Forgiveness

A fanfiction based on Les Mis (the book, not the musical/film). Bishop Myriel, as part of his ecclesiastical duties, spent time talking with those who were soon to die. The book briefly mentions a man condemned to the death penalty and the effect his death had on Bishop Myriel's views on capital punishment. What it doesn't mention is the story of this man.

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1. Forgiveness

   I walked alone with only my thoughts for company. The trees were verdant in a vibrant splendour: the life-filled spirit of the young Spring. The birds chirped ceerfully, disgusting me with their light tones that seemed to mock the heaviness of my heart.

   The sun was too bright - it left no place to hide, no place to conceal myself. Every nook and cranny in the forest was illuminatd by that repellent golden orb. It made my presence to conspicuous - it was too obvious that I was here, where I didn't belong: here on this earth that seemed so infuriatingly happy and peaceful.

   At least in Winter, I could hide myself somewhere in a shadowed corner and pretend I didn't exist, pretend I was not marring the world with my presence, pretend that here, at least, I could harm nobody. At least in Winter, the land around me was bare and empty, as though it was attempting to paint a picture of my heart; the landscape was bleak - a never-ending portrayal of my future.

   In Winter, the nights were long, and often the stars were hidden behind a thick wall of cloud, so it was only me and the blackness. It was a lot like being dead, often. Or how I imagined being dead would feel like, anyway. Sometimes I felt as though, if I turned, and the stars somehow penetrated the cloudy sea above me to bathe the forest in their faint, ethreal light, I would see her lying there next to me, her long brown hair clean and unmatted with congealed blood, her eyes wide with excitement and zest for life rather than panic and fear, her mouth smiling with untroubled joy instead of wide agape in one last, silent, perpetual scream. She had been so beautiful, always so happy.

   Sometimes, the clouds would be absent, and I would look up towards the heavens, up towards the skies, towards the stars. They were peaceful, as she had been peaceful, clothed in a kind of serene perfection, radiating goodness and virtue to the earth. I wondered if, perhaps, saints became stars when they died. If so, she would surely be up there, among them. I wondered if she liked it there, up in the sky. She used to dream about flying, and about seeing the world. Well, perhaps she now felt like she was doing both. I hoped she liked it, smiling upon the world at night, with thousands of righteous, perfect brothers and sisters, gracing humanity with their kindness.

   After a while, I stopped sleeping under the stars when it was cloudless. I did not deserve anyone's kindness. Hers least of all.

   When Spring came, the landscape changed, but my mood did not. It was as if the land no longer grieved with me. It had abode with me for a time in mourning and guilt and shame, it had mercifully afforded me a space to hide and deny my own existence, but now it had decided to move on, and embrace the newness of Spring.

   The land was happy and peaceful, and the light made my unwelcome presence agonisingly conspicuous. I carried a darkness within me that the early dawn could not drive out, and the Winter within my soul did not feel the thaw of Spring. All around me, new life was blooming. It was a dangerous place for me; I brought only death. At least in Winter, there was nothing alive for me to kill. Eventually, I left.

   I came to the police station quite early in the day. I had left as soon as I saw the first light. I dug her a grave with the spade I had brought, under a willow. It had always been her favourite tree. And then I left after I'd said goodbye. I told her I was sorry, though of course it sounded weak and hollow. I said I loved her, that I'd never meant to hurt her. Tried to explain about the madness, the visions, the delusions. It only made it worse, made it sound like I was trying to justify what I'd done. She didn't reply throughout my speech. I hadn't expected her to. Death is awfully quiet. I told her I hoped she was happier now, happier than she ever could have been with me. Eventually, I left.

   The policeman seemed surprised when I announced I had murdered my wife. I wasn't sure why. Death stinks - I knew from experience. I was surprised I wasn't reeking of it. In fact, I was mildly surprised the guard didn't fall dead just from speaking to me.

   I was rather insistent, so eventually they had to hang me. They called for the priest - Bishop Myriel, I think his name was - and I was surprised when he entered. He didn't have the same wariness about him as the others had. He greeted me kindly, addressed me as "my child." He talked to me. About many things but, of course, mainly God. Heaven, hell, the fate of the soul. HIs eyes shined with sincerity and love as he assured me that God had more joy in one repentant sinner than in thousands of the righteous who needed no repentance. I told him that I didn't feel any just God would forgive me for what I had done. He never grew angry when I contradicted him. Instead, his eyes seemed to grow sad and his face fell in sympathy and compassion.

   When the day came, I didn't feel afraid. I wakled up to the gallows with my head bent and my feet heavy, but out of shame rather than fear. The noose was laid around my neck. Then it was time.

   The last voice I heard was Bishop Myriel. He smiled at me, a heartfelt, compassionate smile. He leant over and whispered in my ear: "'Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' Be at peace, my child. Now and for ever."

   Dimly, I heard the trapdoor open. My legs fell. For one brief moment, I was falling through the air. Then the rope caught my neck. My neck snapped instantly. The last thing I remember feeling was brief disappointment. I had hoped my death would be longer, more painful. It would be more fitting.

   I hung on the end of the rope for a little while. I felt my body shake a few times, and then I was still. My body never moved again, but it gradually faded away from my awareness, as though I had discarded it, along with all my senses. The world was black and dark. I could not hear or smell anything. But soon, I saw a light - a faint pinprick of pure white that seemed to me to mimic the starlight I had hidden from. It grew larger and larger, or closer and closer, until eventually it seemed I was surrounded by this light, embraced by it, engulfed by it. Gradually, a figure began to appear - dim at first in the light, but eventually beginning to take on more and more detail and reality. I knew who she was from the first, though.

   She walked slowly up to me, the same calm smile she had always worn in life. Her eyes shined at me with love, happiness and....something else, which I couldn't quite place. It was only as she came close to me, with tears of  joy in her eyes, and wrapped her arms around me, that I recognised it.

   Forgiveness.

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