Faith, yes I had faith: I believed in heaven and hell, I believed in good and evil, I believed in the Almighty and the Dark one, I still do. The only difference is, I don’t believe anymore, I know. The thing I liked best about my weekly trips to church, was the rousing antics of the choir. The way their voices soared in perfect harmony, their bodies swayed to a beat of their own making while they clapped in time to the hymn. There was something innately sanctified about the whole experience.
That day, when I stopped believing and started knowing, began like any other. I dropped my daughter, Ashley, to her swimming club while I went to K-Mart to do some shopping, it was our Saturday morning ritual. I was waiting in the parking-lot, as always, when a bundle of hysteria dashed across the expanse of concrete toward me. Her hair was still wet from the pool and flapped behind her as she ran. Ashley pulled the door open and dived across the back seat, while I started the engine.
“Dad, I beat Tracy Johnson!” she cried excitedly, as she pushed her head between the front seats.
“No Way! Tracy Johnson is unbeatable, you said so,” I teased, as I pulled out onto the highway.
“Not any more. I got my turn just right and beat her good.”
I turned my head, looking at the delighted cherub face beaming at me and wondered, not for the first time, what I had done to be so blessed. If I had been facing forward I would have seen the delivery truck stop, trying to take a turn he’d overshot. My foot would have automatically sought out the break, but I wasn’t looking. Instead, I drove straight into it doing over sixty-five. The last thing I remember is my little girl’s happy face, smiling up at me.
When I woke, I was alone. Nobody sat at my bed-side, waiting to welcome me back, so I swam into the darkness once more. I drifted in a world of half-seen shadows and disjointed voices until I heard my ex-wife calling me. I opened my eyes. Something was wrong, I couldn’t get my vision to focus. She told me there had been an accident, that I had rear-ended a truck. She told me that I had head injuries and then she told me I killed Ashley. Words cannot describe what I went through after that, but I deserved every second of it.
I got better, in every way but my sight. The fuzziness got worse and worse. The doctors said it may be connected to my brain injury, but I know better. I was starting to see people as they really are, I was looking into their souls. I know it’s true, because when I got home and took my first look in the mirror, what stared back was my true self. A blood drenched scull with black empty eye sockets, filled the mirror. Bloated white maggots wriggled in the empty nasal cavity and dead teeth stood like crooked headstones in my hanging jaw bone. It was the face of murder that I saw.
So now, I sit in this church, with my eyes closed, and listen to the wonderful voices reach up to the heavens. I know God can hear, because when I look at people, I see the sins they carry on their souls, not the skin on their bones. Yes, I know there is a heaven, but I also know that I’ll never see the inside.
I open my eyes, and stare at the collection of gowned gargoyles, clapping taloned appendages, as their horrific distended mouths, open and close in song.