“Bring forth the next defendant,” my booming baritone declares from my elevated position. You find yourself being hauled and pushed by two of my lieutenants as the drag you up some stairs. The noise of a raucous crowd grows as you emerge blinking and anxious into the dock. Your eyes dart about the crowded courtroom as you look for recognisable faces but none are apparent. You see elements of familiarity, are those our friends and family, but they seem different in some way? You cannot quite work it out. You just see stroppy wax-like faces, mouths agape, a torrent of bilious noise raining down towards you, fingers jabbing the air, arms being waved frenetically. A seething mass of anticipation and disapproval. The crack of a gavel being wielded cuts through the cacophony and all eyes turn, including your own to me as I sit across and above from you. Attired in judicial robes in accordance with my status, I stare at you, eyes narrowed and you shrink back under this unwavering gaze.
“Well,” I announce, “What have you got to say for yourself?”
You frown, puzzled by this question. You do not even know why you are here. You cannot think straight as there is a throbbing sensation in the middle of your brow and a sickness rising and falling in your stomach. Your shaking hands grasp the rail of the dock but you remain silent.
“I said,” I declare in a louder voice, “what have you got to say for yourself?”
The assembled crowd begin to chant.
“What? What? What? What?”
The noise increases as those who have crammed into the courtroom lean forward creating walls of sneering and sardonic faces all around you. The galleries are packed with eager voyeurs and the noise cascades down on to you. The gavel once again interrupts the crowd and a hush descends. There is an air of expectancy as I and the crowd wait for you to speak. You feel a jab in your side as one of the lieutenants elbows you, a savage prompt for you to talk.
“I don’t understand why I am here,” you say. Your voice sounds weak and quiet but it is apparent that everyone has heard you as there is a collective intake of breath and then you hear the intermittent remarks thrown towards you.
Your eyes go back to me and you see me draw myself up bristling with indignity.
“You don’t understand?” I boom. The crowd start to jabber.
“She doesn’t understand!” “She doesn’t understand!”
“Such impertinence, you should know why you are here,” I declare pointing the gavel at you. The noise of the crowd subsides a they crane forward to hear what you have to say.
“No, I don’t understand.”
“Well you ought to understand and you ought to be addressing me properly,” I continue.
“Ah you are sorry are you? What are you sorry for?” I ask seizing on your reply.
“Er I meant I didn’t understand what you meant.”
“Ah, yet another lack of understanding,” I announce to the sound of tutting from the crowd. You can see heads shaking all around you.
“Are you an idiot? A fool? A simpleton?” I ask.
“Certainly not, my lord,” I reply with a smile which bears no warmth.
You frown still unsure what on earth you are doing in this place and who all these people are and most of all why is it that I am sat as a judge presiding over you. I give you an encouraging look. You look left and right feeling uncertain before you speak again.
“Certainly not, my lord.”
“At last some progress,” I say. The crowd nod in approval.
“So, I shall ask you again, what have you got to say for yourself?”
“I do not understand why I am here,” I raise my eyebrows in expectation, “my lord.”
“Well you should!” I explode in a sudden rage.
“Yes you should, yes you should,” repeats the crowd.
“Why am I here?” you say but your question is drowned out by the noise.
“A week of silent treatment,” I announce and slam the gavel down with a loud crack.
“What for?” you cry puzzled and alarmed. There is gasp from the crowd at your question.
“Two weeks for such impertinence,” I add.
“This is not fair.”
“Three weeks for challenging our authority,” I announce.
“You cannot judge me, this is ridiculous, I don’t even know why I am here, I do not know what I am accused of.”
“Three weeks of silent treatment and a dose of triangulation with a replacement of our choosing,” I cry with a gleeful look in my eyes.
“You cannot do this,” you assert.
“What?” I roar, “I can do as I please.”
“This must be against the law; this is not right.”
“I am the law!” I roar.
“Surely you should tell me what I have done?”
“I should not have to do anything that you say, I am the judge.”
“Then what about the jury, surely they should decide whether I am guilty or not, whatever it is I am accused of.”
I look reflective for a moment.
“Yes, you have a point, very well, I shall allow it,” I decree in a magnanimous tone, “never let it be said that this court is unfair. Ask the jury.”
I point towards the jurors sat on the right hand side and you notice them for the first time. They are all staring at you. In actual fact you see my face twelve times staring at you.
“Guilty!” announces the first juror.
“Wait, I haven’t even asked you what I am guilty of yet!” you protest.
“Guilty!” cries the second juror.
“Guilty!” shouts the third.
You shake your heard utterly bewildered by the announcement of these verdicts.
“This is preposterous, no charge has been read out to me, I have not entered a plea and there should be a trial. This is a joke!” you cry.
“Six months of gas lighting to run consecutively to the earlier sentence!” I holler above the braying of the crowd.
“This isn’t fair.”
The pronouncements of guilt continue to ring out as the crowd chant “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” at you.
A man leans into the dock from behind you, he thrusts a microphone under your nose.
“Hello, Ian Sim from the Daily Smear, how do you feel?”
“What?” you reply backing away as another microphone appears.
“Hello, Mark Mywords from the Global Liar, what’s it like to be such a horrible person?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Hi, Ivor Stain from Channel Bias, do you think you can cope with this sentence?”
“May Day from Bad News, did your family make you do it?”
More faces lean into the dock, jostling with one another as questions are hurled at you. The crowd’s noisiness continues as its members drive one another into a frenzy. You see my face times twelve as the jurors leap up and down, hooting and laughing as they point and continue to yell “guilty” in your direction. Through it all you can hear my baritone as more and more punishments are added to the already burgeoning list and your head swims with the barrage of sounds. Faces blur, nausea sweeps across you and your heart hammers in your chest. You feel hot, you feel faint and arms grab you from either side and pull you along the dock.
“What’s happening, I don’t understand, what I am supposed to have done?” you murmur.
“Don’t worry,” says a calm voice and you turn your head to see an elegant lady stood next to you, the lieutenants who were once there having disappeared. Who is this woman? Where has she come from? You have never seen her before.
“Don’t worry,” she repeats, “I will take care of him for you,” she smiles and promptly lets you go. She strides from the dock towards me as you teeter at the top of the stairs, the darkness of the cells somewhere beneath you and then you topple forward and crash into the chasm below.