“Where am I?”
“Do you really not know?”
“It can’t be true.”
Joe fell to his knees. Then his elbows, interlocking his fingers.
“Please, God,” he wept. “Please, I don’t deserve this. I’ve been a good person. A good Christian. All my life, until–”
Joe opened his eyes, but he did not look up. How could he face that judging gaze? It was that gaze that made him fall, not his piousness. Because he was never pious.
“I’ve been a faithful husband and father. I’ve been your devoted son, Lord. Please, spare me from–”
“Address me, not your Lord.”
The judge’s words were a quake in the Earth–if this place was anything like Earth. “If you are going to pray, you have to be true. Do not pray for the sake of others. Do not pray to make yourself look like a man worthy of happiness. Mutter your private prayers. The prayers that pass through your mind in the daytime, that you yearn for in silence, with your feet flat and your hands apart. Those are the only prayers that matter here.”
Joe had to fight to pull his hands away from themselves. He placed them flat on the bare cold ground and pushed himself unsteadily to his feet. He did not look into the eyes of the judge, but he prayed aloud for the first time.
“Don’t let Maggie find my other phone. Please let this girl cross her legs like that just one more time. Don’t come to my office, you useless fat fuck, my head can’t take it. I just need this one win and I’ll be free and no one will have to know. Someone else will take the fall for his death. She obviously wants this, look at her, she’s–”
The scream of the scales made him stop. One side lowered impossibly low. Then stopped.
The judge placed a feather on the other scale. Joe watched as the left scale–his scale–lifted. Slowly. Almost there…
My three hat trick prompt results were: “Caught in a lie,” “A public prayer and a private prayer,” and “Your personal judge.”
Clearly I’m a sucker for mythology. Thanks for that, Mr. Gaiman.