## Front Row Seats.
I gesture to the man on the bench. The pointless but albeit polite question ‘Do you mind if I have seat?’ He doesn’t respond. I sit, resting my head in my palm as I slide into the contours of the bench. The picture of contempt. It has been a considerably wet August, and the leaves have fallen early this year. The smell of rotting plant matter is noxious, but it is a welcome distraction from the cacophony of modern living. That smell. The tree to my left is an apple tree, its brown decaying fruit is the most pungent. But there are other smells underneath, the smell of rain on concrete, the small of freshly cut grass.
They say that apples contain trace amounts of cyanide. It’s not enough to kill you, unfortunately. I pondered if you were selective breeding apples for higher cyanide content. I pondered that as a child and wondered how different Sleeping Beauty would be if the apple on the windowsill was the one designed to kill, a ‘Red Deathlicious’. Bad joke. Today I wondered if I could feed this poison fruit to the man next to me. He was a business man, grey suit, blue shirt top button undone, spotted tie loosely knotted, he was drinking a beer. I guessed he didn’t want to go home just yet, he had a wedding band on his left ring finger. He glanced down at it every now and again. I pondered his reaction if I handed him an apple, how quickly he would bite into it? Cyanide works by inhibiting the process which makes energy in your cells. It makes you tired, sleepy. You quickly lose coordination and you become dizzy. Your heart rate will slow down. Beat by beat, you slowly get closer to death. I ponder what will happen if I could eat that poison apple? It’s late. I need to sleep.
I wake up just before dawn. My phone is ringing. It’s my secretary. Faithful Jane, she’s always been on my side. She’s asking me where I am. I tell her I’m at home. I lied. The bench is still under me. I get up and start walking, she reminds me the car will pick me up in one hour, she hangs up. Jane is eight years younger than me, but treats me like it’s the other way around. She looks after me well, in another life we would have been married by now. My walk to the apartment is short, I am there in seven minutes. I open my door, I take off my shoes and I carry them to the elevator. My feet are sore. I press the button and the brushed metal doors open immediately. The elevator’s interior is made of floor to ceiling mirrors. It makes me feel vulnerable. My back is arched, Quasimodo would be proud. My shoulders are arched forward, the weight of the world, shrugged off. I ask the elevator for the penthouse. The door opens into my living area and I drop my shoes. My Artificial Intelligence calls my name, “Henry”, it says. It asks me if I want some coffee. I told it to get ready for after my shower.
My apartment is open plan. My furniture, bespoke, uncomfortable. This apartment is the tallest building in the city of Geneva, Switzerland. I live, on the highest floor. Every wall is made of glass, at night, I flip a switch and an electric current passes through each pane. The microscopic pigments imbedded throughout the glass expand and then my window on the world closes. The shower is in the corner of the apartment. I take my clothes off and step in. The AI has preheated the water. The water is recycled from the day before. The rain that filled my nostrils now washes the scum off my back. I hope the next person who lives here can appreciate the simplistic beauty of this place. I don’t.
I’m dressed in my newest suit. I haven’t picked my tie yet. Jane will do that for me. I can see the large armoured car driving down the road, this is for me. Jane rings. I tell her I’m coming down. I look towards the lake and the mountains. The sun has risen enough for it to be light outside now, the orange glow it casts is at its peak. The lake is a particularly wholesome sight, in a way the lake is like its own celestial body, the fires of our nearest star, captured in the waters of the lake, the two life giving powers in our universe, one caught in the reflection of the other. I take in that view for what I think will be the last time. The elevator is waiting for me. I walk in and look at the mirrors, the shower has cleaned the superficial filth. But, I can still see the dirt in the cracks. The elevator doors open and the car is waiting for me. Jane opens the door of the car. She is wearing a grey suit and a maroon shirt. Her hair is tied back and she is wearing little make-up. She looks nice. I get in and she climbs in behind me. We drive to the parliament building for my trial.
I am hurried into the building out of view of cameras and journalists. This building used to be home of the United Nations. It is now home to the Pan-Eurasian Coalition. Which I was in charge of. Funny how things change. I am taken to my office, there is a balcony. I take Jane with me, the doors are locked and my guards wait outside. I found it odd that they gave me guards. These people are sentencing me to death. Yet they don’t want the millions of other men and women to do it for them. Jesus once said; let he who is without sin cast the first stone. He gestured to a baited crowd, armed with rocks, ready to stone an adulterer to death. Stupid story. Jane gives me a hug, and passes me my package, I thank her and place my package in the inside pocket of my suit. Faithful Jane. She says she will miss me. I tell her I have a plan. I don’t know if it will work. The trial is a mere formality. I have one witness left, one man who can defend me. He will speak for me, for when all is said and done, he and only he knows the truth. There’s a knock at the door. It’s time.
I am walked slowly into the awaiting chamber. This is where I make my last defence, the final formality of the long drawn out game of hangman. I pray, with its loosest meaning, that my witness will be here. I am first in the chamber, the auditorium. I am taken to my seat. It is a cheap plastic chair with metal legs, I prefer my bench. The chair is hidden by four wooden panels, of highly polished dark oak. They are ornate in structure and reflect the rest of the building, all except for my cold plastic chair. This is the cell they made me. The wall behind me is adorned by the flag of the PEC, a blue background with red, blue, yellow, green and black stripes, they are at a subtle angle, and run from top to bottom in the middle of the flag. They represent all the colours of our coalition countries, just like the old Olympic Rings. I hate it, it’s ugly. Underneath are smaller versions of the flags belonging to each member state. The ceiling is a curved dome of glass where citizens, voyeurs, can watch the dismantling of democracy, meetings. It’s closed today, the cameras will see everything though. Live on TV. In front of me are rows of seats and desks, where each country’s representatives will sit. Independent witnesses. There are 300 seats, each will be filled. One more row of seats, in between me and madding crowd. I still have my package. The row of seats are for the judges. My jolly band of sinners, ready to cast their stones. I sit and close my eyes and remember the scent of rotting apples. My eyes are shut as the auditorium fills, slowly. It is nine in the morning before the trial starts. Everyone is in place and I open my eyes.
They hear my defence. There are jeers when I mention the good work I’ve done. I’m buying myself time. They tell me to sit and then I’m questioned, again. What good it will do. I open my package, I reach in to feel its cold metal. I pull the hammer and feel a satisfying thud as the bullet is loaded into the chamber. Their is a pause as the trial is adjourned for lunch. This potentially my last meal, I am asked what I want. I ask for an apple. The auditorium fills and I have only eaten one bite. I ask the jury for one last chance at my defence. They grant my request.
“I know. I know you don’t believe me. This trial is what you wanted though friends.” I look into the camera which hovers by my face. “I know this offers know solace to you today, but I am sorry for the pain you think I caused.” I look towards the jury and stand up. “You believe that I did this, you believe you found your smoking gun, and with the strike hammer on gabble you will waft away the fumes. You pulled the trigger, it is your bullet and yours alone which was fired.” I sit down heavily and there is a screech as the chair slides back slightly. I look up to the crowd. “I am no murderer.” I pause and breather, they think it is for dramatic effect, I am opening the package. My choice was justified. I put my hand on the grip and rest my finger on the trigger. No one can see the weapon as I hold it by my side. “Comrades…” There is a cry from a representative of Canada, he tells me I am a murderer, I have the blood of Millions on my hands. He is removed promptly. I am sad he will miss the show. “…your sacrifice was not in vain.” Long pause, I picture myself on the bench. The head judge asks me if I having anything left to say, he is disgruntled, he raises my hammer. I open my mouth as I stand but I’m stopped. The gabble falls from the judges hand. Front row seats. My witness is here. His bony hand rests on my right shoulder. I raise my left hand, and point the gun to my temple. The Ruger GP100, a relic. There is a scream. The cameras rush to focus on my friend. I know they see him. “My name is Henry P. Aickman and I have conquered death.” I pull the trigger.
The crowd goes wild.