The Judge stared sternly at Marcus. He asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed. All the boy could muster was that he was an innocent bystander – he neither stole nor damaged anything. “But you didn’t stop the looters,” thundered the Judge, “you are morally weak, you are a pathetic creature who would not stand up for what is RIGHT. Your weakness must be punished, as a reminder to you and as an example to others.”
Looking at the gallery where a large crowd had gathered screaming for the death penalty, the Judge smiled grimly. “The people have a right to expect justice to be carried out on their behalf. They have been wronged and it is my duty to strike back, judicially, to right that wrong. So, based on the power vested in me by an ancient constitution none of you remotely comprehends, I hereby sentence Marcus Tullius Cicero, aged ten, to death by hanging. May God have mercy on you, because we certainly don’t.”
“But I’m innocent”, the boy cried out, “surely you understand that.” That only infuriated the Judge who acidly replied, “How dare you ask for understanding in the middle of a crisis. Now it’s no time for understanding, now we must take decisive action. Only the weak, the liberal-minded, the treacherous ask for understanding. We ask for justice, strength, and resolution. Take this criminal away!”
Back in his cell, Marcus counted out the number of days he had left before his execution. No appeal would be allowed, he had already been told. The Governor, a good friend of the Judge, was running for some even higher political office, and had proudly declared that he was the only man to have the courage to ensure the accused was hung, regardless of the incessant whining about innocence. The boy turned the tap on until water overflowed across the floor. Looking at his gaunt face staring back at him, he dived into the reflection and vanished from the cell.