The Football Player’s Void

The verdict was read. He was stone-faced.

You’re wrong, mouthed the football player.

Guilty on all counts.

He was escorted from the courthouse. His feet shackled.

In the back of a windowless van, the football player now said it aloud. “You’re wrong.”

The van pulled to a stop and the back doors were thrown open.

He was dragged out, told to walk.

Ahead, a cheap-looking spacecraft awaited his arrival.

One of his transporters shoved him up the entryway steps. A man stood by the open, steel door.

He said, “On this ship, you will serve out your sentence. You will be given three meals a day, you will have three hours for assorted recreation a day, and you will be placed in the Screening Room for one hour a day.”

The football player kept emotion from his face.

“The remainder of each day, you will spend confined to your Holding Cell. The P.I. are aboard to assist you from one area to the next. They will also serve you your meals, and maintain the functions of the craft.”

“What’s P.I.?” the prisoner asked.

The man looked back, glanced into the open doorway. “Programmed Intelligence,” he answered.

The football player did not understand.

The man nodded to the guard. He pushed the prisoner into the ship.

***

Inside the Screening Room, the football player crouched low. Held his hands over his face.

“You’re wrong,” he breathed. “You’re wrong.”

Three months into his sentence. For him, this room never became easier to handle.

The four walls played out the evening of the murder. Of course, the actions appearing on the walls were digitally created, there was no actual footage of the execution. The football player’s true memories could not be accessed.

He listened to a version of himself shouting through the screens. Six gunshots rang out.

***

He lay on his thin bed. The football player, the prisoner, gazed upon the great void. Through the window in his cell, there seemed to be so few stars.

The door opened. A robot stood in the frame. Its telescopic eyes stared into the room.

“Recreational hours,” it related.

He did not rise from the bed. His eyes searched among the stars.

Which is Earth? Which one?

“You’re wrong,” he told the void. “You’re all wrong. All so wrong.”

“Do you not wish to use your recreational hours today?” the P.I. asked.

Standing up, the football player groaned. “I’m coming.”

He hated the stars. Hated the blackness beyond the ship. Hated this prison. His memories twisted and shot through his brain. The football player hated those, too.

He ignored them.

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