Greater Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers


A murder occurs in the quiet town of Hareford, with one strange suspect. Sequel to GENESIS and DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE. Continues in THE LIGHT SIDE, AND NOW ABIDETH, and ENEMY.


“Are you sure, warden?”

“He’s all yours.”

The prison warden moved away slowly. The lawyer dragged his lanky body through the narrow opening. In front of him, separated by a low glass partition, a small, wiry creature sat on a metallic chair. Its grotesquely long arms dangled helplessly, as though disconnected from the rest of its body. It was fully draped in pieces of colored fabric, with the exception of the face – which, though half-covered by rough, black bristles, resembled that of a naked mole-rat. Tiny drops of clear liquid accumulated on its forehead, emitting a repugnant smell.

The lawyer sat down and coughed.

“Do you speak English?” he asked, trying not to stare at his client.

“Yes,” the creature replied in a low, raspy voice.

“What’s your name?”

“Qin. Baldur Qin.”

“Mr. Qin, do you understand what you’re accused of?”

“Your Honor, I didn’t –”

“I’m not the judge. You can call me Mr. Haas,” the lawyer said wearily. “Please answer my question. Do you understand the nature of the crime ascribed to you?”

“Yes, Mr. Haas… Yes, I do. But I assure you –”

“Mr. Qin”. The lawyer put on his reading glasses and pulled a few documents out of his briefcase. “It says here that on February 28, 2277, at around 9:15am, you shot and killed a local resident, Laura Coelho.”

“It’s not true, Your Hon… Mr. Haas,” the prisoner said hurriedly. “I didn’t –”

“How did you come into possession of firearms, Mr. Qin?” The lawyer leaned forward.

“I didn’t.”

“Are you saying that you did not possess any firearms?”

“That’s right.”

“So how did you kill her?”

“I didn’t kill her!” The creature waved its misshapen appendages frantically. The stinky fluid now glistened on the exposed portion of its hideous face. Instead of licking away the large drops, it wiped them hurriedly with the fabric enveloping its arms. “I don’t even know who this Laura Coelho is. I ended up here by mistake. Took the wrong exit out of the tunnels. I just wanted to get home, Underground Reservation C17. I’d never even think of –”

“Are you saying that you had no intention of entering the town?” The lawyer winced, trying to control the rapid wiggling motion of his nose.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Please, Mr. Haas… I swear I’m telling the truth.”

“Hmm.” The lawyer took off his glasses and sighed. “Mr. Qin, I’ll be honest with you. The Hareford community is indignant at the mere thought of a local resident committing this heinous crime. Considering the history of our races, as well as your… err… naturally displeasing appearance, I can only say that you make a perfectly convenient scapegoat.”

The creature stood up, balancing on two comically straight, cylindrical legs. It pressed its protruding, bony nose against the glass, breathing through a monstrously gaping mouth. The lawyer moved away instinctively, trying to hide his revulsion.

“I’ll see you in court.” The lawyer stood up and began to stuff the papers back into the briefcase. His tail was itching, and he felt that the tips of his ears needed urgent grooming. He nodded curtly at the prisoner and hopped away.

 

***

 

“People of Hareford versus Baldur Qin, second session. Honorable Francis H. Krolik presiding. Mr. Advaith Khargosh is prosecuting on behalf of the town council. Mr. Saul Haas represents the defendant. The defendant has pleaded not guilty of premeditated killing of Laura Coelho. We have heard the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, which placed Mr. Qin in the vicinity of the crime scene. The defense is now ready to call their only witness. Mr. Haas?”

“Yes, Your Honor.” The lawyer stood up hurriedly. “The defense calls Baldur Qin.”

The bailiff escorted the defendant to the witness stand.

“Mr. Qin,” the lawyer began. “What was your reason for coming to Hareford?”

“I never intended to go to Hareford,” the defendant replied. “I got lost in the tunnels on my way to Underground Reservation C17.”

“Are you aware of the fact that humans are prohibited from entering lagomorph settlements?”

“Yes, sir. Of course. We are to stay underground at all times. This is done for our own safety, since radiation on the surface –”

“Mr. Qin,” the lawyer interrupted. “Have you, or have you not, come to Hareford with the intent of assassinating Laura Coelho or any other resident of our community?”

“I have not. I’m innocent, and I –”

“No further questions, Your Honor.” The lawyer bowed and sat down.

“Thank you, Mr. Haas.” The judge stroked his bushy whiskers. “Mr. Khargosh?”

The stout, elderly prosecutor rose slowly.

“I’d like to cross-examine this witness, Your Honor,” he said quietly.

“Please proceed, Mr. Khargosh.”

“Mr. Qin,” the prosecutor began. “Are you familiar with the general history of Earth?”

“Objection, Your Honor.” The lawyer hopped forward. “The complex and troubled history of our planet has nothing to do with this case.”

“Your Honor, I’m trying to establish a motive here,” the prosecutor responded, waggling his droopy ears. “I shall demonstrate shortly how the historical background of the defendant’s species relates to his thinking.”

“I’ll allow this.” The judge nodded. “Mr. Qin, please answer the question.”

“Yes, Your Honor… I’ve studied our history extensively,” the defendant replied. “In fact, I’m a professional historian.”

“Then I guess you won’t have trouble confirming certain facts pertaining to our common history.” The prosecutor took a sip of warm carrot tea from a paper cup. “Mr. Qin, do you understand the meaning of the taxonomic terms Homo sapiens and Oryctolagus cuniculus?”

“I do. The first one is us… the humans. The second one is the name of your species… before the Event, which made you sapient and… and… much bigger.”

“Mr. Qin, how would you describe the relationship between these two species prior to the Event of 2121?”

The defendant fidgeted on his chair.

“I… I know that you were kept as pets,” he said. “You were taken care of, given food.”

“Is that all, Mr. Qin?” The prosecutor feigned surprise.

“Well… Yes, sir.”

“Let us concentrate on the pet issue for a moment, Mr. Qin. Is it true that many representatives of our kind, when kept as pets, were mistreated, intentionally or out of neglect – fed harmful products, abandoned without providing any means of survival, and even –” the prosecutor paused for effect “– given a bath?”

Muted gasps flittered across the courtroom.

“Objection!” The lawyer spread his forepaws. “Your Honor, is it really necessary to delve into the gruesome details of the past, which have nothing to do with the moral character of my client?”

“Overruled,” the judge said. “Counselor, we’ve already agreed that it is crucial to establish the general characteristics of your client’s species in order to determine the likelihood of him committing this crime. Mr. Qin will answer this question.”

The defendant looked down.

“Yes, there were such cases.”

“Indeed there were.” The prosecutor hopped nearer to the witness stand. “Isn’t it also true, Mr. Qin, that most of your pets were castrated?”

Indignant murmur filled the courtroom. The judge tapped his gavel.

“Yes, that’s true.”

“I see. Over the course of many centuries, my ancestors were imprisoned, abused, and denied the sacred duty of procreation by your ancestors – isn’t that so, Mr. Qin?”

“Objection! Asked and answered.”

“Sustained.”

“Mr. Qin.” The prosecutor’s eyes narrowed. “Was pet companionship the only reason for the selective breeding of the Oryctolagus cuniculus?”

The defendant was silent.

“Mr. Qin, you have to answer the question,” the judge said.

“No… No, it wasn’t.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Qin, I can’t hear you,” the prosecutor said. “What did you say?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“What was the other, far more common reason?”

The defendant swallowed.

“They… you… they were bred for food,” he mumbled.

The courtroom erupted in muffled cries and angry roars. An elderly lady fainted. The judge banged his gavel again.

“Silence in court!”

“Mr. Qin, I have one more question for you.” The prosecutor put his forepaws on the witness stand. “What moral justification did your kind have for treating your fellow creatures in such a way?”

“You… they weren’t sapient. Not sentient.”

“Who are you to determine what sapience or sentience means?”

“Objection!”

“Withdrawn. Mr. Qin, the intelligence of your ancestors knew no equals during the pre-Event period of your history. Isn’t it true that you used your superior intelligence to exterminate entire species? Isn’t it true that you far exceeded your natural needs? Isn’t it true that killing other creatures was considered a recreational activity among your kind? Isn’t it true that much of the natural habitat of a large amount of species was completely destroyed to accommodate your desire for luxurious existence?”

The defendant lowered his eyes.

The lawyer rose.

“Your Honor, I can’t believe what’s happening here.” His voice was shaky. “Are we trying the defendant for the murder of Laura Coelho, or humanity for the crimes it has committed? The defendant pleaded not guilty, and we haven’t yet heard a single shred of evidence confirming –”

“I did it,” Baldur Qin said.

All the sounds in the courtroom died out.

“Mr. Qin.” The judge turned to face the defendant. “Are you changing your plea? Do you plead guilty of the murder of Laura Coelho?”

Baldur Qin raised his head.

“Yes, Your Honor, I do. I killed her.”

 

***

 

The lawyer hopped through the crowd towards the prison warden.

“Can I have a word with him before the execution?”

The warden shrugged his shoulders.

“Knock yourself out.”

The lawyer entered the familiar room. Within a few minutes, Baldur Qin appeared behind the glass partition.

“Hello, Mr. Haas. Did you want to ask me something?”

The lawyer’s nose twitched repeatedly. He covered his face with trembling paws.

“Mr. Haas?”

“Why are you doing this?” the lawyer whispered.

“Doing what?”

“Confessing to a crime you haven’t committed.”

“But I have committed it, Mr. Haas.”

“No, you haven’t.”

“Why do you think so, Mr. Haas?”

“Because…” The lawyer’s voice was barely audible. “Because I killed Laura Coelho.”

"I know." The prisoner nodded slowly. "She rejected your love, and there was a convenient scapegoat, as you said. My kind used to have a nasty saying – kill two birds with one stone."

“I want to know why you confessed,” the lawyer said angrily. “Don’t get any ideas now, it’s your word against mine. I’ve got to save my skin here. But it’s been bugging me to no end… Why?”

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Baldur Qin said thoughtfully.

“What’s that?”

“A quote from an old book. Mr. Haas, I spent my entire life in fear. I thought I was afraid of you… of your kind. But in reality, I was afraid of my kind. Do you understand what I mean?”

“No.”

Baldur Qin touched the glass with his hand. The lawyer, his entire body shaking, stumbled backwards.

“Warden!” he shouted. “Warden!”

He glanced to the side, his heart beating rapidly. Then he sprinted out of the room and the prison building. He ran to the outskirts of the town, where endless empty fields spread below a pale moon. He could not see the executioner turn on the power of the electric chair, increasing the voltage to the maximum.

 

THE END


Submitted: February 24, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Oleg Roschin. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Carolina Miller

I really enjoyed you writing. It took me to a different place.

Sat, February 24th, 2018 6:06pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much! :)

Sat, February 24th, 2018 9:23pm

Lucas Barstow

Well, I know that getting lost like that is easily possible, I did it myself the other day.
I think you might have to stop looking at things with reason and logic because you really do know how to show humanity's darker side.
Top humour with the mention of a bath, it was a little unexpected and got a chuckle out of me.
Another thought provoking, interesting and well written piece. As always I struggle to find flaws in your work. For some reason I find talking rabbits less believable than talking cats and dogs, don't know why.

Sat, February 24th, 2018 6:44pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your feedback, Lucas!

Rabbits don't just hate to be bathed (like cats do); it is potentially lethal. Especially baby rabbits can easily die of a heart attack during a bath. That's why the first rule one should know - NEVER bathe a rabbit. Rabbits groom themselves regularly and are always very clean. Unfortunately, a lot of rookie rabbit raisers don't know that...

Talking rabbits is definitely less believable than talking cats or dogs - that's because rabbits are silent 99% of the time, while cats meow and dogs bark :)

Sat, February 24th, 2018 9:22pm

B Douglas Slack

Ah. The return of a bunny story. I loved it, Oleg. An effective blast against those who hunt, not for sustenance, but for sport. I hunted, but not now. When I returned from each hunt, my freezer overflowed with sustenance. I never tought there would be active resistence to my efforts. Than you for showing us 'the other side'.

Bill

Sat, February 24th, 2018 7:12pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for your kind comment, Bill! It might be preposterous to write a court drama where the defendant is humanity itself, but I've toyed with the idea for a while, and something clicked when I figured how to do that within the frame of my imaginary universe.

Sat, February 24th, 2018 9:16pm

Kathrina Csernis

I love how this is connected to your other stories - is this a series, perhaps? Haha anyway, this was great. I love to read little things like this here and there, and this made me laugh and smile. At first I thought it was going to be just some murder case, but it took an unexpected turn. I loved it, and I love how you keep bunnies/rabbits intertwined within your works - I remember you telling me how much you love bunnies :)

But yes, this was really great. The ending was a bit... well, I wanted to know what happened after he escaped, but I gather that may be revealed at a later date? Or maybe not haha either way, it was a great story :)

Sun, February 25th, 2018 2:31am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your comment, Kathrina! :)) You are right, my stories are all interconnected, it's basically a long series starting in 1980 and ending in 5100 or so (currently), you can see the chronology on my profile page :))

As for what happened afterwards - well, obviously Baldur Qin was executed; as for the other character, I deliberately left it open. He may confess later, or just continue to live as though nothing happened, or become crazy... I rarely have the same characters in the stories, so there are plenty of unanswered questions concerning their individual fate. I do connect them by bloodlines, though. For example, Baldur Qin is the ancestor of the crazy General Harold Qin from my short story "Enemy".

Sat, February 24th, 2018 9:09pm

Shawlyn

Oleg, great piece of writing. I rushed to get to the end to find out which way you were going; then read it again out of pure enjoyment. Great job providing a chuckle, a twist and a well rounded short story. Keep it up. Regards and best wishes.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 7:19am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Shawlyn! I'm glad that you liked it :))

Sat, February 24th, 2018 11:20pm

Teddy Kimathi

Wow! First and foremost, your work never disappoints! Awesome write! I found myself questioning some of the ill stuffs we do to our pets. Yes, Qin made me imagine how the Universal Force makes of us as humans, and how we'll be judged with time, depending on our will to change.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 9:29am

Author
Reply

Indeed. Baldur Qin is a tragic hero, representing humanity as a whole (having a weird name that stretches from Scandinavia to China and evokes images of Viking conquests and the cruel First Emperor, Qin Shihuang). At the same time, he is almost a Christ-like figure - an innocent man who takes upon himself the burden of humanity's sins and is sacrificed for them, for the sake of peace among the rabbits (his name hints at that as well - Baldur is a Norse god that gets sacrificed and will come back to life in the end of times). Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Teddy, I appreciate your feedback!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 1:39am

Hasch

Guilt. Probably the biggest enemy any man can ever have. I feel for that lawyer.

And of course that is the greatest love; laying life down for friends.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 10:03am

Author
Reply

Indeed. I suppose it took a lot of magnanimity to think of the scary giant rabbits as one's friends, though. It's less amazing than Jesus considering us friends and laying down His life for us; but I think Baldur Qin was imitating the Christ here. Thank you for your kind feedback, Andrew!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 4:55am

Serge Wlodarski

Good story. All those humans are guilty of something.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:20am

Author
Reply

Indeed they are! Thanks for reading, Serge!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 4:59am

matelot

Excellent piece! I loved the way you crafted the story and fleshed out the background. If I have to leave a practical suggestion it's about your sentences. I often write sentences that are way too long. I think in your case, some of your sentences are too short. The first paragraph especially seemed a little too "staccatto" if you see what I mean. I think the first paragraph would benefit from joining sentences together and the description and thus story wold flow better. :)

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:25am

Author
Reply

I'll take this into consideration! I was told my sentences tended to be too long and my writing and descriptive style too verbose, so I went for something "lean" here. Thank you very much for reading and commenting, I appreciate that! :))

Sun, February 25th, 2018 5:02am

Jay Northearn

Another good read, Ochin. I like how the early description creates an horrific impression of the central character until we realise the monster is homo-sapien, and of course it has also to dawn on the reader that this a court of ( not kangeroos ) rabbits! There's a flavour of Lewis Carol in all this and it works extremely well. Great exchange in dialogue, well-tuned story progression, and I like this story's tight focus. Thanks for sharing this, Oleg. Now, I'm off for a cup of carrot tea! :)

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:34am

Author
Reply

Haha, thank you for your kind words, Jay! I'm glad you liked this one. This is one of my own favorite ones, if I do say so myself :-)

Sun, February 25th, 2018 4:59am

Donald Harry Roberts

This story invokes some very intriguing concepts in my thoughts. Well done Oleg

Sun, February 25th, 2018 2:03pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading and commenting, Donald!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 6:48am

Markie Bee

I thought the concept was quite original and I loved that it was set in a courtroom. It did have me reading to the end but I must admit I was getting lost in places. I felt there were two stories here, one about the inhuman treatment of rabbits and the murder of Laura. I think you should have said who Laura was, is she first human or a rabbit? Also what was the main character MMO. Means, Motive and Opportunity for killing Laura?

Also I couldn't make the connection with the murder of Laura and why the main character took the rap for the lawyer.

In conclusion a very promising story and as I mentioned at the start a very original concept.

I hope my comments were OK I do find it hard to critique other peoples writing when I'm no expert myself.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 3:42pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for commenting, Mark! I think there are indeed two stories here. However, I intentionally wrote it in such a way that the murder of Laura Coelho (the lawyer says in the beginning that she is a local resident - which means, of course, that she is a rabbit, since humans live in underground reservations and are forbidden from entering lagomorph [rabbit] settlements) becomes a mere background for Baldur Qin's personal drama. It doesn't matter why the lawyer killed her; what matters is that it was a rare violent event in the lives of generally non-violent rabbits. That is why Baldur Qin took the fall: he sacrificed himself, giving the lawyer an opportunity to atone without punishment, so that the rabbit community will not be devoured by nascent sin. This is an allegory of Christ's sacrifice for humans. Of course, Baldur Qin is not Christ, but he tried to emulate Him. He took upon himself the guilt of mankind.

Another interpretation is that Baldur Qin was so shocked and consumed by guilt when he looked at humanity through the eyes of is victims, that he couldn't bear it anymore, and his confession was a way to commit suicide. However, the fact that he continued to take the blame even after the lawyer confessed, means that, at least at that moment, he did take the lawyer's crime upon himself.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 8:04am

Melancholic Wisdom

Great story, your writing is spot on as usual. I agree with some of the other comments that everyone is guilty of something, even if it seems like they don't care, guilt is one those factors of life that is incredibly hard to escape from. Everything you do is so well crafted and original, you're one of the best. Great work!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 3:49pm

Author
Reply

You're too kind, Nik! Thank you so much for your feedback, it is much appreciated!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 8:05am

Celtic-Scribe63

An interesting concept with the rabbits. as usual your writing works on many levels, humour, satire and humanity issues.
A well written and tight story, very different to what I normally read, but none the less enjoyable.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 4:50pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for your kind comment, I really appreciate it!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:27pm

Keke Serene

This makes me wonder, did Jesus really feel guilty even when he didn't do anything wrong and lived the perfect human life, or did he feel guilty for mankind being wicked? I don't know but it doesn't seem far fetched that if your children do something terrible you would feel in part responsible...though of course there will always be those mothers claiming innocence for their serial killer sons at the trials, lol!

Excellent writing as always. :)

Sun, February 25th, 2018 4:58pm

Author
Reply

I loved it when I write something and then get such a deep and insightful comment as this one.. Thank you so much! You've seen right though the exterior and into the heart of the matter. This is such a thought-provoking question, and that's exactly why I wrote this story in the first place... to wonder what solidarity with the common sin really does to a person. Maybe Baldur Qin was simply overwhelmed or too depressed; but maybe he sought to appease the rabbits by taking the fall... And I really don't know myself whether the "friends" he meant were the rabbits, in whom he had hope, or humans, or both.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:26pm

Islebabe

Wow! You have an amazing relationship with words. In the beginning of the story I honestly believed that Qin was a grotesque creature and the lawyer was the human; that's how great you are at creating a very convincing scene. I always look forward to reading your stories. Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the invite, Oleg.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 7:22pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind and valuable feedback :)) I enjoyed writing the first part, I actually wanted to delay the twist, but then I needed to put humanity on trial... Preposterous, I know - but it's written from the point of view of a bunny narrator :) Looks like he begins to gradually respect the human character - at first he calls him "creature", "it", and delights himself in describing his repulsive appearance; during the trial, he just uses the cold "defendant", but without any more jabs at his physique; and during the last part, he calls him by his name, "Baldur Qin", when he displays humanity in the spiritual sense of the word.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:16pm

Brian P Baldwin

Another good one Oleg. It makes me weep for Bunnykind and their tragic decent towards the shame of humanities past, plus they are cute.
I thought your description of the prisoner at the start was fantastic. I picturing some sort of mole creature and I was surprised to find out it might be a relative. Not that I have ever imprisoned bunnies. I'm more of a Snoopy-ist, and tend to worship them from afar.
But another great one Oleg. Took me back to my childhood with the "Dreaded Bath"
Good job.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 9:54pm

Author
Reply

Well, the bath part is real... Bunnies should never be washed, they lick themselves clean anyway and may actually die of heart attack when given a bath. But a lot of rookie bunny owners don't know that, and that's why there are, sadly, so many "I gave my baby bunny a bath and he died!" cases. Thank you for commenting, Brian, I always appreciate your kind feedback!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:11pm

Gear

There were two places from my childhood I felt. One was the Wonderland where Alice has got her adventures; another one was the Lilliputs' country and Gulliver's voyage there. Speaking names, satiric telling and so on. I 've got a few fun minutes reading this story.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 10:29pm

Author
Reply

Thank you, I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:08pm

Q.B. McKinney

This is another example of storytelling at its finest. You have captured the degradation of humanity and put it on trial for all to see. Very thought provoking work of word art, my friend.

Mon, February 26th, 2018 1:02am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind comment, my friend! Your feedback is always highly appreciated.

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:07pm

Megan Fox

Hi Oleg
The post "event" world is shaping up to be rich and full of life. Having just got a new kitten you're making me feel awful about getting him neutered to suit my own needs (ie not to mark territory). It's fascinating reading from the rabbit point of view things, which to us, are ordinary and taken for granted yet to them it's domination and they almost make it sound like we indulge cannibalism. Not expecting the lawyer to have done the deed - good twist.
Well written as usual, I really am enjoying your post event world.
Megan

Mon, February 26th, 2018 1:15am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for commenting on this story, Megan! Another post-Event Earth stories of mine is "And Now Abideth", but there rabbits and humans have sorted out their differences and can even love each other. The last post-Event Earth story, however, is "Enemy", happening 400 years after "And Now Abideth" and 600 years after this one - and there, things really take on a very grim turn :( I'm glad you liked this one, it's actually one of my own favorites :))

Sun, February 25th, 2018 11:06pm

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