GUILT

 

By W.M. Achrya

 

The metal bracelet of the Rolex snapped open. Gravitational force got free rein and he accelerated towards the concrete pavement forty storeys below at 9.81 metres per second squared. The air roared in his ears like a hurricane and his throat burned from screaming. The last thing he was aware of was his sphincter giving out. Then he fainted.

 

He woke up lying on his back, among pale fluffy clouds, fully conscious but feeling no pain or discomfort. A slim, youngish black-haired man stood by his side, looking down at him.

“Hans Gruber?”

“Yes.”

The stranger extended a hand. “Get up and let’s go.”

He grabbed the proffered hand and let it pull him to his feet.

“Are you the devil?” he asked.

“Certainly not. He should hear you... You might say I’m his second cousin, of sorts. But he’s the black sheep, not me.”

“So who are you and where are you taking me?”

“I work for... the other side. I’ll tell you the rest when I’ve got all of you people together. I’m not going through the whole rigmarole more than once.”

 

--- --- ---

 

He moved about gingerly and then sat up.

He felt nothing. No, correction. He felt nothing bad. No crippling pain spreading icily through his veins from the wound in his neck; no acid burning in his stomach; no soreness in his knee where his old injury hit the floor boards when he collapsed after the snake’s attack.

He looked around, noting distractedly that even the old familiar stiffness in his neck and shoulders was gone. But, so was the run-down wooden shack where he thought he had drawn his final breath. He was sitting on pale grey emptiness, surrounded by whitish clouds of the same substance. The surface that he rested on felt quite solid, though. He rolled over to his hands and knees without the least hint of a spinning head and rose to his feet easily, without stumbling or stepping on the hem of his usual black robes. The robes were there, all right, but without the familiar wear and tear, no loose threads in the pleating, the dozen or so small round holes that particles of hot potions had burned in its front no-where to be seen.

 

He discerned movement nearby and a figure approached him. It appeared male, wore Muggle clothes in a style that he detested, featuring a hooded sweatshirt, and walked with an insolent swagger.

“Severus Snape?” said the stranger.

“Yes. Who are you and what do you want with me? I’m supposed to be dead.”

“Technically, you are. My boss has sent me to find you. As for the rest, all will be revealed, yada, yada, come along, we don’t have all Eternity.”

“No, wait.” He was beginning to panic. “I’m dead. I thought… I was hoping to meet someone.”

“Oh, good. Obviously you do have some faith left to lose. Well, don’t.”

“Give me one reason not to.”

The stranger said nothing. But there was an audible ‘flop’ and a pair of white wings, like those of an oversized goose, unfolded behind his back.

 

--- --- ---

 

He was still shocked at the absence of pain.

After the initial stinging slash of the razor he had felt nothing, in spite of actually seeing his own blood spurt in a crimson arch in front of him. A flash of panic, then everything went black.

He vaguely remembered returning to semi-consciousness and clutching at something – someone – in a bout of animal self-preservation. Then he had sunk back into the soft, warm, velvety blackness… floating… dissolving…

 

… to wake up lying on his back on something softer than Lady Adelaide’s down bed, something pale grey and utterly comfortable. He was also fully clothed, the coat that he had taken off at the barber’s somehow returned to him, but perfectly clean and neat.

That went for the rest of him as well: his habitual scruffy stubble was gone and he looked at his usually gnarled and crooked fingernails only to find them smooth and tidy.

Naturally there was no wound marring his throat, no trace of the fountain of blood.

He realised that he had become a physically ideal version of himself.

As for mentally and morally…

He barely had time to register the flash of… anxiety? … remorse? … shame? that struck him.

Someone was standing by his head and speaking his name.

He rolled his eyes and found himself staring up into the black-trousered crotch of an indistinct figure. He scrambled to his feet to look at the speaker at a normal angle. Distractedly he noted that the movements were easy, with none of his habitual middle-aged aches and pains.

 

”John Jacob Turpin?” said the absurd character facing him. It had straight, shortish black hair that flopped into its eyes, was wearing a pair of ill-fitting black trousers of some material resembling sailcloth and a strange thick shirt underneath an almost recognisable jacket. The shirt appeared to have a hood, hanging down the weird being’s back over its jacket collar.

Normally Turpin would have laughed and then upbraided the strange individual for not addressing him by his proper title. He was Her Majesty’s[1] Judge and his first names were nobody’s business. But... he had been killed, had he not? He had no illusion about his afterlife – only he had not imagined devils appearing in execrably ugly fancy dress.

”Yes,” he said and braced himself for whatever was to come.

”All right. Yes, you are dead. And no, there’s no need to look so rattled. Do I smell of sulphur to you? So. Come along, my boss is waiting.”

 

--- --- ---

 

He was floating. Which made sense: he had, after all, fallen into the sea. Hitting his head and knocking himself unconscious could account for the lack of panic, he thought. But how come he could breathe? How come did not feel cold? He was floating, breathing freely, feeling weightless and pleasantly warm. The feeling was good, exhilarating, even. Instead of murky water there was a pale greyish fog; he looked at his hands and could see them perfectly clearly.

 

He remembered his navy training. Drowning in cold water knocked out one’s instinct of self-preservation; there could even be moments of pleasure and exhilaration before...

That was it. He had drowned and was, in fact, dead.

He had died unshriven after having committed... that abomination. His own daughter.

Floating motionless in the grey fog, he focused on the Act of Contrition, thought it, said it, felt it. That was the best he could do. He had not known, he had not intended... They said that God was merciful. Perhaps he could hope for a mere stint in Purgatory.

At least he was not burdened with the mortal sin of suicide. His body had stopped obeying him, he had stumbled about the dock like a drunken man, trying to get on board a ship, a place of order, a place that made sense, where he knew what to make of himself. A slippery gang plank, an iron railing... and it was over. Just as well. The thought that had kept him alive through the war turned out to be only a ghost: there was no son. Still, he did not engineer the accident, nor intend it, and God was omniscient.

 

Through the translucent substance that he was floating in and that was not water he saw a man looking up at him, extending an arm to him as if for a handshake. He gripped the hand and floated down smoothly, gently, to land on his two feet on a solid surface. The stranger let go of his hand but did not break eye contact.

“Patrick Lawrence O’Hara?”

The last person to call him by his full name had been Sister Constance in primary school. He had been PL ever since and had to stop and think to respond to that mouthful.

“That’s me, yes,” he said. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”

“Yes. And there’s someone you have to see to find out what happens next.”

“All right. Let’s go.”

“No questions, no nerves?”

“Look, whoever you are, I’m a navy man, an actor and a Catholic. The skipper’s in charge, it’s in the text and God is omniscient and merciful. My whinging won’t change anything.”

The stranger nodded with an expression that PL could not decipher. Then he pointed with his chin and the two of them set off in that direction, side by side, in companionable silence.

--- --- ---

 

It looked like a class room – old-fashioned desks with straight-backed benches attached to them, but not child-sized. They all seemed to fit the grown men seated at them. The room was made up from several rows of such desks, with a big teacher's desk on a raised “platform” in front. There were no walls or floor, only the ubiquitous pale grey substance in various degrees of solidity and with its own inner glow.

Far from all the desks were occupied. The “classroom” might have seated some thirty pupils, but it held only four men, of very disparate appearances. They had spread out, leaving a few empty desks between each other. Neither did any of them occupy a desk at the limits of the “room”.

 

They had arrived almost simultaneously, greeted each other civilly and set to deal with the ensuing wait in silence, each in his own way.

At the far right, the sandy-haired youngish man in the threadbare odd trousers and jacket took his seat with smooth, controlled ease of movement, crossed himself without ostentation, folded his hands on the desk, lowered his eyelids, and only his lips moved, fluidly, as if repeating a very familiar text under his breath.

At the far left, a tall, burly, grey-haired individual in tight breeches and a sumptuously embroidered waistcoat over impeccable white linen sat down as one used to occupying space and dominating a room. His eyes darted about the non-existent room, sank to his desk top and – as if something broke inside him – he propped his elbows on the desk and clasped his head in his hands, to remain motionless in that position.

The young dynamic character in the expensively cut business suit, a neatly trimmed brown beard defining the outlines of his face, walked quickly and purposefully to a desk near the front. He sat down, stared ahead for a few moments, fidgeted, twisted around, rested one elbow on the desk, the other on the back rest, and crossed his right ankle over his left knee. As there was nothing else to capture his attention, he looked at the other occupants, observing, scrutinising.

The fourth man, an improbable apparition of indeterminate age in black academic robes over a somewhat ecclesiastic-looking black suit, with piercing black eyes in a white face framed by black hair that reached below his jaw line, made them all shiver. He was aloof and laconic without appearing rude, as if an invisible shield separated him from the rest of the world. He took his seat near the front left with a quiet economy of movement, crossed his arms over his chest, lowered his eyelids slightly and remained perfectly motionless.

 

As if a door had opened, the stranger whom they all had met before suddenly appeared and walked towards the teacher's desk. At his side was an even stranger being: clearly female, a little over five feet tall, wearing a tight jacket of some shimmering silky cloth and a short, puffy skirt of the same material; long chestnut hair surrounded her head in a halo springy curls. Her age... She looked perhaps twelve years old and she hopped and skipped alongside her follower, shifting from one foot to two and back in a floor pattern that only she could discern. But Severus Snape, who sat nearest to her point of entry, looked up from his meditation when she came in and his eyes met hers. He saw... something ageless, infinite, a wisdom that reminded him of his old headmaster and mentor, only broader, deeper, all-encompassing. The eyes in the little girl's face might be a thousand years old, the understanding in them everlasting, never-ending. The muscles in his face shifted only minutely, but the relief was obvious – at least to Hans Gruber, the only one to see and notice. Gruber tilted an eyebrow and squirmed behind his desk, turning to sit the right way around, ready to pay attention.

 

The other two men only noticed when they heard a loud “FLOP” from behind the teacher's desk.

“ATTEND THE WORDS OF THE METATRON,” said a sonorous baritone, “THE VOICE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, RULER OF THE UNIVERSE.”

The two remaining heads at the back of the “classroom” straightened up. The four men were focusing their full attention on the odd pair at the teacher's desk: their former guide, now sporting a pair of huge white wings, and the ageless female figure next to him.

“Does the name Metatron ring a bell?” Metatron queried in a less magical, but still very compelling voice.

Four heads nodded. Metatron stared, puzzled, momentarily speechless.

“As for me,” said Gruber, “it's one of the benefits of a classical education. I know it takes an angel to speak to us mortals.”

“We're too fragile to hear God's voice directly,” O'Hara added. “Catholic and actor, remember?”

Turpin gave the angel a level stare and said something in Greek that made Gruber chuckle and even Snape's lips twitched momentarily.

“Correct,” Metatron said drily. “It would seem that not all mortals are ignorant twits.”

“Well,” he went on, “prepare to meet your Maker.”

He gestured to each man in turn:

“Patrick Lawrence O'Hara.”

The actor rose from his bench and gave a stylish Shakespearean reverence. The girl laid a hand on Metatron's arm. “Better known as PL?” O'Hara heard Metatron's voice, but his eyes were held captive by the girl's while she dropped him a very proper curtsy. He could not help but grin widely.

“John Jacob Turpin.”

Turpin rose stiffly and gave a formal bow, as if opening a court session. His face was tense and his eyes darted here and there, unable to settle on either of the figures in front.

“Ah,” was the reply, as the girl returned his bow. “Who hasn't heard of the famous Judge Turpin.”

An icy finger ran down the Judge's spine – he had heard those words before. He resumed his seat, unsettled.

“Hans Gruber.”

Gruber's bow was short and stiff, his eyes not leaving those of the girl, as if he was greeting a hostile CEO. In return she gave him a grin and a wave that needed no interpreter and that made his lips twitch and his eyes soften.

“Severus Snape.”

He rose quietly, smoothly, stood erect, his eyes holding hers, one single question occupying his entire being. The girl looked back at him earnestly. “Yes,” he sensed her reply. That brief mental touch made him reel and his vision go black. He sank onto his bench. The answer should have calmed him – but his hands began to fidget, nails picking at the skin of the fingers.

 

“Gentlemen, you are the Chosen Ones,” Metatron addressed the four of them.

“On your original planes of existence you are at this moment clinically dead. In fact, you are now in a place outside space and time. In Her infinite wisdom – and moving in mysterious ways, I might add – God has chosen to give each one of you a second chance, should you wish it.”

Metatron spoke with the resigned expression of someone who has long given up on trying to understand his boss' motives, but whose opinions were very clear.

“As you are evolutionarily adapted to function in twenty-four-hour cycles, the equivalent of a day and night has been created to give you time to consider the offer.”

Four pairs of eyes met their Maker's gaze – each with its own expression: eager, incredulous, worried, serene.

“During this time God and myself will be at your disposal, to answer any questions you may have and to help you in your deliberations. Now, the rules.”

The four men listened attentively.

“If you decide to take your second chance, you will be returned to your original plane of existence and provided with a cover story for your apparent demise.

You will be required to mend your ways for the remainder of your second life. You each know your own major moral flaws, so we need not go into any specifics. Your brush with death should provide sufficient explanation as to the changes in your personality. Do remember that God is omniscient, should you be tempted to cheat.”

Metatron flashed Gruber a glance that wiped the emerging leer off the exceptional thief's face.

“During your period of reflection you are welcome to confer with each other in this room. Individual quarters are ready for you if you simply turn your back to the desk you are occupying and walk twenty paces straight ahead. Should you require God's advice, just speak. You will be answered.”

After a moment of silence, Metatron added: “Any questions you'd care to ask here and now?”

The actor shook his head and remained silent.

“And the alternative?” the judge said slowly. “If we choose not to return to earthly life?”

“Believe it or not, God is truly merciful,” the angel replied. “There will be a trial period. If you show regret and true insight into your sins, you will be permitted to remain here.”

“Purgatory?”

“As in ritual cleansing by means of torture? Absolutely not. God has gone a long way from that spiteful, vindictive little desert djinn that Abraham used to hang out with. Think of it as therapy, cognitive-behavioural re-training. In fact, you have the option of taking the rehabilitation period even prior to your return to Earth. Time here is flexible and, like I said, God is merciful. She doesn't expect you to mend your ways by a snap of the fingers.”

 

“Any further questions?” asked the angel after yet another silent spell.

Two of the men, simultaneously, burst out: “Is she here?”

The black-haired academic's expression was unreadable; the German thief's openly worried.

God, through Metatron, addressed Gruber first:

“Your mother, Mr. Gruber, is most certainly not here. Avarice is a mortal sin. Your mother regretted nothing, not even putting a padlock on the fridge when there were three growing boys in the house.”

Gruber sat back and sighed with relief.

“As for you, Professor,” God and her Voice turned to the black-robed man, “you already know. You would do well to visit your personal quarters.”

A minute smile ghosted over Snape's lips, shaky, unsure, as if he was recalling a long-forgotten skill.

The four men, each lost in his own thoughts, rose from their desks and walked away, gradually disappearing in the pearly grey mist.

 

--- --- ---

 

They stood in front of Hans Gruber for several minutes before he took notice of them.
He put down his bow, but his left hand rested on the smooth wooden neck of the instrument.
“You can have my answer now,” he said. “If I'm supposed to, as you put it, 'mend my ways', what on Earth would I do back in my world?”

“On the other hand, what will you do here? No competitiveness, no money, no power, nothing of what you spent your adult life striving for.”

“That's exactly it. My adult life. After they taught me that I had to get a proper job, make something of myself, you know, 'hast 'was, bist 'was'.”

“You are what you have.”

“Quite. Even my radical period was about power and money.”

“And now?”

“I'm free. So kindly get out. I need to practise.”

He let the bow settle in his right hand again, picked at the strings lightly to check the tuning and launched into Bach's first suite for cello. Sixth movement, Gigue.

Standing behind his back, they were not even there. He was alone at last.

 

He paused and looked over the fingering where he had stumbled. A burly figure wearing a sloppily powdered grey wig resembling the ears of a tired bloodhound approached him and he hesitated before picking up the bow again.

Also,” the burly man said, “hören wir’s uns mal an.” [2]

As Gruber still hesitated, Johann Sebastian said gruffly: “Was kann Euch noch geschehen? Tot seid Ihr ja schon.” [3]

Gruber took a deep breath and set the bow to the strings.

 

--- --- ---

 

“What went wrong?” Turpin asked.

Metatron gave him a long incredulous stare.

“Other than you having lewd intentions with a girl not even half your age, you mean?” he said.

God frowned just as Turpin was opening his mouth.

“You are omniscient, My Lo... Lady,” Turpin addressed her directly. “You know that wasn't what I meant.”

God nodded, Her face inscrutable. Turpin went on:

“I wanted to protect her and care for her. I was going to give her a proper name, a solid social position. It was the least I could do after... what I did to her mother.”

“Not to mention her father,” Metatron commented dryly.

“Yes,” Turpin said quietly.

“Some sort of compensation, a penance?”

“Yes.”

“And you Knew What Was Best For Her, huh?”

“Well... yes. I was a man, level-headed, experienced...” Turpin trailed off under Metatron's and God's scathing looks.

“Made a mess of it, didn't I?” he added.

“You don't know half of it,” Metatron said. “You see, God is rather proud of this invention of hers called the Free Will. All beings with a soul are entitled to it.”

Turpin nodded.

“You were a judge, and quite a strict one. How many people did you sentence to the gallows or to perpetual banishment under the pretext of their free will and individual responsibility, huh?!”

Turpin stared into where the floor would have been in a physical room.

“And Johanna, your ward, who should have been like a daughter to you? You didn't only interfere with her free will, you ignored it completely.”

Turpin clenched his fists and a blush spread over his face.

Then he let out a deep sigh.

“Well,” he said quietly. “She's better off without me. I've left everything to her in my will, you see.”

“Good idea,” Metatron said, less severely. “And you have the decency to look ashamed.”

“So...” Turpin turned directly to God. “What happens now?”

“If you decide not to return to Earth, think of it as... retirement. Time to do all those things you didn't get to do while you lived. Read, reflect, build clocks, observe the stars. And keep an eye on your ward from a respectable distance.”

“May I... intervene? Haunt that sailor if he doesn't make her happy?”

“As long as you don't abuse the privilege. Remember, God sees you.”

“Fair enough. And... then? What happens?”

“Then... what do you mean, ‘then’? This is your afterlife.”

“Eternity is a long time, for retirement. Will my soul be around forever?”

“Soul, as such, is indestructible, just like matter in your physical world. But your individual soul will only last as long as you're remembered on Earth.”

“So all those... Aristotle, Occam, Shakespeare...”

“Effectively immortal, yes.”

“And I could... actually...”

“Have a talk about justice with Socrates, or about natural philosophy with Pythagoras? Certainly.”

Slowly, sincerely, Turpin bowed to God and Her angel.

 

--- --- ---

 

“Thank you for looking after Harry,” said the bespectacled man with unruly black hair. “I can't believe he's still alive, the way he rushes into things. He's far too like me for his own good.”

“What?” Snape asked. “Did you just say what I think you said?”

“I said thank you for saving our son's life more times than I could count. I know you did it for Lily, not for me. So, while I'm at it, Severus, I'm sorry for the way I and the other Marauders treated you at school.”

“Accepted... I think. I should resent it, James, but I find I don't. How come I don't hate you any more?”

“Same reason I'm not jealous of you, I suppose. Oh... let Lily explain. She was always the one with the analytic mind.”

A slender young woman with hair the colour of a grass fire at dusk gave James a 'thanks-a-lot' look out of her spectacular green eyes, smiled at Severus and looked down to collect her thoughts.

 

God and Her voice joined the discussion at just the right moment.

“No sexual selection, no competition, no possessiveness,” Metatron explained succinctly.

“Plus all the books you could ever wish for,” added the young woman with a sly grin, “and a chance to give Tycho Brahe a piece of your mind on the subject of quicksilver.”

 

“Interesting,” said the potions master. “I believe I shall be able to get used to that.”

 

--- --- ---

 

“Obviously, having all the facts doesn’t make one immune to errors of judgement,” Metatron said dryly.

“What do you mean?” O’Hara squirmed uncomfortably and looked up at the angel.

“God. She is omniscient, yes. But She hasn’t had you down as a lazy coward.”

“What. Do. You. Mean?!”

“You lived through the war. Gave a good account of yourself, too.”

“So?”

“And now you’re content with dying in an accident? Long before your proper time?”

“I thought I had a son!”

God came closer and stared down at the man seated on the narrow bed in his private quarters.

“And your daughter is what – bilge water?” Metatron interpreted Her words icily.

“My daughter is well rid of me!” O’Hara shouted. Almost at a whisper, he added: “... after what I did to her.”

Silence.

“You don’t actually expect me to...”

“If you don’t take care of her, who will?”

“Me?! For an omniscient being you’re really dense. I shagged her! A sixteen-year-old!”

“You’ve behaved like an immature womaniser. That’s nothing new. But, to the best of God’s knowledge, it was Stella who seduced you, for reasons of her own.”

“Yes, but...”

“Shut up and listen. Have you ever for even one moment stopped to think what it was that made her behave that way?”

“Um... I...”

“The war has done weird things to all of you. You’ve been looking for momentary pleasure, emotional contact, anything positive anytime and anyplace you could find it. Everyone’s moral compass has been off. But that was the war. Now it’s over. You people owe it to each other to do your best and move on.”

“But... Stella? She has no idea... Her aunt and uncle...”

“Her aunt and uncle are good people, but... they have their limits. You’re a theatre man: from the world that she longs for. You have a chance to get through to her.”

“Omnipotent God, can’t you... do something? Make her forget...?”

“No. In her strange way Stella was looking for a teacher, a paternal figure. You are in fact her father, so get on with your job.”

“I’ll need... guidance.”

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve said since you came here. Always try your best, and for the rest put your trust God – She does hear prayer, you know.”

 

--- --- ---

 

Once more they were gathered in the insubstantial pale grey classroom.

Gruber sat humming under his breath, his right arm marking pulling and pushing movements of an imaginary bow.

Turpin laid out a set of tiny tools on his desk, pulled out a pocket watch, pried the casing open and proceeded to pick at the clockwork.

Snape was the only one who was not alone. Lily, the young woman with the green eyes and dusky red hair, sat close to him, their heads together in earnest conversation.

O’Hara looked far from calm and contented. He sat down, fidgeted, rose to his feet, walked about the room, sat down at his desk again, picked at the tips of his fingers, his eyes darting here and there as if waiting for something.

 

Eventually Metatron appeared, accompanied by a conventional angel with pink cheeks, curly blond hair, huge white swan’s wings, wearing a long white shift and carrying a large leather-bound volume.

The blond angel sat at the teacher’s desk, opened the ledger, reached across to yank a quill out of his left wing and got ready to write.

“Gentlemen,” Metatron said, “please attend.”

They left off whatever they were doing – three of them reluctantly, one, with relief.

“The purpose of this meeting is to formalise your decisions and to note down your final replies to God’s offer. Do you have anything to say before we proceed?”

O’Hara took a deep breath as if to speak, but breathed out again in silence.

 

“Hans Gruber?”

“I’ll stay dead, thank you.”

“John Jacob Turpin?”

“I don’t wish to return to Earth.”

“Severus Snape?”

“Staying.”

“PL O’Hara?” And an aside to the blond angel: “That’s Patrick Lawrence.”

O’Hara took another deep breath. “I’m going back,” he said.

Just like O’Hara, Metatron did not quite smile.

 

“Any further questions at this point?”

Obviously asking as a matter of protocol, Metatron expected none and nodded to the blond angel to put away his writing implements.

“Yes, one question.” Turpin’s voice almost rivalled Metatron’s in dominating the room.

Metatron raised an eyebrow, waiting.

“Why?” Turpin asked. The other three men nodded.

“Why... what?”

“Why this second chance business? Why does God do it?”

 

“Hm... well. It’s a long story.

About two thousand of your years ago, give or take a century or two, God decided that humans needed an example, something tangible, to tell them that God cares and that they should treat each other decently, with respect and even love. So She found a surrogate mother and sent Her own son to Earth.”

Four heads nodded.

“Well, instead of universal peace and brotherhood what ensued was nothing but fighting, wars, murder, slaughter: people killing each other over whether Jesus was a prophet, the actual son of God, a saviour, the Saviour... and if you didn’t believe exactly like those with the biggest sticks, you were lucky to die without getting tortured first.”

The four listeners hung on to Metatron’s every word.

“Here’s where the free will business comes in: God couldn’t just step in and set everything right – that would’ve made people less human. So she decided at least to do a few random individuals a good turn on Her son’s birthday.”

“Wait... it wasn’t Christmas when I died,” Turpin said.

“Nor I,” O’Hara added.

Snape only shook his head.

“Gruber’s was at Christmas, and yours, O’Hara, was close enough. And time doesn’t work here the way it does on Earth. I suppose She just pulled the other two names out of an infinite hat. There seems to be some sort of... affinity.”

 

“That still doesn’t answer our question,” Turpin said. “God is omnipotent. She doesn’t owe anyone anything.”

“Quite. But you humans have been created in God’s image. She is the Ultimate Being – which means that She has every human sentiment in ultimate measure.”

“And...?”

“You, Turpin, feel badly about your ward. You feel guilt. So do you, O’Hara, about your daughter. And you other two have your share, we don’t have to go into detail. So all of you can at least try to imagine...”

They waited.

“... the Ultimate Being’s feeling of ultimate guilt!”

 

 

 

 

 

THE END

 

 



[1] A/N: The story of Sweeney Todd was written in Victorian times (1847), but was originally set in 1785, so Turpin would be His, not Her, Majesty’s Judge. Burton’s film, though, has a more Victorian look to it.

[2] All right, let’s hear it.

[3] What more can happen to you? You’re already dead.