When a terrorist’s bomb blew apart a national monument scattering to pieces men, women, and children, it ignited a worldwide firestorm of condemnation. The police received an anonymous phone call from a man who claimed to know who was responsible: The Scorpion. It was a moniker invented by the media which the caller rather liked. As a boy he played with fire crackers – shoving them up the rear ends of animals and lighting the fuses. He was in and out of reform schools until he became an adult, was deemed unfit for society and placed behind prison walls with a life sentence. He had been convicted of murdering both his parents in the middle of the night by soaking their bed sheets with gasoline and setting them on fire. At the trial he pleaded innocence through his lawyers who claimed he was a victim of abuse, yet in the end even they were secretively relieved when the judge and jury found him guilty. After serving less than ten years, having demonstrated himself to be a model inmate, he got the attention of a young attorney who received one of his letters asking for help. The appeal she filed was granted. Upon researching his case she discovered that evidence had been suppressed – heroin paraphernalia and child pornography found beneath the floorboards in his parent’s bedroom. Also prejudicial testimony from a key witness who had been persuaded to embellish the truth. His murder case resurfaced, was broadcasted, generating rallies of protest when a judge overturned the verdict and set him free. His newsworthy status was fleeting – displaced by celebrity worship and the daily rush of competing events – and soon he was forgotten. Years passed before the series of deadly explosions. On a city bus. Inside an airport terminal. At a football stadium. Lives destroyed. And no political faction claiming credit. Only phone calls. Chanting drones and clicks of an insect mocking at the other end – before the receiver slammed down. A fantasy world come to horrid fruition. His nickname would now be a permanent blotch on the annals of history. While tinkering with the makings of a bomb and imagining the destruction of the world, he blew off both hands and an arm. Which made him a prime suspect. His arrest and the disclosure of his past deeds became fodder for the public consumption of speculative journalism. Caricatured in magazines, he was given a devil’s red tail. On the steps of City Hall the surviving members of his alleged crimes burned him in effigy before the eyes of cameras. As he was being wheeled up the steps for his trial a man broke through the flange of police protection to deliver a fist into the side of his head. The spectators cheered. Slumped in his wheelchair like a doll and his limbs bandaged stubs, he was barely cognizant while he sat before the judge. A broken smile surfaced on his lips when the prosecuting attorney referred to him as The Scorpion. His lawyer – defending him pro-bono and preoccupied with the money he planned to reap publishing his memoirs of the ordeal – was proclaiming his client’s innocence and demanding a mistrial based on the prejudicial nature surrounding the case. The motion was swiftly denied. The stern words from the judge, seated on his throne, had sounded  important, but unheard by the defendant. Whose hearing was impaired by the jolt from his father returning from the dead in the form of another man to box his ear – and getting the last laugh. Yet hearing enough to know they meant to kill him by injecting him with a chemically vile substance, the same way his parents had tied off his veins, cooking up poison in a rusty spoon, inserting a needle. Suddenly a flood of people was parting in front of him like the sea and he was Moses with no arms or hands to block the spit and spray cast upon himself. The commotion stopped by a woman kneeling before him, reaching into her purse for a knife but instead pulling out a handkerchief to wipe his face. He recognized her from an interview on television talking about her only child who was killed in one of the explosions. He remembered all the faces. But this one – so close and searching his eyes – trying to penetrate his mind and see who he truly was – she startled him. How she grasped him around the neck and began to sob. Desperately hugging him as if he was her dead son and it was the end of the world. And it was, amidst the lightning flashes firing from cameras, making him wonder why he had ever been born. The downpour of tears from his eyes felt strange, as peculiar as the warmth leaving his body as the woman was pulled away. Exchanged by fire, a burning pain coinciding with a bomb exploding outside in the streets – a blast that would vindicate him posthumously – simultaneous with the bullets that struck his heart, once, twice, the third missing his head to penetrate the crowd. People screaming. The ocean walls falling down. Drowning them. None of it real. His confessions to being The Scorpion – a sordid dream. A cry for revenge. Hatred channeled into clones of his parents seen on TV. Wanting but knowing he would never murder again. Anyone. None of them. Yet he knew in his heart – like a lone star rupturing in space – he too was lost, in some place far from innocence.

Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)

photo-art design by todd crawshaw