How the Juror Came to Be
The Juror is the first short story I wrote in the Divide Territories of America (or Diterrica) Series back in late 2016 and published in 2017. The Diterrica series takes place in a future society where the government fell, the 50 states reforming into territories. Each territory would rule as how they saw fit without a government to oversee. Each story in the series takes current day issues and reimagines them in a dystopian style.
The Juror Builds off of the Power of Words
During the time that I wrote The Juror, the 2016 election was underway, and I realized how much social media could influence readers. Numerous articles flashed across the screen that were proven false with a quick search, yet the stories spread. It was easier and more assuring for some to assume stories were true, rather than confirming the story. If an article supported a person’s view, they presumed it was true and shared. Most people only fact-checked what made their candidate look bad, not good as well. The sad part is, this has been going on for as long as humans could think
Too often we place faith in people that we trust, only questioning what comes from those we view as a threat. That’s exactly what happened in the election. How much of this could influence our daily lives? How many interactions do we calculate our actions based on the things we perceive as good or bad. What would happen if your life was in someone else’s hands, and they had to use that method of calculation? If you only had 250 words to convince a stranger to save you, what would you say? That’s when the idea for The Juror brewed in my head. I wondered how territories would treat crime, and how they could deter it. Without any aid from the government, both in terms of finances and physical aid, would crime be maintained? The Juror takes that idea, combines it with how society judges, and puts it to the extreme.
The Juror Excerpt
As the car idled in traffic, the flags of the capital building flapped in the wind a few blocks ahead, towering above the buildings around it. How many times had the Juror walked past it over the last four years on their way to work, out running, or even just finishing errands on the weekend? Before today, it was just an elaborate building constructed of iron, glass, and concrete bricks. But now, it felt more like a prison. One that they could visit and leave freely, but a piece of their soul always had to stay there when departing, emotional collateral. The light ahead changed to red, and a few pedestrians began crossing the street, the only significant choice on their mind is what they wanted for dinner tonight. Soon the sidewalks would be filled with workers heading home for the day, the streets jammed with cars.
“You can let me out here. I’d rather walk the rest of the way.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, it’s not far. And I’d rather clear my head a bit walking before going in.”
“Fair enough. Don’t stress out too much about it. I had to serve jury duty twice. I know, can’t choose family, eh? Just focus on what I told you: first, remember why you’re there, who you’re representing. And second, probably most important, it’s anonymous. You’ll never know who it was, and no one will ever know it was you. As far as they know, you could be any one of these people on the street right now.”
They hesitated with their fingers inches from the handle before pulling back. “How long did it stay with you?”
“I haven’t, nor do I think I will ever forget. But the anonymity helps. Not to forget necessarily, rather the guilt. But some people walk out like it was just a dentist’s appointment. Don’t sweat it too much. It’s not a perfect system, but it works best. Look at the crime rate. You should get going; you don’t want to miss your hearing; you can’t reschedule.”
“Thank you for talking. It helped.”
As they pushed the door open, the wind tore through the streets, carrying the smell of pepper and onion from a food truck back into the cab. Pushing harder, the Juror slipped out, and morphed into the crowd, the cab fare transferring wirelessly. Pausing at a newsstand, men and women scrolled through the touch screen, checking stocks and watching breaking news reports. Food Scarcity in Central Territories Reaches High, Drought to Blame. Photos of withered crops flashed across the screen, tractors and equipment huddled together in dormancy. What Happened to DC? Pictures of the White House before and after the bombing riots flashed across the screen. With the increased security, few entered or left DC once they sealed themselves off from the country. Since
then, no one knew for sure what happened behind the wall. From the United States to Divided Territories of America. Is Diterrica best? One final headline caught their eye, Human Trafficking, How the Elite Stay on Top? A rumor that had spread since the territories formed, but merely a conspiracy theory. Not wanting to waste any more time, the Juror pulled away.
Continuing along the road, the flags of the capital building grew taller, the stone stairs now in view. A few pedestrians sat tossing crumbs to pigeons, others reading, some photographing the city. The sun broke through the clouds, warming the Juror’s cheeks. The doors leading inside were heavy oak doors, and once pulled open, warm air rushed out, trying to escape what lay beyond the threshold.
Once inside, the door slammed shut and echoed throughout the atrium. A few bystanders looked over, one looking back at her phone and shaking her head. Closing their eyes and biting their lip, the Juror removed their jacket and walked across to the check-in booth. A message displayed on the screen:
Welcome to the Manhattan Corrections facility. Please lean towards the screen to complete your retinal and microchip scan. After a few moments, thank you for attending jury duty, juror number 009769287. Are you here representing inmate number 009758386?
Your hearing is confirmed. Would you like to hear about available upgrades to your room, including city views, bar access and-
Room upgrades denied. If you change your mind, you can request room upgrades using the last three digits of your case number, which are 634. When called, please present your wrist for scanning and have all belongings prepared for security. Thank you for helping to keep Manhattan safe, and enjoy your evening.
“Case number 632?”
The woman who shook her head moved across the room, briefly making eye contact. As she walked, she spun a wedding ring on her finger. Maybe that’s why she was so agitated, possibly representing a spouse. Hopefully, someone else in a pile was worse than him. Or her. Who knows, maybe they’d be able to write one hell of a response after she made her choice. Looking around the room, the Juror sat closest to the window. Outside, the sun started to hug the roofs of the buildings. By the time the trial was over, dusk would be gone, twilight consuming the city and lights burning bright.
“Case number 633?”
Alone now. Nothing to fill the room but the fleeting thoughts. Outside, the world went on, starting the walk home with nothing on their minds but how to spend their Monday night. Gym, dinner, movie, then bed. Maybe laundry if they felt motivated. The outside world would have no idea what choice the Juror would make, nor would they care. So long as it wasn’t someone they knew. No one cared about jury duty, not until a loved one went to prison.
Looking down at their wrist, the Juror ran their fingers along with the tattoo that spread up their left arm and onto their back. An oak tree with a full canopy spread across their shoulder blades, hidden beneath the suit, the trunk covering their forearm, an owl burrowed in a knot on their elbow. Closer to their wrist, the roots showed, starting just above the scars surrounding their wrist, a cruel bracelet. The tattoo artist offered to remove them free of charge, but they had become a part of the tattoo in their mind.
“Case number 634?”
The floor beneath the Juror seemed to hold them in place. Perhaps if they gazed out the window intently enough, they would forget the case, close the building and continue with case number 635 tomorrow morning.
“Yes, sorry. Spaced out for a minute.” Gathering their coat, they stood to meet the figure that emerged from the hall.
“May I see your arm please?”
After scanning the Juror’s wrist chip, the guide held out their hand for the Juror’s coat.
“Please step through this door and wait for me. There will be a security check just beyond.”
Once inside, the guide shut the door behind them. At the beginning of the hall, an officer at a checkpoint inspected the Juror and their belongings.
“Follow me,” the guide continued down the hall and to the second floor. “You will be in room 203, here.”
As the guide unlocked the door, it opened into a dimly lit room with a touch screen covering a table in the middle, a chair, and a lockbox on the floor. A second door led to a small half bath.
“Please place all of your belongings inside the lockbox. Be sure all electronic devices are off. It will lock during the duration of the trial. Once a decision is made, or time runs out it will unlock, and you may remove your belongings. I need to witness all belongings entering the lockbox.”
After the lockbox shut, the guide stepped out and closed the door, thick enough to drown out any footsteps walking away. The Juror’s heart froze as they saw the shut door. There was no lock or handle on the inside. They hoped the trial would start soon; the silence was deafening, especially without their phone as a distraction — nothing besides pacing the floor. After a few minutes, the table’s screen started to glow, and the Juror sat with dread.