In this life there are higher courts that judge and punish us. First part of a series.
| "I was there when the world first saw them. We came to know them as The Judges. Nobody had any idea where they came from or what they were. We only knew what they wanted. I suppose I should tell you my story first.
My name is Steve. I'm a small time journalist working for an even smaller newspaper in Philadelphia. Well, at least I was, but I'll get to that later. For now, all you need to know was that on the night The judges showed up I was covering a small political debate. A debate that was remembered as anything but small."
Stephen Spinner sat in the rock hard excuse for a chair and adjusted his collar for what seemed like the fiftieth time in just the last ten minutes.
"Man, it's hot." he grumbled under his breath. "I know this place is just a school but still, you'd think they'd be able to afford AC. Maybe that's what they should be debating."
Partially from heat and partially from boredom he shifted around in his chair like a kid who needed a bathroom break. His eyes eventually rested on one of the candidates. The very person was here to see.
Robert Kane sat in one of the chairs onstage wearing a fancy suit that looked Italian but probably wasn't. His dark hair, which was neat and straight, had more grease in it than Steve's car. On his face he wore a smile so fake it couldn't fool a blind person. He was a man who had the air of a saint. Unfortunately, it was just air and nothing more.
If any candidate in this election was worth watching, it was Kane. Rumors seemed to follow him with a tenacity that would put most stalkers to shame. Stories of fraud, negligence, and abuse were just the tip of the iceberg. If they were true, then they would cause the type of scandal that could retire a journalist. At least it would if Kane was anyone important. After all, he was just running for state senate, not the real senate or better, President.
Still, considering how little Steve had going for him in his life, it was as good a story as he could hope to get. That's why he bothered to show up. If fate thought highly of him, then Kane might slip up and give him a story someone might actually read. Until then, Steve just sat and fidgeted.
Fate smirked when Kane stood up and approached the podium. As he started answering a question about the state of public schools in Pennsylvania, a commotion started in the back of the auditorium.
It started as a low rumble as just a few people started talking. Growing, the chatter quickly caused even Kane to take a look at the source of all the attention.
What seemed like a curse at the beginning of the night had turned into a blessing. With a seat toward the back, Steve was close enough to get a good view of the man that was now standing in the center aisle.
He wore a long dark coat. Although, perhaps cloak would have been a better word for it. The sleeves were long and completely hid his arms and hands. A hood covered most of his head. Only the lower half of his face was visible. It was slender and the skin was pale. Bits of stubble seemingly unsure whether or not they wanted to be a beard clung to his chin.
Steve immediately reached for his notepad. The debate had been so boring up to that point that he hadn't bothered to take notes.
"Damn! Where is it?"
The pad had fallen to the bottom of his bag. Each second he spent looking for it was a second he couldn't take notes. The roar of people’s voices grew deafening. He had no idea what was happening behind him.
When he finally got the pad and turned around he saw why the noise had gotten so loud. The cloaked man had begun to walk toward the stage. He raised an arm and pointed it at Kane. The cloak still obscured his hand but under the folds of black fabric the man's arm seemed impossibly thin, almost skeletal.
Even despite the general feelings of indifference most people had about this debate, security was still tight. Two guards came running over to the figure. They no doubt wanted to escort the man out of the auditorium and get on with the debate. Maybe it was fortunate that they didn't get a chance.
The first guard stopped running just a few feet short and fell to the floor. The way he stopped, it looked like he had hit a wall. The other guard stopped and stared at his partner who was on the floor and gripping his face. Pandemonium broke out as people assuming the man had a gun, dived for the floor, ran for the exits, and in general, panicked.
Quickly the second guard raised his gun and pointed it at the figure.
Not listening, the man moved forward until he was a mere two feet from the visibly nervous guard. Suddenly the gun flew out of his hands and he was thrown back several feet. He landed with a dull thump. Judging by the stunned look on his face Steve didn't think the poor guy was going to get up for a while. It didn't matter either as he realized that the gun had landed at his feet.
Fate's smirk had blossomed into a beautiful smile. What a possibility Steve saw before him. If he took this guy out then he could be famous. Imagine the story. Imagine the people who would suddenly notice him. Imagine the jobs he could get.
Grabbing the gun he inched closer to the figure which continued its slow march toward the stage. Whether from shock or some other reason Kane still stood behind the podium. With most of the people having fled, the room had quieted. Now the figure opened its mouth and with a voice that seemed too deep to come from such a small frame it spoke.
"In this life there are higher courts to which all must answer. Robert Stanley Kane, the crimes you have committed can no longer go unpunished! You have lied. You have stolen. You have hurt many people. You have even arranged to take the lives of others. Of these crimes we find you guilty."
The rumors were true! If nothing else Steve had his story ... and more. Standing just a foot or two from the figure he raised the gun.
In a flash the figure spun around and threw his arm up into the air. Panicking Steve pulled the trigger. He felt his whole body go weak when all he heard was a soft click.
The gun hadn't fired because the firing pin hadn't hit anything. It hadn't hit anything because there was nothing to hit. Half the gun was missing. Severed neatly from just before the trigger to just above the hammer the gun was now useless. Steve collapsed.
Looking up he noticed the foot long piece of metal that now extended from the man's raised and outstretched sleeve. It was gold in color and covered with green lines that almost looked like circuits. It seemed like it had to be an illusion, but the metal seemed as thin as paper. With a sound like a sword being sheathed it slid back under the fabric.
Steve shifted his gaze from the man's arm to his face. He could now see under his hood and into his eyes. The sight paralyzed him. Nobody he'd ever seen had eyes like this. They were deep and pale blue and seemed to radiate a faint light. The emotion in them was unmistakable. It was anger. A pure fury that made the air between them seem to be ablaze, just from the power of this man's eyes. It was a warning. A warning that wasn't lost on the cowering journalist. Steve was too scared to even turn his head.
The figure turned around and again raised his arm to point at the frightened Kane.
"For you," the man continued, "we have decided on a strict punishment. Your life will be reconfigured and the damage you have done will be undone. Accept this course that you must now take."
With that Kane finally made a noise. He screamed. A primal scream from the depths of his soul. All his fear and pain became a song that sang of pure agony. Just as quickly as he had started, he stopped and slowly began to fade. A few moments later all that was left of him was a man shaped distortion of the air where Kane had stood. Soon, even that disappeared. He was completely gone.
Steve looked around. The figure had also vanished. He was now alone in the room with the few others who were too frightened to run. Just then several guards stormed in and pointed their guns at anything they could find.
He couldn't figure out why it had taken them so long to react, but he really didn't care. The air felt cooler to him now. Maybe the AC had finally started up.
"Damn!" he muttered to himself. "What a story!"
"Later it was discovered that Kane was not scheduled to be part of the debate. Even stranger, he wasn't even running. Someone else entirely was supposed to be there that night.
Regardless of the mystery behind Kane, one thing was certain; the man in the cloak had been real. We didn't know it yet but he was the first. The first Judge. Soon there would be more. Many more. Before we knew it, they would make it clear that they were here to stay.
Maybe that was a good thing for me. I did get a great story out of that whole incident. There were other stories, however, that were just starting.
The real mystery didn't start with the disappearance of a single man. It started with the appearance of one. About a month later Robert Kane was found!"