Jonathan knelt at the alter, hands together. "Forgive me God, for I plan to sin."
His voice traveled little past the altar. Even in the empty church it failed to reach the walls, echo out. No one could hear Jonathan except himself, and God.
That was as he wished.
"There is a man." He cleared his throat. The very mention of the man ran his mouth dry. That someone could incense him so quickly, and without so much as an utterance of his name, felt impossible. And yet, here he was, alone on his knees in the church, unable to speak. The fabric under his knees gave way as he shifted his weight from knee to knee. Soft. Comforting. At least, it should have been. The church had always felt like home. Returning to it, to any church, felt like entering a warm home.
No. It was more personal than that. Blankets and pillows were a physical comfort. Luxuries tied to this world. To this existence. What he felt in the church was deeper than that. More natural.
A womb. The church was a womb. A life before life. A home before home. His first.
"Dear god, there is a man. And try as I might," his voice broke. He couldn't say it. Admitting it here wouldn't make it any more or less real. The plans were already in motion. Come tomorrow night, Ethan Sparks would be dead. And it would be at Jonathan's hand. He knew and understood this. But to say it here, before God and the only home that ever mattered to him, felt like what it was: a betrayal.
"Try as I might I can not forgive him. He has wronged me, and though I know all we do and say it part of your plan, I cannot see what designs this has for me other than to engineer the end of his life. He's an evil man, oh Lord, and I intend to do evil to him."
His mind raced through everything Ethan stood for. Not just what he had done to him. That his little girl was no longer here... The absence was bottomless. As a boy he once heard his father speak of a bottomless pit. A side show attraction back in the days before interstates made such things quaint little distractions before killing them off entirely. His mind latched on to it. The idea that something could truly go on forever. He tried picturing it, superimposing the concept over an image of the Earth he had seen in a school science book. The layers rolled out before him. Crust followed by stone and stone, the names and compositions beyond his reach, but the picture was burned in his brain. Dante's Inferno for the scientific mind. Ring after ring of impenetrable earth. And then, the final circle. A molten core beyond anything he could imagine. No, that wasn't true. Night after night he had tried to imagine it. A straight tunnel burrowing into the depths of hell itself. He could see the sides of fresh cut stone. Could feel it under his hands as he ran them along its course surface. Each pass getting gradually hotter and hotter and until... what? Immolation? Suffocation? How could a body survive such a fall? Like most unexplainable things, it became an irrational fear in his child mind. Falling down a bottomless pit.
He no longer feared such a fall, nor did the concept keep him up at night. He had lost a child. Bottomlessness ceased to be a word. It was now a lived in experience, no less real than breathing. Ethan Sparks had cast him into that pit and he never so much as placed a hand on him.
"Forgive me," he croaked. Tears were gathering in his eyes. Spit had abandoned his mouth and now his lips, deprived of moisture, seemed to come together. Fused by desiccation. He tried running his tongue along them, but he found he couldn't even open his mouth.
Did he even really want forgiveness? He knew it wouldn't be granted to him. That much he understood. Spend enough time in a church and you learn what does and does not qualify. But still, he had come. Against all reason and logic, he had made the time, looked up the closest church, ordered the taxi, walked through those great oak doors, welcomed the musty smell of large, old church, walked past the pews, and knelt down before the crucifix, hands folded as he had so many times, and begged God.
Except this time, he felt nothing. No grace. No joy. No elation. Another mark against Sparks. The man had robbed him of so much. His daughter. His country. And now, what he once believed untouchable, his faith. Life was crumbling around him and all he could think to do was hurl the stones back at his assailants.
"God forgive me," he sputtered. He had lowered his head and now the soft flesh beneath his lip rubbed against the nails on his outstretched thumbs. Without his permission his head was shaking, back and forth, over and over, as if by scratching away at himself he could uncover the man he used to be. "Forgive me." Another whisper. His heart pounded against his chest, causing his words to come out in undulating waves, as if each syllable had been pushed out by the beating of his heart.
His lips quivered. He had more to say. More to confess. Now that he had given voice to his plans it threatened to come pouring out of him. A deluge washing away everything he had planned, everything he had become. If he kept talking, kept the walls down and allowed it all to come gushing out, the very force of his words would alter the topography of his life.
A part of him wanted that. A cleansing. A washing away. Starting over carried no anxiety at all if you had already lost everything.
But there were parts of him, the parts touched by Sparks, that could not accept that. Like a cancer it grew and grew. From his heart out he could trace the course of this dis