Tiny Stories: The Wooden Cup

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

For the want of a meal, I have committed heinous crimes.

No pride or shame attached to the deeds. Eating is a necessity and needs must when the devil drives and hunger calls. The irony? Now I am permitted to dine on any foodstuff my heart desires. I decline, of course. I have no need for reminders of the pleasures of existence. Starvation is the repast I will take to my grave.

I am urged to repent and give myself wholly to my maker. This will not happen by a long chalk. Religion is that ever-elusive thing that cannot find purchase upon the coral reef of my soul. Mine is a spirit unmoved by any deity, higher or lower. The only salvation made available to me when I confront my ultimate fate is to allow oblivion to enfold me within her inky embrace.

“I seek no holy counsel from a curate,” I inform my jailors. “I wish to spend my last hours in solitude.”

This request is ignored.

A female visitor, not a member of the clergy to my knowledge, is ushered into my cell. Her face—beautiful, though not for her features—is unfamiliar to me, but the light in her eyes and the gentle warmth radiating from her tell me all I need to know. She is no threat.

She says nothing as she sits on the far corner of my bedding, cradling a cup hewn from wood in her delicate hands. I do not profess to be a learned man but I know my letters and the shapes carved into the sides of the cup are of no language written today.

Smiling, she offers the cup and makes a motion suggesting that I drink. For the life of me—a peculiar turn of phrase considering my position—I cannot explain why I accept the cup or why at her urging I touch its brim to my lips but in my grasp, this simple wooden vessel is heavy with importance, rich with history, and my will, while I am in contact with it, is no longer my own.

The cup is filled with a liquid that after one sip I somehow know to be the tears belonging to the kin of my victims, shed from pain and loss, anger and grief. There are even tears of empathy, which I believe come from this woman, herself. And when those collected salted drops greet my lips the flavor is replete, not with revenge, but with the surprising splendor of the bittersweet serenity of a loving quiet purpose and a hint of forgiveness.

I drink and drink until there is no more and am momentarily reluctant to release the cup.

Purpose fulfilled, the silent woman, still proffering that unnaturally kind smile, is escorted from my chamber. Her simple and bizarre act of sharing those tears sparks an ember within me, a dormant faith I had no inkling existed, and now I know sorrow and regret for the things that I have done. I am also granted a glimpse of the path of amendment, redemption, and peace I shall not live to follow.

Unskilled in the workings of asking for and receiving mercy and forgiveness, am I and for this reason, I fear the gates of the reward which exist beyond this all too limited flesh will undoubtedly deny me entrance. But waste not your prayers on my unworthy soul, for by the time you come to read this missive, I shall no longer be.

Oblivion is to be my final destination after all.