Conscience

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His fingers gripped the edge of the small wooden chair he was sitting on, his forehead breaking out into cold sweat. He let his eyes close, trying to calm himself down. The box that he was in felt like it was closing in around him. He was suffocating, wanting to gasp for air, but the dead weight of his heart was pounding against his chest painfully – every shallow breath hurt like a knife to his chest; every shallow breath a hurtful reminder.

How long had it been? He had lost track of the seconds that ticked by, loud and clear, echoing behind him. He had never dared to look. It seemed like he couldn’t bear to move. He shivered and straightened. His eyes opened slowly as he let out a small breath. Each inhale felt like a stab in his chest.

He nearly shut his eyes again. He forced them open, forced them to glare right back at the accusing stares, at the fearful, bloodied faces, all of their mouths curled into the same mocking sneer, their fingers pointed with their hands down, their mouths closed with their voices screaming, sobbing – how dare you? How could you? The noise flooded his ears, the taunts and the snarls giving way to pleading cries. They were running and they were sitting, and then they were still, their silence thundering; deafening.

He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know what came over him. He didn’t know anything, now, except that he was guilty, and that he deserved to wallow in it, after he watched in idle fascination at how the blood was smeared on his hands and shirt and chest – 

The gavel struck as he struggled to breathe through another stab of pain. When he looked up, he beared down upon himself, bloodied cheeks and frowning lips; the accusation clear in the mingled look of fear and disgust etched into his face. There were bits of gravel stuck on his chin, and he remembered the burning pain in his arms. He remembered the smell of earth, the contrast of her pale skin against the dark soil – the paradoxical contrast, he thought, of life and death. He had smiled to himself, appreciating the delicate grace of her lithe body against the uneven ground, before retching to his side.

How could you? the walls wailed, flickering in bright yellow and dark brown and green, and he wailed along with them, sobbing and laughing, one hand stuck to cold glass and the other over his eyes, avoiding himself, avoiding accusation, avoiding guilt – sinking down to a kneel, hands slipping, intertwining, begging for absolution.

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