Friday, June 25, 2010

week eleven: god and the noose*

“You look into my eyes and you see a man. You see a man with bags under his eyes because he can't sleep anymore. You see a man who doesn't shave unless he feels like it. You see a man covered in tattoos and scars from God-knows-where. You see a man locked away and dressed in orange. You see a prisoner trapped in a damp and lonely cell and you feel no sympathy for him. He must not have a soul because of what he did and he deserves what he's getting. That's what you see when you look into my eyes. You see my tears and you assume things about them. You assume they're tears of fear for my fate yet to come.

“But you are so wrong.

“I look into my eyes and I don't see a man. I see a boy. This boy misses the days when he could be outside to play free and do what he wants. He never got the chance to really grow up. A long time ago, he made a mistake, a terrible mistake and now he has to pay for it with his life. He's there right now, looking in the mirror into his own eyes. He sees something that may be worth saving. But why don't they see it? Why can't they see that I'm a human being? I'm sorry for what I did! I'm not a monster, just a man who screwed up.”

Father Heller straightened his glasses and drew in a deep breath before he replied, “I don't see you as a monster; I see you as someone who needs help from God. Take His hand, Arthur, and offer repentance, and he will stay his judgment. You have a chance now.”

“There is no god, father.”

“But of course there is. He made me and He made you.”

“He made me? Ha, I don't think a pure god like the one you talk about would make a psychopath like me.”

“God knows you made a mistake, child, but He is willing to forgive you. I have made mistakes, too I-”

“What, you and the alter boys, then?”

Father Heller rolled his eyes, “No, not like that, my child. I think you know what I mean.”

“Look, I'm not doing it, I'm not saying any prayer or nothing. It's a lost cause, so don't bother.”

Father Heller looked at his watch and realized how much time he had, “Would you prefer to talk about something else?”

“Like what, how the food sucks here?”

“If you would rather, we could discuss the weather.”

“Pfft, is that all you priests talk about? God and the weather?”

“Sometimes we talk about sports.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You don't seem frightened at all.”

“And why should I be afraid? I've been afraid my whole life. That's why I think I did it; because I was afraid. After I did, that's when my life was over. It's not ending today, it's just... I don't know.”

“I think you are afraid, Arthur, you're just too afraid to admit it.”

“In a place like this, it takes a lot more than rope to scare me.”

“But it's so much more than rope, Arth-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's eternal damnation and hellfire and-”

“That's not really what I meant,” Father Heller chuckled. “I meant that there will be witnesses, including myself. I'll be there to pray for you.”

“Save your breath.”

“Since it is your belief not to pray, then don't. It is, however, my belief to pray and I will. I would hope that you have sense to respect that.”


“You're a difficult one.”

“Yeah? You think you know me? What else do you know about me?”

“I know that you're intelligent. I know that you're stubborn. And I know that you need guidance.”

“And you're going to give it to me?”

“I also know that you're afraid.”

“Ugh, you and that 'afraid' thing. For the last time, I'm not afraid of dying.”

“Maybe not; maybe you're afraid of something else. If you weren't afraid, then why are you shaking?”

“You would be too if you were headed straight to the gallows.”

“If it's not fear, then what is it?”

“God, I don't know. I don't know anything at all.”

Father Heller stands up and places his hand on the inmate, “If you won't seek comfort from God, then might I offer my own comfort?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I wish it wasn't the case, but your death is near. It will be quick and it will be over soon. If you're right about your beliefs, then misery will be over soon for you.”

The guards open the cell and pick up the inmate by the arms, “Come on, it's time,” they say.

“Oh, God, oh God, oh God! No, no, no! I don't want it!”

Father Heller follows them and says, “There is still time, Arthur, God loves you!”

“If God loved me, he would save my life now!”

“And he will! He waits for you in His Kingdom.”

“His Kingdom is as much of a lie as this life!”

“If this life is a lie, then why do you fear for it?”

“I don't know! Oh, God! Oh! No, no!” They cover his head and put his neck in the noose. “No!”

Father Heller closes his eyes and recites the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is My shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen”

When he finishes, the warden asks of the damned, “Are there any last words from the accused?”

There is a silence. Nothing happens. Everyone shares an uneasy glance. But suddenly, it's shattered by the inmate's muffled cries, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned! Hallowed be Thy name! Let Thy Kingdom come and take my soul into Your hands!” The executioner pulls the lever and down the condemned goes. His neck snaps as he throbs and kicks furiously. It stops and his body hangs, but his soul is departed.

Father Heller feels remorse, but also a glimmer of joy, for he believes that the inmate rests forever in heaven. The prison warden asks of Father Heller, “Looks like you really got to that one, eh, Father?”

“No,” Heller says, “He got to me.”

**A second-draft remake will be posted as some point in the following weeks!


  1. Nice one!
    But maybe you should've developed "he got to me" a little more in the story. I didn't get the impression the priest was very moved. Maybe it's just me though.
    Still, great stuff.

  2. I like the opening monologue a lot. I think your writing has already improved a great deal.

    Speaking of the opening monologue, it is a complete contrast from the prisoner's discussion that follows. E.g., after a moving explanation that he is only a man that made an irrevocable mistake as a child, he gripes to the priest, "I don't think a pure god like the one you talk about would make a psychopath like me." This testimony seems completely incongruous with what the prisoner just said about himself. In other words, he undergoes a sudden personality shift that throws off the intro to the story.

    I'll be honest, this story is borderline cliche, but you pulled it off nicely. I like the end, but the person above made a good point.

    Father "Heller" <<< Nice

  3. The rewrite is complete. I like the final product a lot better!