Samson and the Temple
"Imagine you see a car wreck and you see a mother crying. It is curious to you so you go home and copy it in the mirror. That is a psychopath."
- Paraphrase from Robert Hare
The day was a dreary drip as the chilly temperatures warmed a bit and the nights snow began to melt. The slush of the snow soaked my worn brown shoes, it sprayed across my retro trench coat, which I always wore.
While I looked ridiculously eccentric, it was nothing in comparison to my companion. He was a tall drink of water, lean and fit. He wore a raincoat which was so long it swept across the thick mebrane of snow, his pants were partially obscured by the coat but the vibrant pink poked through. He was inane in his attire and his magnanimous attitude only added to his foolish manner. His face held an absurd expression which was meant to look like quiet contemplation but looked more like he was eating a "warhead." Long blonde locks swept across his white forehead and his piercing eyes looked expectantly in front of him at the looming structure ahead.
The prison we strode towards was a daunting grey, it gave the air of a building which had housed every kind of heinous wretch. It's omniscient gaze was keen and jabbed through the downcast day in an ominous way.
"You ready lad?" The professor barked in his high pitched grainy voice.
"I think so," I replied hesitantly. New York State Maximum Security Prison was by far one of the most gruesome and dangerous prisons in the nation and the idea of me, a geeky junior in college, entering such a place seemed unthinkable.
We made it to the gates which were the first of three lines in the security labyrinth. We were searched and walked through a metal detector. Both of our jackets were thoroughly inspected and the whole ordeal took ten minutes. We passed the second line of security which was a fence riddled with razor wire. This search took less time and we were on to the third and final line of security in under five minutes. The last line was a solid brick wall. Along the lines of the wall were doors with long bars which were used as entrances.
We swaggered in, our educated minds ablazing. The sight that met my eyes was surprisingly boring, my chest which had been puffed out in anticipation for masculine challenges slouched back inwards like a turtle shrinking back into its shell. While the men were rough looking they were obviously medicated. They milled around behind the bars of the weight room. All of them looked like they could rip a human body in half. The only exception was a smaller man who looked like he was a head shorter than I. There was almost a complete lack of tension which would normally accompany a weight room. It felt uncomfortably at ease.
"They are usually docile." The professor said seemingly having read my mind.
"Yeah, it's disconcerting. Why is that?"
"Well a way to reduce violence is by lowering testosterone. A lot of the medications we give them here have the side effect of lowering that fussy hormone." A buzzer sounded and all the men shuffled out of the room back to their cells. Each of them was coupled with an agent who led them back.
"Time for consultations." The professor said strutting past the weight room and towards a barred off room nearby. He opened the door and we entered a white room with two chairs on opposing sides of a metal table. The table was a linoleum grey and reflected its dull reflective light across the wall. The table had an iron bar plateauing across its visage, my guess was that it was used to restrain prisoners. Three pale chairs sat around the table and peered up at us with an expression that spoke of many days of use. As we sat the walls became more bright as the LED lights were mirrored off of the opaque hue of blank. I lost even the comfort of my shadow in the vibrance of the room and thought that I couldn't really blame the inhabitants of the prison for being insane.
"It's your lucky day we are evaluating the Samson Killer first." The professor said shredding through my mirage of observations.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"He is a serial killer whose signature is cutting people's hair and strangling them with it," The professor replied in his customary indifferent matter. His face scrunched up as he opened a manilla folder in front of him. He was vexing, though I could not place the source of my annoyance. He just had one of those faces that incited anger, why he had become a clinical psychologist was a mystery to me. My eyes fluttered once again drawn back from the worlds of fantasy as the door slid open soundlessly.
The small man I had seen earlier hobbled in and reached out his hand hitting me in the head with his opened fingers. I lunged backwards in fright as the man was restrained by the guard that accompanied him.
"I am so sorry. I meant to shake your hand." He said in a genuine tone. I noticed his eyes. Clouds of white encompassed the iris suffocating it in a hazy cover of transparent film.
"Your blind!" I blurted then added embarrassed, "I mean..."
"No worries, yes I am blind." He said in a forgiving tone. "Say... the guys have been talking about that coat of yours. They say it is 'one hell of a garment' except their exact vocabulary is filled with more cuss words. Would you mind trading me?"
"Trading what?" I said looking uneasily at the Professor. The only reassurance he gave was a wink which raised my blood pressure a few levels.
"Well, your coat of course."
"Oh," I said, stupidly looking down at my coat. It had never occurred to me that this was perhaps not the best place to look eccentric.
"I love that coat and would be willing to part with my prison junk for it," he said pulling at his prison jumpsuit.
"Um, this coat was expensive." I said quickly.
"Well in that case we will have to take it by force." The man said and then cracked a smile, "I'm only joking."
"Oh," I said nervously. He flopped onto the chair, creating a light wave of breeze. He was handcuffed to the metal bar and chained by his feet to the ground.
"Now let's see if I can't convince you to give me that coat am I right doc?" He said winking his shrouded orbs at the professor, "What's your name?" He continued.
I looked at him for a moment, his genuine eyes pleaded for an answer I replied, "Eril Black."
"How do you feel about my boy here asking a few questions?" The professor said.
"The boy seems nice, naive and nice. I remember a kid like him. One of the people I saved, he was 23 and a fighter, but the blind will inherit the world." He said smiling in a glowing way.
"Saved?" I asked in a speculatory manner.
"Saved... killed, there is no difference," he replied.
I looked him over. He was no more than 5' 3, his face was a mosaic of scars which etched his deep wrinkles. He couldn't be any younger than 60 but he had a jaunt of nonchalance which was disconcerting when you realized you were talking to a notorious killer. He seemed so unthreatening I pitied him.
"Do you feel remorse for your actions?" I asked, cutting to the chase.
"I didn't do anything I am ashamed of. Do you feel any remorse for going to college?" He inquired.
"Uh, no?" I replied intrigued by his deflection.
"Well it is the mark of an educated mind to think people under them, who don't have opportunities are less. It is the snots like you who create people like me, yet you feel no remorse for systematically oppressing me. So why would I feel bad for fighting back? Afterall it is my duty as a citizen of this country to fight back against injustice." The placidity and gentleness with which he said this was disconcerting because it made his aggressive words seem meek.
"Why are you allowed to work out?" I asked him, "Aren't you marked for solitary?"
"Oh, I am persuasive, I decided that I wanted to be out of that hell hole and the warden granted it," he said.
"So do you think you are more persuasive than others?" I asked.
"I don't have your coat do I?" He said and smiled.
"No I suppose not," I replied, "How long do you get out of the cage?"
"I only get 2 hours out of the cage," He sighed with a puff that would make the Big Bad Wolf proud, "Do you know what it's like to kill?"
"What? No of course I don't," I said not expecting the quick transition.
"It is the most glorious thing ever. But you know what drives me crazy? Not seeing it," He said mournfully as if we were talking about his dead pet dog.
"How can you not see right from wrong?" I asked cautiously very aware that I was dealing with a heinous murderer.
"The same way I can't see light from darkness I suppose," he said with a chuckle, "I am blind to it and what a relief that is." He continued hesitantly, "You ever heard of Antaeus? Antaeus was the son of mother earth and was invincible as long as he stayed on the ground. But Hercules defeated him by lifting Antaeus over his head and ripping him in half." He said this while gesticulating the scenario with glee. "Society pretends to be invincible like Aenteus and it is, just as Aenteus is when he is on the soil, but as soon as someone like me, who doesn't need the earth and doesn't need the foundations of morality, comes along I can tear it apart." He laughed, it was not a maniacal laugh which I would have expected but instead it was a deep sorrowful laugh but I couldn't figure out why it sounded so melancholy. "And morality is nothing to someone like me because just like darkness and light, I am blind to the differentiation to right and wrong."
The conversation with the professor on our return to the university was trivial in comparison to what was going through my mind because an idea had sprung to me. I had been startled by how similar I was to that man. How similar I was to a serial killer. If he had been out of prison I would have helped him cross the street or even invited him to play poker with me, which were some of the scenarios in which he murdered. And my thought was, am I any less crazy than he? It was true, all the things Samson had said, but the laugh... the laugh. That was what haunted me the most. It was a spectre in my mind. A ghost which haunted every hazy dream, morphing it into a nightmare. I remembered the oping melancholy, the genuine tumid well of emotion that was overflowing into the rivers of sorrow. I couldn't understand why he was so sad.
He was right and I couldn't deny it. The words he had spoken hung around me too, like a swarm of bees and subsequently whenever I swatted at them I was stung by their simple yet profound truthfulness. It was true, he was blind to right and wrong just as he was blind to darkness and light and no matter how many hours I tossed and turned I could not reconcile the fact. He was not at fault for his insanity any more than he was at fault for his blindness. My ideals of right and wrong shriveled away like an uncared for flower and it was replaced by a cactus of understanding. I understood that everything he did was objectively bad, I just didn't know how because it was one thing to say that taking a human life was objectively wrong but quite another thing to prove it. You can't blame a blind man who accidentally runs into someone anymore than you can blame an emotionless person for being callous and violent because neither can see.
The one thing that haunted me more than those words and that laugh was the simple fact that the more I thought about it, the easier it became to understand his insanity. I realized that I could have committed those sins against humanity much easier than I had previously thought possible. It was what Jung called "the shadow," previously I had never been much for cliche ideas, but now it became less of an idea and was what my entire life revolved around. In 5 minutes Samson had opened the door for my shadow to crawl out and it had. I had not been conscious of my insanity until it came crashing down on me like a tsunami of enlightenment, but what scared me was not the wave but the earthquake which followed.
I was dreaming, like most nights, I had just fallen into a fitful sleep. Most nights I dreamt of his laugh but tonight I dreamt of his eyes. They were sightless eyes, devoid of color and emotion. As opaque and white as paper like a cloudy day covering up the bright blue sky. They swirled like tornados in my dream sweeping me into a state of unrest as my slumber shifted to lucidity. A knock came at my door and I bolted up in my bed springing from the mattress and landing on the wooden floor of my tiny dorm room. The knock persisted and I quickly put on my shirt and pants. I staggered to the door muttering. I opened the door and there stood the professor in a state of disheveled agitation. Despite the late hour his attire was immaculate he wore a dark watch and a suit which was a dark pink. His tie reflected the ambiance of the dim yellow lights in the hallway.
"Professor how nice of you to show up," I pulled his watch arm towards me and read the time, "at 3 in the morning."
"I'm not too keen on losing my sack time either but there has been a slight disturbance at the prison and I have been called to sort out who started the riots."
"And why are you here?" I asked groggily.
"I was wondering if you fancied another visit and wanted to help me." I was hesitant with a response. It had been almost two months since my last visit and I still had nightmares. It took a few moments of awkward silence as I contemplated but eventually curiosity overcame fear and I said, "Yeah, I'll come just let me grab my coat." He nodded and I ducked back into the dorm to grab one of my various coats. I was reaching for an odd number, a leather zip up, when the trench coat I had worn on the original visit caught my eye. For some reason I was urged to grab it. I threw it on and re-entered the hallway.
It took less than an hour to reach our destination and when we did the building immediately caught my eyes. The lights were the only thing in sight. The once dark and desolate landscape was illuminated by the building. This time the air of the building seemed to be filled with knowledge, not of evil but instead of enlightenment. It was as if all the darkness had left it and was replaced with the bright lights which flooded the surrounding shrubbery. It was disconcerting in a way, like looking at the sun for too long because the building didn't feel cold instead it felt welcoming and warm as if I were going home.
The security was much more strenuous and difficult to bypass and the whole process took an hour so that by the time we were finished clearing the triumvirate of security hell, the sky had begun to lighten and the February day grew warmer. We walked into the building escorted by a possy of heavily armed security personnel and walked to the room we had gone to before.
The room was much the way I remembered it, bare and unwelcoming with no windows. This time, however, there were three chairs and the professor beckoned for me to sit on his right. Moments later an inmate was brought in. He was a muscular man dark and callous. He was riddled with tattoos and had a dark scar running down his face, it reached from his forehead all the way down to his chest. He snarled as he was placed down in the seat on the far side of the table across from us. He was handcuffed and chained. He growled at us ferociously and spat at the professor. The wad of mucus showered him but he seemed unperturbed. He removed his suit jacket and wiped his face without losing eye contact with the prisoner.
"So, how has it been uh... Donivan?" He said peaking into a manilla folder in front of him. The response he received was a gutteral noise which was reminiscent of a dog preparing to bark. It was lower than a growl an almost tortured squeal. All of a sudden the bravado dropped and the behemoth of a man started crying.
"I didn't do nothin, nothin I swear." He sobbed. "No not good ole Donivan I would never do nothing." he sounded childish in manner which was contrary to his image.
"Donivan its okay we wont send you to the can even if you did it." The professor said sympathetic of the hulk who was mercilessly wailing across from him.
"No I didn't do nothin I swear by all the teddy bears in the world. I swear."
The professor whispered to me, "He is a paranoid schizophrenic and loves teddy bears it's the only thing he ever talks about. If he is swearing on teddy bears I genuinely think he didn't start the riots." He chuckled and added, "That's a line I never imagined using."
"How did he get in here then if he is so gentle?" I asked.
"Guy has an IQ of 68, and the poor fellow accidently shot his best friend while hunting. It was better to send him here where he could be watched and overseen by guards who could actually restrain him then to put him in a lax asylum. Although he only got a 25 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, there is a decent chance he will never see the outside world again." I sat in stone cold silence. The professor waved at the guards and they drug the weeping man out of the room.
"Why was he your first suspect?" I asked.
"I thought he would either have unintentionally set the whole thing off or perhaps would give us some information. It was a good plan until he started crying." I nodded.
"Wait..." I said, "has Samson been questioned?"
"I don't know. We only are checking registered people and he is not registered because he is supposed to be in solitary."
"So the warden didn't unregister him as someone in solitary?" I said, "That idiot."
"Well let's bring him in," The professor said. It took a while but shortly Samson was dragged in. He smiled a warm smile which lit up the room. He put out his hand in no particular direction and we shook it with a little effort. A guard stood in the room and had begun to shackle him when Samson grabbed a shiv from his waistband and swiftly stabbed the guard. It all happened in less than a second and the guard was on the floor dead. The professor and I backed up against the wall of the windowless room. He was still smiling a wonderful smile as if he had just gotten flowers for us instead of killing a guard in front of us.
"See? Isn't so bad is it Eril? He said to me. I looked into his sightless eyes and became sorrowful but not because of the guard. Instead I felt sorrow for him. I realized I was no different than him, that we were both sightless. Everyone was sightless to morality and civility but he did not pretend.
"You're starting to understand, aren't you?" He said in a jovial tone. "So you know what needs to be done?"
"Yes," I replied. He tossed the bloody shiv to me and I turned on the professor who had turned white. His ghostly skin tone shifted to incredulous color.
'What are you doing?" He said in honest curiosity.
"I am proving to myself that I can do it." I said snarling.
"Think about the consequences," He said with a pleading tone.
"I can blame it on Samson, no one would ever believe I did this isn't that right Sam?"
"Damn straight." He replied with a hint of humor, "But you don't want that coat to get bloody do you?" He pointed to my trench coat.
"No I suppose not." I handed the coat to him and advanced on the professor. All I saw were his eyes, unlike Samsons, they were clear and had a tint of yellow. He was weak and powerless standing there in his ridiculous outfit. In less than a minute the deed was done and I smiled over my contemporaries body. No one would ever know.
"My only question Samson is why did you manipulate me? I know you did manipulate me and you did it perfectly but why? " I turned on Samson. He was wearing my coat and he smiled without any sorrow or warmth, only triumph.
"I did it for the coat," He said looking down at his new outfit, "I told you I would get that coat."
Title: "Samson and the Temple" Age Range: 18-25 Word Count: 3695
Author Name: Mario G.
Why is your project a good fit?: This story speaks to people. The hook is interesting to most people because we wonder what it is like to stare at evil. I think we like the idea of evil because it plays a big role in our lives.
Synopsis: The idea is a deeply Jungian idea but shows up through history in stories like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde," or "The Dark Half." The theory is that there is a root of evil that dwells within every one of us. It is backed by years of psychology and literature. Despite all this, we like to beleive that we are not evil and that there is no such thing as a shadow inside of our mindsbut if that were true then why do we crave horror movies? Or why do we like to watch football players injure themselves? Why are we such a devishly cynical race? This questions speaks to people because it answers that question. Stephen King put it this way, "I think we are all mentally ill."
Target Audience: The target audience is based around younger adults. The exact demographic would be horror fans and people who like psychological thrillers both genders.
Education: I am still in highschool.
Expierence: Minimal expierence. I write a lot and read a lot spanning many different genres in both fiction and nonfiction.
Personality/writing style: I like ideas revolving around the abstract. I like simplifying them and giving examples of them.
Likes/hobbies: I am a card magician and have spent the better part of my life doing that. I love playing chess and reading. I also grow and manage instagram accounts as a side hustle. Currently my largest account has surpassed 30,000 followers.
Hometown: I would prefer not to say.