Sins of the Father

by Pamela K. Kinney


“Is he ready, Dr. Martin?” asked the police officer. “Ready to be arrested, I mean?”

Dr. Martin rubbed his balding head wearily. “Yes, he’s ready.” He pressed a button on the com system. “Send John in.”

He turned back to the officer. Sadness filled his blue eyes, almost fading the color out. “It’s hard for me to turn John over to you.” He glanced at the only door in the room when its door knob began to turn. “Very hard.”

The door swung open and a small, thin man entered, followed by two men dressed in white lab coats. He seemed ordinary looking, with brown hair, cut short, hazel eyes hidden behind horn-rimmed glasses and a bland face. Someone nondescript enough to never get a second look, much less a first one. It was hard to imagine him as a killer.

One of the two men with him spoke, “Here’s John Cotter, or his clone, I should say.”

He flashed a death’s head grin. “Ready to be arrested, sentenced and executed for his crimes.”

The other man angrily piped up, “Sentenced? Hell, we all know his end so just execute the damn beast! At least he gets a quick death, unlike the rest of us on this dying planet!”

With a snort he exited the room. The other man shrugged and followed. John stood there, his eyes cast down at the floor, waiting quietly. Officer Thompson walked up to him and took a pair of handcuffs off his belt. He looked both solemn and grim.

“John Cotter, I arrest you for the murder of the Earth and all the living things on it.” He clicked the handcuffs tightly onto John’s wrists.

John looked up.

Thompson gestured at the open doorway. “Come, it’s time for the trial.”

John stood there mutely, unsure. Thompson shoved him toward the doorway.

“Get a move on!” he snarled.

John stumbled out of the room, with Thompson closely behind. The door swung shut after them, leaving Dr. Martin alone.

* * * * *

Thompson and John entered a large room, bare of all but a desk and chair, along with a rectangle of four rows of chairs, five in each row. There was a single large window in the room, but though it was daytime no sunlight filtered through, only a garish red and green light. The display looked like nightmarish Christmas lights flickering on and off.

Thompson took John over to a spot by the desk. John stood as there was no chair for him to sit down in. Thompson backed away and stood by the window, making an obvious point not to look out of it. He ignored the weird lights.

The door to the room opened and an assortment of twenty somber men, women and children entered. They filled the twenty single chairs. Not a smile cracked among them. Their faces were either bland or taut with anger. Another man, balding and dressed in the long black robe of a judge entered, a young woman in a simple gray two-piece suit followed closely behind him. She carried papers and a pencil, which she placed on the desk. The judge sat down behind the desk.

He glanced up, “That’s all, Ms. Turner.”

She nodded her head slightly and walked over to Thompson and stood next to him. The door opened again. Dr. Martin and the two scientists, along with the other two policemen, entered. They stood by Thompson and Ms. Turner.

The judge turned to John, “I’m Judge Lindsey and these twenty others are your jury.” He turned to the jury, “In this room is the last of the human race. In a few short weeks the planet will be totally dead, its death caused by the original John Cotter who lived one hundred years ago. The only way we can mete out punishment is by making a clone from the DNA of Cotter himself.”

Lindsey glanced at John, “The sins of the father, so to speak.”

John spoke up, “The original John Cotter only wanted to make money. He was a business magnate, for God’s sake! Surely cutting down the last of the rainforest on the planet couldn’t have contributed to the poisoned atmosphere outside!”

Lindsey picked up five pages of the papers and thrust them at John. “Read this. All the information that we obtained, every minuscule detail, all the proof that John Cotter is responsible to what is happening to the planet is written down in these words. Officer Thompson did a thorough investigation.”

John grabbed the papers and read each page carefully.

The five pages fell from his fingers and scattered on the hardwood floor. He looked at the others in the room as tears rolled down his cheeks. “Dear God, it’s true! John Cotter… me… my father… murdered this planet!” His face drained of all color.

Lindsey nodded at the jury. A small girl, with long, curly blonde hair and about ten years old, stood up.

Her voice rang out childish and sweet, making her words all the more chilling, “We judge John Cotter guilty. He’s to be executed by injection of the same poison in the atmosphere that he helped make, a much more humane way of dying then what he did to the planet.”

Dr. Martin and the other two scientists moved forward. Dr. Martin held a large needle, the stem full of something red and green. He cast a tearful gaze to John, the look asking for forgiveness. He pushed up John’s sleeve and shoved the sharp point of the needle into a vein. Within a minute John’s eyeballs rolled up, showing the whites while his body wildly danced like a marionette being controlled by a mad puppeteer. For a few minutes he jerked and contorted, swinging his arms like a crazy monkey, then fell limply to the floor, dead. Thompson moved forward and with the help of the other two policemen carried the body out of the room to another where it would be burned in an incinerator.

* * * * *

Lindsey stood up and walked over to the window. He stared out through it, seeing a world where the garish green and red colors flickered wildly in the sky and nothing alive moved up there or on the ground. No trees or flowers or grass, just grayish dry dust, which was gathered up by the hurricane-forced winds and thrown at the buildings left standing in the area.

A ghost world. A dying one.

Still looking out, Lindsey cleared his throat and spoke, “Dr. Martin, is the next clone of John ready for sentencing?” He turned, his back to the window, and looked at the others in the room.

The scientist nodded affirmatively. “Yes, Judge, he is, as are the fifty others.”

Lindsey glanced back at the window. “Well, have him brought in. We don’t have much time left to bring justice to this world.”