Monday, August 8, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different

Meat space obligations will keep me preoccupied for a bit.  As filer I offer up something from my sorry past.  My favorite short story - that I ever wrote at least.  I was reminded of it while reading some theological discussions about the nature of hell.  Note that I acknowledge the editing of Harry C, without whose well targeted adjustments the story would not be what it is.  Every suggestion he made radically improved the story.  Hope you enjoy it, or at least avoid waves of nausea.


4.24.2011

Acts of Contrition 

Author: Pliny the in Between
Editor in Chief: Harry C Pharisee 

_____________________________________
“You don’t have to do this.”

He waited a couple of particularly pregnant moments before adding, “You still have a choice.”

The man they called the Architect stood with his back to me. He turned and in his eyes I saw the the most profound sadness I’d ever seen. I stood ten feet away, the ersatz pen, in my left hand, holding a small quantity of thallium. I hesitated a few seconds before responding.

“It’s too late for me to make any other choice. I really wish there were.”

He sighed deeply and lowered his shoulders in resignation.

“Ok, then. Let’s just get this over with shall we.”
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I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself here. I should tell you some of my backstory. I’m an expert in wet work. That’s one of the macabre labels we apply to the blacker human vocations. More accurately, I kill people for the government. Bad people. Or at least my handlers always told me that. I suppose it’s a useful sham particularly for newbies getting acclimated to taking lives. But at some point it stops mattering. You just do it. Kind of like a gun. “Trained assassins don’t kill people - their controllers do.” Or something like that.

I had killed twenty people.

The Architect was to be number twenty-one.

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I’d been recruited in college. Taken some government aptitude tests that had been followed by a visit from a recruiter. Lots more tests, then a visit by the person who turned out to be my first handler. Government service had not been my career objective but they assured me I wasn’t destined for boring office work.

It seemed that my aptitude was in a more active role. Didn’t know it yet at the time, but I was being groomed. I still attended classes and did pretty much the same stuff I’d always done.

I’d even fallen in love. Anne. We shared some classes and began to find ways to simply run into one another around campus. She’d come to smile and laugh a little too much at my lame jokes and I’d become a little too gallant for it to be simple courtesy. We even studied together a few times. Saved each other seats in class. Had some lunches. Talked small talk. Found excuses to brush our hands against the other’s. The usual fits and starts of attraction.

I could go on about our awkward courtship rituals but it’s enough to say that in the end, I was convinced that she was the one. The only. I was sure she felt the same.

Unfortunately, I had two suitors. One delightful and naive young woman, and one cynical but profoundly well trained operative who wielded a knowledge of the psychology of somewhat disenfranchised young men like a samurai would a katana. Anne told me what she thought I wanted to hear - he told me what I wanted and needed to hear. She was making it up as she went along. He was following a well-tuned script that had been proven time and again. It was an unfair contest from the start.

And so that fateful day had come. I’d arranged to meet her in the park the day after graduation. It was to be the start of a true relationship - I hoped. My handler had other plans. He told me to meet him at an off campus location. I remember sitting on that bench, debating with myself whether to blow off the handler’s appointment or Anne. Despite their clearly superior methodology, it was a far closer thing than they would have hoped. Her smile made up for a lot of technique. But in the end, the money they had spent refining their schtick payed off. I’d figured I could catch up with her later. So I met with the handler. I left for my training immediately after. Spirited away is more apt. Convinced that this was my destiny. My ego expertly stroked by masters. I never saw Anne again. Never spoke to her. Never saw the red eyes she’d worn back to the dorm to finish packing for the rest of her life. I somewhat egotistically assumed she would be scarred for life. It was my life’s first true regret. Not the last by any measure.

Mostly they kept me too busy to be remorseful. I’ll spare you the details of my indoctrination and training. In the end I had proven most resourceful and had a natural talent for the work. A useful tool for sticky occasions where politics, law, or due process were inconvenient. My baptism had come soon after. One of my former classmates who washed out of the program was deemed an unacceptable risk. My skillful handling of the problem had been my doctoral assignment of sorts. Don’t get the impression that I was some sort of James Bond. Far from it. I looked average. I was of average build. Average height. Average weight. I did not stick out in any crowd. That was the point. The best camouflage for an assassin is to appear average. Being nondescript is stealth. It allows you to blend into the crowd. Makes it easier to close on your target and to escape when the job is done.

By the time I came to a point in my journey where I could understand the means by which I’d been selected and groomed for this life, I was way past the point where such insight mattered. Yes, the agency had manipulated and molded me into a killer, but with a resume that is blank save a string of killings, I had few options other than flipping burgers. That didn’t appeal to me much. Plus, I suspected that my employer’s retirement plans were fairly limited.

And so after 20 confirmed kills I had been assigned to the Architect’s case. I was supposed to transition into the role of handler, but the Architect was a special case, they said. One last field assignment.

To be honest I hadn’t really studied why the agency wanted him out of the way, only his habits and background to better know my intended prey. His back story is really pretty fascinating but I’m not the one to do it justice. Particularly the part about how he acquired that nickname. Besides, how he came to be who he was isn’t all that important to my story. Just a few details, though. Apparently he had been a fairly intelligent and reasonably successful guy before that fateful day when he sacrificed himself for that kid at the crosswalk. But nothing particularly special. Been in a coma for weeks. I’d seen the security camera tape of the incident. The look on his face as he dove for the kid was of peaceful resignation. Like he knew he was going to die but was ok with it. No fear, no remorse. Simply to act for the benefit of a stranger’s child. Not something I could relate to.

Who or what came back from the coma was different all together, so they said. There were theories but it wasn’t something people in government said out loud. Only in whispers. Cults had grown up around him but he never seemed to take any part in them. Or even acknowledge their existence. Truth be told, he wasn’t known for paying much attention to anybody. He went his own way with what appeared to be total ambivalence to the rest of the world. Nor did he seem to care whether people liked what he had to say on those few occasions when he opened his mouth in public. He was the most dangerous of sorts. Someone with no fear who speaks truth to power. I guessed that’s what somebody important didn’t like. But as I said before, by this point the why didn’t matter much to me; only the how and when. And the clean get away part was pretty important too of course.

Despite his disregard, he had quite a following. The indifferent Messiah. That was a new one. He wrote no books, made no prophecies, preached no sermons, offered no comfort, asked for no money. And yet many were drawn to him. Some, a very few ,claimed to have been changed by him. Actually, that’s not entirely true. None of them ever claimed anything. It was just that they lived their lives very differently than before they’d met him. It was [as] if they’d seen something that made everything else pale in comparison. But none ever shared what that might be.

I made it to his compound in the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon with an appropriate cover. It’s an interesting story, but one for another time perhaps. Though probably not. For reasons that hopefully will become obvious, my past exploits aren’t something I’m particularly interested in reliving.

The Architect lived in a small house on a hill separated from a collection of rustic structures built by previous visitors. Some plain barracks were the only accommodations. Camping wasn’t allowed. A 4 mile foot path was the only connection to civilization. The path led to a road about 5 miles from a small town.

Pilgrims would drift to this place in small numbers. At some point a critical mass of new visitors would congregate and then the Architect would show up. When he finally came to the dining hall to speak to us, he was brief and direct. What he said was a complete surprise to his audience, including me.

“Most, if not all of you, are about to be deeply disappointed. Many of you come here expecting me to fix your problems or because you’re running away from something. I have nothing to offer you. I’m not here to grant absolution or teach you the meaning of life. I’m not seeking acolytes. I can’t teach you anything nor will I lift a finger to try. You are free to stay, free to leave. I could not possibly care less. If you stay, then kindly stay out of my way and be respectful of this place. In the unlikely event that even one of you reaches any level of my conscious attention, I’ll let you know. Oh, and if you have to smoke, then collect your butts because the world is not your ash tray. “

He left without further comment. Future faithful were going to have to do some heavy editing to make his words poetic enough for a holy book. Probably not the first time that had been necessary.

About 2/3 of the pilgrims left in the first 2 days after his sermon on the mount. These were the usual types out for a quick fix of karma and not interested in anything that really required effort on their part. If it didn’t come in a convenient wrapper or was microwaveable, then it was too much trouble. You know the type, always searching for a diet pill in preference to exercise. The Architect wasn’t dispensing. So off they went in search of an easy answer or a more accommodating guru.

The ones that stayed became involved in one of the little communal projects that grew up in the shadow of the Architect’s house on the ridge. He was true to his word. He seemed to take no measure of any of these efforts. I would have to be really patient to get close enough to dose him with the thallium in my special pen. Death was assured as was time for a reasonable get away.

I worked in the gardens most days. It’s surprising how there’s something about working with dirt that makes you clean. Clears the mind. I hadn’t gardened in years but I’d had a landscape job in high school. I kept at it for a week and put in a good day’s work. One day the Architect walked by and called out to me.

“You. Come with me.”

He was already walking away. I did of course. Follow him I mean. This might bring an opportunity to get close to the man. Close enough at least.

He walked us over to a barren and discolored stretch of soil that wasn’t producing at all. There was a big patch of oil on it that soaked into the ground from one of his less respectful visitors.

“Fix it.”

Before I could say anything he was away. Oh well, it was a start. I looked over that patch and after careful consideration of my options, only one made any sense. It wasn’t a pleasant one. I’d have to dig up the contaminated soil and replace it. No other way to make this area growable again. Took me the better part of a week to dig it out and replace the soil with amendments. As I was putting the finishing touches on the grade he returned.

“Hmmm. What’d you do with the contaminated soil?” was all he asked.

I’d hauled it over to a waste area. Figured that would work for now.

“So you didn’t really fix it as much as pass it off to the next guy. Typical.”

In my work as in many jobs, candor is the best approach whenever possible. Less to remember and it makes the target more relaxed.

“There are some things that can’t really be fixed.”

He shrugged, smiled a bit, and walked away. Without turning he said to me, “You say that like a man who knows.”

Yeah. That is something I knew all too well.

He stopped a second. “Ever think of burning it out? The oil?”

I hadn’t.

“Just as well. Make a bigger mess probably. Best to not spill it in the first place, eh?”

I wasn’t sure why but it felt as if he’d seen right through me from the way he’d said that. That was the first time in my life that I had ever felt a twinge of real fear. Who in the hell was this guy really? Nervous fear is not a good mental state for an assassin. I decided to stay away from my target for a few days to get my bearings. Less likely to make a mistake. Shouldn’t have been hard considering how infrequently he was about.

I worked in a more secluded section of the gardens for a few days. It was off behind a copse of trees and I was alone with my thoughts. On the third day after my strange encounter with the man and for the first time in a very long time I was startled. His question was the first inclination I’d had that he was near. I hadn’t sensed his approach. I thought that I must be losing it.

”Have you figured out yet why you’re here?” He asked but I couldn’t help but imagine that he actually knew the truth. I considered my options. It wasn’t elegant but I did have a shovel and we were alone. One look in his eyes and I abandoned that plan. It wasn’t fear that made me reconsider. It was a sense of futility. That’s the closest thing I can describe to how I felt. As if anything I tried wouldn’t matter in the least. Except to me. My survival seemed at stake, not his. His eyes were like a tiger’s. You know the look. A top predator that doesn’t move fast because there is really no need. Now I had some inclination as to why the agency was so set on getting rid of him. They were scared of him. People who live for secrets can’t abide someone who sees through their bullshit with such ease.

I wasn’t about to try and bullshit him either. He might not read minds but I was certain to my core that he could detect most lies.

“I really don’t know to be honest.” Confusion seemed the best defense at this point. He looked at me for an uncomfortable time. Great sad eyes. But that wasn’t all. In there somewhere, was something dispassionate deciding whether I was on the menu for lunch. At least that’s how it felt.

“No, you don’t do you. Not yet at least. For your sake I hope you don’t figure it out. Probably better to live with the regrets you can fathom.”

What the hell did that mean!?

He backed away three steps eyes on mine before turning away. So much for me getting back on an even keel.

That night I suppose you could say I had the start of an epiphany. I kept dreaming about Anne and the life I’d pissed away. I dreamt of Him. When I awoke I had doubts where none had been before. For several days I was engrossed in a reassessment of my life. My choices. I couldn’t control it no matter how I tried. And I tried pretty hard. I walked in the afternoon and whenever I would look up at that ridge, he was standing there. Faces long dead by my hand haunted my dreams. That had never happened before.

One night, a levy broke. The one in my chest that held back the guilt and regret of an evil life. I had done evil. No, it was far worse. I was evil. I’d avoided admitting that to myself for a long time. Yes they had trained me, but obviously had detected the dark flaw that made it possible for me to do these things. And now I was afraid. It wasn’t the life I’d imagined for myself. My head was filled with the images of the things I had done and the people I had hurt. Had wronged. I cried for the first time in as long as I could remember. No one in the barracks acted as if they noticed. It felt like anguish then. Only because I didn’t, as yet, know the true meaning of the word. I was a beast. A monster. I’d never been one for soul searching and what was most surprising was that I did appear to have one. A rotten, guilt ridden soul. After several more days of self discovery, I began to consider an alternative. I became determined to try to make up for what I’d done. If that was even possible. I considered several alternatives but in the end they all seemed to fall short and I hadn’t a clue as to how to proceed. But I knew who might.

In the morning I found him attending to some roses.

“Do you think it is possible to atone for one’s sins?”

It seemed as if he really looked at me for the very first time. I could tell that I finally had his full attention. Still, he took his time in answering.

“Yes.” I had expected a little more of an explanation but he just went back to his roses.

After a time he added, “But there’s a big catch. A huge one. The cost is proportional to the sins.”

Another round of pruning before he added, “Past a certain point most would simply choose to live with the sin. It’s easier.”

As was often the case with his cryptic responses, I had no sure clue what that meant.

“But, it is possible?”

Two more careful angled cuts to remove errant growth before he spoke again.

“Yes it is. If one is truly contrite. Unfortunately, I find that few ever are. Narcissism and contrition don’t co-habitate all that well in the same body. Why do you ask?”

I didn’t know where to start. Or even if I should. Admitting what I am to another would make it real. Then he dropped the bombshell. He set the pruners on the ground.

“Ok, enough of the zen crap. I’m not your yogi. In your case, true empathy for your victims is the only way. All of them, not just the ones you care to recall or the ones who died directly by your hand.”

I slipped back and stumbled. He turned and faced me full, but did not advance. He put his hands in his pockets. It was a posture intended to defuse my screaming anxiety. It helped enough that I refrained from going for him.

His voice softened. “Of course I know who and what you are. What you’ve done. Why they sent you. If you want to feel better about yourself go see a priest and get absolution. That’s what they’re payed for.”

“I don’t want to feel better about myself! I want to make up for what I’ve done.”

To hear it spoken it came out sounding trite and melodramatic. “Maybe I do want to feel better, or at least different.” The last part came out almost as a whisper. I did know that I wanted this dread to go away.

“Turn yourself in to the police.”

“That wouldn’t change what I did.”

“No, but at least it would be a limited and socially acceptable form of contrition. Better than any of the half-assed solutions you’ve considered up to now.”

I tried to imagine what he had in mind that was worse than prison.

“True empathy is far worse than a cage.”

I wasn’t used to anyone being in my head and I can’t say I liked it much.

“You want me to fix it for you. Assuming I could convince myself to give a tinker’s damn, what makes you think I can?”

Good question, but I knew somehow that he could. If it pleased him to do so.

“No, I don’t want you to fix it for me. Fix it for them. Or help me fix it.” I poured out my soul for the first time in my life. He listened without a word. To be honest he looked bored.

“It is possible to atone but the cost is beyond your imagining. Go home and join a monastery. Or just join the Catholic Church and take confession.”

“Please. Can you help me? Will you?”

“You think this guilt that’s eating you up is bad. It’s nothing compared to traveling the road to true salvation, my friend. You will not like where it ends. Of that I’m sure. Some sins change the world. Yours did. That can’t be fixed. Only redirected. When the time comes, you’ll most likely just revert to your old habits and any effort would be wasted.”

I didn’t say another word. I stood with pleading eyes waiting for his decision. He picked his shears up again and returned to his work. I waited silently. He finished trimming the bush.

After a while he cleared his throat and said, “Ok then. I’ll be your Virgil. Though god only knows why. It’s not like you deserve to feel better. But that’s the rub dear boy - you will not feel better - ever.”

“Any punishment you think is fitting is fine by me.” (That was more than a bit of hyperbole.)

He laughed bitterly. “Right... What a load of crap. But this is your party not mine. I don’t ‘do’ punishment. Not my job. I’ll set you on your path, that’s all. In time you’ll have to make a choice. That choice will determine whether you’ve learned anything. You probably won’t. In the end it’ll still likely be all about you. Your suffering, your guilt, your pain.”

I tried to argue that it was all about making amends, but he wasn’t buying.

“Tell me, if you weren’t feeling consumed by guilt right now would you give a damn?”

In a moment of supreme honesty I admitted that I had no idea.

“Fair enough. At least that’s honest. If you don’t change your mind, be at my house at 5 a.m.. Otherwise I don’t want to find you here after that. Are we clear?”

I nodded.

He paused long enough to allow his laser beam glare to cook my face one more time. As he turned away he tried one more time, “Do yourself a favor and go home.”

I’d recovered enough to counter. “You know what they say. You can never go home.”

He reeled and for a moment I worried that I had gone too far.

“Listen smart ass, you have no idea how true that is. If you stay - you’ll learn. “ With that he left.

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Which leads me back to where I started my story. Here I was, standing a few feet from - I had and still have no real idea who or what he is. I had not taken his advise to forget the whole thing.

“You don’t have to do this. You really have a choice.”

“It’s too late for me to make any other choice. I really wish there were.”

“Ok, then. Let’s just get on with this shall we.”

I laid the injector on his desk and sat in the chair he offered me.

I couldn’t help one last professional question and pointed to the injector. “Would that have worked?”

His eyes looked slightly amused but there was no other response to be had.

“What happens now?” I asked, expecting some sort of ritual or segway. There was none. It had already started.

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It would take years to describe in detail what happened next. That’s because it took years. Decades and more. I got to live each of the lives I had ended. I got to live each of the lives they would have lead had we not crossed paths. I got to live the lives of those left behind. The lives of everyone who loved them. Then live the lives they would have lead if my prey had lived. I lived the lives of children unborn because I had killed one of their parents. I felt their loves, hopes, dreams, and fears. I felt the life drain away as a shadow of me killed them. The pain, the anger, the helplessness and then darkness. I felt the void hundreds of times. I’d wake up in a new body and the cycle would repeat. For each of the twenty interwoven sets of victims. Totally aware and completely unable to change any of it. Not even allowed the respite of insanity to help the years pass. I’ll spare you the details.

Then it got worse.

I woke up in my own body, but not quite. Sitting on a bench in a park near a banner about graduation. In this reality, I had chosen to stay and wait for Anne. I saw her coming toward me smiling.

I leapt up and ran to her. Asked if it was ok to kiss her. It was.

I watched as a version of me lived a life with her. We founded a family. I saw each of them grow in her belly and be born. My two children. A boy and a girl. I held them and nurtured them as I had wanted to be. I watched them become every parent’s hope - they became better than me in every way. Two better human beings never lived, though I’m not terribly objective in that regard. I experienced triumph and tragedy but always Anne was by my side. It was the best of lives. We struggled financially at times but made it through together. I was always proud to be her husband. Right to the end. I was the love of her life and she mine.

Unfortunately, this cycle ended too. Somehow the end of this one was far more painful than any of the violent deaths I’d experienced before.

Up to now. I’d suffered as none before me. Then it got worse.

I found myself in the body of a man walking along a flower lined lane. I was there but not. I could see and feel what he felt, but not affect it in any way. Merely to experience as he did. I didn’t recognize this guy. The scene was off and I couldn’t recall how I was related to him. But, ahead was a familiar face. Anne. It was Anne. She’d dropped some papers and was trying to grab them before a breeze scattered them. And not drop some more. It wasn’t working. This guy rushed to her aid. The gallant knight. Yeah right. Their eyes met during this retrieval effort and I saw something that chilled my heart. There was chemistry in that short glance and slight smile. Equal to that which we had shared both long ago and during my last circle of hell.

It’s a hard thing to have your nose rubbed in your lack of specialness. We all like to think we are irreplaceable. But the truth is that we are about as impactful as spitting in the ocean. We imagine that all our ex’s secretly pine away for us because we are the love of their life. That any apparent happiness is just an elaborate sham to hide a broken heart. It sucks to be forced to admit that there are other equal ‘loves of their lives’ waiting in the wings of fate. It wasn’t hard to figure out what this circle held. I’d get to see Anne’s life unfold as it had in the real world. As it had after I stood her up in the park. I was experiencing the life she’d actually lead.

Seventeen years of it. Day by day watching their love unfold. Watching them build a fantastic life together. Feeling his faithful love of her and seeing her love for him through his eyes. Little things shared that in aggregate spoke of a life well lived. Three fantastic kids born and raised together. He was a good man. A decent man. Loving husband and father. That was hard. But harder was the fact that she loved him as no other. It was not a ruse to hide a broken heart. She was as happy now as she had been with me. There was no void in her heart that only I could fill.

Seventeen years and 12 days came the denouement. She was looking at some old college pictures with her kids and husband when they happened upon one with me in it. I was off in the corner of the frame. Her friend had snapped it the day I had asked her to meet me in the park.

“Who’s the stiff?” asked one of her kids.

It took her a moment to place me. In that moment, I suffered longer than my combined journey to date. It hit me. My existence was not part of her consciousness in the real world.

“Oh my, I remember now. He was a guy in a couple of my classes and I’d thought he was kind of hot (her kids rolled their eyes...). Tried to get get together but it never seemed to click. We were supposed to go out after graduation but he stood me up and I never saw him again. Very strange. Oh, but do you kids know who that is? “

Pointing to another figure in the frame, she launched into a discussion of one of her friends with whom she still socialized. I was nothing but a trivial footnote to a fading snapshot. No distant glance or remorse of a love lost. Just how replaceable I was had been made abundantly clear. I achieved yet another low point in my existence. Unfortunately, it had a short run as champion.
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I awoke with a start and found myself sitting on a park bench. It took me a few moments to get my bearings. The banner! The commons! I was right back at the start. I was back at school after graduation. I was sitting on that bench waiting for her. I don’t know how, but I knew this time it was for real. I wasn’t an observer. This was me! Somehow I had been granted a second chance. I could live my life over again and not make the same mistakes. I had seen what could be. I had never known what the word joy meant until then. The years of suffering were worth it! This feeling lasted ten seconds at most.

It was at that exact moment that I realized the actual cost of absolution. At least for me. The decades of suffering were the set up for the choice I had to make. When I would decide whether forgiveness was warranted. My choice hadn’t been made years before when I’d decided to follow this path. It was now. I started to cry uncontrollably once it sank in. That was when I learned the definition of anguish. The moment I lost everything for the last time.

My act of contrition was a simple choice. I could wait here and erase years of interwoven history pursuing the joy that was mine for the taking. She was on her way here. She would love me for all her days. I knew that. Had seen that. All I had to do was wait. Or, I could repeat my mistakes and keep my appointment with the recruiter.

Or I could, do what was necessary. The third path. A life leading to oblivion by conscious choice. If I pursued a life with her, then the lovely world and children she created with that other guy, would never even exist. More innocents would be punished forever for my sins. We all know that our choices change the world, but that’s not the same as actually knowing how. Seeing the faces that populate alternate futures guided by your own hand. My punishment was to be a god required to make a choice about how the future would unfold. I hadn’t stopped being a killer. I just had a choice as to who died and and a complete understanding of the consequences of my choice. Two would have to die. Worse. Two will have never existed at all. In a just world Anne and the kids were forever denied me.

Nor could I ever find another to replace her. My line would end with me. Any choice I made now would change the future for somebody else. I could never marry and no one would bear my children. My violence had robbed me of the privilege of ever being a father. The final victims were those two incredible kids that she and I would have created together. They were the cost. That life was the payment. Justice demanded that this not be a second chance. Just an epilogue to a life of violence.

The Architect came up behind me and put a firm hand on my younger shoulder. Don’t know why, but it was no surprise to see him here in the past. Only now did I understand the sorrow in his eyes from so very long ago. He’d been right. I had no idea where this path would really lead. Some sins can never be fixed - only redirected.

“Was it worth it?” He asked.

The best I could muster was a soft croak and a pained little grin. I had no voice. He nodded and walked away. He stopped a few paces away and turned.

“You coming?” he asked.

I was surprised but I got up and started to follow him.

In a few minutes I was able to whisper again.

“So that’s what you thought was necessary?”

He looked at me with a knowing glance which for the first time showed kindness. “No...” His voice softened. “ No, that’s what you thought was necessary. We all script our own hell. It’s the only way to get it right, I’m afraid.”

I supposed that was true.

“Where to?”

He shrugged and we walked away from that place.

“It’s not like you have anywhere else to go now, is it.”

We shared a black-humored laugh and continued on.

“Who in the bloody hell are you really? “

“Good question. Not important.”

In a few minutes she would arrive and wait for awhile. Then walk away toward a bright future with a man who had no demons to slay and no mortal sins to expunge. To a future worthy of her with a love of her life.

As for me, my plan is to take it day by day. I’ve seen the beast inside me and that’s not something I would recommend to you. I will die alone, unloved. To be forgotten by time. This invisible life is my spiritual rehab. I get up each morning, look in the mirror and swear, “Today I will not give in to the beast.”

4 comments:

  1. http://rumblingsofanoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/

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  2. Goddamn that's heartbreaking.

    Something in the text triggered a memory of a discussion, which I think in part spawned this Ellisonesque journey? "True empathy is far worse than a cage." It was a point you were making about Hell being unjust, asking the gang to describe how we would punish Hitler... and thankfully, none of us came up with something as utterly depraved as eternal damnation.

    I graciously accept your somewhat overstated description of my help. Thanks for posting it again.

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  3. Anonymous9/21/2016

    Excellent, this is sharing a folder with "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" amongst others.
    Steven C Watson

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    1. To be mentioned in the same universe as Le Guin is far greater praise than I deserve, but thanks.

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