Coming of Age Horror Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Barry’s excitement had reached a breaking level.

The short whip he held in his hand dripped blood and skin. As he looked over his shoulder into a mirror, it dawned on him there was a very fine line between religious discipline, flagellation and sexual gratification.

He broke that line often.

His exercise in repentance had begun somewhat innocently.

It was the ninth month of a year that had been a great test for this doggedly devout man.

He had been working on clearing himself of character defects and in the process became glaringly aware of several which demanded immediate attention. 

He grunted as the whip once more tore a strip from his already shredded shoulders. Barry bit his lip and whispered, “Mea culpa, mea culpa.”

He applied more pressure to the strap, screaming louder, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea MAXIMA culpa.” 

His guilt temporarily subsided as he watched the blood stream down his spine and splash on the bathroom floor.

As a boy, he’d been well indoctrinated by the rituals of an ancient institution that commanded accountability for one’s sins. 

His earliest memories were of reciting the following prayer, while kneeling on a hard surface.

His father usually stood over him with a belt in hand and fingers that itched for an opportunity to find fault with his son’s delivery.

“O My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee.

  I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.

But most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. 


By his teens, Barry had perfected this prayer and the inherent ability to pass off sincerity while he recited it.

For the most part it wasn’t an act. He was sincere. Sincere in his desperate desire to escape a beating. 

However, deep in some inner recess of his soul hid a rather defiant child that longed to break free, make a run for the border as he waved a defiant middle finger to all those who chased behind him.

Thankfully the teen’s intelligence saved him and his pious exterior met the approval of his biological father.

Now, Father Joseph was a bird of another feather. Barry had a more difficult time fooling him.

This man wore long black robes, lit tall candles, swung incense and performed other rituals which mesmerized and enthralled a rather brainwashed, captivated audience.

To further complicate matters, this guy was a bit of a pervert. He had a predilection for young teens. 

Though he got his jollies from hearing confessions from many, his favourite penitents were boys between the age of 13 and 18. He was well known amongst this crowd of believers and many tried to avoid his confessional cubicle.

Barry had diligently kept track of which priests gave confessions on which days and what times.

His favourite confessor was Father Ralph, a rather portly jolly fellow who was known for his speedy deliverance. His cursory examination of one’s confessed sins, rendered his lineups long.

Father Joseph’s lineups were short. Very few of his victims enjoyed being held helpless as he poked and prodded into their psyche. Many simply gave up the wait and decided to take the risk of going to hell if they died with sins on their soul.

Barry was terrified of this possibility. 

As a very young child, he had lived beside a creek. He’d watched this body of water carefully and knew that its waters were plentiful and seemingly endless in abundance. They were born high in the mountains and even during the hottest summer managed to fill the granite banks that determined the meanderings of its journey to the sea.

Barry and his siblings were routinely taken to catechism classes where they were dutifully indoctrinated by the nuns that ruled their students. Their beady eyes and sharp pointer stick left little wiggle room for even the most disruptive child.

These virginal paragons of faith demanded strict attention and were swift to use their sticks to ensure compliance. 

They were very gifted at describing the agonies of hell and emphasized the eternal nature of this forbidding realm.

Barry, a rather imaginative child, listened raptly to their stories and was determined to avoid this experience at all costs.

He especially liked one of the nuns, Sister Assumpta, who was inclined to be a little more gentle with her young charges.

She imploringly begged them to follow rules which would insure them against the possibility of going to hell…for all eternity.

Her rather elaborate metaphor was a tale of a bird and water.

She would begin, “This is what hell is like.”

“Imagine Haslam creek. Imagine that every thousand years, a bird comes and takes one drop of water out of the creek.”

No matter how often Barry heard this story he would begin to tremble.

Sister Assumpta continued, “Now after many, many thousands of years, the bird finally takes its last sip of water and miraculously the creek is empty.”

The children who might not have heard this cautionary tale before, sighed with relief. Maybe hell wouldn’t be as bad as they thought. Even with all the burning agonies described by the sterner nuns, there seemed to be an escape clause. True, they knew that bird would take thousands and thousands and thousands of years to empty the creek, and yet, there was an end somewhere down the road.

Sister Assumpta would take a dramatic pause in her story, wait for that small glimmer of hope to appear in the children’s eyes and then deal the fateful blow.

“And when the last drop was taken by the bird, and the creek lay empty and bare…a great wave would sweep down the mountain and once again the creek would be filled to the brim with new water, and once again, the bird would begin the task of emptying the water.”

Most of the children gasped. 

Barry’s stomach twisted into knots and he knew, without doubt, that he did NOT want to go to hell. He knew without doubt that eternity was a very long time and that he would do whatever necessary to avoid that punishment.

His last confession was taken on a Saturday afternoon.

He knew that this was the time Father Ralph was scheduled to do duty in the confessional.

What he didn’t know was that the good natured priest had been on a bender the night before. He’d been in the church checking for supplies and ended up drinking all the wine set aside for transubstantiation. This divine ritual rendered the fruit of the vine harmless and actually transformed it into the blood of Jesus Christ.

Father Ralph was well known for taking the operation a little too religiously. 

He would begin with small sips to ‘test’ whether the wine was worthy of transformation.

One sip led to another and before he knew it, the priest had consumed several bottles of altar wine.

Sadly, the liquid had not yet been turned to blood and the alcohol level was high enough to ensure the good man got…plastered.

Father Joe found him the next morning snoring on a pew, reeking of alcohol, and other lapses of bodily functions.

He roused Father Ralph to consciousness, took him back to the rectory, stripped him down and rolled him into his bed. He knew that the man would not be emerging till the next day and so made arrangements to alter his own schedule in order to assume Ralph’s confessional duties that afternoon.

Barry knew none of this. He stood patiently in the line waiting for Father Ralph to hear his list of sins. 

He entered the cubicle and knew instantly that things were going to head south.

It was the smell that first clued him in. Father Joseph smoked and the stale stink of his last drag filled the small enclosure. 

Worse than the the smoke was another underlying odour that sickened the teen’s stomach.

It was a smell he knew well, and went to great lengths to conceal…spent semen.

Barry was very familiar with this odour and from the age of puberty had been daily releasing copious amounts of this rich fertilizer. His young body seemed to produce more than it could contain and thus his ritual of releasing the fluid became a habit he was unable to break.

So, when he knelt before the man who was about to hear his confession, he knew the dread he felt was real.

He began as always, with the list of sins he’d committed the week before.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned, these are my sins.”

“I took the Lord’s name in vain 5 times.”

“I stole candy from the store 3 times.”

“I had impure thoughts.”

“I was rude to my mother and father.”

“I beat up my brother several times.”

Barry would pause piously, hoping the man behind the screen would simply wave his hand in absolution, give the boy his penance and have him recite the act of contrition.

Father Joseph was not about to let him off the hook so easily.

“Now, about these impure thoughts.”

“You need to explain more.”

Barry would start squirming, wishing he was anywhere but in that stinky box, held captive by a pervert waiting to get his jollies from the boy’s confession.

He would blush and begin stammering out details. As he was guided along by the probing pedophile he became aware of the rustling of robes being lifted, zippers being pulled and the stench of stale urine and old semen.

He almost gagged as he realized what the man was doing and that he was using Barry’s confession as a means of jerking off.

The teenager had finally had enough.

He rose from the seat, looked the priest square in the eye and shouted, “Not this time you sick bastard.”

He then stormed out of the church and from that day forward, refused to participate in rituals he knew to be depraved and immoral. He knew that he must find a course that would guide him safely through passages that would take him to the end, ready to face…whatever.

Came the day Barry stood in the bathroom, whip in hand, blood smeared across the floor. 

He looked in the mirror, saw his twisted face and trembling body.

His eyes were bleak and his mouth dry as he moaned, “This is all my fault.”

He went to raise the whip one more time when a gentle breeze blew softly over his shoulder. A quiet voice whispered, “Son, I forgive you, go in peace.”

Barry gasped.

He dropped to his knees, closed his eyes and began, 

“O My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee…”

September 29, 2022 16:05

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