34th Day of Ripening Season, 342 years After Mourning
I have killed a man. Today, I have served as judge and executioner. As I sit here, confessing yet again for my crime, I have discovered what darkness hides within the blood of humans. What evil lurks within our souls! My hands shake, the beat of my heart refuses to slow down. My bones tremble within me and my breath comes fast and ragged, hours after I have buried him. My heart passes silent judgment upon me and I wither within the shackles of guilt.
Sisters, how can one destroy life and live with it? How can a soldier, awash with the blood of others, walk away with his or her sanity untouched? What callousness enables a murderer to slit a man’s throat and later, hands scrubbed and conscience clean, inquire after another man’s family, or a choice cut of meat? Guilt or innocence matters not, the blood of the dead cries out in anguish. With hands cupped around my ears, I foolishly try to keep the rage inside of me. Everyone must hear it! It blasts through the flesh, through my flesh and bones–Sisters, the cry is endless. The blood sings its song of revenge, and as for me, I fear my penance will be to carry this mournful dirge long after the trembling within me stops.
I had no warning. Noreen and I had just returned from foraging nuts and kindling. The sticky heat will fade soon and finding dry wood will become harder, once the storms arrive after the harvest. Hoping they will shelter here for a while, I have been teaching the children to store provisions. My mission each day is to encourage them to think about the future—hope lives there and hope is their greatest ally, after faith.
How foolish of me!
I should have planned for visitors.
He must have heard the noise, for we have made no efforts to hide our presence at the farm, and come to investigate, perhaps searching for food–or something to satisfy darker appetites. When we walked in, there he stood, towering over a shaking and bleeding Ivette. I commanded Noreen to flee, but her legs froze. Whether it was the fear of the moment, or a past fear that kept her from running away, I cannot say. Ivette forgotten, the black-armored man approached me with a sneer. I have only seen such disgust on mercenaries who enter the temple for healing services when no other options are available, as if to acknowledge help from the gods taints them with filth.
Sisters, do you know what thoughts entered his foul mind as he edged closer to this old and feeble priest, whose reason fled him? Or are the thoughts of the wicked hidden from the sacred? As I plunged the knife into his neck, did he repent within his shock? While the blood, warm and slippery, dripped down my already shaking hands, did he confess his crimes and beg for salvation?
Do you hear my cries, Sisters? To be washed clean of this man’s blood and to once again walk within your grace? What must I do? Must I repent?
I cannot. If I walked in tomorrow and found the same scene, I would stab him again. And the next day. And a thousand times over. Sisters, you must remember I am nothing more than a human servant, with a human’s capacity for forgiveness, not a god’s.