None of Us Are Saints

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
As a young boy, Samuel bought his mother's life for a suit to a stranger. Now, when he needs the strangers help again, what price will he pay?

Submitted: November 11, 2011

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Submitted: November 11, 2011

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I. The Scare-Man

I was never a God-fearing man, especially after my momma died for the first time. Maybe that was my first mistake, because if I had feared God a bit, perhaps I would have been a bit more careful in accepting a proposition that went against everything the good Lord had set down. But The Old Man had been so convincing, and the bruises from my daddy’s beatings had become more numerous as the years went on, and I just missed my momma so damned much. The Old Man knew all this, I didn’t know how then and I don’t know how now, but he knew. Another obvious reason I should have ran away the second I saw him. Every sign pointed to something being wrong, very wrong. But he was just an old drifter who wanted some clothes and I was just a kid was just a bit more stupid than I thought.
I had seen the scarecrow falling off of his crucifix while I was tending to the chickens, but didn’t realize it had been torn down until I reached the clearing in the cornfields where it was posted between two other crucified scarecrows. The lifeless corpse stuffed with straw had been wearing one of my father’s old Sunday suits, they hadn’t been of much use seeing as he hadn’t stepped into a church since my momma had past. When I got to The Old Man he had already put on the trousers and was working on buttoning the faded shirt that went underneath the jet black jacket. The scarecrow lay stripped on the ground, one arm flopped over his face as if he was ashamed to been seen in such a state. The Old Man finally realized that someone was watching him and looked up to meet my eyes. A terrifying smile crept across his face, one that I would be reminded of later in life every time a traveling salesman knocked on my door. He finished buttoning the shirt and reached down to grab the jacket before he spoke.
“Pardon me, boy, jus’ needed a new pair a’ coverin’s, my old one’s were gi’in a bit soiled, if ya know what I mean.” The Old Man’s accent was distinctly southern, though I hadn’t heard anything quite like it before. I took a quick glance around and didn’t see any discarded clothes, but I didn’t dare say anything to contradict The Old Man. “I ‘pologize ‘bout yer scare-man there, but I thought he could do jus’ an much scarin’ naked.”
At this, I finally spoke up, “That was my daddy’s old Sunday suit. I don’ think you should be takin’ it.”
The Old Man’s eyes widened along with his smile, both of which oozed a sense of dangerous curiosity. “A Sunday suit! Well, I be damned, I feel Holy already!” And he raised his hands in mock praise to the sun. “Your daddy cursed off goin’ to the Good Lord’s house after ya momma passed, di’in’t he?” I couldn’t help but take a step back in mix shock and fear. How did this man know these things. Had he been watching my daddy and me? But that was impossible, it’d been three years since all that had happened. I kept my silence still, afraid that if I spoke again the Old Man would reveal more unsettling details about my life. But as soon as I had thought it, the man went on with his uncomfortable retelling of my recent life. “Yeah, ya daddy ain’t been to nice to ya since ya momma, Lynette, passed. ‘S too bad ‘bout all them bruises he’s been givin’ ya.” I looked down to make sure my sleeves were both rolled down, there was no way the Old Man had seen any of the bruises on my are. I had now gone beyond being terrified into being intrigued. I was sure the Old Man must be one of those traveling psychics who can see your past and tell you your future. He must have seen my change in demeanor and let out a tiny laugh that made my neck hairs raise. He broke eye contact once more and picked up the scarecrow’s fallen hat, the only piece he was missing, and fit it squarely on his head. His face was as old and wrinkled as the scarecrow’s burlap skin , he could have climbed up onto the bare cross and taken the it’s place.
“Ya don’ happen to have a nice pair a’ shoes to match this here suit?” The man said nonchalantly, glancing down at his feet. I followed his gaze down and saw his ancient feet with nails that could have been talons dirty and ungroomed digging into the dirt. 
“No, sir, I only got one pair myself, and my daddy'd kill me if I ran off to give a pair of his shoes to a stranger," and then, after a moment of hesitation, "I still don't think I can let ya have that suit, mister."
The old man looked up again and his terrible salesman smile traced itself back onto his wrinkled face. "What if I pay ya back a small bit?" His tone suggested that he would be taking to suit no matter what, but he would try and appease the boy if he could. Sam was confused.
"Whadda you got that could pay me back for that suit?"
"How about I bring ya momma back for ya? That be sufficient payment for ya?" The Old Man said this as if he was offering me the change in his pocket, his tone of voice showing only the slightest bit of humor at the remark.
"Whaddaya mean, 'bring my momma back'? You said you knew yourself that my momma's long dead." I was insulted that this man thought he could trick me just because I was a boy. And then I smelt it: the scent that hadn't graced my nose for three years. The sweet smell of blueberries mixed with pancake batter was blowing through the wind from the farmhouse. My head shot toward the house where I stared at the figure moving in the kitchen window. My momma had made blueberry pancakes every day up until she had become bedridden with her illness, and that was only because daddy insisted she stay in bed, hoping that that small thing would heal the death that was growing inside of her. It must have been my mind, it had to be. My momma being able to cook blueberry pancakes was about as possible as me sprouting wings and fly south for the winter. But the smell persisted and the figure still stood in the window. 
"Wha'cha say? We got a deal?" I turned my head back to the Old Man, his hand outstretched. Before I even had time to think about it my small hand was wrapped in a contract-sealing grasp and I was sent running toward the sweet scent.

II. The Cold Funeral Night 

It was hard looking at my momma lying in a coffin 30 years later. It was the second time I had seen her in this place, though I was the only one that seemed to remember the first time. She had been living on borrowed time from the moment she appeared back in her kitchen making blueberry pancakes. I sat down in the first pew and half listened to the pastor give my momma's eulogy. Died peacefully, in her sleep, at the ripe old age of 74. I couldn't help but mentally correct the pastor on this, his mother had been 71. He had never counted the three years after her first death to count against her. No, it might have been 74 years since she was born, but she had only lived 71 of them. Of course, I was the only one who knew this. Me and the Old Man, who hadn't left my mind for a single day in the last 30 years. I saw him every once in a while, out of the corner of my eyes. He'd tip his hat and be gone before I count turn to get a proper look at him. I could even swear that I saw him in the back of the church during the memorial service, still wearing my father's worn suit, his bare feet as dirty and wretched as they had been. But I blinked a few times and he had disappeared. I thought it'd be impossible for him to really be alive, the man had easily been seventy when I had met him in the cornfields of my daddy's farm, making him over a hundred if he was alive today. 
My daddy had passed six years earlier, a sober man who loved his family. Who loved his son again. He had never hit me again after that day, hadn't even acted as if he wanted to. And I had loved him, loved him as I carried his coffin down the steps of the church, loved him as he was lowered into the grave that had been dug the night before. And I did the same for my momma, making sure to bring flowers for my daddy's grave after momma's service was over.
Susan and Robert stayed with me the entire time. I had met Susan when I was 23, she was 19. We started talking when I happened to grab a can that she had just laid her hand on in the general store and had started dating a few weeks afterwards. My momma loved her, and I couldn't be happier. Not just that my momma approved, but that she was alive to tell me she approved. Me and Susan married a year later, after I asked for her father for his blessing and had saved as much as I could for a small ring. Robert was born less than a year later, I named him after my daddy. He was 18 now and he looked just like his namesake, save for the age.
I finally gathered myself together and we made our way back to back to the church, where a lawyer had agreed to meet us to discuss the will. It was only really a formality, as here wasn't much to discuss. Being an only child, my momma had left everything she owned to me. What she owned was the farmhouse and land where I grew up and where she had died twice. I didn't know exactly what I'd do with the land, perhaps clear it out and sell it, but that was to be decided another day. Today was a day to remember my momma. But I was having trouble keeping my mind off the Old Man and just what exactly he had done for me. I wished I could see him, thank him for the miracle he had given me. Sadly, I wouldn't have time to thank him the next time he appeared.
We made it back to our small home in the city around dusk; Robert went to his room and I told Susan I was going for a walk. She gave me an understanding smile, but before I could get my coat on she came up and asked if she could tag along.
"I'm sure you could use the company, darlin'." Her voice was like honey, matching the color of her hair quite nicely. I couldn't resist her and she asked me to grab her coat, it was sure to be cold out tonight.
"But it's summer, dear." I asked, a bit confused.
"'S always cold night of a funeral." She said, her eyes adding that this strange fact should be obvious. I nodded and fetched a small coat for her.
As surely as she had said it, the moment we stepped outside a chilled wind hit my face like a thousand pins, as painful as it was numbing. We began a route around the block, her arm wrapped around mine. She kept in step with me as to not get left behind and I searched for something to say, some kind of conversation that could get my mind off of the obvious subject of the day. My mouth had something else in mind.
"Do you think people can come back from the dead?" It had left my mouth before I even had a chance to stop it. I could feel my cheeks immediately flood with color and I found himself looking away from Susan, trying my best not to match what I was sure would be an awkward gaze.
"What?" she said with half a laugh, "You mean like that Shelley woman talks about?" The Frankenstein reference chilled my blood, a vision of my mother lying on a cold slab, stitched together and waiting for a volt to bring her to life again flashed though my mind.
"No, no, no. Nothin' like that. I mean, if God or wha'ever wanted to put someone back on the Earth..."
"I never took you as the religious type, Samuel." Susan interjected with a none too subtle curiosity. It was true, I had never lead her to believe I had any kind of faith or religious inclinations, but my own experience wouldn't allow me to brush off the supernatural completely.
"Whatever being that may or may not control our lives. Do you think they can bring people back?"
"Sam, your mother lived a long, happy, healthy life. She wouldn't want to be brought back from the dead. She is at peace." I wasn't sure how to continue. I couldn't tell her than I had once bought my momma's life back with a tattered suit, she'd surely think I was insane.
"You're right.." I said, pretending that that had been exactly what was on my mind. Susan hugged my arm tight and we kept on their path, passing houses with their lamps slowly lighting up as the sunlight faded into night. We walked for about an hour, not going anywhere in particular until they decide to head home.
We rounded the corner towards their small home and began up the stairs to the front door, but I grabbed Susan's arm before she could reach the knob and pulled her back. The door had been forced open, the lock shattered inward. Whoever had broken it had attempted to close the door back, but it wouldn't stay put without the lock in place.
"Stay here, I'm going to go in." I whispered to Susan and her grip tensed on my arm. "If everythin's alright, I'll come and get ya." She gave her head a trembling nod and I moved forward through the door. The hallways had been ransacked, whoever had broken in had obviously been looking for anything that could be of value. Robert's face flashed though my mind and I ran down the hall, past the door to the parlor to his room. I couldn't look at him for more than a moment before I began to lurch, whatever might have been in my stomach coming out onto the floor.
Robert sat hunched over next to his bed, his head slumped down to cover his chest. He had been shot in the stomach several times, enough so that his innards were spilled out onto the floor. His hands were cupped under his stomach, covered with his own blood. Apparently whoever had broken in had made sure to kill whoever was in his was. I dropped to my knees, retching into the floor, tears mingling with the vomit from before. I heard footsteps coming from the front door and looked up to see Susan making her way towards me, towards he slaughtered son. I screamed for her to stop, to stay where she was, but she showed no sign of slowing. But she'd never have to share in my agony.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as I saw a figure emerge from the parlor as Susan passed it by. His face was darkened by the hat that he wore, though it seemed as though his face was made of burlap. He drew his gun and made a deafening crack as his bullet blew through the back of Susan's skull. Her face distorted, first in discomfort, then in death as the bullet came out of the front of her face. She dropped to the ground about a foot from me and laid still. The gunman turned his gaze to me and pulled the trigger, but his revolver gave only a sad click in my direction, he had used his last bullet on Susan. He was out the door before I was able to get up and chase after him. I burst through the front door and looked, but the gunman had disappeared into the night, having stolen far more valuable things than he had intended that night.
I don't remember how I got back into the house. All I remember is cradling my wife's head in my arms, her destroyed face buried deep into my chest, my white dress shirt slowly bleeding to red. And then I heard the footsteps. They sounded as if someone was stepping in mud, a blunt squish followed by a sharp pop. They were coming from Robert's room. I stopped cradling Susan, though I kept trembling, and looked up to the door that lead into Robert's room. For a moment there was nothing but the disgusting sound of the footsteps, but then he appeared. The Old Man had certainly not grown any younger, but he didn't seem to have aged much either. He still wore my father's old Sunday suit and the scarecrow's black cap. His feet were still bare, wretched and dirty. He looked down at me with a look that I couldn't distinguish between pity and disgust, as if I was a stray dog that had been trampled and lay dying.
"Thought we might meet again after a while. So sad it had to be under these circumstances." His tone would have been soothing if it didn't raise the hair's on the back of my neck. "Your boy in there is looking pretty bad, and from the look of it your wife ain't farin' no better."
"Help them....please.." I croaked the words out, I didn't have the strength to string any more words together. I just wanted them to be okay.
"Samuel, my boy, I've already helped you once. Back in them days my rates were pretty cheap, but I'm afraid that prices....have gone up." He said the last three words as if they were a secret between myself and him. I looked up at him, directly into his horrible, black eyes.
"Anything.....I'll do anything..." I forced the words out. I couldn't help but feel as though I had to act fast, his salesman smile rushing my choice.
I shook his hand and promptly fell unconscious.

III. The Passion
I woke up to blistering heat bearing down on me, though my face was covered with a burlap sack tied around my neck with a piece of rope. I struggled to move my hands, but both were bound out to the side of him. I tried to look around through the burlap, but I couldn't really make anything out and the rope around my neck was so tight it choked if I turned too far. I heard the rustle of tall grass before I could see that someone was walking out towards where I was bound.
I began to scream, “Help, please God, help us! Please, let us down”. But I fell silence the moment I heard the terrifying laughter that I knew all too well.
“Samuel, you agreed to pay the price, didn't you?” he let out another terribly joyous laugh and made he way up in front of me. I heard a small thunk of something hitting the ground and the horrible squishing sounds of the Old Man stepping up to see Sam face to face.
The rope was torn off of my neck and the Old Man’s hand yanked the burlap off so that I could see his face and my surroundings properly. I looked around and realized that I was in the middle of the cornfields, on the farm where I grew up. I was tied to a cross that had once held a scarecrow in my father's Sunday best. And one day, I had met this Old Man underneath it.
He locked me eyes with his midnight black pupils and said, without even then hint of mockery, “This is it, my good friend, your last chance to say something to your wife and son” A sinister smile crept across the Old Man’s face, and I looked around to find where he had put them. The Old Man had tied them up in a similar fashion to the crosses on either side of me, both of them still very much dead. His son's intestines stretched themselves at least five feet down to the grass below, and his wife's head drooped sickeningly, a drip-drop of blood pooling on the ground.
"You said you'd bring them back! I'm paying the price, I'm paying for it!" He was furious, the Old Man had swindled him.
The Old Man replied, without changing his tone, "Calm you ass, boy, they'll be back once you pay your price in full." He stepped down from the stool, walked over to a flattened patch of grass, and picked up the pitchfork that he had dropped into the grass. 
I panicked, my breathing becoming more and more laborious with exhale. The Old Man examined the pointed end of the pitchfork and raised his hand to wrap around one of the metal prongs. With a strength beyond any human measure, he snapped the prong off like a dead twig. He brought the prong and the pitchfork back up the stool with him, and looking into Sam’s panicked, terrified eyes said, “Scream for your God now.”
The spike went through my wrist faster than I could realize what had happened, but the pain hit like a train. I couldn't do it, I wouldn’t be able to make it, I’d surely pass out before the Old Man was through with the crucifixion. I could only wish that I would be dead before they old man was through with me. 
But through my scream I heard a gasp of life. I turned my head and saw Robert, completely unharmed, healed as if he was brand new. Robert struggled a bit on his cross and then turned to see me. He drew a breathe to shout for me, but as he did he could hear the Old Man snap the second prong from the pitchfork. I could feel him press it against my other wrist, the left one this time, and didn't dare look to see what was about to happen. I couldn't help but produce a guttural bellow when the prong snap through tendons and bone into the timber beneath me. 
I felt as though I had screamed for an hour, before I heard Susan's life-breath, and I turned to look to her. I would tell her that I loved her, that I loved both of them, but when I finally opened my mouth I had just enough time to hear the snap of the third prong departing from the pitchfork. I could feel the old man’s disgusting, wrinkled hands fumbling with the buckles on his dress shoes. The Old Man pulled off one shoe and then the other, placing them over his own rotted feet.
"Finally got a nice pair a' shoes to complete ma outfit. How you like it?" The Old Man stepped back, raised his arms in a 'V' shape and did a twirl, relishing in his final acquisition. I couldn't find the breath to say anything, and so after a moment, the man's face went blank and he went back to work. I felt his hands positioning one foot on top off he other, but I dared not look down.
The Old Man shoved with all his might and the third spike was in place, crushed through my two feet. The agony was overwhelming, I could not ever bear to keep my eye’s open, but the Old Man decided to peel them open anyways, perhaps to watch the life drain from Sam’s eyes.
“Is it worth it Samuel, to have brought your family back to life just to see you suffer for them?” Sam could still hear his family's screams, though they sounded faint and distant. "Don't worry, I won't hurt them. I've already collected my due. But you, you'll be hurting them for a long time now.."
The Old Man slipped the burlap sack back over my face and tied tightly around his neck, just loose enough for me not to suffocate. And as a final act of mockery, he fit his scare-man's hat onto my head. Perhaps, when the Old Man wears my father's suit out, he will buy mine from a boy of whom he knows too much.


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