Cemetery Chapel

Image credit: Misty Mountain by =ramseyst

My Penance

436 words

I sit in the balcony of the old stone church, listening to the familiar strains of “Amazing Grace” rising from the congregation. I see a few folks craning their necks, looking up at this old choir loft, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost. Once in a while, someone, most often a child, will see me, but they are few and far between. More often, people feel me, look up as I pass, edge away if I stand near them.

Being haunted has been good for the Sycamore Church. The pastor repeats time and again that there is no ghost, but still people come, hoping. With the people come money and publicity, though, and the church is thriving, but that’s not why I keep returning. I love listening to the pastor’s deep, rich voice, hearing his melodic readings of the Psalms, watching his dark, passionate eyes scan the audience. Tonight, it feels like his sermon is directed at me. Salvation is a free gift, not a goal we can earn. I know, I want to reassure him, I know my penance is not required, that He would welcome me with open arms today, now, but I’m not done here. My list of sins is long, and I need to balance them out.

Before the service ends, I leave. I’m heading to the nursing home down the road from the church. There’s a little old lady there who sees me, though with fading eyesight. She lights up when I come. We talk and sing, and I think I make her happy.

I still have a block to go when I hear it, a whimper from the small park just off the road. I’ve seen a lot over my life, and death. People can be wonderful, caring and giving, but they can also be evil. Following the sound, I recognize the scene before me. The poor girl, terrified. The man, holding her down. I hold my arms straight out to the sides, and the litter, the leaves, the dirt swirl into the air, the garbage can falls and clatters, the swings rock violently. The man—frightened, surprised, angry, I can’t be sure—loses his grip on the girl. She flees. For a second, it seems like he might follow, until a branch knocks him to the ground. I lower my arms; things settle. She’s safe, at least tonight.

I meander to the nearby cemetery. I’ll rest in the little Gothic chapel. It takes me longer to recover from using that much power now than it had when I was alive. I’ll make my visit in the morning.


Dottie at Tink’s Place has a Monday Morning Flash Fiction challenge that I’m enjoying. Each Monday a new picture prompt will be posted and if you choose to participate you post your story on Friday – 350 words, give or take.


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