Last Chance Saloon

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

27th November 2015
He has a face that would give children nightmares. He wears tatty clothes and his feet and his boots seem to be welded together. He stands by the door for a moment, surveying the room as a robber might look at a bank. His eyes are glittering black, hungry. His hands are clenches of sinew. He takes on the room in his glance. Everyone but me shrinks from his gaze.

I paid a lot to come in here and watch him arrive. Any price would have been worth it. I want to see every second of his discomfort and his pain as Truth dawns on him. He walks to a table in the middle. Those sitting there scatter under his withering stare. He sits, legs apart, feet claiming the floor in those clarted, dangerous boots.

He raps on the table and it quivers. 'Bring me a beer,' he shouts. The barman - same one as when it was my turn in here - draws him a pint and takes it to him. He slams it down on the table.

'How much?' the man asks.

'Oh, you'll pay. In good time,' the barman replies, and goes back behind the bar, back to polishing glasses and watching the door.

The man gulps on his beer, grimaces. 'Tastes like shit,' he says, banging his hand on the table. The barman ignores him.

I can see everyone trying not to notice him. I've been watching them all for a while, seeing them come in, accept the confusion, sit and drink, make small talk, watch the rear door open, watch what happens next, see the Truth dawn, watch them cry. Or laugh. Or smile. They don't make eye contact with newcomers; they wait until everyone's on the same page and pass knowing, sometimes desperate looks between themselves. Most of them accept things, remember, give in. A few fight it, try to go back out, realise they can't.

Everyone I've watched goes out of that rear door eventually. Some have to stay weeks; some minutes. For me, it was hours. Coming back is all right. Better than I thought but even if it was awful, even if it terrified me all over again I'd not miss this.

Everyone leaves through that door but he won't. Nobody will come for him. And I will watch and I will feed on his misery.

With me it was a girl at school I bullied. I'd felt shame about it my whole adult life. Everything else I'd atoned for, apologies given, making up done. For most people it's like this, as we get older we learn and we do the right thing and we make things right before we go.

Some don't. And for the man with the terrifying face, it will be hell.

I watch as a woman steps in through the rear door and searches the faces in the bar. She sees a younger version of herself who cries out and runs to her. I hear her tearful 'Sorry' from where I am. Forgiveness is instant, arms shimmer as they wrap around each other. A glow emanates from them as they leave the bar.

I didn't know that it's not a bar for everyone. For some it's a park, a restaurant, for some it's a waiting room, a playground, a lounge. People see a theatre, a bus, a school cafe. For me it was a bar. And my way out was the girl from school. I was so happy to see her; I felt all the sorrows and the uncertainty leave me. I was fortunate, for me it was easy.

For him it'll be hell. He will sit at that table for eternity, watching everyone leave him.

I drink my drink; I watch the door. I watch the man, I watch everyone else ignoring him.

Time passes but time is different here.

Sixteen people have come and gone by the time Tina enters. I knew they'd send her; she was the one most damaged. But behind her are more; each person I recognise from the news stories. There are all the girls, the young women, a child of three. Sorrow bites when I see him. I watch them come in and stand with Tina. The room expands to contain them all. There are twenty-three people here by the time the door closes again. I never knew it was so many. They all stand, as one. The man hasn't noticed. He's cleaning under his nails with a knife, talking to himself.

Why aren't they moving?

I know he won't apologise, and an apology would not do, not ever. He could say sorry for a thousand years and he would not be admitted. I know this and I am hungry to see it. But they are not moving. The twenty-three stand in silence, regarding him. Some smile sad smiles. Some shake their heads. None of them look afraid. Tina holds the little boy's hand. He points at the man and laughs. The laughter pierces me to the soul, I feel it as an agony of longing.

Then one by one, everyone in the group turns to look at me. I shake my head, point back at him, but they advance, float, over the floor to me. I close my eyes. I get it. Suddenly, I get it. I know why I was allowed to come and watch.

I look NO and several shake their heads. They look back towards the man who has finally noticed us.

First he looks around him in panic. He holds his knife out in front of him and I see his face struggle with the Truth. He puts his hands over his ears - is he hearing us? Our final screams? He shakes his head and stands, knocking over the table and smashing the glass. A terrible silence descends on the bar. He backs up to the wall. The twenty-four of us walk towards him. I don't know what the others see, but I see a field, the last thing on earth I saw as he threw mud on my face and stamped on what was left of me with those boots. The same boots he is wearing now.

We stand in a semi-circle around him. The smallest of us are in front, the tallest behind. His face is horror, inside and out. His dead eyes glitter with tears. I rise up to my full height and sneer at him, look Hate at him, point my finger at him. I don't know what the others are doing; all I can see is him. I want him to shrivel and die in front of us, as the unforgiven are. I want to watch him turn to dust, kick that dust around, stamp on it. I want him to suffer. I feel my hate consume me and I feel fire in my eyes. He looks at me and I see him begin to burn. He shakes his head, and opens his mouth and I think he's going to speak, he's going to try futile words and we can all laugh and jeer at him and watch him dissolve in front of our eyes.

I am burning with triumph, the hot fire of revenge sparks and lights and I am Revenge, and I wait for those around me to join me and finally rid the universe of this devil spirit, this badness, this rotten soul.

Instead, I feel a cool hand on my shoulder. Then another, and another. My fire sputters and struggle and I fight to hang on to the feeling. Another hand touches me, and another, and twenty-three hands are on me and I'm cool again, cold again, exhausted.

Tina puts a finger on my lips. I look at her and see eyes full of forgiveness. I want to ask her, how, but it's against the rules to speak. She becomes compassion, a shining silver shape which hovers and floats to the man. He cowers, now, bows and scrapes before her. I see lines of energy flicker into being and join everyone else to her. She shines brighter and brighter until I can't look. I want to be part of it too but I want to Hate, I want to nurse my anger. It sustains me, keeps my soul alive. It's because of my hate I'm allowed back here to watch his downfall. But then another Truth dawns. I look over to the barman and see he's smiling at me. It's a smile of compassion, of generosity, of friendship. He nods once, twice then goes back to polishing the glasses until they reflect and refract the light into a million tiny beams, bouncing from wall to wall and lighting on the man's chest.

He doesn't deserve this. I want to fight again but my hand is pulled to Tina and I cannot resist the pull. I touch her back and feel a jolt of electricity pulse though me. I am one with them all.

Before us we watch the man change. He turns into a child - and the child amongst us laughs delightedly again. The child he has become is bruised and small, tears streak the dirt on his face. He sits in a pile of rags and chews on a plastic toy. Then he becomes a teenager, sullen-faced and sulky, spotty, skinny, pathetic looking. He's cut and bruised again, and he holds a plastic bag. He looks at us and tried to smile but the light is to bright and he holds a hand up in front of his face. I can see Truth beginning to shine from him now and I hear a wail, anguish and pain in it, as it rises and swells around the room.

So he was abused and beaten too, I think. That is no excuse! But my thoughts are sucked away from me and into the burning cold light that I'm now a part of. What's left is sorrow, for this boy in front of me. We can see his fear and sadness clearly, it's stamped on our souls and it hurts. Now he's a man, a young man in rags, eating something off a bone, dragging himself though his days. he was never found, I realise, and he learned to hate.

Now he's an adult, a terrifying angry ball of negativity and he learns to kill. But with each kill, his self loathing gets greater and we can see it as a greenish red tinged aura all around him. He's in jail, he's beaten again, he's falling down and down and he finds meth and then he kills again. When he dies, when we've watched his whole life unfold before our eyes, all that's left is a husk of a man with a hard outser shell. There's nothing left of him.

He returns to normal and even the sight of the boots fails to nudge me back to hate. His eyes are no longer black and glittering, they are dulled with pain and sorrow and yes, regret. He regrets it all and now he's faced with it he can't see where it all began to go wrong. He's never known love, or peace or comfort. We can see this, see it as if his thoughts are written in the air in front of us.

One by one, he speaks to us. He looks deep down through our eyes and reaches us inside and he says sorry for the man he became and the things he did. His 'sorry', I thought, would never ever be enough. But in it I see my own freedom. As he speaks to us one by one by one I feel the light we have made grow brighter and brighter, a clean light that burns with emotion, many many emotions which all boil down to one pure feeling.


Now we are twenty-five and we move as one, taking him straight through the door at the back of the bar.