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sinner and the saint

(radio play)

(Scene opens with the sound of a church bell tolling for a few seconds. The bell fades as it is drowned out by the scraping of the church door opening, before the door shutting closes it out completely)

CHOIR: (Chanting) Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula…

(Footsteps overshadow the chanting, and the sound of a door being opened with a slight squeak. The chanting dies out as the door is shut with a soft click, and the sounds of someone scuffing their feet)

SINNER: Father?

(Sound of the window sliding open)

PRIEST: May the Lord be on your lips and in your heart that you may worthily confess your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit. (Pause) You can begin whenever you feel ready, my child. (Pause) The card is there to help you get started… just read it, my child.

SINNER: I’m… I’m ready. (Monotone) Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been… (Trails off, then speaks again in a tight voice) It has been ten years since my last confession.

PRIEST: What have you come to repent of?

SINNER: I… Father, there’s too much to repent of. I don’t know how much I’m supposed to talk about. I have murdered, raped, pillaged and desecrated. I have stooped lower that I could have ever dreamt possible so that I could achieve the greatest heights ever. I have committed such atrocities against my fellow man that my tongue burns with the mention of the deeds. Of all this, how much can I confess?

PRIEST: Remember, repent of all. You must talk of all you have actually done to be able to be truly forgiven of your sins.

SINNER: But I don’t know where to start.

PRIEST: Then start at the beginning. Often, it is easier if the problem is traced to the source.

SINNER: The… beginning? (A short derisive laugh) So much has happened since then.

PRIEST: And that is why you must start there. You have ten years of sin to organize, to declare before you can be truly forgiven. There is no point in hiding whatever you may have done, for the blessing of forgiveness is only bestowed on those who confess all. Otherwise, all will be forsaken.

SINNER: Alright, Father. If I were to start from the beginning, I would have to go back to sins of a time before I was born, but I’ll start from the point of my last confession… from ten years ago. It was ten years ago that I chose this path, ten years ago that I turned my back on God and instead began to follow someone else. I placed this man higher than the sovereign Lord, higher than any being, and I was willing to do anything for him.

PRIEST: Why did you take this road? Who was this man who led you away from God and into sin?

SINNER: I have always worshipped power, and those who have been strong enough to weld this power. He… I cannot say his name, father, I am still afraid…

PRIEST: You have no one to be afraid of here. Still… if you prefer not to name this person, if it will help you to confess your past deeds more freely, then I will understand.

SINNER: Thank you, father. This man… he promised that I, too, would be like him. He promised me everything that I have ever lusted after in this world- a name for myself that would leave people shaking when they heard it, a name that my father refused to give me because I was his bastard child. I wanted the honor, I wanted to be considered as one within a whole… he promised me all this, and more. He promised me all, in return for all I could give him.

PRIEST: But was it all worth it? These stains on your mortal soul, just for worldly gain? Even if your father on earth did not recognize you, your Father in heaven surely-

SINNER: I was desperate, Father, I was desperate for anyone who would accept me as their own. I had always been the one who was subdued by those stronger than me… oh, how I itched to crush them, to break them so that they pleaded with me to stop. I wanted them to beg for my forgiveness. I had waited for so long, for I did believe… once. I believed that each person would be punished for whatever they had done to me, and I waited for God’s wrath to fall on their heads. I waited, and waited, but nothing came. No sign from above. They, my torturers, and the one behind all this, my father, lived happily with no concerns while I waited for them to suffer. God had forgotten me, so I had no choice but to turn away and look for others.

PRIEST: What did you do, then, once you had chosen your path?

SINNER:  I had to prove myself, Father. I had to prove myself to this leader that I was worthy of his attention. Therein lies the beginning of my crimes against those I call my fellow men. (His voice drops until he is almost whispering) I would not expect you to understand how important this was for me… I would not expect for you to understand the expectations at the initiation…

(His voice echoes hollowly as he recounts the initiation, a voice-over to the flashback)

She was the only daughter of a rich businessman. She didn’t know what pain was, never having known it. It was my job to teach her how to feel pain, to make her suffer for her father’s misdeeds.

(The sound of a door screeching and someone being roughly pushed in, followed by the low sobbing of a girl)

She was so young… hardly thirteen, I think… maybe she was too young to understand what was going to happen to her. But she was still afraid, and that took my breath away… she was so beautiful, and so scared.

(The sound of a slap, followed by a lot of scuffling and a few rude shouts. A coarse laugh. The girl shouts: let me go! let me- before her voice is muffled. A low voice whispering: I wouldn’t, darling. A zipper is roughly pulled.)

I raped her, Father. It was probably the most exhilarating few minutes of my life… you could not possibly understand what it feels like, to dominate another person completely, to torture and humiliate them until they wish that you had killed them. I have never felt so alive as that night, until I took her so hard that she cried, she cried for her father to help her.

(Laughter and jeers sound all around as he continues to narrate)

Reducing a person, a human being to something like this… it’s the biggest adrenaline rush you could ever feel. I broke her thrice that night, and each time I couldn’t help but respond to the crowd around me, all of them just cheering, and her screams just drove me further… I couldn’t stop until she stopped moving and there was nothing left of this beautiful little girl but a wreck… I had broken her down to a point where there was nothing else left to be broken. It was disgusting and gratifying and so horrible but so glorious, all at the same time… I knew that I had discovered the secret I had been looking for when I looked into her eyes and saw nothing but fear there. I had broken her hope and for the first time, I could actually sense the approval in the crowd. They praised me, they took me from the dirt and placed me high up, as if I were some demi-God… I was the one in power.

(The jeering stops abruptly, signifying the end of the flashback. The voices of the two lose their echoing quality)

PRIEST: (Muttering) But such sin…

SINNER: It was… it was breathtaking, in a way, this vile, horrible act, but just to be able to control someone, to dominate them completely… I know you can never understand, father, because there is no way you have ever felt it.

PRIEST: I- I am not sure that I would ever want to feel it. I cannot even comprehend such an evil act…

SINNER: When I think of it, father, I am tempted to forget the disgust and only concentrate on the glory, to forget my shock when I realized how far I had gone and only try and remember the looks from everyone around me… but I can’t. It’s eating me, father…

PRIEST: Your guilt weighs heavily on you… that’s why you came to me… but why, oh why, after so long?

SINNER: I couldn’t stop then, father. I mean… I did try. I tried the very next day, because they brought her to me again and in the light, I could see everything I had done and it was the worst feeling ever, but my pride… my pride, my abominable pride would not let me. It reminded me of how everyone was looking up to me, of how, for a moment, I was a God and others worshipped me… my pride would not let me stop there.

PRIEST: (Clearing his throat) You said that… that this was only the initiation. I assume in ten years you have done much more than that… that there is much more for you to tell me that you are hesitant to reveal…

SINNER: Not hesitant, father… despite my wicked acts and my heinous nature, I can’t help but wonder if you’ll be able to listen to everything… even I can’t sit through an account of all the horror, and I’m the one who committed these crimes.

PRIEST: The Lord will help me, child, as He has helped you to see your mistakes. You may have chosen the wrong path, but He has guided you back, He has sent you here so that you may repent… if He can give you a second chance, and if He could watch you, even as you sinned openly and without a thought, then I, a mere servant, will draw on His strength.

SINNER: (contemptuously) Then you do that, and ask your Lord why He let me go on with all this… why didn’t He think of guiding me back, as you say, before this. I’m sure that with all His power, He could have brought me back… He could have stopped me even before I had decided to take this road- but instead, I’ve had to live for ten long years with nothing but sin and filth before He finally decided to send me here.

PRIEST: You must understand, child, that whatever happens, that whatever you have done, it is your own choice. God had nothing to do with it. He lays out our paths for us, but it is then our task to choose the right one. As you do not blame the man who edged the path when you stumble over a rock in the way, you cannot blame God for your problems. Yet we all stumble, and that is why we have the Sacrament of Confession… we have no one to blame for what we do, but our Lord is always there to help us rise again.

SINNER: But I just want to know why…

PRIEST: This is a question you should ask yourself, child, that how come you never let God guide you before, rather than why He was never there because you know, even if you do not say it, but you know that He was always with you, even when you toyed with His creation- God was always there, but you were just too blind to see Him. And I know that the stench of guilt that emanates from your soul is too strong for you to ignore now, and that you will not leave, however I may respond to your declarations- you want peace, peace from the accusing screams of your victims, and you want this peace so much that you will sit through anything and everything to get this peace… even if it means having to confront everything that you were running away from.

(Momentary pause, then a slight sound of a shoe scraping against the floor)

SINNER: (In a slightly subdued tone) I have only told you about the beginning. She… her name… her name was Cheryl. Cheryl was the first. There have been so many that I can’t even remember them all… so many who will never laugh anymore because I took their lives as a child would a toy, easily breaking them and looking for the next one. Once I began, I couldn’t stop. That feeling of power… it was addictive. I always told myself, after I had finished with each one, that I wouldn’t do it again, yet I could never make it stop. They’re all nameless faces, father, faces that I can only remember being smashed into floors and with puffy eyes, and voices that screamed at me to stop… but I never did. Once I had joined, there was no backing out… but for ten years, I didn’t want to. I was too wrapped up in my own… achievements and the admiration of others. I was too busy being the obedient… (The struggle is evident in his voice) I was too busy being the obedient servant to my master.

PRIEST: And what did he tell you to do?

SINNER: (A wry laugh) Our instructions were always simple. Go out and cause as much mayhem as possible. We killed for the fun of it, although there was the occasional job that someone would hire us for. I never thought of myself as a professional assassin… I was never motivated by greed. Money was an incentive for most, but-

PRIEST: (Breathing heavily) For you, it was your pride.

SINNER: Yes. It was always because I was expected to terrorize, I was the one whom my… whom our master had handpicked to lead each operation. I always was surrounded by this fervor, this urge to prove myself, again and again. I wanted to make those who had ever hurt me suffer; I wanted to get back at everyone for making me this. I… I knew what I was, father, I was a disgrace, and I hated myself all those ten years for letting myself become something even worse than an animal. I blamed it on everyone, father, yes, even on God… I blamed it on everyone except myself. But most of all, I blamed it on the man who had started this story… the man who refused to recognize me as his son. It was his fault that I became this monster, it was his fault that I had this insatiate desire to just… to just destroy everything. (His voice rises higher) Day and night, through every thing I did, I imagined that it was him, that I was getting back at him, and every time I heard the shouts, the cheers from my counterparts I couldn’t help but get high on their praises. It was slowly tearing me apart… I hated myself for doing everything, but I hated him so much that I did it anyway. It doesn’t make sense when I try to reason, but there was this fire that just grew with every crime I committed- my pride would not let me fail in front of everyone, and it would not let me rest until I had punished the man who abandoned me before I was born.

PRIEST: You committed all these crimes… for the worst reason that anyone could have… you destroyed so many for your pride…

SINNER: What would you have me do, father? I had nowhere else to go, I had nothing to do-

PRIEST: But revenge is not the answer, child! Even on the cross, our Lord forgave those who sought to silence him, He-

SINNER: But He had a reason to die, He was neither abandoned nor-

PRIEST: You have to take responsibility for your actions. You chose this path-

SINNER: I DID NOT CHOOSE! It was something that I was forced to do… they always call people a victim of some circumstance or the other-

PRIEST: But you were not a victim!

SINNER: I WAS a victim, I was just as much a victim as were… as were my victims. (Quietly) I know they never deserved anything I did to them… they did not deserve the pain… but neither did I. I never deserved to be abandoned.

PRIEST: If they didn’t deserve it… then why?

SINNER: I told you. Once I joined, there was no backing out. I had a role to fulfill… just as you do… you took a vow to the church. I took a vow… to myself, to the one who could help me. I took a vow to my pride first, and then my master-

PRIEST: It seems as if your pride is your master.

SINNER: (Snickering) You could go as far as saying that. Everything I’ve done has been to satisfy myself. I mean… even coming here, I only came because I had a purpose to fulfill. I murdered because I had to-

PRIEST: You know that thou shalt not kill.

SINNER: I had no choice-

PRIEST: (emphasizing each word) Thou shalt not kill! You know that thou shalt not come to the father with blood on your hands, thou shalt not desecrate the sanctuary of the church with your hands that have spilled the blood of innocents-

SINNER: (Dangerously low) You’re one to talk, father.

PRIEST: (Caught off guard) What? (heavy pause in which only breathing can be heard) Have I not kept my vow to the church… have I not always acted as I am supposed to, as a representative of our Lord and God-

SINNER: (Laughing) Father, when I came here, I had only one thing in mind. And it was not forgiveness, God’s or otherwise.

PRIEST: (A hint of panic can be heard in his voice) Then…

SINNER: (Quietly) What do you think? I told you that all I wanted was to find him. to find that bastard and make him pay… make him pay for this. For leaving me to a life of misery. Every person I acted against was only one more clue to finding out. All of them. They knew who he was, that bastard who was unable to accept what he had done. Blood of innocents? I doubt that they were innocent.

PRIEST: I do not understand-

SINNER: (Chuckling) I didn’t expect you to understand. After all, it was such a long time ago… and who could have ever thought that a priest such as yourself, such a holy man, someone who everyone looks up to, could have ever done something so wrong?

PRIEST: (Annoyed) Speak clearly! I-

SINNER: Tell me, do you remember her? My mother, that is? She was only seventeen that day when she came in here for confessional. They told me that she wasn’t very pretty, but she had something, didn’t she… you could have called her… charming... Father, can you remember what she wore? (Pause) Of course you can’t, father… how could you remember what she wore when you were so much more interested in her body under those clothes… (Ignores sputtering noises from the priest) Tell me, father, did she put up a fight? She never told me… I wouldn’t know.

PRIEST: (Faintly) I… do you even know what you’re saying?

SINNER: (Dismissively) Of course, I could just be rambling on about something that I’ve imagined… I do appear to be quite mentally disturbed, don’t you think? So many people that I freely confessed to killing… so many women that I raped… tell me, did you feel as I did when you raped my mother? Did you feel that exhilaration that can only come when you have complete control over another human being? Tell me… (His voice drops) tell me, Dad, how did you break her? Was it slow so that no one could hear you… your hand over her mouth-


SINNER: (Tauntingly) What’s the matter, Dad, did you really think that no one would find out what you had done? When you violated that vow you had made to the church, when you let yourself succumb to a disgrace of the flesh? You thought that no one would know about your little… er, slip-up, shall we say? (His voice rises) But you’re just as bad as me. You have raped, you have murdered, just so that no one would know about your little tryst. Tell me, did my mother cry out when you raped her?


SINNER: It’s taken me a good ten years to find you, because everyone who could have possibly told me anything was already dead… or too scared to say anything. Everyone knew that she was going to have a child, but who was the father… she never told. She went far, far away to have her baby… she was sent far away so that the man responsible cold go on with his life, a saint in everyone’s eyes-

PRIEST: I had no choice-

SINNER: (Laughs uncontrollably) That’s a great one, Dad, really. Now I know where I picked that one up from. You may have refused to acknowledge my existence, but it’s… comforting… to see that we have so much in common. Both of us, sinners of the highest order.

PRIEST: For- forgive me, I-

SINNER: (Savagely) No. Forgive me, father… for what I have done… and what I am about to do.

(a gunshot, the thud of a gun falling to the floor , followed by footsteps. The chanting of the choir is heard again, almost drowning out the footsteps)

CHOIR: Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi.

SINNER: (Whispered) Amen.

(The church door opens loudly, and the church bell can be heard tolling, louder and louder as the door slams shut until it is the only sound left.)



© Marziya Mohammedali, 2001-2013