Dust hung in the air and floated across the sunbeams peeking through the large exhaust hole of the longhouse roof. The smell of old leather, hay, and wet wood permeated the air. Bill stood up and paced by the smoldering firepit. Acrid smoke made his nose twitch.
The large hall’s wooden benches could easily seat twenty. Yet, it felt abandoned as Bill paced up and down alone. He tried the two doors, and both were locked. Bill started to beat against them, but he’d been here before and knew it was useless.
He heard a noise to turned to face it. Joshua stood there in his wolfskin, but he was unarmed. Bill rushed over to him and stood just inches from his face.
“Is this you? Have you locked me away again? You can’t do this.”
Joshua shook his head once, “This is a memory.”
Bill answered, “I remember falling asleep. Are you in the room with me?”
Joshua said, “No.”
“Then why can’t I get out?”
Joshua walked over and sat down and patted the wooden bench, “Come, sit.”
Bill raised his arms and opened his mouth to protest, but then dropped his arms and joined Joshua.
Bill asked, “What’s going on?”
Joshua turned to him. The compassion in his eyes almost made Bill weep. “You still feel guilty about breaking that boy’s arm when you were a child.”
Bill stood up, turned, and looked down at Joshua, “What? Are you serious? I’ve killed five men in like a week. I missed my fiancée’s funeral because I was too ashamed to face her parents, and you think I care about breaking a kid’s arm when I was a little?”
Joshua looked up at him, “This is a memory, a dream.”
Bill flapped his arms and briskly walked in circles. “Great, it’s a dream. I’m talking to myself while I’m sleeping.”
Bill turned, but Joshua was no longer in the longhouse. He heard his voice again, “Bill.”
Bill spun around again and again. He could hear Joshua’s voice but could no longer see him.
“Bill, wake up.”
Bill felt his body rocking and opened his eyes. Joshua stood over him. Grayer, smaller, in a flowered shirt with khaki shorts and a healthy tan.
Bill blinked twice, “Sorry, I must have been dreaming.”
Joshua responded, “Why don’t you come over to my place and let’s talk.”
Bill sat up on the edge of his bed. “Do you mean talk, or are you going to probe my mind again?”
“Right. From one nightmare to the next.”
“Nightmare?” asked Joshua.
“Forget it,” responded Bill. “I’ll be over in a couple of minutes after I freshen up.”
Bill rubbed his face and ran his fingers through his hair as he stumbled towards the marbled bathroom. He grimaced at the cold marble against his feet. After he splashed cold water on his face he made his way out the front door and over to Joshua’s.
Bill rocked in the large white wooden rocker. The porch and chair moaned in harmony beneath the seat as salt breezes awakened his senses. Birds he had not heard before called out in the overgrowth out of sight on the island. He could feel the ocean, although it was unseen and quiet. The sun’s warmth gently blanketed the island.
Joshua asked, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“I can see why Harold likes living here.”
“Harold loves the ocean, but he would sell this place if he could. The island is not his style.”
Bill’s eyebrows went up. “He doesn’t like it? How can you not enjoy such a beautiful piece of real estate?”
Joshua looked down and said, “The cost was higher than it was worth.” He looked back up at Bill, “But that’s Harold’s story. Tell me, how are you doing?”
The front door opened, and Maria appeared, “I’m afraid my husband is a terrible host. Do you boys want anything to drink?”
Joshua took Maria’s hand and kissed it. “I’d like one of my beers.”
“I’d take some sweet tea if you have it.”
Maria rolled her eyes, “What is it with putting sugar into iced tea. It’s the only kind Joshua drinks too. Fortunately, I just made some.”
Joshua chimed in, “Are you sure you don’t want a beer?”
“Maybe with dinner.”
Maria took her hand from Joshua and said, “I’ll be back.”
Joshua continued, “You’ve been through a lot recently. The loss of your family, killing those men. Darla told me about your job.”
Bill asked, “How did she know?”
Joshua shrug, “They’re CIA. I’ve learned not to ask because nobody tells you those sorts of things unless they get backed into a corner.”
“Alright. Darla was upset over the man I killed today.”
Joshua asked, “How does that make you feel?”
Bill scowled, “Really? You’re using pop psychology? From everything I’ve been hearing, I thought you were smarter than that?”
Maria came out, placed the drinks on the table, kissed Joshua’s forehead, and went back inside. Joshua took a long sip from his bottle, and Bill finished half his glass of tea.
Joshua finally answered, “It’s not pop psychology. I want to know how you are feeling, or thinking if you like. You couldn’t have known what that man would do to Darla. If I had your ability, I would have done the same thing. If I’m honest, I felt helpless during the shootout.”
Bill’s eyes widened, “Really?”
Joshua answered, “Absolutely. Darla is a dear friend. What you did today was brave and good. You just met her, and you were willing to put yourself in danger to rescue her. We need more, not less of that in the world.”
Bill finished his tea and then confessed, “But there’s more to it. When I get into a rage, I enjoy killing whoever is in my path. It’s like it can’t wait to give them what they deserve.”
“Afterwards, do you still feel good about it?”
Bill looked down and shook his head, “No. I feel guilty.”
Bill looked up, “Good?”
“I don’t mean that’s it’s good you feel guilty. You shouldn’t, but your guilt is a sign of regret. It means you’re human, Bill. Why do you think so many military people have mental problems? We aren’t designed to do violence. It’s a learned behavior. Your first fight at the orphanage was with a boy who had been bullied when he was younger. Violence breeds violence, and its fruit is regret, guilt, and bitterness.”
Bill asked, “Then what can I do? I can’t hide what I am. We already tried that.”
Joshua took Bill’s hand, “Do you remember what you learned in church?”
“Do you mean about forgiveness in Jesus and all that religious stuff?”
Joshua let go of his hand and looked at him straight in the eye. “It isn’t religious stuff. If you can accept there is a higher power, and he has given you a path to forgiveness, you can start forgiving yourself.”
Bill’s eyebrows narrowed, “But what if there isn’t a higher power?”
“Then why do you feel guilty? If there isn’t something more to the universe than your short time on earth, you can make your own rules based on your circumstances. However, that guilt you feel doesn’t come from you, and you know it. Think about that.”
Joshua turned away and took a sip of his beer. Bill closed his eyes and listened to a warbler singing in the breeze.
Bill opened his eyes and ask Joshua, “Can we change subjects for a moment?”
Bill asked, “Why are these people after Harold?”
“Like I said on the plane, they aren’t after Harold; they’re after Garcia.”
“Then why are they interested in me?”
Maria came out the front door with a pile of clothes in her arms.
She said, “Take these until Frank can get you some from the Keys.”
Bill stood and relieved her of her load, “Thank you.”
Maria continued, “Go get changed. We’ll be going to dinner soon, and you should get out of those hot clothes.”
Joshua spoke up, “We’ll talk more later.”
Bill headed back to his bungalow. Once inside, he looked up at the ceiling. “Well, where are you? You make me kill again and send me into hiding? How can any sort of God do such a thing? They said in church that you’re good. Our preacher told us you made us, you made me. Well, what’s good about any of this? Why would you make a killer?”