The ClearingA Modern-Day Allegory
I awoke in complete darkness to a great throbbing in my head and the feel of what must have been crusted blood along the right side of my face. My hands apparently were tied behind me and I was seated, slouching, in a hard chair. The warmth and closeness of my breath made me realize that it was so dark because I had been fitted with a hood. I felt I must have been in a big hall or auditorium because of the resonance of the thousand voices round me. But then I heard a door creak open in the front of the hall and to my right. The room fell instantly into a dead silence. A lone set of footsteps marched with unhesitating determination across a wooden floor to the center of the auditorium, then stopped.
"Time is of the essence here. Please let’s be brief and get this over with," said the indifferent Voice of Authority at the front of the hall. "Of what is the prisoner accused?"
"My lord, the prisoner here is accused of wrongful habitation," answered a submissive voice to my immediate left.
"Wrongful habitation?!" I exclaimed, "What in?" but before I could finish I felt a sharp blow to the front left side of my head that wrenched my neck back and threw me hard into the chair.
"Shut up, you stupid fool! You have no say here!" said the Submissive one.
"My lord," he continued in his pompous, sneering fashion, "this one you see here before you is guilty of willingly being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was warned by several of our comrades over the last couple of months, in the most courteous of ways, that he must leave his place of abode or suffer the consequences. He has resisted the entire time, frightening our fellow citizens on several occasions with threats of an unhappy future for them. He is obviously a rule-breaker; one who threatens our very happiness and the peaceful existence of all of us law-abiding folk; one whose very existence is an invasion of the privacy that we have come to know and enjoy; one who defiantly..."
"Get to the point!" shouted the Voice of Authority.
Taken aback, the Submissive One gasped slightly in surprise. Embarrassed at this rude interruption to his clever oratory, he cleared his throat, then concluded, "It is our recommendation, my lord, that the prisoner suffer the usual punishment for such a flagrant disregard for our customs and lifestyle. My lord, we humbly request that he suffer Death by Dismemberment."
Now this whole time my mind was reeling from the utter madness of the charges. I was accused of living in the wrong place?! Not of murder or stealing or rape or mayhem? But of "wrongful habitation"?? And now I was to die for it?
"This is ludicrous!" I cried, attempting to stand. "What sort of joke is this?! This is madness! This is..."
This time I was hit on the side of my head with such a force that I flew headlong and landed facedown on the cold wooden floor. I had to struggle to remain conscious. My left ear was warm and the warmth ran down the side of my face over my left eye. I was bleeding. I was coherent enough, though, to hear the nonchalant answer to the Submissive one’s plea,
"So be it then—I've heard enough—Death by Dismemberment. And be quick about it."
There was a great cheer from the crowd as I was lifted by my arms with authority and dragged across the great hall, Outsiders jeering and spitting at me all along the way. I was taken out of the "Courtroom," down what was perhaps a long hallway, and thrown into a cell. A great door closed behind me. There was Silence at last.
"This is so completely absurd," I thought aloud and repeated probably a hundred times. Reason had just completely abandoned these people. I had had no discourse, no voice, no appeal. Why? What kind of "justice" was being displayed here? My mind was racing with all possible questions and explanations for my sudden turn of events. What had I done to deserve this?
And I was afraid beyond words. I could not see my accusers. I could only picture them sitting there in the dim light—with those eyes—delighted at their absolute Power and my complete defenselessness. And now I was to die at their hands in an inhuman fashion for an undefined crime. All of this was too much to handle and I crouched into a corner and wept in my darkness.