This is a story I wrote for an english assignment. The assignment was to write about a modern day witch hunt.
Graveyards are gloomy places. There's row after row of dead bodies buried under bright green grass. Row after row of headstones, saying things like 'Rest In Peace' and 'Keep travelling the roads of heaven, Dad, until we meet again.'
Heaven. That's something that everyone has to make a choice about at some point in their lives. For me, it was two years ago, when I was seventeen. I made my choice the day six of my friends and I followed Cassandra Collins home from school.
Now that I think back, I can see that it was a stupid thing to do. It was all Brad's idea. He hated the fact that Cassandra was a Christian and he never missed a chance to tease her about it. We just followed along blindly like sheep.
I can still remember her face when we surrounded her in the middle of the park right next to the swings. She was more annoyed than scared, even when confronted by so many people. She'd put up with the teasing for weeks already and she was tired of it.
"What do you want now?" she demanded, throwing her bag onto a bench. Brad stepped in front of her. She was only a few inches shorter than he was, but he seemed to tower over her.
"You're a nut, you know. All you religious people are just the same. There is no God. You're just a bunch of crazy idiots."
That was tame compared to some of Brad's previous taunts, so I wasn't surprised when Cassandra barely blinked. It was only when Brad started yelling, "Nut!" over and over, that Cassandra jumped back. The others started to join in, and since everyone else was doing it, I did too.
Finally, Cassandra lost her patience. "Get lost!" she yelled. "What would you know?" She was close to tears as she moved to pick up her bag. Brad grabbed her arm and swung her around. Long, red hair flew across her face as she fought to hold the tears back.
A small voice inside my head said, "This isn't right," but I wasn't listening. My mind kept going through all the things Brad had said about her. That she was crazy to believe in God, nuts to believe that there was a heaven. Insane to be willing to die for something that doesn't even exist.
"The Romans used to throw Christians to the lions. Pity there aren't any lions around here," Brad sneered. I heard snickers from the boys around me. Now I realise that there wasn't anything funny about it at all.
Cassandra yanked her arm out of his grasp. "Leave me alone," she said, backing away.
That's when things got out of hand. Brad pulled a shiny black object out of his jacket pocket and pointed it at her. She froze, like a deer caught in headlights.
It took me a moment to realise it was a gun. I should have done something then, but I didn't. No one did. Someone started to say something but they were quickly shushed. Now I wish that I had said something.
"People like you pollute the rest of us," Brad growled. "If you want to die for your God so much, then I'll make it easy for you."
There was an earth shattering bang and Cassandra stumbled back, then she fell, seemingly in slow motion. Blood darkened her white shirt.
Everyone seemed to come back to their senses. Brad dropped the gun and bolted out of there. Everyone else followed, terrified that they would be caught. I should have gone with them but the sight of Cassandra sprawled on the grass made me stop. It didn't seem right to leave her. It was the first right decision I'd made that afternoon.
I knelt down beside her. Her eyes were wide with pain and fear. She fought to sit up, her eyes moving wildly, trying to focus on me. I pushed her back down gently. Taking off my jacket, I held it over the wound in her chest. Blood soaked through it.
"Stay still. I'll call an ambulance or something," I said frantically.
"God's real," she whispered. "Jesus is real. He wants me to go home."
"Home?" I wondered. Then, I realised what she was talking about. Heaven.
"Thank you for staying," she whispered. I had to lean over to hear what she said.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, knowing it wasn't enough. Words couldn't undo what had already happened. I wished with all my heart that I could turn back time. Maybe do things differently. But that's something no one can do, no matter how much they want to.
"Then I guess this wasn't a waste after all," she whispered. Her pale lips turned up in a small smile and she closed her eyes for the last time.
I sat there for a long time until a roller blader came by and saw us. Brad's fingerprints were found on the gun and he was charged with murder. One of my classmates told me that he was in counselling.
I come back to Cassandra's grave almost every month. I guess it is sort of in atonement for playing a part in her death. I also go to church every Sunday. If Cassandra believed in God so much that she paid the ultimate price for Him, then there must be some truth in it.
My pastor tells me that God has forgiven me, but I'm not so sure. I don't believe that God will ever forgive me, because I can't forgive myself.