If it Causes You to Sin (A Short Story), page 1
If it Causes you to Sin (A Short Story)
Copyright 2013 Jess Hanna
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All bible verses are taken from the New International version unless otherwise noted.
I was convinced it was the only way. I still am. Even now, while under the influence of the cocktail of drugs I've been forced to take to keep my behavior at an acceptable level, I can't stop thinking about it. Am I ever to be fully released from my sin, my torment?
I suppose you think it strange that I would document my descent into madness. Everywhere eyes are analyzing my every move. I can't even use the bathroom without someone standing right next to me. I'm not even allowed to wipe myself in privacy. I don't remember the last time I took a real shower. I'm forced to take sponge baths. I think my doctor is afraid I will try to drown myself somehow. I can't blame him. I probably would. Anything to escape this hell I find myself in.
It all started with the voices. At first, they called to me softly, accusing me of minor things I'd done in the past; lifting a pack of gum from the corner store when I was in elementary school, starting fights in junior high, punching my younger sister in the face and giving her a black eye, stealing cigarettes when I was a teen. All things I apologized for to get out of trouble, with no true repentance, and until then it had been enough.
The whispers started as background noise. It wasn't long before they grew into a roar that could not be ignored. All day long my offenses were listed against me. Everything that could be considered a sin at the work of my hands was brought to the forefront of my mind. Everywhere I looked was another reminder of a wrong I had committed. My sins were all that crowded my mind, day and night. I stopped trying to sleep.
As though it was pushed into my brain by some supernatural means, the memory of my grandfather quoting a verse from the bible to try and scare me straight returned to me. It was Matthew 18:8, which reads, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
It was then that the voices stopped accusing and started encouraging me to do something about my sin. "Cut if off", they said. "God is telling you to cut it off…for the sake of your soul."
I didn't want to cut off my hand, so I pushed the voices as far away as I could. But they niggled at the back of my brain like flies hovering over a pile of dung, taking little nips whenever they could.
I pleaded and tried to reason with them. If anyone had seen me, I'm sure that I would have looked like raving lunatic, begging for mercy from an unseen entity. I started to think I really was going crazy. The voices didn’t care about all that noise. They were insistent that I cut off my hand to stop me from sinning.
Switching tactics, I obsessed about ways to stop myself from even thinking about sin, but it was to no avail. Each evil thought and action was added to the growing pile of accusations that had become a mountain.
The whispers became a pounding roar in my head. I was unable to get out bed. I couldn't eat. I couldn't drink. My head spun with the vortex of rotten thoughts rushing through my brain.
"Cut if off!" The voices screamed. "It's the only way to stop yourself from sinning. You don’t want to burn in Hell, do you?"
I wanted to yell back at them, to tell them there had to be another way, but it was no use. They were deaf to my arguments. I buried my head in my pillow and whimpered until I fell into a sleep-like stupor where the volume of the demonic chorus dulled from a scream to a whisper. My will was breaking down.
When I regained full consciousness that day, it was early afternoon. The voices assaulted me full force, accusing me of all sorts of things I wasn't even sure I had done. My desire to stop sinning was starting to match my desire to stop the voices. I began to think of ways to cut off my right hand.
I rolled over and stood up from the bed. I nearly passed out from the blood rushing to my brain. I put my hands on the wall to steady myself. The room seemed to vibrate. I closed my eyes to block out the pale light that filtered in through the dark curtains.
Opening my eyes to slits, I was overwhelmed by the brightness. Using the wall for support, I worked my way to the bedroom door. It was slow and agonizing, each step sending waves of nausea through my weakened body. I started trembling due to lack of nourishment.
Once at the door, I stepped into the blissful gloom of the hallway. Having the sudden urge to pee, I shuffled as quickly as possible into the bathroom. Unable to continue standing, I flipped up the lid on the toilet and sat down heavily. While going, I leaned forward and put my face in my hands.
I don't know how long I was in there, but at some point I lost consciousness. When I drifted back into my familiar haze, I felt numbness in my legs. The gray light filtering in through the open door seemed less bright than before. The voices were unrelenting.
When I forced myself to stand, the sensation of pins and needles in my legs brought a clarity of thought to my mind that I had not experienced for weeks, maybe months. I knew that if I was to rid myself of the voices and my sin, I must do whatever they demanded of me. It was the only way to stop myself from falling further into a bottomless pit of madness.
I stumbled into the kitchen and stared at the knife block. I had a big, sharp knife that I used to cut hunks of meat, had even used it to cut through a bone or two, but was it enough to cut through the thickness of my wrist? I wasn't sure.
Next, I thought about using a meat cleaver. Just one good swipe would do the job quite well. The problem with that was getting a good aim on the right spot. It was possible to cut off too little of my hand and be forced to try again. I might also cut too far up my arm, which would look ridiculous. And there was always the possibility that I'd have to hack at it more than once. My empty stomach cramped at the thought, threatening to send me into dry heaves.
I realized in that moment that performing the amputation at home was not practical. I needed to be in a public place. At home, it was entirely possible that I could pass out at a critical moment, bleed out and die, despite the precautions I might take. While I wanted to cut off my hand, I did not have a serious death wish at that time.
Once I gave serious consideration to cutting off my hand, the voices became less loud, allowing me to think more clearly about how it could be done safely. That's how I ended up at Home Depot.
For the first time in days I was able to collect myself enough to take a shower, shave, and get ready to go out for the day. I threw on a wrinkled pair of shorts and a well worn black t-shirt. It was a relief to know that soon my torment would end and I would be free of the voices, as well as my sin.
As I headed out, I noticed an envelope pinned to my door. I opened it. It was a termination of tenancy notice from my landlord. I hadn't paid rent in almost two months. I'd lost my job about a month before that from calling in sick too many times. I'd burned through all of my meager savings. I had practically nothing left aside from unemployment benefits and a Bridge Card, both of which I had neglected to collect for the past six weeks. Even then, it had been barely enough to pay for the electric, gas, car payment, insurance, and a meager supply of food each month.
I didn't care. I crumpled the letter and tossed it on the ground in front of my door.
My stomach grumbled and I realized I was ravenous. I considered going back into my apartment for some food, but remembered there wasn't any. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket to check my available funds. I had a five, two ones, and some loose cha
Twenty minutes later I sat in my car outside of Home Depot with a mouthful of cheeseburger. When I finished the sandwich and fries, I chased it all down with a Coke that burned as it rushed down my throat.
Satisfied, I sat in the car staring at the huge orange letters in the distance. I wasn’t scared about what I was about to do. In fact, I felt a strange peace. The voices were all but silent, which confirmed that I was doing the right thing.
I shut off the car and opened the door. The sun was overly bright, and the atmosphere still seemed hazy. Everything had taken on a sort of otherworldly feel for me. I floated across the parking lot and into the store. The aisles