Some of my ideas for vignettes are sparked by Tweeter discussions. At some point near the end of last year, I not only decided to write more but to keep better track of my writing ideas with notes, screen caps, sketches, whatever it takes to solidify my story ideas long enough to get them written. It’s working very well. The following is an example of that, and the idea originated from this.
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She entered the confessional and sat down, wrinkling her nose at the heavy perfume from the previous occupant, an older woman that had taken twenty minutes to spell out her every transgression. The line behind her was mostly, if not entirely, composed of women. There was something inexplicable about Father Healy that inspired trust. Something about his voice that made her tell him everything, the way she’d been doing for a few weeks now.
There was nothing about the cross outside that made her feel a single thing. Nothing depicted on the stained glass windows, nothing she had heard when she’d been a young girl and her father had dragged her to church, where she sat and watched girls from her class bow down and pretend they were good when the following day they would tell her terrible things, cruel things about her clothes, her hair, her glasses. She had no faith in the building, but what else could she do? She had to tell someone.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”
She heard a quiet gasp at the other side of the latticed opening, and then silence. She knew he was there. She could smell him.
“Father Healy? Are you there? I know you’re there.”
She heard a sigh, and then he cleared his throat, his only acknowledgment. It was enough for her.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a week since my last confession.”
There was another sigh before she heard him speak again. “My child, I’m no longer sure I can help you. The things you say to me don’t seem like real sins-”
“Father, how can you say that? I’ve come here for help. There’s no one else that can help me! Please, just listen. I need help.”
“Of that I’m convinced… but I’m not sure I’m the right person-”
“I’m here because you are the conduit to God. He or She has to know I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done. I am!”
After a brief silence, the priest only whispered the quietest, “go on.”
“Yes, Father. My sins are numerous. I’ve been absolved of all, but I still feel terrible every time it happens again.”
“Child, do you mean to tell me it’s happened again?”
Tears started rolling down her cheeks, and she nodded, hoping he could see her from the darkness of his half of the confessional. He must have, given what he said next.
“Then I can’t absolve you of your sins. You have to show honest contrition, and if you continue to commit the same sin, then you are not sorry. I’m afraid I can’t listen to this anymore. Please leave, my child. May God be with you. And… if you could call my office later, I can give you the number of a psychiatrist friend of mine. He might be-”
“I AM SORRY!” She was shouting now, and she was sure the entire church’s occupants could hear her. She didn’t care. “I’m sorry for every single one of them! I never meant for any of it to happen! But they are all so fragile, Father. So small and delicate. I know, I just know I haven’t found the right one. As soon as I find the right one, I can stop looking. I can stop hurting them!”
“Stop calling me ‘child’. My name is Emily. We went to school together, Michael. We sat together in class. We were never friends, and you never said a kind word to me then. You’ve listened to me now. Help me. No one else can, I’m sure of it.”
“Okay, okay. Emily. Lower your voice; you’re in the house of God.”
It was her turn to sigh. She took a couple of deep breaths and started talking again. This time she brought her face to the window and whispered words like they were corkscrews scraping her throat on their way out.
“I killed another one.”
“You’ve been drinking.”
“I know, I’m sorry. I can’t face it otherwise. It’s so horrible.”
“Emily, I’m sorry for the way you were treated when we were in school, but I was never mean to you. I want you to get the help you need.”
“I brought his body. I know you think I’m crazy, but I brought his remains. This happened last night, so they haven’t spoiled yet. The other ones were simply too rotten to recognize. Most of it I had to leave on the dancing floor, but his head is intact, and-”
“Jesus Christ. Emily!”
She reached into her purse and pulled out something that sounded like plastic. He couldn’t help but turn his head and peer down past her delicate, anguished features, and look at the dark coagulate contained in a small sandwich bag. Despite his every instinct, he felt the sting of curiosity. After weeks of listening to different versions of the same confession, he wondered how far this clearly insane woman would go to substantiate her mad claims. Her “sins”.
“See?” She brought the bag to the window, and he stared at it. He told himself that whatever he saw was a clever manipulation, but it looked real. Whatever material she had used to create the mostly unrecognizable crimson mass, the broken bones were exquisitely carved, as was the tiny face. He’d seen his fair share of dead people, and this one was a convincing facsimile of one.
“Yes, I see. Go on, Emily. Tell me what happened.”
“This power, Father Healy, this power I have, I can’t control it. I’m trying, and I’ve gotten better, but last night I was so drunk. So drunk. I was trying to forget the rest of them, in particular the one I shrank last, the UPS guy, remember him?”
She ignored him and went on, taking breaks to drink something from a flask he was sure did not contain water. “He was the one that brought the treadmill I ordered up the steps… and his hair was red, and I don’t like redheads, but his legs, father… he was wearing those brown shorts, and I asked him to bring in the large boxes, and when I saw those calves stretch and flex as he moved… I had to touch him. I thought he was the one. He looked so strong! But then, after I touched his shoulder, he disappeared into his clothes, and when I found him, he started screaming, and wouldn’t stop!
And then I tried to calm him down with sex, and I was so gentle, Father. So careful! I held him so sweetly and brought him between my legs, and pressed him into me, pretending he was made of petals or glass… but I’ve told you how it gets when- when I get close. I lose control, and I was looking down at him the whole time, and he seemed calm. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be sleeping. But then I got closer and closer, and I shut my eyes, and I don’t even know when it happened, but after I came once I had to do it again, and then I just couldn’t stop myself. After the last time, I finally saw that nothing was left of him but a smear.
I was so sorry, Father. I cried so hard. I cried all week. When police officers came by the house to ask me about him I still had his hand truck in my basement, but they didn’t come back to do a thorough search. I’m a woman, and my record was expunged, and there was no body to find anyway…”
“Emily, for God’s sake!”
“And last night I wanted to be good, Father. I thought being out in public would help, so I went dancing with my friends. But then I started drinking so I would not be as horny, but I saw him, Father. He was so hot I just melted right then and there. I wanted to fuck him right there on the dance floor. So we danced, but I never touched him. I swear I kept my hands to myself! But he touched me, Father. He went right for the money, right on the dance floor, right in front of everyone. I reached for his hand to get him to stop, and he shrank. I didn’t meant to, I swear! You have to believe me. And there was a guy dancing next to us that stomped right on his pile of clothes. He tripped and fell, which made me laugh… but then I picked up his clothes to look for him, and this is what I found.”
“This… you mean this glob of corn syrup and red No. 40?”
“Father, this is a human body.”
“Emily, you need help.”
“Father, I’m sorry for my sin. Give me forgiveness. Give me absolution.”
“I can’t do that, Emily. I need you to get real help.”
“Father, I want God’s forgiveness! Please!”
“Emily, listen to me-”
Emily wasn’t listening. She made a fist, a tight coil of her fingers and thumb, and she drove it like a battering ram through the lattice that separated her from her old classmate. He drew away in surprise, but there was nowhere for him to go. Her hand closed around his wrist as he pulled it close to his face, trying to shield it from what he assumed was a drunken attack. He felt it right away, the plunging darkness that was worse than anything he’d ever felt, the swirl of space that was no longer what it had been a second ago, and the heavy downpour of his robe, no longer his size. Then the skies thundered with a voice he knew but had never known.
“Let me show you, Michael. You’ll see I wasn’t lying. And you’ll forgive me, won’t you? You’ll forgive everything I do because I truly am sorry. You’re strong, aren’t you? All those years of soccer, then the army. Yes, Michael; I think you’ll make it. I think you’ll tell God I’m sorry.”