“Padre, I have sinned.”
The aging Priest, in his younger days, would have been very eager to hear the repenting sinner spill forth his sins and he would have administered the blessing of forgiveness on him/her. Decades of listening to hundreds of men and women coming to confess their sins to God through him had however taught him a few things.
One, man will never freely confess his sins to a fellow man – priest or not.
Two, man can only freely let go of all internal restraint when he truly feels he is pouring his mind out to God, and not a man.
Three, sometimes, the feeling of freedom obtained from having poured out one’s mind is the forgiveness being sought.
But the one problem had been how to make the confessing sinner feel he/she was before God. It had taken him over five years of listening to confessions to discover that all that was needed to make them feel truly before God was a quiet Priest with the kindest, most understanding expression. Simply: be there, listen, say nothing, and smile.
He had practiced this for the next forty years of his Priestly duties and it had worked like a potent spell. He had heard men confess to the most damning of evils and had seen them leave with heaven on their faces. It was pure joy to behold a sinner become a saint. It was heavenly.
But there was something about the man in red and black hood before him that made him stand out as different. The tone in which he had said “I have sinned” was clearly one of glee.
Nonetheless, the old Priest settled into his role. The smile and the silence.
The silence was into its third minute when the hooded man spoke.
“What? You don’t seem to want to hear?” it was an accusation rather than an inquiry.
The Priest blinked rapidly and made to speak. He was interrupted.
“Oh wait. You’ve heard them all, right? There is no new sin under the heavens? Is that what you think this is about?”
The hooded sinner had broken into a roar of a laughter that bounced through the padded confession cubicle and disappeared into the floor.
“No, Padre. My sin is different. I didn’t sin under the heaven. Well, not this time.”
He fell silent, letting his words sink.
They did, but the Priest didn’t make much sense of it.
“I don’t understand, my son. What is this about?”
He heard the slight tremor in the Priest’s voice and he knew he had put him where he wanted him to be.
“Ok. I don’t know where to start. But you have surely read about my first sin. Well, you have read about the second too, but you wouldn’t know I did it. Oh, you have read how God sinned against me?”
The Priest’s face lit up. Raw fear.
“God doesn’t sin!” It was a reflex response. He was a Priest of God Most High and he had been defending God before men for each day of his fifty years in God’s service.
“Yeah right,” it was clearly a sarcastic response. “He banished me! I was his creation! He banished his creation!” There was a glint like the edge of a silver blade catching and bouncing off the rays of sunlight in his eyes.
“What are you? The Devil?” There was strength in the Priest’s voice.
He erupted into laughter. A complete maniac.
“Are you OK?”
“No, Padre. I am not OK. I am Cain. First born of Adam. First grandson of God.”
The Priest recoiled as though he had been hit by a horsewhip when the man before him threw back his hood. There it was. On his forehead. A glowing pentagram. Glowing red, with the demarcating lines in black.
“The mark of Cain.” He didn’t know when the words escaped his lips. He had seen the mark in a renaissance painting. He was on his feet on impulse.
He didn’t shout the command. It was said through gritted teeth. There was pain in his voice. It seemed the glow was the cause as he when he covered it again, he sighed and the pain was gone as he said:
“I have killed Him!”
The Priest didn’t need to ask. The capitalization of the ‘H’ was clearly shown in his voice.
“How is that possible? God can’t – can’t …”
“When I took the first human life, that day I knew inside of me what I could do. He had made man like Himself. I was the first killer of gods. I had the power of death over gods and God. But I could only kill Him if I could see Him. Then I had met Lamech. He was a beast. Another killer. He killed without cause. I had a reason. He killed me, despite the Mark on me. It was a relief, though. I was sick of the Punishment. Damn, I was angry and jealous and killed my brother. God gave me the power to be angry, to be jealous, to kill! Why should He punish me!”
He had said the last statement as no question. His eyes were pure hatred.
“After death, he banished me for eight nights! Eight! Then, in Hades, where I was banished to, I heard he was living on earth. In the guise of a Carpenter. So, I broke out. Heck! I was made to pioneer great things. I was the first to break out of Hades. But really, God should have been a Shepherd! Isn’t that what He wanted all of us to be? Isn’t that why He took Abel’s sheep and cattle and left my crops, lonely and rotting on the altar? So, I broke out of Hades and found Him. And I killed Him! I had Him hung! It was beautiful! B-E-A-U-TIFUL! But then, in less than a second, He rose! And I ran. For two days now, I have been on the run. No place would take me. Not Hell, not Hades, nowhere. I want closure once and for all. I have come here to His house to beg Him. I want His forgiveness! I can’t stand a banishing again!”
As he spoke the last words, his hand shot through the dividing, perforated plywood panel and grabbed the Priest by the neck. His were not hands. They were steely and cold. Like death.
“He shall forgive me or I shall kill again!”
* * *
“Father! What is it? What is the matter?”
The old Priest was choking when he opened his eyes. He was sitting on a front row pew and was surrounded by three younger priests. There was concern on their faces.
“Do you need water?”
He raised his hand in protest.
“No. it was a dream. It was just a dream. Terrible.”
There was a wetness in his pants under his cassock.
He stood up and hurried to the altar. He knelt before the crucifix there. It was one of the two crucifixes inside the chapel. The other was at the entrance. The two were symmetrically opposite. The other priests knelt beside him and all four clutched their rosaries as they prayed.
“Hail Mary full of grace…”
“Padre!’ A voice broke the solemn air in the chapel. It was a man, he was standing by the door, gazing at the big crucifix there. A smile could be seen on what was visible of his face. The rest, with his head, was covered in a large, black and red hood.
“Jesus!” The Padre gasped, recognition lighting up his aged face in great fear.
“No, Padre. I have told you before, I am Cain!” He said as he strode swiftly and purposefully to the kneeling priests.
Written By: Akintunde Aiki