This is a selection taken from the stories I wrote between 2003 and 2011. Nearly all of them have been previously published, many in publications no longer extant. Where they are still available in existing books or magazines, sufficient time has elapsed to permit their re-publication without fear of ethical impropriety or breach of contractual terms. Check the Blog Archive at the bottom of the page for individual titles.

Please be aware that each story was written by the person I was at the time. In a sense, therefore, each one was written by somebody different. None of them was written by the person I am now.

Anybody wanting to view my novel Odyssey can do so here. I’ve set the price very low because I’m more interested in the story being read than in making money out of it. It’s about a goddess and her rabbit companion taking a mortal man on a journey to teach him a few lessons about the nature of reality and higher consciousness, and it's probably more entertaining than I make it sound. I never was any good at selling myself. The Gift Horse, a story of reincarnation and karmic balancing, is also now available at the same place.

May 18, 2011

The Wages of Guilt.

This isn’t my usual speculative stuff; nothing supernatural here. This is mostly a true story. Only the ending has been changed to expose the guilty.

It was published in Writers’ Bloc, the literary journal of Rutgers-Camden University, in 2009.

Approximate reading time: 25-30 minutes.

--------------------------------------------------

Jane Watson and Justin Jones were taking their first holiday since setting up home together some three months earlier.

A casual observer might have described them as a handsome couple. They were both in their mid-twenties, both blessed with good health and good looks, both securely settled into respectable, professional careers. “Enviable,” the casual observer might have remarked. But casual observance records only the surface impression. Handsome they may have been, but enviable they were not. Jane and Justin had problems.

They were not married. Or rather they were, but not to each other. They both had spouses from whom they had separated in furtherance of an adulterous affair. And they both had children, a total of three in all. Three innocent, happy little lives now scarred and made hideously unhappy by the self-serving motives of an errant parent. At least, that was how Justin saw it

For that was the difference between the two of them. Justin felt guilty; Jane didn’t. Jane just wanted the adrenalin to flow on and on. The adrenalin had stopped flowing for Justin on that cold April night when he had packed his bags and walked out to be with Jane, leaving the apple of his eye sleeping peacefully behind a closed door, blissfully unaware of the emotional devastation that the morning would bring.

He had felt only anguish and regret the next day when he’d called at his old home to take his five-year-old daughter out. He’d wanted to explain it all to her. He’d wanted her to know that she wasn’t to blame, that he still loved her more than anything else in the world. She hadn’t wanted to go out with him. She’d run into another room and hidden herself away; and Justin – poor, guilt-ridden Justin – had spent an ocean of time in agony, sitting in the driving seat of his car sobbing his silly eyes out.

But there had been no way back, either practically or emotionally. So Justin had decided that there was nothing to do but press on and make the best of what now seemed a pretty bad job. It hadn’t helped matters when he’d learned that the new love of his life had covertly manufactured certain of the circumstances that had led to them leaving their respective partners. Jane was that sort of person. When she wanted something, she had to have it. And she was endlessly inventive in knowing how to get it.

It had been the discovery of that piece of unwelcome intelligence that had started the arguments. Hideous, hot arguments. Recriminations flying back and forth like sharpened circus knives. Claim and counter-claim. So much fire searing the air that a dragon would have been proud of their performance. And with the arguments had come a new twist. The adrenalin, already stagnating, had dried almost to nothing. To put it simply, Justin had largely lost interest.

Could anything have made matters worse? Jane was rapidly losing the thing she had connived so hard to get, and Jane was not a rational person when she was losing. Already insecure, it had made her manically so. She had started calling him at work at least once a day, insisting that he go home to her immediately and answer for some supposed misdemeanour that she had been “informed” about. Justin had steadfastly refused to play that game, and so she had started flinging senseless accusations at him, accusations of conspiracy and infidelity. Her constant demands for answers and assurances had begun to wear Justin to the quick.

Worst of all, she had objected in the strongest terms to Justin’s visits to his daughter. Surely, she had reasoned, such visits would inevitably take him back to his darling child and that hideous wife. She was convinced of the fact and wouldn’t tolerate it. And so, on one such occasion, she had taken an overdose of pain killers - not enough to do her serious harm but sufficient, she hoped, to convince Justin of the error of his ways,

Of course, it hadn’t. The doctor at the local hospital had pointed Justin to the truth. “A cry for help,” had been his phrase. Nothing more, that was obvious. But it was enough - enough to convince Justin that he had made a serious mistake and had given up everything to be with a woman who was, at best, outrageously possessive and disturbingly unstable.

He had left and gone to stay with his ageing mother for a few days. That had provided no sort of a solution. There was neither the comfort of a wife and child, nor what little of the adrenalin he could still hope to call on during the odd lighter moments with Jane. And there were, it has to be said, odd lighter moments. Jane could be infectiously and attractively ebullient when she wasn’t firing the arrows of her anxiety and self-delusion at him.

He’d crawled unwillingly back to the flat they had taken together. It was the nearest thing to home that he could manage in the circumstances. Like countless people throughout the ages, he had found himself in a nether world of confusing emotions and uncertain values. And, as is so often the case, he had ignored the growing tide of evidence and hoped that it would all work out in the end.

And he was tired. Tired of trying to trust someone who had proved herself dishonest and manipulative. Tired of being told that God would punish him every time he pointed an accusing finger or failed to comply with Jane’s often hysterical demands. What he continued to hope was that she would come up with a plausible explanation for the Machiavellian artifice that had separated him from his beloved child.

He wanted some honesty from her, something that would enable him to open his heart to her again. She never had. Jane hadn’t seen anything wrong in what she’d done. She wasn’t that sort of person. And so, for three months, they had lived in a world of papered-over cracks, rocking back and forth between the tolerable and the hideous.

It was Jane who’d suggested they should take a short holiday. It would be a fresh start. “Provide a new perspective on life,” she’d said, with a pretence at wisdom that she didn’t really possess. Justin had agreed, more out of hope than conviction. It was the first thing they had agreed on in what seemed like a very long time.

So off they went and found themselves, one hot July morning, walking up a narrow lane that led to the top of a wild headland, not far from Llanbedrog in the north-west corner of Wales.

The climb was steep but pleasant. To the right of the lane there was a wire fence that marked the boundary of a lush green field. Sheep grazed contentedly and the occasional, nearly full-grown lamb could be seen scurrying across the grass to rejoin its mother. To the left was a piece of ancient, unfenced woodland, and so the view on that side was effectively non-existent. The massive crowns of the old standards blocked out much of the natural light, leaving the tangled undergrowth to fade into near darkness.

The two of them were breathing heavily when they finally arrived at the point where the lane gave out to the open summit, but their efforts were amply rewarded. Ahead of them lay a broad plateau of rough grass and golden gorse. Sheep were in evidence there to, looking with suspicion on the freshly arrived interlopers and trotting off in alarm when the gap between them became uncomfortably small.

Justin loved landscapes, and the wilder the better. This was hardly the further reaches of the Cairngorms, but it would do. For the first time in three months he felt some sense of being in the right place. The ache for what he had left behind, and the disastrous start to his new life with Jane, took a back seat for once.

He drank in the scene as they tramped across the boulder-strewn moorland. Neither of them spoke for several minutes. It seemed that Jane was captivated by the place too. But they started chattering enthusiastically when they reached the top of the shallow summit and looked out across the magnificence of Cardigan Bay, stretching far and away to the southern horizon.

The day was a fine one. The sun was well advanced on its climb into the cloudless blue canopy of the infinite, and the calm sea below them reflected the infinite with a perfect tonality of its own. If ever there was a place to begin the process of reconciliation, this had to be it.

They walked and talked for an hour or more, mostly keeping themselves on a line parallel to the seaward side of the headland. They stopped for lunch where a small outcrop of rock provided a perfect vantage point. They sat there for another hour, talking trivia and taking in the magnificence of the West Wales coastline and the endless, azure sea.

They watched shags upending and diving offshore. They remarked on the beauty of the red-billed oystercatchers, shovelling for shellfish on a small patch of exposed shoreline. And one magnificent herring gull shared their lunch before strutting and posing majestically for a few photographs. The day was glorious and Justin felt relaxed. Maybe his life wasn’t so bad after all. His sense of guilt was still there, but it was dozing for once instead of screaming at him.

Eventually, the two of them agreed that it was time to move on and start making their way back to the lane. Justin put his right arm around Jane’s shoulder and she returned the gesture by settling her left one firmly about his waist.

He suggested that it would be tedious to retrace their steps. Why go over old ground when there was new still to be seen? They were close to the corner of an old wood and he reasoned that it had to be the same one they had seen from the lane. A straight line through it would be bound to take them back there.

“How can you know that?” asked Jane, displaying an obvious lack of trust in her companion’s judgement. “You haven’t got a map.”

Justin found the question irritating.

“I don’t need a map,” he replied with a hint of petulance that demonstrated just how close to the surface were the emotional pressures of the last three months.

“So how can you know where we are?” Jane persisted. “How do you know this is the same wood?”

“Look,” said Justin through a jaw that was beginning to tighten, “it’s really very simple. When we walked up the lane, we were heading west. We turned left – that’s south, right – and we’ve walked in a semi-circle. All we have to do is walk north through that wood and we can’t fail to reach the lane again.”

“And how do you know which way’s north?”

“Because I know what time it is and I can see where the bloody sun is. What else would I need to know which way’s north?”

Justin’s voice was becoming raised and Jane was flashing fire back from her steel-grey eyes. They stood in an uneasy impasse for a few seconds.

“Tell you what,” said Justin with a manufactured show of indifference, “I’ll walk back through the wood and you can take the long route over the top of the headland. I’ll see you back at the digs later.”

With that he began to walk away. Jane wasn’t accustomed to losing control or being abandoned. It made her angry. But she also suffered a pronounced lack of self-confidence, and the prospect of being left alone to find her own way back tipped the balance. She shuffled quickly after him.

“OK,” she said, still projecting a tone of defiance. “You don’t have to be so bloody childish about it.”

Jane, being Jane, needed to make the final statement in any argument. Justin restricted himself to a dismissive glance.

As they approached the corner of the wood they saw that it was bounded by an old stone wall running ahead of them and to the right of the trees. To the left of the wall was a footpath that was obviously well-trodden. Justin felt vindicated and said so. So wide was the path that the two of them were able to walk side by side for the first hundred yards or so. Their eyes soon became accustomed to the low light and their heightened tempers cooled just as quickly. The only air of discomfort they felt came from the heat and humidity that increased noticeably once they’d moved away from the open, airy headland.

But then the path started to narrow and Jane found herself in the unaccustomed position of walking behind Justin. She began to have doubts again, and those doubts raised themselves to vocal expression when the path ended altogether. Only the stubby remnants of the old stone wall continued onwards into the seemingly endless wood.

“So you’re still sure this is the right way, are you?”

“Yes I am. It has to be. It heads north. I’ve told you, we can’t fail to get back to the lane somewhere beyond this wood.”

“And how do you suggest we get through all that undergrowth?” Jane asked.

“Along the wall,” countered Justin. “It’s plenty wide enough. And I remember seeing a broken down wall at the bottom end of the wood when we walked up here. It has to be the other end of this one.”

“You’d just better be right,” continued Jane. “I hate this wood. And the heat is driving me nuts.”

She looked alarmed. Justin had seen that look in her eyes before. He knew she didn’t cope too well with situations that weren’t conducive to her comfort, her wishes, or her need to be in control. He acknowledged that the heat and humidity were oppressive and offered the logical view that they should press on. The sooner they were beyond the wood, the better.

Climbing onto the low wall was easy enough and they were soon picking their way carefully along the top of the uneven stonework. It became difficult in places. Here and there the stones would be loose, or there would be a break where they would have to climb down and back up again. Occasionally Justin would have to give Jane a hand, and it was clear that her mental state was deteriorating. The heat was getting worse, causing them both to have to wipe the sweat from their eyes with the sleeve of a tee shirt.

Justin heard a whimper and turned around to see that Jane had started to cry. His own discomfort turned to pity and he spoke in quiet, encouraging tones.

“C’mon now. It’s just the heat getting to you. It can’t be far, and then we can have a cold beer and a shower when we get back.”

Jane sniffed and nodded. They carried on.

And then Justin became aware of little black specks dancing before his eyes. He felt tiny pricking sensations around his face and on his uncovered arms. He heard Jane cry out.

“Oh God, no. These gnats are driving me mad. I can’t stand gnats, Justin. We’ve got to go back.”

Justin turned to face her. She was clearly getting close to a level of discomfort verging on hysteria, waving her arms at the myriad black creatures and trying to brush them from her eyes and mouth. He was doing the same thing, but he reached out and took hold of both of her shoulders.

“Look, I know they’re a bloody nuisance,” he said firmly, “but they’re only gnats. They can’t hurt you. And I’m sure we’re close to the end of the wood. Going back would take longer. We’ve got to press on.”

He wanted to pull her towards him and give her a reassuring hug, but the swarm was getting thicker. It was all he could do to keep his eyes open.

“I’m going to turn round and carry on,” he said. “I’ll hold my hand out behind me. Keep hold of it and we’ll soon be out of here.”

Jane’s sobbing had become more incessant, but she did as Justin ordered. They moved slowly on, shuffling along the rough stonework as the swarm of gnats grew into an ever-thickening dark cloud. Their progress became slower as Justin did his valiant best to peer at their escape route through stinging eyes. The best he could do was to keep them half open and use his free hand to wipe away the millions of tiny insects that were trying to invade his eyes, his nose and his mouth. Jane’s sobbing grew into a wailing noise and he could feel her hand trembling violently. Suddenly, he heard his name called in a voice that he’d never experienced before.

“Justin!”

The voice could only be Jane’s, but it was a thin, desperate, shrieking voice. It had the tone of a tortured bird about it. And it continued.

“I can’t stand this...do something...Justin, please...do something...I’m frightened...for God’s sake, do something.”

The phrases rose and fell, from shriek to wail and back again. Indeterminate sounds punctuated them - curious, unfamiliar, but frightening sounds that spoke of Jane’s helpless descent into utter hysteria.

He didn’t know what to do. The instinct to protect Jane made him want to turn around and hold her close. But he knew there would be no point. It was all he could do to stay on top of the wall and move slowly forward through the furious black cloud that assaulted every exposed part of his body. That was the only solution. Keep going, one step at a time. He shouted as much to Jane, trying to spit the hordes of invading insects out of his mouth as soon as he completed his brief and desperate utterance. He gripped her hand more tightly.

Suddenly there was silence. He felt Jane’s hand pulled from between his oily, sweat-ridden fingers. He heard the sound of slipping stonework, and then the crash of something plunging into the undergrowth at the side of the wall. A hint of panic gripped his stomach. He turned around and opened his eyes as much as he dared. Jane was lying among the tangle of briars and nettles, one leg twisted uncomfortably as her foot lay at an awkward angle against the wall. Her eyes were closed, and she was still and silent.

He jumped down beside her and felt for a pulse. It was weak and slow, but it was there alright. Simultaneously, he realised that the air was almost clear. Only a few dancing insects remained and they seemed to be flying away. He opened his eyes fully and breathed in deeply.

He called Jane’s name and patted her cheek. There was no response. He could see no sign of any obvious injury, and so he pulled her away from the wall and lifted her to a sitting position. She was a dead weight. Her head lolled onto her chest and her hands dragged aimlessly against the undergrowth.

Justin had no medical training, but he realised that it would be both ill-advised and extremely difficult to make any attempt to get Jane back to the road. He checked his mobile phone and saw that he had a signal. He called the emergency services and then moved Jane gently into the recovery position.

Two paramedics arrived within ten minutes. They knew the area well and had made their way from the lane along the stone wall. Justin had been right about that; and it transpired that they were only a matter of a hundred yards or so from their destination. Jane was still unconscious and the paramedics could find no apparent injury. They fitted a neck brace as a precaution and then carried her on a stretcher to the ambulance.

Justin travelled with them and sat for an hour or more in the cottage hospital while Jane was being examined. He stood up when a white-clad figure approached. The doctor seemed optimistic.

“There doesn’t appear to be any physical injury at all,” he began. “From what you told the paramedics, I’m fairly certain she’s just gone into a hysterical coma. It’s not that uncommon when people are subjected to severe emotional stress. It has no permanent effects and doesn’t usually last long. I’m surprised it’s lasted this long, actually; but you can never tell.”

The doctor smiled reassuringly and suggested that Justin go back to the digs. They would call him when Jane came to and could be discharged. Justin agreed and took a taxi to where he and Jane were staying.

But there was nothing to do there, and so he went for a walk around the town, drank some coffee, and then walked some more. He was anxious for his phone to ring so that he could know that the day’s adventure was over. He thought about the events of the previous three months, becoming consumed again with his own feelings of guilt and the state of his relationship with Jane. He wondered whether this was some sort of punishment. His phone stayed silent.

By six o’clock he was growing anxious and impatient. He rang the hospital. He was put through to the wards sister who told him that Jane was still unconscious.

“Isn’t that unusual?” he asked.

“A little,” replied the nurse, seeming unconcerned. “But it’s not unknown. I’m sure she’ll come round soon and then we’ll probably keep her in overnight, just to make sure everything’s OK. Don’t worry about it. Give us a call at eight o’clock in the morning if we haven’t called you by then.”

They didn’t call. Justin set his alarm for seven o’clock and eventually settled into a troubled sleep.

He woke up ahead of the alarm, dressed quickly and went down to breakfast. The fact that he felt hungry troubled him. Anxious people aren’t supposed to have an appetite. Two cups of strong coffee would have seemed appropriate, not cereals, scrambled eggs and toast.

He did feel anxious, certainly, but there was some ambivalence about his feelings. His attitude had changed since the trauma of the previous day. He wasn’t sure what he wanted. He didn’t want Jane to be suffering any sort of serious condition, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to resume their strained relationship either. And then it occurred to him: was this something else to feel guilty about? Should he be thinking this way when Jane was lying helpless in a hospital bed? He raised his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head. Whatever the uncertain state of his mind, only one course of action was open to him: call the hospital at eight o’clock and take it from there. And so he did.

A different ward sister was on duty and her attitude was vague and non-committal. Justin thought she sounded guarded. She would have to get the doctor to speak to him, she said. The doctor was summoned to the phone and told Justin that there had been a development. It was too early to say exactly what it meant, but a specialist had been called in and was examining Jane at that moment. He suggested that Justin make his way to the hospital. They might be able to give him some definite news when he got there. Justin pressed for more details, but the doctor declined to give any.

The sun was already high as he drove out beyond the narrow, winding streets. And there was not the usual comfort of cool, fresh, morning air to be enjoyed. The air was hot. “Winds coming up from the Sahara,” had been the explanation given by the weather forecasters.

He knew it was going to be another sticky day. He felt hemmed in by the heat and frustrated by the confused state of his affairs. He wondered what the doctor would have to tell him. He wasn’t that sure he wanted to hear it, good or bad. But how should he define good and bad? Part of him wanted to turn the car around and drive off in the opposite direction. He sighed ruefully and carried on to the hospital.

The heat in the old building was already uncomfortable. There were windows open everywhere, but they hardly helped. He made his way down the bare-walled corridor, his trainers squeaking loudly on the wood block floor. The lack of modern air conditioning meant that the characteristic smells of sickness hung in the stifling, sticky atmosphere. The odour of disinfectant mingled uneasily with a cocktail of bodily functions. He wondered whether he should have called for some flowers on the way. It hadn’t occurred to him, but he could always use anxiety as an excuse.

He walked into the ward and saw Jane sitting up, well propped by pillows. She was staring dead ahead and ignored his approach. Before he reached her, he heard his name called. He turned around to see the ward sister walking quickly towards him.

“Mr Jones?”

She questioned his identity again. She wasn’t smiling, but wore the nurse’s trademark expression: non-committal, but verging on the concerned. Justin nodded.

“There won’t be any point in talking to Jane just yet,” she said. “I’m afraid she’s not responding at the moment. I told Doctor Donovan – she’s the psychiatrist who examined her – that you were coming over, and she agreed to hang on and talk to you. I’ll take you to her.”

Justin was shown into a small office where a woman in her late thirties was writing notes in a file. She stood up, smiled and beckoned him to take a seat.

“I’m afraid Jane isn’t well,” she began apologetically. “As far as I can tell at the moment, she appears to have entered what’s known as a catatonic stupor. She’s not responding to any sort of outside stimuli and she wouldn’t respond to you or anyone else at the moment. I’m having her transferred to my hospital in Bangor later today where I can do more tests and start some preliminary medication. Once we’ve got things moving properly, she’ll be transferred to a hospital near her home. Are you her next-of-kin?”

Justin was taken off-guard.

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. He explained the situation briefly.

“I see,” replied the doctor. “Well, as you’ve been co-habiting for three months, we’d be prepared to treat you as next-of-kin. Would you want that?”

“No,” thought Justin, instinctively. His mind felt torn into myriad pieces by conflicting considerations. What did he really want? And should that matter? Where did his duty lie? Whose interests should be given prime consideration? And how could he know, in that fevered moment, what options were available and which of them would be best for any party in the circumstances?

Doctor Donovan had an air of calmness and understanding about her, the sort that encourages frankness in others. Justin was a candid sort, and fell easily into explaining the nature of his troubled relationship with Jane. The doctor nodded a few times and made several more notes in the record. She offered no comment until Justin finished, and then said

“I understand how you feel, of course. But I can’t make your decision for you. We’ll deal with Jane’s parents if you prefer.”

Justin still had questions. He decided to ask them in the hope that it might clear his mind a little and help with the decision.

“How does something like this happen? That swarm of gnats was the worst I’ve ever seen, but it was only a swarm of gnats. Do you think she has some sort of a phobia or something?”

“No,” replied the doctor with certainty. “Catatonic states aren’t caused by single, traumatic events. They’re extensions of some older and deep-seated condition, like schizophrenia or manic depression. I’d say that Jane has been suffering something of that sort for a long time. But of course, it takes some sort of stimulus to push the chronic condition into something as extreme as this. It seems likely that your experience in the wood did that.”

The revelation hardly helped Justin to crystallize his response. So, the Jane he had started to have an affair with six months earlier, and with whom he had been having such difficulty for the past three months, had been suffering from a serious mental condition all along.

He wasn’t surprised. It made sense of everything. Maybe he, or somebody else, should have recognised the fact. Maybe they had. Maybe they had all averted their eyes from something they hadn’t wanted to see. Should that make him all the more determined to put distance between them, or should it invoke his pity and generate a proper sense of duty? He asked another question.

“How long is the treatment likely to take?”

“Well, catatonic states don’t usually last long once we’ve got the medication going. There have been a few cases that have gone on for months, but that’s extremely rare. The long term problem, of course, is another matter. I couldn’t even begin to hazard a prognosis on that until we’ve established what the long term problem is.”

Justin – poor, guilt-ridden Justin – heaped further potential guilt upon himself by seeing the situation clearly and making the right decision. One fact was obvious: whatever attraction had lured him into Jane’s bed, and then the centre of her life, had gone now. The pity he had felt for her in the wood had been nothing more than he would have felt for anyone in that situation. If he hung around as Jane’s next-of-kin it would only prolong the agony. He had no doubt that they would part at some point in the not-too-distant future anyway.

“I’d prefer it if you dealt with her parents,” he said.

He felt as though he was trembling, but his statement was decisive.

The doctor accepted his decision and took some details from him. Justin rose to leave. He wondered whether he should say goodbye to Jane. The doctor read his indecision.

“I don’t think there’d be much point in seeing her,” she said. “I doubt she would recognise you anyway.”

Justin nodded, offered his thanks, and left.

He drove back to their digs in a haze. He packed his own clothes in one bag and Jane’s in another. He paid the bill and then drove to the hospital where he left Jane’s clothes with reception. Then he headed home. He knew there would be practical matters to be tied up, but his mind was occupied by more fundamental considerations.

He was not a psychiatrist, and so he was unable to make full allowance for Jane’s mental condition. How many of her personality traits were endemic and how many were due to her condition, he was unable to judge.

What did strike him was the way in which she had always managed to close off her mind to those difficult things she didn’t want to face. Her lack of guilt, the overdose, the hysterical coma, and now this catatonic stupor; they all seemed to demonstrate her evasive way of dealing with the uncomfortable. Her current condition seemed to be just the latest example of that. Did that make life easier for her, or harder, he wondered. Was it a blessing or a punishment?

“The wages of sin is death,” came into his mind. “Or madness” he said quietly. Was he being unkind in seeing it in those terms? He couldn’t tell, not at the moment.

He reflected on his own nature, which was very different. He had to face everything head-on. He was painfully aware of the effects that every one of his actions had on the lives and well-being of others. It wasn’t in his nature to evade the consequences; and when the effect of his actions caused suffering to the innocent, that consequence was always the same. Guilt.

He was already suffering guilt over his wife and daughter. And now he felt guilt over his decision to leave Jane – the woman he now knew was not entirely responsible for her actions - to the care of the medical profession and her family.

He knew that her parents would blame him for her condition. Her husband, who already had enough reason to hate him, would blame him for it too. In time, no doubt, Jane’s children would come to blame him. They would all probably ignore what the doctors explained about Jane’s long term problem. And maybe they would be right up to a point.

So where did the gnats fit into this sordid and confusing picture? Who or what had directed them to such a frenzied orgy? Were they the agents of some superior power, visiting retribution on the guilty? Or were they just one of life’s little accidents that had brought a sad and pointless story to its proper conclusion?

This was getting too deep. Justin was confused. For once he closed his mind and concentrated on the road ahead and the landscape of North Wales. But one thought did occur to him. If the wages of sin, and the evasion of its consequences, were madness, what were the wages of accepting responsibility? What were the wages of guilt? The irony seemed sublime.

“More guilt,” he muttered.

About Me

My photo
I've never had money because I've never been driven by money. I received little formal education beyond the age of sixteen, which isn't such a bad thing since you get a different angle on life that way. Learning what you want and need to learn often reveals things that the system's road keeps hidden.
JJ Beazley asserts his ownership of copyright in all works of fiction and non-fiction contained herein unless otherwise stated. Feel free to quote anything if you want to, but please don't nick a story and claim it for your own. That would compromise my chances of getting an anthology published and I'd be a bit miffed.



Followers