Click here for part 1...
Ethan settled back against the slimy rock wall waiting patiently for the Admiral’s return. The floor towards the back of the cave seemed to pulse, although in the oppressing darkness he thought perhaps his imagination had conjured up a nightmarish fantasy.
His heart rate rose and his palms leaked as he was hit by a wave of anxiety. Maybe squadrons of soldier crabs paraded there he decided pragmatically.
Ethan’s mind and adrenalin raced as what seemed to be hours passed, the complete absence of light disorientating him to time and direction.
Suddenly, Ethan heard the Admiral’s multi-jointed legs clicking back towards him.
The crab solemnly inspected Ethan before announcing, ‘By order of the high judge, you will be tried on one count of attempted murder.’
‘I don’t understand. You have me mixed up with someone else,’ said Ethan as he stumbled backwards.
‘There is no mistake. There is a definite violation of the 45th Amendment section C. You must proceed to the defendant’s stand to plead your lost cause of a case, you littering…’ The Admiral couldn’t think of a noun insulting enough to express his disgust with the boy.
Ethan hesitated before creeping after the scratching march. He had been deprived of choice, the pit of darkness cloaking any hope of exit. As they crawled deeper into the cave Ethan could hear echoing scritching and creaking, muffled voices, and sharp drifting.
Finally Ethan emerged into a courtroom lit by phosphorescent plankton in swinging baskets hung from the low ceiling. These baskets cast a dim sickly-green glow over the cave walls and revealed prying crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians and reptiles crammed into makeshift stands. These creatures whispered viciously with narrowed eyes gleaming at Ethan as he cautiously inched into the courtroom. Perched on a large stone adjacent to Ethan was a slimy slug with seaweed dumped on its head. Ethan pivoted around wildly seeking a glimpse of the sky, his promise of escape, but around and above him he only saw carpets of moss caressing the limestone.
The Admiral kowtowed three times to the poised slug before scuttling into the crowded stands. All sense of Ethan’s safety vanished with him. A crinkly turtle arrogantly pushed through the audience and hobbled towards the centre stage.
The court opened the case. ‘Ethan versus The Ocean,’ droned the slug on his limestone throne. ‘Counsel, would you enter your appearances starting with counsel for the plaintiffs.’
‘Yes, good morning, Your Honour. Pascal Turtle, Atlantic Ocean, for the plaintiffs,’ said the turtle.
The courtroom fell silent and all eyes peered at the strange two-legged being clasping the sandy UFO.
‘Will you please state your name for the court?’ the judge ordered.
‘Good morning to both of you. Pascal, are you ready to open?’
‘I am ready, Your Honour.’
‘Good morning, Your Honour. I represent The Ocean and all who reside in or by The Ocean,’ said the turtle as he swaggered belligerently towards Ethan. ‘Ethan Thomas attempted to murder a brother or sister of The Ocean.’
The crowd gasped, enjoying the spectacle.
‘That’s not true. The turtle is lying,’ Ethan protested. ‘I would never do that.’
‘Ethan Thomas, what happened before you were arrested by the sea’s finest admiral?’
‘Well, I was gazing out at the ocean and eating…’ Ethan stopped short. His words caught in his throat.
‘What were you eating?’ smirked the turtle. ‘Was it plankton? Was it seaweed? Were you munching on seaweed Ethan?’
‘No, Mister Turtle. I was eating fish and chips,’ mumbled Ethan.
‘Fish and chips by the ocean ladies and gentlemen,’ repeated the turtle in such a loud voice that no creature was uncertain of what was said. ‘This animal ate fish in front of other fish. You gobbled someone’s daughter or son, mother or father, friend or sibling – flaunting your behaviour to the victim’s family. What kind of sadistic ghoul would do that ladies and gentlemen?’
Pascal Turtle was a conductor of an emotive orchestra, as he waved his flippers about and hyped the crowd into a hysterical crescendo. The amphibians and lizards kicked sand and snarled. The old turtles in the crowd shook their heads whilst the little ones hid in their shells. Angry crabs and lobsters snapped their claws in the air. And a sea cucumber even spat at Ethan.
‘He can’t say that,’ Ethan objected.
‘On what basis?’ asked the Judge, attempting fairness.
‘The fish were already dead – that isn’t attempted murder.’
‘Objection sustained. Eating dead fish makes you a forager not a felon. Please get to your point Pascal.’
‘I’m sorry, Your Honour.’ Pascal grinned a toothless smile at Ethan. ‘You were eating the fish Ethan, then what happened?’
‘Well, the wind came and blew the plastic bag down the beach. So I ran to catch it.’
‘I rest my case Your Honour. Releasing a UFO into the ocean, or littering as the human species call it, is one of the major killers of us sea creatures.’
‘I didn’t know,’ protested Ethan desperately.
‘Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.’
The judge shrewdly stared at Ethan. ‘Taking the boy’s age and apparent ignorance into account, I only see fit to give him the minimum sentence.’ The amphibian puffed out his chest. ‘I hereby sentence you, by order of The Ocean, to sixty years as a fish. After that time period has elapsed, provided you are still alive, you will be granted your human body once more.’
Catch the final twist of this curious short story by clicking here!