A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.
He went alone, as he always did. This was a night for reflection, for thought, and he didn't want to be distracted by another. He walked with his hands thrust deep in the pockets of his duster, the collar turned up against the sharp wind that cut at him, driving snow into his face. Powder squeaked under his boots, the heavier stuff crunching loudly, the only sound to fill the silent night air.
The church loomed large in front of him, warm light shining through the stained glass and throwing dappled color onto the snow. He felt no trepidation in his approach, no guilt or shame when he pushed open one of the heavy doors and stepped inside. Midnight mass was over, the congregation long since dwindled until only a small handful of people were left. Carefully skirting the proffered bowls of holy water in the entryway, he slipped quietly into the last pew near the back of the sanctuary.
He didn't pray. Even if he felt like it, he doubted there was anyone out there who would listen to the likes of him. No. Tonight was not for praying, not for supplication or for contrition – at least not for himself. It was only for remembrance. So he let out a soft breath, closed his eyes, and allowed himself to remember.
It was always difficult at first, finding a place to start. Mostly because he tried too hard. After having lived so long, through so many experiences, his life began to blur, and teasing the years apart took time. Tonight, the smell of incense had come to him, left burning on the altar by some official or other. It was that, the sweet yet bitter scent of it, which chose the destination of his memories tonight.
In his mind's eye, he saw a church just like the one he sat in, built of stone and wood and glass. When he was small, his mother would take him; a good Catholic, she had never missed a mass, at least not until the end when she was too frail to leave the house. He could remember how painful religion had been as a child; being forced into good shoes and tie, his hair parted and slicked with water; being made to sit, still and quiet for hours, on an unforgiving wooden bench much less comfortable than the one he sat on now.
Thoughts of his mother turned his reminiscence to that, his greatest sin. Her death, the tearing of her soul from her body, was undeniably his fault. Regardless of his intentions, it had been he who ruined her, and he who had killed her. A drop in the bucket when you thought about it, but that, that first murder… it had rankled. It had hurt. And yes, he counted it as murder.
Raising a hand, he pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, staving off a headache. The list of those dead by his hand was almost endless, and while he could not regret his kills, he did remember them. Perhaps not all, but most. He didn't feel regret or remorse for any but that first, his mother, but he did know somewhere in his head that it was wrong. That he should feel guilt. That the dead had had families, people who loved them and would be pained by their absence. He knew. He just couldn't quite care.
He stood, stretching his spine a bit before making his way out of the pew and walking slowly towards the front of the sanctuary. In an alcove off to the side sat the small confessional, waiting silently in the shadows. It was empty now, the priest long gone home for the night, but he would have avoided it anyways. He had learned long ago that confessing sins such as his to living ears was a good way to get hunted. Stepping up to the alter he fell slowly to his knees, clasping his hands atop the silky wood and bowing his head to those hands.
" 'M not here for forgiveness," he began in a rough voice. "Not here for absolution. Don't deserve it… don't want it either. 'M only here to confess."
He paused as he collected his thoughts; his catechisms coming back to him, the confessions and the rosary of a little boy flooding his mind.
"In the last year, I've drunk over four thousand pints of human blood. I have worshipped other Gods, graven images. I have taken the lord's name in vain. I have stolen, and borne false witness. I have coveted, and ignored the Sabbath. I have killed."
Here, his voice cracked, the first real, deep, painful emotion bleeding through the emptiness inside his chest. "I have dishonored my father and mother."
After a moment, he managed to pull himself together, and chuckled lightly to himself. As always the only commandment he hadn't broken was that of adultery. Though he had certainly had relations outside of marriage, he had never cheated. He was a faithful son of a bitch if nothing else. Heaving a sigh, he looked up at the effigy of the Christian God that hung on a cross above him and shook his head. There was no God for him. Even if he desired forgiveness, even if he changed his ways and walked the straight and narrow for the rest of his days, he knew where he was headed. He didn't particularly care for the destination, but he was certainly enjoying the trip, and that was by far enough for him.
Rising, he moved to the side of the church where hundreds of candles waited. Most remained unlit, only a few casting a warm glow against the wall they sat against. Foregoing the provided tapers, he pulled a small silver lighter from deep inside his leather coat, lighting it with a snick that echoed in the quiet vestibule. Touching the flame to two of the unlit candles, he watched as the wicks were consumed by the fire, flaring to life under his fingers.
Two twin lights, given into the care of Saint Anthony. The patron Saint of Lost Souls unless he was mistaken. One for his mother, and the soul he had taken from her. And one for William. The soul that was taken from him.
Flicking his lighter shut, he turned his back on the candles, the alter, the confessional, and walked back out into the cold, into the dark that was his mistress. He had had enough for tonight. But he would be back. Next year. He always keeps going back.