Guilt

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Guilt,
Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.
Coco Chanel

Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.
Robert South

We all suffer from guilt at some point or other…something we should have done, something we shouldn’t have said, a funeral we should have gone to, some shameless behavior, perhaps in our turbulent adolescent years? There is always some residual guilt…Guilt ways us down…it is a cancer of sorts…We can’t turn back the clock, make intricate changes to some of our darkest hours, we are stuck with our guilt. If you happen to be a Catholic, you can at least relinquish some of your guilt by going to confession and seek absolution. Catholicism is a powerful tool to keep people in check, weighed down by guilt.

How else can you quash guilt?

With my story “Branded” a man accidentally knocks over an old women in her nineties, who later dies in hospital. It is a pure accident, and the doctors explain this to the man. However despite everybody trying to console him, his guilt does not abate. He tries different ways of finding some kind redemption…sending money for the bereaved’s charity of choice. There are different things that might help his guilt, for example the old woman’s only next of kin is adopted. Finally he arrives at the next of kin’s doorstep, to meet her face to face; so he can finally attain redemption.

Below is a short exert…from “Branded”. This is a story in which a man has to face up to the guilt of accidentally knocking over an old woman, while rushing to a business meeting.

Branning went home and collapsed into his wife’s arms, weeping
uncontrollably as he told her between sobs of the singular chain of
events that led to the old woman’s death. For her part, his wife had
never seen him in such a state, and tried her best to console him with
any words of comfort she could educe, but whatever she said, it always
returned back to the fact that he’d killed an old woman.
The nagging guilt refused to leave, and no end of his wife’s
solace seemed able to lessen it. Branning kept imagining the old lady’s
family and friends at her funeral, going through the equally great pain
of saying goodbye to a dearly loved one. He wanted to be there, to tell
them how sorry he felt, but his wife and friends counseled otherwise. It
was better, they said, to let the family grieve, and allow things to run
their course. How would the family react to having the man who had
cut short her life at her funeral service?
Time passed and he noted her obituary in the local paper. The
family requested no flowers, suggesting instead a donation to the local
hospital in the deceased’s name. He sent a sizable sum of money, a
form of indirect compensation, and felt better for it.

Unfortunately for Branning, despite all his manifestations of contrition, a terrible fate occurs at the end of the story.

In my story “Gomford” all the men in the village are weighed down by a collective guilt. A beautiful young woman arrives in a remote village on the arm of an ugly businessman who is regularly away in business trips. Consequently the men take advantage of his abscesses and each systematically seduces the young girl. After a short lived vapid sexual experience with the young girl, each man falls into a terrible depression, powered by the guilt they feel after cheating on their wives. This feeling spreads around the village like a virus and the Reverend Salmon takes it on board to try to stop this rampant malaise. When the young girl refuses to let him enter house and spread holy water on her threshold, he feels humbled and thinks up a strong plan to break the young girl’s hold on the village.

Here is a short exert from Gomford.

To his surprise, a small delegation of the villagers, arrived early
the next morning, rousing the hungover Reverend and demanding an
audience. “We’ve a Godless woman, perhaps even a harlot, amongst
us,” Knoll’s wife vehemently pronounced, setting the tone.
“We must act, and act now before things get worse,” added
Cowie, a village Elder, “just as our forefathers would have done.” All
of the delegation vigorously nodded their assent.
The reverend cracked a smile. He wouldn’t need to work them
into a retributive frenzy; the villagers were already primed and eager
for action. With that weight removed from his shoulders, he need only
focus his aching head on what measures would be most appropriate.
Being versed in the annals of church history, he was particularly well
acquainted with the period when it was common for those deemed
guilty of subverting the morals of the community, to be taken to a river
and given a fatal dunking. A confession of witchcraft would justify the
punishment, and, if none were forthcoming it would be a sure sign of
guilt. The practice, of course, was archaic having long since been
abandoned by the church.

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