Sinners. Short Story.

Sorry this is up kinda late!

Yesterday wasn’t very fun, had to get some blood taken, he took 5 tubes. 5! That’s like half of my blood right there! It was quite sore the entire time, even now it’s still kinda sore to bend my arm.

Oh I read the Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, it was good, in a strange way, it was confusing in some parts, but still pretty enjoyable, now I’m onto Blind Faith by Ben Elton, working my way through the books I got for christmas. I’m only really reading them at night, hence why I havn’t read them all yet. I have a good stack to go through and a few more coming.

College is starting again this monday and I’m looking forward to it, I’m only in 3 days a week this semester because of how I positioned my classes, which are all interesting I might add.

Anyway, enough rambling, on with the show!

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Sinners.

The room smelled, they had a toilet, so at least that smell wasn’t building up, but it smelled of people, sweat and dirt. You got used to it, after a while, but sometimes it hit you, that smell, it worked its way into everything. There were other smells too, like cooking meat, but that smell was more spread out as meat came less and less. They still had lights, “Praise and thanks to our lord Jesus”, at least, that’s what Timothy said, he said it was because of Jesus’ and Gods protection that they were all safe, that they had any power at all. He told them of how horrible it was upstairs. But they had running water, electricity. They didn’t have much food left and what was left was being rationed carefully, but they were alive.

It happened almost two months ago. They had each gotten phone calls from Timothy, telling them that the good Reverend had discovered something, something terrible and they needed to get to church right away. Of course, being good Christian folk they flocked to the church. After all, they moved out here, away from the city to be closer to god and further from sin. Timothy had them all go down to the basement, they were concerned but not to frightened, they occasionally had night meetings and prayers, but only if there was some kind of emergency, like when Shelly Crant had woke up with horrible pains and they tried to pray the demon out of her, that’s what the Reverend had said was wrong with her, but it was too strong for them, and Shelly was too weak. She died after a few hours. A few people had left after that, one told Shelly’s mother it was her appendix, they could have saved her at the hospital. The Reverend said they were liars and heretics, brought by Satan to lure them away. So they were not too concerned, someone might be sick, but they would get that demon out of them, or maybe the Reverend had discovered contraband. He would name and shame the sinner and they would all help that person overcome their sin.

They had gathered in the basement, as usual, but something was different. When the last person had entered, Timothy had locked the upper door, then the lower one, barricading it. They had looked around but the Reverend wasn’t there, neither were most of the other families. That more than anything else caused them to panic. “Brothers and Sisters, I have terrible news. The Reverend has had a vision from God.” They looked around, confused, that wasn’t terrible, that was glorious, astounding, “He told the Reverend of what was to come, the trials ahead. He told the Reverend that mankind would soon descend into a nuclear war, this very night, bombs will fall all over the country, all over the world, but God told the Reverend that we needed to protect ourselves, for we will be the new Adams and Eves. But we will need to start over again. Everything will be gone, we will be the only ones left.” There was silence for a few moments, then someone called out, “Why is this news terrible? We’re doing the will of God!” There were a few shouts of agreement, “We face a hardship now, a thousand hardships, but each one will be ordained by God and we will be following his glorious will. God had shown the Reverend what was to come, gave him visions of the future, but it was too much. The Reverend collapsed.” people whispered and looked at one another frantically, if he wasn’t good enough, holy enough for God to save, what chance did they have? How would they survive? “Please, be silent. It was not the fault of the Reverend, for Gods glory is so awesome, so astounding, that to look upon him causes death. The Lord had revealed himself to the Reverend so that he could warn us. The Reverend wasn’t lost, he was saved, saved by God himself. He is up there now, looking down on us and hoping that we are faithful enough to survive” A few people had begun to weep, but slowly the tears stopped. “No-” Timothy stopped speaking, there was a distant rumble, shaking the floors and ceilings, a dull roar surrounded them as the ground shook. There were a few shouts and screams as people looked around wildly, “Brothers and Sisters, stay strong, it has begun. Quickly now, gather hands and pray.” Everyone linked hands, sitting down to prevent anyone falling.

When it stopped, the lights were still on, some people worried that they would go out soon, once the power stations stopped, but Timothy assured them that it wouldn’t happen, God wouldn’t allow it to happen. They realised quickly, that not everyone was in the basement, in the hurry of it all, they had not really paid much attention to the missing people, but all those people must be dead now. There were almost 300 people in the town, but now there were only forty left. Seeing the people look around, Timothy spoke again. “God gave the Reverend a list of names, names of those who were to be saved. Everyone else was unworthy, they would have tainted us.”

The next few days passed quickly, but all too slowly. People mourned the loss of their friends, people they had spent the last three years of their lives getting to know. They were hungry, for there was no food. Timothy said there wasn’t enough time. Some wondered about that, the basement had sleeping bags and cots. A few people tried to leave, despite Timothy’s insistence that they would die, that their selfishness could cause everyone to die. It wasn’t safe out there. Eventually he let the McNeil’s go, their two children crying as they took the anti-radiation pills Timothy gave them before they left. He said it would help them live longer. More people left until there were only twenty five remaining. A few left in search of tinned food, but none returned. Timothy occasionally left and returned. He told them it was Gods will. He came back with meat sometimes, still red and bloody. He told them it was a gift from God. Other times he brought supplies like toilet paper, other times he brought books and board games. There was nothing they could do but wait until everything settled, then they could go back outside, in the light of the lord, but until then it wasn’t safe.

He started to have visions from God, telling them what they must do. He told them that as the new Adams and Eves marriage was abolished, for it was the purpose of the Eves to create children to populate the town that they would eventually build. He took three women as his brides, for he said that these women are holy and that they could not be desecrated by lesser men. The room was small and had little privacy, but they were thankful, they were alive and Timothy was right, God had kept the power going.

Tabitha was tired of Timothy coming to her every few nights, pawing at her flesh, sweating over her. She couldn’t stand it any more, she knew that God wouldn’t want this, wouldn’t punish her for something she didn’t do. God was love and she had no doubt that Timothy was twisting Gods words and sometimes, she even doubted he was having visions in the first place. She didn’t share her thoughts with anyone, she couldn’t it was blasphemy. She had tried to talk to a few other people, tried to make them curious to what was outside, trying to suggest that maybe, it was safe now. It didn’t work though, one or two of the women looked hopeful, Gale and Hilda, but their former husbands had heard and forbid them from going. It seemed Tabitha would have to leave by herself. Her faith was strong and God would protect her. As she was leaving, Timothy gave her the anti-radiation pill, like he gave the others, but as she was about to take it, Tabitha wondered if that was why they didn’t return. The people hadn’t put their faith in God, they had put it in man and his medicines. She took the pill and pretended to swallow it, she knew that Timothy wouldn’t let her leave if she did not. Then she was allowed out. She looked at the others who were in the basement with her, they looked scared, their eyes large in their sunken sockets. She hadn’t noticed how thin everyone was. Timothy said God would ensure their survival, but everyone looked close to starvation. Only Timothy still looked healthy. Turning her back on everyone she knew, perhaps everyone that was still alive on the planet, she stepped quickly through the door and heard it being locked behind her.

The smell hit her instantly, thick and heavy, rotting meat. she lifted her hand to her mouth, trying to block the smell. Her dress was thin and flimsy, there were holes where the fabric had torn or worn away. She went up the stairs quickly, hoping to get away from the smell, but it only became stronger. She stepped out of the second door and froze. There were bodies in the church, at first she thought it was those who were left, the sinners, coming to seek help that night. She quickly realised that she was wrong, there were too few people for that to be right. Tabitha moved closer to one of the bodies and stood back, trying not to vomit. She managed for a few seconds, then started throwing up, heaving, the thin, burning fluid was ejected from her noise and mouth until nothing was left, but still, she continued to retch. The McNeal’s were there, sitting in the pews. It looked as though something had cut at them, removing their flesh. Shakily she made her way out of the church, expecting to see the forest that had surrounded the village to be burning or simply charred ash, but it wasn’t. Everything was still as tall and majestic as she remembered. The grass was green and long, in need of a cut. The air was pleasant and sweet, a marked contrast to the horrors she had seen inside the church. There was a slight breeze and it chilled her, her dress was too thin to keep in the heat. She looked around, trying to take everything in, the sky, the clouds, the grass, the smells. Eventually the cold drove her indoors, she went to the nearest house, hoping that Janine Stevenson, who lived there, would have something that fit her in her wardrobe. Maybe the others had just left, fled in terror when the rumbling began. The door opened easily, they never locked their doors in the village, to show how they trusted one another. The smell was the same as that of the church. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat, but she pushed on, she had to see. Janine and her husband were in bed, their bodies rotting, but Tabitha could see what had killed them. Their heads had been severed. She looked around the room wildly, expecting someone to attack her before she realised how silly it was. It had happened months ago. She felt suddenly cold.

They hadn’t been killed by radiation, by bombs. They had been murdered. She tried to think when she had last seen them, was it the day before they had gotten the phone calls? Was it longer? She wasn’t sure. She left the house, trying to be silent. She realised how quiet it was here, there were still birds and animals and the noises of the trees, but it was too quiet. Everything was so open, anything could attack her from any side, she was so loud. She froze, there was a dog in the clearing, it was mangy, dirty, a few families had dogs, but she didn’t recognise this one. It looked at her for a few moments, the continued on it’s way, unconcerned. Of course not, why would it attack her, there was plenty of food in the houses. She tried to stifle manic laughter. The thought that someone could be watching her helped her regain control. She did feel like she was being watched. She made the quick journey to her house and tried to decide what to do there. She changed into clean clothes quickly, happy to be warm again. She felt safer in the enclosed space, less exposed, she wanted to have a shower or bath, she wanted to clean herself but she didn‘t want to risk it. She took the pill from her pocket and looked at it, wondering what it really was. She didn’t’ believe it was against radiation. Not now. She carefully set it down on the night stand, it was probably poison. Leaving her room she went to the kitchen, suddenly hungry. The hunger clawed at her stomach, begging her to stop the pain. She found a can of soup and ate it cold, drinking it quickly from the can. A horrible pain gripped her stomach, clenching it, she dropped the can, the soup spilling across the floor. She made it to the sink before throwing up, heaving until there was nothing left. She tried the tap, it still worked, and she washed the taste from her mouth. She picked another can, but ate it slowly, trying not to eat too quickly, she hoped that was what had happened. As she ate, all her concentration was taken up by the taste, the taste of the soup, the feeling of her stomach filling. This time she could only eat half the can before feeling bloated and incredibly full. She filled a glass with water and sipped, trying to figure out what she was going to do. She couldn’t stay in the village, she needed to contact someone. The phones worked, but they were only connected the other houses to each other, she couldn’t make outside calls. There was a car that the Reverend used to go into town sometimes on his shopping runs, but she didn’t know where he kept it and she was worried the noise of the car would attract the attention of Timothy. There was only one thing for it, she would have to walk.

She dressed in layers, trying to dress as warmly as possibly. It was summer now, but still she felt cold. Tabitha carried with her all the food her strength would allow, which wasn’t as much as she would have liked. She hoped it wouldn’t take her too long to get to town, she guess it was about a days walk normally, but she wasn’t so sure now. She had grown weak from staying in the basement, it might take her a few days. Going up a short flight of stairs winded her, never mind walking such a far distance. She had to get help though, she couldn’t’ let everyone starve down there. She could return to them with food, but Timothy would know what she had seen, she couldn’t risk it.

Tabitha looked at the village she had lived in for three years, then turned and began to walk down the road. She knew no cars would drive along it, at least, not for the first while, but still, she hoped to see the gleaming metal, hoped that someone would stop and help her. She smiled, that was something that Timothy hadn’t taken away from her, couldn’t take away from her. Hope.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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