I’ve got a new story out in the latest Realms of Fantasy, “The Man Who Made No Mistakes,” which chronicles a black man with a unique time traveling ability who faces a wrenching ethical delimma. It’s a longer story, approaching short novel length — a tale of race, murder, and the nature of sin, all wrapped into one. It’s an idea I made a run at years ago but didn’t get quite right, and the idea stuck with me, so I made a fresh attempt at it. It’s also accompanied by a stunning — and fitting — illustration by Billy Norrby.
The opening of the story is below. You can subscribe to Realms of Fantasy or buy individual issues on their website.
The Man Who Made No Mistakes
Scott William Carter
It may have been the steady drone of the rain on the church roof, or it may have been the second bourbon he’d had with dinner, but Father Holder found himself dozing in the confessional. His whole body was slumping against the heavy oak panels when the young man spoke.
“This won’t be your usual confession,” he said.
The voice jolted Father Holder awake — heart pounding, breath catching in his throat. For a moment, looking through the thick gray mesh, he thought he’d dreamed the voice, that it was a fabrication concocted from a stomach full of beef stroganoff — but then the young man opened his eyes and Father Holder saw the bright whites, luminescent almost, surrounding a pair of penetrating dark pupils. That’s when he realized the reason he was having trouble seeing his confessor was because the young man had skin nearly as black as the darkness.
“Oh my,” Father Holder said with a nervous laugh. His heart was still thundering in his ears. He also had an embarrassing line of slobber on his cheek, and he wiped it away with his sleeve. “You do know how to make an entrance, son.”
“Sorry,” the young man said. “I didn’t know you were sleeping.”
He had just a tinge of a Southern accent, but of a particular variety — Cajun, maybe? It was barely there, like a radio playing faintly in another room. Whoever he was, he certainly wasn’t from around here. Of course, that was true of just about everyone in Las Vegas.
“I wasn’t asleep,” Father Holder said, even as he blinked away the bleariness in his eyes. “Just resting my eyes a little. I was — what time is it anyway?”
“Late,” the young man said. “Very late. Midnight almost.”
“Ah,” Father Holder sighed, and he was going to say that he should have closed the church an hour ago, but then he would have to admit he’d been nodding off. Instead he said: “Well. I do need to be getting home here soon. You didn’t start by asking for my blessing, son. Did you really come to make a confession?” He felt vaguely guilty for the accusatory tone, but he knew it was because he was feeling defensive.
“Yes. Of a kind.”
“Of a kind?”
“Well . . . I didn’t ask for your blessing, Father, because I don’t think I sinned. I did something awful, I guess, but I can’t see how it’s a sin. I don’t know. Maybe you can tell me. All I know is it wasn’t a mistake. I don’t make mistakes.”
Father Holder chuckled. The young man didn’t.
“I’m sorry,” Father Holder said. “I assumed you were joking.”
“No. I wouldn’t joke about this.”
“I just don’t make mistakes. Even now, after everything, I can say it. But maybe a mistake and a sin aren’t the same thing. I guess that’s why I’m here. That and to tell you my story — I want you to hear it.”