Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GAMBLE (04/14/16)
- TITLE: The Session
By Joe Moreland
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“What’s going on?” Christopher asked as he was pulled along the drab green hallway.
“It’s time for your meetin’,” one of the guards answered.
“Meeting? What meeting?”
“It’s mandatory. Part of your sentencing.” The other guard answered this time. The first one let out a low chuckle.
The rest of the trip was made in silence. Christopher had learned well the lesson behind asking one question too many. Eventually they arrived at a room that looked a lot like the Sunday school classes he knew so well from his youth. Several chairs sat in a circle in the middle of the room, three of them occupied by equally downtrodden men.
One of the guards sat Christopher in one of the chairs and the two of them left. The four prisoners sat in silence, not even bothering to look at each other. Their gazes were fixated on the mid-air nothingness that people who no longer have a will of their own often obsess over.
Gradually the guards delivered three more men, filling all but one of the seats in the circle. The last one was taken by a professorial-looking man with a tweed jacket and wire rim glasses, carrying a notepad and pen.
“Well,” the Professor broke the silence. “We should begin. William will you start? Tell us how you ended up here.”
The man to the Professor's left began to speak of his life as a corporate executive, chasing wealth and power and of the things he did to gain more of each. The Professor asked follow up questions and, in the end, William ended up a slobbering pile of tears and remorse.
Next was Stanley and his tale of drugs. Then Mark and his life of petty crime. Around the circle it went, each tale as sad as the first, if not more so; each teller ending up broken and miserable from the telling. There was no hesitation in their tales and no catharsis in the telling of them, just men brought face-to-face with their own mistakes and the Professor twisting a knife into their pain.
Finally, it was Christopher’s turn and the Professor was urging him to tell his story.
“It was a gamble.”
When he said no more, the Professor urged him on. “What was a gamble, Christopher?”
“My whole life. My choices. Every selfish thing I did because of my own stupidity. Walking away from my family and my friends. All based on a single lie.”
The Professor leaned in. “What lie was that, Christopher?”
Christopher, for the first time since the session had begun, lifted his gaze from the spot on the floor between his feet and looked at the Professor. “The lie that you didn’t exist.”
The Professor assumed a mock innocence. “Me? Whatever could I have to do with your story?” But there was the faint hint of a smile on his face and there was no mistaking his sardonic tone.
Christopher turned his gaze back to the floor. “All my life people tried to tell me. I wouldn’t hear them. I wanted what I wanted and there was no way I was going to give any of it up. There was no room for giving myself over to someone else’s purpose. The irony is, I did just that, didn’t I? Each decision I made to serve myself, was really a decision to serve you, wasn’t it?”
There was no feigned look of innocence now. The look was pure malevolence.
“Yes.” The word had a hint of raspiness with the end drawn out, almost like the hiss of a snake.
Christopher slumped down in his chair. Since he had arrived in this place he had experienced total and utter darkness for indeterminate amounts of time. He had endured fire that burned him inside and out, causing agonizing pain in every fiber of his being.
The despair and anguish he felt at that moment, though, surpassed all of the pain and agony, combined, of everything he had experienced from the moment he first arrived in Hell.
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