The humming of the fluorescent lamp and the rhythmic dripping of the leaking pipe were the only sounds in the cellar despite the presence of two men. One of the men sat patiently on a table rolling a button between his fingers in sync with the drips. The other was bound to a bed, stripped to his boxer shorts and vest. Gaffer tape sealed his mouth, an old rag wrapped around his head covered his eyes while his arms and legs were tied to each corner of the bed.
The man on the bed started writhing as he regained consciousness and realised his predicament. Kevin sauntered over, removed the rag and waited for the man’s eyes to adjust.
“Hello Joseph. Be a good man, would you? I’m going to remove your gag. I don’t want you screaming, not that anyone could hear you. I would like to have a little conversation. Are you okay with that?” said Kevin.
Joseph nodded frantically, still disoriented. Kevin removed the gag and Joseph swallowed as much air as he could. The cold and damp didn’t agree with him and he coughed quickly afterwards.
“Settle down, Joseph. We’re not in a rush. You’re retired now, nothing for you to rush home for.”
“What — what do you want from me?”
“As I said just a little chat.” Kevin gave him a forced disconcerting smile. “You don’t know me, but you did know my little brother.”
Joseph stared hard at Kevin, hoping some familiar features might jog his memory.
“It was quite a while back. We’ve all grown up and changed. Quite a lot actually. My brother changed. You helped him with that.”
Joseph began to show fear in his face. Memories invaded his consciousness. Too many past sins to know which one had caught up with him this time.
“Remember this, Joseph?” Kevin placed the button on the little table next to the bed.
Joseph’s eyes widened. He began to hyperventilate.
“I see you do remember.” Kevin waited for Joseph to regain his composure. Joseph got his breathing under control and began to cry.
“Now, now Joseph. No need to cry. Isn’t that what you used to say? This is the will of God.”
“I don’t know what you mean. You must have mistaken me for someone else.”
Kevin laughed. “Come on Joseph, don’t be silly. I can see it in your eyes. You remember this button. You remember all the buttons. This one you gave to my brother at the children’s home. You placed it next to his bed to let him know he was invited to do God’s work that evening.”
Joseph shook his arms and legs, trying to break free.
“That’s what you did, wasn’t it? You tied them down to the bed, using God to justify your actions and then you violated them. You stole their purity, their innocence. You destroyed their soul, just for your own gratification, not God’s.”
“It was God’s will. He lives through me. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Kevin couldn’t hide the disgust from his face. He stared at him in disbelief before continuing. “Do you know how I got this button? I found James crying in his room. He told me everything. How he cried at night, how each time he buttoned his shirt he’d break into a sweat, how his bed whispered to him at night it’s Gods will. He leapt from the window that night. I grasped his hand but he wouldn’t hold on. He slipped through my fingers and left this button in my hand. Do you know what it’s like to be so helpless and watch someone you love fall to their death?”
“I have nothing to fear. God will save me.”
“Your God left you a long time ago.” Kevin picked up the button, turned his head towards the door and nodded. “I found more people with these buttons. They’d like to say hello.”
Fifteen men between the ages of 26 to 35 walked in single file around the bed, until they made an unbroken circle. They all stared down at Joseph, their eyes soulless. They were all broken, shells of the men they should have become. Joseph fought harder to break his bonds but to no avail. The first man took his button from his pocket and forced it into Joseph’s mouth. He held his hand over Joseph’s mouth until the next man did the same.
Kevin was the last man to do it. The men all stood and watched as Kevin pinched Joseph’s nose. Joseph could do no more but swallow. He immediately started choking and fighting against his ropes. It took two minutes for his life to leave him.
The men left in silence.
Kevin stood at the end of the bed. “Good luck with God, Father Joseph.” He left and closed the door.