John sits on a bus, listening to the children behind him sing, “Jesus Loves The Little Children.” His eyes are focused straight ahead, on the back of the seat in front of him. He doesn’t know why, but he feels withdrawn, and doesn’t want anyone getting close to him. As if he feels guilty. But what could he possibly be guilty of? He’s done nothing wrong that he can think of. He takes care of his wife and children and does his job every week, at which he’s good. No, nothing to feel guilty about here. Yet this feeling remains...
Suddenly, movement to the right of his focal point. He looks, and a girl sitting in the seat in front of him has turned around and is staring at him. She isn’t like the other children on the bus, the ones singing in the back. She is pale and dirty, the white Sunday dress she wears is ripped at the shoulder. Her sandy hair is tangled and matted despite the headband she wears. She doesn’t smile, but simply stares.
John smiles at her, but gets no smile in return. He says, “Hello there, precious. What’s your name?”
He has an awful feeling that he knows what she is going to say, and feels his stomach sink when she speaks. She asks, “Do you believe in God?”
He does not want to answer, for he fears what might happen if he does. A man like him should believe in God, but he finds himself unable to lie to this child. Uneasily, he says, “I-... I don’t know any more.”
As if this answer has sealed her fate, the girl’s eyes widen with horror. Then the eyes disappear into black empty sockets and her face turns gray. And then it seems to shimmer and run together, until it looks like it is about to drip from her chin. Her hideous toothless mouth opens, but instead of words, out comes a hideous blackness that engulfs everything around her, including John himself. He screams as he falls into the darkness.
John suddenly jerks into wakefulness, panting. It was all a dream. He sits up on the side of the bed and looks around, wondering what happened. This isn’t my room, he thinks. The only thing in the room is the bed, the walls are all white, and the door has a small square of glass in it. He stands up to go look through the window, when suddenly the door opens . . . and in walks the little girl with the torn white dress, pale face, and tangled hair beneath her headband.
He screams, “Stay away from me!”
The girl asks him once more, “Do you believe in God?”
John squeezes his eyes shut and begins to cry.
Outside the door, two men dressed in blue hospital scrubs stand watching him through the window. One of them, whose nametag labels him Paul, asks, “What do we have here?”
The other, labeled Jack, replies, “John Belmont. Formerly Father Belmont. He was driving home from church one stormy Easter Sunday and hit a little girl. Killed her instantly. After that, he started questioning his faith. Quit the priesthood. But shortly after, he started having these dreams and delusions. He sees that little girl and she punishes him. It’s really his mind’s way of punishing himself. I’m not sure if it’s for killing her, or for losing his religion. The therapy sessions suggest it’s a bit of both.”
Paul shakes his head and says, “That’s sad.”
Jack looks at him with a blank expression and asks, “Do you believe in God?”
He nervously looks through the glass at the former Father Belmont, then, as he feels better off to do so, lies, “Yes.”