Why Do You Take Comfort in the Day of Justice?

A Parable of Judgment

Light beams stream down. I walk down Amos Street, alone on a tree-lit path glowing green from filtered sun. In the distance looms the courthouse, Justice with her sword and scales, looks down on me with covered face. All await dear Lady Justice, for when she comes, crime shall pay the paupers it robbed, and all will be put right. When Justice comes, she will smile. Brilliant light will greet me, so as to make the spring green hue that now surrounds me look pitch black by comparison.

Money weighs my pockets. Coins and cash and credit from the impoverished of the city, all is in my power. The fees I charge to plead a case, the price I pay for the desired verdict. Want a policy change? Money makes the task go smoother. The poor flock to the city for justice, I entice them on the way with false promises. But this is all behind my innocent façade. I mask my actions in a veil of justice, no one can prove that I am false. Even Lady Justice remains ignorant, and so she will reward me for my appearance of sincere faithfulness. She has not seen my prayers, my petitions, my sacrifices to the golden idols of greed, pleasure, and self. It is them that I truly worship, though in all my outward actions I serve dear Lady Justice.

A worry of doubt flits past me. Maybe she is aware of my falseness. I stare at Lady Justice. Her smile still remains. I relax. I feel no fear. I have no fear. I am the model citizen, commended by the court. I am the favorite, a chosen representative of the city. And she, Lady Justice, remains ignorant of my secret mutterings, my hidden prayers to those golden idols. Yes. When Justice comes, I will be the first to reap reward.

I walk onward. People begin to fill the streets, dressed in festive costumes. I hear a fanfare, exultation, celebration, and confetti fills the air. “Lady Justice has come! Lady Justice has come!” I rush through the screaming crowd, eager to be the first to see. I break through. They all vanish.

Darkness descends. Such darkness as I have never seen. I feel dread creeping over me, as slowly and clammily as the mist spreading through the now deserted street. I look up at the courthouse. Lady Justice is gone. Only two lions perch on either side of the steps. Except that they have now moved. I see the stone ripple as flesh, and they leap from their pedestals, very much alive. Terror washes over me. I rush down a vacant side street, a voice screeching in my head: “I know your many crimes! You have persecuted the just and taken bribes! You have lied to the poor, leading them away from justice at the gate! You think that I have not seen your groveling before idols, but I have seen everything!”

I have lost all sense of direction. I blindly rush from street to street, alley to alley, corner to corner, the voice pounding in my head, the hot breath of the lions at my back. At last, I dive into dark recess, and I hear the lions pass me by. I wait for several minutes, each second like eternity. I slowly emerge from the dark corner, greeted by dank and damp. I try to evaluate where I am. My heart pounds in my chest, terror still echoing through my body, the voice still a memory in my head. Where am I? I stumble to a main street, struggling to find my location. I look down the path, and sheer horror sinks my heart like a stone.

There stands a ghastly silhouette, a grotesque figure only vaguely like that of a man. It lumbers for me, sharp claws distended from bulging arms. Cold shock immobilizes me as its face finally becomes clear: A face in the shape of a bear. I run, run, run from the bearman, but always it staggers closer. My feet are lead. Why can’t I move faster? An invisible hand holds me back, I cannot escape from the bearman. He is closing in, closing in, I cannot escape.

My eyes flash across the sign: “5th Street.” My home street. I stumble down the lane, searching for house #19. The bearman is at my heels. And Lady Justice haunting my head. If only I can find my home. I must find it, the pain of this fear is too great to bear, and I am still being chased by the bearman.

At last! I rush for the familiar doorway, a shelter from a world of horrors. Relief, blessed relief, fills my chest as I gasp lungfulls of air, my back against the door. At last I am safe, a thick wooden frame between me and the horrors of my conscience. I walk across the room, rest my hand on the wall. I turn face to the door, leaning back against smooth surface of the wall, exhaling a breath of freedom. Suddenly, chills spread across my skin. A sinister, slithery voice whispers menacingly in my ear. “There is nowhere that is safe. Let justice flow like water.” I barely comprehend the dark figure behind me, barely see the snakehead engraving on the metallic knife hilt. A flash of steel in the dark, and blood flows like water on the ground.

©Kenneth Mick III November 2011

[Note: This is a previously unpublished work, but it made it into the final round of review for the 2012 BCC Zine issue. As this work is rather strange, I will give you a hint: The street names and the home address are the key to understanding the background behind this.]