Altarcation

Father Matthews impatiently scrolls through last year’s Christmas concert photos on his phone. The blue light from his device reflects off his clerical collar, dimly illuminating the confined confessional closet walls. Light rainfall can be heard trickling off the church roof onto the sidewalk outside. A collection of altar boys change the pace of his scrolling as he nervously pauses listening for the presence of another. Not a peep from the pews, he eagerly zooms in while his pupils dilate against the brightness like a reflecting pool at the shallowest depth of an abandoned wishing well. Abruptly, the church doors open. Father Matthews fumbles his phone to the ground; it audibly bounces on one corner eventually landing flat, screen down. Embarrassed, he twiddles his thumbs awaiting the first confession penitent. As the door closes behind them, drops of water crash onto the service room floor. They’re still. Father Matthews stool creaks as he readjusts his seating position. Finally, the footsteps slog forward bit by bit. Eventually making their way to the confession booth, Father Matthews can barely make out what seems to be a small child’s bare feet outside the red curtain draped over the parishioner’s entrance. They wait; wet and cold, sporting and a pale blue complexion. Drops of water fall from their shivering chin echoing through the vacant chapel. They enter.

Silence resides from both parties as Father Matthews awaits the child’s plea for forgiveness. There’s nothing. The quiet hovers overhead, it’s deafening; unfair even. Father Matthews starts to take a breath about to address the child as they promptly begin sobbing.

“Speak, child,” Father Matthews starts.

“Forgive me Father,” he whimpers in pain.

“Proverbs 28:13 tells us whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy,” Father Matthew recites.

“Confess, and you’ll find mercy,” he commands.

“You first,” the boy’s tone shifts as he begins to snicker.

A thick bubbling mixture of blood and fecal matter begin to ooze between the cracks of the confessional partition. The boiling excretion eats through the faded wood panelling underneath Father Matthews feet as his phone vibrates wildly. Reaching for his mobile device the boy on the screen menacingly cackles as he warps into that of demonic proportions. His screen shatters, shooting glass shards into his eye sockets and neck.

An overwhelming sense of panic takes over Father Matthews while he pulls his feet up from the vanishing floorboards. Reaching blindly around him, the vulgar concoction singes his hand and continues devouring the flesh making its way slowly up his arm as he begins to beg for help.

“Help! Somebody,” he screams.

In aims to stay alive, he carefully lowers one foot towards the floor. Immediately, the rubber sole of his shoe smolders adding the stench of burnt rubber to the already unbearable aroma.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” he begins to pray.

His stool creaks as the structure begins to crumble around him. He quickly shuffles to the furthest edge of the booth bringing his knees to his chest and resting his head against the wall.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” he continues between spouts of crying.

The boy continues to heckle the priest’s anguish and sorrow laughing at his despair.

“Enough!” Father Matthews shouts.

Barreling both feet through the remaining wall of the booth he crashes through the other side hastily pulling himself through. Landing face first onto the cobblestone service room floor he turns in pain underneath the stained glass portrait of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

Outside, the storm passes and although Father Matthews has been blinded, he can feel the warmth from the sun shimmering off the blood dawned upon his cheeks. The antagonizing simmer of flesh eating sludge fades as it descends into Hell through the pit it created. Grateful to be shown mercy, he takes a breath in coughing as he exhales. The phone from his office begins to ring.

Picking himself up, he wraps the remainder of his sleeve around the open ended limb that once was his right arm. The insufferable pain brings him to his knees as the wound squelches against the gritty fiber and rotted flesh. Nauseous, he rests his forehead on a pew bench vomiting profusely onto the floor. The answering machine from his office picks up.

“Father Matthews?” a woman questions, seemingly distraught.

“It’s Diane, Samuel’s mother,” she states.

Father Matthews lifts his chin in terror.

“He killed himself last night,” she says, barely keeping herself together.

Father Matthews acknowledges the irreversible damage he has done as his tears pool alongside his chunder in a pattern that imitates the evil and ugliness of an early painting by Adolf Hitler.

“Did he say anything to you during choir practice last night? Please, give me a call when you can. Bless you Father,” she concludes.

“I’m sorry,” he begins to apologize.

“Forgive me, Father,” he pleads.

His office phone rings once more. Each ring pokes further into him as he continues a blubbering mess surrounded by unoccupied pews. Voicemail picks up.

“Hi, Father Matthews? This is Father Jefferies from Second Light Ministries, I’m calling to let you know that your transfer request has been accepted. Let us know when you can start, I know moving can be quite the task but it seems by now you must be a professional. Eight different congregations in the last decade alone? Impressive. We’re eager to serve beside you, blessings to you Father,” he finishes.

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

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