Snakes and Pills

207 - tennis

Dusk swept over the land as the sun fell below the hills. Alfred watched from the door of his hut, outside which stood two massive guards. He wondered if the last sunset you see is always the most beautiful one.

The night of his execution was finally upon him. Only a matter of time now. To relieve himself from the daytime heat, he had stripped down to his skivvies, but he supposed that now was the time to get dressed. They had allow him the honor of choosing what to wear to the event.

So Alfred donned the only clothes he brought with him: khaki shorts and a khaki collared shirt, the outfit he was wearing when they captured him. Since then, the natives had primitively washed the clothes as a service to him.

Slipping back into his familiar uniform, he felt more like the civilized man he knew he was.

During the trial, he was forced to wear clothes similar to theirs, if you could even call their simple loincloths "clothes." His appointed defender had told him to do so, in an attempt to look like and garner sympathy from the jury.

Alfred thought he looked hideously awkward, and clearly in the end they convicted him regardless.

What a farce of a trial! Little point in lamenting it now, Alfred knew. But there was little point in anything for him now. He had wanted to defend himself, but the judge would not allow it, citing a lack of sufficient knowledge of their customs and laws.

Alfred stuck to the same plea from the beginning: he had no ill intent. He was merely an archaeologist in search of knowledge. He wasn't aware that he had strayed into a forbidden holy area. He certainly never imagined that they would hold him accountable to their own religious standards.

Ignorance of the law was no excuse, the court had ruled. While the jury did acknowledge Alfred's status as an outsider without malicious intent, in the end he was still culpable for possibly bringing grave misfortune to the tribe by angering the gods with his intrusion.

Alfred honestly felt that his defender put in a good effort, but everyone spoke in such legalese that he hardly understood the proceedings most of the time. The jury's deliberation was quick and certain: guilty. The sentence of death by volcano came back equally swift. No appeal was possible.

Alfred's defender gave him a few light pats on the back then, trying to console him.

They offered him no last meal. He explained that it was customary in his culture, but that line of reasoning hadn't achieved much success. He had no appetite, regardless.

The delegation arrived an hour or so after sundown to lead him to the caldera. Alfred felt like the entire village had turned out to watch the spectacle. He judged them as quite morose, wanting to watch him plunge to a fiery death.

Yet the crowd was somehow supportive. Their expectant eyes were not filled with bloodlust, but a belief that his death would restore balance in the cosmos. His legs did not drag as much as he had expected.

By the time they reached the ceremonial altar at the edge of the cliff, Alfred almost believed in the necessity of the sacrifice himself. He peered down to oblivion waiting below. Little more than darkness and noxious smoke, he felt a little disappointed that the volcano wasn't a bit more active.

Volcanoes, like the gods, bowed to the will of no man. The officials read the last rites, and with a quick push, it was all over.


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