The Sinner Man ran faster than he’d ever run before, dogs howling, snapping and gnarling their sweating fangs at his flesh filled heels. He ran so fast his strides became like a frenzied dance upon the air and all the time he never dared to pause for breath. Of course, soon that Sinner Man tired and his feet fell upon the ground, heavy and firm and he was no longer running in the air at all but on quicksand, each foot-fall sinking into that ground beneath. In fact, it was just as his legs gave way from under him that the Sinner Man came to the wild river and fell in a heap upon a large flat rock at its side.
“Why the hell are they chasing me?” The Sinner Man asked the rock.
“You don’t know?”
“No, I don’t know.”
“They’ve been chasing you your whole life.”
“My whole life?”
“All your days. You just never heard them until now.”
“But how do I outrun them?”
“You can’t,” The rock replied flat and hard. “If you want salvation ask the Lord.”
“I don’t believe in the Lord.”
“Then go to the Devil.”
The Sinner Man once more hearing the dogs’ heavy snarling turned to see they had caught up with him all too soon, and there they stood poised with fangs hell bent on his tender flesh and hard bone. He ran ever quicker and tirelessly along the river, all the way to the sea with those hounds in hungered pursuit, nipping at his heels.
There at the shore was the Devil.
“Devil will you help me?”
“These dogs won’t stop chasing me.”
The Devil laughed and the Sinner Man could see his bleach white, seemingly wholesome teeth.
“But I can’t help you.”
“Why, why can’t you help?”
“You really don’t know?” the Devil asked with a malevolent leer ripped across his carotene face.
“No, I don’t know.”
“Because… I am the dog.”
And with that the Devil reached for the Sinner Man with fangs bared sharp and fierce, but that Sinner Man yelled out and fought and clawed and he ran once more fast and hard. The Devil chased him that whole damn day until he reached the river and then the rock once more.
“Rock, what do I do?”
“You still don’t know?”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Turn to the Lord.”
“But, nothing, if you want help you must ask the Lord!”
The Sinner Man was exhausted, desperate and there was no fight or running left in him.
“Lord, please help me, Lord. I need your help. Praise be upon you and please help me, help me, Lord.”
But no reply came and so the Sinner Man cried out louder.
“LORD HELP ME. OH, LORD, LORD… HELP ME, LORD!”
He could hear the Devil beyond the bend of the river. Those sharp teeth were close.
“Don’t you hear me praying, Lord?”
And then suddenly the voice could be heard.
“But you don’t believe in me, you said so yourself,” the loud voice replied and a figure appeared before the Sinner Man.
The Lord had bleach white teeth and a suit just as fine as the Devil.
“I do, Lord, please stop these dogs and the Devil from chasing me, oh, Lord please help me.”
“I can’t do that.”
“You know why.”
“I don’t. I don’t know why.”
A smile equally as wide and foreboding appeared on the Lord’s face as it had the Devil.
“How many dogs did you see?”
“There were… only two dogs, Lord, and one of them was the Devil himself.”
The Lord’s eyes glared and growled.
The Sinner Man suddenly understood and he was afraid looking at the Lord who howled and the Devil was there too, with sharpened teeth like fangs, and together they fed on the Sinner Man. Ripping, tearing away at his soft white mortal flesh and all until blood flowed into the wild river and upon the hard flat rock – oh, how that rock cried out and the river cried out too, but it was too late, far too late for that Sinner Man!
Written by Tom Conrad
NB: This was first published March 2011 and was inspired by the song Sinner Man by Nina Simone.
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