Short story created for What a Character contest.
THE VERY REVEREND HAROLD DESMITT
He knew what it felt like to be awake. This was not the same. Stone-like mass filled his body, cold and rigid. Heavy weight pressed his arms and legs down into whatever he lay on. He couldn’t feel anything underneath. A long groan escaped his mouth, slobbering over his lips and rattling deep in the bottom of his chest. His mind through a murky fog screamed, God-a mighty, Jesus! I’m dead! His eyes flew open. No light reflected back to his searching panic. Blackness, total and complete, refused to return even a glow to his desperate need to find---something---anything beyond this sense of not being.
A vibration, very faint, began to resonate through his body. A buzzing filled his mind with an unpleasant awareness. He began to feel lighter, his fingers tingled. The buzzing became a purr that centered between his eyes as his feet twitched with tiny stabs of pain.
The heaviness that pulled his body down, eased. His legs lost their spikes of pain and he lifted his knees. Trembling hands found his face. Rubbing his eyes, he became aware of a dim light glowing around him. “I can see! What? Where're my clothes?” The light bloomed across his palid, white body. “I'm naked. Where're my damned clothes?” Sitting up on the edge of what appeared to be a solid platform with a padded top, he gripped the edge to stop the dizziness that threatened his balance. The light continued to increase. Beyond the pool of what approached brilliance, darkness remained as an impenetrable black.
“Where am I? I don't...” He cried out toward the gloom, “Haloo! Can anyone hear me?” The shadows swallowed his words like black velvet with no echo. “Haloooo! I need help” The answering silence gave no solace, no comfort. The overwhelming sense of being lost in the unknown slammed into him leaving only growing fear.
“You, the new arrival.” A whispered voice seeming to come to him from all directions. “Do not be alarmed.”
Washed with relief, he cried out, “Where are you? I need help!”
“Please calm yourself. You must sit quietly, and I will approach.” The whisper, gentle and warm, felt closer.
He laced his fingers together and rested them over his nakedness, saying, “I'm as calm as I'm going to get. I don't know where I am or how I got here.”
The soft voice said, “No one ever does.” There was a direction now. The sound came from in front of him.
“By the God in heaven, show yourself! This is impossible. I do not understand what has happened to me.” He knew he shouldn't plead, but his voice trembled. In another minute he'd be reduced to begging.
“Please. This is not right.”
The light sparkled and flowed from the dark floor up into the form of a figure. He couldn't focus. It appeared to be transparent. The face looked to be smiling.
“What? What is this?” This vision made no sense to him.
The figure congealed into something approaching solid, but still retained the color of warm glass. “I'm sorry, this is the best I can do without changing my frequency. I am your guide. I am called, Aye.”
“My guide? Who are you...what are you?”
“I believe I've already told you. I am your guide. I am called Aye.”
He rolled his eyes up. “Oh God in heaven, Jesus, help me understand.”
The guide, Aye, took a floating step closer, and with a much stronger voice, said, “I have to ask, who are you?”
“Who am I? The nakedness diminished his righteous pride. He had to force what usually came with bombastic self-importance. “I am Harold Desmitt, the Very Reverend Harold Desmitt. As everyone knows, the founder and Archdeacon of the Tabernacle of God Almighty in Beachview City, Florida.
“Really?” Aye paused for a thoughtful moment. “I'm sorry, we always hope for something more internal...you know, closer to the soul.”
Taken aback, Harold blinked, swallowed, then said, “What do you mean, closer to the soul. I have saved thousands of souls. I've baptized so many, my parishioners call me, John the Baptist.”
“Interesting concept. Regretfully, I have to ask how you came upon this being a 'Very Reverend Harold Desmitt'?
“You're asking how I found God? A question like that when I'm sitting here without a stitch to cover myself.”
“Oh sorry. I forget. In your frequency, the outer layer is only three dimensional.” Aye made a thrusting gesture toward the platform. A folded square appeared beside Harold. A tasseled tie wrapped around the soft white garment.
Opening up something like a long bathrobe, Harold quickly slipped his arms through the generous sleeves and tied the robe tight at his waist. With his dignity partially restored, he felt emboldened to ask,
“Where am I, and why am I here? I need an answer to that question now.”
Aye, in a very soothing, tender voice, said, “You are here in a temporary void. The reason you have been removed from your life on Earth will be understood as we progress. I cannot say more at this time.”
“Removed? What does that mean? Am I dead?”
“No, of course not.”
“I have a church to run. I have responsibilities---my family, my people. So many depend on me! You can't take me away from that! Who do you think you are?”
“I am called Aye. I am your guide.”
Harold collapsed back to sit on the platform. “Dear God, give me strength. Why me?”
“Again I must ask how you came upon this being a 'Very Reverend Harold Desmitt'? Or as you put it, found this God?”
“Well...I'd have to go back to a very young age. None of that is important in this situation.”
“Oh, but it is. Life choices are what must be examined.”
Harold's impatience pushed the question. “And we have to do this now?”
Aye merely nodded and said, “Your earliest memory?”
“I had four older brothers. They did all the chores. No one trusted me.” Harold glared at the semi-transparent figure in front of him.
“I sense some anger here.”
“Damn right. They teased me everyday until I cried and my mother would stop them. We went to mass every Sunday. At one time or another all of them were altar boys at Saint Stephen's. I was never good enough.”
“Your words are bitter. I take it that you did not find your god?”
My father sent me to Sunday school with the nuns. Then I had to go through confirmation---in a perfect white suit. One of my brothers pushed me into the mud before we went into the church that day.” Harold laughed. “I was confirmed, mud and all---with great shame.”
Aye did not comment. He raised an open palm. “Then what happened?”
“My younger sister, Cecelia was born.”
“And that is important because?”
His tone more bitter than before, Harold said, “Always the pride of my parents---my father's little princess. She received all the shining attention and I became forgotten, disappeared into that little snot's shadow. My brothers adored her and spoiled her along with the uncles and aunts.”
Still patient, Aye said, “There is no god there. Move on. How did you find your god?”
“When I was fourteen. I attended a bible study class at the Paradise Baptist Church.”
“And how did that happen? You being from a Catholic family?”
“I believe God directed that Mindy Hawkinthaw would invite me to her study class at Paradise.”
“And why would that be?”
Harold, with a particular smirk, said, “She thought I was cute.”
“And you found your god, not because you could sit in the back row with your foot and thigh pressed against Mindy Hawkinthaw for an hour every Sunday?”
“Who told you that? It wasn't like that at all. We were only fourteen!”
Aye actually smiled. “Exactly.”
“What do you mean?”
“That, my dear Reverend Desmitt, is to be recorded as your first serious hypocrisy.”
Indignant, Harold cried, “No, not true! I studied the bible.”
Aye's tone took on a graver tone. “Was that before or after Miss Hawkinthaw became pregnant?”
Red-faced, Harold sputtered, “I prayed everyday!”
“You realize that the list of hypocrisies are piling up, one above the other. I suppose you prayed to your god at the wedding? You must have been fifteen by then. Did your parents come?”
Harold admitted quietly, “I never told them. I denied everything.”
“Ohhh...” Aye shook his head.
“Father must have suspected something, because he sent me away to a military high school in Tennessee.
“Did you find God there?”
“Not really, but I ending up teaching a bible class on Sundays for extra credit. I didn't flunk out until the second year.”
Holding his hands in what appeared to be an almost see-through prayer position, Aye said, “I regret to say that I fear you are also flunking out with the answer to this most basic first question.”
“But I---” Harold started to protest.
“I already know about the divorce, and then the subsequent marriage to Teresa Neken when you were twenty-four.”
“How do you know about that?” Harold had a creeping feeling of dread.
“Sorry,” Aye said, “I'm receiving a flood of information. It happens occasionally with new arrivals.” More accusing, he said, “You didn't tell your new wife, Teresa, about Mindy or the baby?”
Harold hung his head, whispering, “No, she didn't need to know.”
Aye, moved closer to Harold. “That is...until Mindy appeared at your new church, where you had just started as an assistant pastor---with the five-year-old boy who was your son.”
Now desperate for this accounting, or whatever it was, to stop, Harold shouted at Aye, “No more! This has got to stop. You have no right!” He stood, trembling, fists clinched at his sides.
Very gently, Aye said, “Now do you understand how far you have placed yourself from your precious soul?
The truth of Aye's words sliced into Harold cutting through his usual filters of denial and righteousness. He fought back tears as he struggled to speak. “I can't fight you.”
“And you can not fight yourself, Mr. Desmitt.”
“Is this hell? Am I being punished?”
Aye smiled, genuine and warm. “No, not at all. Your son is all grown up now---and he is here---” Aye paused.
Harold looked up, shocked with a look of extreme fear.
Continuing, Aye said, “The two of you are going to spend some time together.”
“What to you mean, he's here? I've never seen him.”
“And he's never met you. He's perhaps angry about not having a father while he grew up. For the two of you, we simply call this a realignment. We have to adjust the frequencies a bit. But I'm sure the result will be positive. His mother named him Robin...and his last name is Desmitt.”
Harold had no words. The entire idea stunned him. A tiny bit of guilt slipped away as Aye guided him back to lie down on the platform, pressing him firmly down.
Deep breaths, Harold. Remember his name is Robin. If you look close enough, you will find that your souls already know each other.