CHESTER: Guilt Trip

The day after our zombie friend has  inadvertently wiped out an entire town by the hungry virtue of vice.

“I’m looking for information.” Chester settled onto a barstool. The pub was empty but for a priest slumped at the bar and its bartender who stubbed out his cigarette and took to polishing a glass.

“It’s about the Storied Woods, isn’t it? Just about the only reason folks stop by this godforsaken town.” He rubbed ferociously at the glass, peering closely. “It’s suicide, you know. Nobody ever comes out.”

“I’m aiming to go places no man has ever gone.” False braggadocio there, failing to camouflage the slight quaver of fear that caught in Chester’s throat, and the bartender knew it.

“It’s not that the place is lacking visitors. Just… nobody real comes out. That’s why we don’t mind the likes of you.” The man behind the bar shrugged. “There have been worse.” He put away the glass. “You seem to have a tale caught in your throat. I’m all ears and it’s a slow day.”

Dust settled. The priest woke up. Chester shook his head.

“There’s nobody around, and there ain’t much difference between a bartender and a priest.”

“O-okay. Father, I have sinned.”

“Wot’s that? Heh heh.” The padre nodded at the bartender. “A drink for my new friend, here.”

Chester protested vehemently, suggesting that it would be only a waste of money. The padre wouldn’t hear any of it. “As long as you’re paying,” Chester said, slamming back the shot of corn whiskey. It splashed on the floor, the padre who looked him up and down concluding, “Guess I shoulda listened. So, what’s your grief?”

So the zombie regaled the duo with his sad tale, culminating at the fateful meeting and concluding at the moment he stepped into the pub. The padre smiled a sad smile and said:

“Oncet I brought a boat load of drugs—the boring ones, mind you, antibiotics, aspirin, antibacterials, and all the like—to an impoverished people, they bellies all hanging out like they had gone and swallowed a watermelon whole, who wore pieces of green plastic (PCBs?) they found in the wastes through in their ears and noses and mouths and tongues and Lord knows what else, and I helped them.”

The padre settled his cheek against the smooth bar. Each burst of breath threw a fan of steam on the polished surface. He sat up, his fingers compulsively scrabbling for his brandy.

“I wanted to help them. The medicines I brought were corrupted. Poisoned. They died by the hundreds, painfully. An entire culture vanished before my eyes, and I was the one responsible.” The brandy tumbled golden in its glass until it disappeared into the padre’s mouth. He brought raw, blood etched eyes to bear onto Chester. “I lost my faith. In everything. The Lord, he had made me an angel of death. And why? To these people who most needed his help. I could not accept it.”

He gestured at the bottle. “I drowned myself in a sea of escape. I floundered in these dark and filthy”—nobody noticed the bartender nodding to himself. He knew too well, having had to replace his mop one time more than he preferred—“places until the Lord sent me a message loud and clear.”

The padre slapped the bar top with both hands. “It was you, Chester. You slaughtered an entire town by virtue of your raw hunger, unbridled with your selfish purpose. Me, I was trying to help, and help I did.”—bright beaded eyes raised towards the heavens—”I delivered them from their earthly prison, their pain and suffering, into the bosom of the Lord! I’m not a monster like you. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“More brandy! It’s a time of celebration!” cried the padre. “So Chester, my green drippy friend, thank you! From now on, I drink for recreation only, not guilt!”

The bartender chuckled at that. “It’s business either way.”

The padre glared at him, as if saying see if ya get a tip, and took the proffered brandy. Chester was looking at the priest with horror. His guilt had doubled, trebled. What remained of his heart palpitated with regret.“Are you sure you’re a priest?”

“Who, me? No!” Guffaws. “T-that’s rich. You thought I was a p-priest?” Wiping laugh tears from the corners of his eyes, the man who looked like a priest told Chester an undependable tale of a whore with a heart of gold, a priest with a fish in his knickers, and himself, a man in the right place at the right time, who had the most to gain from it all. “Look!” he said, lifting a fish from his cassock. “Ain’t that a beaut?”

Shuddering, Chester left the pub and wandered until he fell into a farmer’s pen. Something pushed roughly at him amid curious snorts. After a while, he awoke engorged and covered in blood, sprawled smack dab in bull’s eye circle of stiff hogs with hollowed out brains.

He ran screaming into the morning as the cock crowed.

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