Sins and Dust

An essay by the Confessor, as provided by James Fadeley
Art by Luke Spooner


I write these words with total shame, for herein lies the confessions of an arrogant fool. For forty years, I have served the church as a preacher of the faith. And yet I am the greatest of hypocrites. Once a God-doubting man of science, I now lead others on the path of righteousness, as I too hope to be forgiven for the sins I have wrought against heaven and men. Sins far graver than the anguished stories I receive in the confession booths, worse than the unrepentant.

They are sins worse than a single man is often capable of, for I have no accomplices upon which to defer the blame. All that has transpired was wrought by my hand.

I was born in 1903, near Boise City in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. My parents were farmers. Ma was a kindly woman who occasionally repaired clothing for additional income. My father worked part time as a mechanic, and believed in the importance of earnest and hard work, a value he taught through farm labor.

But there were differences between us, my hobbies for one. I loved reading and learning; the discoveries and possibilities waiting to be unlocked enthralled me. Information is power, and I was determined to become quite powerful if only in mind. Pa saw value in what I did and desired an education for me, but he still saw fit to pull me away from the library whenever the harvest seasons came upon us.

Perhaps it was from my reading and scientific pursuits that I could not see eye-to-eye with my father’s Christian values. It was not a point of terrible contention between us, for I reluctantly went to church with him and Ma, always wishing I could be reading. I daydreamed of the works of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, and I was often drawn to biographic works of great historical leaders. Or even some of the more complicated reads, such as the rediscovered works of an Austrian Friar by the name of Gregor Mendel.

But my church going came to an end in 1917, when Pa was pulled into the war. Ma reluctantly let me remain home, provided I performed necessary tasks and chores. With Pa away, she needed as much help as she could get.

Pa returned from the war in 1918 a proud man, mercifully uninjured, and believing in the future of our country. And like faith rewarded, the following decade was a grand one. The joyous twenties were an exciting period at the close of my childhood and the cusp of coming manhood. Vivacious music and youthful spirit abounded. This Jazz Age was a reprieve earned from the hard times of the Great War. Yet, Pa insisted that I earn my place in this new, victorious America.

My reading had forwarded my studies. By leaps and bounds, my knowledge and understanding of the world grew. My graduation from high school was rewarded not only with a diploma, but also a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University. My interests veered towards the foundations of creation itself, and within four years I earned a degree in biochemistry, with distinct honors.

By 1926, I was employed by a pharmaceutical company, complete with a research grant, and times were good. Many of my colleagues were turned towards the hedonistic joys of drinking and dancing. Businessmen throughout the country thought to expand man’s capabilities from without, with their radios and refined automobiles. My interests were the opposite, turned towards medicine and new, wondrous drugs. I saved a considerable sum for the next few years, yet still enjoyed the independence my employment afforded me.

My career came to an end through no fault of my own. Despite my promising research, built upon Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin a year earlier, the Great Crash of ’29 destroyed our chances of further funding.

The loss was neither immediate nor dramatic. But the company’s troubles did not disappear. Through the next two years, research and development was cut and cut again. Then the company itself went under, costing me my employment. I turned to my accrued savings account, but fearful mobs made vast withdrawals on the banks in the thirties. My funds were wiped out.

I was ruined.

Sins and Dust

My hopes rose when I found a few sample groups of certain combinations not only survived, but also thrived in the sandy soil conditions, with no outlying differences. I cut these down once they reached their height, and discovered that a few of them took to containing water, just as cacti do. Yet, somehow, prickly spines had grown from the ears.


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2015 collection.


“The Confessor” was born in 1903 near Boise City, Oklahoma. He attended Carnegie Mellon University for biochemistry, before working for the Emmerich and Johnson Research Firm, who went bankrupt in the 1930s. The Confessor then returned to Oklahoma to work as a teacher. He disappeared following a church fire in 1935 in his hometown, where a few dozen people died under strange circumstances. However, a letter delivered to Carnegie Mellon in 1973 interested the FBI. They traced it to Father Austin Harold (suspected an alias) of Kentucky, who had passed away following liver complications. The 1935 arson remains, officially, unsolved.


James Fadeley is a short story author/skjald and crazy software engineer living in Bethesda, MD. He writes horror, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, and psychology and historical fiction, and frequently blends these genres together. Always busy with one mad scheme or another, it was either going to be writing or world domination. If spotted, approach cautiously and offer a drink. His biography can be viewed at http://he2etic.wordpress.com/bio-bibliography/.


Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.

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