Thing in the Confessional
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
The air in the cramped confessional was stale. Father Carmino kissed his rosary beads and placed the treasured strand over his head. "How long has it been since your last confession, my son?"
The man on the opposite side of the curtain sighed heavily. "I’ve lost count, Father. A long time."
Father Carmino shifted his weight on the stool. It would have to be repaired soon. One leg was beginning to wobble. And the seat cushion could use a little extra padding. He’d put on a few pounds over the years. "Confess your sins, and the Lord will listen."
"Will he, Father?" The voice was weary, sad almost.
Father Carmino shifted again. The man on the other side of the curtain was a pipe smoker, a blend of toasted Cavendish, Golden Virginia and aged Burley. Maybe a hint of Perique, rich, dark, woodsy with oriental undercurrents, sweet cherry, vanilla, prune. Such sweet memories. "Yes. The Lord hears all, my son."
The man on the other side sighed. "I have killed a man, Father."
Father Carmino grasped the pendant hanging from his rosary, a silver cross inlayed with gold. It was cold to the touch.
"And," the man continued, "I must kill again."
Father Carmino heard the breath leave his lungs in an audible whoosh, felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. Pulling the air back into his lungs, he tried to compose himself. "My son," he spoke in a breathless whisper. "You must reconsider. This is . . . is a mortal sin. What has this person done that you would want to take his life?"
"He has committed a most horrendous sin, Father. He has spent his entire miserable life worshiping a God that doesn’t exist, has given his heart, his very soul to a false deity. Such a waste. Pathetic. So very pathetic."
There was motion in the cubicle on the opposite side and the curtain was snatched open. Father Carmino squealed in surprise as he almost toppled on the unsteady stool.
He was tall, his hair dark, his skin fair. He appeared distinguished dressed as he was, a long cape draped upon his shoulders. "Behold a real God," he proclaimed. "Kneel before a true king. Kneel and confess, confess that you have wasted your pathetic life," he sneered. "And then maybe, maybe I will be lenient."
Father Camino found his breath at last, gasping as the rosary snapped in his death grip. The beads scattered loudly along the tiled floor.
The tall distinguished man frowned. "Just as well," he said. "I will make you a better one, one more. . .appropriate." He grinned then, and Father Carmino caught sight of them, the cuspids that were much too long, tapering to fine deadly points.
He still clutched the pendant in his sweaty palm. With a frightened moan, he thrust the cross toward the dark figure, a small protective barrier. His hand trembled terribly.
The man rolled his eyes. "Have you not heard a word I’ve spoken, you pathetic imbecile? There is no one here to protect you," he said, motioning with his arms to suggest the room and beyond. The cape spread wide as he gestured bringing to mind a large bat. "I am going to rip your entrails free, am going to wrap them about your neck, and no one, no one is going to stop me. Will you call to your God for mercy, Father? Yes," he said, running dark eyes disdainfully down his length. "Your last words on this earth will be screams to a God who owns no ears. Kneel before me, Father. I have ears, as you can well see. I am greater than any God that you could conjure. I have been since the beginning of time and I will continue to be when time ends. Plead to me. Plead to me for mercy."
Father Carmino’s arm collapsed to his side, the small cross falling to the tile, a tiny tinny clink. His plump face contorted, scrunching into a wrinkled mass and a sob exploded, loud, uninhibited, one wrenched from someplace very deep. He stood up, and the seat that had supported him for twenty years toppled, the loose leg coming free at last to clatter on cold tile. Still sobbing, he collapsed down to his knees.
"That’s it," the thing spoke. "You’re doing well, Father. Calm yourself. You can do this."
His shoulders hitched in one final sob before he composed himself enough to peer up into the face of the thing that called itself a God. It seemed to tower so terribly tall, its shoulders thrown back in proud defiance. Dark demented eyes glowed in anticipation.
With one last shuddering sniffle, Father Carmino steepled his fingers in front of his face, watching as the thing held its breath in earnest anticipation. Looking away from the eager eyes, he cast his glance toward the heavens. "Dear God, forgive this sinner," he breathed.
A guttural growl rumbled forth as the creature lunged toward him, its hands fashioned into deadly claws. And then the claws were flailing at air, the arms flapping as it tried to catch itself. The rosary beads, slick as marbles beneath his leather soles, took his feet out from under him and he hit the floor with a grunt of surprise, hit so hard on the flat of his back that the Father felt the impact beneath his own soles.
Father Carmino needed no further sign. Moving as if he’d lost thirty pounds and thirty years, he sprang to his feet and snatched up the broken stool leg and drove it into the creatures chest, drove it deep with the strength of a thousand men, until it bottomed out on the tile floor beneath the pathetic writhing creature that was hissing, hissing like a serpent spewed up from the depths of hell. Its legs were thrashing as if it meant to run from a death it never saw coming. It grasped the wooden pole as if to wrench it free.
Father Carmino backed slowly away, looking down upon the horrific scene. "My son, the Lord is listening," he spoke in a voice so strong and steady. "There is still time. Ask for forgiveness. Repent. The Lord Almighty is merciful. Quickly! There is no penance in the bottomless pit that is Hell."
The creature ceased its thrashing, hands like talons gripping tightly to the stool-leg stake. Dark angry eyes slithered around the room until they happened upon the Father. "Bite me," it hissed, and then it spoke no more. Its head fell limp. Its hands held firm, would hold firm until Father Carmino so chose to pry them free.
Father Carmino had an ugly desire to laugh at his choice of words. But he dared not laugh in the wake of the evil that had just unfurled its foul wings in the house of the Lord. A soul had been surrendered to darkness. There was no tragedy greater. A soul was a precious thing. So very precious. He sighed wistfully, feeling a sense of longing for something he had lost so long ago. So very, very long.
He studied the wretched creature. Laid out flat on the floor, he seemed thinner than at first he’d thought, frail almost. That was a shame. And the cape fanned out about him was not as impressive as it should have been, only a simple costume cape.
Moving closer, he knelt beside him and gingerly closed the eyelids. Then, reaching a finger into his mouth, he pried out the false teeth, casting them aside.
He’d given him every chance, every chance to save himself. The fool. So simple minded, these mortal men.
His eyes were drawn to the soft curve of his neck.
The smell of fresh blood was strong. It was ravaging his senses, caressing him like a tender lover, caressing so sweetly, the warm sensual scent drawing him closer and closer to a much anticipated embrace. His lids fluttered as he wet his lips. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head. "Dear Lord," he breathed, "thank you for this meal."
Swooping in, he sank his teeth into the tender flesh.