The Night Terrors VII

Judge 001


I mounted the pulpit then.  I stood trembling and looked out over that sea of faces, all so well known to me.  I saw the jury seated in the choir loft.  I recognized my teachers, friends, neighbors, relations, and acquaintances and nodded in acknowledgment of their presence.  And then I spoke.  I told them everything.  I told them how it was true that I had never once in my life acted purely out of love for another human being; how everything I had ever done, no matter how good or kind, had been done with an eye to my own self-interest.  I told them how proud and vain I really was; how I desired above all things to be better than others, to be admired and loved and honored and held in high esteem.  I told them, too, how little regard I had ever had for any of them, how I had cleverly manipulated and used them for my own ends.  I told them how I had been sick with longing for things that were not rightly my own and never could be.  And when I had finished telling them all these things, I came down from the pulpit and stood between the prophet and the angel before the pure and shining whiteness of the linen tablecloth.

The judge spoke:

“You stand condemned,” he said quietly; and though I still could not see his face, I knew it was dark and grim.  “You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  By your own words you have been judged.  We find ourselves obliged to sentence you to death!”

“Thank you!” I managed to stammer when I could find my voice at last, and I meant it.  My despair was mingled with a sense of gratitude and relief.  Justice, at least, would be served at last.

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