I said it many times, to many insistent faces, “I didn’t know.” My words were met with skepticism and judgment based solely on rumor. They cannot know what I felt, what I experienced, what I knew.
When they came with their grandiose weaponry raised, their cagey interrogation tactics and groundless accusations and plucked him from our once normal home, I refused to believe their lies. I stood at his side through the feeding frenzy of hate. I held his hand and whispered in his ear, “I believe in you.”
He insisted it was a matter of mistaken identity. He wasn’t capable of such violence and debauchery. His face was a portrait of virtue. His eyes a porthole of anguish. His tears saturated my heart with misery.
Six months of wait, of worry, and warding off the vigilant eye of the community, and the trial began. I dutifully watched from the back row, craving anonymity. I became an afterthought for a brief and glorious moment. All eyes on him. All ears on the facts.
Judgment day came and through a haze of testimony and evidence, the creeping tendrils of doubt latched around my mind and suffocated my faith in his innocence. The proof was undeniable. He was a monster, animal by nature. His deeds corporeal.
His punishment was death. Far too inadequate, I realized, as I stared into the plagued eyes of the victims’ families and listened to their grief-stricken pleas for answers. Justice had failed to resurrect or bring closure. It only reflected a callous light on the how and when, unable to illuminate the why.
In the end, I was his final victim, the only one to have survived. It made me, not admired or pitied, but hated, ashamed, accountable. A jury of my peers rendered my verdict, “Guilty by association.” I was sentenced to death, not in body, but in spirit.
This story was prompted by Trifecta Week Ninety-Six. The word (third definition) to use for this week:
ANIMAL (noun) 3 : a human being considered chiefly as physical or nonrational; also : this nature
Don’t forget to read the other creative writings based on this prompt. Click on the Trifecta link above to visit their website.