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Within a musty dive bar deep in the inner city, was a man who was quietly sipping on his scotch-on-the-rocks. Despite him being surrounded by hundreds of partygoers, all moving in their own wild way yelling and hollering all sorts of words, he sat there in silence. He was alone in a sea of people.

People haunted the man, causing him his greatest miseries and greatest fears. His life had been one of great regret and suffering. He enjoyed solitude, revelled in loneliness, as it was his only respite. People disinterested him, irritated him. Some would say he’s antisocial, others would declare him a curmudgeon. He internally wished they would all just burn away…

He felt a touch on his shoulder. A touch that was distinct from any accidental bump or trip. He begrudgingly turned around, expecting some brutish, coarse drunkard looking for a fight. Rather, he found a quizzically dressed figure.


“Quizzical” was the most accurate and concise description of the figure. He looked like a 17th century minstrel, or an antagonist for a childhood book. Either way, he very carefully examined the man, seemingly reading him like a book. The man’s patience wore thin.

“Excuse me, can I hel-” the man began.

“Hush child.” interrupted the figure.

He stepped towards the man and sat next to him. As the figure approached him, the people around him slowed down, almost as if stuck in a freeze frame. The figure took off his broad hat to reveal his flowing white hair. They sat in silence, until the man began again.

“Look, what’s happening? What do you want from me?”

The white haired figure slightly grinned. It arched off of his high cheekbones and down his sharp goatee. He chuckled cynically.

“You’ve led quite a long, eventful life, haven’t you, child?”

The figure sipped a drink as he gazed at the man. The sky blue eyes were now focused directly on the man. Drilling into his skull; peering at his soul. Another silence fell between the two. Rage began to surge in the man’s heart, as the flames again clouded his vision.

“What’s it to you? Who’re you?” growled the man. His impatience had burned into irritation. The white haired figure’s expression darkened.

“Ease up. It’s highly advisable that you regulate your tone and have patience with me.

“As for who I am,” said the figure, “you may call me the Inquisitor.”

“Alright ‘Inquisitor’,” retorted the man, “why don’t you do me a solid and skedaddle? I don’t need some stranger like you to go messing with me.

“Besides, what do you know?” The man turned away, desperately trying to forget about what had been conjured up by the Inquisitor’s questions, temporarily extinguishing the man’s anger. The Inquisitor, however, was not so ready to give the man a break.

“I know that you’ve committed great atrocities. That innocent people died at your cruel, selfish hands. That you have blood on your hands that can’t every be washed off. The burning you feel,” declared the Inquisitor, “is shame and guilt.”

The Inquisittor stood up over top of the man. His face was deathly and grim.

“And because of this, I know that you are doomed to perish soon.”

The words torched the man. He felt as though a hot iron was being driven through his soul. He felt the inferno of the cutting words, the judgement, smoulder in his veins.

“What are you- what the-”

“Your actions have consequences. The one’s you’ve harmed may have their eternal revenge on you in the afterlife. Have you so easily forgotten the sins you’ve committed against the ones you were supposed to protect? Have you already forgotten about Michelle? Or even your little Dale?”

The sheer blind rage, the trauma, the guilt, the suffering, and the chronic alcoholism all came to a boiling point. The seething man lost all control and lunged at the figure, charging at the figure with an unquenchable rage. The Inquisitor simply bowed his head and sidestepped the man. The man tripped over, and fell through, the floorboards as he plunged into an abyss.


When the man had come to, he was no longer in the bar. Instead, he was in a hazy rendition of his childhood home. It had everything he remembered about the house, from his drawings all over the walls to the fishbowl he kept in his room with no fish in it. He could hear faint sounds of nostalgia emanating from certain objects, such as the television playing a superhero’s tune or the sounds of laughter as he walked past the walls. He felt as though he was in a dream. He was content, felt at home, but he felt the cold tinge of judgement.

As he walked towards the kitchen, he noticed the haze getting worse. He started to get nervous and paranoid. He wondered what was the purpose of him being here. He was snapped out of his trance as the air had turned opaque with the haze and it was starting to choke him. Only then did he realize that the flames were already abound him.

He watched in horror as the fixtures of his past -- his teddy bears, his comic books, his sketches -- caught on fire. The blaze rampaged, duplicated, obliterated. The man desperately tried to save everything, even anything, all to no avail. As he reached for an object, it would be consumed by the inferno before he could reach it, reduced to mere coals.  The walls melted and collapsed into a pile of flaming embers; helpless was the man as he was unable to move. Paralyzed with a fear he hadn’t felt in so long. Feeling doomed to watch as his world came crashing down around him…

When the house had finally come to a smouldering end, he walked around the remains. He looked out and noticed a younger version of himself standing outside. Alone was the boy, and full of tears his eyes were. Where once was a family was a desolate child, alone in a cruel, cold world. Immediately, the man shook and collapsed, as the memory he had tried so hard to block out resurfaced. The man wailed incomprehensibly as the pain of the years gone by had welled up inside him.


When the man had finally ceased crying and calmed down, the house vanished, leaving him in the abyss once again. The Inquisitor once again appeared.

“Do you now understand where I’m going with this?” asked the figure.

“Why,” whimpered the man, “why are you doing this to me?”

The figure adjusted his hair yet again, saying “I am doing this because you will suffer a terrible fate if I do not grant you this opportunity for redemption.

“Think of it as divine intervention, as I am revealing to you how you can avert this.

“Now, hold still-”

“Wait!” cried the man.

“What are you? How are you able to do any of this? Where am I?”

The Inquisitor coldly glared at the pitiful man. Surveying him carefully, the Inquisitor responded:

“I have already informed you of who I am. I am the Inquisitor, the crown of Justice. I am the one who decides your fate, and I am the one who brings Judgement upon those who deserve it. Think of me as the tribunal that would sentence you in a court of law.

“You are a sinful being, who has brought upon the eyes of Judgement. The crimes against your fellow bretheren are admonishable at best, and unforgivable at worst. Judgement does not care for your mere complaints or insurrections. Your life hangs in the balance of my scales.”

The figure produced a set of rickety wooden scales.

“Your trials will reveal to you who you are as a person, giving you one final opportunity to right what is wrong, to save yourself and others. You are evil.”

The scales leaned slightly to the left.

“But you are redeemable.”

The scales assumed their normal state. The figure then pocketed them and bowed his head. As he stepped back, the man saw what appeared to be two other silhouettes following the Inquisitor, but had his thoughts cut short by once again falling through a non-existent ground.


This time, the man was presented with his apartment back in his early adult life. He was jarred by the sordidity and poverty within the residence. He meandered around, looking at the pile up of trash, when something fell onto the floor. He reached for the box of baby that hit the floor when another hand grabbed it and whisked it away. Startled, he fell backwards, looking up to see a tired, blurry-faced woman attempting to feed an irate child the slop within the box, with little success. He noticed a bejeweled, metal ring on her finger.

Suddenly, an equally blurry-faced man burst through the door of the apartment -- equally full of rage. He slammed a pile of papers onto the table in front of the two. He opened his mouth as spittle flew out and furiously pointed at the papers, while the blurry woman sheepishly looked down. The infant seemed to have gained a sense of fear as his angry protests against the food turned into quiet shivers due to the blurry man. The blurry woman began to insurrect against the blurry man, seemingly pointing back at his face and whilst coldly glaring at him.

The blurry man, in a drunken stupor, lurched forward to strike her; she had prepared for this. She countered his charge by punching him square in the face. The man felt his own face sting slightly. She collected the infant and ran into a closet to hide from the spiteful man. He stumbled upright, and searched around for his assailants.

As he was unsuccessful in finding the woman and child, the blurry-faced man’s impatience grew into a full blown breakdown. He froze for a second. An evil, hateful, cruel expression grew on his face. The room began to quietly shake and darken. He produced a bottle of scotch and emptied his alcohol onto the carpet, taking a disproportionate amount of care to ensure maximum accelerant distribution. When he was satisfied, he shuffled towards the door. The blurry-faced man pulled out his lighter and threw it onto the floor. As the flames surged across the apartment, the blurry-faced man revelled in its destruction, seemingly bursting into a fit of laughter. The man so desperately tried to open the door to the closet and put out the fires, but yet again it was futile. He sat in the scotch fueled blaze as it overtook the entire apartment. His tears rolled off his face and evaporated in the flames. The entire apartment burned into death and desolation. Devastated, the man got up and tried to run out of the burning wreck, only to see the blurry-faced man blocking his way.

It opened its maws and grinned at the man. Death wore the man’s face. He recoiled in terror, and covered his eyes to hide from it, to make it go away. It was again useless, however, as it hid within his mind; its face engraved into his skull. It slowly approached the man, unstoppable, with unwavering ill will against the man. He dazedly stumbled through the flames towards the bathroom to try and find respite from the chaos, but when he gazed into the mirror he saw the blurry-faced staring right back at him. The man keeled over and vomited from the overwhelming ash.


As his vision returned, he was once again in the abyss. The Inquisitor stood over him, his eyes filled with pity. The man stood up against the figure and grabbed him by his robe.

“Kill me already,” desperately whispered the man, “or I will kill you.”

The Inquisitor laughed and brushed him to the side.

“You cannot kill me anymore than you can kill gravity or space. I am not some corporeal entity vulnerable to your measly attacks, nor am I your enemy who wishes you harm. Get a hold of yourself.”

The Inquisitor stepped towards the man. He continued:

“There is some good news for you. Some hope, if you will.

“You have completed all of the trials set out to you. I will not throw you into any more pocket dimensions detailing your sins and your flaws. However, the court is not adjourned until one final little thing is done.”

“You must prove to me -- to us -- that you are capable of making the necessary changes to save not only yourself but the ones who rely on you. In order to finally find peace. To finally live once again.

“I believe that you are a flawed man, and forever will be. But I believe one other thing.”

The figure held out his scales, which now leaned to the right.

“You are redeemable.”

But the man, once again overtaken by fear and hatred, turned and ran away.


The man sprinted away into the darkness. His lungs burned from the constant exhaustion; his eyes felt as though they were bleeding. He so desperately wanted it to end -- he just wanted to be left alone -- instead of serving hellish penance to some celestial force or entity for the rest of eternity…

He ran into a wall. Or as it felt, as it seemed to have impeded his charge into the abyssal darkness. This wall, however was a being, standing in his path. This one emanated hostility and vitriol, and it felt directed at him. It’s glowing eyes sliced through the darkness as its form became more apparent.

“YOU.”

He shuddered at the sudden disruption of the silence. The entity towered over him, and was massive in comparison to him. It was apparent that the being was not friendly in the slightest. He cowered and groveled under its force; suffocated from the hatred and spite.

“YOU SHALL BE PUNISHED SWIFTLY AND HARSHLY FOR YOUR CRUELTY AND YOUR ATROCITY. FURTHERMORE, YOU WILL BE TORTURED FOR ALL OF ETERNITY BY THOSE VINDICATED BY YOUR SINS.”

It raised what appeared to be a flaming axe, radiating with the pain and the suffering of it’s victims embedded into the head. It held the blade over its head and aimed for the man’s neck.

“PREPARE TO PERISH, FILTHY, WORTHLESS SCUM OF THE CURSED EARTH.”

The man simply sat in paralysis and awe, waiting for the fate that he deserved. He bowed his head in shame, and his eyes stung with regrets. He felt the intensity of the blade whirl towards him. He was ready to accept Death…

The Inquisitor appeared behind this hulking abomination, and chuckled wistfully.

“Not yet. He still has a chance to redemption. I think he has it in him to make the necessary changes to obtain atonement. In other words, he is not sentenced yet. You know how this works, my overdriven, death-mongering friend!

“Now, Executioner, if you don’t mind,” said the Inquisitor as he motioned for the sultry beast out towards the void.

The Executioner glared at the Inquisitor, then to the man, and sighed heavily. He muttered curses and trudged back into oblivion, disappearing from sight. As the force-of-nature shuffled away, the figure slightly smirked and turned back to the man.

“So, as I was saying before you cut me off, there is still one thing you must do to find atonement. One more test that you must face, child. It won’t be that hard, so follow me.”

Reluctantly, he followed the figure through the dark fog. The frigid wind and mournful whistling soothed the mans frayed nerves. Far behind him, he noted someone -- or something -- silently stalking behind. He quickened his pace. The figure walked up to a door with familiar lights behind it. He opened the door and motioned for the man to enter.

The party in the dive bar was exactly where it was when he left it. He saw that his chair was empty, with the Inquisitor sitting next to it, broad hat still on the bar. Wandering over towards the figure, the man sat down next to him. The Inquisitor produced a bottle of scotch and refilled the mans glass. The man reached for the glass, but felt a sting on his face. He began to feel paranoid, as if he was being watched and judged. The sky blue eyes were focused on the man yet again.

“You know what must be done to find redemption. You must surrender the weapon that you have used to mercilessly beat and maim those you have loved and yourself.”

The Inquisitor glanced at the glass of scotch.

“It is your penance that you must serve for the rest of your life. The sacrifice of ones methods for instant gratification and amusement, as a means to live as a free man once again.”

The glass’s reflection revealed the man back when he was younger, laughing and playing with his son, Dale. It’s amber-red depths developed an image of the man courting his wife, Michelle.

“I have left it up to you whether or not you choose to find peace, as I will not force you to do what I think to be right.”

The Inquisitor picked up the glass and examined it, before returning it back to the man.

“I however implore you,” he spoke as his eyes flashed blue once again, “to think of Michelle and Dale before you make your decision.”

The words echoed across the glass. He saw the flames in his mind burn within the tumbler filled with the liquid -- no, the addiction -- that had plagued and deceived him for so long. The burning house The man held the glass in his hand, and in the next moment…

“Ow! Oh, sorry lad. Seems like I’ve spilled yer drink. What a pity. How ‘bout I getchya ‘nother un, eh? I’ll even-”

The man looked at the spillage; he saw his reflection in the puddle of scotch. He turned back to the jovial fellow who had just bumped into him.

“No, it’s fine.”

The man got up and stretched out his back.

“Are ya sure lad? I’ll even give ya some cash if ye want!”

He grabbed his coat. He replied:

“Thanks, but I’ll be headed on my way now. Bye.”

On his way out, he said his goodbyes and take cares to the bartender and some other patrons. He searched around for the Inquisitor and the Executioner and the unnamed who had followed him up through the abyss, but he couldn’t find them or any trace of them for that matter.

He stepped out into the cool winter air. Despite being in such a low, dirty part of the city, the cold wind seemed to go and freeze the grime into beautiful banks of icy snow. The winds even kept the smog at bay, allowing the poor folk who lived in the slums or the rabid partygoers searching for unlawful and dangerous fun to take a fresh breath of air. He felt resuscitated, revived, and free. He even felt a tap on his shoulder, yet again.

“Um, excuse me sir. I noticed you came out of that bar at an odd time. Mind telling me what’s on you mind?” inquired a small, young man, wearing parishioner clothes.

Normally, the man would have snapped back at such an odd request (and an odd individual) with a what’s it to you or get outta here, but a strange sobriety came over him. He felt at peace with himself and other people, so he replied:

“I’m going to try and quit alcohol. I wanna stop. I wanna quit. I’m tired of not living, of being controlled by a silly liquid. I want to be free again!”

He felt a pride and confidence with these words, as if he had lifted a weight off his shoulders. He felt clean and renewed, like he was 20 again. The young man smiled cheerfully and patted the man on the back.

“I’m glad to hear, sir. I’m glad you are so confident in yourself. Do you believe that you will be able to keep on it, and finally find peace?”

The man’s initial zeal slightly shattered. He began to doubt himself. Am I good enough to actually stay on track? Will I just disappoint myself? What if I fail my penance? What will happen to me? What about them…

He was woken out of his train of thoughts by the young man, now stern faced.

“Listen to me. I do not blame you if you have self doubts, but now is not the time to give up. Especially not if you have just begun your road to recovery.”

The young man grabbed the old man by the arm, his eyes growing softer.

“I believe in you. But you need to believe in yourself as well. The worst way to be defeated is,” declared the young man, “is by yourself.”

The man sighed and agreed. He was going to make a change for the better, no matter the trepidations that might face him. It was going to be his penance to serve, for himself, the Inquisitor, and his Michelle and Dale.

The pair walked down the street together on the sidewalk, conversing about life and the wonders of redemption. To be honest, it was more or less of the bright young man who was doing the talking. The old, weathered, weary man simply plodded along while listening to the words of the other. The scotch at the bar had fallen into the distance, a relic of a troubled past to be buried at the deathbed. It rotted as its splendour faded and soured. And at the bar, it was contaminated by a doomed man’s blood.



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