Aight, it's a long read, but here it is if you're interested:
On the first day of spring, Ray awoke to something very unusual. But unusual was normal for Ray, and his average day entailed things that would make any layman shudder. However, on this sunny day, Ray was dealing with something entirely out of his realm of expertise.
The black sedan sped across the dirt roads, through the dry, desolate expanses that was northern Idaho. It's wheels churned up great clouds of dust, a testament to its passing which would dissipate long before anyone would pass this way again. Inside the trunk, Roy could feel the heat of the sun, and the bumping of the car's tires on the washboard surface of the roads. He was jostled back and forth in the trunk, the thin felt interior doing little to minimize the impact. The only light was a pale green glow coming from the emergency interior handle. Ray wondered how many children were idiotic enough to actually warrant the installment of these. It would do him no good; he had heard the lock click firmly into place after being hurled into the trunk.
Dehydrated and shaken, Ray barely noticed as the noise from the road diminished and was replaced with the faint squeal of brakes. It took him several minutes to notice that the car had come to a complete halt, and several more to register the fact that he could hear no voices, and no one was coming to open the trunk. Ray didn't know how long he had been in the trunk. Whatever tranquilizing cocktail they had injected him with had been effective, and left him in a state of utter confusion.
A few hours later, most of the effects of the drugs had worn off, and Ray had managed to locate a six pack of diet coke in the trunk. The sickening taste of artificial sweetener clung to Ray's tongue, but it was a small price to pay to slake his thirst. Ray wondered how his victims had felt. Surely they could not have suffered as he was right now. He had always laughed when he heard the thumps of their frantic attempts to kick their way out of the trunk. He had thought it so foolish that they could not simply accept their fate and submit to death. Ten years ago, when he had begun his career, he had acquired a cyanide pill. Instant, painless death, and he offered this to every one of his victims before putting them in the trunk. He had killed scores of people, and never had to buy another pill. He had never understood their hope, and the suffering they accepted in order to live another few hours, yet here Ray was, with that same pill tucked safely away in his shirt pocket. In a matter of moments he could end his life, but it did not even seem a plausible option. He would not take it, he knew, and he would soon be yet another faceless member of the ranks of people in the afterworld that were too cowardly to take their life on their own terms. Ray had always thought there was a special section of hell for cowards, reserved for those too scared to make the hard choices. He had figured, despite his brutal career choice, he wouldn't be in the worst level, because God had to have some respect for a man of courage. But now Ray was being tested, and he knew he was failing. He guessed he'd been wrong all these years- it didn't take much courage to kill a man, woman or child. The real courage was in facing ones own death.
Ray never even heard the approaching footsteps. The soft earth cushioned and muffled his captors footfalls, emitting a small puff of dust into the atmosphere with each step. Ray was sharply jerked from his revery on death and courage as the trunk was yanked violently open. The bright sun burned deep into his eyes, and his pupils contracted sharply with the pain. He was hauled bodily from the trunk and thrown to the ground. The duct tape securing his hands and feet prevented him from breaking his fall, and he was treated with a bloodied nose and a choking lungful of dust upon making contact with the dirt.
Ray was jerked to his feet, still gasping for breath and unable to make out more than dark distorted figures in the bright light. He could feel the cold metal of a gun poking into the small of his back, and a gruff voice commanded him to march. He stumbled forwards for what seemed like an eternity. Even after his eyes had adjusted, and his sight returned, his clumsy and dehydrated feet still caught on every object in his path. By the time they stopped, Ray was ready to accept death over this torture, and with some hesitation reached for the pill in his breast pocket. But he had waited too long, and his pocket was empty. Such was the luck of cowards he thought, knowing that because he had delayed his fate, the pill had undoubtedly been lost during one of his tumbles, and was now laying in some small patch of dust in the vast expanse of the desert.
Ray's eyes surveyed the place they had stopped. It looked no different than any of the other spots in this godforsaken desert. The only distinguishing characteristic was the shovel lying on the ground. Ray looked up at his captors, who stared back unflinchingly. He nodded slowly and picked up the shovel.
As the rusty shovel bit into the dirt, Ray thought about the significance of each grain of dirt he moved. Each little clump was a period of his future life being taken from him forever. Some shovelfuls probably were nothing more significant than eating another crappy meal wrapped in tinfoil at Mcdonald's, going home, getting drunk off cheap beer and passing out, alone in front of the television. But maybe there was something to look forward to after all. In other scoops of dirt he could imagine meeting someone special, maybe even getting married. While Ray was entertaining such wild fantasies, he figured a couple shovels might even represent some kids. Ray thought he'd be a good father, take the kids to a ball-game or two in the summer, and make time for the mall and the movies in the winter. Ray hadn't played catch since high school, and he could see himself throwing pop-flies and ground balls for his son, the way Ray's father had never had time for.
As the blisters slowly grew on Ray's hands, he shoveled away his life. Time passed quickly while he analyzed every bit of the future he no longer had. Then the blisters began to pop, and with a sharp kick to his side, Ray's captors indicated he had dug deep enough. Ray had finished digging his own grave, and they forced him to lay in it. The fat one took the mask off of his face, and as Ray looked up, he saw the ruthless of eyes of Dominic, the mob boss who had employed him for years.
"Lie the fuck down Roy, and don't look up again!" The words exploded from Dominic's deep scratchy throat. Ray could feel the hot blast of breath against his neck. It was full of old pizza, garlic and the other major sources of Dominic's obesity. Ray knew that Dominic didn't really even know Ray's name, and Dominic calling him Roy just proved again how insignificant he was to the boss. Just another mediocre hit-man in the string that had gone through Dominic's life. And now Dominic was going to end Ray's life, just as he had countless others.
Ray heard the shot before he felt it. He had always imagined that death would come too swiftly for him to hear or feel it's approach. He had seen his victims up close, a gaping hole extending from the back of their skull out through their face. He couldn't imagine that they were able to feel much, or think about their oncoming death. So this was strange. Ray put a tentative hand up to the back of his head, but felt only his thinning hair. He opened one eye, and then the other. His vision still worked, and he slowly registered a crater in the dirt just to the right of his head. Ray turned and looked up at the circle of men staring down at him.
"You've worked for me for six years Roy, don't get too cocky. Remember I have the power to end it all like this." Dominic snapped his fingers, spit on Ray, and walked away. One of his men tossed a small envelope into the hole, and said: "There's a road about two miles that way, enjoy."
Ray got up and began running. He fell several times, looking over his shoulder frantically and allowing his limbs to tangle. Every distant sound, real or imagined, seemed to be the return of his tormentors, and his certain doom. His body was dehydrated, bruised and shaking, but he forced his legs on as fast as they could go. His feet frantically kicked puffs of dirt high into the air. The high puffs slowly diminished into small clouds, and eventually Ray's feet were moving so slowly that they barely moved the loose sand.
When Ray reached the road he was ready to collapse. His feat ached, his stomach felt like there was a vice grip on it, twisting, and his vision was blurred and spinning. He could barely follow simple thoughts through to their conclusion, and the world moving in front of his eyes added to his confusion. He lay prone on the shoulder of the lonely two lane highway. Ray couldn't tell if cars were passing him, or the sound was just the blood rushing through his ears. But each time he peeked up, he saw nothing but hot pavement, and dusty scrub-brush stretching on into eternity.
A car did come eventually, and it stopped. The owner was a middle-aged priest, who forcibly hauled Ray's exhausted body into the backseat of his car, and forced food and water on him. As Ray slowly re-hydrated and fed himself, the priest explained that he came out here once a week, and tended to a small chapel in the desert.
"What brought you out here son, and left you in such ragged condition?"
The priest's query snapped Ray to a state of alertness. "I... I'd rather not say father." A long pause followed, and Ray dozed into sleep.
When Ray awoke it was dark out, and the car was still chugging along a solid five miles an hour under the posted limit. He heard the priest speaking, and realized he was being addressed. "Do you have a safe place to go, or do you need to take shelter at my house for a few days?"
Ray knew that if Dominic wanted to find him he would, wherever Ray hid. "No thank you father, I wouldn't wish to impose." He gave the priest his address and directions, and sat staring into the dark.
As the car pulled to a stop along the curb outside Ray's house, he was not ready to leave. Ray hadn't gone to church since the first time he had killed, but being with a man of the cloth had brought his tortured soul comfort. "Father, before you leave me, answer this one question." The priest sat, waiting silently. "I have always heard God has great forgiveness in his heart for sinners who repent, but I feel that there is no hope for me. I have robbed dozens of wives of their husbands, and children of their fathers. What could possibly be done to cleanse my soul? How can the world function properly, if people sin freely, knowing that as long as they repent, they will be forgiven? I am lost, and I need to know if I even have a home to search for."
The priest paused for so long that Ray wondered if he would ever respond. Then he cleared his throat, a gravelly sound that rumbled through the dark, silent car. But still no words came from his mouth. Ray sat, terrified, afraid to speak out and ruin any chance he had of forgiveness. The priest cleared his throat twice more before speaking. The words came out slowly and tentatively, as if the priest was afraid to miss-speak and give Ray false hope. "What you have heard is correct son. God does have great forgiveness in his heart. So much that it is hard to comprehend for us lowly humans. But that forgiveness is no carte-blanche to commit heinous sins with the thought of repenting in our minds. In every sinner's life, there is one critical moment, where their fate is determined. You are at this moment now my son. God has reached out and touched you in some way, and you now understand with shocking clarity that if you continue on your path, your fate lies with Satan. If you repent now, and change your way of living, forgiveness will be yours. But this is your only opportunity, now that you comprehend the consequences of your decision. It is imperative that you make the right choice, because at any time in the future, your repentance will come too late. Do what is right son, God has given you this chance to take his hand and follow on his righteous path, do not ignore it."
Ray climbed from the car, unsure of how to respond. As he shut the door, the priest handed him a slip of paper. "My number, call me if you need anything, and remember, you are lost, but you can find your way home." Ray tried to mutter his thanks, but nothing came out. The words stuck in his throat, as words tend to do whenever they are truly needed.
When Ray got into the house, he turned on every light, the radio, and the television. He tried to drown his fears in a sea of light and sound. Most importantly, he tried to lose himself in an endless array of game shows and bad talk radio, in order to forget about the envelope. He couldn't though, and his eyes kept shifting from Bob Barker to the dirty little envelope on his bedside table. Ray knew what was in it. It was identical to the dozens of others that Dominic had given him over the years. Inside was the name of Ray's next victim, and if Ray was lucky an address and some personal information.
Ray's state of terror and confusion could not endure for much longer. Eventually his heart slowed, and though he fought it, his eyes closed, and he fell into a fitful sleep. When Ray awoke, he opened the letter without hesitation. He just wanted things to be the same. He wanted things the way they were before all the doubts and questions. Ray got in his van, assembled his supplies, and set out to end another life.
Ray felt strangely detached throughout the whole affair. He could barely feel Ernest Smith's hands clawing against him as he tied him up and deposited him in the back of the car. Ray had lost his magic pill in the desert, but he left Ernest with a bottle of oxycontin. A fair replacement Ray thought. Nothing would be as quick as the cyanide, but this would certainly be painless. Ray drove on auto-pilot, barely noticing the traffic around him. At one point he was alone on the highway, when he looked at the speedometer and realized he was going 35 in a 60 zone.
After that, Ray tried to pay attention to the road. He kept a lookout for police, and when Ray passed one on the shoulder, he had a strange urge to slam down on the accelerator, speed past him and end the whole charade. Ray's heart wasn't in it anymore, and he didn't know what to do.
Despite Ray's absentmindedness, he reached his destination without difficulty. Ray had been doing this for years, and killing was as ingrained in him as breathing. If he didn't think about it, Ray barely noticed he was doing it.
Ray pulled the car to a stop and clambered out. He had always wanted a bigger car for his tall frame, but none had as roomy a trunk as his modified Ford Escort. Ray knew a van with blacked out windows would be too suspicious any ways. Ray walked slowly around the car knowing what he would find in the trunk. Ernest Smith, of 21 Hastings drive, Pocatello, was the same as any of Ray's victims, the same in fact, as Ray. Ernest would never take the pills, though they had been placed in his pocket. He would cling to one last strand of almost non-existent hope, and prolong his suffering in vain. Ernest had not given a single thought to the pill, focusing instead on his children's faces, and what he would do to see them again.
Ray hauled Ernest roughly out of the car, whipped him hard across the face with his gun, and pressed it to Ernest's temple. When Ernest realized that his struggles were useless, he stopped moving, and listened to Ray speak. "I am going to release your bonds. You will walk ahead of me, at gunpoint, for about a quarter mile. There is a shack there, where you will be held until your family pays the ransom. If you run, or even take one step off the path, I will not hesitate to shoot you. There are 6.3 billion humans on earth waiting to be kidnaped, do not overestimate your importance to me."
Ray thought about the lies he told, realizing it was the first time in years he had even stopped to think about them. Ray had read somewhere that people think best when their legs are moving. It certainly seemed so now. During the 15 minutes it took for Ernest's battered frame to stumble a quarter of a mile, Ray thought constantly about the priest's words, and the actions he was taking. Still, when they came to the hole that Ray had prepared, he pulled the trigger without doubt or hesitation, knowing what needed to be done. Ray would never cease to be amazed by the quantity of blood in a person's head. He watched the blood spread through the dirt from the hole in Ernest's face. It formed a large Rorschach blot. Ray saw a rose, which changed slowly to a crimson flames. His eyes momentarily slid out of focus, and Ray swore he saw the priests face looking out at him from the fiery Hell Ernest's blood had created. When he blinked frantically, there was nothing but bloodstained stretch of dirt. Ray wondered what his vision had meant, for surely the priest had been a servant of God, not Satan.
Ray had never listened to his therapist back in juvy. Mr. Hawkins had been kind enough the first time they talked, but he soon became pushy, and insisted that Ray think about what he was doing with his life. Ray had been in there for beating a boy in his town near to death over a few dollars, and Mr. Hawkins had taken Ray on as a personal challenge. Ray had never believed in any of that psychology junk, especially not the damn Rorschach blots that Mr. Hawkins had made him stare at so long that his head hurt for days. But now Ray was starting to believe. What was it Mr. Hawkins had said in his country twang on the day Ray left juvy? Something along the lines of; "Ray, I know that you know what you're doing is wrong, and some day you're gonna care. It might not be for years, but by the time you realize what you've done, it's gonna be too late. Try and find the good in you boy, there's some in everyone. In some of us, the good's just further from the surface."
Ray shook his head violently, trying to wake himself from his trance. Memories always came back at the wrong time for Ray, and it would be just his luck to be caught daydreaming over a dead body. Ray dragged Ernest's body the rest of the way into the hole, and fished Ernest's wallet from his pocket. Ray did this on an impulse. It was one of the stupidest things he'd ever done and he knew it. One of the first rules of being a successful murderer is to never take evidence with you. Regardless, Ray pocketed the wallet and began pushing the dirt back into the grave. For the first time in his life, Ray was disturbed by the gaping chasm in Ernest's face, and he could feel Ernest's one remaining eye following him. Ray covered the face first, relishing the moment when he could no longer see Ernest's body, just a bloody mound of dirt. Years of practice allowed Ray to complete the grave in minimal time. He sat on the freshly dug grave, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and took out Ernest's wallet.
Ray didn't find much interesting; a few bloodstained bills and receipts, a MasterCard, Home Depot and Star Market savings cards and several business cards. Ray was just beginning to wonder why he had bothered to take it, and how to best dispose of it, when he flipped open one more compartment. A jumble of pictures fell out and hung, suspended from the wallet. They were encased in one of the miniature plastic photo-albums for wallets. Ray doubted that the inventor had intended them to protect the pictures from blood, but the case had worked nonetheless.
Ray examined the pieces of what was Ernest Smith's life. The first picture revealed a wife and two kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. The next photos were closeups of each family member, including the dog. Then a shot of an older couple in wheelchairs, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The album finished with a few shots of what looked to be cousins, nieces, nephews and other assorted in-laws.
Ray was suddenly jealous of the man in the hole. When they found Ernest's body, people would mourn for him. His children would carry on with his name and genetics, and his family would never forget him. Ray knew that when he died, he would be utterly alone. No one would notice, and even if they did, no one would care. By pulling the trigger, Ray had not only taken Ernest's life, but also any hope he had for his own. The priest's words haunted Ray, echoing through his mind. "If you repent now, and change your way of living, forgiveness will be yours... at any time in the future, your repentance will come too late."
Ray opened his cell phone and dug through his pockets for the priest's number. He found it, and dialed hurriedly. There was no answer, and after six rings, a machine picked up. The priest's gentle tones buzzed through the phone; "You've reached Father Carlson, I'm not available at this time, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. If you are seeking salvation, do not give up hope but do not delay. Keep calling, for the fight over your soul is urgent, and there will come a day when the devil's grip over it is intractable."
As soon as his call was dropped, Ray hit redial. He listened to the message over and over again, knowing that he had missed his opportunity. He sat there, alone in the desert, perched on top of yet another of his sins, with the pieces of a dead man's life in one hand, and the certainty of his own damnation being repeated through the other.