Author : Ian Hill

At first I thought we were just going on a trip to see the holy city. We, my father and I, boarded an opulent train replete with red carpet and finely crafted oak furniture. The immaculate standard of the church lined the sides of the train, and it charged through the dark landscape at a break-neck pace I had never experienced before. The fastest I had gone would’ve been back when my sister and I tried to break a feral horse, and that was nothing compared to this. My father sat in the seat beside me looking slightly bored as if this amazing ride was merely routine to him.

There were a few others on the train, children like me accompanied by their white-clad parents. They looked worried for some reason. I, however, was excited about the prospect of finally beholding the glorious splendor of this legendary city that I had heard so much about my whole life. Others had told me it was like a bit of heaven descended onto the scarred earth, all shimmering and golden in its blinding perfection.

I fell asleep on the train for a while and dreamt of nothing, just like I had been taught. When I awoke the train had stopped, and the crowd was funneling off in pairs. My father stood and I followed his lead. As we were about to exit the lavish vehicle, my father crouched in front of me and placed a heavy black bag over my head, blinding me. My breath quickened, but I was soothed soon after by my father’s calm voice, explaining that I wasn’t ready to behold the raw beauty yet. It all made sense to me, so I nodded and clung to my father’s hand while carefully following him.

We walked for what seemed like hours and my short legs tired fast. I powered through the discomfort, imagining the splendors that must be around me. Eventually, we reached a cold room. I could hear the soft murmuring of a thousand voices around me. Furrowing my brow, I tried to imagine what could possibly be going on. Then the sack came off my head.

I was in a dark cave with a low ceiling that extended in all directions as far as the eye could see. All around me were thousands of metal chairs with gaunt pale figures strapped into them. Their eyes were open and darting around while tears dripped down their white faces. Their mouths moved quickly, issuing forth soft, but urgent, whispers. Their translucent skin clung close to their bones.

I knew someone from my schooling who once told us all about rumored places like this, where people were herded together and forced to sleep forever for the church’s greater good. I never saw him again after that day.

My father looked at me contemptuously and motioned to an empty metal chair behind us. My eyes became alit with terrible realization, and I began to plead him to not make me do it. He just shook his head and took me by the arm, leading me into the cold clutches of the seat. He strapped my arms and legs down as I weakly resisted. I was never given much to eat and I wasn’t allowed to run, perhaps this was why.

By this point I was crying and issuing vicious insults right and left, feeling very alone and very betrayed. I felt a blinding pain at the top of my head, followed by an odd sensation of calmness with undertones of sorrow. My vision began to darken and my hearing gave out completely. After a few seconds of nothingness I felt my frantic thoughts twisting into something else. A single phrase repeated itself in my head, and I could tell that I was speaking it as I thought it. It kept on replaying over and over again. At first I tried to resist, but it soon lulled me deeper into my comatose state. I focused on the sentence and sought comfort in it. It was a nice little phrase.

“Dear heavenly father, please forgive us all.”


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