The Harrowing Path

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt


Fiction Christian Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

The Harrowing Path

Other than the peculiar, transitory, flickering amber light that I beheld prior to my bicycle ride (it danced in the air at the threshold of the trail), there was no warning, no foreboding, no premonition of the trials and tribulations in store for me on that crisp, blustery day. The spurious, minacious stygian clouds coursed across the skies with the appearance of cumulus stratus fingers that appeared to reach for me—digits that could have extricated me from my parlous, unremitting state of existence.

Any second, I felt as though I would slip off the edge of my abysmal quiddity. I rode on into the inky void of blackness. The cold, bony hands of perpetual misery encompassed me—extinguishing all hope, substantiating despair, and sucking the breath of my being from the marrow of my soul. The continual filling of fathomless desperation—creeping, seeping, leeching into the dark recesses of my synaptic subconscious; filling me, thrilling me with tenebrous, diluted passion to indissolubly ride. What culmination of sequential events, what cylindrical cycle of circumstances precipitated my current situation?

If my fiancé Brad were here, I’d slowly dismember him while he was still breathing, and revel in each ear-piercing, torturous scream.

I perceived all of this in my mind’s revelations, and wondered how could something that was so numinous be transformed into something so warped and distorted?

I harked back to being in church in the first pew with my fiancé, wholly focused on Pastor Morgan’s insightful, stimulating, edifying sermons. Pastor Morgan’s petite, pseudo-spiritual, “innocent,” demure wife with her gleaming golden tresses, always raptly listening to her husband’s words. My fiancé tightly positioned between Sheila Morgan and me. (I had suppressed my budding suspicion as I observed her right thigh touching his left thigh.) Then there was the draping of Brad’s arms across the back of the pew, wherein I thought I saw him once caress Sheila’s left shoulder, and her momentarily lean her head tenderly on him. (Had other congregants seen what I had seen?) Yet, I had quickly dispelled these disturbing notions, for my fiancé and Sheila were above reproach. But, as I conversed with Pastor Morgan after each Sunday service, Sheila and Brad briefly disappeared.

And on that fateful day, my blossoming suspicions were acutely confirmed.

On a warm, still Wednesday evening in May, following our Bible study, while I was yet again engaged in spiritual discourse with the participants, they again disappeared. This time I sensed something was staidly amiss, so I deftly broke away from my conversations and furtively followed them. Upon failing to locate them in the sanctuary, I slipped outside and resolutely continued my search.

Soon thereafter I discerned romantic sighs emanating from the woods behind the church. Silently navigating through the choking brush, I suddenly recalled Brad’s slacks hanging in the closet with a similar burr that was now clinging to my dress. Whereupon it was revealed, painfully, to me—Sheila’s back against an ancient oak tree, her dress hiked up, their lips pressed together in an endearing passionate kiss, her hands pulling him close. A sea of emotions engulfed me, rushed over me, submerged me in physical sickness and unspeakable emotional anguish. I raced to my car, my hands quavering, my heart thrashing in my chest, my bowels instantly loosening, stabbing pains in my head,

Please, God, let a cerebral aneurysm explode and end my unendurable pain.

Reluctantly returning to my ongoing ride, gazing upon the bleak landscape, I felt hopeless and lifeless. I consigned myself to abiding desperation, crushing loss, and intractable nothingness.

Back there, a disillusioned dream of marital bliss. Up there, relentless, piercing devastation with no escape.

Alas! Images danced chaotically in my brain, emanating from my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Did I precipitate this when I willfully terminated the innocent life gestating within me? Could I be forgiven, because I can’t forgive myself?

I believe I belong on this harrowing path. I don’t give a damn what happens to me. I can make excuses but never escape the eternal, vile creature that I am: Murder is murder in the eyes of the Lord, and my execution is warranted! Satan is very slick, you see, and he connected me with the wrong resources, and obfuscated the way to anyone who may have facilitated healing for my heinous act.

Continuing on the path, I perceived no chirping insects. No tweeting birds. No croaking frogs. No squeaking squirrels. I did discern faraway screams and shrieks; wailing and weeping; shapeless, oscillating forms; a putrid, sulfuric stench which burned my nostrils. Real or unreal, they caused my blood to churn with dread.

Oh God, please destroy this wicked creature on this wheeled device of torture. I cannot endure another nanosecond of this.

I recall that melodious voice speaking to me in my head, saying, There is no God!

“What do you mean?” I challenged.

Just what I said, he repeated.

“But I believe in God; that’s why I attend church.”

You’re wasting your time.

“So there’s no hope for me?”


“So what should I do?”

Follow me, and I’ll provide a release of your torment.

“Who…are you?”

I’m your real savior. You need me. You’re depressed. Alone. Ugly. No man will ever want you. You destroyed your only chance at love.

As I rode on, my entire body convulsed from unrelenting torrents of tears.

“He’s such a beautiful man. Perhaps there’s still hope. Maybe we can work it out.”

Suddenly the same harmonious voice that I had heeded derided me again: You’re still useless.

“You’re right. I am useless.”

Very good. Now I can help you find your way off the path.

“What should I do?”

We’ll get to that. Remember what your father was like? He was warm, funny, and friendly…but only after he drank. And you modeled those aspects of his character, which culminated in your current situation. Recall that night, the whiskey bottle that was discreetly hidden in the large vase of flowers that always sat on the kitchen table in plain view of your unsuspecting fiancé? You always knew it would come to that. How many times did you engage in that addictive behavior? Exactly 666, including that night.

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed in horror. “You’re the devil!”

At your service, he smugly replied.

I had no memory of the subsequent drive after witnessing Brad’s abominable betrayal.

I found myself at home—alone, distraught, emotionally destroyed, my body racked with gut-wrenching physical pain—helpless, hopeless, desperately seeking comfort, peace, release. The whiskey bottle beckoned me like the femme fatale Cleoptra, luring me to partake of its medicinal healing of my spirit.

I succumbed. That elixir of salvation had numbed me, had provided the requisite strength, had repaired my wounded resolve, had given me the courage and fortitude to permanently rectify all.

As I continued riding, that persuasive voice again resounded in my head, You did the right thing, for it led you to me. You are now one of my prime disciples. Others will now follow you down this path of eternal bliss. Hereafter you shall rule and reign with me forevermore, you worthless piece of glutinous trash. But despite your being lower than primordial slime, you’re one of my prized possessions.

Now I remember what happened that night, the cogent voices in my muddled brain that had enjoined me to do what I did. Dear God, if only I hadn’t obeyed them and ingested that mind-numbing, lethal substance in a bottle!

Now the devil lives in me, fills every fiber in my being….

Upon making my decision, a soft, gentle voice resounded in my head, My little lamb, I beseech you not to proceed with your intended act, for it will eternally separate us, and you from the salvation you deserve. I will always love you and miss you, My lost child.

“Who are you?” I had whispered.

The Captain of your soul. The Pharmacist of your quintessence who can write the only perfect prescription for eternal bliss. The only One who can guide you on the right path.

“But the devil told me you don’t exist, so how can I trust you?”

He doesn’t exist, Satan had interposed. He’s the father of all lies.

“He is?”

Yes. And he masquerades as the purveyor of truth, but he’s the arbiter of destruction.

I clutched my head and screamed for the discordant voices to stop. I was caught in the crossfire of dialogue between God and the devil. I recalled the overwhelming confusion, the frustration, the betrayal, and I knew what I had to do.

In the drawer of my desk was the key to unlock peace. I grabbed my .38 Magnum and slowly, deliberately, strategically, inserted it into my mouth, and, without hesitation, squeezed the trigger.

The next moment, I was on this harrowing path.

By the way, I tricked you, derided the devil. This path is my ideal prescription for eternal bliss.

“No! No! My God! What have I done?!”

You were a submissive victim of my well-executed seduction of your soul, and you belong to me for all eternity.

Collective demonic laughter ensued, and would continue for all time.

June 10, 2022 21:35

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Marty B
05:14 Jun 17, 2022

I liked the story but got lost in the over wrought baroque descriptions that took away from the character eg. The spurious, minacious stygian clouds coursed across the skies with the appearance of cumulus stratus fingers that appeared to reach for me—digits that could have extricated me from my parlous, unremitting state of existence


Karen Leidy
22:38 Jun 17, 2022

Marty, I graciously accept your critique, but I relish exuberant descriptions. Happy writing. Karen


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Daniel R. Hayes
06:17 Jun 16, 2022

Hi Karen, I really enjoyed reading this story. I think you did a great job writing it and everything just seemed to work, which is what I like in stories. Great job!!! :)


Karen Leidy
21:31 Jun 16, 2022

Daniel, Thank you for taking the time to relay your kind comments. I hope you were entertained. Happy writing. Karen


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