A story by Simon N.
All the landowners in the town were arrested and imprisoned. One by one, the landowners were brought to the stand to face a public trial. Each time, the tribunal asked the audience to testify against the defendant or present evidence of the defendant's crimes. Three hours into the mass public trial, no person from the town had come out to condemn any of the landowners.
North River was a small farming town where everyone knew each other personally. Even though a few landowners might have wronged their tenants and workers in some way, the people here would not endanger the lives of their friends and neighbors just to exact a petty revenge or to earn a small measure of self-satisfaction.
The first day of the show trial was nearing its end, but there had not been a single conviction. The revolutionaries were starting to panic. This trial was meant to be a propaganda and recruitment tool. If there were no conviction, it would become the group's own mockery.
The last defendants were an elderly couple, who owned farmlands that were leased out to a dozen tenants. The couple had always treated their tenants with kindness. During times of drought or natural disasters, they would postpone dues or greatly reduce rents. Everyone in the town loved the couple and assumed the case against them would be quickly dismissed. Unfortunately, the unthinkable happened. A member of the tribunal stood up and accused the couple of crimes against their tenants. When the villagers realized the identity of the accuser, the courtroom was in an uproar.
"I could not believe it. Anyone but him!" The people in attendance were murmuring these words among themselves. Anguish was visible in their eyes and tears were coming down their cheeks.
"Do you have any evidence to validate your claim?" asked the tribunal's chief.
"I lived with the defendants for 25 years and personally witnessed their crimes against fellow human beings. The man is a miser who always tries to squeeze as much money as possible from his tenants. The woman is a conniving schemer. They put up a facade of generosity, but deep inside they are rotten to the core."
These words once again set the courtroom in pandemonium. The female defendant uttered a shriek of grief and fainted into her husband's arms. Holding his wife close to his chest, the elderly man's eyes were affixed to his accuser whose eyes were desperately avoiding his. There was no anger in the old man's eyes. Rather, there were sadness and disappointment.
We worked hard to afford you an education and a worry-free life
And this is how you repay us?
You left home to pursue your ideals.
Is this the ideal you wanted to achieve?
After two hours of deliberation, the tribunal delivered its verdict.
"After carefully investigating the testimonies made by our outstanding and trusted comrade, the citizens of North River found the defendant Mr. N guilty of inflicting direct hardship (during his 40-year tenure as a landowner) on 25 families, resulted in the death or injury of 200 people. We recommend that the defendant be executed at dawn tomorrow. We also recommend co-conspirator Mrs. N be condemned to living in a pig pen for the rest of her life, so she can reflect upon the atrocious crimes she and her husband committed."
After the trial, Comrade T.N. was promoted to the rank of lieutenant for his personal sacrifice and outstanding contribution to the cause. His platoon was tasked with providing security to North River.
While on patrol, N was hit on the back of his head by a rock. Blood was dripping from the wound. N turned around and saw three young kids staring at him from a nearby hill. Having determined those kids were the ones who attacked him, the lieutenant gave them chase. When they were in range of his pistol, N hollered at the kids ordering them to stop running.
"Stop or I'll shoot!"
The kids did not heed his warning and continued to move. The lieutenant loaded his gun and was about to shoot, when a group of adults appeared between him and the kids blocking his aim.
"You already killed your parents. Now you want to kill innocent young children?" said one of the adults.
"Step aside or I will shoot you too!" A frustrated N yelled.
The adults did not retreat. Instead, they started moving toward Mr. Comrade. Outnumbered, the lieutenant fired a warning shot and hastily retreated.
The people, arm in arm, looked up to the gray sky and sighed.
We have lived here for generations,
But this is no longer where we want to live.
No peace can be found under oppression and falsehood.
Farewell, North River!