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Death Sentence
by Fredrick Obermeyer


On the planet Goram, speaking in complete sentences was a capital offense, unless the speaker happened to be a member of the royal family. Everybody else had to speak in sentence fragments or in short, elliptical bursts of words.

Now Prince Asam Jeralen had fallen in love with a human woman named Bonnie Korden. She had come to him from her homeworld, Earth, where both common people and royalty were allowed to speak in complete sentences. At first she had remained cold to him, but over time their love grew until the night came when they sat together in the royal garden, looking up at Goramís three blue moons.

Asam loved Bonnie so much that he spoke to her in fragments. And per Earth custom, he got down on his knees and took an engagement ring out of his pocket.

"Marriage for us?" Asam said.

"Want to marry me?" Bonnie said, and smiled.

"Yes. Then speak together in complete sentences. As man and wife. Do you want?"

"Yes. More than anything."

He slid the ring on her finger and they hugged each other.

The day of the wedding arrived and all of Goram society turned out for the occasion. The wedding was held in the same garden where Asam first proposed to Bonnie, and the royal court spared no expense in providing the finest decorations. When the wedding march played, Bonnie walked down the aisle. She wore a beautiful white silk dress, the same one her mother had worn on her wedding day.

At the altar they said the traditional prayer to the Goram gods, then the priest began the marriage vows, speaking in common tongue as a concession to Bonnie and her family, then switching back to Goram. Finally the moment came when the priest recited the wedding vows. "Bonnie, do you take Prince Asam to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Bonnie said, crying. It was the happiest moment of her life.

The crowd gasped and Asamís face turned ashen. At first Bonnie couldn't understand what she had done wrong. Then she realized her mistake. 

She had said, "I do."

A complete sentence. She was supposed to say just "yes," but in her excitement, she had said the same words her mother had said on her own wedding day.

Several of the guards grabbed Bonnie and dragged her off the altar.

"No," Asam screamed, his face livid with terror. He grabbed Bonnie and tried to pull her away from them. "I order you, stop!" But Asamís father held  him back. 

"Father, you can't do this," Asam said.

"I'm sorry, but she knows the law. Now she will have to die."

"Help me, Asam! Please!" Bonnie thrashed and kicked as the guards carried her back into the castle. Her parents and relatives tried to stop the guards, but more guards came and formed a human wall between Bonnie and her family.

"I won't let you kill her," Asam said.

"There is nothing you can do," his father said.

"If you kill her, I will give up the throne. I swear it."

"You can't do that. You are my only son. I won't allow it!"

"Then pardon her. She made one mistake."

"If I pardon her, then I will have to pardon every other commoner who makes the same mistake. I am sorry, but I can make no exceptions."

"Damn you."

Asam turned and ran back to the castle. He rushed down to Bonnie in the dungeon.

"Sorry, sorry," Bonnie said. "Never meant to do it. Never meant--"

"Know you didn't. Will save you, Bonnie. Swear it."

Yet deep down he feared he couldn't do anything.

Less than three days later the royal court handed down its decision. Bonnie was guilty of speaking a complete sentence before marriage. The punishment: death by decapitation.

Asam gave up his crown the same morning that they carried Bonnie out to the city square to be executed. Immediately after he renounced his claim to the throne, he rushed out of the castle and down to the streets, shouting, "I love you, Bonnie."

His father chased him down to the square. Asam looked across the square to Bonnie. She lay across the chopping block, the executioner's laser blade raised above his head.

"I am no longer Prince Asam!"

The crowd gasped.

"And I have broken the law. I am speaking in complete sentences. You must do the same to me as you do to her."

His father appeared on the street. 

"How dare you?" his father said.

"If you kill her, you must kill me," Asam said. "I cannot live without her."

"I will not murder my own son."

"You must. It is the law, remember?"

"Stop. I pardon you."

"I refuse your pardon."

The crowd gasped again.

"You cannot refuse a royal pardon."

"I can and I will. I gave up my crown and now I wish to give up my life with her. If you do not take my head, then I will find some other way to take my own life. I promise you."

His father shook with rage.

"This is intolerable," he said. 

"What is your decision?" Asam said.

His father sighed. "Very well, I pardon you both."

The guards released Bonnie from her bounds and Asam ran up onto the platform, threw his arms around and cried, "Love you, love you."

"Love you too."

They both held each other for a long time.

The next day the second wedding of Asam and Bonnie came to pass. They stood together on the altar, the priest recited the wedding vows and asked if Bonnie would take Asam to be her lawfully wedded husband.

With tears in her eyes, Bonnie laughed and said, "Yes."
 

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Fredrick Obermeyer lives in Cooperstown, NY and is a recent graduate from the State University of New York at Albany. He enjoys writing science fiction, horror, crime and fantasy and has had stories published in the Dead Inn, Fedora: Private Eyes and Tough Guys, SDO Fantasy, Planet Relish, The Fifth Di, and NFG. He is also a member of the online critique group Critters and has a story appearing soon in the anthology Truth, Justice and theÖ

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"Death Sentence" © Fredrick Obermeyer. Used by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®.