Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 58 of 64

“I really would prefer to.”

He snapped his comm shut. “I’ll meet you in the courtroom, then. The bailiff will take you in.”

“Can you tell my Gran where I am? She’s waiting in the court, I think.”

“Sorry. I have other cases to cope with—I can’t really play messenger, I’m afraid.”

When he left the little office, I felt as though I’d been switched off. The drugs weighted my eyelids and soothed my panic and outrage. Later, I’d be livid, but right then I could barely keep from folding my arms on the grimy table and resting my head on them.

The hearing went so fast I barely even noticed it. I sat with my lawyer and the doctors stood up and entered their reports into evidence—I don’t think they read them aloud, even, just squirted them at the court reporter. My Gran sat behind me, on a chair that was separated from the court proper by a banister. She had her hand on my shoulder the whole time, and it felt like an anvil there to my dopey muscles.

“All right, Art,” my jackass lawyer said, giving me a prod. “Here’s your turn. Stand up and keep it brief.”

I struggled to my feet. The judge was an Asian woman about my age, a small round head set atop a shapeless robe and perched on a high seat behind a high bench.

“Your Honor,” I said. I didn’t know what to say next. All my wonderful rhetoric had fled me. The judge looked at me briefly, then went back to tapping her comm. Maybe she was playing solitaire or looking at porn. “I asked to have a moment to address the Court. My lawyer suggested that I not do this, but I insisted.

“Here’s the thing. There’s no way for me to win here. There’s a long story about how I got here. Basically, I had a disagreement with some of my coworkers who were doing something that I thought was immoral. They decided that it would be best for their plans if I was out of the way for a little while, so that I couldn’t screw them up, so they coopered this up, told the London police that I’d gone nuts.

“So I ended up in an institution here for observation, on the grounds that I was dangerously paranoid. When the people at the institution asked me about it, I told them what had happened. Because I was claiming that the people who had me locked up were conspiring to make me look paranoid, the doctors decided that I was paranoid. But tell me, how could I demonstrate my non-paranoia? I mean, as far as I can tell, the second I was put away for observation, I was guaranteed to be found wanting. Nothing I could have said or done would have made a difference.”

The judge looked up from her comm and gave me another once-over. I was wearing my best day clothes, which were my basic London shabby chic white shirt and gray wool slacks and narrow blue tie. It looked natty enough in the UK, but I knew that in the US it made me look like an overaged door-to-door Mormon. The judge kept looking at me. Call to action, I thought. End your speeches with a call to action. It was another bit of goofy West Coast Vulcan Mind Control, courtesy of Linda’s fucking ex.

“So here’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to stand up here and let you know what had happened to me and ask you for advice. If we assume for the moment that I’m not crazy, how should I demonstrate that here in the court?”

The judge rolled her head from shoulder to shoulder, making glossy black waterfalls of her hair. The whole hearing is very fuzzy for me, but that hair! Who ever heard of a civil servant with good hair?

“Mr. Berry,” she said, “I’m afraid I don’t have much to tell you. It’s my responsibility to listen to qualified testimony and make a ruling. You haven’t presented any qualified testimony to support your position. In the absence of such testimony, my only option is to remand you into the custody of the Department of Mental Health until such time as a group of qualified professionals see fit to release you.” I expected her to bang a gavel, but instead she just scritched at her comm and squirted the order at the court reporter and I was led away.

I didn’t even have a chance to talk to Gran.

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