I gasped, the abrupt coolness of the hardwood floor tingling down my back. I leapt to my feet in a discombobulated frenzy. My panicked scuffling echoed across the colossal, empty expanse. I braced myself on a table nearby to assist my balance, allowing my mind to be occupied with other matters aside from my disorientation.
The room that surrounded me was entirely of a pristine, polished wood and the setup of seating resembled that of a courtroom. My palm rested on what would be the desk for the prosecution and the defendant table rested symmetrically. All was present, including the jury box, the benches for spectators, and the judge’s stand. The only quality out of place was the desertion. The lights shone dimly, casting eerie shadows around the abandoned expanse. My hysteria starkly contrasted the redoubtable nature of my surroundings, a phantom moving through a court of gravestones.
I apprehensively crept toward the court reporter’s designated area, noting the only paper clues in this mysterious room. I stretched a hand out to retrieve the top file folder in a stack. Every tab in the pile carried a name, but the one in my possession had been scratched away and the contents emptied. I descried the hook of a J in the scribbled out name and surmised that this folder once contained documents about me. The emptiness plagued me with uneasiness. Dropped into a place of judgement with no one to look down upon me and no evidence of my crimes. I could not decide if this solitude was meant as deliverance or punishment.
As though in answer to my slew of internal queries, the door behind the judge’s bench slammed open with a deafening crack that reverberated against the unlimited, smooth surfaces in the space. I jumped back, startled, and wondered if I should hide or flee from the stranger since I myself seemed to be a trespasser, but I only managed to freeze in guilt and trepidation.
The man dodged around the bench to stand across from me and, upon locking eyes, he showed no surprise at my presence. His stance was astonishingly poised and erect, the form beneath his three piece suit bulging with an inhuman might. His age was indiscernible by appearance, yet I knew his milometer well. I recognized his aura before fully observing his physical form. He was the most powerful being in the universe.
“Father,” I addressed submissively, trembling before him like a cur awaiting the whip.
His countenance proved unreadable, entirely blank and untouched by mortal idiosyncrasies. He effortlessly waved a hand and the seat for the defendant swiveled out of place obediently and into the center of the length between us.
“Sit,” he flatly ordered.
I shuffled forward with my head lowered and settled into the chair, sensing his wrath despite his controlled mien.
“Where are we?” I braved. “I’ve never been here before.”
“You’ve never had a reason to be. This is purgatory.”
My heart sank into my gullet and true fear seized me. I understood the consequences of my actions, but never expected a face to face with my father in purgatory. The peculiarity of the situation grew more and more perplexing.
Clearing my throat of the tension, I feebly mumbled, “What reason do I have for being here now?”
God approached me with measured steps and I instinctively recoiled from his oppressive proximity. Once within reach, he held out a hand, prompting me to meet his grip. I deplorably carried out his will and he instantly flipped my palm upward to examine me. His fingers methodically brushed against the puncture scar in the center of my hand, the symbol of my devotion to him. His inspecting strokes crawled up to my wrist, lighting on my sleeve. My breath ceased as he hesitated there and he noticed the change in me. His expression nearly wilted into a scowl, or perhaps I projected this mask onto him, my own paranoia supplying the disappointment.
He wrenched my sleeve to my elbow, exposing the forearm beneath. Damning, gruesome slits extended down the surface area, the fading stream of my lifeblood matting against my skin. The evidence of the harm I had done glared back at me, accusing. The sight triggered nausea, but I remained strong. I reminded myself of my reasons and doubled my resolve. I raised my gaze to my father with renewed tenacity. This time, his vexation was clear.
Mustering the defiance while cowering beneath my father’s glare proved challenging, yet possible. I finally asserted, “I won’t apologize.”
“How are you supposed to repent your sins if you don’t apologize?”
“I’m not repenting,” I amended. “I accepted my fate, so I don’t understand why I’m here.”
“Your fate was to remain on Earth,” he rebuked.
“Earth had nothing for me. You made me believe it did, but it was all a lie.”
He indignantly straightened to a more menacing stature. “I have never lied.”
“You made me believe that I could bring world peace. I returned to a world that didn’t want to be saved and you gave me no guidance,” I seethed.
“I tried to, you just didn’t listen,” he calmly countered.
Losing control of myself, I sprang onto my feet to speak levelly with my heavenly father.
“Don’t blame me. I’m done taking blame. I’m done groveling at your feet begging for forgiveness. If that’s why you brought me here, we should end this now.”
Taking advantage of his omnipotence, he exuded a power that I had never witnessed from him, and one that I could not oppose. To display the ease of this superiority, he nonchalantly folded his hands in front of himself. With complete collectiveness, he said, “Sit down.”
I sank back into the seat as if a physical force dragged me down into it.
“State your sin,” he commanded.
“If this is a trial, shouldn’t I have a judge and jury, or a defense attorney for that matter?”
“I sent them away. This isn’t within their jurisdiction. I decide where you go from here.”
The condemning gashes on my arms seemed definitive to me and I questioned in confusion, “What is there to decide?”
An odd emotion crossed the face of the almighty. He dropped his gaze and his lips tightened ever so slightly. If I had to name the subtle, human behavior, the nearest comparison would be shame, a regret over wrongdoing.
This miniscule hint managed to tell all and I lifted from my seat once more, ignoring his silent reprimands.
“I’m not supposed to be here. You made an exception.” I shook my head. “I don’t want any special treatment. I knew what I was signing up for.”
He stepped forward and snatched my hands against my will. “Yes, but you also did this.” He indicated to the scars of the crucifixion.
“I died for everyone else’s sins, not my own,” I persisted. “I would never ask you to intervene.”
“You didn’t ask,” he retorted, striding away from me in contemplation.
“Then what?” I disputed. “Are you really considering letting me come home? Having me sit at your right hand as if nothing happened?”
He faltered over his next words, as much as God is capable of faltering. “The alternative is sending you off to burn in hell for eternity, so there are things to consider.”
“No, there aren’t. You can’t bend the rules for me.”
“It’s not up to you.” He strolled up behind me and pressed a hand down on my shoulder, returning me into the chair for a third time. He repeated with irritation, “State your sin.”
With a begrudging, disgruntled huff, I prudently recited, “Over two thousand years after the ascension, you sent me back to Earth. And when I saw how irreparable the world had become, I took my own life. But I’m not sorry. And I fully accept my damnation.” I pursed my lips, maintaining an ounce of resistance.
His ire peeked through the cracks of his composure. “Why are you so determined to go to hell?”
“I already prepared myself to face punishment.”
“But I’m offering you a way out,” he urged, irked.
“I don’t care,” I snapped. “I’m done following you.”
He flung a hand at a side door, the entrance and exit for convicts, and it gave underneath his supernatural vigor. The courtroom facade ended at this aperture and nothingness lay beyond. A blackness engulfed the opposite side of this door, but the dark seemed to possess a life of its own. The atoms of the abyss vibrated with a hunger, a devouring desire to consume every morsel of reality, only an unseen force constrained it. I predicted that this force was not of abstract origin, but most likely emanated from the deity before me without requiring him to lift a finger.
With a cold complacency, he gestured to the daunting gateway. “Then go.”
To be continued in Faith II...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber