Home Short Stories Contact Us Clash of Worlds

PHILIP MCCLENNAN

The unfortunate teller




I walk through crowded streets, surrounded by faces that are full of uncertainty…or is it fear? They are confused of what life will bring, filled with a desiring need to know what happens next. Burning within them is the wish to know truth, the knowledge that will empower them to take control of their chaotic lives.


It is said you cannot run from fate. It finds you, defines and concludes, invades and intrudes. Some believe that everyone has a destiny, a predetermined order of events that come to a conclusion, whatever that may be.


I have a gift though, if one can call it that. Fate gives me a glimpse of its design for them, the plan it has for their lives. I can see what it is that people crave, what they desire. I also know if they will achieve it, whether or not they find clarity or if it is despair that awaits them.


Every day I walk alone, the burden weighs heavy, always casting a looming shadow over me. I have a different problem from other people however. Whilst they go looking for what lies in their own destiny, I actively try to hide from mine. You see, fate has been cruel to me…it has shown me how my story ends. I know what will happen, my future, my destiny, everything. Most people yearn for the gift that fate has given to me. What if you knew everything that was going to happen? Sounds good right? Not if you knew the ending to my story.


People come to me for guidance, and for answers, but I can offer neither. Most people are not ready to know the truth, they cannot handle it nor will they accept it. So I lie to the majority, telling them what they wish to hear. “You will be happy, gain wealth, riches, be successful, live a fulfilling, fruitful life,” everything they want to hear when they seek me out. It’s better that way. I’d rather people be happy and live their lives in peace than to know of any tragedies in their future. It isn’t all bad of course. Many people live very productive and normal lives. That is not what a young person full of dreams of grandeur wants to hear however.


It is ironic, I can give everyone else a sense of peace but I cannot help myself. I am waiting, always waiting. I know the day is coming and I know there is nothing I can do to stop it. I attempted to help a man to change their fate once. His was a tragic hand that fate had chosen to deal him. A car accident, his eyesight lost forever. I informed him of this and gave advice on how to avoid it. But years later the man came to me. Everything had still paned out exactly the way I had seen. In attempting to change his fate, he only sealed it. That was when I learned you couldn’t change such things. There is a design for us all, and we are not meant to meddle with it. We are merely passengers who are along for the ride.


The world is full of people who see what they want to see. I try to not see what I do. People call me blessed, I have been given the sight, the ability to see what awaits. What they do not understand though is I have been robbed of the chance to live out my life without knowing, without curiosity, without excitement or wonder. All different emotions, and all I cannot feel. The only thing that fills my heart is the dread; the inevitability of what fate has in store for me. I am truly cursed.


If I could not see it, I would be at peace I know. So my advice to people is to enjoy life, embrace the surprises it brings, good and bad. The ups and downs, the thrills and spills, the ecstasy and the grief…It is living. Knowledge is not always power. Sometimes it is a burden. Do not seek out fate, it will come and find you soon enough. Besides, if you already know what awaits you, then is life really worth living?


The day is near, that dreaded day. The knowledge of its coming has given me no peace. The joyous days have not been joyful, the happy times have always been covered by a dark cloud, the knowing that this day will finally come. I wish I didn’t know the future…do you?


Live life. The door is before you, right there ahead of you. Go and open it, discover the unknown, one day at a time. Unlike me, I know exactly what waits behind that door. There is that knock on the door I’ve been waiting for. Time for me to answer it…

FORGIVE ME


Steam poured around the room as the water soaked the face of Joseph Park. The man sighed as the fluid soaked away the stress of a long day. Naked in the shower, he raised his hand and realised that the blood on the knuckles of his right hand was washing away. He smiled to himself before turning the shower off. The man walked into the living room wearing just his underwear whilst he dried his hair with a towel. The room was small and dimly lit, and a kitchen attached to the back of it could be seen behind him. He slumped into a chair and turned on the television with the remote. A bottle of whisky and a half empty glass stood on a small table next to where he sat. The man filled the glass to the brim with whisky and took a couple of mouths full before placing it back onto the table. As Joseph watched the television, a shadow emerged from the darkness of the kitchen. The man was dressed in a long coat but his features remained hidden in the gloom. Joseph began to laugh at a joke from a comedian on the television when he spotted a reflection on the screen. He jumped up from the chair and turned to face the figure. “What are you doing in my house?”


“Watching you,” said a man’s voice, his features still hidden in the darkness of the dimly lit room. “I see you still like to punch things.”


Joseph Park held up his right hand and glanced at his knuckles, still swollen from when he had punched a woman in the face only a few hours earlier. “I don’t know who you are, but you’d better get out of my house!”


John Stewart stepped forward from the shadows to reveal himself.


“John? Is that you? What the hell are you doing here?”


John smiled and gave a mocking look of surprise. “Is that any way to speak to an old friend? Besides, I have a gift for you.” John held out his hand, in it was a pistol. He opened fire, a single shot muffled by a silencer on the tip of the gun. The round hit Joseph square in the forehead with deadly accuracy. John Stewart looked on as his victim began to fall. Time seemed to slow down as his victim descended ominously to the floor. John caught the body before it could hit the ground, slowly resting it on the floor so no sound could be heard.


First kill. It was easier than John had thought it would be. When the whole world thinks you are a murderer, actually carrying out the deed is not as hard as it seems. He opened his gun up and checked the bullets, only three of which remained. John then decided to exit the apartment, living Joseph Park to drown in a pool of his own blood.


As John drove away from the apartment of his first kill, he remembered back to when this had all begun. John came home from a hard day at the office. As he went to put the key into the front door he found it was already ajar. He made his way inside and what he saw was a scene of sheer terror. His wife, son and daughter lay in a pool of blood. At first the police said it was a burglary gone wrong. Laura had put up a fight against the intruders but then later, the police had come up with another theory. Some months later, John Stewart had been charged and convicted of multiple murders. Such was the media interest in such a horrific murder the police had decided they needed a culprit and it seemed that John was their man. John was sentenced to forty years in jail. It was there he had first met his victim, Joseph Park, a man who was serving time for the beating of numerous women, several of whom had committed suicide as a result of the abuse they had received at the hands of a man who had shown no remorse for his crimes.


John had never been able to find out the identity of those responsible for the death of his family. He had searched long and hard after his realise from jail after twenty-eight years. (Twelve years early for good behaviour). As a well-known serial killer, the world rejected him. People shunned him and as an ex-convict he could not find work. It seemed a killer was not on everyone’s hiring list. If the world will condemn me as a killer until my dying day then so be it. John had dreamed of finding his families killers and getting his vengeance but that task had proved impossible. The culprits had covered their tracks too well, so John turned his attention to others, people he knew were rotten to the core. I may not be able to get revenge for my family but I will rid the world of those people who are like them.

Clive Harrison finished the remains of his beer and placed the glass onto the bar. He nodded at the barman who knew to fetch him another drink.


“Still a heavier drinker Clive?”


The man turned around from his bar seat to see John Stewart standing behind him. Clive smiled and the pair hugged. “The hell you doing here John?”


“I was in the neighbourhood, thought I’d pop by to see an old friend.” John took a seat beside him at the bar. “I went to your house.”


“I only go there when I want to sleep. This place here has got everything I need.” The barman returned with another beer and Clive smiled. “Get one for my friend here.”


John shook his head. “I’m fine, I don’t really drink that much.”


“C’mon! You came all this way to see me and your not going to have a drink?” Clive turned to the barman. “Another one! And make it something strong.”


The pair sat at the bar for the next few hours sinking beers. In between drinks, the two men shared stories of times inside the big house. You see John and Clive were cellmates during their time in prison. Clive had gotten out several years earlier than John. Clive had been doing time for killing his wife after discovering she was having an affair. Rather than try to work out their differences, Clive decided to let a hammer solve his problems.


“Have you seen much of your kids since you got out?” asked John as he sunk his latest drink.


“No, they wont see me. Damn grandparents have turned them against me.” Clive slammed his pint down in anger. He turned to look at a group of young girls who were stood in the corner of the bar. “Time to get me a little skirt to make everything better.” Clive went to stand up from his seat but stumbled for a moment before falling to the ground.


John looked on as the bar erupted into laughter. “Seems like you’ve had enough for one night. Lets get out of here.”


The pair left the bar and began to walk across the street.


“This way,” said John, pointing to an alleyway on the other side of the road. “We might be able to catch the night bus.”


Clive walked ahead into the alleyway. “She’s taken everything,” he said in a drunken mumble. “My kids, my house, my life, I’m glad she’s dead!” Around midway through the alleyway, Clive looked to his left to where John had been walking alongside but found he was not there. Confused, Clive turned around to look behind him.


John stood a couple of feet inside the alleyways entrance. He held out a gun, aimed directly at Clive’s forehead. There was around twenty feet between them. “Cry out for help and I’ll shoot you in an instant.”


Clive looked on, totally bewildered by what he was seeing.


“You killed your wife, I can’t let that slide.”


“What? Are you a cop?”


“No.”


“Then what the hell are you doing pulling a gun on me? I thought we were friends?”


“Wrong, I could never be friends with someone like you, a killer.”


Clive began to laugh. “If I remember it right, you killed your entire family. Your worse than I am.”


Those words angered John a little but he kept it buried deep inside, now was not the time for rashness. “Wrong again. I never killed anyone…well not until recently.”


Clive showed little fear, more out of drunkenness than bravery. “Don’t give me that! We all say we’re innocent but we both know the truth, deep down we’re all guilty. And my wife deserved what she got!”


John pulled the trigger. A single shot, muffled by a silencer glided from the gun shaft and into the forehead of it’s intended target. Clive fell to the ground. And that is why you have to die, no remorse…


As he left the scene of the crime, John remembered back to his own wife. He and Laura had met in High School. She had been his prom date, the first girl he had ever kissed and the only woman he had ever truly loved. Now she was gone, taken away by some monster in the night, a monster like Clive. How could anyone think I could ever hurt her? She was my world…


John Stewart opened up his gun once more. Two bullets remained inside.


A deep sense of anger filled John Stewart as he drove into the city. His next target was a man who had committed the most horrific sin in his eyes. David Rose, the name still left a sour taste in his mouth. The man had raped and killed his own teenage daughter. The thought made John feel sick. To him, a father was the protector of the family, a man who should shield his family from the harshness of the world, someone to watch his children grow. In John’s eyes, David Rose had committed the most unforgiveable of sins. Like the others, John had met the monster during his time in prison. The man was not well liked and many other inmates had tried to kill him whilst he was swerving time. However, David Rose was an amateur boxer, and not so easily bested.


John found his man at the local gym. David Rose was a loner by nature and preferred to train at night, alone in an empty gym. John changed into gym attire and entered the heavy weights room. In the corner he spotted David hammering a punch bag. The man was ripped with muscle from head to toe. He stopped for a moment when he realised that he was no longer alone but only cared to glance at John for a moment before returning to his bag work.


He does not recognise me. It was just as John had hoped. The pair had only crossed paths a couple of times in the big house, no doubt he thought John was no threat to him. He took out his gun and slowly crept up behind his next victim.


John held out the gun, poised for the kill. David Rose suddenly turned around and punched John in the face. The gun flew from his hand whilst John himself flew backwards onto the floor.


He hits hard. It seemed David had not lost his punching power from his amateur days. The punch had dazed John and he shook his head whilst attempting to crawl away.


David kicked John hard in the stomach as he lay on the ground. “You think you can sneak up on me punk?”


John gripped a machine as he attempted to pull himself to his feet but David threw another haymaker of a punch that sent John crashing back down. As he attempted to crawl away, John’s elbow touched on something hard. The gun. It had flown from his grasp when David first hit him. It now lay beneath his elbow.


David Rose picked up a loose gym weight. It was large, weighing at least thirty kilogrammes. He poised to throw it at John’s head but the latter rolled onto his back and shot him square in the forehead. David fell to the ground, dropping the weight onto John’s leg as he did so. John cried out in pain as the heavy object almost crushed his leg but there was no cry from the other man. David rose was dead…


John lay on the ground, beaten and exhausted. He turned to the left and spotted a skipping rope near some other gym equipment. His thoughts drifted back to his daughter, playing with a skipping rope in the back garden of his house. John smiled as he watched on from the patio door. His wife came to the door and snuggled next to him, as did his son. A tear fell down the cheek of John Stewart as he looked at his gun again. Only one bullet left…


Home. It had been so long since John had been home. Years, but how many he could not say. He could not rest though, not yet, he knew he had one more killer to rid from the world. He pulled up outside a church and reached into the glove compartment for his gun before making his way inside the place of worship. Late night mass was well underway however the church was less than half full. John sat on a bench near the back…and waited…always waiting. Patience had been the key to his success thus far and now was not the time to deviate from his plan. He watched the priest closely, like a predator stalking an unsuspecting prey. The priest read out a passage from the bible and the rest of the people in attendance repeated the prayer, all expect for John Stewart, who remained silent, glaring at the priest with cold malice eyes. He looked around at the other churchgoers, all seemed to be at peace. John wondered if he would ever find such peace. He had been haunted by the death of his family, and was distraught to be convicted of their murder. The world had condemned him as a killer and John had decided to make it truth rather than fiction. The crowd stood up and began to form a queue down the aisle for Holy Communion. John watched on with envious eyes. They all have a place in the world; they all belong. Will I finally belong once my work is done?


Mass concluded and the crowd began to exit the church. John waited until the last person had left before standing up from the bench. He walked down the aisle and approached the altar where the priest was tidying up after the service. John gripped the gun in his coat pocket as he approached.


The priest turned around and appeared a little startled to see someone was still inside. “Mass has finished for the day my child.”


John Stewart stopped a few yards from the priest. “Father, do you have time for a confession?”


“You wish forgiveness from god for your sins?”


“I do.” John gripped the gun tightly inside his coat.


The priest nodded. “Very well, follow me.”


The priest led him into the confession box, which pleased John. After all, he did not wish to shed any blood upon the holy alter. He had been an alter boy in his early days and knew the altar was a scared place. The pair entered the confession box and the priest closed the curtain over. Both men took their seats inside. Between them stood a wooden wall and in the centre of it the priest opened up a hatch to reveal his face.


“So my child, you wish to take confession.”


John Stewart took out the gun from his coat pocket and held it in his hands. “Yes father, I do. I’ve been a very, very bad man.”


“Tell me.”


“I have killed four people.”


There was a nervous pause from the priest. “Killing...is a ...grave sin my child.”


John could hear the nervousness in the man’s voice. He is afraid. “Do not worry yourself father, I will not hurt you. I spent twenty-eight years in prison for my…sins.” The last word was spoken in a sarcastic tone. “Tell me father, can sins ever be truly forgiven?”


The priest hesitated before he gave his answer. “It is true that the sins you speak of are truly horrific acts.” The man took a deep breath. “However, in the eyes of god you have paid for your sins. I believe that he will forgive you.”


John Stewart stood up and revealed his gun. “Thank you father.” He placed the gun into his own mouth and pulled the trigger. The one remaining bullet found its mark and John fell to the ground…then everything went white.


It seemed for a moment that John was floating but when he opened his eyes he found himself standing upright. He looked around and could see only white no matter where he looked. The priest said my sins would be forgiven. Where are they? Where are my family? John had expected his family to be waiting for him on the other side. He had expected to be in a better place once he had departed from the cold and cruel world of the living. He began walking in one direction, walking for what seemed an eternity, but he found nothing. After days of wandering in the wilderness of white light it finally dawned on John what had happened. The world remembers me as a killer…and now it seems that God does too. He was right, for what John Stewart had finally come to realise was that killers were not welcome in heaven…