I actually consider this short story an actual short story, instead of my “chaptory.” This is a work of pure fiction I wrote I think all the way back in my Community College. I welcome any and all critiques!
Here’s a downloadable version if it please thee: the witness
It was late at night and Sarah was finally going home. She threw her winter jacket on and got her keys ready, and then walked outside along the parking lot. It was deserted, except for her little red car sitting under the dull light of a tall lamppost. Next thing she knew: she was already sitting in her chilly car, trying to get the key into the ignition. There was also someone outside her door, trying to open it. A jolt of fear got her adrenaline going. Sarah fumbled for the lock and was safe.
The dark man gave the door another good yank, then cursed and walked away. Sarah sank into her seat and sighed with relief.
In the next instant, she was walking through the parking lot again, from a different direction, but still towards her car under the lamppost. This time there were a handful of other cars and dirty, tire-trodden snow everywhere. The dark man was also there, too, but this time he had an accomplice. The stranger muttered something to his friend and then Sarah bolted past her car. The two men ran after her as she told herself to stop running, but could not.
She didn’t get very far when things changed again. Now Sarah stood in the corner of a dark room with Gollum from The Lord of the Rings trilogy standing in the doorway. They bickered back and forth for a little bit, and then everything went black.
Sarah woke with a start and took a deep breath, eyes wide open. It was just a dream, she reassured herself. Very strange and very much a dream. Her familiar room came into focus. Her heart rate and breathing slowed, and she tucked her hair behind her ears as she got out of bed. Sarah slipped on some pajama pants and Happy Feet slipper, walked over to her laptop and turned it on. The digital clock sitting on one of her stereo speakers read 9:22 in bright red numbers with a little red dot in the upper-left corner marking ‘A.M.’ Sarah walked up the basement stairs to the kitchen. Her morning routine had already begun without her noticing: get up, turn on her laptop, go some tea, check the day’s schedule, and then go have some tea and breakfast. Sarah liked her routine and she also liked performing her routine at her own pace. It was definitely one of the joys of college.
Back downstairs, Sarah double-clicked on the palm pilot icon. It was Friday, and she had no classes and no work. She was unemployed again, but at least she enjoyed college. It was far better than working at some crappy place, doing boring work and helping stupid people all day. That was what the men in her dream were: anxiety, not only about a job, but also about getting a job, keeping it and going to school at the same time.
Sarah grabbed a throw-blanket from her bed and wrapped it around her arms and torso like a cape. It being the end of January in New England meant very cold weather, and the house she and her family lived in was getting old. She could feel the cold air seeping through the windows. She headed upstairs again and threw a bagel into the toaster. Before she could turn on the television to watch whatever, the doorbell rang.
What the heck? Who could that be? No one in their right mind knocks on people’s doors at nine-thirty in the morning. It wasn’t any family because they knew better to go to the back door, and it wasn’t the mailman or upstairs neighbors. Sarah lifted the blinds to the big living room window and eyed a short lady standing on the porch. The old lady turned and saw Sarah looking through the window. Crap, she saw me. She was about to ignore the weirdo standing in the frozen air, but it was a little late now. She sidestepped to the door and opened it, though her more reasonable half yelled at her to just ignore this person.
There the little lady stood, wearing a black coat and a black hat. Sarah thought the hat looked a bit ridiculous: very poofy with a black flower on top. The lady was over fifty and wore glasses with thick lenses that magnified her eyes slightly. She held a thick book with a thin paperback cover with two ribbons sticking out. Bookmarks. Tucked atop the gargantuan book were a bunch of pamphlets and, clearly marked at the top, it said ‘Jehovah’s Witness.’ Go away, lady. Sarah only had time to think it.
“Hello,” the short lady began in an annoyingly cheerful voice for so early in the morning, “My name is Mary and I am wondering if you have heard the call of the faith.”
“Oh, you’re a Jehovah’s Witness,” Sarah said in a displeased tone. Yes, she already knew it, but Sarah hoped that playing dumb would make this lady go away. She looked up and noticed another woman in a black coat across the street, knocking insistently at the front door. Why do these people go door-to-door, anyway? It’s such an invasion of privacy. Sarah shook her head, but the short lady acted as if she didn’t notice.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile that was more annoying than her cheerful tone. “Would you like to follow the ways of Jesus to help save yourself and the world?”
“I’m agnostic,” Sarah replied curtly.
Not very much, but something along the lines of mental process went on behind the short lady’s eyes. Her smile waned slightly and she spoke again. “I’ve heard the word before, but could you please tell what agnostic means?”
You’re joking! “It means,” Sarah began, purposely sounding impatient, “that I don’t believe in organized religion, but I still believe there is something out there.” Sarah had very good reasons to believe what she did. She didn’t care what other people believed, so long as they left her alone.
“So you do believe in something,” the Witness said passionately, inching uncomfortably closer in the freezing air.
There was a distinct ‘pop!’ of the toaster. Sarah was reminded both how hungry and cold she was. She purposely looked longingly at her kitchen, hoping the lady would take the hint without making Sarah have to verbally shoo her away.
“That ‘something’ must be Jesus!”
“You can find your faith by become a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Are you kidding me?Did she not just hear what I said? Sarah kept a straight face, not wanting to be outwardly rude.
“Why don’t you believe in organized religion? I’m very interested to hear what you have to say.”
Sarah fell for the subtle catch in the last line Mary spoke, and she started speaking before she could stop herself. “First of all, I think the whole concept is stupid. Second of all, you have no proof that these holy people ever existed. Thirdly, I don’t need invisible gods telling me what to do or how to live my life, what I can and can’t do and so on. I do what’s right because I believe it’s right. Hopping on an organized religion wagon just doesn’t mesh with me.” And fanatic people like this one standing before me. “Besides, religions have a bunch of dumb rules, like you can’t accept blood or consume caffeine.” Who comes up with those rules? Sarah wanted to ask the lady that, but she didn’t trust the answer she might get.
“Interesting,” Mary mused, “Very interesting. Drinking caffeine is allowed but accepting blood donations is actually very dangerous.”
“Yes,” she said, now grinning a sly grin and inching even closer. “We have very good reasons for all the things we do.” I’m sure you’ve never questioned the reason behind anything you do, lady. “I bet you’d—”
“Uh, my bagel just popped and I am getting really cold.” Why’d she ever answer the door? Sarah did her best to sound really impatient and uncomfortable.
Pretending she didn’t hear what Sarah said, Mary continued, “I bet you’d find being a Jehovah’s Witness really interesting and insightful.”
Maybe I’d learn why you wear stupid little black hats!
“Here,” she gave Sarah one of those colorful pamphlets. “Why don’t you take a look at this? What’s your name?”
“Beth,” Sarah lied smoothly. This person didn’t deserve the knowledge of her real name. She gave another longing glance towards her kitchen.
“Beth? Very nice. Please look at the pamphlet, and I will let you get to your bagel now. You must be getting very cold. Thank you for your time and we’ll be seeing each other again.”
We’ll be what?
“Have a nice day.”
“’Bye,” Sarah said, almost shoving the lady away with the door as she shut it. She was furious and she crumpled up the pamphlet, without so much as looking at it, and threw it in the kitchen garbage. “Ugh, the nerve!” That lady had no idea that she had touched a mental nerve that morning. Memories—bad memories swelled up into Sarah’s consciousness as she put cream cheese on her bagel. She’d affirmed her agnostic stance a long time ago, and for very good reason. Sarah had gone through six years of Catholic school and she and her parents were treated poorly for the duration of her attendance. She was singled-out, picked on and left behind, even by the teachers. Her third-grade teacher went as far as having someone test her for mental retardation. Apparently people who weren’t rich and had divorced parents weren’t intelligent or worthy of god’s love. Her only friends were the kids at the daycare who went to public school, along with the staff. This led to the idea of going to public school, which was the best thing in the world for Sarah and her divorced parents. Once she went to high school, Sarah began to think about religion again, and that was when she claimed her stance on the matter. At first it was strong and she tried to make others see the way she did, but stopped not long after. Sarah realized that everyone had free will to believe whatever.
Free will! That’s it! Everyone had it, and wasn’t free will god’s greatest gift to every living being? Just realizing this now, she was captured by the urge to write, to create. She would create her own idea of faith to whatever was out there. Sarah grabbed her bagel and tea, then fled down the basement stairs and started scribbling notes in a notebook.
Her bagel got stale, the tea cold, and much time wore away before she realized what she had done. Pages upon pages of ideas, thoughts, concepts and even some philosophy had been written down. Without so much as a second thought, she gulped down the bagel and tea, picked up her notebook and sat at the laptop. Sarah typed well into the night, stopping only to go to the bathroom and eat the dinner her mother was kind enough to bring without asking any questions. Sarah even fell asleep typing, but would begin anew with refreshed vigor every time she woke back up. For the entire weekend, she organized everything she wrote down and putting it all together in a comprehensible logic.
On Monday morning, she was done. She had created not a religion, but a theory of faith and she felt relieved to have it completed, not to mention exhausted. However, her present job was not done as she took her printed copy to Kinko’s and made over a hundred more. From where to next, she did not know, but five minutes later she found herself parked in a grocery store and got out of her car, copies in tow. From there she walked to a bench between the entrances/exits and stood on it, holding one copy of her work and the rest at her feet. What to say? Picking no one in particular, Sarah pointed at a guy and yelled. “You there! What religion do you follow?”
The average-American guy stopped in the middle of the road and stared at Sarah. “Me?”
“Yes. Answer my question.”
He didn’t answer her question right, but close enough. “Do you believe everything they teach you and the rest of your followers at church? Do all of you?” Sarah yelled loud enough for everyone to hear.
The middle-aged man thought about it. More people stopped moving and looked at Sarah. “I…I don’t really know,” he shouted back in a gloomy voice. “I would like to believe that it is all true, but I can’t.”
“Of course it’s all true!” an old man from the gathering crowd said, “It’s all in the Bible. What more proof do you need?”
“Really?” Sarah turned her attention to the elderly man. She was equal to this man. “Can you really prove to me that a god that no one has ever seen really exists?” The two stared at each other a moment. “Can you?”
“You’re wasting everybody’s time, you child! Go home.” The old man pulled some keys out of his pocket and started to turn away, but was stopped by Sarah’s words.
“You cannot prove your invisible gods exists, but neither can I prove that your god does not exist. So, what do we do now?”
“Find our own faith,” a woman in her late forties said.
“Not exactly,” Sarah said. “Let me explain something first.” She paused to make sure she had everyone’s attention. She did. “We all have free will to do good or evil and the definition of good and evil itself varies from person to person. For example: people who steal see it not as wrong, but a way to get by and survive. However, those who do not steal find such behavior evil. What I am getting at is a little complicated. What we do now is search; we search for happiness through our own individual means. If this is done right, all life will work together and we’ll all be happy.
“I have one thing that I believe will help us all find happiness.” She held the pamphlet in front of her. “There are no rules, there are no invisible gods and there is no hell. Everything you need is right here. There is nothing to fear, nothing to lose and nothing to hate. All you need is an open mind. Who’s with me?”
Everyone stepped forward as if they were taking their first step into heaven.