Friday, 26 August 2011
A New Beginning.....and a new story!
After a brief semi-hiatus, when my previous laptop decided to shuffle off it's binary-code coil and fall to bytes, I'm at last back in the land of blogging!
So I thought a shiny new laptop deserves a shiny fresh blog-page. Out with the old and in with the new - a change in wallpaper; move the 'pictures' around; add a few features (take a few away!); and hopefully sort out the clutter!
A lot of the content will stay the same - this is my 'original' blog; the other offshoots have specific functions but this is where I intend to keep the bulk of my interest in fiction (writing and reading) and the various comments on life in general.
The usual regular 'Thursday @ 3' slot will remain but there may be other weekly/monthly items - those projects are largely still on a back-burner, so keep your eyes peeled.
I really want this space to be a little more organised - but I can do 'haphazard' as and when the occasion demands and if the writing bug really bites I may be gone for days....... ;-p
As the previous laptop 'died' halfway through the 'August Break' daily feature I've abandoned that for this year - but I hope to be ready for it in 2012.
In the meantime, to start off the new-improved blog here's a story! I was going to keep this for something else, but it has sat patiently in the wings (well, the 'virtual' filing cabinet, anyway) for a wee while - let's dust it off and give it an airing! (As always, I'd value your comments!)
SIX DEGREES OF REPENTENCE
He always thought back to the first one.
After 43 years none of the details had slipped his mind. The memories were neither tarnished with age nor distorted by time. He remembered as accurately as if it had happened yesterday. Every day. His waking thoughts might jostle for position but sooner or later the spectre would emerge from the wings reminding him; that look of horror etched upon her face as she slipped beneath the wheels.
He hadn’t known her, never even heard her voice, except in that last, fatal gasp. She had just become surplus to requirements, an untidy loose end that needed tying off. Over the years, he’d become very good at tidying up; at silencing unwanted voices.
Pelham Burne looked at the clock, watching as the minute hand edged closer to the hour. Aside from the music and the assembled throng he was alone with his thoughts.
No, never alone.
Always, he was accompanied by the deceit he had hidden from so many, so carefully concealed behind the lies that covered other lies.
He looked down at his hands. The dark, pigmented liver-spots and wrinkles that bore testimony to his age were like a veil that partially obscured what he saw, what he remembered. The same hands that had taken life, extinguished the flame and then covered up the deed.
So far, he had managed to suppress any inkling of his former occupation, but now it seemed time was catching up with him. Truth had a strange way of leaking out into the open, no matter how hard one tried to supress it.
Closing his eyes, he recalled the faces indelibly printed on his brain. He heard again their pleading voices, the screams, the looks of betrayal as one by one his victims stepped from the dark shadows of his mind to accuse him afresh.
When he opened his eyes the music had stopped and a hushed silence had fallen around him. He stood wearily and climbed the steps to the podium aware of the eyes upon him. Perhaps, he thought, it was only his conscience getting the better of him. He was a different man now. Things had changed since then and he’d taken on a new life, a new identity. He had repented, long ago – but, had he?
He considered the five degrees of repentance that had been instilled into him – admission, remorse, apology, restitution, and turning away.
Yes, he had admitted his past, even if only to someone who could never repeat those admissions. Remorse had followed, a great weight of sorrow that had engulfed him, denying any chance of peace. The apologies had been made, along with some endeavour of restitution, but always anonymously. Turning away had, surprisingly, been the easiest of the degrees to accomplish – perhaps the sickening stench of death that seemed to follow him was incentive to close that particular door on his life.
Now, as Burne returned his thoughts to the present, a sixth degree presented itself: forgiveness. By others, by himself. It would have been so easy to carry on living the lie but peace still eluded him because he could not seek the forgiveness that would allow him to be fully free of the past.
He rubbed his eyes and hesitated, a slight ripple of unease began within the seats before him. He thought back to the deaths he had brought about; the judicious rifle shots, the hand in the small of the back that had pushed victims to their deaths, the automobile accidents that had never been fully explained and the blood money that had been his reward.
It was almost a lifetime away and he began to argue back against himself justifying his present position. He called to mind all the good he had since been able to achieve; the homeless shelters he’d set up, the programmes to get kids off the streets and out of petty crime, the potential suicides he’d averted. It was an atonement of sorts, wasn’t it?
But was it enough?
His heart thudded in his chest as hard as if he’d been violently punched, almost knocking the breath out of him. He opened his mouth to gasp, to draw in air but his lungs refused to fill. The pressure in his chest continued; a pain that surged upwards into his shoulder racing along his left arm and he knew it was time. As his legs began to buckle beneath him he heard the consternation of the crowd, though mercifully his fading vision robbed him of their anxious faces.
Had he done enough, he fleetingly thought? Perhaps it was now too late. Perhaps, after all, being a hitman for the mob was just too much to be forgiven.
As darkness beckoned, one final question still meandered in the ebbing electrical impulses of his brain.
Would his congregation forgive him, Monsignor Pelham Burne, as readily as the God he had professed to serve?