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“It was a bright, sunlit place; and there I was with some ordinary folk and the few holy accusers. There was nothing special about either; they all looked the same. Yet, the few I knew where there to condemn me in their tribunal of light. I sat with the judge peering before me. I stood before him, naked and so black of form that the boundaries of self were indistinct and blurry. I was only a dark nothing in the general shape of a man, except for my eyes. As my only visible detail, they were solid and gleamed of the purest white. I was being told that I must do this thing. A deed that would make me darker than I was. Yet, this deed contained within it a seed of goodness, a goodness that would not purge my self of the darkness, nor diminish it in any way, but still allow that seed to predominate…”

At this point, Ern awoke with a start. He had had this dream before, and he was quite confused as to its meaning. How could something be so evil, yet be good at the same time? He also felt this dream had somewhat to do with his origins and who he was. While he felt the memory of his past haunted him, it truly was a ghost that retreated if he peered too closely.

He had fallen asleep on the park bench where he had sit to rest and watch the children at play. He heard sirens in the near distance, and wondered if that was the cause of his awakening.

He also had the powerful urge to piss. The urge was too strong to make it to the nearest restroom without embarrassment. Because he was a homeless man, he had little cause for ceremony; therefore, he walked stiffly up the path a bit, and ventured into the bushes to relieve himself.

He thought it odd that the sound of the police were coming towards the park. There were shots close by. As he finished with a zip, a man came crashing through the brush and collided with him, knocking them both in a tumble to the ground.

When Ern sat up, he saw a hooded man in sweats, holding a black duffel over one shoulder, and a gun in the other hand, shaking. The man seemed scared witless.

“Are you okay, my friend?”, Ern asked. He had befriended many types of people in his lifetime, and the man didn’t seem threatening with his gun.

“Uh … yeah. You didn’t see me, okay?” He glanced nervously back the way he came in fear of his pursuers.

Ern visibly relaxed on seeing the other’s apprehension. “I know you want to run; but, can you tell me who is chasing you and why?”

“My family is starving. I lost my job, I’m about to lose my house, I robbed a bank.” He blurted this out, almost in tears at saying the bare truth. He scrambled up to flee.

“Wait!”, Ern shouted. “I can help you.”

The man paused, unsure as hell that he had heard correctly.

“You are about my size, change your clothes with mine, then you can place your money in my pack, and I’ll become you.”

A look of hope washed over the man’s face. They quickly changed clothing and bags, minus contents. After changing, Ern thought about shoes for a moment. He had a pair of raggedy sandals versus the other’s pair of running shoes. Words echoed from his clouded past, “I mean seriously, how often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”

“Now hand me the gun,” Ern stated. “Then, wait in here for a while, till it quietens down, and go take care of your family.”

Ern had lived in this city for a while. Having covered the streets on foot, he knew he could evade the police. As he quickly pondered his way of escape, he wiped the gun clean and then placed it squarely in his hand. He grabbed the duffel in the other, and turned to leave.

“Wait,” said the other, “Who the hell are you?”

“Nobody, really. You can call me Ernest. Take care of your family. Homelessness doesn’t suit you well.”

With that, Ern ran out of the brush.

His new friend sat bewildered by this strange turn of events. A few moments later, he heard shouting. Then, gunshots. The sirens blared again, and diminished with distance. Silence. It was the most beautiful silence he had ever experienced. He stood up, a freer man, and walked the miles back to his home, his wife, and his children.

The next day, he learned from the paper that somehow the bank robber had eluded the police, that nobody had been injured, and a single partial print had been left on the discarded gun. “That seemed intentional,” he thought.

In the months that followed, he pulled his life together and fixed his financial woes. The money he used to do so was never really noticed, and never really missed, for the presses never slowed their printing.