was white at the top. The bottom half was stained with blood.
Whatever the announcer said next, I missed because I was overcome with a coughing fit, but he got the roar to an almost deafening level. Even the soldiers flinched.
Then he boomed, “Behold the Traitor!”
The tainted curtain pulled back from each end, sliding towards the center. In a few seconds, it would reach the middle and rise up and away. My heart jumped to my throat with terror. Choking with despair, I prayed with what composure I had left.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want…
The voices crescendoed as the curtain pulled back. A light like the sun blinded my already sore eyes, and I blinked away from it. The intensity of my senses at that moment was astounding: I smelled the pine from the newly polished floor, tasted the cool dampness of the air that wafted in from the open windows, sensed the heat of bright lights on my skin. When I finally got my eyes open again, my heart broke.
I saw the hatred and betrayal of my city on the face of every man and woman. I saw the poise of an attack in every one of them, ready to strike their Traitor. My teachers, my neighbors, my classmates. My parents’ friends from work, the little old ladies I’d helped step into the carriage, the recluse who sold tiny flowers in the marketplace. The janitor guy who always tipped his hat politely when I walked by, the hummer trainer, and the couple whose little girl I’d played with years ago. Everybody I knew and everyone I didn’t. I spotted my friends’ families, staring at me, unaware that their kids were part of this “plot” as well.
And then I saw my parents. In the third row. With flickering spears and arrows. Unaware of who was before them. I screamed for them, but the chain around my neck cut off my voice.
On the screens flicked up a list of options for my demise: Beating, Beheading, Hanging, Drowning, Burning, Poisoning, Stoning, Crucifying, Devouring, and the worst of all sat accursed at the very bottom of the list: Confiscating.
“Behold your Traitor, ladies and gentlemen. Do as you may.” The announcer ended ominously and walked offstage. His boots clapped like thunder against the stifling silence. And to think this was the same guy I heard on the news almost every night. Even the breeze had halted its soothing movement in the curtains around the Courtroom.
I waited for my mom to scream, to convulse in agony at seeing her child’s kill options. For Dad to hold her thrashing figure back and yell out, “That’s my daughter! You filthy liars, that’s my daughter!” For Mom to sob in his arms as she reached out to me, crying, “We’re going to get you out of this, Honey!” For Dad to scream, “Where’s your evidence?” while raising his spear. For tears to slip down his face, contorted with a violent mix of anger and disbelief.
I saw nothing but blank faces staring into nothing at all. Nobody asked who I was. Nobody ever asked. You found out after they were dead.
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