By Citlalin Ossio
2nd Place, Prose, Create | Encounter 2021
The first thing She hears are raised voices, echoing off unseen walls. Her eyelids are heavy and her mind is so tangled, She can’t distinguish the words being thrown across the room. Something cold and heavy clings to the skin around her ankle and when She gains the strength to open her eyes She realizes it is a metal chain. Her head, her whole body, is difficult to move, but her gaze follows the linked iron and stops on the ones who hold it.
Two human Judges sit behind a gold accented, white full bench and both wear glistening white deer skulls for heads. The Judge on the right is distinguished from the other by his majestic antlers.
It is only then that She takes in the courtroom. It is a circular room with leafy vines clinging to white stone as they crawl up the walls, stopping short of the round glass ceiling, where early blooms of light pink roses frame the window. The sweet scent of the blossoms wafts weakly through the air. Stained glass windows paint rainbows on a white marble floor and make the gold accented furniture sparkle. It is truly beautiful. Too beautiful to be a courtroom. And why was She in the criminal’s chair?
On her left, prosecutors shout, bone scraping bone as their sharp teeth slam together, and on the right counselors shout back. She looks back at the Judges. They don’t notice her, too engrossed in the screaming match before them. The others don’t see her because they are too busy arguing.
“She trespassed into their land!” shouts a prosecutor, his tone as sharp as each of his three thousand teeth. “She deserves death.”
Death? Panic sets in her heart and She opens her mouth to speak but her throat stings and no words come out. Ah, that’s right. She remembers.
She had been told to go to the Judges’ house for they would protect her, during her time of refuge. So She trusted them when they gave her to drink. It burned going down and her eyelids grew heavy. The potion worked its magic instantly. They stole her voice when she drank from their glass cup. Now the song she had inherited was gone and she was a criminal. But for what?
“Nonsense!” counters a counselor. It is impossible to know she is barring her fangs without the low growl emanating behind her wolf skull. “She is seeking refuge.”
A second prosecutor steps forward, the ends of his gray tusks pointing towards the ceiling. “If we accept her, we must accept everyone. We do not know what danger she will bring.”
“You do not know what hope she will be,” chirps his opponent, a bird skulled counselor.
“We have enough problems as it is, we don’t need another. Our resources are limited. If she lives, she’ll only suffer.”
“If she was even alive to begin with,” says the Shark. “Why should we believe she is who she claims? It could be a mask, a shell, hiding nothing but dust and shadow.”
The Wolf says, “You’ll say anything to get what you want.”
“You’re no different.”
She draws her attention from the screaming match to her bare feet and to her relief wiggles her toes. The poison is wearing off, soon her voice will return and then they’ll hear her, they’ll see her.
The cool tile makes the plant of her feet sweat, so She moves her foot, and the chain follows. The Judge Without Antlers must feel it because she looks at her. She sees me. But at the sound of the gavel the Judge Without Antlers looks away and the shard of hope She has disappears.
With a booming voice the Judge With Antlers says, “Bring the witnesses.”
Two witnesses appear on either side of her. The first wears a ram skull with spiraling horns and the second has the skull of a lion with four sharp canines and each holds a staff. Mage prophets.
“Give your testimony,” orders the Judge With Antlers.
The Lion speaks first, “I have sought council with the moon and sea and have heard her laughs. I have smelled the sweet fragrances of the fruits she will bear.”
His words get a rise out of the prosecutors and cheers from the defense.
She hopes again that her innocence will be proven.
The Judge With Antlers hits the gavel for order and the Ram steps forward. “I have sought council with the sun and the earth. I have heard her cries to heaven and breathed the smoke of the fires she will set.”
A commotion breaks out at her prophecy. It is so chaotic She can hardly discern any words. The Judge With Antlers bangs the gavel but he is ignored.
She shakes her leg and the chain rattles. The Judge Without Antlers glances in her direction but her gaze does not linger.
She saw me, she did.
The gavel echoes in the hall and She knows what to do. With all her strength she stomps her chained foot. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. It rings louder than the gavel and after a collective gasp, silence finally falls in the courtroom. All eyes are on her now. Has she finally made them understand?
“You said the potion would numb her. You said she would feel no pain.” It is the first time the Judge Without Antlers has uttered a word.
The Elephant says, “It is a trick! Some form of twisted magic. It means nothing.”
No! She screams, but no one hears. That’s not true.
The Bird shrieks, “It is proof! What more do you want?”
“She is a criminal,” bellows the Elephant. “It shouldn’t exist!”
Why? What did I do wrong! She gathers every ounce of strength to yell, but she remains silent. Her throat is on fire. She has no voice.
They move to their closing statements.
The Wolf says, “She is alive. She may cause harm, but she may also bring joy. Please give her that chance.”
The Shark steps forward. “Honorable Judges, this criminal trespassed into your home. It is your choice how you deal with it.” The gavel rings, each hit louder and heavier than the last. It is the Judge With Antlers that speaks, “We have heard enough. May the executioner come forth. You are all dismissed.”
The executioner, draped in all white, almost blends in with the walls. His broad sword shines a reflection on his serpent skull.
She stomps her feet. They’re lying! I am alive! She screams, but no one hears. She has no voice.
The witnesses and the counselors leave.
They’re lying. I’m here.
She hangs her head, her last bit of strength exerted.
Please don’t let them kill me.
But they don’t hear her. She has no voice.
When She looks up only one judge remains to watch her execution. The Judge Without Antlers. Her knuckles are white from gripping the chain taut, and her daughter sees her fear.
She has no voice, but She hopes her mother hears her words. I forgive you, Mom. I forgive you. You were lied to. I don’t blame you for believing their lies. You were scared. I forgive Dad and I even forgive the liars too, because they were also lied to and they believed the lies.
“I forgive you.” Her words echo against the marble as the sword falls.
I forgive you.
I wrote this experimental piece because I am against abortion but I believe in restorative justice. I don’t agree with parents who have aborted but I have compassion for them, especially mothers, because out of fear they believed the lie that abortion is the solution to our problems and specifically for women, our problem of inequality. Also, because I am a fantasy writer I wanted to write about abortion in a fantasy setting.