He was feeling somewhat low. This had very little to do with the hole he was standing in, although its steep walls were rather repressive. It had far more to do with what had just occurred. The deed, although unpleasant, was not too despicable, but Peter thought it so. It was one of those things that he had always abhorred beyond its worth. This was a characteristic of Peter – obsession – and he had just completed an act which he obsessively hated.
Should he stay in the hole? Hide? Perhaps dig deeper, disappearing from view? His life was surely over now. After all, it would be impossible for him to forgive himself. Nor could he forget or get away. Going back in time was frustratingly unfeasible. He immediately condemned himself to a worthless future overshadowed by this one act of sin. Every good deed would be soiled by it. There could be absolutely no forgiveness for this kind of occurrence.
He wished he was someone else – someone virtuous – but then reasoned that he no longer deserve such good fortune. What he deserved was to be reborn in the body of his most hated enemy. He briefly imagined looking into the mirror and seeing Teresa Dern. How he hated her – obsessively. Now that would be just punishment. Waking up in her bed, her house, surrounded by her family! Peter sadistically relished his revenge. He briefly thought through a few scenarios and then snapped out of the daydream. Back to reality and the deed.
He would leave the hole and walk. Maybe he could escape? Perhaps he could leave and move far away, without friends or family? He didn’t deserve ever to see them again and certainly wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye if he did. He could just rot away amongst other horrible people and enjoy the depravity of the community. They would all deserve one another.
Alternatively, he could just keep a low profile and wait for the day that he was forgiven. Indeed, Peter was already beginning to get used to living with the deed on his conscience. He almost felt strong enough to carry its weight, even though it made his head throb and his stomach churn. Perhaps if he lowered his self-opinion greatly he could go on and, one day, accept. Never forgive, of course, but toleration was possible. After all, nobody is perfect, so why should he expect to be? There were a lot of people who had to live with themselves. Disgusting people like Teresa Dern, for instance. She certainly didn’t care. Peter wondered how she did it. How could she possibly enjoy being Teresa Dern? Then he remembered how he had enjoyed being her. In fact, having just done the deed, he would have gladly been in her shoes, pierced purple leather though they were. Even her dirty velvet dress, the one that had always irritated him beyond reason, no longer seemed a problem.
If he were her, he could do anything, no matter how base, and not have to worry. He could punish himself and her at the same time. He would be rank, and justifiably so. What’s more, he wouldn’t have to face his parents or visit his grandmother and guiltily accept the gifts she always lovingly bestowed upon him. It was the perfect escape plan: living at Teresa’s house.
Unfortunately this life sentence was not achievable. He made three wishes with his fingers crossed and eyes shut, but that didn’t work. He tried again even harder, expanding and improving the ritual. Nothing! He had expected as much, having lost all faith in God and other phenomena years before.
At least if God existed there might be some kind of divine forgiveness to be obtained. Peter’s guilt may not have been the result of religious obedience but the effect was just as powerful. The moral order by which people lived and conducted their lives was working and, although good for mankind, it was devastating for Peter.
Peter began to climb up the stone face of the hole. He cut himself carelessly as he slipped on scree and enjoyed the pain. Finally he reached the top, breathing heavily. He looked down to the grey stones at the bottom of the hole where he had just been standing. He did feel slightly more liberated from sin now he was outside but, at the same time, more exposed to the world. Here he would face judgement.
It was Sunday evening and school would follow in a matter of hours. All those eyes! All looking! Surely they would see his thoughts. Surely they would guess. Alone, he could almost ignore his self-awareness, but with the presence of others it would be different. He would certainly feel shame.
If it were Saturday still he would have holed up for the day, like a rabbit waiting for danger to pass. He’d stay hidden, peering out tentatively, before eventually emerging into the world and facing its gaze. But so very little of the weekend was left to cushion him.
As he instinctively walked homeward, Peter’s mind burned with thoughts. He took the back way, climbing over the wall at Haycroft Road and then crossing the derelict land behind. By taking this route he ensured that he got all the way to the corner of the street on which he lived without passed a soul. After a quick scout around, to check that no one was between him and his front gate, he made a mad run for it. The action of running started his adrenaline pumping and he was soon moving very fast. His attempts to run silently forced him high onto the balls of his feet, which hardly seemed to touch the ground. Even so, every footstep betrayed him to the world.
When Peter arrived at his gate he was relieved to find it open. He dashed into the garden and crouched down behind his father’s large, carefully pruned conifer. He gasped hard, trying to regain his breath without making too much commotion, and planned his next move. He would have to get through the door, into the hall and then upstairs before his parents had a chance to stop him. They would probably be in the living room, he reasoned, possibly the kitchen, or best of all, the back garden.
Five minutes later Peter was safely in his room. His parents might have heard him come in but he had definitely been too swift to be seen. At least now if they wanted to talk to him he would be able to hear them on the stairs and have a little time to prepare. Perhaps he would pretend to be reading. A prop!
Peter had been so engrossed in planning and acting out his evasion tactics that he had not thought about his unfortunate action for quite a while, and he’d certainly forgotten about the impending exposure at school.
Peter had also stopped thinking about good and bad. Actions were actions and he had not judged their moral standing for several hours. Monday would make him think, though. He couldn’t face others without having to face himself once more.
That night his dreams were harsh. Then the morning brought breakfast and human contact. He answered his parents with a grunt, ashamed to hear his own voice in public. No eye contact was made and he avoided all hugs. Everyone seemed to know on the bus to school. Ever snigger, every casual look, seemed to be an acknowledgement of his actions.
At lunchtime, Peter, who was normally a shy person, engaged Teresa Dern in a chat. Without embarrassment he asked her if she would go out with him. She said yes. He felt as though some sort of monastic punishment had been initiated. By the time school was over, however, he wasn’t feeling so sure. He had come to like Teresa after all. That evening Peter realised that he had a girlfriend. Teresa Dern! The deed had been done and soon he began to think about her all the time. Obsessively. TF
Enjoyed this story? See our other short stories:
The Tip (Click Here)
The View (Click Here)
Interference (Click Here)