There were four confessional areas built into the walls on each side of the church. They had closed wooden doors flanked by deep purple curtains where the penitent would enter. By looking closely, Tom could see that only one confessional was dimly lit. Above the door was Father Alphonsus’ name engraved on a small rectangular wooden board that slid into a metal holder. Tom pushed past the curtain. Inside there was a padded wooden plank for kneeling facing a dark double-screened window that concealed the view.
“Father Alphonsus, are you there?”
Tom believed he saw a wood panel slide open removing one of the screens. He could see an obscure shadow on the other side of the screen.
“Are you Father Alphonsus? I need to talk with you about something which has me deeply troubled.”
The shadow moved. Then he heard an indistinct mumble or hum or rasping sound, which Tom assumed was the priest.
“A friend recommended I see you about a problem I’m having. You see I’m reading a book that has me troubled. Following the author’s instructions I took the book without paying for it.”
He listened for a response from behind the screen but only heard the same mumble or hum or rasping sound he heard before, which he took as a sign that the priest was listening.
“Then I performed a ceremony involving candles, incense and a vial of blue liquid, which I drank. It was all only a game for me.”
The same mumble or hum or rasping sound came from behind the screen.
“It has to do with free will and forces released when turning away from traditional spirituality. And well, I’m not sure how to explain it. I want to put it all behind me. But now I’m haunted by terribly evil thoughts, nightmares and shadows. I’m sure it all has to do with having a guilty conscience.”
This time there was only silence from behind the screen. Tom wondered if he might have shocked the old priest.
“Father Alphonsus, are you listening to me? What do you have to say?”
More of the same mumbling sounds which Tom wished he could understand.
“I know it was wrong for me to take the book and experiment with spiritual ceremonies I know nothing about but can you help me get back some peace of mind?”
Again there was no response, only the sound of wind passing by the confessional. When Tom looked through the screen separating him from the priest the dark shadow moved to one side.
“Why don’t you have the decency to answer me?”
Still there was no response.
In a fit of rage, he left the confessional. Tom was determined to find out why the priest behind the closed door did not respond.
He tried the doorknob.
It was unlocked.
The door flew open.
It was pushed from inside.
When he looked, there was no one there, only an empty chair.