Vengeance is mine; I will repay
by Vladmir Vozdam
David’s hand tightly clenched the gun in the deep pocket of his dark trench coat. When the time came, the silencer would ensure no one would hear the shots. The rumble from distant thunder rattled the night. A violent storm was approaching.
He stood, hidden in the unlit entryway to a small Boston city drugstore that had closed hours earlier. His focus remained on the theater exit across the quiet, four lane city street – the exit from where she would star in the night’s final act. The rest of the audience had left an hour ago. She was probably talking with someone she knew. It seemed like no matter where she was, she always knew someone in the crowd.
As he stood there waiting with all the patience of the Grim Reaper’s master, Father Time, the engulfing darkness reached inward for his weary soul. The essence of the darkness saturated him as it filled the entire city in its anticipation of the night’s event yet to come. The darkness filled the haunted hollows of the city’s sewer tunnels as random water droplets disappeared into the vile stench below. From beneath the night’s long, ghastly shadows, a mouse scurried from a nearby sewer drain into an alley and toward a dumpster, only to be caught by a filthy alley cat that crushed it with a single bite to the back of its neck. The blackened night’s darkness seeped into every crevice between every brick of the building in whose storefront David waited as it tried to weaken the structure and bring it down. David didn’t see the lone beetle that scampered between his shifting shoes and was caught by a wolf spider that silently struck from a dark corner. As he took a small step back, he unknowingly crushed the spider. From the roof, a large sphinx moth took flight into the void and was quickly snatched by a bat whose sonar spotted it the instant it was aloft. Atop the old lamp post across the street, the darkness caressed the light bulb as it fluttered, fell dead, and joined the darkness, never to pierce the night again with its radiant glow. As the darkness crept deeper into David, seeking to extinguish any last bits of good that remained in his soul, the marquee above the theater doors across the street flickered. High above, the black clouds from the approaching storm hid the pure white twinkling stars. The encroaching clouds also snuffed the silhouetted new moon. Throughout every nook, every cranny, and every soul within the city blocks nearby, the darkness ravaged the dreams of the dreary denizens, whether they be man or beast, with disturbing images that became nightmares. From miles away the thunder roared with such ferocity it sounded like the hammer of Thor had accosted a range of mountains. In David’s heart, the darkness squashed the haunting echo of the gentle whisper that meekly asked for forgiveness.
He had tried that long ago. Forgiveness. It didn’t work.
He watched a lone figure walk through the doors of the theater lobby. It couldn’t be her. Christy would be with her husband.
David closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The musky air tasted stale as if something had died in it. He reflected on the trials that had brought him to this moment – this decisive moment that would make the lead story on tomorrow’s evening news. After losing his wife to cancer, he had told himself he’d never love again. His passionate heart had died with her, leaving him with a vacuous void of want he feared could never be fulfilled. Shortly after her death, he savored his wistful memories of their time together. But those same memories soon haunted him; they chased him, cursing him, teasing him with the image of her name on the gray granite tombstone that now marred the fading form of her face inscribed on his dying heart. They smothered his desire to ever love again.
But Christy had brought him back to life.
As David’s head plotted to extinguish Christy’s earthly existence, his heart interrupted with fading images from his past to which she had brought color, including the day he first met her at the church he had started attending after his wife had passed. Even though the two of them had quickly hit it off, he thought their chance encounter was coincidence. But she told him God had to have played a role in their meeting because she didn’t believe in coincidence. She introduced him to her dad who was the pastor of the church. Eventually, their after-service conversations migrated to the local coffee shop on Sunday afternoons. Their hours together at the coffee shop led to meetings after work during the week. Soon, they were dating. Shortly thereafter, they were a bona fide couple. David realized she had finally torn down the impenetrable fortress walls he had built around his heart and proved to him that it was possible to love again. For just a few months, he felt they were the happiest couple in the world.
She told him that, because God had brought them together, their love was meant to be. He noticed everything she did or said was largely due to how she felt. But he didn’t care because he knew how she felt about him. During one of their intimate pillow-talks, she tearfully confided in him that her father had molested her during her childhood. She passionately insisted that the horrible secret must never be revealed. If it became public knowledge, her reputation, her family and the church her dad had founded so long ago would be destroyed. It was a secret to be taken to the grave at all costs. As alarmed as David was to hear of this about her past, he knew, of course, that her father’s illicit behavior wasn’t her fault. And he was already so deeply and passionately in love with her, he accepted her just as she was. In his eyes, she was flawless, personified beauty; God’s finest masterpiece. Three days after she joyfully accepted his marriage proposal, she broke-up with him. She said she no longer felt in love with him. Their marriage wasn’t meant to be because God wouldn’t allow her to feel this way if they were to be married.
The stupefying rejection desecrated David’s heart. His search for answers proved fruitless. He couldn’t put the pieces together. As his wrenched heart, now devoid of her love, slowly starved to death, a darkness that demanded revenge took its place.
A year after their break-up, he saw her photo in the newspaper with her husband on the marriage announcements page.
Another lightening flash revealed the form of the menacing clouds. Thunder followed a few seconds later. The violent storm was getting closer.
Now, two years later, David silently stood in the covered entryway. As he waited to share with her the emotionally excruciating pain she had bestowed so deeply in him, he felt the cold metal of the gun in the pocket of his trench coat. Once again, he reviewed the scenario in his head. Her husband would be the only witness. David had nothing against her husband. He hoped her husband wouldn’t get a good look at David or recognize him so that he would have no reason to shoot him too. He pensively stared at the theater doors as he wondered how to make her feel the pain with which she had cursed him. In his head, it was simple: she would exit; he would walk up to her and shoot her. His devastated heart demanded justice.
David suddenly recognized the two figures that momentarily framed the theater exit. It was them. As they walked away from the theater, hand in hand, he crossed the street and approached them from behind on the sidewalk.
Christy heard the gun click behind her. She turned and looked into the coal-black eyes of a man she no longer knew. Her husband had turned with her, gasping with her as they both saw the gun.
“David! What are you doing?”
David aimed the gun at her heart. His unwavering hand held as steady as a corpse. He continued to ponder how to impose a mere pittance of his pain onto her.
“David! No! Please!” she pleaded. “I’m sorry!”
He stared into the moist eyes that once loved him.
“This is about revenge, isn’t it!” She frantically shook her head. “David, if this is about revenge, you’ll need to dig two graves – one for yourself!”
“You killed me when you left. I’m already dead,” he whispered.
She tried to speak but didn’t know what to say. An odd, inopportune conception briefly occurred to her that she’d rather die than have anyone, including her husband, find out what her father had done to her. She was sorely sorry that she’d confided the sordid story in David. She silently prayed David wouldn’t tell her husband about her past. She knew that such knowledge would destroy his image of her and her family.
David felt nothing, and he hated it. He hated what he had become. And as he experienced what took the place of perfect love, vengeful darkness consumed his soul. He suddenly realized how to hurt her as much as she had hurt him.
As gusting winds swiftly howled into the city, he fired two bullets through the silencer right into her husband’s heart. Black rain fell as the heavens opened up and the angels cried. David felt himself become even more callous as the darkness inhaled her screams of terror. Her husband fell to the cold, lifeless concrete. Christy collapsed beside him and, through a cataract of painful tears, watched him die.
Christy glanced up for a moment and saw David absorbed into the misty shadows of a nearby alley.