I started with Chuck Wendig’s photo prompt. Click here for the photo. I also integrated prompts from Inspiration Monday, Three Word Wednesday, The Writing Reader, Sunday Scribblings 2 and #TuesFlashFicTrain for these 1100 words:

* * *

Steven’s eyes tried to focus on his surroundings, but the figure on the stand was an amorphous blob. Thoughts raced through his mind – around and around they went. He wished he could silence them, but they were too loud. He felt dirty. He felt abused. Now, more than ever, he felt alone.

“Mister Bass?”

The cacophony in his mind collapsed into a single point of pain behind his left eye. His eyes focused again on his surroundings. The prosecutor, the judge, and everyone in the gallery fell silent. Their eyes focused solely on Steven.

Steven cleared his throat. “Pardon?” he asked.

“Please take the stand, Mister Bass.”

Steven walked stiffly to the stand, placed his hand on the Bible, and promised to tell the truth. As if I could do anything else, he thought, his bitterness evident on his face. Voices in the gallery murmured, undoubtedly about whatever unknown slight he had just committed.

The prosecutor swaggered to the stand, a smug smile plastered across his face. Steven wanted to punch that smirk right off the little man’s face. Steven crossed his arms across his chest and missed the prosecutor’s question. The prosecutor gave a theatric sigh and repeated the question. Steven heard the question this time, and he knew the answer, but his mouth failed to form the words. He sat stoic, shifting to alleviate the pain.

“Mister Bass,” the judge began, obvious annoyance in his voice, “answer the question.”

Steven shifted slowly in his chair, winced at a tendril of pain that shot down his thigh. “I’m sorry for not focusing on this show trial. You see, I was raped in jail the other night. I suppose I’m just not very talkative right now.”

The only sound was the steady rattle of a ventilation duct, and Steven’s heartbeat. The prosecutor tried to respond but was apparently drawing a blank. Every eye in the gallery was focused on him. Even Robert had the dignity to appear outraged. The judge murmured something to Steven’s right. It was probably something about reporting the assault. As if assault could some up the experience. Perhaps they wanted a nice little label to make them feel better about locking up a seventeen-year-old with adults. The worst humanity had to offer.

The attention was suddenly too much for Steven to bear. He was unselfish in his desire to hide. His eyes found his lap and a white noise was all that he heard. He didn’t know what he had expected with his revelation, but the odd numbness wasn’t it. Even his pulse decided just to chill for once.

Voices clambered. The judge mandated that the trial would continue. Steven felt as if he were a spectator to his questioning. He answered all the questions presented to him without emotion. The prosecutor seemed deflated. Steven wanted to wear a smug smile, but he just didn’t care anymore. Eventually, Steven was dismissed, and he gingerly walked to the defendant’s table and winced as he slowly lowered himself into his chair.

Steven expected he would fidget in his seat as more witnesses took the stand, but he was still numb. The numbness masked the pain. He glanced up at the jury box and noticed that it was empty. He tried to recall the snippets of words aimed at him by the public defender. Words like “deliberation,” and “sequestered,” wafted up from the haze of Steven’s mind.

A loud bang erupted from behind the jury box. Steven’s head snapped to it, and he saw the jury file out from wherever they had gone. This is it, he thought. He wondered how long he would be sentenced to. Months? Years? Life?

Steven watched intently as the judge rapped is gavel and said something to a matronly woman at the edge of the jury box. He watched her lips move. She finished what she was saying and made eye contact with him. She offered a small smile and sat down.

The explosion of sound was deafening. Stomping feet were accompanied by shouts of “murderer!” and “retrial!” Something struck the back of his head, and the force pushed him forward. The judge banged his gavel, angry words directed at the gallery. Steven was aware of uniformed officers pour into the courtroom, but his brain focused singularly on what his brain was insisting. His eyes saw the woman’s lips move in a pattern that he knew meant something, but he had a hard time believing it. Even his ears echoed their confirmation of what his eyes witnessed.

The woman had said, “Not Guilty.”

Lindsay’s parents cried out in rage and tears. They screamed at the jury, and at Steven. The jury was amoral, they said. Steven had gotten away with murder, they said. Steven knew he should feel happy. Vindication was supposed to embolden him. He wasn’t going to jail. But, he sat there numb as the gallery rioted. The sound of chairs overturned and wood splintering was just something that existed below the numbness.

Someone leaped over the low wooden wall that separated the gallery from the defendant’s table and crashed into Steven knocking him and his chair to the side. The impact of his elbow against the wooden floor was just more pain below the numbness.

The numbness didn’t take away the sensation of fists pummeling his back and side; it just made it so he didn’t care. A pair of guards peeled a student off of him. That student tried kicking at Steven but only ended up kicking one of another pair of guards that were trying to pick Steven up off the floor.

A hand darted out of nowhere and clenched Steven’s suit jacket. The cheap suit started to tear at the shoulder seam before another guard wretched the hand away from Steven. The encounter resulted in a slovenly appearance for Steven. More guards shouted at Steven, and they manhandled him to his feet. They shared the abuse and objects hurled from the rioting crowd, but they didn’t have his numbness. The numbness protected him from further injury. The guards tried, but there were too many people. Steven’s feet trailed on the floor as a pair of guards held him by the shoulders and led him out of the sea of angry humanity.

Steven closed his eyes and embraced the growing numbness. The features of passing offices and guards wrestling rioters to the ground were merely a shadow soup. The winding route through bureaucracy ended at an ugly white van. A guard told him something, but Steven didn’t care what words he had said. The trial was over, and he didn’t care about anything anymore.

Next: Numb

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

7 responses to “Numb

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