He was there. Alone. His arched figure shadowed by the seats. His torn jacket strewn across his knees, and the slow consistent throb of tears, carving into his face. He was motionless, his eyes clamped under his opened palms. The greased and bleeding back of his hand dripping down to his shaking arms. His fingers were interlaced, the nails rose high and raggedy, brown dirt encrusted into the tips. He had brown hair, covered in a layer of dirt and mud, including thin streaks of blood, lined through. His face was soft, the cheeks showing a tender gentleness, and his mouth curled in a broken sob. I approached him first reluctant, but nonetheless made my way to the child. He was no more than thirteen, if not younger, you could see the childish innocence sparkling through him. I made my way across the red hallway my feet stepping toward his direction. Above, the sound of splattering rain pounded against the roof, and echoed throughout the church. He was fourteen rows back, surrounded by no one. It was only him and I. I took a seat beside him and fell back into a relaxed position. He didn’t notice he just remained in his stance, his hands wrapped tightly around one another, from this close I could see the speckling dirt lining his them. The every wrinkle in him, his features, every pore, and muscle flexing. I outstretched a timid arm, “hello,” I spoke. As though it took the most possible strength in him, he slowly detached his hands, undoing the webbing and setting them besides him, on the arms of the chair. He opened his eyes, and the stark blue was immediate. It was the color of the sky. It was the calm before the storm. The pupil shielded behind it was hazy, a lazy grey. He looked at me like he didn’t trust me, like I was going to hurt him. “Hi,” I repeated, the voice that came out of my mouth was full of hoarse cracks. Nervousness. He nodded as if he didn’t know how to talk, the untrusting glimmer in his eyes remained. I outstretched my arm once again, “Lee,” I said to him. Hesitantly, he extricated the arm off of the chair and put it toward me. He wrapped his hand in mine and we slowly exchanged in an up and down motion. I could feel the mess on his hands, I could tell he had not bathed in weeks or even months. The dirt, highlighted the creases in my hand, and I could feel those too. “Josh,” he whispered, and I could see the water in his eyes rising up, ready to fall again. “Josh, why are you here?” I didn’t know what else to say. He looked up at me, and I saw the tears once again flooding down across him, streaking against his cheeks. “I have no where else to go.” “Where are your parents?” “Gone,” he rasped out. His nimble features began to bend, as his face began to crumple. I looked down to his feet. The drenched sneakers puddling the wood floor beneath me. The drops fell off of Josh’s shoes, in thick, syrupy, black patters. “Gone, where,” I asked him and looked back at his eyes, the nurturing yet violent eyes. They shifted searching the building around me. “Far.” He answered, and locked his eyes to chair in front of him. I watched his body shiver, goose bumps, crowded onto his arms, rising, the hair went upright too. He didn’t have much arm hair yet, for he just was a boy. “Would you like a jacket?” I asked him. Without speaking he pointed to the one across his knees, however, it was sopping wet, forming masses of water onto his legs. “A dry jacket?” I asked. Again he shook his head, and pointed down to his wet one. I realized I was not going to change Josh’s mind, and for about five minutes a silence was shared between us, only the sound of the rain smacking the ceiling was heard. I pondered what to do next. The boy, would not tell me much, and I considered calling the police. It was 11:00 at night. We closed at 10:00. I had been setting up for the next morning, aligning crosses against the walls, and wiping down the glass figures of Mary and Jesus. I had set up band instruments and it was only when I had looked out at the audience area, was when I had seen Josh. The sniffling wreck. It was him that shattered the silence, “what should I do?” He moaned. I looked at him, that was more words, than he had said yet. It was a start. “About what?” I asked scrunching my face in consternation. He breathed in shaky sobs, then he curled his mouth into a wet cry of anger. “I made a mistake.” His voice went down in volume again, his eyes went back to the scared look, as he considered telling me his mistake. “God, forgives you for every sin,” I said to Josh. It seemed to relax his face again and veer his emotions back into control. But then, the anger was back, and his breathing turned into unsteady heaves of air. He was panicking. He looked down, forcing the breath in and out of his mouth. “I left the gate open.” He said to me, and then turned his stare at my eyes. The tears were frozen, stuck in place. “I- i forgot.” I was befuddled, “I’m sorry, I don’t unders-” “It’s my fault,” he cried out into the church. “It’s my fault.” I went to shush him, but his cries went louder and louder, “It’s my fault.” He finally stated for the last time, but the solitary rage still hung in his features. Without warning he lashed out, swinging his fist and nailing the back of the metal chair in front of him with his curled hand. He didn’t wince, instead Josh just lowered his arm. I was shocked, frozen in a thick barrier of confusion. “What’s your fault?” He looked at me, and his pupils now a heavy black, ate at me, chewing at my skin, and nailing my soul. He wasn’t looking at me, he was looking through me. “That she is dead.” I remained still, but my heart flashed in an instant, I could feel the astonishment jolting through my body. “Amy.” He growled. “Who-” “My baby sister.” I looked down at him, to me he looked completely different from when I first saw him, I had seen an innocent boy. Now I saw an innocent boy, trapped in the body of guilt. Had he killed her? I remembered what he had said, ‘I left the gate open.’ “She drowned.” He said, answering my suspicion. I said nothing, basking in the gloominess, being shone under the limelight of tragicness. “It was an accident.” He whispered, “It was my responsibility to close the gate, so she couldn’t get to the pool, and I forgot.” I nodded, accepting the boy’s story, “She escaped her crib?” I asked solemnly. He wrinkled his nose, “yes,” he cracked. “Sr.?” I glanced at him, “call me Lee,” I reminded and then asked, “yes?” “Am I going to hell? He was worried for the answer, his eyes were scrunched, and his lips were just barely parted. “No,” I firmly stated, then insisted it again, “no.” He sighed, and then started shaking, clasping his hands against his forehead. “I ran away.” He moaned to me. This is what I had thought. “Why?” I remarked. He raised his knobby knee and twisted it against his chest. For once I could truly see how slender this boy was. How fatiguely and unhealthily skinny he was. “I kept seeing her in the pool.” His once small stringy segments of speech were now constructed, full sentences. “And every day, the sky would be cloudy. Now in California it’s rare. Every day I would see clouds, only rain. I was hallucinating, seeing the corpse of my baby sister everywhere. I had seizures, due to stress, due to angst, and one day I saw my dead baby who I had killed at the bottom of the driveway. She was waving, motioning for me to come, telling me to follow her.” “So you did?” Josh gulped, and I could hear his adam’s apple winding down the narrow corridor that was his throat. “Only because I wanted to escape the storm, the storm of my mind.” “Where did she lead you?” “Across town. People were searching, my parents were devastated. i would go into stores and eat food in the stores. Dig through trash cans, find newspapers. But my sister kept leading me toward something, she kept motioning me to come, and I could never quite catch up with her.” I was watching his skin, as he shuddered, it broke out into long hairy goose bumps, covering him. “One day i was planning to come home, I was not getting anywhere, I was not going to stop the storm. That was also the day I read my parents had killed themselves.” I nodded, and could feel the Josh’s pain. I could feel the burn in his heart, and the tears trickling in his mind. “So I followed Amy at a sprint, and she led me to Sacramento. I had gone two hundred miles, just to follow my hallucination. It took me weeks. I got here early this morning. She kept guiding me, chastising me through the streets, leading me down detours, avenues, and alleys. Do you know where she led me Lee?” I shook my head. “She led me here,” he bolded every word, “she led me to the door of the church, and for once she stood on the steps, waiting for me to pass her. I walked in the door into the main room and my parents were waiting. They led me hand in hand into the room where we are sitting now.” I tried to focus but his story was riveting, the cathedral around me was twisting, and turning, dipping, and dropping. “Why,” I asked and I realized I was streaming tears, my eyes were glazed in a bleary patch of sight. His eyes looked into mine, “Because, they wanted me to find you.” “Why Josh?” I whispered frantically. “Because, I’m lost, and I need to tell my story.” “Your lost? You don’t know the way home.” “No, I’m lost in a tangle of life, death and religion. I’m ready to go home.” “I can drive you.” I insisted. “No, not that home.” He looked up toward the sky, toward the roof of the cathedral, I knew he saw through the wood, through the dangling chandelier. “Thank you Mr.” He whispered to me and I could see he was shaking his face was still pointed toward the sky. I rested my head on my shoulders, and gusted out a long hearty sigh. I could feel my stomach deflating, the air escaping, and rushing into the church. “Your not going to die, I’m going to take you back to your house.” Josh began sniffling, snorting crackling bursts of snot, as oxygen travelled up his nose. The noise was distorted, and choppy. When he did not respond, I lightly pressed my finger against his shoulder, and the vibrant cold that filled me was awful. I feel that life is a journey, and that when the journey truly fulfilled that is when you die. My wife died of cancer, and I remember the final thing she said to me, crooning her bald head into my shoulder. “I’m done fighting.” In mere hours she was gone. Josh was done fighting too. That was when the shaking started. At first I noticed his tongue, it was flailing, foaming at the tip, and throwing itself against the sides of Josh’s mouth. The next thing I saw, were his eyes, the hazy pupils were now a solid etched black and they were dialating, growing then shrinking. “Josh?” I asked, and he began wildly swinging with his scrawny arms. “Josh,” I shouted louder and more distinctly this time. The foam began to trickle out of his mouth, the bubbles popping at the edge of his lips, bursting on the crest of his face. I sat upright with a bolt, reached over and gripped Josh tightly by the shoulders, digging my fingers into the wet, mud spotted clothes of his. I knew what this was, he was having a seizure. With rigid force, I thrust my fingers into the boy’s mouth. His tongue skimmed my hand, and I felt the sandpapery feel of it, each taste bud dry, and quenching thirst. I snapped at it with my hand, managing to miss it completely. Meanwhile, it threw itself at his throat, trying to clog his futile breaths for air. I snatched at it again, this time clutching it, but not hard enough, because it slipped out of my fingers. A horrible gagging sound was being emitted from his throat, and each gag, jolted his body, thumping it backwards against the chair. I cupped my hands and caught his tongue between them, I then interlaced it between my fingers, and clutched onto it. Again it slipped away from me. I cursed into the church (God Forgive Me) and was brusquely chomped on by Josh’s teeth. I could feel each individual rock, digging into my skin. Immediate pain resulted, and I pulled out, my mouth wide open in surprise. Knowing I could not get a good grip on his tongue, or hold down his sparrattic body for that matter, I did the only thing I thought I could. I picked him up by the shirt, and pushed him into the chair behind me, hoping to stop the convulsions. It did not stop. I shoved him harder, and Josh’s fragile head slammed the porcelain back. I reacted in the moment, I reacted falsely. I curled my fingers into a ball, clenching my hand into a fist and then punched poor Josh in the face. I was hoping it would knock him out, stop the seizure. It stopped his movements a small bit. I swung again. This time he convulsed as I did it, lurching into the air, with his body rattling. My fist made contact with throat, collapsing into the skin. Doctors say, I collapsed the windpipe, stopping all source of breathing, they say his epileptic attack was of stress, was of guilt. All I know it with that quick nail to the throat, killed Josh. He fell back, and his tongue stopped too, and suddenly, his breathing became choked cries for breath. Urgently I knelt down beside him, and saw his neck was indented, and his features were blue. He swiveled his head to look at me in his final moments, and said his goodbyes. “Thank you.” He struggled to speak so he mouthed it to me, and I could tell what he said, “Close the gate.” Josh took one more ragged breath and then stopped moving. Outside the rain petered, and the sound of water splattering faded. The moonlight peaked through the clouds, illuminating through the church’s window. Outside in the night were the shillouettes of four people. There was a woman cradling a baby in her arms, and there was a man gripping his son by the shoulder. I looked down to the corpse splayed on the ground. “I will close the gate.” I rasped. Pleading with myself, sobbing into the dim room. And with that they were gone.