This story is by J C Trees and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Ezzrah! Dude!” I looked down at his bedraggled form. “What the hell?” he was sprawled out on the cold, stone floor lying next to a wooden cot. He looked like he had been drinking, but I knew that wasn’t the case. His race didn’t drink, and I didn’t know if it was a personal choice among them, or if it was a mandate from above. There were so many questions I had, but first things first. Ezzrah had saved my ass countless times. I should have been dead a thousand times over, and I am still here because of him. I don’t know why he even bothered to care about me the way he did? I am glad he did though, for I am still here kicking and breathing. I am still above ground because of him; I kind of owe him big-time; and in my eyes if there was a way to help him, I was sure as hell going to try my damnedest to repay him for all of his aid over the years.
To say that I didn’t rightly know why I was here, would be a lie. Sure, I had my suspicions, and my mind flashed back through the past thirty-some years. Thinking to myself that it was because of what Ezzrah had done for me, or what he hadn’t done for me. Whatever the case might had been, it was all just your typical religious dogma bullshit anyway. The Priests had sought me out, and brought me to the Seminary. I knew all along it was just a matter of time before they found me. I just waited, and bided my time until then, working on me; there would be time later on for Ezzrah.
“I see you have come out of it unscathed. Again.” he mumbled without looking up.
I shook my head “I wouldn’t say unscathed.”
It wasn’t that I was hurt physically, thank God for that. He was referring to my last drinking episode. The one that had sent me to the hospital, and brought him here I suppose. For me it was the humiliation I felt. Not only waking up in the emergency room, but it was also dealing with all of my family and friends over the incident. I shivered, not because the room was chilly, it was; no, it was more from retracing that one night, not so long ago. There was the not knowing of what had happened. It wasn’t like one of my usual blackouts or drunken binges where I could remember small pieces that I would put together later on when I was a bit sober. And then only to form a basic picture of what had happened, and thanking God that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else for that matter. This had been a completely different type of experience altogether. I didn’t recall a damn thing, except coming to once in the emergency room, and then a second time shortly thereafter while I was getting a MRI, still oblivious. It was an experience I do not wish to ever go through again. Then of course, there was the charge of public intoxication, and the fine. Thinking about it, it could have been worse, much worse.
“I let you down my friend.” he mumbled again.
“You didn’t let me down. If anything you have helped me more than you could ever had imagined.”
Ezzrah sobbed “I don’t see how.”
He looked up tears streaming down over his cheeks and then dropping down towards the stone floor where they instantly evaporated in a puff of mist before they actually landed.
“All those decades, I had covered it all up. I shielded you from all of the consequences of your wrong-doing. It was during my watch, after all. And then this last time, I had just left you there sitting in that bar drinking. I knew you were not in your right mind, but still I left you there. I was derelict in my duty.”
I moved into the small room and sat on the edge of the cot. Looking down I placed my hand on his shoulder. “If it wasn’t for you, and everything you had done for me I would have surely been damned, and quite possibly I wouldn’t be here at all right now.” I smiled to myself. Over the years I had been a big piece of crap, a hairball. I lived to party. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was the only thing I lived for that really mattered to me. All I ever wanted to do in life was to feel good. Or in some cases to not be able to feel any pain at all, no matter what the cost was. All my life, deep down within my soul I knew that I was destined for greatness. I just didn’t want it. I didn’t want nothing to do with any of it, or any of the bull-shit that came with it. So I just kept to myself, getting stoned, and drunk; just watching the world pass me by. I missed out on so much of life; I wasn’t living. I was just existing. But deep inside I knew, the-powers-that-be wouldn’t just let me off so easily. My fate had been slated before I was even born; no matter how I looked at it, destiny was absolute.
“You died! I saw it. I saw you laying there, and I can never forgive myself for that.”
“Ezzrah, yes I did die. The doctors told me I was dead for about three minutes, give or take a few seconds. It was a good thing that I did die, everything that happened had changed my perspective significantly. I am no longer the self-destructive asshole I once was. If it wasn’t for you leaving me there that night, I would still be out there drinking, and drugging, getting screwed up as I always had. Or sitting in jail; the cause of an accident that could have taken someone else’s life away.” Those thoughts had been with me since that night. I doubt if I would be able to live with myself if I were to be the cause of another’s life. Someone’s mother or father, a daughter or son. Nope, I wouldn’t be able to handle that shit at all.
Eyes so dark, they glistened in the dim light as Ezzrah gazed up at me. He still didn’t quite seem to understand what I was getting at.
“Divine intervention maybe, call it what you will. When I died, before they revived me a couple of your brethren escorted me to Heaven. They even let me catch a little glimpse of Hell. I knew that if I didn’t change my ways that I would be on a one-way trip down South to that infernal warm place. And I don’t mean Florida either my friend.” I chuckled to myself “Look at me now, I’ve been attending Mass again. I have been going to a few twelve-step programs a week, and putting forth an effort into it all. I haven’t had a drink or a drug since that night, it’s been well over two months. It’s not that I’m really keeping track of it, I’ve been taking it slow, like these programs say One Day at A Time, One Step at A Time. Or in my case One Moment at A Time. And you know what? I feel pretty damn good about it, about me, for the first time in my life” I was still locked onto his gaze and smiled.
“While I was upstairs I was given the opportunity to see the Big Guy, he didn’t speak to me directly, but then again I didn’t expect him to. I knew what he was thinking, and what he wanted. It was like he projected it all into my mind. He knew your torment, and what you were going through. I caught brief images of you in this place. This small room, the long open air corridor with the mist that wafted in from the gardens, the large iron-bound wooden doors that takes two priests to open. I saw it all in my mind.”
My eyes were still locked with Ezzrah’s as I tried forming in my brain what I was going to say next. I knew what the Big Guy wanted me say, it was very plain and to the point. There was no in between, or beating around the bush with Him. So I manned up.
“I tell you Ezzrah, I can’t even begin to make this stuff up. He wants me to still be in your charge, I shit you not. I don’t know how to say this; his words not mine my friend. To put it bluntly, he wants you to pull your head out of your ass, and get back to work.”