“Bring in the accused.”
I was pushed forward and stumbled into the room. Two strong hands grabbed me before I would have actually fallen, and escorted me to the stand.
“Accused, state your full name.”
“W-Wilson, Barry Wilson,” I stuttered.
“Barry Wilson, you are brought to this courtroom today to be judged for your crimes. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”
I couldn’t answer him right away as I was still trying to understand what was happening to me. Minutes before, I had been brutally awakened by the same two security guards that had tossed me into this courtroom. I had no recollection of how I had gotten into my prison, and the guards had refused answering my questions.
“Your Honor, what is the crime laid against me?”
If the judge had been surprised by my question, he didn’t show it. Instead, he said, “You are accused of the termination of Robby Philips. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
Me? Murdering someone? Now wait a sec…
“Not guilty, of course! I don’t even know a Robby Philips, and I…”
“Your answer has been noted. Bring in the first witness.”
It was like speaking to a wall. I watched how another was brought in and took his place on the witness stand.
“Mac Neville, your Honor.”
“Tell us what you saw on the day in question, Mr. Neville.”
“I saw a man standing near the victim, who was just doing his job at the time. Then suddenly, the man reached out and just… he just…”
The witness stopped and bowed his head, seemingly overwhelmed. The judge gave him a few seconds.
“Please go on, Mr. Neville.”
“I’m sorry, your Honor.”
“It’s okay. So, what did you say the man did?”
“He just leapt out and killed Robby. He didn’t even hesitate. He just did it, in cold blood.”
“Is the man who did it present in this courtroom?”
“He sure is, right there.”
“Thank you, Mr. Neville. You may step down.”
“Hey wait a minute,” I jelled when the witness stopped pointing at me and stood up. “I did not murder anyone. This is a flagrant lie!”
Another one entered and switched places with Neville.
“Rusty Poderick, your Honor. I worked at the same place the victim did.”
“Have you ever met the accused, Mr. Poderick?”
“I sure did, your Honor, as he is…was our boss.”
Their boss? This was getting stranger by the minute. Never have I been someone’s boss and even if I had been, I had never seen this Poderick guy before.
“Have you witnessed what has happened?”
“No, your Honor, I wasn’t around at the time, but I can assure you that Robby isn’t… wasn’t anyone who would give rise to such violence.”
“And the accused, Mr. Wilson? How would you describe him?”
“He is oblivious to his employees, your Honor. He just expects them to be there for him and do his bidding. I often saw him responding with violence when things weren’t done the way he wanted.”
“That is not true!” I shouted while I jumped up.
“Silence in my courtroom!” the judge barked. “Mr. Wilson, you will only speak when spoken to, or you will be removed from this court.”
I took my seat back. How was it possible I did not recall these events?
“And to you personally, Mr. Poderick?”
“He threw me against the wall once, your Honor.”
I dug my nails into my palms to prevent another outburst.
“What had you done then to provoke such violence?”
“He said I was too slow. First he had grasped me and shaken me vigorously, then he had launched me against the wall.”
“Your Honor, the jury has a question.”
I looked at the owner of the new voice, who was a middle-aged woman. The judge nodded.
“Why did you continue to work for him?” the woman asked.
“I had no choice, ma’am. Where else would I go? Besides, by causing me permanent damage, he knew there was little chance I would ever find another employer.”
“Thank you, Mr. Poderick. No further questions, your Honor.”
Poderick shuffled out of the room while the judge called a third witness, “Bring in Mr. Thomson.”
Similar to the other two, I had no idea who this new person, who identified himself as Lance Thomson, was.
“Have you seen anything on the day in question, Mr. Thomson?”
“Yes, your Honor. In fact, I have witnessed the whole crime.”
“Can you tell us what you have witnessed?”
“I can even show you, your Honor, as I have taped the whole scene.”
“Very well, let’s project exhibit A then.”
The room darkened and suddenly, a projection appeared on one of the walls. I immediately recognized myself, in my own house, at my kitchen counter. I even recognized the moment displayed, as I was cooking dinner for my parents who were about to arrive that evening.
Cooking wasn’t really my thing, so I was pretty nervous about it. I had decided to try and cook swordfish for them, but wasn’t doing a good job on it. I could see how stressful I looked, and made a mental note about having to take classes when this was all over. Then I realized I was being accused of murder, and that I faced the possibility of never being able to take classes anymore.
Just when I wondered how Thomson could have filmed this, as I didn’t recall any visitor there, my projected self started cursing because he had cut himself with the sharp kitchen knife. I remembered the pain and looked at my finger. The scar was still fresh and had barely healed.
At that time, the microwave started making a strange noise. I ran over while I sucked my cut finger, and pushed some buttons. It didn’t respond and kept heating up the contents – mashed potatoes, I remembered. I watched myself cursing out loud and hitting the microwave hard on the side in a crazy attempt to stop it that way.
Finally, reason got the upper hand of me and I reached for the plug. I gave it a hard yank and it was pulled roughly from the socket, effectively putting an end to its craziness.
I heard a distraught wave of emotion going through the audience behind me. I looked back and several people had jumped up, uttering threats at my address. A woman was screaming and a child had started to weep.
“Order!” the judge shouted while he hammered on the table. “Order in the courtroom!”
Finally, silence returned and everybody took their seat again. Meanwhile, the movie had stopped and the lights went back on.
“I think we have seen enough,” the judge said.
I wondered what we did see, apart from the fact I couldn’t cook.
“Jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, your Honor,” the lady who had asked a question earlier said. She stood and addressed me.
“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of terminating Robby Philips’ life.”
“What?” I yelled. “You all saw, I didn’t kill nobody!”
“Order!” The judge hammered away while he ordered my removal. Just before I was brought outside, the whole courtroom swirled around and a high-pitched sound shrieked through my head. Everything went black and I fell to the floor, no longer held by the security guards.
Everything faded but the continuing bleeping sound. I opened my eyes and found myself in bed, sheets draped around me and my nose stuck against the nightstand. Right above me, the annoying sound continued.
Jeez, what a dream. I really have to cut back on the beer.
I reached for my iPod and tried to silence it. I fumbled with the controls but failed. Frustrated and still half asleep, I grasped it and launched it towards the nearest wall. The sound of the impact made me feel good for three seconds.
Then, two pairs of strong arms grabbed me and lifted me out of bed. I tried to protest but they dragged me to another room and pushed me through the door. I stumbled inside while an emotionless voice sounded.
“Bring in the accused.”