General Fiction posted February 21, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
it must be answered

The Call...

by giraffmang


Callum Brown lowered himself onto the threadbare armchair. The bare bulb above cast his shadow long across the scuffed, wooden floor, his unruly hair giving it a comical look. Running his hands through its thickness, attempting to tame the wild locks, he let out a huge sigh.

He removed the white collar from his shirt and placed it on top of the well-thumbed Bible that lay open on a side table, closed his eyes and started to pray. ‘Please forgive me, Father, for what I am about to do.’

There is nothing to forgive, my son.

The words resonated deep within him. His body pulsed with energy, despite the heaviness weighing on his thoughts. Wiping away an errant tear, he said, ‘I’m not sure I can do this.’

You have prayed and I have answered. My will be done.

‘Is there no other way?’

My will be done.

Opening his eyes, Callum took three deep breaths and heaved himself out of the chair.


Callum continued to rub at his hands long after the draining water stayed clear. Is it that simple? Can guilt be washed away so easily?

Do not feel guilt for carrying out my will. I called, you came. Another life is saved.

‘It’s just so hard.’

Faith isn’t easy, my son.

Callum raised his gaze from the sink and peered into his own haunted eyes. He fumbled for the towel and dried his hands.

Rest now, Callum. I will call for you again… soon.

Returning to the old armchair he’d left several hours earlier, he retrieved the Bible, knocking the white collar to the floor. It landed with a dull thunk causing him to pause. He stared at the brightness of the collar against the hardwood floor, remembering the misplaced pride he’d experienced on first wearing it. Not being able to bring himself to pick it up, he trudged from the small room, tossing the Bible on the armchair as he passed.

Flopping onto his bed, Callum sighed and spoke into the ether, ‘Father?’

Callum closed his eyes and focused deep within himself. He called out once more. ‘Father?’

He lay in silence until exhaustion overtook him and he fell into a restless sleep.


Standing by the graveside, staring at the waiting-to -settle earth, Callum struggled to get the violent images out of his head. The service went well; he’d kept composed and professional.

‘Father Brown?’

Callum jerked his head around at the unexpected interloper. A sandy-haired youngster of about seventeen shuffled from foot to foot under Callum’s gaze. ‘Ah, Timothy, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, Father.’

‘Sorry for your loss, son.’ Callum avoided eye contact.

‘Yeah. Ah… my sister, Anne, wanted to ask you over for the wake. It’s at--’

‘I know where it is.’ Callum smiled and hoped the boy wouldn’t ask him how.

‘Will you come?’

‘I don’t think so. Pass my apologies to Anne, and your mother. I’m not feeling terribly well.’ Callum turned and walked away.

Timothy stared after the tall priest. ‘Well that was a bit abrupt.’


Callum scraped the mud from his shoes before entering the manse. He shrugged out of his overcoat, letting it fall to the cold, tiled floor. Kicking off his shoes, he padded through to the small kitchen and switched on the kettle.

You should have gone to pay your respects.

‘I couldn’t. Not knowing what he did… what I did.’

You saved the girl.

Callum dropped a teabag into a grubby cup and poured the boiling water in. A cursory stir and he whipped out the bag. ‘She seemed genuinely upset at the service, like she really loved--’

You saw the signs. You asked, I answered. You called, I came. Are you not the man of strong faith I took you for?

Callum hung his head and shuffled down off to his bedroom, leaving the untouched tea behind him.

He slept fitfully that night, and awoke bathed in sweat, violent images still fresh in his mind. He fumbled with the bedside lamp, needing several attempts before its low bulb cast a weak glow. This can’t go on.

My son, be not afraid. I am with you and there is much to be done.

Easing himself from the bed, Callum padded barefoot into the small bathroom. He cupped water in his hand and washed the sweat from his face, enjoying the coldness.

I am with you, my son. I release you from your worries. Trust in me.

Callum screwed his eyes closed and took a few deep breaths. ‘What will you have me do?’

Go to the confessional. The answers lie within.

Sighing, Callum returned to the bedroom, pulled on his black trousers, shirt, and shoes before leaving his rooms and making his way through the adjoining door to the main chapel. He trailed his hands over the smooth, old pews as he walked between them, pausing in the aisle.

Sometimes he liked to come to the church in the early hours of the morning to pray. It was where he first heard the call. On bended knee in front of the giant crucifix adorning the wall behind his pulpit, God spoke to him directly for the first time. Not through His word as laid forth in the scriptures, but with a voice deep within.

Callum shook away the memory and made his way up the aisle.


Callum did as he was bid.

Why do you shake away the memory?

‘I… I don’t know.’

You have doubts. I know this, my son, but what is faith without conviction? You are one of the chosen few to deliver my word.

‘I know, Father.’ Callum stared down at the well-worn runner leading to the confessional box.

But more than that, I have called you directly to do my express bidding. The time for sermons has passed. Now I must intervene once more. You are my vessel for action.

‘I don’t understand--’

You don’t need to understand. You need to carry out my will.

Callum waited for more. He struggled for breath as the air around him grew thick and hot. He gripped the edge of the nearest pew attempting to lower himself to the wooden bench as his legs buckled beneath him. Callum collapsed, his head ricocheting between two pews.

He managed a whisper before the world went black. ‘Father…’


‘Father, are you okay?’

Callum’s eyelids fluttered a few times. He lifted a hand and grasped the seat of the pew above him, pulling himself up to a sitting position; his other hand rubbing the back of his head for injuries.

‘What happened, Father?’

Blinking several times, Callum was able to focus on the source of the voice. ‘I’m okay, Florence. Just a little dizzy.’

Florence set down her duster and polish and put an age-spotted hand on Callum’s shoulder. ‘Dizzy, eh? Have you been at the communion wine? You wouldn’t be the first priest to have a tipple. Old Father Flynn--’

‘I said I’m fine.’ A touch more firm than necessary.

Florence withdrew her hand at the sternness in Father Brown’s voice. ‘A… as long as you’re okay. I’ll get back to my cleaning then.’

Callum made a conscious effort to adjust his tone. ‘Thank you, Florence. I really am fine.’

Callum struggled to his feet, dusted himself off and made his way to the confessional box. Checking to see if Mrs Hansen was still watching him, he slipped inside and took a seat.

The answers lie within. The answers lie within. Callum let the words wash over him as he centred himself, opening himself up to guidance. He leant forward, elbows resting on knees, hands clasped together.

…lies within. Callum smiled. Yesterday’s confessionals.

Hear me.

Callum bolted upright. ‘John Patrick.’

A habitual sinner.

‘Adultery. Repeated sin…’

Is unrepentant sin. My will be done.


Callum sat, cross-legged, in the corner, deep in the shadows.

In the far corner of the cellar a blindfolded, naked man sat strapped to a chair with plastic cable-ties. Angry red welts covered his upper torso, mingling with blue bruises, blood and swelling. He whimpered as he struggled against his bindings, the gag in his mouth preventing the screams. Stones and small rocks littered the earthen floor.

Callum stared at John Patrick… the adulterer.

It is time, my son.

Rising to his feet, Callum took a few steps toward his captive and crouched before him. He reached out a hand and pulled the gag from John’s mouth.

John gasped, drawing in large gulps of air. He coughed several times before managing a hoarse whisper. ‘Who’s there?’

‘It’s okay, John. Everything’s going to be all right.’

John cocked his head. ‘Father Brown, is that you?’

Callum removed the blindfold.

John blinked a few times until his eyes became accustomed to the dim light. ‘Oh, thank God.’


Callum smiled, turned and walked a couple of steps away.

‘Wait. What’s going on, Father?’ John stared at the priest, bewildered. ‘How did I get here? How did you find me? I… I can’t remember anything after--’

‘After you left her house.’


‘After you left her house again. How many times, John? How many times have you come to me for absolution; five, six, more?’

Panic flashed in John Patrick’s eyes. He strained against the cable-ties, but to no avail. ‘Is that what this is about? Did Colleen put you up to this?’

‘Your wife knows nothing about this. This is between you, me, and God.’ Callum turned to face the bound man.

‘Oh my God… you did this to me. But, why?’

‘You really shouldn’t take His name in vain. You are in enough trouble as it is. You, John Patrick, are an unrepentant sinner--’

‘You’ve gone insane--’

Callum raised his voice. ‘Don’t interrupt me again… You think you can come to me and be forgiven again and again. Well, John Patrick, no more. He has had enough. Mankind has been given every opportunity to change its ways, but it never does. The time for tolerance has passed. Now it is time for a new lesson.’

Callum looked on in disgust as urine trickled down John’s legs and pooled on the earth at his feet. ‘Any last words, John?’

As John opened his mouth to speak, Callum reached down and grabbed a fist-sized rock from the ground.


Callum perched on the cemetery wall and stared at the heavens, moonlight reflecting off the gravestones. The stars shone overhead in the cloudless sky. ‘Beautiful.’

Yes. It is, my son.

‘Where do we go from here?’

Onward. Until we are done.

‘I am only one man.’

One man can change the world.

‘Not like this.’

No, my son. Not like this, but it is a start. Everything has a beginning. You are my beginning.

‘And what will follow?’

The end of days, my son. The age of revelation has begun.

Callum sat in silence for a few more minutes before hopping off the wall and picking his way through the headstones. He paused at the church doors, a cold shiver running down his spine. It had nothing to do with the coolness of the night…


Over the next three weeks, Callum prayed. He worried and pleaded, begged and cried. No matter what he did, God remained silent. Callum couldn’t eat much before nausea set in. Every time he closed his eyes horrific images filled his mind. Distraction proved difficult for the man of the cloth. Every show on television depicted depravity in some way. The news seemed to confirm that the age of revelation was indeed at hand. Bombings, shooting, riots, rape abounded, even on the local channels.

On Friday evening, Callum sat at the worn table in his room, a blank sheet of paper and an open Bible in front of him. The clock on the mantel piece mocked him as the seconds, minutes, then hours ticked by. The page remained blank. No sermon emerged.

Callum ran a hand over his face, noticing his sallow cheeks for the first time. The roughness of his chin made an unaccustomed rasping. He ran a hand through greasy hair and sighed, before slumping over the table.


Callum groaned, eyelids fluttering, and reached a hand to rub the back of his neck. He peeled the drooled-on piece of paper from his face as he sat up. Early morning sunlight dappled through the grimy window above the table.

He crumpled the empty page and threw it in the waste bin. Pushing back his chair, Callum got up and stretched. The small carriage clock chimed six. Callum picked up the Bible and began leafing through the pages. Still inspiration wouldn’t come. ‘What am I to do now?’

It will come.

Stopping flicking the pages, Callum cocked his head, unsure if he’d heard correctly.

I’m here, my son.

‘I thought you’d forsaken me.’ Callum managed a dry-throated whisper.

No, my son. I have been tending to the others.

‘The others… like me?’ He raised his head to stare at the ceiling.

Indeed. There is much to be done. The world is falling apart.

‘I’ve watched the news. Human depravity is manifest.’

Sin separates…

‘…man from God.’ Callum’s eyes glazed over.


‘And the world must be--’


A spark ignited in Callum’s eye, mind and heart. A spark that flourished as he cast his eyes upon the opened Bible in his hand.


Callum wiped the sweat from his brow with a stained hand before re-entering the church. He took great care to ensure that everything sat in readiness for morning mass. The drapes suitably arranged, he moved onto the pews and the cloth kneeling pads; making sure the Bibles and hymn sheets were set out. Callum smiled as he breathed in the hot, thick air.

After completing preparations, he took up his customary position outside the front doors at the top of the steps. The position held a great vantage spot over the parking lot and of the congregation ascending the steps.

Today, things were different. Callum greeted each member of his flock with a curt nod as they made their way inside. Most barely noticed the change, engrossed with their cell phones and catching up with friends. As the last of the church members filed past him to take up their usual seats, Callum cast his gaze anew around the parking lot at the shining, pristine vehicles.

Is all in readiness, my son?

Callum took a deep breath, let it out evenly, turned and strode into the church, closing the doors behind him. He stood for a moment at the rear of the church, trying to pick out specific conversations. Snippets of conversation floated to him –

‘Do you see what she’s wearing?’

‘I deserved that promotion more than him. He’s a jerk.’

‘I need that new iPhone Janie has. I’m still using last year’s model.’

Eyes ablaze, Callum marched to the pulpit. He’d never been a ‘fire and brimstone’ preacher, but things were different now.


The strength of Callum’s voice shocked the congregation. A light, nervous laughter trickled round the flock.

Callum gave a wry smile before speaking. ‘I look around the church today, and I am saddened by what I see. Today I look upon you with new eyes and I realise just how blind I have been in my tenure here. I looked the other way. I believed that to forgive was divine and I strove to meet that divinity, but times have changed.’

A deafening hush fell over the assembled church goers, all eyes on Father Brown. An uncommon occurrence.

Callum continued, ‘Today’s sermon will be a little different. Just for today I want there to be no interruptions, no distractions. I have an important message for each and every one of you.’

Callum stepped from the pulpit to the front of the church. Every eye followed his uncharacteristic movements. Bending to retrieve a couple of collection plates, he walked to the end of the first row and handed them to a confused looking Florence Hansen.

His smile shook her to the core.

He walked to the central aisle and outstretched his arms. ‘Now, this morning, I ask that you all silence your cell phones and place them in the plate that Florence is about to pass around. I’m sure you can live without them for the remainder of your time here today.’

Florence, not owning a cell phone herself, passed the plate straight on.

Callum watched as the plates rapidly filled with expensive smartphones. He waited in silence until the plates reached the back rows. ‘Please just set them on the candle table by the door, they’ll be in easy reach when exiting the church.’

Callum’s eyes darted from parishioner to parishioner, daring anyone to challenge him. Most dropped their gaze. ‘I wonder how much money is sitting in those plates at this very moment. Certainly more than has been in the collection box for the year so far.’

Another bout of uncertain giggling broke out.

‘I wasn’t joking. I watched as you all drove up here today in your beautiful cars.’ Callum took a few steps down the aisle, allowing his hands to rest on the backs of the pews as he did so. ‘Dressed in your finery, concerned with your daily lives and I wondered what has become of us. Many years ago, God set me on a path. That path led me here today… to this very moment. Sometimes I have doubted that path, but not today. Not when I look around this very church.’

People began to squirm, but it had nothing to do with the hard, wooden pews.

‘You see, a few months ago, God came to me again. To set me on another path. He revealed things to me that before I had not seen, or perhaps did not want to see.’

Callum slapped his hands together - a gunshot in the silence. The congregation jumped. ‘Good, I see we’re all awake. I want to tell you a story. One that will resonate with every single person amassed here. I first heard this in seminary, and it seems fitting for the times. One of the old saints, I can’t remember which, partook of a journey. During this journey, he came upon two travellers, and he fell in with them for a while. It wasn’t long before he divined each’s true nature. One greedy, avaricious, and covetous, the other envious and jealous.’

Callum reached the end of the aisle, spun around, and headed back toward the pulpit. ‘When it came time to part, the saint offered a parting gift… a wish. Whomever wished first would have that wish fulfilled. However, the other man would get double. What a dilemma for these two unsavoury characters. The greedy man knew what he wanted but he wanted the double portion, so he knew he couldn’t ask first.’

Pausing halfway down the aisle, Callum rested a tremoring hand on the shoulder of a well-dressed lady in an extravagant hat. She raised her head to look at the Father but quickly lowered her gaze from his intense stare.

Callum moved on. ‘The envious man was also unwilling to wish first as he detested the thought of his companion receiving an abundance of his wish. So, each man waited… and waited. A lengthy impasse ensued. Eventually, the greedy man rounded on the envious man…’

Callum reached the front and pivoted, arms out wide, fists clenched, fire in his eyes. ‘… and seized his companion by the throat, fingers digging into his copious flesh. Spitting as he spoke, the greedy man threatened to choke him to death if he did not make a wish.’

Drinking in the silence around him, Callum paused for effect. He opened his hands and dropped his arms to his sides as he inched his way toward the rear of the church, continuing his sermon.

‘The envious man, struggling for breath made his wish. “Very well. I wish to be blind in one eye.”’

Callum reached the church door, the only sound his own steps. ‘I was much like the envious man ended up… blind in one eye. You, my congregation… my flock… my children have become like the greedy man. I listen to your woes, hear your conversations. You always want more, never satisfied.’

A few curious heads turned in Callum’s direction. He stood arms raised out to the sides, head inclined, eyes closed.

Yes, my son. Give them everything they say they want.

Callum opened his eyes and raised his voice. ‘Today is a parting much like that of the saint and the two men. I have one gift to grant. The plank in my eye has been removed, and so, too ,will yours.’

Callum bent down and moved the curtain beneath the candle table to reveal four full canisters of gasoline. With a deft hand he spun the lids off all four and tipped two of them onto their sides. The contents streamed from the cans and snaked its way over the flagstones until it met the carpeted area.

A few men in the congregation stood and shouted.

‘What the hell is going on, Father Brown?’

‘What’s that smell?’

Turning, Callum gathered up the collection plates of cell phones. ‘Just a little taste of what’s to come.’

He lit a candle from the table and lobbed it towards the pooling fuel, then calmly turned and stepped from the church. He dropped the phones on the ground, turned and slammed shut the church doors, locking them.

Callum made his way down the stone steps and into the parking lot as the flames took hold in the church behind him, cleansing the flock of their sin.

Well done, my son.

‘Thank you, Father.’ Callum never looked back. He strode through the parking lot and entered the woods on the far side. He took the overgrown dirt path that meandered through the trees, across the meadow and down to the stream. Before long, the crackling and cracking of the burning church faded in the distance.

Callum paused when he heard the distant wail of sirens. ‘No.’

Worry not. The deed is done.

Kicking off his shoes, Callum perched on the bank with his feet submerged in the cool waters. He enjoyed the coolness and thoughts of John baptising Christ entered his mind. ‘Purification.’

Cleansing by water…

Callum looked over his shoulder and saw the spiralling smoke over the treetops behind him. ‘… and fire.’

The water coursed over his feet. He wiggled his toes. ‘How did it come to this?’

Look hard at yourself, Callum.

He gazed at his distorted reflection on the slow-moving water’s surface.

Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast…

Callum recognised the verse. ‘Revelations 13:18.’

The water sloshing over Callum’s feet began to churn.

For it is of human form…

Callum’s reflection ebbed and flowed on the water’s surface before being torn apart by the current. Laughter echoed through him, but not of his own making. Dark, malevolent laughter. ‘I don’t understand.’

Don’t you know, Callum? Even the devil can quote scripture…

Story of the Month contest entry


Earned A Seal Of Quality
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. giraffmang All rights reserved. Registered copyright with FanStory.
giraffmang has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.