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by GIBRAN TARIQ 6 months ago in Short Story
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Once Pearl was out of the menacing company of Sista Benson, she struggled with the inner turmoil she felt. How could the black church be so vengeful? All she had wanted to do had been to regain the innocence that had been stolen from her so long ago. Tears welled in her chocolate eyes, but she realized that crying would not remove her pain or take away her disappointment.

Driving through Center City, she opened the car window, letting the wind blow over her. She had a lot of problems in her life that needed fixing, and if the church had the nerve to turn its back on her, then she would make it on her own. She had no other choice.

By the time she had driven past the Harvey Gantt Center, the tears were streaming freely down her face, and she didn’t try to stop them. Why hadn’t her prayers been answered?

Turning right at The Bojangles, Pearl visibly flinched as she watched the sky erupt into a spasm of dazzling lightning so white hot that it looked like God was stir-frying the heavens. The thunder BOOMED with wondrous might as though it was a majestic passage from God’s own autobiography, but when the rain came and the wind picked up, Pearl grew extremely nervous.

God was after her!

Dashing into her lower-level apartment, Pearl closed the door quickly, then made up her mind. Since God had apparently forsaken her, she would raise hell for the rest of her life, and she didn’t give a damn if the devil liked it or not because he had just gotten a new sidekick, and he had better not try to stop her from being bad!

And then she dreamed a dream.


The dream frightened her. In it, she was a hundred miles from nowhere in the middle of nothingness, sitting naked in a ringside seat as God and the devil fought over her. They battled like gladiators.

Wisely choosing to cover her eyes to shut out the vision of the glorious rumble, Pearl could still hear the magnificent cackling of the angels on one side and the demons on the other; both who openly gawked at the spectacular savagery of the two most powerful forces in the universe. One light. One darkness.

At midnight, Pearl pulled her hands away from her eyes just as the referee, whose torso was as big as The Empire State Building, bellowed for the two fighters to stop stalling and to come to the center of the ring. Even though he was whispering, Pearl could still hear his words loud and clear as he recommended that the fighters go for the kill with the winner taking full possession of her soul. When the bell rang, ending the round, the devil sat on his stool. “This is my hardest fight yet. I wonder what the hell is going on?”

The devil’s manager blew psychedelic smoke from a cigar as big as a baseball bat, his face turning to stone. “Once upon a time, that girl was supposed to be special, was destined for greatness. She still has a lot of good in her and that’s why your opponent is going out on a limb to win her back. Ol’ girl, if truth be told------“

“But you know how I hate the truth.”

“Yeah, I know, champ” the manager coughed, spitting out a mouthful of purple rain, “but ol’ girl still got a chance to make something out of herself.”

The devil bounced up, slapping his gloves together loudly. “Well, I’m about to change that tune. I gots to have that bitch in my stable. Think you can teach her the Cosmic Slop?”

The manager said nothing.

“Well,” the devil inquired. “Can you?”

“You gotta win the fight for her soul first, and the way it looks, you gonna need all the help you can get, so don’t talk about the Cosmic Slop until you done wrapped up the victory. You dig?”

“I dig, man, but it’s all over except the shouting.”

“Pray tell.”


“My bad, champ. Excuse me.”

“What’s homegirl name?”


“Pearl? Ain’t noway in hell I’m gonna let her keep that soft name. When I win, we gonna call that bitch something else!

Just as soon as the nightmare had ended and Pearl was wide awake, she knew that unless she got herself together, her life would be consumed in a never-ending battle of right or wrong. Good versus evil.


The darkness of night ushered in the prospect of something from a made-for-TV-movie, but Pearl saw it differently. The blackness, though frightening, offered her a new dawn, a second beginning, one last chance to save herself.

The mood of the night was so evil that the darkness, becoming even more black, stimulated her. Suddenly, she felt heroic as if she could do anything and that no one could stop her. Not even The Big Man Upstairs. If He was even upstairs. Pearl felt ready to take Him on.

It was getting late and by now both ends of the sky as far as she could see were twisted into a flawless strand of fight-for-your-life nothingness. But all that tended to do was to make her more courageous, more war-like. More I-don’t-give-a-damn. She wanted to taunt God, to get back at Him for not answering her prayers.

She drove on.

Riveted by the awakening ugliness of the stark blackness, she, for some unexplained reason, experienced the sensation that the night had eyes, and that they were watching her. She smiled. She was the star of the show.

Stop me!” she screamed in defiance at the heavens. “Stop me!”

Her plan was to expose God’s total neglect of His creatures by killing one of His servants tonight, that is unless God Himself stopped her. This was her plan, her private experiment to prove that God did not answer prayer.

She pulled into the church’s parking lot.

Pausing just inside the church’s door, she smirked. Damn places all smelled the same, like they had just been sprayed with wood polish. She turned up her nose.

As she now moved quickly through the quiet sanctum, she numbly recognized how the edifice reeked of all the passages in the bible dealing with the Ten Commandments. She cringed and for a brief second stopped, standing mute in the eloquent silence.

On the move again, Pearl’s blood stirred. Creeping forwards, she removed the gun from her purse, and snatching open the door to the pastor’s study, she confronted the preacher. “Pray!” she ordered coldly.

The preacher spoke calmly. “There is no need for the gun, my daughter. I will pray for you because I love you.”

Pearl scowled. “The prayers are not for me.”

“No?” the preacher said quizzically, “then what family member are they intended for?”

“They’re not for anyone in my family.”

The preacher was clearly confused. “Then who?”


“Me? But I don’t understand.”

Pearl exhaled. “You do believe in the power of prayer, don’t you?”

The preacher nodded.

“Then you must believe that God answers prayers, that He is kind…and good….and great?”

The preacher remained silent.

“Well, dammit,” Pearl snarled, “do you?”

“Why yes, of course.”

Pearl smiled. “Then pray to make Him stop me from killing you.”


Pearl nodded. “You heard me right. I say that God does not exist.”

“That’s blasphemy. God is.”

Beginning to enjoy herself, Pearl pushed the study’s door closed with her foot. She skillfully fitted the silencer onto the gun and winked her eye. “Then you should be more than willing to participate in my little experiment.”


“Shut the fuck up and listen.” Pearl hooked a chair with her foot and not taking her eyes off the man, dragged it towards her. “The experiment is simple, very uncomplicated. I am going to kill you unless-------.”

“Unless what?”

“Unless,” Pearl said casually, “you make God kill me. Rather simple, huh? Personally, I don’t give a damn how you pray to get the job done. Hell, surprise me. You can pray that I have a heart attack or just drop dead, right here, of natural causes. How about this, with the bad weather outside, what about a lightning bolt through the neck?” Pearl smiled evilly. “Now, that would be creative. Anyway, the choice is yours. It’s your prayer, but I’ll tell you this, let you in on a little secret. Now, if your prayer doesn’t get answered and God doesn’t kill me in one of the infinite ways at His disposal, then this is precisely how you’re going to die. You ready for this?” Pearl chuckled. “If God lets you down, then I’m going to stick the muzzle of this gun down your fucking throat and blow the damned insides of your head to Kingdom Come.” Pearl leaned back in the chair. “Does that sound fair to you? It does to me.” She got comfortable. “Don’t mind me….Pray!”


“You better pray harder than that, preacher-man,” Pearl wailed. “I don’t feel like I’m dying or nothing. If you can’t get Him to kill me, then tell Him to send you a guardian angel to knock the gun out of my hand. If not, then well, you know…….”

After another five minutes, Pearl cursed, declaring religion a fraud. She waved the gun like it was a baton. “Do you hear me, preacher-man?” she ranted. “Where is your God? Why doesn’t He deliver you? You know why?” she shrieked. “He doesn’t exist, that’s why. It has all been a big hoax.”

Pearl stuck the gun behind the head of the kneeling man. She laughed fiendishly. “What has all your foolish praying brought you? Nothing.” She took a deep breath. “Prepare to die, fool,” she snarled viciously. “It’s gonna get a little rough from here on.”

“Don’t play with God,” the preacher whimpered.

“First time playing this game, huh?” Pearl laughed.

“Oh my God!” the preacher shrieked. “You’re insane.”

“You’re worrying about the wrong thing, preacher-man. You need to say your prayers harder.” Pearl made a dramatic gesture with her eyes. “And that would mean that I’ll be the one who’ll get fucked up.” She frowned. “To be truthful, though, I don’t think that will happen.”

“I believe in God,” the preacher shouted angrily.

Pearl cleared her throat, then blurted. “Make Him kill me, then. That’s what I want you to do. I want you to pin your hopes on prayer. I’ll pin more on this pistol.” Pearl’s shoulders sagged appreciably. “Let’s see if God is on your side.”

After what had seemed like an eternity, Pearl felt faintly masculine and when she demanded to know if the man sensed he was about to be saved, she spoke in a voice that sounded like ironed darkness.

“Your time is up!”

Predictably, Pearl unconsciously brought her right hand up and in one quick sweep, leveled the gun on the back of the preacher’s head. Breathing rapidly, she hovered over the kneeling man, and with the gun nudged the man’s head deeper into the carpet. “Pray, motherfucka! Make God kill me! Pray!

Slobber dripped from the corners of Pearl’s lips as she appeared caught up in some devilish rapture. Her inflamed eyes glowed with a perverse fire that burned as if they had squeezed out all the spark from her soul. She howled with outrage. “Ha! You preachers are the so-called stewards of God’s divine promise and yet He won’t even answer your prayers.” Pearl laughed wildly. “Some God.”


The doctor told Detective Epps to sit down, and he wouldn’t leave the hospital room until he was sure his patient was as comfortable as possible. Once satisfied, Dr. Melton stormed off.

“Don’t be long,” he said. “The patient needs-----.”

“Now if you will excuse us, Doc.” Epps stared coldly at the broad-shouldered man. “This shouldn’t take long.”

“Make sure that it doesn’t.”

This was Detective Epps’ second trip to this room and he couldn’t avoid marveling at the man, who, by all accounts, should have been dead. Talk about a miracle. The man smiled weakly.

Epps took it upon himself to fling open the blinds on the window. It was a beautiful fall morning and Epps felt that a little sunshine would be perfect for someone who had just experienced a three day coma. As the sunshine pierced the room, the man smiled more fully, welcoming the glow.

“What about that night?” Epps asked.

The patient jumped, slightly unnerved, saying nothing.

“Tell me about it?”

The patient stared at Epps, wondering what words he could use to describe that night. How could it ever be explained? “It was evil.” The patient spoke with enough crispness so that he barely had to breathe. “Evil.”

Epps walked closer to the bed, had a seat. “But there has to be more.”

The man openly wept.

Epps coldly ignored the man’s tears. “Excuse me,” Epps whispered, “but I need to know what happened.” He looked at the weeping man as if he was a spoiled child. “Do me a favor and pull yourself together. I need you to talk about that night without falling to pieces.”

The man pursed his lips, but made no response.

“The problem with your silence could mean that the man who did this-----.”

Man!? It wasn’t a man.”

For a brief second, Epps looked embarrassed. He became more guarded. “You mean it was a….a woman?”

The man nodded solemnly. His eyes fluttered wide open. “She was pretty, a pretty devil. Surprised?”

Epps removed a micro-cassette player from his briefcase. He touched a button on the player’s silver front and a red dot in the tiny corner shimmered ON, and after informing the recorder of the day, date, and the nature of the business at hand, he looked into the minister’s eyes. “Tell me everything.”

The preacher got chills just from thinking about that night. His body tingled. He felt light-headed, and wished over and over again that that night had never happened. Looking back in time, his blood pressure surged as the events of that night leaped out at him, slamming into his consciousness. Trying to remain calm, he saw his hands transformed into fists, but how did he protect himself from a nightmare that had already come and gone? Still his heart hammered.

The preacher wanted to hate his vivid recall of what happened, but the memories were there, gleaming and glistening with terrible fright, frozen in his mind’s eye. Every time he took a breath, the fear inside his heart seemed to gather momentum, tightening up its psychic noose until he wanted to yelp like a sick puppy.

Cradling his head in his hands, the preacher groaned miserably. “Her voice was full of hostility. It sounded like darkness, like nature gone crazy.”

“I understand,” Epps commented blankly.

The preacher doubted.

“What did the woman say with the voice?”

“She was ranting, raving, saying blasphemous things like God didn’t exist, and that she was going to prove it.”


“By making me pray.”

“For what?”

“For God to kill her.”

“Huh?!” Epps exclaimed. “To kill her?” He was puzzled. “So the woman wanted God to kill her. Why?”

The preacher sighed wearily. “Because that would be the only thing that could prevent her from killing me.”


“The point, detective, was that the woman wanted to prove to me that God didn’t exist, and what better way to demonstrate that than by showing me that my prayers for my life would not be answered.”

Epps got the point. “Still, it appears from everything you’ve told me that the proof was not so much for you as it was for the woman. The issue seemed to be that the woman was the one seeking confirmation that God----“

“Suit yourself,” the preacher butted in. “Either way, it almost got me killed.”

Epps switched OFF the recorder. The city was going crazy. A woman?!


It had been extremely tedious, but, at just before 10:00pm, Pearl was in. She quickly ditched the battered knife. It wouldn’t be of much use now. From a downstairs bedroom, she could see directly out into a deserted hallway and upon closer inspection found that she was next to the dining room. Reeling out her instincts, she grew deathly quiet as she tried to mentally connect with whomever was in the house. After this, all that would remain would be to conduct her experiment-----and then to kill the son-of-a-bitch.

Over the next few seconds, Pearl recognized that her present scenario had invented two major problems for her. First, she resented the fact that she didn’t know exactly where in the house Reverend Bridges was, and secondly, she couldn’t be sure if there were guns within the Reverend’s reach. Yet she was not disturbed by these obstacles. She’d surmount them when she confronted them. Right now, all she had to do was to find the bastard.

And she did just that. Oddly, her only reaction to the sound of a Wagnerian concerto coming from an upstairs study was that it goaded her. The prey was at hand. Now, it became vital that she consider her options and she did just that. With little or no difficulty, she knew she would charge into the room and simply catch both Reverend Bridges and his God by surprise, but what purpose would it serve without announcing her plans and conducting her experiment? Instantly, she ruled out recklessness no matter how provocative the option was, especially since it might taint the evidence of her experiments. Pearl grinned again. This was big. Reverend Bridges represented the ultimate lab rat.

With that in mind, there was no further justification not to act. The time for hesitation was through, but yet she held back, exercising restraint. It wasn’t that she was having second thoughts because she wasn’t and she strongly felt that tonight was a perfect night to end it all, but that’s what troubled her. After tonight, there would be no next because with the proof she needed to shut God down, what reason would she have to kill again? Pearl toyed with her conflicting emotions, but still she had to do what she had to do because, more than anything else, she had to win. She had to get the best of God.

She tiptoed down the hallway.

She snuck up to the door.

It was 10:07 and from the sound of it, Reverend Bridges was pulling out all the stops. The brassy music swirled with passion and muscle, its power never dissipating, aurally sweeping the entire room and hallway. Pearl stood still, caught up in the martial rattle and hum as the crashing crescendo marched into a furious, final storm. Growing bigger still, Wagner’s musical tempest concluded with a flurry of clashing cymbals that inflamed and enraged her.

Pearl burst into the room.

When Reverend Bridges, a mild-mannered man with a scholarly air, looked up and saw the intruder, he pissed on himself.

This was off to a good start, Pearl thought. A second earlier, she had wondered what the pastor’s reaction would be. Now, she knew. The man was scared as hell and that made her ‘blush’ with pride.

“I make house calls,” Pearl bragged, “but I think that you might have noticed that already.” She waved the gun in the air menacingly. “This is my 9mm and that,” she pointed, “is your bible. Our representative weapons of choice. Now, it may sound a little foolish, but I think my weapon is more powerful than yours.” She chuckled evilly. “What do you say we have us a lil’ ol’ test to settle the matter once and for all?”

“May God protect me from you,” Reverend Bridges blurted.

“Oh,” Pearl teased, “I see you’re already familiar with my little game.” Then she turned serious. “I don’t believe in prayer and in a little while, I’m going to challenge your knowledge about it. That shouldn’t be asking too much,” she smiled timidly, “from the man who wrote the book.”

“Why-why are you here?”

“To prove that God doesn’t exist, that’s why.” Pearl’s face lit up. “You’re my first white vic---“

You fool!” Reverend Bridges bellowed, “you think I don’t know about the others you’ve already murdered, the black ministers?”

Pearl stumbled backwards, a dazed look on her face. And for good reason. No one was supposed to know about what she had done. No ONE! “How-how do you know this?”

“God told me.”


Reverend Bridges sat up straight, staring Pearl in her eyes. “God told me. He’s told me everything about you, Princess Washington!”

Pearl stepped away from Reverend Bridges, startled. “There is no God.”

“Then how do I know who you are, Miss Washington, and how do I know about the other ministers you’ve killed for the sake of your experiment? Tell me that.” Reverend Bridges knew it was a long shot, but he had to play it for all it was worth. According to what Epps had told him, he was only one of a handful of people who knew about Princess Washington and what she was about. If he was to stay alive, he needed to use the “top-secret” information to his benefit. It made sense. He had to convince her that God existed and had spoken to him. He buzzed with anxiety as he struggled to recall everything Epps had conveyed to him about either the woman or the killings. “And guess what,” he smirked indignantly, “the last time I spoke with God, I learned how you had displeased Him by killing one of His special servants.”

“Who…..which one was that!?”

To preserve his dignity, Reverend Bridges pushed back his fear. He slowly stood. “You’d really like to know, wouldn’t you?”

“You better tell me, preacher-man.” Pearl pointed the gun. “And don’t you dare come near me. I’ll shoot.”

Reverend Bridges laughed wildly. “And you think God will just let you do that?” He was well aware of the woman’s mental state, but didn’t feel he knew enough to know just how hard to push or how far to go, but he was pretty sure that if he let up and surrendered his control, he would be killed. “Now, I get it,” he rasped, “you want to see how smart God is, but who do you think you are to want to poke your nose in God’s business?”

“You better tell me something, preacher-man, and you better tell me fast, or you better fix your mouth to start praying----“

“Reverend Mayfield!” Reverend Bridges yelled. “Does that name ring a bell? What? You think that God didn’t see what you did to His poor, righteous servant down in Atlanta. God is everywhere we look, Miss Washington, and that’s how I know you murdered Reverend Mayfield in cold blood. God told me.”

A frightened look crossed Pearl’s face. She slammed back against the wall. “C’mon, man” she begged, “di-did God really tell you that?”

It didn’t take Reverend Bridges long to decide what to say next. “Damn right He did and do you know what else He told me? He told me---and He knew you were coming---to tell you to fall down on your knees….and pray!”

“W-what?!” And for the first time, Pearl’s voice sounded curiously shrill and childish. “And what if I don’t?”

Reverend Bridges drew to his full height. He took a gamble. “Then He will do something to you that is a million times worse than what He did to turn you against Him.”


“Pray!” Reverend Bridges shouted. “Bow down!”

When Pearl got around to moving, she was backing up, trying to get out of the room, but at the door, stumbled, losing her balance, falling. The gun went off.

A bullet caught Reverend Bridges between his eyes.

“Oh my God!” Pearl wailed hysterically. “It was an accident!”

Short Story

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I was a crook. Now, I'm a writer

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