"Forgive me, Father..." he said in a voice flat and full of sorrow. He felt sure that the thin lattice between the Father and himself hid only his face and none of his wretchedness. He gazed down at his hands clenched together in his lap, unable to meet even the shadowed gleam of the Father's eyes.
"The Lord is merciful. Confess your sins." There was a hint of youth in the priest's voice. It could not quite cover the bitter edge that crept into it, as if he held poison behind his teeth. Beyond the screen, he sat rigid and straight, waiting.
The dimness hid the flush of the man's cheeks as he searched for the words to claim his faithlessness. "I'm weak, Father..." he stammered. "My faith is so weak." His voice strained against his chest as if each word was torn from him. "I found them...the...the demons." A tear slipped down his cheek. "Oh Lord, I let them get away! In my fear..I...I..." A choked silence stretched through the thin wall. How could he go on? How could he tell the Father how he had so utterly failed? "I ran away."
The silence was broken by the sound of shifting robes in the adjoining booth. His voice carried a sharper edge as the priest intoned, "Matthew 10:28 tells us 'Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: rather fear him which can destroy both the soul and the body...' Perhaps your fear is justified." The priest met the man's eyes through the screen. They held a flinty brightness in them that did little to relax his confessor. "However, remember the mustard seed. The Lord knows your heart, my son. Take His strength to aid your faith. Do not fail in this." His tone of voice said it would allow no failure. "Is there any other burden on your soul?" The priest seemed to lean closer to the man, as if his body already knew the answer to this question.
'NO! NO!' The man's thoughts cried silently. "Yes, Father," he whispered. Shame washed over him as he faced the depth of his sins. "I am an unworthy servant, full of shameful thoughts and desires." If only she would stay out of my dreams', he thought. His body awoke to the stray memory from a hazy dream. Green eyes, pale hair, and a timeless embrace grasped at his mind. His hands shook with the intensity of his inner battle. "I know they are evil creatures, Father, but...but I ..." He swallowed hard. "I dream of her. I want her." He dropped his head into his hands, shoulders shaking with silent sobs.
The priest stroked the gold band on his finger. The set of his mouth softened as he remembered desire. Another memory returned the ferocity to his eyes. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." He paused, letting the passage sink in. "There is a way to protect your soul, my son." His voice took on an infectious intensity that ignited the confessor with its zeal. "Destroy that which causes you to sin! Redeem yourself of your doubt and unholy desire. Take hold of your faith and destroy the demon which even now tries to possess you!"
Relieved, the man nodded. "Yes, Father; thank you, Father!" How could he have been so blind? Of course! The priest was right, he must defy the evil. He moved restlessly in the tiny booth, eager to be on his way.Calmly, with deliberate slowness, the priest made the sign, spoke the words of forgiveness. He smiled in satisfaction as his confessor left the adjoining cubicle. Absently, he stroked his ring and pondered on the vengeance of the Lord.
©Sonja Torres 1997