Requiem- Short Story
The mahogany doors of the church swing open with a creaking grace and I feel the familiar mustiness descend upon me like an old and once-loved blanket from early childhood.
It’s strange to be back in a place far past from where I am now, and I gaze up at the high ceilings where dead souls still flicker amidst bright bulbs.
I’m gripped by a wracking cough and my hand tightens on the pistol hidden in the pocket of my trench coat; I can’t wait to finally let go of it.
The chorus swells all around me and the congregation finally notices me from the cough. They turn back to the singers and I shuffle to an empty pew in the back.
The service is mind-numbing and I can’t stay focused on the words coming from the pastor’s mouth, yet I can’t fall asleep either; the cold metal burning an imprint into my hand is too distracting.
I’ve had the safety off for far too long.
I’m caught in a sort of insomnia in the back pew, drifting in and out of the real world, ignoring the hymns and the preaching until it’s time for Communion. I stand, zombie-like and with difficulty, to join the line stretching to the front.
I make sure to be last in line, as my unkempt and slightly trashy figure might upset those more properly dressed in front of me.
Finally all that lies between me and the priest holding the Body of Christ and the altar boy grasping His Blood is an old, blue-haired lady, one that you wouldn’t have expected to be able to make it out of her front door without help, let alone to church.
The octogenerian passes me by and the gun nearly explodes out of my pocket.
It’s only got one bullet.
The priest begins to notice who I am, who I once was buried beneath a hard and desperate character. My lungs hack out another deep cough, right into the priest’s face; he barely flinches as spittle lands on his face.
Resignation is deeply etched into his face; he stares unblinkingly into my tired eyes.
He nods to the altar boy and the kid takes the Body from the priest’s hands and scurries off. The pastor turns sharply and I follow him to the back.
The area behind the preaching pedestal is cool and quiet, yet still musty and as delicate as a dark, wooden web.
The priest and I talk for a while, and I tell him why I’m here. He shows no outward signs of discomfort, yet what I’m saying is enough to disturb even the most battle-hardened soldier fresh from service. As my final proposal is thrown upon the table, we fall into silence. Before long, he steeples his fingers and opens his mouth to speak.
I can hear the finality in his tone before he even says anything.
“if that’s what you’ve got to do, then do it. But not in the church. Don’t burden us with your pain.”
“Burden?” My voice is cold and steely, much like the gun in my pocket, and the priest begins to sweat. He has no way of knowing how many bullets I have.
“Don’t worry, preacher.” For the first time in weeks I smile and feel my chapped lips crack and run with blood. “One person’s gonna die tonight, and only one. I’ll let you know if it’s your time.”
He closes his eyes in fear, and with a swish of my coat I leave the room, walking quickly to the back door, behind the church.
Who art in heaven.
I close the door behind me and slide down it to rest on the steps. I cradle my head with the cold steel still clutched in my sweaty hand.
Hallowed be thy name.
For the first time in three weeks, I can remember my name.
Don’t do this, Keith.
I remember my brother’s words.
Thy kingdom come.
And now the answer to his plea comes crystal-clear and the single bullet is destined for only one brain.
Thy will be done.
I slide the barrel into my mouth, glad that the safety’s still off.
A sinking ship is filled with sailors thinking of themselves.