A horrified scream tore through Dele’s lips as the hammer hit the nail, driving it through his wrist.
Sweat mixed with tears rolled down his brows as blood poured from the wound. “W-why are you doing this?” His question came as a plea, his voice scratchy from all his screaming.
“Why am I doing this?” The hooded man rested the hammer on the bloody surface of the wooden table. “I thought you’d figure that out by now.”
“Figure what out?” Dele’s eyes followed the man as he strolled to a steel table at the left side of the white walled room.
“You are a man of faith, yes?”
“I do not understand.” Dele gritted his teeth when his gaze shifted to his nailed wrist. The ache had reduced to a throb, but the slightest movement caused renewed pain to zing up his arm like a bolt of electricity.
“You will answer every question I ask or I would lose it. And trust me, you don’t want me loosing it.” The hooded man smoothly pulled off his surgical gloves and slapped it on the table surface.
Gulping, Dele nodded. “Yes. I— consider myself a man of faith.”
“Ah, consider. You’re smart to pick that word because I do not consider you to be one. In fact I know you’re a vile, vile human and the God you pretend to serve has sent me to heal you. Yes.” The man turned, facing his direction once more. “He sent me to satisfy justice.”
“Please. There must be a mistake somewhere.” Dele wheezed as fresh pain licked up his arm. He gritted his teeth again. “I am a pastor. I serve the people in love and honesty.”
“Love and honesty? You are a liar, and I have sufficient reasons to bring you here.”
Panic rose in him again. Who was this man? Lingering doubt crept in. Did he know what I did?
Pulling another pair of gloves on, the man began to hum a tune. It was upbeat and merry, like he was enjoying himself. “The bible says we should crucify the flesh.”
The pounding of Dele’s heart throbbed in his ears as the man fingers danced over an array of tools. He picked another nail, much bigger than the one pinning his other hand down.
“Jesus! No. Please, I beg you. There must be a mistake. I am a man of God. Don’t do this.”
“I am an infallible judge, pastor Dele. Relax; I know what I am doing.” He approached him with measured steps. “Allow me clear every doubt. After all, one needs faith in order to be truly pure in the sight of God.”
“Y-you are mad,” Dele said in resignation.
“You shouldn’t rile your tormentor up by insulting him. I am a man of high learning, a physician. Even if you’re correct, my malady is…” He paused, as though in deep thought then placed a gloved hand on Dele’s shoulder, squeezing. “My malady is different.” He let his hand drop and leaned against the table’s edge.
“I had a sister.” The man folded his arms as he stared straight ahead. “She was killed by a man of faith just like you.”
“But I’m not–“
“Shut up and listen!” He shouted, not turning to face him.
Dele gulped his words and heart down his throat.
“She was ten, he was a priest. No one believed he did it but I knew. I knew who he was, I knew his vile inclination. When I was young, I was weak. I could do nothing as other little ones suffered the same. The priest left. Maybe he was transferred to another state or the church found out his inclination towards little girls and boys. I never bothered to find out.”
The man turned back to him and pushed his hood back. Dele sucked in a breath, eyes going round.
“I know you.”
“You do?” Dr Gabe smiled. His dark eyes remained cold and calculating. “I’m surprised you did not recognise my voice. The wonders fear does to the mind.” The doctor shook his head.
He was the paediatrician in charge of his three daughters. The man had visited his home on several occasions. He even came to his church once. “How dare you do this to me?” He saw red. “My family has been good to you.”
Dr Gabe laughed. “Priceless.” He pushed himself off the table and leaned forward till they were at eye level. “Your daughter, Eve, she told me she wished you were dead. She also spoke of the unspeakable things you do to her young body. How old is she again?”
Dele stared in shock at the man’s revelation. He knew. “I…I… “
“Oh, spare me the explanation. You’ve molested her since she was six. She’s eleven. And what made me certain that you deserve cleansing was the fact that you had already started with Sonia. She is six.” Dr Gabe patted his chin with three sharp slaps. “You will die tonight. I would preach to you a holy message with the same words you spew at your congregation. I would heal this world of diseases like you. And I would pray for your soul as you leave this earth. I would pray that hell be real. And that you burn for every child you’ve destroyed. I would send you to the very pits I sent that priest who killed my sister when I was a boy, too helpless to do anything about it. These boys and girls that worms like you trample, these flowers you pluck and grind to the mud, they are my sisters and brothers. I would avenge them until the guilt of the loss of my sister is washed away.”
Dele shook his head, terror consuming him. “Please, I beg you. You of all people should know children lie some times. Eve is an incredibly foolish girl. She—”
“And you keep making things worse for yourself. I’d advise you to be quiet. Nothing you say would change your fate.”
Dr Gabe bent and untied his second arm. “I have realised that man’s problem is one.” He tugged at the rope, bruising Dele’s wrist with the harsh action. His arm felt heavy and useless as the rope fell away. “The body is our undoing. It makes us do things—things that make us ashamed to look in the mirror. I will liberate you. Look to the heavens and thank your God for me.”
“No, no. Please, I am begging you! Don’t.” Dele’s chest rose and fell as fear ate at him, turning him to a sweating, whimpering mess.
“I’m sure Eve begged. What about young Sonia? But no, your body is your lord. You have to satisfy the beast.” Dr Gabe slammed Dele’s palm to the table, facing it up.
“I would crucify this lord of yours—this flesh that is your undoing, your drawback to perfect living. I will heal you.”
The nail was sharp, but the force of the hammer driving it in made Dele weep. He flexed his fingers involuntarily as the pain ripped through.
“Matthew 18:6: But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin…” He drove the nail in with a precise hit of the hammer.
“…it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck…” The nail sank deeper. Agonized screams filled the room.
“…and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” The doctor threw the hammer aside and stepped back.
“I am doing the will of your God. Remember the one you so passionately preach about?”
Harsh pants were all Dele could give in response. He stared at both hands nailed to the table, bleeding. Dread nearly stopped his breathing. He suspected the doctor planned to do more.
“Do not worry your self-righteous head. Your cleansing has begun. I have studied the bible unceasingly over your matter. I take my job seriously.”
The doctor turned from him and made his way to the table once more.
“I would do anything; just let me go… please.”
“I bet your daughters begged.”
“What is it to you?!” Dele shouted, frustration leaking into his voice. “They are my daughters. If I did not sleep with their mother they wouldn’t even exist. I think I have the right to treat them as I please.” Dele’s chest rose and fell from exhaustion and a new found rage.
“You’re unrepentant,” Dr Gabe stated as he continued with whatever he was doing at the table. “That’s a shame. I would have taken it easy on you.”
Dele whimpered when the doctor lifted a saw. “W-what is that for?”
“Oh, this?” Dr Gabe lifted the tool. “It’s a saw. Very handy and efficient.”
“Whatever you want to use that for, I beg you, don’t.”
“Do you know that feeling? When someone begs with all that is in them but you know–you know you would never have mercy.”
“You can’t be serious.” He began to tremble, his breath coming as short gasps.
“Believe me; I’m as serious as Matthew 5v30.”
Dele stared. “Matthew 5 what? I-I don’t understand.”
“You would understand soon.”
Fear bloom in his chest and spread its cold fingers down to the sole of his feet. Sweat slid into his eye causing it to burn. He blinked and dared to pray for the first time.
“God please help me. Jesus, please.”
The doctor’s steps drew nearer but Dele kept his eyes shut, imploring for supernatural help.
“Your prayer is useless. Don’t you understand? God allowed this punishment. He wouldn’t interfere.”
“I swear to you. I would never ever touch those girls. I’d change.”
“I can’t offer you mercy. I rather give them a permanent answer to their prayers. Don’t you think that’s fair? A permanent answer is the best answer.”
Dele struggled, howling in agony as his nailed wrists shifted. He wheezed, trembling as Dr Gabe leisurely walked in his direction.
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” The doctor gripped his arm, tugging it a bit. Dele screamed again. “Do you see how apt that scripture is? Whether you believe me or not, I am helping you.”
“No, please.” Dele implored. He would have sunk to his knees if he wasn’t tied to a chair.
“That wasn’t the answer I was expecting.” He pulled out a white band. “Since I am a considerable judge and executioner, I’d use this.” He waved the object. “Wouldn’t want you bleeding out and missing your own trial.”
“What do you want me to say?” Dele asked in desperation. “I’d say it. I’d do anything. Please, just have mercy.”
“There’s nothing you can do or say to undo what you’ve done to your daughters.” He tightened the elastic band around his bicep, pulling it hard. “It is time.”
“Please. I beg you, I’d do anything. I swear.” Dele pleaded. Wailed like a child, weeping even.
Dr Gabe only laughed. He lifted the saw then placed it at the point where his forearm met his elbow. Too shocked to act, Dele watched as the jagged tool tore through his flesh, blood pouring as the doctor pushed the saw back and forth.
And the pain, it sliced up his arm, consuming his senses in a type of agony he had never experienced in all his life. Minutes dragged on as unbelievable pain drowned him like a river.
When the saw reached his bone, Dele realised too late that the doctor was intentionally taking his time. In between the yawning pain and shock of his ordeal, the sight of his arm detaching from his body made him lose it. He screamed.
Jerking back, Dele’s arm fell away from his decapitated forearm. Blood dripped down his thigh but his eyes remained fixed on his nailed hand. It looked beyond gory, blood pouring off the red meaty surface. He threw up. Vomit slid down his chin and stained his shirt.
“Please…” Dele was dizzy with pain, the loss of an arm still fresh in his mind. “Kill me…end this, I beg you.” Death was certainly better than this torture.
“What’s the gain in that? After all, to live is Christ. I do not want to give you the gain of death… yet.”
Dele couldn’t look away from his stump of a hand. The blood was beginning to clot. He could even see the white of his bone sticking out of the gore.
“”If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away… I’m sure you know the rest. Your eyes have made you sin, pastor. Without it, how would you see little girls and lust after them? I am freeing you. Your eyes would have to go, too.” He made his way to the dreaded table once more. “I wouldn’t go about this like a doctor. It’d be messy—very messy and crude. In fact, you’d hate it very much.”
When Dr Gabe turned to face him, he was holding a steel pronged fork in his right hand. “This is not a surgical instrument. Bear with me.”
Dele cried, sorrow and horror pushing him to the brink of insanity. Only yesterday he had gone to sleep on his bed, in his house. He had no idea how the man got him tied to a chair in a windowless room that smelled heavily of disinfectant, blood and his own urine. He would die and nobody would even know where his body was.
Dr Gabe had a spring in his step as he drew nearer. Dele attempted to struggle when the man gripped his head. The movement only made his suffering worse. His nailed wrist burned and his decapitated arm throbbed with heavy pain. He finally stilled, shutting his eyes and accepting his fate when the pronged fork came into view. When the doctor stabbed his right eye and pulled viciously, Dele saw white dots before total darkness consumed his right sight. It was like his skin was being torn off by the pull of a rope. He wept shamelessly, unable to fight the pain.
The doctor discarded the fork on the table; his bloody, stringy eyeball was still attached to it. At the sight, Dele passed out.
The pain woke him up. It spread from his head like a sinus headache then raced down his torso. Groaning, Dele blinked an eye open.
“Welcome back. That took a while.”
The doctor was sitting in front of Dele, a threaded needle in his left hand. He stared at the object, fresh horror clearing his cloudy mind.
The doctor looked from the needle to his face. “You’re scared I’m going to torture you again? No. I’m done with that.”
“Y-you are?” His voice was hoarse from all his screaming.
“Yes. I decided to let you go while you were out. This—” He lifted the needle. “—is to stitch your arm. Your socket is already patched up.”
The doctor gripped his arm that was now rid of the elastic band. After placing it on the table, he began stitching the gash with steady hands. “I am a medical practitioner; I took an oath to tend to the sick. I’d extend that courtesy to you.”
Hope swelled in Dele’s heart. Once he was freed, he’d do well to head to the nearest police station first.
“When I was younger, I’d take my sister to church. It was a big cathedral and I loved the stained glass masquerades the most. There was this window that had image of the messiah crucified and bleeding, but his face was perfect and beautiful. I hated that image. Its beauty was a lie. Humans love to hide the ugly. Sure, they show a few short coming but what lies hidden would make you shudder. Take me for example. Would you have guessed I could kill a man?”
With his gaze still fixed on the needle work the doctor was doing, Dele shook his head. “No.”
The man had an innocent face, lean body and persona that spoke of compassion.
“I thought as much. That’s beside the point though. After my sister died, I visited that cathedral at every anniversary of her death. I would stare at the image of the crucified Christ and stew with rage. With each anniversary that passed, my anger grew strong and my determination even stronger. I finally met the priest who raped and killed my sister. He was transferred back to the same church. I took it as a sign from the universe. My moment had finally come.”
Dr Gabe leaned back, admiring his finished work. When he lifted his gaze, he smiled, the corner of his lips lifting and causing his eyes to shine. “I went for confession on the very night before I killed him; he was on call that day. I told him I had a driving urge to take the life of a man who did me great wrong. I nearly laughed when he fed me some crappy lines about forgiveness. The worm. Who gave him the right?”
Rising to his feet, the doctor stretched then pulled a kidney tray across the table. “He was the very first I killed. The moment of his death was my finest hour. He begged much more than you did. Such a talker. At a point, I served him communion with his own blood. I doubt it cleansed his sins.” The doctor barked with laughter. Dele could only stare, shocked at his depravity.
“Satisfaction and closure came for a while then it was gone.” He pulled at a roll of bandage as he continued speaking. “I thought of other innocent children that suffer. I thought of those who use the cloak of religion to hide their sins and at that moment, at that cathedral on my sister’s anniversary, I had an epiphany. It was like she spoke to me from the great beyond. I decided to be a saviour—a true brother to the weak. My job as a paediatrician only made it easier to fish out scums like you.”
At last he was done with dressing his wound. “There. I gave you an antibiotic shot when you were out.”
“What about my wrist? Wouldn’t you pull the nail off?” The dried blood around his arm had made it stiff. He couldn’t even shift the thing. The man’s sudden kindness was almost unbelievable.
“I’d take that off once I pump this into your blood steam.” He retrieved a syringe from the kidney tray, holding it up and flicking out the trapped air bubbles with a finger.
“Wha-what is that?” His hope was replaced by cold fear. Something wasn’t right.
Removing the protective cap off the needle, Dr Gabe smiled. “This is a little liquid insurance. I wouldn’t want you going out there and wagging your tongue once you’re released. I would make that mind of yours very unsound. Whoever would want to listen to an imbecilic cripple of a pastor?” The doctor’s smile widened as he drew nearer. “Don’t worry. You wouldn’t even feel the prick of the needle.” Dr Gabe patted his shoulder as though comforting him.
“No, no. I beg you… argh!” Dele screamed. The doctor lied. The entry of the substance into his blood stream was excruciating.
Eve stared at the face of her father as drool ran down his chin. His eye was fixed ahead. She had shed a tear for show on the night they found him. But when she hugged her sister, she’d smiled and told her their nightmare was over.
Their mother made them visit the psychiatric hospital once a month, but he remained the same, a hallow man staring into space and whispering:
“The doctor is the brother.”