Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Eternity Burning: Chapter 14, Part 2

The judge was a fair man, but not a patient one. He did not tolerate much of anything for very long. The trial so far, therefore, had been quite quick and expedient. The judge quickly picked off the weaselly lawyers and witnesses with harsh questioning, and advanced the case as quickly as he could. It didn’t matter to him one bit that it was so high profile, that crowds had gathered outside and inside to protest both ways for it. As far as this judge was considered, profiles were bullshit, protests were bullshit, and fancy rhetoric was bullshit. All that mattered was justice.

He quickly reshuffled the facts of the case in his head. The mayor had been indicted. Evidence had been brought to light by an anonymous source. A manila envelope had been pushed under the district attorney's door a few weeks earlier. It contained the manifesto Hate, and a paper trail connecting it to the mayor. The mayor had immediately been indicted, arrested, and was now put on trial. He had been strangely silent thus far, and spoken little in his own defense.

“…So,” continued the expert witness, “We can draw parallels to the Diary of Jack the Ripper, Mein Kampf, and any number of neo-Nazi and racist manifestos. We see the distinctive flawed reasoning and praise of hate, Hitler, and violence. Also, we should all take careful notice of the way in which the author capitalized the first letter in every use of the words "my" and "me." This is a fascinating trait, especially considering his otherwise atrocious grammar and spelling. I can't quite explain this, although it indicates a messianic complex, or possibly just delusions of grandeur. This author probably thought of himself as the heir to Hitler. So, in conclusion, I would say that it may have been faked, but it is eminently probable that it is genuine.”

“Thank you, professor,” said the DA, “You may step down. For my next witness I wish to call the defendant to the stand.”

The mayor was sworn in by a black bailiff. The bailiff was frigidly cold as he spoke to the mayor. For a single instant, as the mayor raised his right arm and repeated the oath, the bailiff looked at his arm as though it were a crawling mass of maggots. Then the instant was over, and the bailiff returned to an exactingly professional attitude. The mayor took his place behind the stand.

"Sir, one of your nicknames is 'The Bachelor Mayor'. Is that accurate?"

"That that's my nickname? Or that I'm not married?"

"That you're unwed, sir."

"Yes, that's correct."

"In fact, you are well known for being very shy around women, almost to the point of being afraid of a romantic relationship. It's also well known that this apparent meekness and chivalry has won you many votes with your female constituency."

"Why are you bringing this up, here, now?" the mayor said in genuine bafflement.

"Yes," the judge agreed, "Please keep your remarks within the bounds of the case at hand."

"I do have a point, your honor, if I may be given just a few moments."

"This better be good, Mr. Prosecutor."

"Thank you, your honor. Now, then, Mr. mayor, is there any particular reason why you are so afraid of women?"

"I don't see the point of this stupid question," the mayor said angrily.

"Please, sir, is there a reason?"

"Natural shyness," the mayor said angrily.

"No other reason at all?

The defense counsel suddenly stood up.

"Objection, your honor. Relevancy?"

"Yes, we've already addressed that issue, counselor. Please keep on the ball. And, Mr. Prosecutor, if you don't make a point soon, you will regret wasting the court's time."

"All right, sir, I'll get right down to it. Mr. mayor, some men are afraid of getting intimate with a woman because there may be something about their naked appearance which they are ashamed of. It could be a scar, a skin condition...a tattoo. Do you have any such marks?"

"Yes," the mayor said, hanging his head in shame.

"What sort of mark?"

"A tattoo."

"What is it a tattoo of?"

"A snake. Coiled around a swastika."

The crowd seemed astonished. Even the judge's eyes were wide, partly with astonishment at the prosecutor's skill, and partly with astonishment about the tattoo.

"A snake with it's body coiled around a symbol of universal hatred. Where is this tattoo located, sir?"

"On my right arm."

"I have made a thorough search of all photographs and videotapes taken of the mayor in public, and never once has he been shown without his right arm covered. If anyone were to see such a tattoo, it would have been political and quite possibly literal suicide, by which I mean some vigilante may have decided to kill him. Sir, is it true that you shun romantic relationships in order to keep your tattoo a secret from the public?"

"Yes, that's true," the mayor admitted.

"Deceit," the prosecutor said, raising his finger, but adding no further remarks to qualify that single word.

The prosecutor then went to the table with material evidence, then sauntered back up to the bench. He held up Hate, first turning so that everyone in the courtroom could see it, then pointing it like a blood soaked knife at the mayor.

"Mr. mayor, do you know what this is?"

A shadow of a smile played across the mayor's face for half a second.

"After the two hour lecture which the last witness just gave, I could hardly not know what it is, couldn't I?"

Had it been almost any other situation, this would have generated a few laughs from the crowd. The mayor was known for being flippant and funny, like a latter-day Kennedy. As things were, though, no one could do anything except shake their heads in quiet disgust at the mayor's sickeningly inappropriate attitude.

"I assure you," the prosecutor said in a Siberian voice, "That this is no time for levity, Mr. mayor. Now will you please tell me what this is."

His gorge rose as he enunciated the word "this", and he held the manuscript as though it burned to touch it.

"That," said the mayor, licking his teeth, "Is the Hate manifesto."

"Could you please read it for the court?"

"You don't have to do that," the judge cut in.

"No, I want to. I want to fess up to everything. I'll read it."

The mayor began reading, without a trace of emotion leaking into his voice at first. Soon, though, he was distinctly depressed, and by the end of the document he was almost too choked with tears to read the final line. But he did so anyway.

"That was Hate. Written anonymously, isn't that right?" the prosecutor said, not waiting for an answer, "Thank you, you may step down. I would now like to make my closing remarks.

"There is a very good reason why this monstrous document is unsigned. I have never run across such a singularly loathsome object as this either in the waking world or in my darkest nightmares. My stomach rises and my eyes water at the very thought of the contents of this manuscript. In the opening the writer suggests that those of sound mind and judgement do not read it. I was very sorely tempted to follow that advice when I caught a glimpse of what was within these pages. But I did not, I read every perverted line, every sickening word, every twisted letter. And I found in it a mind capable of genocide a hundred fold. I found an author whose words make Mein Kampf look like a children's story, and whose ideas make Hitler look like a saint.

"My great grandfather liberated a Nazi death camp and he told me in every sickening detail about what was there. But that detail was not nearly so sick as the details I find in here. Sometimes...not often, but sometimes...thoughts and words can be greater sins than mere action. This manifesto is nothing less than a crime of thought! It sets out to murder within the mind of it's reader the very compassion which makes us human. A murderer deprives someone of the body which makes them human. The writer of this manifesto attempts the very same thing, but not in the body does he try to murder us, but in the soul. The writer is no less than this man."

The DA pointed a damning finger at the mayor, and although everyone in the room was expecting it, there was, nonetheless, a collective gasp of horror. The prosecutor had more to say, though, and he continued on.

"If the law could prosecute a man for his thoughts, the writer of this manuscript would deserve nothing less than capital punishment. But, sadly, the law can not. The law can prosecute a man only for his actions. And thankfully we find this man guilty of more than thought crimes. What we find in Hate is not only a testament to unholy malice, but also a confession of disturbing crimes: assault, arson, murder. The police records confirm these unresolved crimes, and thank God we can resolve them today, finally. Just may be slow, but it always triumphs.

"Before passing judgement on this man, keep in mind that determining intent is an integral part of our justice system. A man who knocks over a candle is not prosecuted as harshly as a man who douses a building in gasoline and strikes a match. If these were the thoughtless crimes of a mischievous juvenile, we would show mercy. But they are not. This man's intent was to hurt people for no reason other than the color of their skin or the religion of their forefathers. He set out in this world to bring pain and suffering to human beings, and he did so not only unflinchingly but also taking great pride and joy in the evil he was doing.

"In conclusion, I can think of only one defense for the defendant which might earn him mercy, and I wish to refute it now. You may say that he has changed, that he has served this city, and that it has been a long time when he committed these crimes, and a different life. But I tell you that men do not change. Once a man begins down a path of hate, he can not turn back, he must follow it to it's deadly conclusion. And the conclusion will no doubt be deadly for this man. The prosecution rests."

That was it. The jury deliberated for several days and returned with the verdict: guilty on all counts.

The judge said, “Mr. Mayor, before I pass down judgement, do you have anything to say in your own defense?”

“No,” the mayor said calmly.

“And you do not know who brought this evidence to light?”

The mayor said nothing, did nothing, but stood ramrod straight.

“Or will not say. Anything at all?”

"Yes, your honor. I would ask the court, not for mercy, but for my dignity. Please put me before a firing squad so I can face death like a man rather than just be gassed or electrocuted."

"In this case, gassing would appear to be a fair punishment. However, it is not the punishment this court will pass down. It is not for the accused to choose his fate, so your request will be denied. You have been found guilty of hate crimes, corruption, arson, and murder, all of which are deathly serious crimes. Therefore, as is the court's prerogative, you will be hung by the neck until dead."

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