Another from Weaponizer. A familiarity with the Rolling Stones may help in understanding this one.
“Did you sleep the sleep of the just?” The well-dressed man asked.
I looked around the little room and took in its bare walls and simple furnishings. There wasn’t even a window. I sat on the edge of a neatly kept cot. He sat on a wooden chair.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“Ah,” he replied. “So that’s how it’s going to be. You are in your room.”
I looked around again. The statement was absurd. I didn’t recognize the room, how could it be mine? Yet, I couldn’t recall what my own room should look like. How could that be the case?
The well-dressed man was smiling. “Do you remember anything? Do you remember your name? Or mine?”
I didn’t. The realization startled me, but I remembered absolutely nothing before waking just minutes ago. I said, “No,” then waited anxiously for him to tell me, to pierce the dark cloud that hung over my memory.
“Let’s take a different tact,” he said. “How do you feel?”
I thought about it. “I feel fine,” I answered. “I am tired, like the night was long and full of strenuous work, but physically my body feels strong. I have no particular aches or pains of which to complain.”
He nodded and continued to smile. “Look at your hands. Examine them.”
I found I didn’t want to do as he said. Something about his smile was bringing dread to my heart. I had to force myself to look down at my hands. They were thin and pale and etched with lines.
“Your fingernails,” he whispered. “Look closely.”
There were dark stains under the edges of my nails. I examined them closely, the dread creeping up on me. “Blood?” I asked.
“Yes, very good. And how do you feel, now?”
I felt like my nerves would surely tear me apart. The fear and the dread had a firm grip on me. They would do their work and they would do it well.
“Fine,” I answered. “I feel fine.”
“Of course you do.” The well-dressed man stood from his chair and stepped closer to me for just a moment. I thought he was going to touch me and the very thought chilled me to the bone. He was so close that I felt sure that I would feel his breath upon my cheek but I felt nothing.
“When do you think it is,” he whispered.
“When?” I replied, puzzled by the question.
“What year do you believe it to be?”
“I don’t know.”
“I… I don’t know.”
“What century is it, do you think?”
I shook my head violently. “I don’t know. Please, stop.”
“Oh that’s ironic,” he said. He was back in his chair now, sitting comfortably. Watching. “She used those same words. Remarkable.”
“I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll get there, don’t you worry.”
I found myself shivering and realized that the temperature in the room felt like it had dropped by several degrees in the last few moments. I looked at the well-dressed man, but he showed no sign of discomfort.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I really have no idea. Are you a doctor?” I looked about the room once more. “Am I in a hospital? Or an asylum?”
“Not this time.”
“This time?” I asked, growing frustrated.
“We have danced this dance before, you and I. So many times. But the result is always the same. You seek to cleanse your hands but you can never cleanse your soul.”
I looked right at him, but I did not see him. Instead, I saw my hands again, covered in blood, certain that the blame was not mine to bear.
“You are no priest,” I said.
“No,” he agreed. “I am far from that.”
“I have done nothing wrong,” I said.
“You’re sure of that? With no memory of what happened, this time or the times before, you are still sure that the blood on your hands is not of your doing? Remarkable.”
The room felt even colder. I could feel his indignation like a tangible presence in the room. Even worse, I could feel my mind beginning to open, and I knew that whatever it held in its dark recesses, I wanted no part of it.
“You were there,” I whispered. “You urged me to turn away. You said it was not my concern.”
“Of course I did,” he replied. “That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done.”
“Then why do you torment me now?”
“Because you feel no guilt,” he said, and for the first time I heard the anger in his voice.
“I did nothing wrong.” The memories were flooding back. Not just from this time, but from all the times before.
“You let them hang an innocent man. You knew that he had done nothing wrong and you let them take him anyway. Even as his wife pleaded for you to stop them.”
“There was nothing I could have done. They would have taken him regardless of my decision.” I felt the weight behind my words.
“You’ve used that same argument in your defense for centuries. You used it in Germany. You used it in Russia. You used it in the court of Kings. And you used it in Judaea.”
“It was not my fault.”
“How do you bear this burden, Pontius? I tire of playing this eternal game with you, I want your guilt and I want your damned soul. The blame is yours.”
“I wash my hands of this,” I said.
“Of course you do,” he replied. “You always wash your hands of it. That is the reason that we keep ending up in this room, you and I. You take no responsibility.”
“I WASH MY HANDS OF THIS!” I shouted.
And the well-dressed man was gone. I looked down at my hands. They were clean, even under the edges of my nails.
I stood and walked from the room, out into the brightness of a new day. A new beginning.