After that night, I tried to be around other people as much as possible, not walking alone or staying out very late. Eventually, only a few weeks later, I had already convinced myself that it was all a hallucination of some sorts and re-initiated myself into my declining morality.
I was more out of control now having glimpsed the terror of death, trying to enjoy life to its fullest. I would dance every night. I began using narcotics I had passed up before. I avoided being alone at every opportunity and would take home partners one after the other each night. It didn’t matter if it was the same or a different one (on some occasions more than one) so long as I had someone with me.
I started leaving lights on at the first blush of dusk until daybreak. When I did sleep at night rather than during the day, I would have vivid nightmares, waking up in a cold sweat to realize that I had slumbered only a few moments and the clock would always read 1:57 as if I were re-visiting that time over and over. The dreams I had would linger in an intense feeling of terror, but I could not remember anything beyond fear from them. Sometimes, I would go back to the journal entry I had written for that night as the memory was likewise fading into a haze.
I’m not even certain how long my life went along such a course. It might have been years; it might have been months. Days were slipping into each other in a rapid rate: I could not hold onto them or grasp any thoughts easily. I didn’t want to think, just to act and to live. At one point, I realized that I was accomplishing nothing, that my life was less in control, emptier, and more fearful than ever. Finally, I decided to visit the closest Catholic church, St. Mary’s near the downtown bars, in an attempt to pull any comfort from this long ago childhood sanctuary, the church and beliefs of my younger years. It was my feeble attempt to find explanation into what happened as well. I had spoken to no-one about what I had witnessed, so here would be my opportunity at last to unveil this tumultuous, pent up secret.
I arrived late to the Saturday evening service, slipping into the back most left pew. During the service, everything was disconnected as I tried to recall the routine of the ceremony. I was uneasy, glancing at my watch several times. I debated whether this was all a mistake and I should just leave.
During the communion procession, I automatically joined to stand in line. Slowly advancing in the queue, I started to feel queasy. The sensation kept growing as I stepped forward every few moments. It wasn’t simply butterflies in the stomach or prickling goosebumps on the skin, it was far stronger and began to physically affect me. I swayed almost losing my balance about halfway up to the altar. A few heads turned to glance at me. I flashed a brief, dismissive smile that I was okay, so those watching turned back into place. I tried to calm myself, but I was awash with an actual burning pain. Groping to sort out what was happening, I slowly realized the strongest sensation as loathing. Many different thoughts flitted through my mind, paramount being confusion, but I knew I had to get out of that line. Breaking away quickly, I walked back to my seat, my head bowed down. I knew people were looking at me as I passed by, but I didn’t care. When I sat down again, a tremendous and joyous relief swept over me that I was out of that torturous line. I leaned forward to clasp my hands together, heavily resting my chin upon them. I closed my eyes and now, for the first time since I had entered the building, I began to pray.
The prayer was simple. I don’t remember the precise words, but they were something akin to the following:
What the hell just happened?
If you exist, I am very confused right now about everything.
Is my conscience causing this stuff?
Did I imagine that night and my feelings just now?
Please help me, because I really need to understand what this is all about.
The ceremony ended as I was still trying to calm myself from the experience. People were filtering out and the priest was greeting them at the wide double oak doors as they left. I could hear the chatting voices from my spot at the back of the church when I decided I would venture out to speak with the priest. Perhaps, he could help me relieve this sensation of dread which was slowly washing over me from the whole ordeal. Psychologically, I was certain I was really losing my mind. I was afraid soon this strangeness would be apparent to others and then I would end up locked away in some institution.
Slowly getting up, I went to the front of the church where the priest was standing smiling in his light blue robe. He was shaking hands with some parishioners, an elderly man with a chipped metallic cane and his red-haired (obviously having been rinsed that color) wife. Not wanting to be rude, I waited a few paces back from them until they finished the exchange.
It seemed to take an eternity for them to complete the niceties for their Saturday night visit to church. The church was empty by the time they finally left. The priest smiled at me and held out his hand. “Hi, my child, I’m Father Matthews. How are you doing this evening? First time attending our church tonight?”
“Hello Father. I realize it’s getting late and I really hate to keep you longer. Indeed this is my first visit to St. Mary’s. I used to go to church when I was younger, but it’s been awhile since I’ve attended. I was raised Catholic by my parents, though.” I added this last bit almost as an afterthought to make my reason for being here sound more legitimate.
“Ah, very nice that you’ve decided to come back to your roots to attend our mass. Also, sorry, but I didn’t catch your name?”
“Stevens. If you have a moment, I really had something rather strange to ask you about. Possibly, in your office or wherever you’d like that’s more private, just so long as we don’t go to the altar of the church.” At that comment, I nervously gave a slight giggle as I certainly had no desire to go back into the main part of the church anytime soon.
Looking at me slightly askew, most likely due to the nervous laugh I’d just released, the priest glanced at his timepiece, “Would we possibly be able to re-schedule? I planned to meet with some of my deacons tonight to discuss next month’s church drive. I’d hate to keep them waiting.”
“If you could spare the time and meet with me tonight. I don’t want to be rude, though, so please let me know if that really is too inconvenient for you.” Deciding to be brutally honest as the look on his face seemed to grow harder with each passing word, while I was starting to panic that he would show me the door without hearing my story, “Father, I’m just not sure I can get the guts to come here again to talk to someone about this.” I smiled at him at this statement and nervously laughed again, although I knew that would make him more suspicious at my unusual demeanor and insistence.
Clearing his throat, he stated, “I understand if you have some serious confession to make, my child. Normally, however, we do prefer those are done during our Saturday afternoon confession.” Seeing I wasn’t going to budge with this mention of coming back next week to confess, the priest sighed and pointed into the hall recess which led to his office. “Please follow me, and I’ll call the deacons to let them know I’ll be a bit late.”
Previous Chapter: 1 – The First Sign
Next Chapter: 3 – The Wind and I