Excerpt for Choices Reap Unavoidable Consequences by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Choices Reap Unavoidable Consequences

Copyright 2018 Albert Oon

Published by Albert Oon at Smashwords

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-work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. - Philippians 2:12

Chapter 1 – Separated from Earthly Consequences

When someone knows they did wrong, they usually try to hide it or make excuses. They will rarely confess what they did and make up for it since that requires a great deal of strength. Vito is a man who has committed deeds that he’d rather not talk about. He’s on the run from his hometown and he’s never felt freer. When he was employed, he made enough money to live on the run especially since his parents were famous. He’s been out on the road for months now looking for an unknown crack in the country to live peacefully in and he just might’ve found it after driving through the mountains of the country.

It’s a small town that’s not on any of the maps he has on paper or on his GPS. The streets of the town are relatively empty, which makes it a great place to lay low with few eyes watching him. There’s a statue in the middle of town that has a broken statue of the blind lady of justice. Not only are her eyes covered, but her mouth is covered as well, her sword is through her ears, and the top part of her scale is put through her chin and comes out her head. The inscription on the bottom says, “Iustitia enim est Iustum”.

Curious about what it means, Vito parks his car on the side of the road and admires the statue until someone comes along. He asks them, “Excuse me, but what does the inscription on the bottom of the statue mean?”

“You’re a newcomer, aren’t you?”

“I am. Is there a problem with that?”

“No, not at all. In fact, since you’ve found this place, you’re in good company. Most people here are on the run from the law because they have a clearer sense of justice. Speaking about justice, that’s what this statue is about. ‘Justice for the just’ is what the inscription means or at least that’s what some people say. I don’t know many people here who can translate Latin correctly but we all agree with what this statue says.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means that we get the justice that we are owed. The world screwed us over and now we have our justice through this meager town.”

“When did this town even appear? I haven’t seen it on any of the maps I have.”

“No one has any clue, but does it really matter? It’s a fresh start for people like us.”

“I guess it doesn’t matter. What’s the town’s name?”

“We call it Ramoth-Gilead, which is the name of a town in Israel in the good book. A place where those who accidentally shed innocent blood can live in peace away from the judgments of men.”

“Nice. I think I’ll like this place.”

Vito then drives off to a diner to have dinner. In the diner, he overhears people confess what they did before coming to this town. Once they do this, more people come forward to confess their crimes and become fast friends with one another. People talk about; murder, theft, rape, cannibalism, torturing, and various other horrible deeds. Other people would be horrified by hearing this, but Vito is comforted. He is in the company of people like him. Since he’s been on the road for a while, he decides to get a place to rest in. When a waitress comes to collect the check, he asks her where’s a good place to stay around here.

She tells him, “You can honestly stay in whatever house you want as long as it isn’t occupied. This community sustains itself, so you don’t need to worry about paying for it upfront or paying for the heating and air condition.”

“You’re not pulling my leg, are you?”

“Not at all. You can even live with someone if they allow it.” She says with a wink.

“I’ll consider that, but I want to take a look around first. See what options I have.”

“All men say that.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. Here. Take this as a tip.”

Vito hands the waitress a fifty-dollar bill.

“Uh, I’m sorry but I’d rather not take this big of a tip. You could’ve paid for two and a half meals with this.”

“It’s fine. I got plenty of money with me.”

“Did you steal it?”

“Nope. Everything I have, I earned.”

“Are you sure you belong in this town? Guilty men aren’t so quick to make up for even the smallest of sins especially in this manner.”

“I’m sure I do. If you won’t take this fifty, then here, take this twenty.”

“Ok, fine.”

The waitress takes his payment and large tip. Vito leaves the diner and drives around the small town looking for a good house to stay in. It is obvious to tell which houses are occupied since they are decorated outside while most of the unoccupied houses look dirty and in need of work. Luckily enough, he manages to find an unoccupied house in decent condition not too far from a lake. The inside already has everything he needs which includes; a working bathroom, dryer, washer, heater, air conditioner, and a clean bed. He jumps in it and instantly falls asleep since he hasn’t been in a real bed in months.

The dreams he has are of his guilts since this place reminds him why he’s on the run. He sees his parents, siblings, wife, child, and the dozens of other people he’s hurt. They call out to him with their arms out as he hangs from a ceiling. He tries to cling to it as he slowly slips off. His hands eventually do slip, and he falls into the crowd and onto the floor of his room. Vito looks around in a cold sweat before calming himself down. It is now the next day, seven-thirty to be exact or at least that’s what it says on his phone. The phone’s battery is on one-percent battery as it appears that the building doesn’t have any electricity flowing through it to charge it, however, he isn’t too worried about the phone. He’s finally able to settle down and start a new life without having to worry about the consequences of the past.

When he heads outside, he notices that the town is covered in a fog. Ash slowly falls down from the sky and blackens the ground around him. The once sparsely filled streets are now home to the shadows of people with no bodies to originate from.

“What’s going on around here?” he asks himself as he looks around the town.

Vito tries to start his car, but the battery is drained all of the sudden, so he walks through the town. Shadowy figures watch him from some of the buildings in the town some of which appear to be humanoid while others don’t. Seeing these weird figures makes him hurry his walking until he reaches the edge of town. He finds a surprise there as the roads are now completely gone and are replaced with an endless chasm separating the town from the nearest piece of land. A faint light can be seen at the bottom of the chasm. Heat also comes from it, which seems to suggest that whatever is at the bottom is responsible for the ash in the air. In the far away hills, he can see figures that have parts of their body floating in place. They appear to have broken crosses for faces and appear to guard the town. The fog itself looks to be thicker on the other side and almost solid as if it were a wall. As he looks over to the far side of the road, Vito can see a light that flickers on and on. There appear to be figures walking through the light.

“Hey! I need help over here,” he screams to get their attention.

A few seconds pass before he sees one of the figures approaching him. It then screams as it catches on fire and falls into the chasm. Vito backs away and bumps into a large figure cloaked in black. Multiple hands reach out from under the cloak and grab Vito. It takes him and throws him into the fire. As he falls Vito tries to grab something on the side of the cliffs to slow his fall, but the side of the cliffs move further away when he tries to grab them. Before he hits the bottom, he sees an uncountable amount of people burning in a fire.

He then awakens in a cold sweat back in his room as he falls to the floor. Not sure about what’s happening, he gets up and looks out the window to see that it is foggy with ash falling from the sky.

“I deserve this, don't I?” he asks himself.

Chapter 2 – Haunting Guilts

With one part of his mind thinking he deserves this and the other wanting to escape, Vito racks his mind to settle on a course of action. There’s a knock at his door. A letter is then slipped under it as Vito approaches the door. He opens the door to find no one outside besides the shadows that “walk” the streets. After closing the door, he looks at the mysterious letter. The sender didn’t identify themselves. They only left the address to an amusement park that’s not too far from Vito.

He then opens the letter and reads it aloud, “Come to the amusement park on the lake if you want to find a way to pay for your past. You don’t have to of course. You can always turn around. Your sins are not too great, so why should you have to pay such a high price to get rid of them? You can still come if you want, but always remember that you can always turn around and take an easier path.”

The initials N and M are at the bottom along with Vito’s last name after each first name initial. He instantly recognizes it as his parents. The letter isn’t written the way his parents write nor is it worded in the way they talk, but he still decides to go to this amusement park. The part of the letter that talks about turning around is just a temptation to ignore this chance to pay for his past in his mind. Vito came all this way to run away from his past and now it has caught up to him in some supernatural way. Now that he has the opportunity to pay for it, he wants to pay in full so that it will be completely erased.

The town is still as empty as it was in Vito’s dream. Shadows are the only thing that populates it, and ashes still fall from the sky.

“What was that cloaked thing from before?” Vito asks himself, “Was it my reaper who’s after me because of what I’ve done?”

His question will have to stay unanswered right now as he approaches the amusement park called the Crimson and Azure. It looks similar to an amusement park from his hometown. It’s empty like the rest of the town except for the large rat mascot costumes. Some sit on benches while others stand upright in certain vendors like the games and food stations. Some are males while others are females. Vito curiously pokes the costumes.

“Hey,” he says to it in a shaky voice.

The amusement park advertises the male rats as Ricky and the female ones as Becky while the smaller ones are their children. Curious, Vito takes the head off the costume and finds out that it’s hollow. He then puts the head back on and hits himself for taking such a stupid course of actions, but at least he feels relieved. There’s not much in the amusement park to find, so he goes to the end of the boardwalk and looks out at the lake. He remembers one of the times he went to the amusement park in his hometown of Hillside City.

Vito is the youngest of five children of two of the most reputable people in town. His father was a boxer and his mother was a doctor. Because of his parents, he lived a very comfortable life. In their summer visit to the amusement park on an island near the city, Vito and his brother looked out at sea to enjoy the view. Since the two were alone, Vito got the idea to push his brother off the railing he was sitting on. The siblings liked to play fight with one another, so this was his chance to at his brother and so he pushed his brother off the railing. Mere seconds passed before he regretted his decision. Vito dove into the water to get his brother out of the water and swam him to safety. He apologized profusely and offered to do or give his brother anything he wanted, but the brother didn’t mind the harmless prank. In fact, his brother swam better than Vito did, so his brother was doing most of the swimming back to land. Vito’s brother laughed it off and told the rest of the family what happened. Thinking that he’ll be scored, Vito apologized again even though his parents and siblings laughed. The prank was shrugged off and the family enjoyed the rest of the day together.

After the lifelike flashback, Vito blinks his eyes a couple times to make sure that he’s still in reality. He puts his concentration back on his goal and searches the amusement park for answers. There’s a stage in the park that has several rat animatronics on it. Behind it, there’s an employee only entrance that he decides to take a look in. He quietly enters it in case someone comes around. In the backstage area, he finds a basement door that is slightly covered by a wooden board. After removing it, he goes into the basement to find an animatronic repair station. This makes him remember the time he snuck into a similar area in the amusement park back home.

It was a school trip and Vito was with his friends. They’ve heard of the old urban legends about kids being kidnapped and killed in the amusement park as part of someone’s revenge plot. The amusement park had to close and reopen years later to shake off this bad reputation. Anyways, his friends and he sneak into the backstage area of the performing stage and come across a secret basement. In the secret basement, they find a bunch of spare animatronic parts plus a ton of decapitated robot parts. They also find suspicious black stains on the floor, which could be bloodstains. The room did smell funny after all. The kids didn’t want to find out and left the backstage area without alerting anyone. Feeling guilty about doing what he wasn’t supposed to do, he tells his teacher when they aren’t around his classmates. The teacher asks him if it was his idea and if anybody got hurt both of which he denies. The teacher then tells him that’s it’s okay and he should just forget about it since it wasn’t a big deal. Vito then walks out of the backstage area just as the animatronics come online and sing their songs on stage. The rest of animatronics activate and start walking around the place advertising what’s at their stations. Some of the ones that aren’t at a station walk around in preset paths and ask no one if they want to take pictures with it.

Somewhat unnerved, Vito cautiously continues to search through the amusement park for answers. He makes to the right side of the docks. There, he can see a lighthouse in the distance. This sight makes him remember his first date. His Aunt Harley, who was also the chief of police in Hillside City, taught Vito about love. She told him to be obsessed with his love and to do everything in his power to make them stay happy. To disappoint the love of your life or to make them sad is one of the worst things you could do to them. Vito took his first date to the amusement park for a decent time out. While looking out at the lighthouse, the girl notices that something of hers was pickpocketed and stolen. She gets upset, which makes Vito upset as well. He hastily tries to offer her everything he can. This somewhat frightens her, but it also makes her sympathize with him, which made her want to stay with him in order to protect him. This is how he met his wife.

This memory makes him feel happy, but his mess up spoils it a bit. He then shakes the feeling off and realizes that he’s holding something in his hand. It’s the ring he gave his wife. He threw it away after she died, and he throws it away again except it appears on his finger after it is thrown. The feeling of the ring on his finger reminds him of his failures and the horrible things he’d done. Seeing that he can’t get rid of it, he figures that this is the thing the letter told him about and he feels unsatisfied.

“What a waste of time,” he says aloud.

All of these flashbacks and returning feelings exhaust him, so he goes to leave the amusement park. Before he leaves, a rat animatronic begins to chase him at full speed until he rushes out of the gate. As he watches the animatronic go back, it becomes clear that it was just going along its set path. He calms down and laughs at himself for falling for it before bumping into a rat behind him. It holds out another letter, which has a variety of address on it.

The letter says, “Come to these addresses if you want to pay the price for your past. I still don’t get why you’re so hard on yourself. Your venial sins might turn into mortal ones if you don’t stop. You can always turn around and go back. Your family might not be waiting for but there are always new people who will accept you. The choice is yours.”

This letter is signed by his wife, child, and the name he had in mind for his unborn child. When Vito looks back up, he sees that the rat animatronic has disappeared, but now he’s more worried about what will happen later. He goes to the first of the locations written on the envelope regardless of what the letter warns because he knows what he did, and he knows he has to pay.

Chapter 3 – Reasons for Regret

The first place Vito goes to is a building near an alleyway. The building itself is condemned along with the buildings next to it. Someone screams down the nearby alley. This startles him for a second but then he automatically runs to help whoever is in trouble. This event reminds him of the time his father and he helped someone who was in trouble.

It was a closely held family secret that the father used to be a vigilante. He would help people on the streets who were being attacked by muggers, thieves, or sociopathic murderers. On one day while running some errands, Vito and his father heard someone screaming down a dark alley. They ran to see that a man was getting mugged. His father beat up the four muggers by himself while Vito stood there afraid of doing anything. After the four muggers were beaten down, his father turned to Vito and was about to say something before Vito noticed the man, who was getting mugged, ready to attack his father. Vito slips under his father and pushes away the man. Seeing that the man was bait, his father beat him up as well before calling the police to jail these criminals.

Vito’s said to his father, “I’m sorry for not helping you, dad.”

His father put his hand on Vito’s shoulder then said, “What are you talking about? You saved my life. I mean you could’ve helped me in the beginning, since you know how to defend yourself, but you made up for it. I’m proud of you, son.”

His father hugged him then took him out wherever he wanted as a reward. Once the shadow of the memory leaves Vito, he comes across an empty alleyway. The only thing that’s back here is a large trash bin that appears to be empty.

“That scream must’ve come from somewhere,” Vito says to himself as he looks around.

He looks around the trash can and inside of it to find nothing. A shadow in one of the windows above him draws his eyes to it. He sees what can best be described as a woman after a car accident with the hands of her child below her trying to lift itself up to see outside the window. Both look heavily injured with their skin cracked and leaking black fluids. A part of the concrete below Vito breaks and a small fetus reaches its hand out to him. Knowing what this is, he runs away from it and heads to the next location on the envelope. He’d figure that he would have to face his past, but he never imagined it would be like this.

The next area he’s at is a small park that appears to have been the place of a celebration. This reminds him not of a singular event, but multiple. The rest of his siblings have notable careers like; doctor, boxer, writer, and officer while he works as a car mechanic. Sure, his aunt gave him the job of also repairing and upgrading police cars, but he didn’t do anything else. Dozens of people including those close to him, always asked him why he didn’t choose a better career when he had so much opportunity. He could’ve had any kind of high paying job, but he chose the life of a simple car mechanic. Now, when people talked to him about this, they weren’t criticizing or putting him down, most of the time, but were just curious. This combined with the accomplishments of others being told to him made him feel incredibly guilty whenever he did something wrong or when he thought of something he could’ve done. Since he rarely brought this up or acted it out, no one really knew he has this problem.

The park is full of memories of people which cause this guilt.

“Why didn’t you become a doctor?”

“Why didn’t you choose the easy life?”

“Your brothers and sisters are doing so much more.”

“Why didn’t you do something more with your life?”

“You had so many better opportunities.”

“Don’t you want to accomplish more?”

“You could’ve done so much more with what you have.”

“Tell me why.”

Questions like these still haunt Vito’s mind. He told everyone this is the kind of life he wants to live and yet, he is unsatisfied with his own answer while being satisfied with his life at the same time. Again, he walks away from this area with no reward or idea why he was told to go there. He only has two more places to go. Both places are close to one another, which is good for him. One of the places not too far from the roads leading out of the town. When Vito gets there, he finds that the roads are normal. There’s no chasm or lights at the end of the road. The wall of fog at the end is also none existent. Curious, Vito walks out of the town and sees the fog and ash completely disappear around him and from the town. When he walks back into the town, the fog and ash come back. There’s nothing else around this area, so it appears that the only thing the letter wanted to show Vito is the clear exit, but he doesn’t want to take the easy way out, so he walks back into the town. He knows the horrible things he did, and he wants to pay the price in full and in the right way.

This next destination is a nearby bar. The sound of laughter and conversation relives Vito that he isn’t alone in town, but the people in the bar aren’t exactly people. The people in the bar have their faces and skin stitched together with their faces made into smiles and their eyes are slanted up in a smile as well. Various pieces of metal jut out of the bodies of some people while others are scantily dressed. Other people are fat blobs while others are seeping with black liquids. It’s as if the seven deadly sins were given human form. Everyone in the bar becomes quiet then snaps their heads to look at Vito as he approaches the bartender.

“I, uh. Was told to…”

Before Vito can finish talking, the bartender points his thumb to the back area of the bar.

“Uh, thank you.”

Everyone in the bar silent stares at Vito as he makes his way into the back room. As soon as he goes through the door, everyone starts talking again like normal. The room Vito is in is small and cramped. Being in this room makes him feel alone, isolated, and uncomfortable despite not wanting to be outside in the bar. He figures there’s something in here that he’s supposed to find so he looks through the room to find it. While looking through the room, a dusty book catches his eyes. It’s brown and appears to have been heavily used. Opening the book, the first page that he finds is a description of the town and its true purposes.

The book describes this town as a place that catches the guiltiest and guilt filled people in the world. It appears to be a haven for like-minded individuals before ensnaring them in its trap where they will pay the price for their actions by themselves. They will only be released if it is certain they will change for the better. If they don’t, they are thrown down into the depths of the town and used as living fuel for the town until the last day of judgment where it will be shown whether or not they take back their judgment. It is written that they are living through their own personal trials again and again while they are in the flames. Vito ignores the rest of the details as he knows the important parts and puts down the book. Plus, the ceiling seems to be leaking a black liquid, so he exits the backroom. Again, the people in the bar stop talking and stare at Vito.

“Thanks for the info. Do you mind if I have a cold one?”

The bartender hands him a lite beer. It’s a beer that his father and mother let him drink even when he was sixteen years old as long as he didn’t let Aunt Harley know. Vito puts down a twenty.

“You can keep the change,” Vito says as he walks out of the bar while still being stared at.

Once he leaves, the bar completely empties and turns dark. He downs his beer to calm his mind then throws it away. Unsure about what to do next, Vito wanders the town until he reaches a church. In it, he finds lit candles and the church organs being played by an invisible figure. He goes to the candles, donates five dollars, and lights five candles for his family and the people he hurt. He then notices that the confessional booth light is open with the booth near it being empty. Seeing the opportunity to get rid of some of his sins, he goes into it and kneels inside.

Vito says, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It has been…two months since my last confession and these are my sins. I uh…I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt tons of people through my actions and lack of actions.”

“Could you be more specific? God needs you to tell Him in order for you to be forgiven,” the priest says.

“I let my family down when I wasn’t there for them. The things I could’ve done if I knew the details.”

“If you didn’t know what was going to happen, then you have nothing to confess. Being unaware of our actions save us from committing mortal sins.”

“But I know I’m guilty. I’ve let countless people die through my actions. Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to help everyone I set out to help.”

“We’re all guilty of that, but that’s a goal only God can accomplish, so it isn’t a sin. The only sin I see on your soul is being too hard on yourself.”


“You’re a good person. Reflect on what you’ve done and come back if you have even the smallest of regrets.”

“I…Okay. Thank you, father.”

“You’re welcome. Go in peace and take care of yourself.”

Vito exits the booth, but then the priest’s hand reaches out from his booth.

“Before you go, Vito, this letter came to the church for you. It’s from those people you talked about. I’m sure they’re eager to see you.”

Vito takes the letter.

“Thank you, father.”

Vito thinks to himself as he exits the church, “Oh here we go again. Hopefully, this will give me better answers.”

Chapter 4 – Overwhelming Guilt

The letter contained within the envelope is signed with the names of everyone that Vito knows with various other signatures cover the front and back. These other signatures are unreadable, so he assumes that these are from the people that he didn’t know that he was trying to help. Most of the areas listed on the envelope aren’t in town. Instead, they’re addresses he remembers being back in Hillside City. He ignores them and goes to the only place in town, which is a hospital.

The dark interior of the hospital somehow triggers Vito’s memory of his first time there. His mom brought him to work that day to show him what’s it’s like. She did this with her other children to inspire them to help other people who are in need, however, this time was different from the rest. Every patient they went too was either about to die or died moments before they enter. This made Vito feel like he was the cause of their deaths when in reality, it was all a coincidence. This didn’t stop Vito from learning to care about others, but he grew up wanting to save as many people as possible despite his limited reach. He would donate money to causes across the country. If he heard someone in that cause die, he felt responsible and donated more money to that cause. Because of this, he didn’t have a habit of spending money on comics, clothes, or video games like a normal boy. Instead, he spent his money on helping other people. His siblings would lend him their toys, games, and clothes. He wouldn’t have any to call his own until he was thirteen years old. This he didn’t mind as long as he heard that someone was saved through his efforts.

His phone in his pockets wakes him up from his memory. Vito is now in a different part of the hospital floors above where he once was. When he looks at his phone, he sees that the battery sits at zero percent, and yet, it still rings. The caller ID is his mother.

“Hello?” he says as he renters a memory.

“Hello, sweetie. Are you coming over to visit us?”

“I’ll be there this afternoon, mom. I’ve got to get some work done first.”

“Okay, I see how much your father and I matter to you.”

“No, it’s not that at all mom!”

“I’m just kidding, calm down. Your brothers and sisters will be here soon, so it’ll be a big family get together.”


“Well…We’ll be waiting for you.”

“Bye, mom. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

During that day, Vito wanted to finish some repairs on a few cop cars before seeing his parent’s in the hospital. They both happen to have a life-threatening disease, but it hadn’t taken its effect until during Vito was doing his job. After finishing his job, he saw that he had a bunch of messages and missed calls about his parents dying. By the time he got to the hospital, they were dead. His brothers and sisters yelled at him about not being there. Vito gave his explanation as to why he wasn’t there in time. His phone was charging in his office and he couldn’t hear it go off while he was working. They half-heartedly accepted his excuse, but he didn’t. He felt that his parents would’ve held onto life if he was there along with his siblings.

Vito lifts his tear stained face to see the bodies of his parents in the hospital after reliving the memory. Both of his parents are at peace as they hold each other’s hand. Despite their happy death, he still feels guilty and ashamed of himself.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” his parents whisper.

“I’m sorry mom…dad. I’m not sure if I could ever forgive myself.”

His phone then rings again. Vito knows what call this is going to be, but he is forced to pick it anyway as his past memories come to life.

It was a normal workday. His now pregnant wife was dropping off their child to school before going to work like usual. While he washed the dishes before heading to work, he overheard the news talk about the somewhat unusual amounts of traffic on the roads. The roads that were talked about were the ones that his wife usually took to get their daughter to school. Vito didn’t think to call his wife about the traffic since he knew that his wife listened to the traffic reports anyway, so he didn’t think too much of it. He thought she would already know about the traffic and either go through it or around it and complain to him later about the traffic on the roads. This occurrence was normal, but today, there was an unfortunate accident. An inpatient driver caused this and because of them, Vito’s wife, child, and unborn child died as well. This time, he felt guilty for not calling his wife and telling her about it even though she would know about it.

The memory has led him to another room with the bodies of his family covered by sheets that are stained black. He kneels by the bed as he cries again.

“Don’t blame yourself,” his family whispers.

“I’m sorry. I’m not sure if I can’t,” Vito responds in a shaky voice.

Looking up, he can see that he’s in a room full of covered bodies. For some reason, his mind immediately thinks of all the kinds of people he could’ve saved through his actions.

“Don’t blame yourself,” they whisper.

“You couldn’t have done anything.”

“You didn’t know.”

“You’re innocent.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Get over it.”

“Leave it in the past.”

The bodies begin to sit up from their beds as it appears that they’re staring at him. Frightened by this he quickly leaves the room even though the bodies don’t do anything. He’s now on the outside of the hospital. The sky has appeared to have gotten darker as well as the ash that falls from the sky. As a result, the streets are colored black, and the air feels thicker. The fog is thicker as well, and Vito can barely see ahead of him. A stitched-together person, who’s wearing a mailman’s outfit, appears through the fog. He walks up to Vito and hands him a piece of paper.

“I’m done with these stupid letters! They aren’t doing anything for me,” he yells at the stitched mailman.

The mailman points to the letter and Vito reads it. It tells him to make his choice. Leave or stay. He gives it a long hard think, but he’s torn between both choices.

“What if I don’t know yet?”

The mailman then points at the cross that Vito is wearing.

“Oh, of course. I remember now. Uh, thanks.”

The mailman tips his hat then walks away. Needing a more direct answer, Vito heads to the church and finds the priest kneeling near the altar. The priest is wearing a veil over his head to cover his face. Vito assumes this is because the priest is another stitched together person but doesn’t mind it for now.

He goes up to the priest, kneels near the altar, then says, “I’m back, father.”

“And? What did you find out?”

“I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem like I’m guilty of much of anything, but I always feel guilty. The people I’ve encountered always make me feel guilty even if they didn’t mean to.”

“You’ve already said the answer. Just clear your mind of your assumptions about what other people think, what you think, and take a look at what is true.”

“I…I’m not guilty of anything other than harshly judging myself. I didn’t have faith in myself and I put too much thought into the minds of other when I didn’t need to.”

“That’s right, but do you really believe that?”

“I want to, but I need help in believing it completely. Is there anything you can do to help me do this?”

“It is not something I can do.”

The priest looks at Vito revealing his face to be his own. This shocks him a bit but then he calms down.

“I uh. Can’t absolve my wrongdoings through myself.”

“I’m not actually you, but you still need to forgive yourself in some way.”

“I know that, but still, it’s weird. So what should I do?”

“Go down to the depths of this town. Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Now, go do penance as your sins are cleansed through fire.”

The floors of the church open to reveal a chasm with a raging fire at the bottom. Vito willingly falls down into the chasm ready to face whatever comes to him.

Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. – 1 Corinthians 3: 13-15

Chapter 5 – Stitched Together Guilts

During his long fall, Vito passes out. He wakes up at the bottom to see dozens upon dozens of people below him being tossed into the fires of this town. There are tons of reapers that look like angels of death. These are the beings that take these people from above and deliver them to their punishment. Besides these angels, there are some that look like the black cloaked figure that Vito saw before. People seem to come down here like how Vito did. They argue with the reaper in various languages including his own.

One of them says to the reaper, “I am a guilty man who deserves to be punished.”

“You are relatively innocent. You do not to be punished this severely,” it responds in a deep muffled voice.

“I do.”

“You know that you are lying to yourself.”

“I’m not! I know I’m a guilty man deserving of Hell.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.”

“So be it then according to your will.”

The reaper takes the man and tosses him into the fiery lake. The sin in the souls of everyone in the flames burn them and make them suffer tremendously in them without the release of death until the last day of judgment. These reapers with demoralized heads and mannerisms appear to be the reapers of the people who judge themselves to be guilty. They are guilt reapers in some sense. Vito appears to be the only person in this crowd who doesn’t want to be thrown into the fire. He looks around and finds a narrow crevice in the rocks that appears to be the only exit.

“It’s like they say, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate’ or whatever,” he says to himself.

The rocks in the crevice jut out at him, which makes it both uncomfortable and painful to go through. At the end of the crevice, Vito finds himself in a crowd of stitched people. All of them stare at him and present to him their arms with their heads bowed. There appears to be a way out behind them, but they block the way. One of them holds out a knife. He takes the knife and thinks that he’s supposed to cut the stitches off them, but the stitches are too strong. While cutting, he notices the stitches on his own skin and the dark crimson liquid on his own hands. It’s as if he was the one who attached all of this excess corrupt skin on himself. Even his eyes are blinded with skin that’s stitched onto his face. He just somehow never noticed.

When Vito begins to cut, it feels as if he’s cutting the veins out of his own body and he’s only cut through a single stitch. He hesitates to cut another string as the pain can potentially be unbearable especially since there are so many stitches to cut all over his body. Vito then reminds himself of the kind of person he wants to be. The kind of person that makes the right decisions no matter how hard they are even if he has to put himself down. The right answer is clear. There are only two options in this situation. Either cut off the stitches and renew his life or suffer in eternal fire. Vito does what he does best and puts himself last in order to do what is clearly right.

With his knife, he cuts off every single stitch with each hurting exactly the same as the other. The pain doesn’t get any better as he goes on, but he does make good progress. In a matter of three agonizing minutes that feel more like an hour, Vito successfully cuts off all of the stitches on his body. The feeling is relieving as the weight of the extra skinned heavily weighed him down. He tosses the knife away and falls to his knees with a smile on his face. He then looks back up to see that the stitched people are gone and the way is clear. After going through to the next area, he comes across a small river of fire. Across the river is the road that leads out of town even though Vito hasn’t gone up in any way. It’s as if the town itself was just this bottom part of the earth.

The last obstacle is ahead of Vito, but he still feels nervous about what’s he’s going to experience. This is when he asks for strength and receives the confidence to go forward. Going through the lake of fire feels exactly what it sounds like except it gets easier as Vito gets to the end. The sin from his soul burns off and cleanses him. In the end, the flames stop burning him as the old him turns to ash as the new one is born. He then passes out at the end of the trials because of all the effort it took.

Vito wakes up in his car outside a small town not too far from where Ramoth-Gilead was. This small town looks nothing like that mysterious town. It’s a brisk morning with a clear sky and birds flying through the air. With seemingly no other instruction, he wonders what to do next. His eyes are then drawn to a letter that is in his windshield wiper.

It reads, “Your soul is purified, and the rest of your life lies before you. Be sure to live it well and in the right way or else you’ll have to repeat this process again. There’s also an afterlife burning as well if you are careful but not too careful. On another note, your family and friends are eagerly waiting for you and watching you. Be sure to make them proud.”

The letter makes Vito laugh a bit before he looks into the distance of a new day and drives off into it ready to face whatever challenges his life will bring him next.

The End

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