Headlights drove their light into my skull and consumed my thoughts like fire ripping into dry newspaper. Blinded, I tried to control my car, tried to respond, but there was no time. Hands suddenly clammy slid on the steering wheel as I fought to get my vehicle off the road. As the headlights grew larger, ever more overwhelming, I breathed out a final prayer before all went black.
God deliver me home safe.
I awoke, of all places, waiting in line. Waiting in a long hall of rich wooden walls shining with varnish. People of all sorts stood before and behind me, staring about them in equal measures of anxiousness and surprise. Waiting. A velvet rope constricted the line to single file. On the other side of this, men in clad in business suits and sunglasses like secret service agents stood, one at every pole the rope barrier was supported by. Uneasy, confused, I couldn't grasp at any sure thought. They all seemed to slip through my fingers like hot sand, unpleasant, gritty, and intangible. All except one.
Is this a dream?
"No, sir," the well-dressed guard closest to me answered, as if I'd spoken aloud. "You are not dreaming."
Unsettled, I turned back to the person ahead of me to see how much longer the line was only to realize that I had somehow arrived at the front without moving. I stood now at the end of the hallway, before a massive oaken door engraved with bas-relief carvings that seemed to depict stories of angels and demons and the old Bible story of Adam and Eve and the Fall. Further down I saw something of greater comfort. The crucifixion of Christ. That one brought me some comfort that perhaps what was happening to me could not be so awful and strange if He were involved.
Two of the guards opened the doors for me, and without taking more than one step forward, through the door, I found myself standing in the middle of a massive court, complete with a judge's desk with a seat for a witness on one side and a seat and typewriter for a stenographer on the other. Behind me were two tables, each with two chairs, with a fenced off area for an audience behind that. And far off to the left underneath a window that showed nothing but gray stood the jury box. It reminded me of any courtroom I'd seen or read about, save that it was completely empty.
After a full minute of standing with nothing happening, I began to walk towards the nearest door, which stood to my right, next to the witness stand. Unlike the plain, light brown wood that had been used everywhere, this door was painted a very out of place shade of sky blue. It looked much more inviting than the door covered in gloomy, orange and red flames and dark shadow that stood to next to the typist's station. Once again caught before I could take more than a step, a man appeared with alarming suddenness before a chair I hadn't noticed next to the jury box.
A man with glowing violet eyes and the head of an ox. The bailiff?
"Court is now in session. The trial of Isaac Jonas for murder, theft, pride, perjury, fraud, crimes against humanity, hatred, lust, terrorism, scorn, belittlement, gambling, carelessness, foolishness, lies, vanity, dishonor, and general depravity and perversion of many forms. All rise for the Judge."
Before I could grasp these charges I heard a hundred people rising to their feet and looked behind me to see that a crowd had filled every seat and threatened to spill out into the court proper.
A gavel banged. I turned back to find myself facing an old man with silver hair and indescribable eyes wearing white robes.
"You may begin, prosecution." The Judge stated, ignoring the empty jury box and the general rules of a trial.
Without preamble a large, black-haired man wearing a white suit burst out of the flame-ensconced door, charged up to the closest table and slammed down a worn gray briefcase. He ran a hand through his hair and I realized it was not black but a pale reddish blond filthy with dirt.
He pointed an accusing finger at me and began to speak in a loud, booming voice that echoed through the court.
"This man has denied you, hated you, scorned you. He has denied your Word, hated your commandments, and scorned your callings. He has murdered you with his thoughts, stolen from your heart, and dishonored your every request with brutish delight. He is toxic, a poisoned drunkard and womanizer. He has arrogantly taken freedom with the health you gave him, and behaved without an ounce of sense or care throughout his entire life. He is a fraud, a cheat, a destroyer, a liar, a fool, and a murderer. He is, in short, my own. He has killed and will kill again when give the chance. His sins are too much for him to break away from. You must deliver him into my hands.
I felt withered under all these prying eyes, tearing me apart and insult me, pulling back the skin on my old life and revealing an existence of horrible actions that I could not make up in a million lifetimes.
Surely I cannot face wrath for my actions? I thought. They have already been paid for!
But I needn't have worried, for the Judge didn't even seem to have been listening. "I see none of that." He said. "I see innocence, childlike joy, and a gentle, loving heart. He is guilty of nothing." For the first time he looked at me. He smiled and beckoned me to come closer. "My son, how I have longed to welcome you. Step through those blue doors. Humanity and reality and rest you will gain." He reached out a hand, and without speaking, incapable of speaking, I shook it, feeling a surge of something like electricity shoot through me. The peace that had made Earth bearable returned. I smiled, then grinned, and finally began to laugh as the clinging shreds of my burdens began to vanish.
I found myself standing in front of those blue doors, now open, showing nothing yet, and looked back. Another trial had already begun.
This time when the Prosecutor finished his diatribe against a man who I realized was the trucker who had killed me, the Judge frowned, looking angry rather than joyful. He looked sad, too, filled with a bone-shattering sorrow that made me want to weep along with him.
"I fear he speaks truth. You have broken my commandments without remorse, refused my love, and despised my children. You are dead in your guilt. Go now. Through the door of fire." He banged his gavel and that was the end of it.
Knowing now what this meant for him, I turned away as the flame door opened, screams of agony erupting from within. Humming an old hymn, I turned into the light and laughed again, as the last trace of my sins' dead weight vanished into smoke.