Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sudden Short Story 67

"All rise," announced the bailiff, as the judge returned from his recess. 
"Be seated," said the judge, as he sat down, himself.  "Will the defense rise?" 
The defense rose. 
"Mr. Allister, you have not contested any of the specific claims made regarding your activity on the day in question, but you contest the accusation itself.  Is that correct?"
"Yes, your honor," spoke Mr. Allister.
"However, you say that your singing a song did likely influence your wife's emotional state, but that this does not constitute witchcraft.  Is that correct?" 
"Yes, your honor." 
"Further, it arose in your testimony that you believe that you come from another dimension, where this singing is commonplace, natural, and at least partially understood by neurologists, but that you lack the expertise needed to describe this to us, because it is not your field.  Do be aware that this belief, in and of itself, will not be considered when I render judgement, as it is not, itself, part of the charge.  However, I do wonder:  Why did you choose to stay in this dimension?" 
"Well, your honor," began Mr. Allister, "to put it simply, I rather like trains and airships.  We don't have many of them in my home dimension.  Our culture, writ large, values speed, so we have a road system of independent vehicles, and we use heavier-than-air craft, despite their inefficiencies." 
"Do you think, Mr. Allister, that you could sing that same song again?" 
"Well, I could sing the short version, as I did then:  The full one is in The Lord of the Rings - a franchise from my home dimension - but I only know the abridged one by heart." 
"And do you think that you could reproduce the effect?" 
"I can't guarantee that anyone would cry, but I suspect that people would be emotionally affected." 
"In that case, Mr. Allister, I wonder if you would be willing to sing that same song here, in open court." 
"Your honor," called the prosecution's attorney, "this is highly irregular!" 
"Trying someone for witchcraft is highly irregular," snapped back the judge.  "The only reason that this case hasn't been thrown out for spectral evidence is because the prosecution, the defense, and the only third-party witness all agree on the events as they happened.  Your objection, if you have one, is overruled.  Be seated."
Begrudgingly, the prosecuting attorney sat back down.
"Yes," began the accused, realizing that he was catching the judge's meaning, "I would be willing to sing.  There is no magic to it, no need for smoke and mirrors."  
"Then, please, proceed," said the judge. 
Mr. Allister sang, as best a nervous amateur could, a film version of a poem from a novel, a small piece of a lengthy book, that he'd managed to remember from his own dimension: 
Home is behind, 
The world ahead, 
And there are many paths to tread, 
In shadow, to the edge of night, 
Until the stars are all alight.  
Mist and shadow, cloud and shade.  
All shall fade.  All shall fade.  

A slight panic stirred in the audience, comprised almost entirely of people who had never heard lyrics sung, as they had emotions stimulated in a novel way.  The judge tapped his gavel to restore some order and quiet the murmurs. 
"The prosecution will rise."  And so they did.  "Mr. Henry, can you verify that this is what you heard on the day in question?" 
"I can," said Mr. Henry, with a wary confidence that justice would side with him. 
"Good.  It is this court's understanding of the scientific process that the properties of the natural world are determined by experiments to measure reproducible effects.  Since the emotional effects of this song were reproducible, it is this court's opinion that they are natural, and thus not supernatural, and therefore this singing is a poorly-understood science, rather than witchcraft or any other form of magic.  Therefore, this court finds the defendant not guilty." 
BANG! went the gavel. 
"Everybody go home," said the judge, relieved to have found a way out of sentencing a man before the congress could put a more permanent patch over some old, broken laws. 

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