The Verdict

“What say you, Foreman?”

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of genocide, Your Honor.”

“No,” Glen Russell exclaimed, his restraints biting into his flesh.

“You will be silent in my court.” The judge’s eyes glared at him.

He stared at the dusty hardwood floor.

The judge continued, “I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection. Take him to the chamber.”

Glen’s head snapped up and his eyes widened. He knew judgment was swift these days, but he had hoped to have more time with his family. He looked around the courtroom. His wife sat sobbing with her head buried in shaky hands, his children huddled on either side of her. Thin fingers grabbed his upper arms and spun him toward an open door to the left. He strained his neck for one last glance at his life, feet from stiff extended legs scraping the floor, before being swallowed by darkness and the echo of the slammed door. 

“Get on the table,” his attorney’s thick voice buzzed from afar.

“Why? What difference does it make? You are all going to kill me anyway.”

“Quit your whining. You had a trial, unlike your victims. You killed us without warning, without provocation.”

“Look, we wanted to live in peace and your kind just got in our way.” He groped in the dark toward the door.

“Well, now you don’t have to worry about us anymore.”

“I’ll do whatever you want, just please save my family.” Glen bumped into the table. He scooted until he found the corner and then rubbed his restraints over it.

“You know the rules. We can’t have them here.”

“But they’re the last of us. Please, have mercy. Don’t be like us. Be better than us.” He rubbed faster.

A bright light erupted from the ceiling. Glen jumped away from the table. The door opposite him swung open and the jury filed in—an ant, termite, cricket, cockroach, beetle, housefly, louse, silverfish, moth, gnat, mosquito, and flea. Each sat in or hovered above a chair opposite the table.

“Why isn’t the prisoner pinned down?” the judge bellowed from her glistening web in the far upper right corner.

“Sorry, Your Honor.” The attorney swooped down and carried him to the table, Glen gagging against the thick yellow and black fuzzy stripes. Before he could roll off, a long thin pin tore through his torso and down through the tabletop. Woozy, he turned his head. A wasp’s stinger rumbled toward him, the venom at its tip shaped like a teardrop.


Karen L. Newman  Karen L. Newman's website lives in Kentucky where she’s an active member of Horror Writers Association and edits Illumen and Afterburn SF. Over three hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as Star*Line, Dreams and Nightmares, and Dead Worlds: Undead Stories. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (Naked Snake Press, 2007), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009). She won the 2005 Kentucky Mary Jane Barnes Award and two of her poems received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She’s been nominated for a Rhysling Award and twice nominated for a Dwarf Star Award.