In a home in a particular town, a couple frantically paced back and forth throughout their kitchen, a look of anxiety plagued each of their faces. Outside, the whole town stood, yelling obscenities and screaming for the ‘sinners’ to come out. Torches blazed throughout the streets, filling the whole neighborhood with a red glow.

“What are we going to do John?” The women asked.

“I don’t know”, John angrily exclaimed to Stephanie, “I guess we’ll just wait it out tonight, then leave in the morning, but we can’t stay here”.

He then looked at his love and saw the fear in her eyes and pitied her. “Listen, I don’t want you to worry too much about this, it’s not good for the baby, you should go to bed and relax, I’ll take care of this.”

Stephanie, exhausted from her night of fear, took John’s advice and went to bed.

With her now gone, the living room felt so empty, he silently sat alone on the couch thinking about how his life had led up to this moment. He spent his whole life in this small town. It was the kind of town where everyone knew everyone. But the most important thing in the town was its Church and its new Reverend, who had just earned the honorably position six months prior.

Originally John was an acolyte at the church and was known for always being full of righteousness and would spend most of his time serving in both the church and the community. To the whole town, he was blameless. As was his friend Henry, who was also a church acolyte. Henry, despite his faith and reverence towards the church, had a fatal flaw, he was in love with a young woman to the point of near-obsession. This women’s name was Stephanie, and she knew his feelings for her all too well, but felt nothing towards him.  He knew this and it crushed him, but it seemed that every rejection he received from her only fueled his love for her.

John, on the other hand, was loved by Stephanie, and he loved her very much as well. But sadly because of his friendship with Henry, they both decided to keep their love a secret for the time being. They would secretly go on walks together and would always meet under the old stone bridge outside of town. There, they would have picnics and talk for hours about anything. And they both loved every moment of it. But they stayed away from anything involving physical touch outside of marriage, for they both agreed it would be wrong to do so.

It was on one particular day though, when their love and passion became too great, and their accountable was at its lowest, that they gave into their carnal pleasures and made love for the first time. After the deed was done, they were both ashamed and repented for what they had done. It was then after two weeks, that Stephanie found out that she was pregnant, and it was three months after that when the whole town found out.

Everyone was horribly disappointed in them. The current Reverend, after finding out about the incident, excommunicated John from the church, and the whole town began to look down on the couple with disgust. But of all the disappointed people, Henry was the worst, who, after finding out, broke inside. He hated John with a burning passion and was happy to see him out of the church. With him gone, Henry became the new Reverend of the town church after the old one ordained him.

In most of the Henry’s messages, he would vilify and condemn the couple, often suggesting that “god wants someone to do something about the sinners of this world”. And Henry’s messages began to change the town, it seemed that with each message, the town hated the couple more and more. Soon they would wait outside the couple’s home, waiting to spit and hurl rocks at them if they came out, which they never did. But every Sunday it got worse until it finally got to its breaking point.

John sat on the couch, loading his shotgun, when he heard a load clang at the door. They were trying to break in! He bolted forward and tried to hold back the door but it was too late, in seconds the whole house filled with angry faces. It was chaos, they were screaming and destroying the house around him in fits of anger, they ripped out the drawers and stole their contents, in only a short period of time, the house was unrecognizable. He seemed to have just disappeared among them as they looted and destroyed. John needed to do something, he grabbed the loaded shotgun near him and fired at the ceiling. Dust and debris sprayed down from the roof.

In one second the room went silent, but in the next second they all ran towards John and began to attack and beat him. His body filled with pain as they kicked and punched him. But to John’s horror, as they were beating him, he noticed that in the chaos, the curtains had caught fire, perhaps by one of their torches. The fire spread, and there was nothing he could do about it. None of them realized it until the couch, which was near the window, was completely covered in flame. They all fled for their lives, dropping their torches on the floor, escalating the fire even more. They all left the burning home, dragging John with them. Only John remembered that Stephanie was still inside. They dropped him on the lawn, and he painfully tried to drag himself back in to save her, but then to his complete disappointment, Henry walked up to him, face filled with rage, and he kicked John in the face, knocking him out cold.

The fire trucks came, but it was too late, Stephanie suffocated on the smoke and died in the fire. John moved out of town the next day, to where, nobody knew. But six months later, he returned, just to see the town one last time. He came in on a Sunday morning, while everyone was in church. He walked up to the church and listened to the message from outside. The reverend, now no longer fueled by his crusade against John, spoke of how we are to love our neighbor and treat our fellow man with respect, to live a life of love and forgiveness. It was a typical sermon.

After he stopped by the church, he stopped by the ruin of his old home. He walked inside, kneeled and prayed that God may forgive those who wronged him. He spent the night in the ruin thinking only of Stephanie and longed to see her one last time. After that, he left and never returned.

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