D. J. Doyle - Sinners (short story)
Sinners by D.J. Doyle
Now, on my deathbed, I hear them; waiting. I see them move in the shadows, lurking through the darkness. Etching away at my guilt. They await my soul to hunt and claim as their own, to torment for eternity. To drag my spirit to their furnace, not to the land of the gods nor the pits of the underworld, but to the in-between. To burn perpetually with blister upon blister as the charred flesh melts away into the abyss. I know why they’re here, why they hunt me, why do they wait for the dead. They are known as the Slaugh, the dead sinners. We grew up fearing the tales of these creepers. Some laughed, saying it was just folklore, I was one of those fools. Now, at seventy-nine, I thought I would meet my maker, but that is not the case. I will be hunted by the Slaugh, and all because I am a sinner, too.
It happened many years ago, I hit him, it was me who took his life. It was me who hid the body. It was me who decided not to call an ambulance. I sped along the country road trying to get home to my wife, I’d also had too much to drink. My alcohol level was seven times over the legal limit and the tiredness hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d driven it many times in the same condition.
It was a Friday, like any other, and my colleagues persuaded me to have a drink after work.
“C’mon, Jimmy, just come with us for one pint. Just one.”
We sat and talked, sometimes about our asshole boss, and ended the night slurring and laughing at someone falling asleep on their stool. Again, a typical Friday. I said my goodbyes and wobbled to the car. If a cop came along, I knew I could walk in a straight line. Well, that’s what I thought at the time. There were no breath-testers back then. My key found the ignition and glided in before the roar of the engine gave me a second wind. With the window down, the cold Autumn breeze circulated in the car, and ruffled through the embarrassing comb-over I once had.
As he walked along the side of the road, in all black, he stumbled a little. Right at that very moment in time, that split second, I looked in my rear-view. If I had checked the mirror a minute before or after, he would still be alive. I saw his head turn as the lights hit his vision, his eyes widened in shock and glimmered like a cat’s. His body mounted the hood and his head pummelled into the windscreen, smashing a circle-shaped mess right in the middle which extended to every corner like lightning. Blood filled the cracks and seeped through, dripping on the dash. I put my foot to the floor and the car screeched to a halt. A strong smell of burning rubber filled the car and clogged my nostrils.
With trembling hands, I wiped my eyes and rubbed my face in disbelieve. A long-sounding creak echoed in the night as I opened the car door and placed my foot on the gravel of glass; it scratched the tar on the road.
In the dark, the figure of the mass in the middle of the road looked to be moving and groaning. My pace quickened, he was still alive. I knelt beside him and turned him from his side onto his back. Dark red blood spit from his mouth.
“Help me, please!” he begged.
What could I do? If I had gotten help, they would have known it was me who ran him over. He passed out again. This was my chance. I gripped under his arms and dragged him along the ground over towards the dense trees and bushes. Through the woods I pulled him for two hundred yards, at least. A large hedge with a massive underground was too tempting. I pulled his body alongside it and rolled him under into the thicket, making sure he was faced down into the dirt. I gathered a much loose shrubbery as I could and covered the gap between the leaves and the body. He wasn’t dead yet, but I know he would be soon enough. Guilt wrapped my soul and smothered it, but I wasn’t going to prison to be somebody’s bitch.
I drove him and parked the car around the back of the house, then removed the windscreen and used the winter cover for the car. Birds chirped in the trees close by, it was time for bed, my body and brain needed sleep.
I woke a few hours later with a sore head, dry mouth, and a crushed soul. A loud bang on the door made me spring from the bed, my heart vibrated against my ribs at the speed of sound. I thought they’d found me.
My wife was already up and had made breakfast. Like every Saturday morning, the boys were at their games so I knew it wasn’t them.
“Jimmy, dear. Are you up?”
I answered with a groan.
“It’s Frank from next door. Their boy, Luke, didn’t come home last night. Did you see him when you were out?”
Yes, that’s right, I had killed my neighbour’s son and covered it up. I’d watched Luke grow up from a quiet boy to a young man. And now they’ll probably never see him again. Not in one piece anyway. If the body was ever discovered, the animals and the elements would have done a good enough job to not tie it back to me or my car.
“No Tricia, I didn’t see him at all.”
If I was attached to a lie detector, the graph would be fluctuating up and down like it was on speed. Visions of a five-year-old Luke cycling by, a twelve-year-old building a go-cart, and a teenager kissing his girlfriend goodnight. I let my friends believed their son just disappeared, that he might have done himself in or fell and hurt himself somewhere. They did a search of the area, but nothing turned up. A mate of mine brought a windshield over and replaced it within an hour. I cleaned the car and banged out the one big dent on the bonnet. All done.
They never found his body, and, on my bed, I’ve felt the need to tell my wife of my crime, my cover up. I pondered on it for many days and the Slaugh stretched their limbs as shadows grew. Their moans became louder and fear consumed me. I knew I was nearer death, so decided against hurting my wife, I’d rather die with a heavy soul. The Slaugh would still come whether I confessed or not.
A change in breath patterns was a clear sign I only had minutes to live as the ebb and flow of air slowed like the sea on a calm day. It was then I saw their eyes through the slit of my lids, the blackness, the torment, and the yearning. They yearned to take me.
Tricia squeezed my hand, I felt the softness of her skin from her daily routine of rubbing baby oil all over herself. Hairs on my head were caressed, it had to be my eldest son. He’s done that since he was two. He’d sit on my shoulder and stroke my head.
A bright light flashed in my vision. I saw myself at five-years-old playing ball with my dad...driving my first car...walking down the aisle with Tricia…holding my first born. All significant times in my life. Luke’s face as I was about to hit him. The images froze there, his face imprinted on my vision like the negative of a photograph. Darkness bled into the brightness in the shape of hands. It was time.
I looked over my family as they sat around the empty vessel. Shards of black glass shot up from the ground, surrounding me, slicing me. I yelled as they ripped through me like a hot knife through butter. Excruciating pain enveloped me as I oozed a black mass which was grabbed by the Slaugh. They scrapped and tugged at me, dragging my black soul out. It burned intently, like I’d been doused in fuel and set alight. They pulled it in all directions with a murmur of ecstasy. I’d committed a terrible crime, and they were here to make sure I paid the price.
As the blackness was removed an inner bright light was exposed, maybe I had a chance of redemption after all. It felt like an angel within filled with goodness. I wanted it to go up, up into the bright sky. One of the Slaugh reach into my chest and snatched the light. It held it like a crystal ball, twirling it around, blackening the outside. The brightness dimmed and spread within the globe until there was no light left. In one final swoop, they ripped me from the entity I was which dispersed into thin air, and heaved my sinned soul into the abyss. They piled on me and tore at the black mass that remained but I was unable to scream in agony. It was all part of the torment, to sense every infliction yet not able to scream through it. This was my perpetual torture… and I deserved it.
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About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”