Written by Atticus Payne – Instagram: @talesfromboredom
A white courtroom, the light coming from nowhere yet reflecting everywhere at once. The place felt bleached and drawn, as if all the life had been stolen, or as if it was all waiting for something to happen. Someone to arrive.
That someone did arrive, suddenly appearing in the room without the slightest bit of warning. He did not make my life any easier. Granted, he seemed to know some answers: where we were (a place with the ridiculously cryptic name, The Court of Worth) but not most, like why we even needed to be here (to which he didn’t respond). So I sat back in my seat (which was on a platform, and slightly worrying), waiting to be judged, or whatever it was they were here to do. There didn’t seem to be any doors. Just pillars, and rows of seats, and an endless look up. It was all so clean. I looked to my hands and couldn’t exactly say the same: the sides of the right one were stained with graphite, while the left had a good splattering of paint.
Maybe that was a good thing, because the giant in front of me was the exact opposite of the room too. Distinctly male with a long white beard from chin to floor, and skin the colour of red dirt, he seemed to take up most of the room. He was frowning around, which probably meant he wasn’t the only person about to arrive. With the corners of his lips bunched like that, he actually looked a little like my grandfather.
For a moment, that thought brought joy: I was remembering something other than this place, which I knew nothing about. Then I remembered my grandfather was dead.
What a cheery thought.
Morbidity aside, another two figures appeared in the room, as silently as the first had. I probably shouldn’t have questioned it by now, but I did. Everything strange was strange for a reason. So why were they here? Were they the last ones coming? What would they do? And how were they related?
Taking an inventory of details would help. Even though it slightly hurt to look, I forced my gaze onto the grayish-green one first. They were faceless, and for all I could tell, featureless, but young, with their shorter height, straighter stance and upturned chin.
Young, but arrogant. Now I knew one side of the argument.
The other: a pale purple, and just as featureless. Why were they featureless but the first one not? Clearly, this one was also young, and a sort of fuzziness seemed to hang around their edges every time I looked closer and disappeared when my gaze shifted. Presumably the other side of the argument.
They conversed without talking, each one nodding suddenly and taking their places. Maybe I wouldn’t hear any of this at all. Now that I wouldn’t allow.
“Hey! If I’m on trial, I might as well be able to listen, don’t you think?” Speaking hurt my throat, as if I hadn’t done it in ages. Another thing to question.
The oldest looked down to me, back to the two, then me again. Moving slowly, he stooped to touch my forehead, and that was it. I didn’t even feel it. I still had no idea what was going on.
Ah, great. Just what I needed right now, a forehead boop.
But then the figure took his own seat, behind me on the platform-thing, and finally spoke. Or maybe he’d been speaking the whole time, and I just hadn’t noticed. That was entirely possible, too. Probable. Just like how my thoughts would’ve probably strayed even further into panic if they hadn’t launched straight into the argument.
Well, there was no longer a question of whether I’d have any say in it.
“Of course the work is good! So many people have said so! Plus, it’s been months since he started the craft, he’s progressed tremendously. Why, he’s practically a master at it. There aren’t any objective faults.” The grayish-green one gestured wildly, the movements of a person who had the confidence of a five year old, but also the skill of one.
The purple one scoffed with the similar arrogance of a child. “That is a product of personal and cognitive bias, and you know it. He’s terrible. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds his work and exposes it.”
“Personal and cognitive bias sounds a lot like you too, don’t you think? Only what you say comes entirely from one person, with all the negative bias in the world, while I have back up.”
“Parents and friends are not ‘back up.’”
“Unless they’re objective.”
“And they’re not.”
“But neither are you.”
At some point, it seemed the first figure had given up, resting his head in a spectacular facepalm. I could relate.
The green one continued a little longer this time, saying, “My train of thought is productive. At least he can fake it till he makes it. With you, he’ll give up entirely.” They flourished his hand, apparently referring to me.
To this, the purple one paused. It was almost strange to experience silence again, after that much back and forth. Even the eldest figure seemed to appreciate it, picking up his head from his hands.
The silence didn’t last. “Or he’ll see it as a reason to strive for his best.” They said it quietly, but not without force. The green didn’t seem to pick up on it, either way. They really were young.
They replied, “But which is more common?”
I nearly piped up, before realising I couldn’t speak anymore. Even as my mouth opened and shut, no sound came. Right.
And the conversation continued with the purple’s challenge, “It doesn’t matter which is more common. Only which works for him.”
Then there was silence, as all three looked to me. I froze. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might’ve been the judge.
Did such a thing even exist? Now, when I could feel at the bottom of my throat that I could speak, I hadn’t the faintest idea what to say.