The Unforgivable, Forgiven
It was the coldest night of his life, though he had been in freezing weather before. A frenzy of sleet and icy rain beat his shoulders until they were raw; blowing snow made it impossible to see his legs, let alone the trees in front of him.
And so he stumbled on, refusing to change his path. If he turned his steps and walked in another direction for a while, he would have realized the ice and the cold were not inevitable. Instead, his feet took him deeper into the snow and ice.
A little ways down the path, he saw a light.
It was an interesting sight. The House had three Windows, all lit brightly enough to pierce the fog. A few steps would have gotten him to the front door, which was not locked shut—as he might have assumed—but instead cracked open. Hard as the winds and sleet blew against it, the entrance would not close.
He stared at it. The warmth, the shelter—the House was an unexpected fortress against the elements he was living in. All he needed do was turn his feet. Push the door open with a frostbitten hand.
But to the sorrow of the One inside, the man turned away from it and continued walking in the same direction.
The storm turned thicker and thicker until grape-sized chunks of sleet bruised his whole torso. His bare legs sloshed through the ever-deepening snow. If he bothered to dredge up a foot and look at it, he would have found it black beyond recognition.
The mix of sleet, snow and rain, which had long since taken over most of his body, now threatened to drown out his heart. Despite all this, he refused to turn back and head for the refuge.
There was no telling how long he continued. His body turned numb to the cold and the sleet; he had been in it too long to realize it was hurting him.
But just as the snow threatened to suffocate him, he realized his path was wrong.
It took some exertion to bring his body back around, and greater exertion yet to fight against the direction of the sleet. After a few hard steps, he was on his way.
One fear remained, however. Some of his peers had told him that the door to the House, once rejected, would be locked forever; and he would have no choice but to freeze for the rest of his life. Seeing no light in front of him, he began to despair—thinking that the Occupant had closed it off.
And his pace grew faster and faster until his knees were out of the snow; but still, there was no light. The man began to cry, now sprinting through the light accumulation, but still, no House was to be seen.
Exhausted, he came to a stop. Looking nowhere in particular, he said:
“I’m sorry. I repent. I repent.”
The moment he finished those words, a House appeared in front of him with the same Windows he had seen before; except that they were brighter yet against the storm.
To his rejoicing, the door was
open. He had no trouble walking inside.
By Kenneth Burchfiel, out of gratitude