A short story
by T.Z. Barry
The Judge had presided over numerous trials throughout her career and had sentenced her fair share of criminals to death without experiencing the faintest glint of emotion. However, she was unable to erase her most recent verdict from her conscience, for the defendant was a twelve-year-old boy.
The crime occurred one Saturday afternoon when the boy was returning from a trip to a friend’s house. He was so eager to leave for his weekend play date that he skipped breakfast that morning. At his friend’s house, the boys were busy riding their gliders all day and forgot to eat lunch. The boy also forgot to recharge his glider before leaving his friend’s house, and halfway home, his glider died, forcing the boy to walk the rest of the way.
The boy’s dinner time passed, and his hunger grew with each step he took through the dense forest, which unfortunately did not contain any nutrient machines. The boy could make it home in less than thirty minutes on his glider, but on foot, it was an almost four-hour trek. A boy his age could handle a walk that distance, but not on an empty stomach while carrying a glider on his back.
The sun began to set on the forest, and the boy became dizzy. He couldn’t stop to rest, however; for darkness was looming. He tried to press on through the hunger and exhaustion, but the conditions proved too potent, and he fainted.
The boy awoke several hours later with the moon shining over his aching head instead of the sun. The boy had a natural fear of the dark, and his home was still two hours away. Desperate, he ditched his heavy glider and continued running alone through the dark forest.
It wasn’t long until the dizziness returned, and the boy was forced to stop and rest against a tree. Hanging on the branch above his throbbing head, he noticed a red apple glistening in the moonlight. The boy looked around the forest, but there were no people for miles. He tore the apple from the tree and ate it to the core.
The luscious fruit gave the boy the energy he needed to continue his trip, and he safely made it home two hours later. He told no one of what happened in the forest—not even his parents—and as he fell asleep that night, he thought no one would ever know.
The boy was in for a rude awakening on Monday morning when he was taken out of school and brought to the Judge to face immediate trial. The day before, a patrol officer found an abandoned glider in the woods, and not far from that, an eaten apple core. Fingerprints from both items were an exact match to the boy’s.
The defendant never denied his crime, but as he told his story, the Judge couldn’t help but feel sympathy. After all, the boy was only twelve years old, and he was under extenuating circumstances that night in the forest. However, the law was explicit: “No living thing may take the life of another living thing, be it man, animal, or plant.” Just as explicit was the punishment: “An eye for an eye.”
The Judge couldn’t sleep that Monday night. She went down to her kitchen and ate a nutrient bar as she questioned the decision she’d made earlier that day. She found the boy guilty and the jury sentenced him to be executed. The boy’s one and only crime was the murder of an apple.