Between the shadows of what we call Justice you can sometimes glimpse its companions - Morality and Faith.
I was taught their ways long ago when my mind was more open, my life more meaningful. But too soon I cast them aside as if jettisoning cargo from a ship trapped in a storm.
And for many years I thought that I had avoided them, until they came to find me again.
It was late in the day. The door of the rented room was locked from the inside - as has been my habit for some time. It was almost dark: patches of milky moonlight filtered through ragged blinds and picked out cracks along the lime-washed walls. Wafts of stale urine rose from old carpets, the aroma taken by the spiral of draughts that swept the room.
Something had disturbed my sleep, and I awoke to find the Trio standing around my bed, their faces hidden in hoods of pale linen, their hands swathed in gloves of white cotton.
'We have come to renew our acquaintance,' Faith said, her voice soft, like the dew-laden webs of an autumnal morning.
I went to speak.
'We know,' she said, 'what you have done.'
I sat up and pulled the limp bed-covers around my shoulders.
Morality raised his hand. 'It will be harder to conceal your guilt.' He spoke with a strange cadence. It took me back to my time in the ancient cities of the East. But then it reminded me of the old man, his long robes, the white steps of the building - the purse of gold in his hand.
And of blood that ran in rivulets to seep into the sand.
'Sometimes, though, there must be retribution in our actions.' Justice had moved closer. 'Sometimes we must repay what we have taken.' From beneath his cloak he had drawn a curved scimitar. Moonlight flickered on the blade as he rose it high above the bed. 'You will now repay your debt.'
Anticipating the strike I turned away, burying my head in the putrid bolster.
'Please - no,' I mumbled into the blankets.
'Death would be too easy,' Justice said. 'No-one will ever know what you have done. No-one, that is, except you. And you must live for ever with that memory - that will be your punishment.'
I cried out, but when I dared to look they had already gone.
JOHN ALLEN lives in Harlow in
He has written short stories and pieces of flash fiction, several of which have been published on different Internet sites - 'Mick Browne' was in the August edition of SHINE!.See John's previous work here. He is an active member of the Write Words website as well as local writing group - the Harlow Writers' Workshop - and has had several short stories published in local community magazines.
John has been writing since his early teens and in that time has produced poetry and prose as well as a catalogue of songs. He has also written and staged a full musical. He tells us that he has a reason to write: He's struggling to become more than a bit-part in his own life story.
"My motivation for this piece came a prompt of 'Crime and Punishment' on the Write Words website. I have also been reading a couple of books on the origins of various religions, and the two seemed to come together to give me this piece of Flash Fiction."