The lighting was dim. I could make out the forms of a desk, a bench, some bookcases. The leftovers of a fire glowed in a stone fireplace. The only well-lit item was a comfortable leather chair near the fireplace. This wasn’t what I had expected, but then, I had no idea what to expect.
I sat in the chair, immediately relaxing into its depths. It took a moment for it to become apparent that someone was sitting across from me, hidden in shadows. He wore all black, from his high-buttoned shirt to his polished shoes. Something in his manner made me want to squirm.
Even as I gave in to the urge, another man sat down on the hearth, next to my chair. This was a man I knew, though I had never seen his face.
“Lord!” I cried, half-rising to bow before him.
The man in the chair across from me gave a disgruntled “harrumph” and motioned for me to keep my seat. My ally smiled and nodded for me to obey.
“The charges…” the man in black began, looking toward the desk in the corner. “Shall I proceed?”
I became aware of a third presence, this one completely hidden from me – yet not by darkness. It was something – Someone I could not yet see. I sensed rather than saw the signal to continue.
“The matter of the soul of one Thomas Kelby,” intoned the man in black. “His history…”
I relaxed a little. Overall, I had led a clean life. This reading would hold no real terrors, even if it were conducted without the faithful comfort of my ally. With him beside me, it would almost be pleasant.
The reading began.
“May 20th, 1964: Plotted and carried out the physical harm of on Samuel Kelby – brother. Succeeded in causing broken arm and two cracked ribs. Lied to cover premeditation.”
I shifted suddenly, darting a glance at the man on the hearth. His eyes were down, brow knit.Surely even childhood pranks will not be held against me! Uneasily, I recalled the feeling I had had while lying to my mother. I had known I was in the wrong.
“September 8, 1967: Stole $30 from employer’s cash register for personal uses. Blamed coworker.”
That had been more serious… but even so – a teenage lark, nothing more! I found myself hesitating to glance at the hearth.
The list went on – chronicling teenage rebellion, rage against family members, my persistent flouting of church and any authority figure.
“October 13, 1972: Declared there is no God to group of friends on campus. Chose as personal philosophy from this time.”
The chair suddenly seemed much less comfortable. There was an almost tangible glee in my accuser’s voice. I shifted and kept my eyes firmly on my shoes.
Not surprisingly, my conversion was left out of the recitation, though it took me some time to realize it was absent. Petty grudges, shirked promises, arrogance toward God – what had become of the well-lived life I recalled?
“February 12, 1982: Pursued lustful thoughts about one Gina Howell. Continued for several weeks until distracted by one Bethany Dennis, about whom he also indulged in impure fantasies.”
“July 7, 1988: Ignored direct order from so-called Savior and Lord to approach man on street - one Steven McLayland - with offer of a meal. McLayland committed suicide later that same day.”
“November 26, 1990: Lied to wife about work hours to cover for time flirting with one Samantha Natchez…”
“April 5, 1992: Publicly disparaged one Rev. Timothy Haldings in order to make good impression with other church leaders…
“August 19, 1992…”
“September 29, 1994…”
“May 10, 1997…”
“December 2, 2004…”
I was out of the chair, kneeling on the floor as the weight of my guilt crashed over me. The man in black looked down at me and chuckled. I all but whimpered as he lowered the paper.
“Does the defendant wish to speak?”
I had only one thought. I turned to the man on the hearth, undone by the look on his face.
“Forgive me, Lord,” I whispered.
He smiled. “You asked this before, friend.”
“You have forgotten something, Lucifer,” He said, rising from his seat.
The man in black seemed to shrink before him. “No, I have been quite thorough.”
He took the papers from Lucifer’s hand, pointing to the very bottom.
“A mere footnote!” Lucifer blustered.
My ally shook his head. Written across the bottom of my list of sins, in bold, red letters. One word.
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