I am sitting on that bench for hours now. I suppose I am. Time is not slipping by for me anymore. I should feel cold I suppose. I should feel hungry too. I just feel empty. I can't dare to look at this figure I prayed night after night. So, I'm looking straight at the floor, my arms crossed in my laps, my hands bound like for a prayer. I'm not sure I have the right to pray anymore. Though, I'm still here, sitting on this very same bench like yesterday, like the days before.
"It is here. It is it!" someone whispers.
I knew they were here even before one of them talked.
I sigh. Or at least, I think I tried to.
Why should I run away once again? What for? Would it make things better? Would it help me? I think nobody can help me anymore. I'm far beyond saving.
I'll just wait for them to come to me, let them put the barrel of their shotgun on the back of my neck and be done with it.
I shouldn't be here in the first place.
"Gentlemen, May I know what you're doing here with firearms?" asks a gentle voice from the altar.
"Father, be careful! You shouldn't stay here! It is dangerous!" growls one of the men. He is agitated. I think he'll try to fire me even from afar.
I don't move.
"You are in the House of God. Do I really have to remind you? Will you, please, lower your firearms? I'll not tolerate for one of my parishioners to be threatened" answers the priest in a calm but authoritarian voice.
"He's not a creature of God, Father! He is a spawn of Satan!" cried one of the men.
"No spawn of the Evil would be able to cross the threshold of this place, not Evil would be able to set foot in a holy place. Please, get out of this church and pray God to forgive you for your impious thoughts"
The priest is now standing next to me, his hand on the back of my seat, protecting me. He is really tall and magnificent.
"Father!" cried another of the men but the priest just cross himself and asks for them to get out.
They leave but I know they'll wait for me outside. They found me and will never let me be. And they are right. I shouldn't be.
"Son" the priest is now addressing to me.
I don't know what to do. He shouldn't have helped me in the first place. I'm an unholy empty corpse. I don't deserve him to worry about me. I don't dare to look at him. I'm pretty sure I'll burn the moment our eyes meet.
He sits next to me on the bench.
"May I help you?" he gently asks, his eyes looking at the Christ in front of us.
"Father…" I began.
I know there isn't forgiveness for me, I know there is nothing else than Hell for the ones who lost their souls. I shouldn't even talk to him, I'm not worth.
"Did you sin, Son?" asks gently the priest.
I would never lie to a priest. I never could.
"I don't know" I whisper "But… I have lost God's love"
"You can't talk in His name, child" answers the priest "God loves all of his children. If you feel like you lost Him, you'll have to find Him again"
"But… Am I still one of his children?" I chew on my lower lips, a habit I didn't lose. I'm pretty sure I don't make sense. The priest will think I'm crazy.
"We are all, aren't we, Casey Connor?"
I'm so surprised to hear him tell my name that looking at him I nearly broke my neck, if I ever can do that anymore.
"You…know me?" I stutter.
I thought he would be disgusted seeing my face, looking at my glassy eyes. I look nothing like a human anymore. But he doesn't flinch, he doesn't look away. He is a man of love.
"I am Father Ezechiel" he says "I was the one who said your requiem mass"
I just couldn't say a word. I am dead. I know that. I remember every moment of suffering before welcoming death, before hoping for God to love me enough to welcome me. But he didn't. And here I am: a dead walking out of his coffin.
"I'm a monster" I whisper "God rejected me"
"You don't know that, Casey" gently answers the priest "You wouldn't be here if He did. You're still welcome in His house. It means a lot. You found me here. It has to mean something. Let me help you, will you?"
"You can't" my voice is dying.
Nobody can help me. I'm dead.
Father Ezechiel doesn't say a word for a moment then gently put his hand on mine. I jumped out of my skin. His hand feels so warm. This warmth is the very first thing I am able to feel since I woke up. I've been scared; I've been lost but otherwise I just felt empty of everything.
"Just give me a chance to help you" he says once again.
And how could I refuse him when all I needed was someone to hold a hand to me? All I wanted was for someone to understand that I didn't do anything wrong, that I didn't want to be here in the first place, to suffer more?
I am crying now. I thought dead eyes couldn't cry.
"Thank you, Father" I whisper lovingly kissing his hand.
I remember waking up on Christmas Eve. There were lights everywhere; people were merry, happy, singing. The church was white with snow and a big fire was burning in front of it. I often regretted days after that I didn't jump in it immediately.
I remember walking in the church to listen to Christmas Mass, totally lost. I wish I didn't because I'll never be able to forget my parents faces when they saw me, they saw a monster not their son.
I ran away.
And, now, in this dark little church, I found what I was looking for.
A warm hand.