By Joshua St. Claire
My mother instructed me in the Good News for as long as I can remember. I did my very best to bear good fruit. I was kind to animals and other children. When I heard my schoolmates practicing their incantations under the live oaks at recess, I was determined to be kind—and remind them of the hellfire that awaited them and how their souls would twist in agony for eternity, and, just as my mother taught me, that their essence would be exhausted in a Lake of Fire. To my surprise, there was my brother, Winston, reading a strange book, surrounded by a chanting crowd.
They believed in the powers of hell, so why not Jesus? I told them to repent. I told my brother to stop his wicked ways and turn back to the Lord. Winston told me to shut my mouth or he would burn me up.
I knelt with my family in the Temple-Church until my knees bled and prayed for their souls. In the end, the witches still came for me with their fire.
We were a good, Christian family and had been for generations. How has this filth come to infect us? At least now, this question no longer requires an answer and, here in the sky, there is always a place to play.
Winston Jones (2011-2022)
Of course, I regret it now.
I know I should never have opened that book, but each time I touched the spine, I could feel warmth, the power coursing through me. I knew I should never have taken it to school—the other kids immediately knew what it was. My brother, Hamilton, tried to stop me, but I chose the attention of my schoolmates.
My father found me one night practicing incantations. I promised him I would stop but—oh how the book called to me…
I promised myself I would never look again but I heard the voice each night in my bed. I felt the power throbbing from the library upstairs…
Then, the sound of drums, rough hands, flames.
Lord, forgive me!
Joshua St. Claire is a certified public accountant who works as a corporate controller in rural Pennsylvania, USA. He enjoys writing on coffee breaks and after helping his wife put their three sons to bed. His poetry is published in Kaidankai: Ghost and Supernatural Stories, Mayfly, The Heron’s Nest, Otoroshi, and Scifaikuest. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and his work appears in the 2022 Dwarf Stars Anthology.