"Unlock it," Cain said with a stiffly commanding tone.
The guard knew enough to be quietly obedient. He unlocked the cell door for this unscheduled, unorthodox visit, and then he hastily left. Duke trailed Cain into the cell. Every cell in the block had been emptied, thanks to a little Fellowship clout. They were utterly alone with the prisoner.
"You betrayed me, Cain," the prisoner said, "You broke our deal."
"A deal with the devil is made to be broken. You served your purpose and now you'll get proper justice. Take pride in the fact that you helped promote tolerance for once and not this."
Cain grabbed the prisoner's right shirtsleeve and angrily tore it off, to reveal a faded tattoo, worn by unprofessional attempts to remove it, but still unmistakable. It was a snake coiled around a swastika.
"You're a monster, Cain. You're a monster for what you do."
"And you're a monster for what you believe!" Cain screamed.
"I believed it once! I denounced it a hundred times, and suffered a million times trying to remove that stain from my soul and my arm. It still hasn't come away completely in either place."
"Yes, I see you tried to scrape off your tattoo with a knife. But it's not that easy. It takes laser surgery. And how could a high profile mayor explain to a doctor the tattoo that needed to be removed? So you were forced to keep it. It's still there...and you still believe."
The mayor smiled strangely. It wasn't smug, it wasn't condescending, it wasn't even joyful. It was a smile of comprehension.
"You know, you and I are the same."
"We are not!" Cain fairly roared, "Our beliefs are polar opposites!"
"Oh, yeah, Cain? What do you believe?"
"'The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty,'" Cain said.
"George Bernard Shaw, yes," the mayor said, picking up on the quote, "And I once believed that certain supermen were gods, and sub-humans deserved nothing but death. Ideologically different, right? But the things we do are the same. Murder, blackmail. Just in the name of one thing or another. Maybe you truly believe, maybe you don't. Either way, you still commit those crimes. Just as I did once. It's like the way Stalin and Hitler used to condemn one another. They both did the same things, but they did them in the name of different ideologies."
"I've had enough of you," Cain said slowly, "Faith is a man's core. Actions are secondary. And you will be punished for your monstrous faith."
"No, I will be punished for my actions."
"Faith," Cain said, "Come on, Duke."
And they left.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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