Justice (flash fiction)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Flash fiction about the last remaining capital offense in a kinder, gentler world in the not too distant future where anonymity is no longer an option.

 

 

 

Justice

 

Time: The all too near future

Place: A courtroom

Setting: Final sentencing of a prisoner convicted of the last remaining capital offense on the books of a kinder, gentler, fairer world in which equality is no longer a mere aspiration.

 

The prisoner stared impassively into the camera. The bright lights causing beads of sweat to form above his eyes and forcing him to squint, his perspiration-soaked thinning hair flattened unflatteringly against his forehead. No sound could be heard other than the faint hum of the air conditioning whose airflow was directed from the high ceiling above the high seats of the three-judge panel, towards the three judges, keeping their immediate area comfortably cool. The camera trained on them remained a respectful distance away, and no harsh lights illuminated their somber countenances.

All three judges stared at the camera showing no emotion, their hands folded in front of them on the surface of their capacious bench on top of three equal stacks of paper placed before them. Everywhere on earth citizens watched the unfolding drama over the neural net that provided a fully immersive experience indistinguishable from reality, effectively placing every citizen on the planet in the courtroom as the Chief Judge began to speak in a deep, resonant, clear voice.

“The evidence against you has been examined. This tribunal finds you guilty of the charges against you by a unanimous vote. Have you anything to say before we pass sentence?”

The camera cuts back to the prisoner. The lights brighten around him and the heat rises perceptibly, adding fresh fuel to the trickle of sweat flowing down his flushed face, causing a bead of sweat to form at the end of his nose that he is unable to swat away because his wrists are restrained by metal bands at the armrests of his metal chair, outside the viewing range of the camera’s tight zoom on his face.

“I am guilty of no crime,” the prisoner protests in a low voice full of palpable weariness and resignation.

“You are guilty of the most heinous of crimes,” the Chief Judge contradicts, raising his voice and causing the prisoner to cringe. “That is not open to debate. This is your final chance to make what amends you may to those whom you have harmed through your selfish, deviant act. It will have no effect on this Court’s sentence.”

“But I have done nothing wrong,” the man emphatically protests again, as ribbons of perspiration roll down his neck and deepen the growing ring of dark sweat absorbed by his bright orange jumpsuit, leaving a collar of dark moisture around his neck.

“Silence!” the Chief Judge hisses through tight lips. “The record will show that the prisoner is unrepentant. This Court finds that he willfully, maliciously and without justification removed his neural connector with the purpose and effect of severing his connection to the neural nets. We further find that the motivating factor for this most egregious, malevolent and repugnant crime was the attempt to abandon the Common Consciousness and establish his individuality separate and apart from the Communal Mind. We further find that the subject is in full possession of his legal faculties and capable of understanding the criminal nature of his acts, and, perhaps most tragically, that he fails to see the enormity of his crime.” The Chief Justice faltered slightly, delivering the final words of the Court’s sentence with a slight tremor in his voice. After stopping a moment to compose himself as his learned colleagues looked on impassively, he continued. “It is, therefore, the judgment of this Court that you will forever remain disconnected from the nets from this day forward.”

Upon hearing the Judge’s words, the prisoner’s eyes opened wider, attempting to digest their import. Could it be? Might he finally be allowed the what he believed to be his unalienable right to be an individual for the first time in his life? The opportunity to live in a world in which he could have original thoughts, genuine emotions, privacy and the opportunity to be different from everyone else? The joy he felt nearly made him faint with relief and unbridled joy, allowing him for the first time in his life the possibility of hope as tears welled in his eyes.

He found he could not speak, could not express even the simple words “thank you” to the Court. It was as though he were emerging from a life-long nightmare, as if. . .

“The prisoner’s IP address, 999.999.999.999, shall be erased from the Nets,” the Judge continued as the prisoner’s tears now flowed freely. “His existence shall be forever stricken from the Collective Consciousness lest it germinate there and once again grow sedition in our midst.” The prisoner wept openly now while smiling broadly.

“The death sentence for this most heinous of crimes is hereby commuted so that the prisoner may be allowed the individuality he craves for the rest of his natural life, devoid of the comfort of our collective humanity or the distracting influences of life.”

The Chief Judge then paused and took a deep breath, as the prisoner shuddered with relief. He then continued in a slow, resonant voice. “It is further ordered by this Court that the prisoner shall have his eyes, eardrums, tongue and olfactory organs surgically removed that he may not taste, see, hear, or speak with any other human being for the rest of his natural life. Thereafter, he is remanded to a hospital where he shall be restrained to a bed and tended to by robotic life support aids that he may be denied the comfort of feeling another human being's warm touch upon his skin. The sentence of this Court shall be carried out immediately and shall be witnessed by all the citizens of Earth as partial reparation for this most heinous of crimes against humanity.”

The prisoner’s screams lasted only a few moments as an anesthetic was administered and the cameras were re-arranged in preparation for justice to be carried out.

 

NOTE: If you would like to hear my reading of this, the shortest story in my Mindscapes: Ten Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories collection, you can go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAa2ONh85v0

 

 


Submitted: May 24, 2012

© Copyright 2023 VictorDLopez. All rights reserved.

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Sharief Hendricks

Hi Victor

I cant open the URL?

Mon, June 22nd, 2020 7:47am

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Reply

Hi Sharief,

This is an old post. Let me update it with the text of the short story rather than a link to where I had originally posted it. I'll do that in the next ten minutes or so. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

Mon, June 22nd, 2020 10:41am

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