As I sit down I do what my attorney told me not to, although I’m sure he expected I’d do it anyway. He’d say that I’ve been very good at doing what he tells me not to throughout the trial.
What I do is this: I look at the jury.
I don’t care if they meet my eyes; I want to see them, to see what they are looking at when they see me. What’s reflected back is confusion under a veneer of studied calm. Interesting. I doubt I make a very horrifying sight. A girl standing about five and a half feet tall, as thin as a wire; the wildest-looking thing about me—save perhaps for my eyes—is my hair. It is unkempt. The wind was blowing strongly outside the courtroom today, and I couldn’t comb out the tangles. My hands are cuffed behind my back, even as I take the stand.
Most of the jury is human, but three of them are aniforms—none of them are cheetahs, like me, but my attorney said the more aniforms the better. I told him, Tom, if you think the jury composition makes any difference, you’re a fucking moron. What would a jury of my peers be? At least six people accused of mass murder? Or should I just be at a war crimes tribunal? I told him to lobby for that, try for a change of venue to the Hague. He just rolled his eyes.
Tom doesn’t like me very much. That’s okay. I don’t like him, either. He may be a good judge of character, but he’s still a fucking moron.
And now he’s a moron in action. He’s taller than I am—most humans are—oh so nicely dressed in a tailored brown suit that matches his cropped hair.
“Miss Donamira,” he says. I turn to look at him. I don’t smile. He wouldn’t want me to, because that would be showing teeth, and that could be construed as aggression. That’s the way he puts it. What he really means is that when I smile I usually look feral, like I’m smiling because I’m imagining eating the person I’m smiling at.
He walks toward the witness box and rests his hands on it, pausing for the appropriate dramatic length. “Do you understand why you’re here?”
“I’m on trial.”
I shift my position, trying to keep the circulation going in my arms. “Because I’m accused of crimes.”
He frowns nearly imperceptibly. “And do you know what those crimes are?”
“Violent assault, murder, destruction of property, felonious trespass, breaking and entering.”
This line of questioning goes to the defense Tom has for me. His defense is that I’m criminally insane. He’s pursuing it over my objections. It’d be a lot easier for him if I wasn’t being so darn lucid, but it’s fun to watch him try not to look annoyed. Besides, the real fruitcake stuff has already partially been presented; he’s just trying to show it in all its candied nut glory. Since I’m not going to lie, he’ll get to it.
“Do you understand what these charges mean?”
The prosecuting attorney, a trim, handsome young vulpine animorph wearing a casual suit and a habitually harried expression, smirks. Tom seems to be doing his job for him. The fat old human judge looks impatient.
Tom goes back to his table and shuffles some papers, then sits on the table’s edge. “Tell us what you did on July 16th,” Tom says.
“Everyone knows that,” I say. “They watched it on goddamn CNN.” My tail lashes behind me.
“Answer your attorney’s question,” the judge says, glaring down at me.
Like I don’t know he’s my attorney. Thanks for letting me know. I take a deep breath. “I took a stroll through downtown Atlanta.”
“A stroll,” he repeats.
I can’t brush back my hair, so I shake it out of my eyes. “A stroll.”
He gets off the table and paces slowly, hands spread, addressing the jury more than me. “A stroll at about three hundred feet high. Through traffic. Through buildings.” He turns to look at me with a half-smile. “That’s quite a walk, Miss Donamira.”
“I figured it’d leave an impression.”
Tom makes a sad half-chuckle noise; some of the jury flinches. I’ve seen all of the videotape by now, including the one from a news van I stepped on. I still wonder about that—the guy didn’t even try to run. Maybe he couldn’t. The camera kept transmitting, two seconds of descending pawpad until it goes black. I bet it’s the most famous two seconds of video in decades.
“How’d you accomplish this? Becoming a giantess?”
At length, I say, “I prayed.”
“You prayed,” he repeats. “To who?”
“To whoever would listen.” I don’t want to, but I can feel the last beating again, see it, curling myself into a ball and trying to roll away but I can’t, the punches just become kicks, I have sobs to let out of my chest before they rip it open but I can’t—
“Miss Donamira,” I hear the judge say.
I look up at him, feeling flushed and unfocused.
“Answer your attorney’s question,” he says again.
“I didn’t hear it,” I mumble.
“I asked, what were you praying for?”
Of course you did. We’d been over this in rehearsal and I hadn’t flashed back then.
I wet my lips with my tongue. “For…for deliverance.”
“From your husband, isn’t that right?”
This evidence has also been shown. The calls to the police, the restraining order Jack had violated. Twice. Pictures from the emergency room.
I couldn’t tell how the jury had reacted to that. They flinched at those pictures, too, and I don’t think the fox had much to shoot Tom down with.
Of course, Tom really is making his case for him. Yep, she’s guilty, he’s pretty much saying, but she’s so fucked up she thinks she’s been given demonic power.
I nod. “Yes.”
“So you prayed, and eventually some…angel, demon, whatever, answered.”
“I just…knew what the power I suddenly had was, and I used it.” This is an incomplete truth. It was an angel. And I didn’t know the power. I knew how to bring the power out, and I did it.
“By divine will, divine providence.” He turns to face the jury, giving them his most practiced skeptical look, then sits down. “Your witness.”
The fox looks, predictably, harried. He rises to his feet and walks out from behind his table slowly. “Where did you work?”
“Elgin Janitorial Services.”
“That’s who you worked for. Where were you a janitor at?”
I’d cross my arms if I could. “The Roland-Hammond National Laboratory.”
“What do they do there?”
“I don’t know. All sorts of things.”
“Like quantum theory, chemical and biological research, astrophysics, the works.”
I shrug as best I can. “Sure.” I know where he wants to go with this—the idea that there’s some kind of research at the lab that’d let me become a three hundred foot high cheetah. As if.
“Now, there’s not a lot of research there I can talk about, since it’s mostly classified,” he says.
“Yes.” There’s not a lot of research there you even know about. I was the fucking maid and I had a security clearance you’ll only dream of.
“But,” the fox continues, “you’re a smart girl. You know what you’re looking at when you clean up those labs, don’t you?”
“Not most of it, no.”
“Don’t be modest. You found something there that would let you take care of your problem with William, your husband, for good, didn’t you?”
“Maybe it was something that was just supposed to make you a little stronger, a little bigger, and you put it on too high a power, took too much…you overshot.”
“No,” I repeat. “Nice try.”
“Your honor,” Tom snaps, “Could this be any more speculative without starting with ‘Once Upon a Time’?”
“Perhaps the defending counsel intends to prove demonic influence, but the state intends to suggest other alternatives for the jury to consider,” the fox returns dryly. Some of the jury members grin.
“Overruled, but tread lightly,” the judge says after a moment.
“Thank you. Then,” the fox turns back to me, “you decided you liked it.”
“Yes.” I shrug. “Once I started I didn’t want to stop.”
“But you did stop. When whatever it was wore off. Isn’t that right?”
I look away. “The gift…left me.” I was foolish, so foolish, letting myself be lost in the power so much that I lost hold of it—but can you imagine, at all, having twelve-story skyscrapers below your hip level? Imagine cracking concrete and steel like balsa wood? Imagine knowing each step of your foot determines the fate of dozens? They weren’t even two inches tall. A casual press of a finger or toe. An impalement on a clawtip or a fang. A lick and a swallow.
It’s easy to look at the videos and be horrified. I’m horrified by them. You know why?
Because it’s obvious I’m really, really enjoying myself.
I’ve heard some of the scenes have been edited into fetish videos. I swear. And there’s a couple shots of me holding people in my mouth that are pretty erotic, thank you very much. I don’t think I was posing for the cameras, but maybe.
He turns to the jury, addressing them even though he phrases things to me. “Speculating that the ‘gift’ is research you stole is a little more…sane than believing you were granted impossible powers from God or Satan, isn’t it?”
“It depends on what you think is sane,” I snap.
“I think it’s in your interest to look a little less sane,” he says, turning back to me. “Because if you have to take responsibility for your own actions rather than foisting it off on angels or demons, you’ll be facing the punishment you deserve. You knew what you were doing. You killed your husband. And then you decided, why stop? You’re not insane, Miss Donamira. You’re just evil.”
“I didn’t say I was insane.”
“I’m sure you’re smart enough to know that the insane people always believe they’re not.”
“Your Honor—” Tom starts, sounding resigned.
Bastard with a self-sealing argument. “And I’m not lying.”
“And the evidence for you being a divine demolition machine is where, exactly?”
“It’s in logic,” I say acidly. “It’s impossible to get around the square-cube law.”
The fox pauses, and folds his arms. “Tell us about that, then.”
“You said it yourself—impossible powers.” I focus my gaze on him. “They were. I’m not insane. I should have been crushed by my own weight…I wasn’t.”
“Crushed because of the square-cube law? Which is?”
“It’s…mass. Weight. Your increase by the same amount in all three dimensions. Twice as tall means the cube of your weight…so a smaller percentage of you is skeletal structure.”
“Like I said, Miss Donamira. You’re a smart girl. No further questions.” The fox sits down.
Tom gives me a fleeting dour look. I am not playing my part well. You don’t have to be an astrophysicist to know about the square-cube law, but half the jury looks like they think I must have been helping the researchers out between mop rinses. I entertain myself briefly with the thought of giving them a definitive lesson on applied pressure.
I am led from the witness stand back to sit by Tom as the judge calls a recess. It is the fourth day of the trial, and the only part left is closing arguments.
“We still have a good chance,” Tom says. He means a good chance of getting treatment along with life in prison. With the manslaughter charges alone there is no chance of parole; if we still lived in an era of criminals being put to death, I would undoubtedly be facing it.
Before the trial there was talk of reinstating that penalty, this once, just for me.
“It would make your life easier if I wasn’t smart, wouldn’t it?” I say.
He doesn’t look at me. “Yes, I guess it would, Amay.”
“Of course, it would help if I was really insane.”
Tom doesn’t answer.
“I need to lie down,” I say. I feel dizzy again. These attacks are common.
“Put your head down.”
The reason he puts up with me as a client, I know, is because he thinks the insanity makes me obnoxious. This afternoon he will argue that I’d slipped over the edge of sanity from one too many beatings, and that when I found myself an impossibly-sized titan my mind merrily skipped into a pit it hasn’t come out of yet. The angel is my way of hiding the truth from myself.
Sometimes when I’m most alone I start to believe that, too.
Then I think: if some part of me had made it up, wouldn’t I think it was the angel acting through me? It wasn’t. I used the powers all on my own, those impossible, terrible powers he granted.
All I had to do was take Jack’s soul. Do you believe in souls? I’ve tasted one, and the powers—
The powers he took away—oh, what I would give for them again, I would not lose sight of him. I failed to understand and I am paying the price, I pay every minute both awake and asleep—
I feel the pit Tom thinks I’m already in open underneath me, and my vision goes black. Some part of me—the rational part, ha ha—recognizes that when I hit bottom it is only me resting my head on the table in front of me, but it is the floor of the ocean.
Presently I hear a sharp knock, and then voices drift in and out with the waves, none of them concerned that I am drowning. I am not moving, I am only listening.
I hear fragments of the closing arguments.
—was a college dropout only from lack of motivation, certainly smart enough to recognize—
—knowledge is only half the story, the other half is state of mind—
—no abuse can justify—
I want to sit up and make time flow correctly again.
—first her father, then her foster father, then her husband—
—quick justice, she would have been killed during that rampage, but you have the opportunity to bring as much justice as the law—
I sit up. I must be remembering that fragment of the fox’s summation; Tom went last, and he is finishing his. The closing of the closing closing.
“Either way,” Tom is saying, “Amay Donamira will be out of society for most, if not all, of her life. ‘Not guilty by reason of insanity’ doesn’t mean innocent. It doesn’t mean ignoring the facts. What we’re deciding isn’t her innocence, it’s what happens to her now.”
He spreads his hands, facing the jury. “You may be religious; you may not be. But all of you know that Amay didn’t have an angel directing her to destroy ten city blocks.” His voice is an interesting mix of pity and derision. “Is it likely she stole something from the laboratory she worked in? Sure. Did she understand what it was?” He pauses, and shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the reason we have insanity verdicts is because we recognize that justice requires understanding on all parties.” He indicates me with a hand, although he doesn’t look at me. “If Amay believes she was divinely directed, to her we’re just punishing the messenger. For there to be justice, she needs to understand that she’s the message.
“What the state is asking for is revenge. That’s understandable. We want retribution. We want balance. We want someone to pay.”
He raises both hands. “But this isn’t the revenge system. It’s the justice system.” The hands drop. “And justice doesn’t mean killing the defendant. It doesn’t mean locking her up in an eight-by-eight cell until she dies. It means getting Amay Donamira to understand what she’s done.” He tries to make eye contact with all of them in turn. “Don’t deliver revenge. Deliver justice.”
He sits down.
“Very moving,” I murmur.
“You okay?” he says softly. “That was a long spell for you.” It was. Nearly three hours. I nod curtly to him.
“Well.” He folds his hands in his lap. “Now it’s just a matter of waiting.”
“I’ve gotten pretty good at that,” I say, resting my head on the table again.