Who is Worthy?

📅 Published on August 3, 2022

“Who is Worthy?”

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 17 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Manny “Rico” Esparragoza was a petty thief with big dreams and aspirations.  He had never amounted to much.  He was unable to hold down a steady job or otherwise.  His luck with the women was the same.  He had a tendency toward anger and violence.  Basically, he was what one would call a “hothead.”  He was a fairly decent-looking guy of Spanish descent, but he would tell people his parents were Mexican.  His thick black hair was always managed, and he was presentable, yet there was something just a little sleazy, a bit greasy, untrustworthy, just in his appearance alone.  Maybe it was the way he walked and talked or just the way he carried himself.  It was like an undeserving manner of cocky confidence that normally was a real turnoff for most people he encountered.  Like I said, Rico had big dreams.

It was a Friday, midday, summer, hot and sticky with a drenching humidity that opened every pore on the body as soon as one left the comforts of air conditioning.  Of all days to dream big, on this day, Rico bought a gun.  It was a burner; no serial number, no identifying marks of any kind. It was a throwaway gun, something to keep by the bedstand at night.  He paid little to nothing for it.  Well, little of nothing was a bag of hash.  The seller was getting the better deal.  The gun wasn’t even guaranteed to fire.

Rico wasn’t planning on killing anyone.  He wanted the security of having it as an extra threat for what he was about to do.

The jewelry store opened at 10 am, and by the time Rico had made his gun deal, it was 2 pm.  He figured by now the owners, a man and woman in their late 50’s, would be just going through their normal routines and would hopefully be complacent and taken by surprise.

“Hit, grab and run.”  This was what Rico was repeating to himself as he crossed the street from his observation point.  He quickly slipped the balaclava over his head to mask his face, drew out his pistol and barged in, yelling at the top of his lungs.  “Everybody, get down on the floor!  This is a robbery! Now!  Do you want to die?!”

Rico had not counted correctly.  There was one shop owner behind the counter, but his wife was not present.  There was a second man, a patron of the shop.  He was younger, maybe 25, and he had already dropped to the floor, hands out in submission.  A third person presented even more of a challenge.  She had not complied with Rico’s demands.  She looked to be about the same age as the boy.  Rico was quick to violence, and he struck the woman on top of the head with the gun.  Her knees buckled, and she dropped to the floor.  At this point, the tension in the room heightened, and fear swirled around like circling carrion at Golgotha’s hill.  When Rico had smashed the woman in the head, the shopkeeper decided he did not want to be robbed this day.  He kept his own pistol under the till. When he brandished his own weapon, all hell broke loose.  There was a lot of screaming, yelling, threats being made, and then there was gunfire.  The young man saw the shopkeeper raise his gun, and with lightning-fast reflexes, he leaped back to his feet.  The young woman was curled up in a ball against the glass display case holding her hands over her ears.  Rico fired first, striking the shopkeeper in the arm.  The force of the bullet made him rear back, and that is when he inadvertently squeezed the trigger of his own gun.  Tragically the young man was in the line of fire and the bullet went through one ear and out the other.  Rico was now completely beside himself.  This was not how this was supposed to go down.  There was blood and brain matter splattered on the wall and ceiling.  The young man was dead and lying in his own pooling blood.  The young girl, shaken by what she had just witnessed, bolted for the door in flight mode.  Another shot was heard.  This came from the shop owner again.  He did not miss his target this time.  Rico was in the act of shooting when the bullet struck his chest.  His gun fired as well.  He missed the shopkeeper whom he had aimed for and unintentionally shot the young woman.  She had been hit in the chest as well and dropped to the floor, dead.  Rico was not dead yet, and he emptied the last few bullets of his gun into the shopkeeper, who slumped lifelessly to the floor.  Rico fell backward.  He was losing too much blood.  He realized painfully he did not have the use of his arms now, and his legs weighed a ton.  He looked around the room.  He was sickened by what he had caused.  This was his fault.  He was the one to blame.  Diamonds sparkled brightly behind their glass cases as the room was illuminated by the rays of the sun.  Rico thought, “This should have been easy.  No one was supposed to get hurt.”  Rico was dead.

Indistinguishable voices, unapparelled darkness, a droning of something massive far away, senses on high alert, nerves twitching with spasms from a long sleep; Rico felt sedated.  He was as dry as an ochrous desert.  His mind fully awoke to the torment of his last memory.  His chest no longer ached from being shot but ached because his conscience was in agony.  This was the first time Rico understood true guilt.  He was writhing in misery and self-loathing, unable to expel the demons from his mind.  He trembled uncontrollably with unwanted emotions eating away at his soul.  He realized he was chained by one foot.  He touched the ankle bracelet with his fingers and traced the heavy chain back some 6 feet or so to what appeared to be a stone wall.  A dim light overhead flickered intermittently a few times and then illuminated.  Fully lit, the room was still dark with a distorted russet hue.  To his shock and dismay, there against an adjacent wall sat three people he instantly recognized.

“Crimson of Caesar!” he muttered.  He recoiled, trying to find the darkest place from which to observe them, but the room was equally lit.  The three were, in fact, the victims of his botched robbery.  They were conscious, sitting with their backs against the wall staring in Rico’s direction, but saying nothing. Despite himself, and now his cowardly demeanor, Rico announced, “I see you.” There was no reply. “Where are we?!” he abruptly, almost rudely demanded to know.  They spoke not a word, only glared as a people who had been terribly wronged.

“Come on!  Is this a joke?  What do you people want?” Rico asked with a hint of pleading in his failing tone.

“Want?” the shopkeeper was the first to speak.  “We want our lives back.”  He then stood.  Rico had not realized in the shop how big the man was.  He was an intimidating figure who pointed at him and said, “Very few move against or thwart the rhythm of life, knowing that doing so means damnation.”

A great tide of emotion intertwined with agitation was swelling.  The end had come, and no one had properly prepared for such an exit from the living.  It was beginning to dawn on Rico, sadly, that none of them had survived his failed attempt at a robbery.

The woman then stood, and she spoke.  “Two thieves hung on either side of Jesus while he was on the cross.  To one, he promised paradise that same day.  Which thief do you think you are?” Her tone was biting and inflicted ghastly memories in Rico’s already scattered thoughts.

The young man stood.  With stabbing eyes of condemnation, he directed his comment to Rico who was still sitting, chained.  “Where are we?  You tell us!  You put us here.  Dante says Purgatory, where ‘the human spirit purges himself, and climbing to Heaven makes himself worthy.’  Are you worthy?”

Rico fumbled with the words.  His mind thought back to something his grandmother had said to him when he was young, “Manuel, you do good, good things happen.  If you do bad, bad things are going to happen.”

Her prophetic reminder of right and wrong was as black as molasses to his soul.  It squeezed his mind like a pestilential tempest from a hive of stinging death, overflowing with a chorus of undulation rattling his every bone.

“We are dead, and you are too, but you are the one chained, so figure it out,” the young woman was wildly bitter as the devil’s minions traversed the dark unseen.

The four of them were connected, having entered this holding chamber unaware of the time, date or even how long they had been unconscious.  There was the incomprehensible scrambling of their reasonings caused by an undelineated evil they were unable to pinpoint.  But it was there among them.

Understanding how dire the situation was, Rico said, “My name is Rico.  I am sorry.”

There was laughter from the other three.  “We couldn’t care less what your name is,” the young woman replied.

“I’m just saying if we are going to be here for any length of time, we should at least know one another’s names,” said Rico, now standing to his feet.  He thought he probably no longer had blood in his body, but when he stood, he got this immense lethargy that practically overwhelmed him.  He stumbled a bit, regained his balance and just waited for the torporific dizziness to subside.

“May the devil have your soul,” the shopkeeper said cursingly.

“He’s had my soul for as long as I can recall,” Rico mumbled.

“You are to blame for this!  You and only you,” the young woman shouted in an almost unbearable screech.

“Me?  I will take partial blame.  But if the old man here had not tried to play hero and blown off your head, I would have been in and out in a flash, and no one would have been killed,” Rico reminded them while addressing the young man whom the shopkeeper had accidentally killed.

“You shot me?” the young man addressed the shopkeeper.

“Accidentally.  This idiot shot me first.”

“He shot you, then you shot me?”  The young man seemed utterly confused.

“I saw the whole thing.  It was an accident, Kevin,” the young girl said.

“Oh, so you are Kevin?  I finally get a name,” Rico laughed mockingly.

He sat back down, musing over their situation.

Rico’s eyes scanned the room, looking vainly for an exit, but this room was sealed without windows or a door.  He was very pallid and anxious and cursed under his breath.

Overhearing him, Kevin asked, “What is that?  Are you praying and asking forgiveness for your stupidity?”

Rico delivered his words uncharacteristically eloquently, dreamy, stilted, with proper pauses on certain syllables, which composed a memorable cadence.  “Prayer?  What good is praying to a God who has always let you down?  Praying to a God who knows you’re lost and never found?  Praying on your knees or hands lifted in the air.  Praying to a God who doesn’t really care?  I’ll take my chances, do things my own way.  Sinatra got it right at the end of the day.  Regrets?  I’ve had a few.  But if I had to do it over again, I would still aim my gun right at you!”

There was an uncomfortable pause at the end of Rico’s freestyle rap.

Kevin then broke the silence.  “You are going to rap while we are trapped in this place?

Rico burst out, practically cackling.  “You said rap and trapped.  Didn’t know you were a rapper, too.”

“Oh, shut up, you idiot, before I…” Kevin interrupted Rico.

“Before you what, kill me?” Rico retorted.

“This is serious!” said the young woman.

“She’s right.  We are all in this place.  It is curious but practical given the circumstances you are the only one chained,” said the shopkeeper.

“Curious, on purpose!  This SUCKS!”  Rico’s arrogance was prodigious, with a bloated corpulence showing his unmanaged character flaws.

“We shouldn’t be here with you.  You are a thug.  I was buying a ring for my girlfriend.  You robbed me of that,” Kevin cried out.

“And I was buying a broach for my mother’s birthday,” said the young woman.

“Listen, Kev ol’ boy, don’t worry, your girl will find somebody else.”  Rico realized the moment he said those words it was probably something he should have held inside.

Kevin raced across the room and, with a flurry of punches, beat Rico’s head until Rico, who was completely caught off guard and defenseless, had to play dead until the shopkeeper dragged Kevin away.

“Do you feel better now?  Were you hoping to kill me?  Well, I’m already dead, you moron!”  Rico showed no bruising or marks on his face at all.  In the land of the living, he would have been beaten black and blue.  But here, wherever this was, it wasn’t paradise, God’s bosom, or even hell.  If this was eternal life, no one here was impressed.  Rico thought from his Catholic upbringing there should be a last judgment, but was hoping his dear mother could pray him out of this place if this was really Purgatory.

“Truce, let’s call a truce,” Rico said, wanting to make sense of what was very illogical.  The three looked at him in disbelief, for he had been responsible for their deaths.

Rico surmised, “If we are dead, which I believe we are, shouldn’t we be asleep in a cemetery somewhere?  Decomposing and returning to dust?  Hades?  Shouldn’t I have gone straight to the devil? I am serious

.  I realize I made a huge mistake, and I am truly sorry for what I did to you, but we can’t change it now, so we ought to put our minds together and figure this thing out.”

“You are correct about one thing.  You can’t change this.  And as far as your apology goes, shove it!” Kevin barked.

“Wow, guess you are not the forgiving type,” Rico said antagonizingly.

“Before this, I didn’t believe in God.  I was a proud, educated atheist.  Now I don’t know what to believe or if belief is even a possibility here,” Kevin said, speaking more to his two companions than to Rico.

“Kevin, even I believe in God,” Rico chimed in.

“That’s classic coming from a guy responsible for killing three people, whose initials come from the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act passed in 1970,” the shop owner joined in.

“Shouldn’t you be burning in hell right now?” Kevin said directly to Rico.

Rico replied, “That’s classic coming from a guy who just recently questioned his own belief in the existence of God.”

“Hopefully you don’t burn in Hell anytime soon.  I’d like to think reincarnation was a real thing, and I’d hope you came back as something like a cave cricket.  They live in caves, they never leave them, and they feed on mold, feces, and even snail slime tracks,” the young woman blurted out with extreme indignant venom.

Kevin laughed.  “Or, or, or…” he stuttered attempting to remember something worse than a cave cricket.  “Got it!  A tube worm.  No, no, no…a dung beetle.”

Rico stood, ignoring their remarks and yanked hard on his chain, but as he expected, it did not budge.

“Face it, you are caught,” Kevin smirked.

“Yeah, don’t I know it.  And funny thing is, if this is my hell, you idiots have followed me here,” Rico snapped.

“I don’t see an inferno here, no devil, no demons, other than you,” the young woman spat.

Rico ran his hands over the stone wall, feeling, pushing, scratching at it.  He examined it under the dim light in hope, or maybe just dumb luck, there was a hidden door.  He turned off his hearing the best he could to concentrate.  The others saw him probing the wall, and at once, the three began mimicking him.  They, too, wanted to find a secret door or passage, some navigational opening into anyplace but this cell with their murderer.

There was no time, no ticking of a clock, no rise of the sun or moonlight.  With their circadian rhythms disrupted by death, there was no way to gauge time.  For all they knew, they could have been in this oblivion either 15 minutes or 15 millenniums.  Each person did have a gnawing unease as if something tragic was about to occur.  The four of them, lost to the underworld, worked diligently to find a way to break out.  But if they did find a way to put distance between them and this cell, where would it open to?  Where would it lead?  They did not take the time to weigh the risk, the possible worst-case scenario, but the humanity remaining in them was seeking light.  The shopkeeper thought to himself, “If this was Purgatory, could this be a place not otherworldly but a place actually on the earth?”  He began a silent prayer.  Prayer is all the hope he seemed to have.

Although they did not become tired of pushing on the stones and feeling the walls for a quick exit, their attempts mutated into discouragement, so they felt the need to avert the attempt.  They would have loved to sleep but found it impossible.  No one was even tired.  The realization of degradation, that they had lost so much, was a stark reality.  Not only had they lost their worldly possessions but also absent were real, thoughtful memories or the connection to love.

“Is anyone else forgetting things from your previous life?” asked the shopkeeper.

“Me, I have gaps in my life.  I know there is something there, but I cannot remember certain things,” Kevin acceded.

The young woman’s expression changed as her face contorted in deep thought.  “Me too,” she exclaimed.

Contrarily, Rico laughed.  “You guys all got dementia at once?” Lastly, he went into his memory bank and shockingly, he realized he, too, was having anterograde amnesia.  He did not want to admit it, but it was occurring to him as well.

The cell shook violently, taking everyone off guard.  If the four of them were not already seated, they would have been rocked off their feet.  “What the devil?!” Kevin screamed.

Rico, trying to be funny, responded with, “Exactly!”

The rocking ceased as precipitously as it had commenced, startling everyone.  A subsonic droning was heard, mechanical gears squeaked with deafening shrills.  The creaking of cogs and wheels in need of a good oiling ground louder and louder.  This cacophony of noise was insufferable, virtually unbearable to listen to.  The four disoriented patrons of this ignominy were on their hands and knees under the wrenching weight of the interminable machine.  Impoverished to fight back, they were helpless in this obscurity, now being crushed by overwhelming inglorious vibrations of the calling damned. Uncontrollable emotions turned on them.  These were sensations they thought they had lost, now assaulted them with mockery, hatred, curses, humiliating calamity at every angle, seizing them in unspeakable terror,` wrenching them with insults.  This was the drudgery of Hell snapping at them like a shark to dead bait.  They were begging for this to end, for the incessant clanging in their heads to cease. Drowning in shame, accused and convicted they were no longer aware of anything.  It was a heightened chaos, as if going with the first wave into a war zone where the enemy was unseen and dug in and being ravaged in the process.  The vilest thoughts, the most agonizing reels of contemptuous tortures, ran through the cameras of their minds’ eye.  With unwanted tunnel vision, they spiraled down, free-falling like limp playthings into unknown limbo so dark that falling was more like floating without resistance. The molestation seemed over with, but the infringement upon their minds lingered like the taste of wormwood on their tongues.

The ground cradled their descent gently without as much as a bounce or a jar.  Brittle flakes of what appeared to be clay butterflied like confetti tossed.  This was the first time Rico realized he was no longer wearing the ankle chain.  They were standing on an enormous barren landscape similar to what one would believe an alien planet might look like.  There were no hills, no trees; however, there was a large glowing campfire in the distance some 100 yards away.  Instinctually the four gravitated to the fire.  As they drew closer, they could recognize the shape of a man.  He was shirtless, bony, squatting down as if to be warming himself.  Approaching with caution, the young woman addressed the man.  “Hello, there.”

The man was elderly but lean and very vascular.  He let out a sigh and answered, “I have been expecting you.  Please come, warm yourself by the fire.”  He never turned his head to look in their direction but extended his hand to indicate they should sit to his righthand side.  Without questions, the four of them did as they were instructed and took their seats.

“Rico, Kevin, Nancy and Marvin,” he called them by name.

“You must be wondering what is happening.  You must also find the afterlife stranger than you could have ever imagined.” The four sat, fixed on the old man’s every word.

“My name is Ignatius.  Life and death as you knew it does not apply here.  Life and death are joined together in mutual agreement without the war they once waged on one another.  Your judgment has already taken place.  I am to direct you now according to what was found in your hearts.  No one moves on unless they pass through the fire.”  The eyes of Ignatius swelled wider as he spoke.

“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but that way is death.  You may have also heard, ‘The wages of sin is death?’  In order for you to understand the magnitude of where you are and what is about to happen, what has happened and what is transpiring now…truth is the catalyst of redemption. Only truth can set one free.

“Concepts of the living are the conceptions of a people who use perspectives for their rational thinking. ‘I think therefore, I am.’  These are the tenets of man’s truth but not truth at all.  Take this fire before us as an example.  You know fire burns and destroys.  If I hold my hand too close to the fire, my defense mechanism will cause me, with no power of my own, to remove it quickly before I am injured.  Here, nothing is hidden or concealed; thus, truth is all around us.  Truth comes from deeper realms where most men never venture to go.”  Ignatius stood and walked straight into the fire.  Nancy screamed.  The three men gasped.  Ignatius was not harmed.  He stood in the midst of the fire looking at peace with quixotic ardor.  He did not ignite.

“If you walk in truth, the fire finds nothing in you to burn.  You must not believe the lie of manipulation you have been led to believe.  All people live the lie until they realize their true identity.”  Ignatius turned to the tableau vivant, his hand extended as an invitation to the rest.  In the flames, he looked at the point of grotesquery with his image distorting with each flickering effulgence.

“Fire cleanses, it purifies, it removes everything that doesn’t belong.  All must go through the fire.  You are more than you have ever supposed.  You are the center of what creation is.  You are the nucleus, the core, the very embryo of life.  Believe me when I tell you, you are eternal; you are eternity.”  His hand remained extended as the flames leaped all around him, yet causing him no burn or injury.

The four of them sat, not accepting the exhortation immediately.

Ignatius’s voice seemed to become louder, clearer, and it came at them from all directions.  Even from within each one, his voice resonated with cogent urgency.  Surprising to the three still undecided, the first to consent to the beckoning chorus of voices was Rico.  He approached Ignatius with his own hand extended.  The flames became higher as Rico approached.  As their fingers met, Rico was lit like a torch. He screamed as if he wanted the heavens to hear.

Ignatius pulled him inside the ring of fire, and they stood together on fire, yet not burning.  From his mouth, the worms of Gehenna wiggled and squirmed their way from the pit of his being up through his throat, and he expelled them, a dozen at a time, until they were all expelled with black rot of corruption, a malignancy revealing who he most assuredly was.

Then Rico’s cries subsided, and in some sort of praise, he lifted his hands over his head, his eyes fixed on something above.  None of the remaining three could see what he was intrigued with.  Rico was experiencing his life flashing by; he felt all of the pain and hurt from everyone he had hurt or had wronged in his life.  He saw his life for what it was: a lie!  Nothing but lies had been the bed he slept in, the food he consumed, the relationships made and broken.  He was awakening to the truth he had never known, and in this moment of rapturous assuage, the clutter of his life burned away and, in a brief moment, he believed he had been born again.  Weightless, his body lifted itself from the dancing flames, and he was carried away before their eyes and vanished out of sight.

Ignatius remained in the swirling fire, his hand extended again.

“I want to see my wife again,” Marvin said.  Rico had been exuberant, and it seemed as though he had passed some of that ebullience on to Marvin.  He trembled as he approached the ring of fire.  As his fingers touched Ignatius’s hand, he, too, was lit like a ball of fire.  The fire turned white then blue and he did not cry out but he burst into tears of joy and happiness.  Ghostly transparent figures appeared, encircling him like a vortex.  He, too, lifted his arms as if to say to whatever force had carried Rico away to take him too.  The love of his life at times had been the diamonds, the jewelry, those things that over time would lose their luster and become dull.  In this moment, none of that seemed important any longer.  He felt as though some spiritual manifestation was restoring him and making him complete. Kevin and Nancy stood spellbound at what they were witnessing.  Even before Marvin was being lifted away, Kevin was drawing closer to the ring of fire.

He had been an unbeliever in his life, had never considered for a moment there was a spiritual world, an afterlife, and gave no credence to the existence of a God or gods, or even supreme beings of any kind.  He had believed in the possibility of other life out in the vast universe but had imagined there was a Big Bang or some explosion from nothing that made something, so other life could have evolved on other planets, but now all of his theories were being dispelled.  As Marvin, light as a feather, drifted out of sight in the same fashion as Rico, Keven stepped into the ring of fire.  He let out a scream and exhaled what Nancy could only define as an agonal breath.  His shoulders slumped, and the truth of his life was revealed.  He was coursed with shame, denial, guilt and condemnation like he had never experienced before.  Ignatius scooped a flame and held it in his hand like a ball.  He then pushed Kevin’s head back, opening his mouth.  The ball of flame was gently rolled from Ignatius’ hand and dropped into Kevin’s mouth.  Kevin’s eyes opened, and fire beamed like lightning from them.  There was a release of doubt and unbelief at that very moment.  Kevin rose above the ring of fire and he, too, drifted out of sight in a plume of pale smoke.

“Nancy, take my hands,” Ignatius spoke, reaching out of the flames toward her.  After all, she had seen, she did not want the pain.  “What if it hurts?” she thought to herself.

A voice spoke in her ear, a silent whisper giving her confidence.  “I will snatch you away, I promise.”

Nancy took the hands of Ignatius and entered the ring of fire.  At first, she thought she felt as though she was being burned but then realized she was learning forgiveness.  The two of them, hand in hand, began to turn in circles, almost like a proper dance.  They spun faster and faster, until together they levitated gradually out of the burning ring, creating a fire whirl spawning a massive vortex climbing high into the ethereal heavens that awaited the untethered pair.  The ring of fire extinguished itself for the moment.

Victory over death is not an easy fight and can be phenomenally frightening.  Yet, coming to terms with the truth is the facilitator of our freedom.  We will all stand in this place where we are eye to eye, toe to toe, with death and all of its dark marvels.  But it is just as easy to believe in life and to embrace it as it is to believe in death and succumb to it.  Ours is an eternal life; it starts now.  Who is worthy?

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dale Thompson


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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