Fall of the Risen – Week 11 – Clark
The thing about making a mistake—a really big mistake—is that afterwards, everyone looks at the one who screw-up differently. That screw-up is me.
Enemies that used to stop what they were doing to give me their worst glare walked past me with a smile on their lips and a twinkle in their judgemental eyes.
The people that used to trust me to do them favors began avoiding making any kind of eye contact when they walked by. Better to pretend I don’t exist than to figure out how they feel about the situation.
My friends showed the worst change by far. They smiled at me, but their eyes didn’t match their lips. The eyes held disappointment, mixed with sadness and fear. Fear for me, for my life, because they knew just as well as I did that it was likely over.
The entire camp was gathered near the second gate. In the center of crowd was a single chair, where I sat, hands tied behind my back.
Marshall and his security thugs stepped out from the crowd. One of the thugs put a table in front of me, while the others placed a trio of bowls and a jar full of pebbles on top of the table. Jansen and his team disappeared back into the crowd, leaving all eyes on Marshall.
“Laws died with the world,” Marshall began. “In this new world, we still need a sense of order. A way things are done, for the benefit of all. Those who do not work for the benefit of everyone, must be deterred and, in some cases, punished for the things they’ve done. A man is dead, a citizen of our developing settlement whose value was unknown, his potential unknown.”
Yeah, right. He’d be real handy once tax returns made a comeback.
“Now we have the difficult job of passing judgement. Punishment, or forgiveness. Each one of you will come up here, take a pebble and drop it into a bowl. The blue bowl is forgiveness, red for punishment. I encourage you to pick one of those, but if you can’t choose, put your pebble in the black bowl.”
He picked up one pebble and turned to me. “This one is yours. Can I assume it is to go in the blue bowl?”
I nodded and he dropped it in. “Now the rest of you. Come on up.”
As people shuffled up to the table in a sloppy line, a part of me wanted to laugh at how zombie-like their approach was.
The fact that my fate was being left to a democratic vote was a surprise. I had expected Marshall to declare his own judgement like the monarch some of us knew him to be.
Most of the people coming up to vote still couldn’t bring themselves to look at me. After watching the first few people cast their vote, I found I couldn’t look at them either. I couldn’t watch my fate being decided one pebble at a time. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the sound of pebbles dropping into bowls. Each resounding clink, in my mind, was another step closer to the wall.
My friends would vote to save me. Probably. If they still considered me a friend. I hadn’t talked to any of them since sitting with Wes as he died. Shortly after that, Marshall came for me, with Jansen and his entire team.
“Hey,” came a whisper.
I opened my eyes to see Jack standing in front of the table with a pebble in his hand.
“Don’t lose hope,” he said, dropping his pebble in the blue bowl.
I smiled at him, but I could feel how unconvincing it was. I could barely make my face move. I wanted to put on a big, toothy grin, but my mouth wouldn’t listen.
Dawn was next in line. Shame made me look away, but my eyes returned to her immediately. Her eyes were red and puffy. Had she been crying? I had never seen her cry. It should have been endearing or flattering, but it only convinced me further that I was a goner.
Beyond her was Ramona, who looked confused, and Daffodil, who seemed to be studying me. Near the end of the line I could see the security team, except for Ferguson. He was in the middle of the line, and his face looked bruised and swollen.
I put my head back down and closed my eyes until the voting was done.
Marshall took center stage again, picking up the black bowl. He flipped the bowl over, letting the pebbles fall uncounted.
“While I can appreciate your right to vote, or in this case not vote, these pebbles were completely wasted.”
There were quite a few. Based on the crowd around me there wouldn’t be many pebbles in the other bowls. I began to hope.
He removed the stones from the red bowl one by one, counting aloud as he did. “A total of six votes for punishment.”
Six votes? The security team would have counted for seven. Eight if Marshall voted with them.
He began counting the pebbles from the blue bowl, pronouncing each number with more and more disgust and disbelief. “Seven?”
Did he say seven? Was I really going to live? Dawn was hugging Daffodil. Jack smiled and gave me a ‘told you so’ shrug.
Marshall cleared his throat. “The vote tallies at six to seven, however, since I’m a member of this community as well, I also have a vote.”
He picked up one of the pebbles that he had dumped on the ground and added it to the punishment pile. I should have expected something like this. Why did I let myself believe that I was going to be okay?
“Now we have an unprecedented situation. A tie.” He looked at the two small groups of pebbles and struggled mentally. He wanted to punish me, but he had started down the road of democracy and it was too late to change his mind.
Finally he snatched a pebble from the forgiveness pile and held it high above his head. “From this day forward, in the event of a tie, the vote of the accused shall be forfeited.” The pebble fell to the ground, and so did the the hope that had been cautiously building.
“Clark Ellers,” Marshall said. “Your peers have spoken. Tomorrow at dawn, you will be walled.”