… and it’s time for you to write an epic tome.

This is the moment in your life when you realize that you won’t be dying young, full of drugs and glory. And, you certainly missed the train that would have you seeing your first born nigh ready for college. The pursuits of the current generation do not fascinate you, nor do the pursuits of many generations prior to this one. You can’t help but think that you are fated to be one of those old men who annoys the world with miserable utterances about how each previous age was made of a better element than the one that followed it. You feel the need to speak the truth every single day–the truth as you see it and know it, and speak it plainly.

You might say things that go against doctrine and theology. You will say things that are politically incorrect. You will write things that would prevent you from ever being read by students in a literature class, because modern literature hates Jesus. You will probably offend both conservatives and liberals alike, because you think about the self in relation to society in a completely different way than most people do–at least most people who have loud, misguided voices in your generation’s mainstream arenas of thought.

For you, the golden age began around the time of the start of the high Rennaissance, in Italy, with art and architecture, literature and music, food and religion all reaching a culmination of fineness for what the human soul is capable of. From there, it began a steady decline, and no human endeavor except for political and scientific ones have matched the levels of perfection found in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries.

For you, the golden age of the scientific and political came with the successful landing of a man on the moon. The triumph of Democracy and Capitalism over Socialism and Communism. The triumph of a society sending its sons into fields of hard science and engineering over one that sends them off to learn the best ways to game the system, either through complacent academia or irresponsible financial wizardry.

Having been born in the time when the golden age of fine art has long descended into the chaos of revealed psychosis on the canvas, and having been born in the age where many people worship science writers but can’t remember how to solve a problem from high school algebra, you are inevitably doomed to be incapable of writing an epic tome such as the kind produced by Dante, Milton or Faust, much less creating one that matches the works of Ovid, Hesiod or Homer.

But such stumbling blocks will not deter you from continuing on your mission. For the will is there, and the words are coming whether you choose to put them down or not.

A proper epic tome must begin with a grand theme. What grander theme is there than good vs. evil? You could wrestle with themes like life and death, love and fear, the bacchant vs. the Draconian, man and woman, wisdom and folly, etc. But, good vs. evil is a good start, you think.

You might imagine a Metaverse, or collection of dimensions and alternate universes, times and places, all being One with God, or a single, Omnipotent, sentient being. To keep it simple and helpful for the average reader, you could conjure up a big black cube of some kind of malleable stone, like marble. Like all good, sentient beings, God longed for companionship. Only the truly Evil seek complete and utter solitude–to be divorced and cut off from everyone and any one except your own thoughts–that is the ultimate Hell.

God had no characteristics or traits like being “all loving,” or “merciful.” For, there were no counterparts to these traits. God simply was. In this state of being, you could say: “God simply was and is,” for there was no linear time, either. What happened next is still happening and will be happening in the future, from God’s perspective.

God realized, though, that in order for him to have companions, he needed to have at least some desirable characteristics. Being the perfect being that God is, he chose Love, Beauty and Truth. Thus, God and Heaven became comprised of these properties, and the creation of such fine traits created a vacuum of their opposites. The anti-matter, so to speak, of Love, Beauty and Truth are Hate, Ugliness and Lies. Of course, each of these words is capitalized because they are meta-versions of the concepts as we know them in everyday use. Even capitalized, though, we cannot as mortals fully grasp the elemental forms of these traits in their pure states.

What you should remember is that God did not create Evil, but in the vacuum that formed from God making himself desirable and creating subjects to adore him, the object, the naturally forming anti-matter of all that is Good is inevitably Evil. With no entities or beings to help perpetuate such Evil, it simply remained in a dormant state apart from God and Heaven.

But, we all know what happened with the first beings God created to adore him. Some of them, headed up by Lucifer, used their state of self awareness foolishly to imagine they could be just as powerful, or even more so, than God. Once these angels made their play of folly, they were cast into the vacuum that otherwise became known as Hell, and things returned to being mostly as they were before.

God was a restless artist of sorts, and conceived a universe apart from him, but still full of his creative energy. Possessing the keen calculation of a master mathematician, God understood how various forms of life could assemble and rise up based on a limited set of qualifying variables. The universe that we know is God’s first attempt to devise a dimension of linear Time, and observe what unfolds as elements come together to build Life. What is astounding is that materialists, who conceive of a universe formed completely without God’s touch, think they will one day be capable of creating entire worlds of Life themselves. And, astral adventurers, who leave their bodies to play in realms they shouldn’t, think that this universe of timespace is but a mind construct of an especially competant Buddha or genius, and they too will one day be capable of creating new worlds of their own where they get to play God.

You know this to be nonsense. That no amount of mixing and cooking of ingredients in a laboratory will ever produce a new world of sentient beings, and neither will some program of intense meditation. The very fabric of our known universe is woven deeply both from the stuff of God and Heaven, and deeply into the Vacuum we otherwise know as Hell.

The stories of the Bible can be seen as allegories for the history of human consciousness, as well as the progress that you own individual soul takes. You were once Adam, the first man. And, you were Noah, the savior of your people from the flood (which is, of course, an allegory for the flood of the Void that wiped out all of Mankind’s consciousness of and connection to God), Moses, the mouthpiece of God and lawgiver, David, the warrior, Jeremiah and Koheleth the prophets, and finally, you woke up one morning as Peter, the first Christian.

But, you were also many other races of men on your journey. You were among the very early proto-humans who evolved from the apes, and did not possess the same kind of consciousness gifts that Adam was given. In those days, you were more like the beasts, in that you did not kill members of enemy tribes because you were compelled by Evil. You simply fought and killed to survive.

That first morning you woke up in the garden was the first morning you were called to fellowship with God as a true human being, and not simply a proto-man or manbeast. For millenia, homo sapiens and their ancestors had been populating the earth as evolutionary offspring from earlier, apelike beings. These men and women were not human beings, per se, in the sense that they had developed a dualistic notion of Self and the Other–they had not made the cut from the original godhead. In this sense, they were like beasts–their souls were constantly being recycled as they fought among themselves and lost in battles with other beasts and the elements.

God, being an entity outside of space and time, already knew which beasts he would give the gift of a dualistic consciousness to. He had created a program of natural selection among the froth of DNA that circulated in the universe, and it came about that homo sapiens were clearly the ones capable of handling and understanding an invitation to fellowship with God in his garden.

In the garden of Eden, one of each of the species roamed about and did not want for food. All lived in harmony, though each member had its own consciousness that was susceptible to input from God or Lucifer. As it were, God chose to craft the most perfect of specimens from the clay of his garden, and this would be the race of men who would spread their God-gilded DNA far and wide, after their parents were expelled. He modeled these specimens after the homo sapiens already crawling the earth, but made them more erect, muscular and with heightened frontal lobe activity. They were unaware of their gifts, for God wanted them to have eyes only for him, though he already knew the choice they would make, and how their children would need a compatible species out in the world when they were expelled.

Of course, Lucifer chose the snake to input his consciousness into, and we all know what happened thereafter.

You were destined to be forever chosen and loved by God, but forever guilty for disobeying him.

Upon tasting the fruit, your eyes were opened to your dualism. You saw yourself as a separate ego, independent of the external world. God became a distant, terrible parent to be feared, and you were ashamed of your sexuality.

You were not like other men you encountered upon leaving the garden. You were persecuted for being different, but you had mental faculties other men simply did not possess. With your own wife you bore two sons, one of whom was murdered by the other. With a beastlike sense of duty, you begin spreading your different DNA among the women out in the world, as did your own son. Your son’s bloodline was the purest recipients of the God-gilded DNA, but soon the earth was full of generations who began to open their eyes to their own egos, their own sense of the “I vs. the world,” and much bloodshed and sexual deviance took place. Each homo sapien whose eyes were opened immediately sought to exterminate his fellow man so that he could proclaim himself God.

Only you and your descendants had some knowledge of who the true God was–the rest of the world simply had an awareness, and made their own idols to satisfy their hunger to fill the unbearable feeling brought on by knowing there was some type of higher power, as well as some type of Void from which they most certainly could not escape.

You woke up one morning and you were Noah, and God explained to you how he was going to wipe out this chaos created by the spread of your God-gilded DNA. There was to be a flood that would cover most of what we now call the Middle East, Saharan Africa, and Southern Europe. This flood would seem like the entire world had been flooded. More importantly, this flood was going to fill all humans who survived the physical flood with a certain blackness–a voiding of both their original proto-man, primitive connections with God, and their more recent burgeoning awareness of their egos. Too many divine gifts had been handed to too many of the wrong people too soon.

And so it was, you woke up among the only race of people who truly knew God. Of course, your sons would go out and spread your DNA again throughout the earth. Great civilizations would spring up in Greece, India and China with rich tapestries of deities in mythologies that sought to explain what the more gifted surely knew to be the Truth. Unfortunately, while many came close, nobody but select numbers of your people returned to God and knew God as God. Instead, they often created their own busy thought patterns that became impressive demons who seemed to have the same powers as God. And Lucifer was happy to help them every step of the way. For, most of the astral world that the mystics and psychic travelers leap into when they leave their bodies while still alive–most of this world is conquered and covered by Lucifer and his lot.

The angels that guide the innocent dead into karmic rebirth rarely pause to inhabit this area, as it has been so polluted by so-called holy men with filthy thought patterns running through their souls.

You and your people became enslaved by worshippers of demonic deities, because on this earth, Lucifer can place so much power into the hands of his followers. Most of the time, his followers don’t even know they are his–they pick an idol or themselves to follow, to make as their ultimate goal or reason for being on this earth, and then they kill everyone who gets in their way. Some may have what look to be quite noble ends, but take care to see their means–are they harming everyone around them who prevents them from realizing their goals?

You woke up and you were Moses.

And so, the story goes. We all know it, and have read it many times. Each generation strived to be both followers of the one and true God, even as it looked away to the other gods worshipped by its neighbors. And, each time, God punished you with his wrath. Finally, you found yourselves a broken, backwater people, again persecuted and dominated by those more powerful on this earthly plane, who worshipped gods like Jupiter and Junos, Appolo and Diana.

But, what happened next is nothing short of the most important moment in human history. Instead of trying to rectify things by flooding our consciousness, turning us to stone, or smiting us with fire, God sent to us the most perfect human–a human version of himself.

You had only to believe in him and you would not be cast into the Abyss, or sent back into the Karmic wheel to try and find God yet again in a future life. You didn’t have to be born into the race of those with the God-gilded DNA, nor did you have to burn animals or erect idols and temples to be saved by him.

What other powerful and mighty nation carries the distinction of at once persecuting a religious group, and then adopting it as its official religion? It would be like Mao’s China adopting Tibeten Buddhism, and establishing the Dalai Lama as a figure akin to the Pope. Most nations, when their religion changes, the new one is instilled by force. Or, time simply shows the old gods to be ineffective.

Jesus came at the time he did because he knew that his Truth, like the DNA planted in Adam, the first real man, would spread more effectively across the Roman Empire, than across any other time and place in the world. In India, his Truth would have simply been assimilated, and Jesus would have become one of many gods. In China, it would have been snuffed out. Only Europe, with its fitful attempts at democratic governments and having a truly educated citizenry, would be capable of igniting the flame and keeping it lit until it spread throughout the entire world.

God does not require that we come to him through Mother Mary, the Saints, the Pope, and legions of sculptures and paintings and buildings dedicated to him. But, he also understands that we are very weak spiritually, and that many of us cannot have a direct relationship with Jesus, a burning fire so powerful in one’s consciousness once one has it lit. One must have external fires to be lit that are directly connected to the saintly energies that burn within.

Almost every single one of us are incapable of remaining in contact with the one true God if we fall out of touch with other believers. We begin to witness our tenuous connection with him eroding, and our old selves start to take root again, like unkempt weeds in an abandonded city garden.

However, every single one of us have been given the gift of discerning the words of those around us, and picking out the thorns of untruth that we hear–should we so desire to retain access to these gifts. It becomes far too easy to stop listening to the still, small voice inside your head, in favor of being lazy and accepting of whatever the preacher says. He is but a man. You are but a man. Your words are the words of the Spirit, filtered through your own ambitions. Very few people walk the earth burning with words of pure Truth.

If these words that you speak, or the words of others that you hear, become stumbling blocks, and doubt arises in your mind, then return to the pure words of Jesus himself. If you suddenly find yourself receiving approval and even encouragement to go and kill another man for the sake of Jesus, then you are receiving false teachings. If you discover that you are supporting a man who flies the world in a private jet and lives in a 14,000 sq ft mansion, then you are not supporting true healing and delivery of scripture.

Let’s be clear about the world that you woke up into.

When you died, you had reached a place of peace. You truly believed that you’d found your way to Truth itself, having achieved a kind of notoriety on this earth, passing away among comfort and weeping followers. But much to your shock, you encountered the realm of the angels of reincarnation, and as such, you had to bargain and plead with them yet again to be reborn into a Christian womb, so that you could truly find Jesus before you died again.

You’d lived your last life full of worldly lusts, caving into them at almost every opportunity. You were a privileged child of minor wealth, and so you wanted not when you went asking your father for money to pay for some new sensual delight.

The cycles of human civilization are such that when men know great poverty, tragedy and constant war, they pray often to God for mercy and peace. As God listens to serious prayers (the kind of prayers that aren’t made lightly, and are prayed each night on bended knees without cessation of faith and hope), he soon grants peace to those civilizations who’ve accrued so many praying men. Then, as human civilization grows ever more sure of itself and its own laws to keep it safe and free of chaos, it gradually boards up its praying places and forgets about God–even going so far as they do in this present age to blame God for all of the past killing and wars.

And, God listens just as well to this lack of prayer, as each young man turns away from the teachings of his elders, and the Lord lets the civilization run itself, independently of him.

You were born into one such civilization as it made its way into an ever-increasing departure from praying and listening to the Lord. With each passing year, new triumphs and discoveries were made for ways that men could amuse and please themselves, without having to listen to a choir or meet their mates at church social functions. The Church was quiet, dusty and boring, and the world was full of flashing lights that people called entertainment, and loud clanging noises that people called music.

The people who have become completely cut off from God are the ones you have to watch. A man or woman may be completely immersed in ungodly things, but still have a piece of their childhood where a parent or grandparent embedded in them deep enough the tie to God that will bring them back to the church. It is, of course, no guarantee that they will. The question: who will spend eternity in Heaven and who will not? is not one any human being can answer.

But you know when someone has made the cut when they are no longer guided in the least bit by conscience. There is no sense of shame when they choose to seek out new pleasures of the flesh, and there is no sense of guilt when they hurt another human for their own gain. They are merely obeying the laws and rules of man at this point, and they would gladly kill without thinking were civilization to suddenly collapse or become the playground of the antichrist. Their children will likely receive the kind of teachings that would lay any sort of foundation to bring them back to Christ in times of great tragedy and chaos.

In spite of being cut off, such people still have hope, for they are human beings, and it is only through Jesus that you can fully realize your own humanity.

In fact, it is not without irony that those who call themselves secular humanists are the ones who help guide a civilization away from its very underpinnings of humanity–toward the cliff of the sub-human, the demonic, the will to preserve and save that which will always be corrupted and burn, instead of that which truly is immortal. These humanists actually believe that man will seek to perform irrational acts of kindness toward his fellow man from the use of reason and empirical evidence alone. Such men proliferate the world in civilizations whose very stability benefited from God-fearing founders who wrote laws from their consciences that were deeply connected to God. When the humanists’ civilizations collapse, they either make themselves scarce, or become like ravening wolves, taking whatever they can get for their own without a thought or care for anyone else.

Do men living in war-torn countries and abject poverty find hope in the words of modern atheist teachers? They reach out and cling to the gods of their ancestors, then convert to the gods of their conquerors, then (if they are fortunate to survive this long) they turn at last to Jesus when true Christians arrive at their villages to show them unconditional Love. But then, their children have no memories of their parents’ unstable lives, and find small material happiness from the civilization that has sprung up around them. They learn to love learning, the arts, and culture, but still they go to the churches of their parents. Until one day, a generation arrives that thinks it doesn’t need a church to keep its childrens’ lives on course.

You have been born many times into such societies and civilizations, and inevitably, they all fall down. The Lord has been asked to leave, and does. Then, invaders who have less than those who inhabit these prosperous civilizations arrive to pillage and take what they will for their own.

But this one, the one you were born into in your last life, was the worst yet for helping children turn their backs on God. Your father brought home a television set when you were nine years old, and you had already been going to the movies every single Saturday–falling in love so easily with the beautiful people on the screen. It was so much easier to love the faces beamed at you from Hollywood, than to try to love imaginary old men from stories told in a musty, spooky building where you sat sweating in the summer, holding your tiny bladder tight, barely able to sit still through the hour of droning and standing and kneeling.

In high school, you discovered that boys thought you had a pretty face, just like one of the stars you so adored. One of them filled you with an ectasy like you’d never known, and then filled you with a ripping pain like no other when he suddenly stopped talking to you. But, there were plenty of more boys to take his place, boys who played rock n’ roll music and drove motorcycles. When you got pregnant, your father slapped you and your mother screamed at you to leave the house. They later found you wandering the streets, and put you on a bus to your aunt, who lived near Los Angeles.

The pregnancy didn’t stop you from riding into LA with wilder, crazier, sexier boys to go to the dance clubs and wear short dresses, and go-go dance into the morning–drinking and smoking whatever they handed you. After you miscarried and learned about the pill, you were liberated. You spent the next six years pretending that you were going to become a serious actress, but spent your time making cheap porno films with dirtier and nastier men. After you woke up in the hospital with your left leg amputated above the knee from a night you couldn’t remember–someone found you by the train tracks with your leg mangled and twisted, and you nigh comatose–you finally saw this new world for what it was in all its emptiness, and fleetingly caught a glimpse of the true Beauty that the old folks in church were seeing every Sunday.

But, instead of going home to beg your parents and the Lord for forgiveness, you found a man to take you in and pay for you to go back to school and learn a thing or two about Eastern mysticism. After two months of believing you’d achieved Nirvana, your stump began to itch and ooze and hurt, and the doctors tried to pump you full of penicillin, but it was to no avail. No matter, you thought, I’ve found God, and I will die in peace and go to Nirvana–perhaps I am already a Buddha, fully enlightened and will only return to benefit others with my potent wisdom.

When you die, you lose all of the control and sense of self ownership you thought was yours forever.

We don’t like to talk to you much about reincarnation, because you do not have even the slightest ability to control how it works when you die. You do not get to choose who you will be in the next life simply by asking. There are trillions of souls who want the opportunity to be human again. To die a human being who loves Jesus with all of his heart and believes that he is God’s only son, sent to die for mankind’s salvation–that is the only way to die and go to heaven. To die a so-called enlightened Buddhist means that you are no longer ensnared by so much of the things of the world, but you believe that all that is to be obtained is a nothingness, a Buddhahood that is every bit as equal to the Buddha’s. And you generally believe there is no single, omnipresent being who created us and this universe. So, you die cleansed of so many of those clingings that can be sins, but you might at best just make it up to Heaven’s Gates to knock on them, but be turned away by St. Peter.

And so, you must queue up with the other souls in the lines of the good and bad angels–the angels and demons who man the gates between limbo or hell and this world’s wombs. You in the angels’ line might be surprised to discover you are only fit to be reborn a dog, and go stand in the line manned by the demons. You promise to do Lucifer’s will when you return, and you may be thinking you can trick Satan, and return to live for Jesus–but, only a handful of souls ever get away with doing this.

And it must be mentioned that there is the final call, when Gabriel blows his horn–for all souls caught in limbo, and all souls here on earth. What you are doing and where you are at the time will determine where you will be for all of eternity. Which is something souls re-learn each time they enter limbo, or the bardo passage, and which is why most of them beg to be born into the womb of a Christian mother. And, of course, this kind of opportunity grows more scarce with each passing, ever-more-sinful generation.

You finally get your chance to be born into a womb where it is almost a given that you will have to live with a deformed limb. The genetic combinations of your new parents are such that you will only be born a completely healthy baby by a very tiny margin.

You wake up screaming in complete protest of your unfair situation.

You are born with a shriveled left leg that the doctors say will stay that way for your entire life, growing only slightly to match your increasing adult size. You have lost almost all of your memories of that “complete and utter” peace you’d found at the end of your last life, practicing Eastern mysticism. You are laughed at by all the kids in Sunday school, and really start to hate church.

You are male, and you find that all of the charms you used in the past life cause the boys to physically assault you freely throughout middle school and high school, some of them trying to dominate you through sexual abuse, others simply beating you with your crutches after you make them feel uncomfortable.

You dye your hair, pierce your face and begin getting tattoos all over your body. You revel in masochistic activities, for you feel that you must have done something terrible in a past life to deserve the kind of life you are now living. You are incapable of grasping how certain choices that you make create the consequences you receive, and believe that God must be some kind of truly sadistic fiend.

Your mother and father, both good, churchgoing people, continue to pray for you and welcome you home, though they don’t understand you and often demand that you straighten up and fly right. Your little brother, who was born perfectly formed and with exceptional athletic and academic abilities is their true pride and joy. He goes off to the Middle East to fight for his country, and comes home in a box draped with a flag. You can’t even carry his coffin to his grave at his service, and many family members look at you with venom for being the worthless one who survived.

Your little brother visits you with Jesus one night when you are full of Vicodin, whiskey and muscle relaxers, standing by a heap of abandoned cars near a railyard where kids often go to do bad things to each other. No one was here, and it seemed like a perfect night to kill the pain and then hang yourself from one of the more sturdily perched steel frames in this ghostly place. Jesus looks like K Ktofferson, with wild, white wooly hair and beard, and your little brother Jeff is erect in a soldier’s uniform.

“Kevin,” says Jesus, “Do you not think that you are perfectly formed?” Jesus shows you what it really means to be beautiful, to be an object worthy of love, and it has nothing to do with the way the face and human form is shaped in this world of corruption.

“Kevin,” says Jeff, “come out of your abyss, and be whole again.”

You suddenly realize you can walk, and you walk with them and see the meaning of Truth, Beauty and Love like you’ve never seen them before.

You wake up the next morning inside the bedroom you grew up in, and you are still crippled, but your leg burns with a kind of fire or ever-present kinetic energy. At first, your heart fills with anger when you eagerly try to leap out of bed and walk, and fall. But then, something compels you to try again.

When you were farthest away from God, you had this fantasy: that somehow, the city that your family lived in would be wiped out by a plague while you were away, and unfortunately, your little brother and parents ended up among the dead. You kept the dead in your fantasy rather abstract and inclusive of the entire area, and didn’t try to specify how the plague might make them completely disappear so that you could come home to a house that was all yours, without the nasty requirement of burying kith and kin.

The fantasy was really not about a wishing to see the ones you loved dead, but to live in an alternate universe where you alone, along with perhaps a few easy and willing college girls, was in charge and what you said and thought and did was all that mattered. You didn’t think about this fantasy again until today.

After three years of living at home again, and repairing the bonds you’d all but broken with your parents, you got the news from the officer who came to your door one evening: your parents had both lost their lives in a horrible bus accident on their way to a casino in a nearby state. The old folks who survived the crash were badly burned.
Your fantasy finally came true, and you now had the old family home all to yourself. You collected a handsome check from their life insurance money and remaining retirement savings. You also had been on disability from the government most of your life, working only at getting in trouble in bars and strip clubs around the country.

But now, your dream seemed empty and hopeless. Something, more than just the love you might have felt from the lives and souls of your family, was missing from your world. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it. Then, it started to sink in.

The preachers on television had stopped talking altogether about Jesus, at least in terms of being the only true savior of the world. He was now basically a cash machine–you prayed to him for endless wealth and health, and he delivered. The old churches around town had mostly been boarded up or converted into night clubs and bistros. The one your parents attended, which was built to hold almost five hundred people, had dwindled to a handful of congregants who were all your parents’ age or older.

The Pope had died, and the Catholic Church was said to be unable to make a decision on who its new leader should be–but, the clamor was for a much more media-savvy Pope.

One megachurch pastor had your attention more than all the others–Brother Melvin Fistov–who knocked down hundreds of sick congregants each week with his mighty Holy Spirit healing powers. You could feel the fire burning in your shrunken limb when Brother Melvin talked about the Holy Spirit. One night you made up your mind to travel to his megachurch in Dallas, and try to be among the lucky ones picked for healing.

Much to your dismay, you found yourself among hundreds of visibly sick and crippled people being turned away. Only those with inner ailments like cancer and addictions were called to be among the final select bunch. Your arms and good leg were tired, and your back ached–you’d never given in to the doctors who’d urged you to get your shrunken limb amputated and replaced with a hybrid prosthetic–a device made of titanium wrapped in the living tissue grown from the stem cells of embryos.

As you wearily plodded your way through the snarled parking lot back to the street to hail a cab, an all-too-familiar voice called to you from behind a stretch humvee limo.

“Hey friend, you know you could be healed tonight!”

Your entire soul became awash with hope and expectation, and you practically made your crutches into wings as you flew over to him.

“But there’s something I want you to promise me. You can sing hallelujah all you like in this life, and tell folks that Jesus healed you. But, if you want me to heal you tonight, you have to promise that you’ll swear complete loyalty to me when you die and your soul departs into its next bardo.”

You’d done some pretty sick things to get money for booze and sex, and sometimes just to survive. And this is what that felt like, but then some. You turned, and began to hobble away.

“Aw, look at that miserable wreck of a beast!” cried Melvin Fistov. “He wasn’t good enough for Jesus to get taken up in the rapture, and now he thinks he has some other choice. He ain’t nothing but a piggy-pig!”

That’s when you realized that you’d been left behind, and everyone in your family, and all of the true Christians had already gone home. You were waiting for some magical, world-shattering event that would leave all the nations reeling–planes falling out of skies and cars being abandonded everywhere. But, God wasn’t calling folks home like that. If people around you (and you) had known that the rapture had taken place, then millions of you would have stormed those abandoned churches to fall down on your knees and beg God for mercy. Or, maybe not.

Melvin Fistov’s henchmen beat you to within inches of your life, but you survive. You have this feeling that it won’t be the last time you’ll be badly beaten for saying “no” to eternal service to Satan.

You wake up in a cab driven by a man who looks a lot like K Ktofferson. “Jesus?” you ask.

“No, friend, I ain’t–I’m far from it. But I sure am going to be doing everything I can in that small chance I’ll get another chance at seeing him.”

“Why did you pick me up?” you ask.

“I felt compelled by the Lord to. At least, I believe it was the Lord. I ain’t so sure. I’ve thought for years I talked to him, only to find myself left behind with the gates to Heaven sealed tightly shut. Can’t you feel it, friend? The air is different. The light is different. Everything has been different since God shut us off. The voices in my head are different. My life story is not so different than yours, you know.”

“How do you know?” you ask.

“I know because the Lord tells me these things. I knew when the world was dying, and everyone said it was just a phase in the planet’s molten core, or a series of solar anomalies. So, now I hear the theory that our sun has started to die a billion years before its time. Well, of course it is.”

“But, what can we do about it?”

“You and I, and many others like us, will be meeting soon up in the mountains. Glory and thanks be to God.”

If you are in the world completely you can’t see it, and if you are of the world mostly, then you certainly won’t see it–how close we are to the end of days as described above. For God, time that we measure in millenia is measured in days. To read a text from hundreds of years ago about people fearing we were near the end of days, it seems laughable.

Every village was full of the faithful. The scant few rabblerousers and heretics were swiftly sent away or burnt at the stake. Those who would question Christian orthodoxy are now toasted and feted in the mainstream movies we see from Hollywood. The woman who arrives in the small French village as a chocolatier is portrayed as the true heroine, and the good Christian mayor who wants to keep his village safe from evil is the buffoon. We don’t even question that God is no longer mentioned in most anything that comes from mainstream media and pop culture, and certainly no Jesus is permitted–unless he’s to be mocked and derided in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink sort of way like “Buddy Jesus,” who we Christians are supposed to believe is only the object of ironic or unserious mockery.

Christians are taken on board the death ship of Satan in droves each year, and fed a little more of the devil’s candy. So many of them spend more time in preparation for Halloween than they do Christmas. Halloween is fun, a chance to dress up and pretend to be kids again, and Christmas is drudgery–sheer obligation for the sake of keeping up the appearance of being a grown-up. These Christian parents gladly give their children the gift of Harry Potter–a tale of a witch who speaks the language of snakes, has the mark of evil on his forehead, and takes on a Christlike form in the end to save the world. And, only those Christians who are called extreme fundamentalists seem to see anything amiss with letting their kids delight in witchcraft, sorcery, speaking the tongues of snakes, and using touches of evil to save the world from evil.

What the people of this age don’t understand (and maybe nobody has ever really understood it), is that if the devil only won new members from the lowlifes in our society who did truly dastardly deeds, he would be a terrible recruiter indeed, and hell would only be of concern for the completely twisted–the cold-blooded murderers, the pedophiles, the Satanists.

But, like any good neighborhood pervert, the devil is busy riding around looking rich offering sweets–sugary-coated sickness that goes down nice and easy, and is almost impossible to cough up or otherwise eject once it is inside of you.

And, it’s like getting out of a gang once you’re in the club. Once you’ve accepted some of this evil candy, and you want to get as far away from it as possible and live a pure and Godly life–the devil and his henchmen are going to work that much harder to pull you back in. Every day, you will be tempted in ways that his sleeping followers aren’t–because they’re ensnared, why would the devil need to work harder to keep them on the slippery path of sin?

Another grave mistake is to think you’re safe if you’ve at least placed yourself among the non-religious, the agnostics, the people who just want to “live and let live.” These people are worse than Atheists. At least when you’re around an Atheist who is constantly spewing vitriol against Christians, and proselytizing for Richard Dawkins in a worse way than he was ever proselytized by a Christian for Christ–at least then, you can clearly see the kind of thinking you need to turn away from and stay away from. What’s more, the Atheist will often go out of his way to be nice, because he’s constantly obsessed with proving the point that people can be morally good without God. With agnostics, fence-sitters, and “live and let live” types, you never know what you’re going to get. Inevitably, most of these people end up becoming passive Atheists themselves, if not angry, “God Delusion”-thumping ones.

What you have to ask yourself, if you really want to know if the world is getting better or not–is: what of our society is really working in a way that will sustain itself for generations to come, and what isn’t?

Think of all the secular leaders of the 20th Century, most of them Communists. They were quick to shut down all religion in their countries, because they wanted the state to be their God, their people’s one focal point of worship. Aside from the tens of millions that died at the hands of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., how long were these secular, idealistic (Atheist) movements able to sustain themselves and provide their people with a way of being that lasted for generations?

What most people don’t know about are the thought cycles. Almost everything you can get mixed up in during a lifetime, good or bad, comes from the result of your very own thought cycles. When you become completely obsessed with a thought cycle, and make it the centerpiece of your existence, it can turn into an idol, and then at its worst, turn you into a demon.

A thought cycle can be centered around fixation on an object, like in the case of the Gollum in Lord of the Rings. It is that way for many people who obsess over physical things–stuff they can touch and collect. But, thought cycles pervade the mainstream of accepted social norms, as well as the less-accepted forms of deviant behavior.

Very few of them in this world are good, because most of them are lifetime tickets guaranteeing a focus on something other than God. Almost everyone has to get caught up in a few of them out of necessity to survive on the earth. If you don’t learn enough and pay enough attention to do your job, you get fired.

Most people spend a lifetime of pursuing one collection of thought cycles to get away from another. Some kind of addiction, vice or fetish you acquired as a kid becomes a thought cycle you try to get away from by immersing yourself in other thought cycles that are equally as far apart from God.

There is little room in the world for men who immerse themselves in loving, Godly thought cycles each day. Scant few of them become priests or social workers. Most priests or social workers are not immersed in Godly thought cycles. At their best, they might be obsessed with academic minutae–at their worst, they choose these professions to hide from the world, cure their own ills, or even harm the very people they claim to be helping.

You wake up and you feel cleansed of all the bad thoughts, anxieties, perversions, depression, vices, fetishes, pathologies, demonic forces, and other unwanted thought cycles that had been building up in your head. They all came to a head on this magnificent night of ingesting ephedrine, beer, pot, LSD and cocaine.

You are still trying to wrap up your fourth and final year of college. Your friends who followed the program correctly: attending the requisite number of frat parties, taking advantage of the correct number of unsuspecting girls, skipping the right number of classes, signing up for the correct number of internships and overseas vacations (or, international programs)–those friends have already graduated and are beginning their master’s degrees, real jobs or post-ROTC service in the military. Your friends who gave up on the program by the end of the first year and took blue-collar jobs in the college town to hand out and party with you–they just spent the last night helping you procure and imbibe all these crazy substances.

Your problem isn’t one of not wanting to study, but one of wanting to study everything, to do everything that was included in the college promise. So far, you’ve mostly just let your imagination run wild while you dreamed and walked the streets of the college town and its venerated university paths.

You are a Romantic of the worst kind. Life for you must without exception go exactly as you imagine it, and if the slightest little hint of messiness gets in the way, then you retreat to books and dreams.

You are getting a degree in English because it’s easy, and you think it will be the quickest path to some random office job where nothing more or less than a Bachelor’s degree of any flavor is required. Then, you can be a sell-out for forty hours of the week, while continuing to enjoy books, drugs and contemplation in your free time.

But, your true passions are Eastern Mysticism and Art History. You also check out book after book on quantum physics from the university library, but understand little of it. You want to disappear into the early 1900s, and live inside Matisse’s studio while poking your nose into books by Madame Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner and Aleister Crowley and attending their lectures, seances and mystical gatherings.

The only thing you’re really good at sticking to and staying with is the study of booze.

What you want to happen next with your life changes by the minute, except for the desire to be drunk that evening. That remains pretty consistent. And so, you are rewarded for your efforts. You are willing to risk getting arrested to buy beer during the first two years you are at college, and then, you are willing to risk getting arrested to drive home drunk if the booze requires you to drive to someone’s house to drink it. And so, you are arrested for driving drunk.

This begins your interest in Eastern Mysticism.

In high school Psychology, you learn about meditating, and it sounds like a really cool idea. But, you never really practice it until you have all this free time on your hands with your license revoked and your friends who got you in trouble having abandonded you.

It will take you fifteen more years to make the connection with being consistent in your thoughts, words and deeds, and the act of prayer, coupled with an act like meditation. Prayer was introduced to you in childhood, and it never worked. You prayed for the Lord to heal Grandma and Aunt Lilly, and they died. You prayed for the Lord to heal your eyes and they got worse.

But, you never really learned how to pray. Not effectively, not in such a way as to let the Lord know that you meant it. Tossing a few random wishes each night before lapsing into slumber, then forgetting about those whom you prayed for–that wasn’t prayer, that was simply a little boy trying to ritually and unthinkingly obey his mother. Of course, being a mama’s boy is not cool, and prayer was inextricably linked with Mother.

It was only after everyone you knew and loved had died (and then you realized they’d all been taken up in the rapture), that you decided to systematically and dedicatedly cease all other energies and cares and focus on praying for one thing: for the Lord to show you what you were supposed to do next.

And he said to you, after many nights of imploring him to respond while on bended knees in deserted chapels “Go find my people, and take them to the mountains.”

So, this is what you began to do.

One day, you drove out of Denver in your cab, calling your boss to say you’d gotten an unbelievable fare, and then kept driving. You found one of those digital picture frames at a store, bolted it to the cab and wired it to the electrical system, then loaded a sequence of various pictures of license plates you took pictures of along the way. The cab received a dozen cheap, but effective paint jobs.

The Lord wanted you to pick up Kevin in Austin, and Kelly in Dallas, then Mike and his young son Chris in Oklahoma City, and finally Rachel in Topeka, then return to the secret place you knew about in the mountains, drop them off and go get more people.

“What will I feed these people?” you asked the Lord.

“Seriously?” replied the Lord. “You’ve read all those stories in the Bible of me providing manna and loaves and fishes, and you are worried about how these people will be fed? To answer your question literally, you won’t feed them anything. I will take care of it, and that’s all you need to know.”

“So,” says Kevin to you as he has ridden in your cab for awhile, “I just got done falling for some lousy fool who said he had a mainline to God–why should I believe you?”

“You can take that up with God,” you say, “I’m only compelled to listen to him, and him alone, and I would expect nothing different from you.”

Kevin seems a bit taken aback by this idea, but keeps his mouth shut.

Flashing lights come up upon you as you make your way up I-35. The Lord tells you to tell the officer to “confess that Jesus is God, come to us in the flesh.”

The officer peers at the two of you for a long time. “It ain’t gonna be safe for your kind much longer. You better git to wherever you need to git, and stay put.”

“And, what is your kind, Officer?” asks Kevin, who clearly can’t keep his mouth shut.

“We all got a part to play, son,” says the officer. He lets you go with a warning. You had counterfeited a dozen or more licenses for this excursion, but didn’t have to produce a single one of them, and the fake licenses and plates weren’t created at the Lord’s request–this was simply due to your own lack of faith.

You wake up in a ditch. It is such a cliche, you think. At least you don’t remember what the men you met last night did or didn’t do. You remember your name, “Kelly,” and remember plenty of other nights like last night, so it really doesn’t matter that you don’t remember what happened last night, specifically.

You are surprisingly in good shape for being addicted to three different synthetic drugs. Your body stopped being able to produce new children after your thirteenth abortion, and you were mildly pleased to discover that you have some kind of immunity to HIV–not that you’ve ever been tested, but you are certain you would have gotten it by now. The other STDs that might have kept men away in another time and place don’t seem to bother the men whose cars you frequently get inside for drugs.

There was a time about ten years ago when you got all cleaned up and went back to church. It was some kind of traveling revival show–and you swore that the telEgelist who knocked you over had healed you from all addictions. This lasted for about two months, and you met a nice young man who seemed okay with your past. But, something inside you said that it would be okay to go back out for one more round of men and drugs, and you never went back to tell that kind face you were sorry, but you weren’t ready yet to fall in line.

You wake up in a ditch, and there is no one left to come and pick you up and dust you off. You had your suspicions when you knocked on the door of your mom and stepdad’s house, and they didn’t answer. They were cold and covered in flies, dead for days. A few thousand dollars you knew about was missing from the fire safe. You knew where the key was and had always been careful just to steal enough so that they wouldn’t notice unless they counted it all. This notion that this is the end of days has been rolling around in your head for some time, and you keep going back out each night thinking that this would be the last time.

There’s nothing satisfying at all about any of it. You have become so numb both physically and emotionally, that it is simply a thought pattern that you can’t seem to reach down deep enough to disrupt and prevent from starting back up again when the evening starts to grow.

You tremble inside a boarded-up church that will soon be turned into an adult megaplex. You know the owner, he’s given you what you’ve asked from him more than a few times. This was your church growing up in the suburbs of Dallas. The congregation was already dying off and not adding any new members when you were still a little girl. The church began to rent out its space to just about anyone with money to pay for a night, and even printed in its bulletin the names of student burlesque shows and punk rock musicals. All the old folks tried to stop it, but the pastor explained to them that there was no money coming from the denomination’s central association anymore, and the slim pickings of the weekly offering plate couldn’t even begin to pay to keep the church air conditioned for a single summer.

The old folks left to all meet together at Luby’s, and the pastor left town. The bank took over the building and the land, and an enterprising adult megaplex owner bought it up. This wasn’t your granddad’s adult megaplex, either. It was basically a storefront with some DVDs, magazines and toys–and a whole inner den of synthetic drugs and prostitution. You struggled not to become completely owned by the adult megaplex owner, like so many of your girlfriends had. All it took was that last boyfriend who wouldn’t take you back, and you were left with two choices: get out of town, or get in with Gil.

You wake up in a ditch because some guys who must have known you throw a bottle at you and knock you out. You have nowhere to go. You could turn around and go back to your mother’s house and bury her and bury your stepfather, or go find a bridge to jump off.

“I hear that Colorado’s a great place to cool off when things get too hot in Dallas,” says the voice of an older gentleman who looks a bit like Kenny Rogers. He’s driving what looks to be a gypsy cab, and has a scruffy, tattooed loser in his backseat.

“I’m not working right now,” you say.

“Oh, but you are. It’s time to work for the Lord.”

“What?”

“You are Kelly Amherst, no?”

“How do you know my last name?” you are frightened. Every guy in town knows your first name, but the last name that is routinely applied to your first name is completely inappropriate. How long have these two creeps been following you?

“The Lord told me. Look, you know in your heart this is the end of days, or you wouldn’t be on my list. You can’t say ‘no,’ and you’re not going to be working for me–or Kevin there.”

“What’s your name?”

“The Lord calls me Koheleth.”

“The Preacher?”

“Perhaps. I ain’t done no preachin’ yet. But, I reckon I might. Hop in.”

You really have nothing to lose, do you? You hardly notice Kevin’s shriveled left leg–you’ve been with men who are a lot more deformed than that.

“So, you guys have some kind of religious fetish, huh? Do you have a nun outfit or something you want me to wear?”

“You really aren’t listening, are you, Kelly? Those days are over. We don’t have time to sin anymore. We really should be praying.”

“Whatever floats your boat, dude. Do you guys have any Q-Ball?”

“Lord, I think I know what our first prayer as a gathering of two or more will be. Kelly, I’ve been down the path of addiction, myself. I’ve lost two marriages because of it. Kevin there is no stranger, either. He’s swung erratically between hurting himself and seeking to max out the pleasure centers in his brain. But, we’re going to be getting filled with the Holy Spirit, and staying empty of the narcotics.”

“Jesus.”

“Yes, thank you, Jesus. Amen.”

You wake up, and Koheleth is lost in his marathon prayer. At some point in your REM state, your own voice had started to merge with his, and you feel remarkably lighter than you’ve felt in a long time.

When we were young, Lord, we didn’t have the wisdom of the world to prevent it from hurting us. We were born into a generation where the most important thing about living was to die with lots of money and toys. You saw us arrive on the earth at a time in history when, for the first time, women could decide with a pill whether they wanted to have children or not, and if they forgot to take the pill, they could decide with the help fo the law to murder their unborn children.

So, it was truly remarkable indeed that we were given the gift of life in such a tenuous climate, where so many wombs were gated. To be born a human being, and not an animal, why that is quite a gift in and of itself. But, to be born a human among the wealthiest ten percent of the planet–and, to be born to parents who at had at the very least good intentions in shaping our moral character and keeping our souls safe–that was a most incredible gift, like winning the lottery.

But, as you know dear Lord, we threw it all away. We didn’t spend a day in gratitude for our gifts of life, and many of us were outright ashamed of our existences and hateful toward our parents and even you, Lord, for bringing us onto this miserable planet. Here we were, given the utmost exceptional opportunity to improve and save our souls before returning to the long sleep passage between birth and death, and we chose at every turn to complain unceasingly about the unfairness of it all.

We sought out drugs and sexual pleasures when we thought we didn’t have enough happiness just being alive, healthy and loved by those around us. We sought out mechanisms of conscious self destruction when we believed we were somehow punishing you and our dear sweet parents. But, of course, we truly were only destroying ourselves, both in our moments of seeking illicit pleasure, and our moments of tearing ourselves apart. We were like spoiled children, who on Christmas morning, tear through all of their gifts in minutes, then demand “is that it?” and then proceed to take our toys outside or up to our rooms to methodically destroy them.

You, oh Lord, stayed with us in spite of this.

Some of us, once we got older, sought out other gods. Not just the pervasive idols of our culture–the clothes, cars, music icons, movie stars, fancy restaurants and bars–but true other religions. We spent months worshipping Khna or Buddha or Allah, in hopes that we would find something special with these false idols that we couldn’t find with you. We sat through hours of nihilistic meditation in hopes that we would be sent straight up to heaven. Of course, the heaven or Nirvana described by these practitioners was even fruther convoluted by our own naive ideas of being able to obtain power and dominion over others here on this earth.

What’s more, the long hours of silence we sat through, staring at our navels while on drugs or simply lost in empty-headed meditation–these hours were far poorer and more boring than anything we endured as children in church.

Some of us became adamant about our newfound ideals. We wanted everyone around us to think like we did–forcing upon them our notions of the way the individual and society should be. Ironically, we became more proselytizing than the random Christian stranger who dared open her heart to us.

And, we often lived in complete squalor. We truly were like the prodigal son, though we didn’t even have the open eyes to see just how far gone we were.

Our own culture mirrored this way of being. They forsook beautiful music and art for noise and trash. They turned their back on the high-minded ideas that had given them the very safe civilization they took for granted.

Those in the Church who did good works were largely ignored. Of course, we all know now, oh Lord, that Satan had inserted his tentacles into the mainstream media many decades prior to the moment when it all seemed to fall apart. The media would gleefully pounce upon every priest who was accused of pedophilia, but completely ignore the hundreds of thousands of priests and laymembers performing works of charity where governments, non-profits and ordinary citizens failed to step up.

We truly were selfish, spoiled children, but instead of seeing just how immature we really were, and coming to you as little, lost children begging for mercy, we continued to believe that we were superior, civilized and highly sophisticated adults–growing increasingly so the more licentious our behavior became.

You wake up to the sound of Koheleth the cabbie praying some kind of sad, pathetic confessional that sometimes fades into muttering, sometimes crystal clarity. It kind of feels like a revival. Your left leg is on fire with a burning sensation that borders on uncomfortable itching–like you are on the third day of recovery from a thousand fire ant bites. The prostitute Koheleth picked up in Dallas is slumped against the window of the passenger seat up front. At a pit stop near the Oklahoma border she decided to sit up front. Apparently, you are more repulsive to her than Koheleth, and that seems about right.

The cabbie preacher has a kind of older man’s rugged charm about him. You can see Kelly favoring him because she probably has some kind of unresolved Daddy complex–she likely does most of her business with older men who’ve spiked their Viagra with Q-Ball.

Your deformed leg is throbbing now, and feels like an erect member or a calf muscle spasming with an uncontrollable charlie horse.

“You okay back there, Kevin?” shouts Koheleth.

“Y-yeah. Sure.” you mumble.

“What’s that, I can’t hear you?”

“I’m fine! My…disability…gets sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, that’s all. If you happen to have some Advil in your glove box, that would be swell.”

Swell? You don’t say “swell.” What’s up with that? Maybe your grandparents said “swell”–you don’t know. You can hear Kelly giggle and steal a glance at you. The odd anachronism in your speech seems to have allayed some of her mistrust of you.

“We don’t do drugs, Kevin,” says Koheleth, “Have you been listening to a word I said?”

“Fine. Then get Jesus on the line up there, and have him come down to take away some of my pain.”

“Hallelujuah, sing it, brother.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously–keep going. I know you’re being sarcastic, or ironic, or whatever’s cool and hip these days, but keep asking for it, and you’ll give up that ego of yours and your words will bleed into sincerity.”

“What are you, some kind of motivational speaker?”

“Not just some kind–I’m the only motivational speaker you need to be hearing right now.”

“Is that so?”

“Kevin, I want you to do something for me. Just a little experiment if you will.”

“Okay, fine.”

“I want you to imagine a cross. A burning cross.”

“You mean like the ones racist people used to make?”

“No! Not like that. God, help me. There’s a passage in the Bible where Isaiah is given a lump of burning coal to cleanse his lips from the angel. I want you to imagine a cross that has been rendered pure as such. Can you do that for me?”

“A cross made of burning coals wielded by an angel?”

“Sure, that will work. Now, once you’ve got a good and pure vision of that holy cross, imagine it placed upon the area where it hurts the most.”

You try to do as he says, and you find that most of the pain has become focused on the very tip of the healthy part of your shriveled leg–the stump from where your remaining useless hip, knee, calf and foot dangle like a rubbery, Halloween mannequin’s limb.

Suddenly, the pain reaches an apex and you shriek.

“Holy Jesus!” shouts Koheleth, pulling over to the side of the road. “We have a live one! Lord don’t abandon us now!”

“What the hell is happening!?” cries Kelly, who’d apparently been dozing off.

“Don’t say, ‘hell,’ and just get back here with me and lay hands on him. Imagine the love of Jesus flowing into your heart and through your heart to your hands, then his…leg.”

“Ew, gross.”

“Seriously? After all the things you’ve done with men, you can’t lay a hand on a brother to heal him?”

“I guess I’m really coming down off the drugs now, huh? Fine, whatever. Just tell me he doesn’t have, like, leprosy or something. I don’t want my hand to end up like his.”

“Just come back here, and stop acting like a ten-year-old.”

You have practically blacked out now, the pain is so intense. What you can see is that blood is now dripping out of your pants–all of your pairs have the hem of the left leg sewn up tight so that people don’t stare and simply believe you are like any other standard amputee. Koheleth has ripped open the jean material now, exposing intense bleeding all around the area that demarcates where the adult limb ends and the rubbery, child’s limb begins. Within minutes the rubbery, child’s limb is on the floor of the taxicab, and the bleeding has stopped. You are now like any other standard amputee. The pain has subsided as well.

“Guess the Lord’s gonna do you in phases, well that’s probably for the best, seeing as how painful that was.”

“What are you doing!?” you cry as he tosses your recently excised useless limb into the ditch. “You’ve got to get me to a hospital. Science is five to ten years away from finding a cure for my condition that will properly grow all of the bones and tissue on my babylimb.”

“If you go with science and modern medicine in these end days, Kevin, you are guaranteed to take the Mark. Any day now, the newly forming global council will be passing these kinds of decrees. There is no time to wait five to ten years. Anyway, how long has science been promising you that a cure was five to ten years away?”

“All of my life.”

“Exactly. You see Kevin…and, Kelly…this is the Lord’s work. He has removed that which is imperfect in his eyes, and soon, he will grow an entire new limb for Kevin.”

“Really?” you say, dripping with sarcasm.

“You better get to work on your burning cross visualizations. Kelly, it wouldn’t hurt if you continued to lay hands on that area and pray with the visualizations–remember: Jesus to heart, heart to hands.”

“Do you at least have a towell or something to wipe off this blood.”

At some point, you kind of drift off. The touch of a woman is something you haven’t felt in months. You’ve always been kind of ADD, so the effort to keep focus on one single thing in your head is nigh impossible. Koheleth’s murmuring in the front seat puts you into a kind of waking trance.

Outside the window, the barren, reddish brown hills of Oklahoma are covered in gray aliens. A mother ship hovers overhead, and it is sending down a smaller, earth transport ship to drop more of them off. You are paralyzed, though you can still hear the hum of the wheels on the road, Koheleth’s soothing voice, and Kelly’s hands on your stump.

Part of you knows that Koheleth and Kelly can’t see these aliens. Neither can the passerby on the road. But, part of you also understands that they are every bit as real as all of you inside the cab. Whenever one of them sees the cab going by, it changes its level of alertness–for they really don’t seem capable of showing any emotions–and, goes running back to another pack of them.

They are fast, and they run through the Oklahoma wasteland parallel to the cab, but they don’t try to get on the cab. Some of them leap onto (and apparently into) other vehicles but not Koheleth’s car. However, most of them now appear to be keenly interested in your group, as the sun starts to fade in the sky.

Finally, you are able to pull yourself out of your hypnogogic state, and begin shrieking. “Aliens! Gray Aliens! They’re everywhere, and they want to kill us!”

Kelly jerks back, and crumples up against the door. She stares at you with a mixture of awe, fear and contempt.

“Those ain’t no aliens, son,” says Koheleth, “Those are demons. Pure, 100% Grade A demons. They’ve long since crossed over from the outer circles of Hell, and they’ve been making their way toward this plane in greater and greater numbers. You’ll see a press conference soon where the President makes an announcement and welcomes their so-called ‘landing,’ but don’t be fooled.”

You have snapped out of your terror trance, and you’re darting around frantically. You’re already starting to forget your quasi-dream, and are having trouble even processing why Koheleth is talking about demons that are really aliens. Outside, the hills have turned orange, and they are as empty as they ever were.

“I don’t see any aliens,” cries Kelly, “You people are crazy. First it’s all Jesus this, and Jesus that–then, this guy has a little boy’s limb pop off of his stump, and now you’re both talking about aliens.”

“He can’t see them either. Not now. He was briefly in the hypnogogic state–where you can cross between worlds–worlds of earth, limbo and hell, that is. Of course, you can’t get into Heaven while you’re in that state, though many Buddhists and New Agers certainly died thinking they had. The next plane above this one is every bit as real as this one, of course, but most people can’t see it. Why, I bit most of the population is being leeched onto right now by a gazillion succubi and incubi ones.”

“I think I need to be let out of the cab when we get to Oklahoma City.”

“No can do, Sister. You’re one of us. Look at his leg.”

Kelly glances at you suspiciously, and then you both look down. Your stump now ends at the knee.

“I have a knee!” you cry.

“Yep. You’re going to need to finish him off, Kelly, because when we get going, we won’t have time to wait up for a fellow on crutches.”

Kelly looks positively dumbfounded. “Did I do that with all my ju-ju chanting?”

“Of course not, Jesus did. You didn’t do squat, and you can’t do squat. You’re about as unclean as they come. Well, we all are, really. But, you start taking credit for this stuff, and the next thing you know, you’re one of those telEgelist guys like old Kevin here went to check out. What’s the name of the one you fell for–Melvin Fistov?”

“It was a one time thing, and I was highly skeptical.”

“Doesn’t matter. The point is, you two need to get seriously up to speed because everyone on this first trip is supposed to be the elders of the Final Church.”

“Should I be laying hands on Kelly? She’s probably got like a million diseases crawling around in her.”

“Fuck you.”

“Well, I know that you would for next to nothing, but I don’t think old preach here would be amused.”

Koheleth slams on the brakes and swerves over to the side of the interstate. A big rig blares its horn, and a BMW goes screaming by in fury.

“Enough! Both of you! I realize we’re all a pretty sorry lot, being the founding members of the Final Church of the End Days and all, but we are working for Jesus. We’re all unclean. Yes, Kelly has HIV, Herpes and Scarpinzi’s.”

“How do you know?” she cries.

“Jesus tells me everything I need to know, no more, no less.”

“I suppose you are going to want this freak back here to lay hands on me to get rid of them.”

“Eventually, yes. But first, he’s going to lay hands on your back.”

“My back?”

“Take your shirt off.”

“Excuse me?”

“Come on, we’ve got work to do, and nobody on this trip is going to try any hanky panky with you.”

“Hanky Panky? What are we, back in the mid 20th century?” She slowly gives in, and removes her shirt to reveal a back completely covered in scars entertwined with tattoos.

“Kevin, do you know what to do?”

You don’t have a clue. “Uh, imagine a burning cross on her back when I touch it?”

“No. Kelly, you imagine the burning cross on your back. Kevin, you are going to imagine the Love of Jesus pouring into your heart and then through your hands. But first, both of you beg for mercy and forgiveness for your sins. In Jesus name, Amen.”

You suddenly feel odd waves of compassion for Kelly as you lay your hands on her cold, spiny back. You were half expecting to be sexually aroused, but there is nothing down there. Suddenly, you have a vision of her being raped and beaten by her stepfather and his friends, and her trips to the tattoo parlor to reclaim her dignity by making the scars on her back mean something other than what they were.

Kelly is seizing up with sobs. You put your arms around her, and she doesn’t pull away. Both of you seem to have collapsed after letting go of a thousand muscles inside your bodies that had been perpetually clenched to shield yourselves against the demonic onslaught of this perverted generation.

When you were eight years old, you were Daddy’s princess. Your older half-brothers were of no interest to your father. He didn’t sire them and they didn’t listen to them. Every weekend, Daddy took you into the city to do something fun, important and cultural. He bought you the nicest, most fashionable clothes, and took you to an expensive salon to have your hair teased into fairy tale curls. All of the other girls were jealous, and you and Ashley Turner were the most popular kids.

Toward the end of that year, Daddy began acting strangely. He started to leave you with odd couples who lived in high-rise condos. These people didn’t have children, and thought you were adorable and precious for about fifteen minutes before they returned to their conversations about music, film and occasionally, books and art. You had been with Daddy to all of the museums downtown, and he’d told you about DaVinci, Micheangelo, Rubens and Matisse. You thought you could impress these people with your own knowledge of art. They would laugh hysterically before snorting up their powder and throwing back their drinks.

“Isn’t she precious? ‘Rubens and Matisse have given us the modern perspective!’ Oh dear, Rubens and Matisse are as sad and tired and dead as DaVinci and Micheangelo. It’s good that you got to see them, and you got to read to Daddy the cards next to them–but, art is something else entirely now.”

You felt incredibly hurt. After all, you’d been treating the other kids in your class the same way for the past year–they were backwoods hick kids whose parents only took them to the big city for professional baseball games and roller coaster rides. Now, you knew how little Carol Reilly and Jennifer Washburn felt–you probably teased them the most, with their older sisters’ Hello Kitty hand-me-downs that were so uncool.

The last night you saw Daddy was the worst. He’d left you with a slimy, old bald man with thick glasses. This fellow drank a lot of wine, rubbed his hands together, and begged your “precious self to come snuggle with me and watch Masterpiece Theater.” You kept running to the bathroom, claiming you were sick, every time he started to inch his way toward you. The man was playing with your hair and telling you he was an expert “braider of little girls’ hair” when Daddy arrived. He quickly stopped and jumped up to get the door when your father knocked.

The man certainly knew Daddy wouldn’t have approved of his behavior, because he kept scowling at you and and putting his finger to his lips when you tried to tell your father what you’d done that evening with the weirdo.

“Pumpkin, I hate to do this to you. But, you’re going to have to make a choice here tonight. Daddy’s got to go away. He’s got to get out of town for awhile, because some men are looking for him.”

“What did Daddy do?”

“It’s not important. It’s nothing really bad, it just involves money and boxing and…oh, I promise, I’ll tell you all about it some day. But look. I love you a lot, sweetheart. I probably love you twice as much as Mommy does. And, I’d love to take you with me.”

“Where would we go?”

“Oh, it would be a nice place. Quiet, but we could still visit museums and stores and stuff occasionally. It’s gotta be far from here, though.”

“And, we’d leave Mommy behind?”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think she’d understand.”

“But, I want to stay here. My best friend Ashley lives nearby, and I want to go to all the shops and museums and stuff here in Dallas.”

“I know, sweetie. But you know, they have places in the world that have ten times as many paintings and sculptures.”

“Your friends told me that Monet was passe.”

Your father chuckled at this. You weren’t sure why it was funny, or what passe meant, exactly.

“Well, they certainly have their opinions.”

“Besides, I love Mommy and you the same. I don’t think Mommy loves me any less. Why can’t you bring Mommy with us?”
“Hon, you’ll know all about it some day. It’s just not the way this stuff works.”

Suddenly, you have this funny feeling of de ja vu, and then you wake up inside this dream and realize that you are really thirty-eight, not eight. Your thirty-eight year old self knows that your father will be shot dead by the men that were after him in ten years. He’ll run to Seattle, Canada, Alaska, then down to Mexico where they finally catch up to him.

You have the certain feeling that if you decide to run with your father tonight, you will miss the stepfather/stepbrother horror show about to take place over the next ten years. You won’t stick around to see your own clothes become unfashionable, as your mother stops buying you new ones until you hit puberty. And, you’ll go from being Ashley Turner’s best friend to hanging out with the likes of Carol Reilly and Jennifer Washburn before meeting and befriending other girls who are more your type: ones that aren’t just poor and shy, but poor, shy and frequently abused.

You can see yourself being left behind in the US to attend college after your dad decides to run to Mexico, or maybe CPS will grab you before you’ve spent too much time on the run with him. Hell, you think, even getting shot up by the mob in Mexico would be better than having to endure the stepfather/stepbrother horror show.

“You should make that choice. Who knows–maybe you’ll run into me again at a debutante ball?” You suddenly find yourself back in the cab. Dan or Dave, or whatever his name is–he’s stopped trying to heal the scars on your back, and has slumped over against the door in sleep. Ashley Turner, all grown up and the Miss Texas runner-up, is setting next to you in her pageant outfit.

“You should make that choice, Kelly. You’re being offered a gift from your real daddy, Lucifer. What are you doing with these people, anyway? If you drop back into that place in time, and decide to go with your father, you’ll get pretty new dresses every year, and you’ll meet a really rich hot guy like I did. Now, I have my own reality show. Well, it’s not exactly my own, I have to share screen time with five other Dallas bitches, but I have everything I want.”

“What do you mean, ‘my real daddy Lucifer?’”

“What do you think I mean, sister? God has flown the coop. Jesus has taken his sheep and left us wolves behind. And it’s time to par-tay! Don’t worry, Daddy Lucifer will give us all the plastic surgery and hunky pool boys to keep us looking and feeling young for–evuh!”

Out of the corner of your eye you see Koheleth whip around.

“Get behind me, Satan!” he cries.

Ashley’s face grimaces and contorts, and she hisses with a long forked tongue.

“Kevin! Why have you stopped! Lay our hands on Kelly, NOW, and perform the cross visualizations while you do it!”

“Huh?” mumbles Kevin, and he jerks up and grabs onto your back. “Hey, Koheleth!”

“Yes, I’m right here!”

“I think her scars have gone down. So have her tattoos. There’s almost nothing back here. Maybe I can get her to take her bra off, and we can see the difference?”

Ashley disappears, and you wake up fully into the present. You reach around behind you and feel under your bra, then the rest of your back. It is utterly remarkable, the difference between where Kevin laid his hands, and he didn’t.

This is going to be a long, weird trip. You remove your bra, so that Kevin can finish his work.

You wake up, and you can hear Chris moaning and crying downstairs. “Oh, Chandra,” you think to yourself, “Why did you have to leave us so soon?”

You’d been a pastor at a local, non-denominational church for over a decade. Here in Oklahoma City, having a congregation of about two-thousand people wasn’t a big deal. You had a rock band or a DJ each week, and the church sang songs that were projected from a laptop. You were proud of your church–it was an alternative to the dozen or so Megachurches in the area. You didn’t prophesy about the end times, or speak in tongues or lay hands on people.

Most of your church consisted of older, retired farmers and ranchers who’d given up their professions after two decades of drought and wildfires. The final blow to your community was the series of earthquakes that ripped through Central Oklahoma, right in the middle of tornado season–where you saw ten category five twisters hit your area.

Your own wife was coming home with Chris from her Special Ed class that day she left you. Chris is autistic, and your wife went back to school to study special needs children and teach them, after the doctors had diagnosed your son. Chandra was a much more devout and faithful person than you ever were. That seems weird to say, with you being a pastor and all, but it’s true.

Of course, now you aren’t really a pastor, anymore.

Random vagrants stumble in off the street during the cold parts of the year to get a place to stay and whatever hot meal you can scrounge up for them. Most of them are so far gone on that synthetic cocaine–Q-Ball they call it–that, they don’t even remember you the next day. Fortunately, you and Chris have been spared any sort of violence that you might expect from these people.

All of your regular congregation, your wife included, were swept up in the twisters or swallowed by the earthquakes. It’s strange, really. You sometimes wonder if that was the rapture, and these are the end times. You had always pictured the rapture being a gorgeous elevator ride up into space, with God providing protective coverings for everyone to survive the trip far across the Universe to its outer edges where the walls of Heaven began. To all of the non-believers who remained here on Earth, of course it would appear as if you all had just disappeared instantly, like in your favorite series of books.

But, this new world you are living in is strange and messy. A lot of the Megachurches still have most of their members. So many of their congregants lived in downtown Oklahoma City or the suburbs, protected from the onslaught of twisters and earthquakes that seemed to favor the poorer country folks.

In fact, you see a flyer in today’s Sunday paper–Brother Melvin Fistov is coming to preach at Brother Jimbo Donaldson’s Megachurch where they Oklahoma City Thunder used to play. Almost a hundred thousand people total will be in attendance, as they are setting up big screens outside the venue in the parking lot. “It will be part, Megachurch revival, part old-time drive-in movie revival! Come get healed!”

You’ve taken Chris up a half dozen times to the front of healing sessions at these Megachurches, but not Brother Fistov’s. He’s supposed to be the best–everyone he touches when he’s possessed by the Holy Ghost gets healed!

A strange car is stopped outside the gate. You can make out two, maybe three adults inside it. It looks like an old police car or beat-up taxi cab. An old man gets out, and tries the latch on the gate. Boomer, the once mighty Rottweiler/Pit Bull mix, just moans from the porch. Chris is shrieking. You get your semi-automatic.

You swing the door open, and see that Koheleth is making Boomer quite happy by scratching him in all his favorite spots behind his ears.

“A man could get killed in these times by being so bold,” you hear yourself say.

“Then, it’s a good thing I’m at the door of a fellow preacher, who knows the ways of Christ,” he says, eyeing your gun with disapproval.

“What do you need?”

“Why does everyone think I need something? These are terrible times, where it’s presumed by even a man of God that I come with only my needs in mind. What Jesus needs, Mike, is for you and Chris to come with us.”

Chris is screaming at pitches that tell you he will soon be messing himself and throwing the mess if you don’t tend to him.

“I have to tend to my son, who you seem to know already.”

“May I come in with you?”

“That man knows Jesus, get him away from me,” utters Chris in a gravelly voice that is clearly not his own.

“He doesn’t trust you, sir. Might you tell me your name since you already know mine and my son’s?”

“I’m Koheleth.”

“You’ve taken the name of a preacher in the Bible. Clever. Do you know how many bearded whack jobs I meet each week at my church? Don’t you think I can see right through your act?”

“When was the last time Chris spoke?”

Chris has fallen into a primal, growling state. This is not good. The last time it happened…

“It was when my father, who was also a pastor, was still alive, and he was in town from Denver. I was sick, and my assistant pastor was out of town, so Dad offered to preach. The whole congregation told me about how Chris spoke and acted that day, but I wasn’t there.”

“Your Dad was Michael Andrus. He mentored me.”

“Yippee.”

“He told me about your broken relationship, but never mentioned where his son and grandson lived. Frankly, when the Lord told me to pick up Mike and Chris in Oklahoma City, I simply didn’t make the connection. I haven’t been apprised of any other previous connections to the folks who are already in my car.”

“Listen, friend. I don’t really trust the whole ‘Lord speaks directly to me’ style of preaching.”

“But, you’ve taken Chris many times to Megachurch pastors who claim the Lord is speaking directly to them.”

You want to punch the guy. He doesn’t get it. When you have a son like Chris, you’re willing to try anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a ton of faith it will work.

“Why don’t you let us lay hands on him?”

“Don’t you dare, don’t you know who we are!” shouts Chris, full of many voices.

“Do you not get it at all, Mike? Do I have to break it down for you completely? Your son is possessed by demons. We are living in the end times. Those of us who haven’t died in the past month are in grave danger of spending hell in eternity forever, because we didn’t possess the right kind of faith. And, the Lord has called some of us to extract the remaining ones who might yet still be saved. I have been told by the Lord that you are important, and I can’t leave without you and Chris.”

You look at him dumbfounded. You aren’t sure if you want to shoot him dead on the spot, or hug him and begin weeping.

You are ashamed of why you bought the gun. You didn’t buy it very recently, after all of the disasters hit and stories of looting started popping up. You’d been secretly believing that Chris was sending you mind messages to just shoot him dead and put him out of his misery, then shoot your wife as well and run. The gun was always by your side, even at church. You would have rage-filled fantasies where you killed everyone in the congregation, and then you’d weep for months in repentance, utterly miserable and stupified that you, a man of God was having these thoughts.

Now, you can see that you really were receiving those messages, but they weren’t coming from the pure soul that is Chris.

“Fine, go get your people. I guess I’m at the point where I’ll do just about anything to stop Chris’ suffering.”

“I can see that.”

A man with an amputation just below his leg, and a highly pierced and tattooed woman dressed up like a prostitute are who the old man Koheleth retrieves.

“Seriously? These two are going to help you heal Chris?”

“The Lord has called them to come with me the same way he called you and Chris. They’re who I have to work with. They’re still pretty new to the healing game, but I guarantee you they will deliver more effective results than that Melvin Fistov,” he nods at the flyer on your table.

By now, Chris has gone absolutely spasmodic. He has locked himself inside your den, and you can hear all of your beloved books, manuscripts and art being methodically trashed and shredded.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. Mike, you’re going to blow a hole in the door, reach around, unlock it. But first, I need a large cross to carry.”

“I suppose you want some holy water, too.”

“No, this isn’t the Exorcist. A cross will be fine. If you have smaller crosses for Kevin and Kelly, that would be great.”

“How is a cripple supposed to heal my son, anyway?”

“We’re working on getting him healed, too. And, Kelly. This stuff takes awhile. It’s not instant, like the movies. Chris is still going to be autistic and deep inside of himself. But, you will be able to gain his trust and coax him out after the demon is gone.”

“Lovely.” You see none of this working, and part of you now thinks that if this all goes horribly wrong, you’ll just shoot the lot of them, and tell the cops they were burglars. The odds are quite good that there are already police bulletins out for at least Koheleth, who has probably stolen the cab and more or less kidnapped and brainwashed these two losers to join his cult.

“Mike, you will shoot a hole in the door, I will unlock it and lead the way with my cross, and you will follow close behind.”

When you were young you came upon a methodology that found you waking up in the arms of angels, after slipping into a nap during the late, dark afternoon of a dry, cold winter. You then woke up completely cleansed after falling through this eternal space of light, where beings with warm hands held you up and kept you from dropping down dead into the endless, dark abyss below.

You ran about the UC-Denver campus full of joy and love for anyone and anything that lived. A few hardy sparrows responded well to your advances, and a homeless man was ready to talk about his troubles at length after you handed him all of the cash in your wallet. Someone had thrown open a window in the music conservatory building, probably stifled by the excessive heat, or maybe they simply wanted to have an audience beyond God, the roaches and their own ears. They were playing Bach furiously, as if this were the last night on earth that anyone would be allowed to play Bach.

All of the buildings were closed, and no one else was around. You wanted to run madly through the library, grabbing books at random in your zeal for life, for all that was perfect and good about this earth. So many things like art and poetry and music were created in places and times of great sorrow and suffering–sometimes they were created by people who would probably have been aborted or locked up at an early age. These things, once removed from their original sources, because timeless artifacts of perfection. You knew in your heart of hearts that God would not–how could he?–destroy such wonderful and perfect things.

But, the feeling of intense joy and love soon wore off, for you’d only accessed it the way you might access any chemical you could become dependent on. Indeed, soon after you gave up on trying to find a worthy person to deposit all of your newfound love into, you headed down to the nearest open corner store to buy a six-pack of cheap, light beer.

You spent the better part of your adult life, trying to recreate the methodology you employed that night to become so full of an intense Love that went far above and beyond anything you’d ever felt for Mother or God or puppies before. Of course, you weren’t that serious and disciplined about it. The only thing you were truly methodical about employing in most of your adult life was drinking, which you did almost every single night up until a few years ago when your wife left you and disappeared into the chaos of the newly reshaped world.

Did she get taken up in the rapture? You googled her name almost every single day during the first few years that she was gone, and nothing ever appeared. Of course, she was likely flying under a different name, perhaps marrying some obliging man quickly to obtain a new name and whatever money he could provide to help her begin a new life away from you.

But, during periods of great discipline and abstinence from the booze, pot, cigarettes and masturbation, you always returned to books about healing–faith healers, light workers, and stories that illuminated the works Jesus did in the Bible. You even continued to lapse into thinking you could somehow incorporate the Hindu mysticism of raising the Kundalini serpant and Islamic spirituality of Sufism, with the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius and the teachings of the Desert Fathers.

Sometimes you could work yourself into a great state of feeling especially euphoric, with only a little help from over-the-counter natural substances like Rhodiola, Maca, Kava Kava, St. John’s Wort, Guarana, Valerium, Ginseng, etc. But, you always crashed hard.

You always ended up reacting with an almost 180 degree, anti-matter sort of reaction to the great frenzy of love for all of humanity you worked up for yourself. You would become filled with memories of every single slight that someone ever sent your way, going back to adolescence and the days of getting bullied on the bus. People you’d long since made your peace with in real life would suddenly become your objects of violent hatred, and you’d start to construct a “revenge list” in your head of all the people you would track down and commit unspeakable acts of torture to, were you to keep yourself in this state of being possessed by evil spirits.

Of course, all it took was one fit of exquisite road rage to bring you back to your senses. Fortunately, for your sake, the worst that ever came of your appalling mental violent episodes was an angry youth keeping his car alongside yours for miles down I-70, adjusting his speed to match yours, and trying to get you to roll down your window and listen to his screams of hatred, which were reactions to your own initial attempt to prevent him from merging onto the freeway, then flipping him the bird.

Stories of young men going nuts inside movie theaters, college campus auditoriums, political rallies and places of worship became common place during these years. When you were possessed with the evil “switch” as you called it, you felt something akin to empathy to those young, men–even indulging yourself in your own little fantasies of blowing up buildings and spreading mayhem and murder to innocent lives.

It was almost five years after your wife left you that God put Pastor Andrus in your path.

You often found yourself attending churches around Denver at random–favoring large, traditional churches where you could slip into a back pew right before the service started, and then slip out without too many smiling faces recognizing you and inviting you to potlucks, Bible studies and other social occasions that would require you to interact with others and make you face just how faithless and spiritually impoverished you really were.

What was happening inside of you was every bit like the ratcheting of a screw, and you were the enabler of the evil spirits that cranked the fulcrum. Each time you embarked upon regimens of intense ascetism–clean, healthy vegan living accompanied by riding your bike everywhere, shaving your head bald, reading nothing but the passages of the Bible surrounding love and healing–you’d become more and more tightly wound with furious, judgemental self-righteousness. Any time a colleague made a snarky remark about Jesus, related some irreverant thing they saw on South Park, or blasted their liberal opinions to everyone in the office while mocking the Church and making you think that they believed that essentially all Christians were closet homosexuals or pedophiles–any time you started to hear this talk you’d get more and more upset inside and want to take out your anger upon these people were really nothing more than the bland mewling herd of goats that had sprung up as counterparts to Jesus’ one time sheep that walked the earth.

In order to cool yourself off, you’d finally give in to temptation and buy a fifth of whiskey at the liquor store, mixing it carefully at first with large quantities of juice and soda before giving in to simply pouring it over ice, then sipping the last of the bottle straight, while you scoured the Internet for articles that proved every single mainstream singer or movie star had sold their souls to the devil, and watched endless videos exposing the megachurch telEgelists for the charlatans that the were.

You’d wake up from these episodes of drinking and reading about the utterly corrupt state of your society with hangover headaches that you’d try to cure by drinking beer and overindulging on fast food.

From this would come a recovery period where you felt it necessary to return to your evil vices in a most dedicated, almost militant approach with the illusion that you were purging yourself of these behaviors in the manner of the father who makes his son smoke an entire pack of cigarettes after catching him smoking one.

This type of practice would provide you with temporary reprieve. After all, if you masturbated enough times and slept through weekdays (calling in “sick” to work), you’d eventually tax your system into a state of numbness were all manner of appetites were removed. Of course, the purge was temporary. Within a few weeks, you’d be right back to where you were before.

And, it was on a morning where you were cleanshaven from head to toe, savagely pumping the pedals of your road bike down a hill full of testosterone from not having masturbated in a week and intense with anger from not allowing yourself time to contemplate the word of the Lord in deep silence, that you raced straight into a delivery truck that had been crossing the street at the bottom of the hill. It was completely the delivery driver’s fault, as he’d failed to completely stop, and had not taken any notice of you at all.

Your leg was mangled after you smashed into the side of the truck and the driver took no notice of you, and your bike was crushed, and you couldn’t extricate your left foot from the stirrup.

You woke up in the hospital with the amputation of most of your left leg scheduled for that morning. The tiny babyleg that Kevin had lived with most of his life was prettier than the site before you when you peeled back covers and bandages. Your first thoughts were of anger toward the Lord for causing this to happen.

“My name’s Pastor Michael,” said a warm soul that appeared in your room. “I minister part-time to people in this hospital. What’s your name?”

“Doug. Doug Smiley,” you said.

“Doug, that’s a nice American name.”

“It’s bland and safe and means nothing, really.”

“What do you wish your parents had named you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe something from the Bible, or at least a name that sounds like it could make history.”

“That’s understandable. What if I call you Koheleth?”

“Koheleth? What’s that–Czek?”

“No,” he laughed, “Are you familiar with the book Ecclesiastes?”

“Of course, it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is probably the most straight talk you’re going to hear from any of the prophets.”

“Well, the author of the book in the Hebrew was called Koheleth, which can mean Preacher, or just ‘speaker to an assembly.’”

“Didn’t know that. I just read the King James and New International translations.”

“Of course. Do you know what you’re doing wrong, Koheleth?”

“Sure. I’m just not trying hard enough to stay with my regimens of discipline. I keep letting the Lord down, and burning out and falling back on my old vices and addictions.”

“But, Koheleth, you of all people should know that the ways and works of Man are futile, when they are taken in and of themselves.”

“I pray every night for God to help me, too heal me. And, now, I really need healing. Before, it was just my soul that was damaged. Now, look at me.”

“I understand. But, I think your attitude isn’t one of completely giving up.”

“You mean like that AA bullshit–letting go and letting God?”

“Something like that. If you’ve made it into bullshit in your mind, then of course, it’s not going to work for you. But, people wouldn’t keep doing AA if it never worked, and it really was all bullshit.”

“I guess.”

“I’m going to give you a gift, Koheleth. And then, you’re going to come visit me down in the abandoned sewers of west Denver.”

“Huh?”

Pastor Andrus proceeded to thrust a wooden cross that burned like fire on your mangled leg. It fell off from the healthy part of your remaining limb, and then a most intense pain shot through you–one that felt like a million volts of electricity pumping from your head to your heart to your crotch and down through your remaining stump. You were full of whatever synthetic morphine the hospital had provided, and still it blistered. The pastor rubbed his hand and the cross furiously over the stump, and within fifteen minutes, you’d regrown your entire limb anew, and hairless. It was as smooth as a little boy’s leg, but a perfect, most healthy specimen that rivaled what your leg had been at the age of eighteen.

He dropped a card on the table by the hospital bed, and departed from the room.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” muttered the doctor who was poking and prodding the brand new limb, and whacking it with his reflex hammer. You later learned from Pastor Andrus that this doctor had, in fact, seen dozens of these miracles that had been performed by Jesus, using the pastor as his conduit. Michael Andrus never ever said that he healed people or performed miracles. He was even reluctant to describe any of the processes and exercises he performed internally to prepare him for such work. In his mind, such miracles were supposed to be commonplace activities, undertaken by all Christians who truly professed the Faith at the core of their very beings. These were not special powers given to an elite cabal of chosen ones, but simply Christians being Jesus’ conduits, acting as Jesus had intended his future disciples to act when he went back up to heaven.

But, the doctor was completely blind. In spite of his zeal to only believe in facts presented to his own senses, the doctor refused to make the connection between all of the “highly anomolous, freak cases” and the appearance of the part-time hospital chaplain that infrequently ministered there. The doctor was completely possessed by a demon who blinded him into placing his faith in whatever was dictated to him by his own religion, the American Medical Association, and Science. Cases of healing that could not be repeated across all individuals suffering the same ailments were simply filed away and forgotten.

You didn’t understand just how impoverished this doctor and so many of his contemporaries really were, but you did feel a sense of pity for him and his children when you left the hospital that same day to find Pastor Andrus and his followers living in abandoned sewers.

You wake up from this memory and find Kevin, Kelly, Pastor Andrus’ son Mike and grandson Chris standing over you.

“He’s badly burned from head to toe,” says Mike.

“It’s like lightning hit him,” says Kevin rubbing his new leg.

“Where am I?” you ask.

“You’re in my house,” says Mike, “Do you even know who I am?”

“Sure, you’re Pastor Andrus’ son.”

“Well, yes. But, you barged into my house with these freaks, smashed through the door of my den, grabbed my little autistic boy by the throat, and smote him with my antique cross, a cross that was owned once by John Wesley, then turned to this poor weirdo here with the crutches and smacked his stump with it.”

“Oh, yes.”

“Oh, yes? That’s all you have to say? Chris was speaking, which he rarely does, and now he’s completely withdrawn back into himself.”

“Was Chris speaking the words of angels or demons?”

“Huh? Around here, we really don’t believe much in that sort of stuff. We understand the importance of praying to God to have a good life, and not make bad choices in life, but science tells us…”

“Does science tell you what happened to his leg?” You point to David, who is rubbing his new limb that gleams from out of the jagged edges of his ripped left pant leg.

“Parlor tricks–yes, I’ve seen this kind of hokey pokey happen on those magic shows. David Copperfield, David Blaine, Chrisangel, Mindfreak.”

“You watched Chris go from speaking in a voice that you know wasn’t his, shouting abominations at you and locking himself in here–to being a quiet, shy little boy; and, you watched this man grow a leg right before your eyes; yet, you are claiming that you were somehow better off before we arrived?”

“Of course. Now, I’ve called my friend Jason, who is a Sheriff Deputy, and he’s on the way with enough firepower to take all of you down in one shot. Then we’ll see if the Lord is really watching over you and protecting you.”

“Well, we aren’t leaving until you agree that Jesus healed your son, and you’re ready bring Chris and join us of your own accord. So, we’ll just wait here for Sheriff Jason.”

“He’s a Sheriff Deputy–ah, whatever. Fine. Sit here and be the criminals that you are. I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t have approved of this.”

“Maybe we should leave?” asks Kelly. “I mean, you did your work, and I get it. I think Kevin gets it.” She looks over at Kevin, but he’s completely stunned and still rubbing his new leg.

“In spite of being a badly tattooed slut, this woman speaks some sense,” says Mike.

“Hey!” cries Kelly. She walks over to Chris. “Hi, sweetheart, how are you feeling?”

“Don’t touch him!” Mike runs over and yanks his son away from Kelly. Chris wrests his arm away from his dad and goes over to a chair in the corner to sulk.

“Jesus,” says Kelly, “I was just trying to comfort him. Something you don’t appear to be very good at. He seems to respond better to a woman’s voice. All you men threatening each other isn’t helping.”

“You will not…” Mike pauses and throws venom into his voice for emphasis, “tell me how to raise my son. You are a whore who’s clearly only used sex as a drug and a weapon. You know nothing about taking care of a child, much less a special needs one.”

“You seem to know my entire life story, dude, whatever. I’m going out to the car, Koheleth, and if you all aren’t out there in an hour, I’m driving away.”

“Fine,” you say, “We’ll have this resolved within an hour.”

***

You were born Kelly Lynne Amherst, but some years, you pretended that you were Ruth.

Ruth seemed like a perfectly chaste librarian sort of name, and when you were able to save a little money from stripping or whatever guy you’d been living with, you would get your own place and go back to community college for awhile. Ruth appeared during the end of an especially promising monogamous relationship. You awaited with escalating expectation the invitation to meet the future mother-in-law.

Of course, all the moms of the good guys saw right through you, and didn’t bother to hide their displeasure and judgement of their sons’ choices in a mate. You knew what would happen when the two of you got back home. He would start to treat you like he did when he first met you–only coming to you for sex, going out most of the time to hang out with his buddies, and finally, stammering some pathetic bag of excuses for why things could never work out.

The ones whose mothers tried to pretend were even worse. These moms were clearly afraid they would push their sons away, and so they acted especially sweet toward you, cooking you whatever you wanted, indulging your uncouth stories of the years you were homeless. But, the sons of these mothers saw right through it, too, because they knew how their moms had acted when they brought home truly good girls back in high school.

You found yourself inside churches a few times during those years of early adulthood. Most of the good guys wanted to get married in a church, and at least two of them actually attended church more than twice a year. The first time you went to church after having been stripped of your innocence by your stepfather was at the age of twenty-three. You were terrified, because you felt like everyone’s eyes were upon you, though the tattoos were well-covered by the cashmere sweater and calf-length skirt.

The second time left a bigger mark upon you, because that boy took you to a church that actually seemed to embrace people of different stripes and colors. Their bulletin offered more opportunities for getting involved with helping the community beyond simply throwing unwanted can goods and clothes in a small box in the foyer.

Someone is pounding on the window of the taxi cab. It is a sheriff’s deputy. You roll down the window.

“Ma’am please state your full name, and then step slowly out of the car with your hands above your head.”

“My name is Ruth, I am a truly good and loving soul at my innermost core. We are going about our Father’s business.”

The deputy permits a brief look of puzzlement to flash across his face, but quickly regains his composure to pull your hands behind your back, cuff you, and march you to the back seat of his car.

“What am I being charged with?” you ask patiently.

“Criminal trespassing.” He eyes your body and outfit. “Prostitution, drugs. I’m sure you know the drill.”

“Is it now illegal to spread the message of Jesus’ light and love, heal the sick, and cast out demons?”

“Now see here. I like Jesus just fine. I like him like I like Superman and Spiderman and the rest of them. My daddy, God rest his soul, was a fine country preacher. But, you can’t go around getting up in other people’s business. Besides, from the looks of it, I’d say you’re hardly the Jesus-lovin’ type.”

“And who might that be?”

“Why, clean, respectable folks like myself. Folks who don’t do drugs and get mixed up in gangs and such. We have nice, clean homes and keep our lawns neat. Those are the Jesus people.”

Mike is still sobbing when the deputy enters his house. The lot of you are singing a well-known hymn:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

“Pastor Mike,” asks the Deputy, “Is everything okay? You sounded like you were being violently attacked on the phone.”

“Deputy Jordan,” says Mike, “I was being attacked. I was being attacked by the Lord’s love, and I’d never known it my entire life. My own son, my dear precious boy, told me he loved me for the first time. And, I could see it in his eyes that he meant it.”

“So, do are you going to press charges against this lot of scruffy sinners?”

“No, sir. No, sir, not at all. For, I am a scruffy sinner as well, though I’ve been too afraid to face this inevitable truth.”

“I swear Mike, if you weren’t a good, law-abiding family man, I’d haul you in alone for wasting my time coming out here. Do you realize how many fires I’m putting out all over the greater Oklahoma City area right now? It’s like the whole world’s gone mad.”

“It has,” you say.

“And, who the hell are you, you Santa-biker-lookin’ character?”

“Koheleth, The Preacher. Can you not see what has happened since the Desert Whiteout operations began last month between the U.S., Israel and the rest of the Middle East? Do you not wonder at the darkness of the day, from the sun being blotted out by all of the nuclear ash in the sky? Are you not asking questions about why there is no news from the coasts of the U.S., and the President won’t disclose his location? Are the earthquakes rattling the Midwest not making you wonder about the prophecies of the end times?”

“Now, you see here, Mr. Kohegan–I read all of the Left Behind series. I know that I’m a good Christian, and so was my daddy and my two little boys, God rest their souls. And, they didn’t disappear in no rapture, but they done caught the H4NV6 virus that has taken so many people around here. Are you trying to tell me that the Lord done raptured most of my family up in a plague? Why, that sounds like the work of the Devil.”

“The plague is the work of the Devil. But, the rapture isn’t taking place on this plane of existence. The Lord is calling home those who are his children from the plane of the sleeping. Those who know his voice are hearing him and rising up, and those who don’t are eternally sleeping and will soon be bathed in fire. Now is a terrible time to die if you don’t have it right with Jesus.”

“Oh, I got it right with the big man upstairs. You don’t need to worry about me. You, sir, sound a bit like some kind of Commie. Mike, are you sure you intend to throw your lot in with this ilk?”

“Deputy Jordan, these are times that call for a different kind of Christian. The mild, sweater vest Christian who rubs his palms together each Sunday and drones the hymns before retreating to football and barbecues is not the kind of Christian for these times. When our President calls upon you to receive your chip so that you can pass freely about your business and buy groceries, are you going to take that chip?”

“Well, I’ve read a lot about that chip, and it seems very practical. I most certainly would want dispatch to know immediately where I’m at at all times in case I get caught up in a sketchy situation. And, from what I hear, you can practically communicate telephatically with the ones you love. When I’m buying groceries for my sick wife, I can just ask her with my thoughts what kind of cold medicine she needs. And then, to top it off, I can walk out of the store with it just like that–and my bank account will be debited automatically. What’s more, from what I hear, the next generation of these chips will have anti-viral capabilities built right into them. Imagine that! My wife won’t even be sick with the cold, because her chip will send nanobot proteins to attack the virus.”

“Doesn’t the chip sound just a little bit to you like the Mark of the Beast?”

“No sir, it does not. And anyone who talks like that, I would say is unpatriotic. This is a patriotic chip, that we must all take for the good of our country. I’m going to make sure to file a report about the lot of you, and run it up to the FBI. You too, Mike. I don’t know what’s happened out here, but something’s changed.”

You turn to Mike and Chris and say, “Well men, it’s time to go. The Lord will provide us with what we need.”

You watch the deputy roughly pull Kelly out of the patrol car, and practically rip the cuffs off of her before driving off.

“Are you okay, Kelly?” you ask.

“My name is Ruth now.”

“Okay, Ruth. We are all leaving. We have one more stop in Topeka, and then we are headed back to Denver to begin our work.”

As you drove on into the setting sun, your thoughts turned to the battle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, love and fear, truth and chaos.

You remembered a period in your life when you became obsessed with all of the things of the classical age, coupled with the beautiful art and sculpture of the Rennaissance. For a time, you needed this kind of obsession to find your way back to the beauty and Truth of God.

The art and literature following WWII was appealing to you as a very young man in his twenties. This was real art–angry slashes on canvases and poetry that was more like stabs of words in short, fervent barks. These artists understood the horror of total war and destruction, and refused to sugar coat and gloss their work in any way whatsoever. You loved violent, urban music–black gangster rap and noisy free jazz. They were just telling it like it was.

But then, you started to see things a little differently. So many of these artists were profiting from their destructive, chaotic art, and then going on to purchase fine mansions with many toys, and walling themselves off from the entire world. Long after they stopped living the rough and tumble ghetto life, these artists would continue to glorify it because that is what their fans expected of them. There was no interest on the part of most of these artists turned moguls to go back to their humble beginnings and give the kids still living in the streets a hand up, an opportunity to get an education. Most of them scorned education, anyway, since they’d found unbelievable riches so quickly without finishing high school.

You thought more about the art produced in classical times and the times of the Rennaissance and realized that far more people lived nasty, chaotic lives during those times than people of your generation and society did. Most people you knew, even the ones living below the so-called poverty level, had creature comforts that far exceeded the ones enjoyed by the masses of the past eras of civilization.

So, what made crude, infantile (and often scatological) art so popular with people who otherwise seemed like reasonably civilized human beings? Was it simply an urge to return to the primitive, or perhaps a feeling of guilt, knowing that most of the world outside of the Western one still lived in violence and squalor? You thought that perhaps some of that was true, but you also had this clear vision of the Evil One working inside of everyone who had made it into a womb with the opportunity to seek all that is Perfect, Good, Noble and True.

The Evil One made being bad seem like an exquisite past time–being bad felt good, and your generation and the one before it were taught to trust their feelings instead of their minds or even their true hearts. Long after the counterculture had helped your society throw off the “oppressive shackles” of generations living under the shadow of the Victorian era, the stories that the masses bought in droves were stories of rebels–men, women and children who bucked the status quo–a mythical entity that really no longer existed, because the status quo had long become power holders who listened to rock n’ roll, spurned religion, experimented with drugs and adultery and got tattooes.

You’d see movements rise up that gave lip service to clean living, but these were almost always conducted by the worst of hypocrites–men who were caught with gay prostitutes, women who had boys on the side of their marriage, parents whose own daughters were pregnant by the age of sixteen.

You came to hate it all. Any movement started by a human being seemed destined to end up being one full of hypocrites who used their membership of the movement to gain access to more power and control over other human beings. Nobody seemed the least bit interested in finding Truth, and most certainly, there was little, if any, real Love going around by the time you met Mike’s dad, Pastor Andrus.

Pastor Andrus refused to have a home. You never saw him beg for money, and you never saw him preach the word of God to anyone who didn’t ask to hear it. He just had this presence about himself, and yes, there was a bit of the showman to the way he’d lift his large, King James Bible up while wearing his frayed duster that seemed more like a western gunslinger drawing on a foe.
He’d peer down his drugstore glasses and read silently and intently, until the curious around him came up to try to obtain whatever held the man’s rapture so.

His voice was full of love. There was never that fire and brimstone kind of preaching–the dramatic rising and falling of the voice and wiping of the brow. Mike Andrus only read the Bible when people gathered ‘round. If it wasn’t in the Bible, he didn’t preach it. You had to approach him later after the crowds had moved on to find out what he thought Jesus would do, were he walking the earth in these times of great perversion and material lust.

You first spoke to him after months of standing off in the distance at his Bible readings. For a brief time, your church was part of a group that distributed food and winter clothing to the poor that huddled in the parks around Denver. After the city banned this activity, you would return to sit and listen from a distance to Pastor Andrus reading the Bible to the junkies, prostitutes and alcoholics who were reaching out for anything in this life to hang onto.

You were walking past the city jail one morning on the way to work at your meaningless office job, and you saw Mike leaving the jail, being escorted out by a couple of officers who tossed in front of him his small canvas bag that held the giant Bible and reading glasses.

“Pastor Andrus, are you okay?” you asked.

He looked at you, and his face showed recognition.

“Of course, I’m okay, Gregory. This is part of the life the Lord leads me to live.”

“How do you know my name?”

“The Lord told me. One day, though, you shall be called Koheleth.”

“A Jewish Priest?”

“A speaker to an assembly. You will instruct the Final Church in the Word, and send them out to disseminate Jesus’ teachings of Love, and perform acts of healing.”

“I don’t think so. You must have me confused with someone else. I’m terrified at public speaking, and am pretty mixed up right now with life. I doubt I would make a very good Christian leader. I think I’m going to be lucky to make it into heaven at all.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it, and you know that.”

You did know that, but you were just using a figure of speech. But, Pastor Andrus didn’t care for figures of speech. Nor did he favor hyperbole or creative liberty or irony. He laughed little, and told few jokes, because most humor is centered around offering deception and then revealing what you were witholding to the deceived at the right moment.

“Your life as you know it is over, Koheleth. You should come work with me.”

“But, I have a mortgage on a condo, and credit card bills, and my ex-wife…”

“Leave it behind. Get your chauffer’s license and go apply to be a taxi cab driver. The Lord will provide you with places to sleep in the city as you begin to do his will.”

And so, you did. After three months of putting off the decision to leave your life behind, and going to the parks to be a passive recipient of the Word, you finally walked away from everything and took only your Bible with you. Sometimes you were invited into the homes of the very wealthy, sometimes you huddled with the city’s outcasts around barrells burning trash and filling your lungs with all manner of carcinogens. You had moments where children running as fast from the Light as they could go were stopped in their tracks by the sight of the Bible on the dashboard, and times when men full of legions of demons pulled guns on you for this very same thing.

But the coldest moment in the cab came last winter when you picked up a well-dressed GQ gentleman from the airport, who looked as if he could have stepped out of a movie from the middle of the last century.

He immediately picked up his cell phone and began a loud conversation with someone you presumed to be an assistant or manager working under him.

“I’m in a filthy cab because you couldn’t get the limo service to show up on time. You and I both know that we are running low on time, and everything must be precise for when it all begins….yes, I know…they are arriving tonight…this redneck piece of shit has a goddamn Bible on his dashboard, can you believe it?….of course they will be banned soon…hardly anyone carries around paper books of any kind, anymore…everyone will gladly burn the ones they have left, and then, it’s just a matter of blip…and, we’ve flipped the switch to turn off everything we don’t want or need going into their little sheepy minds.”

You dropped him off somewhere near the state Capitol, and he used his cell phone to pay the fare without once acknowledging you directly. The building he retreated into, by walking around behind it, was a slab of granite with almost no windows. The man left a cold, energy-draining presence in the cab, and you felt some kind of evil power emanated from the bowells of that building, long after that night.

Pastor Andrus disappeared that winter, as he said he would, so you never got a chance to ask him about who he thought that man might be. All he left you was a paper with the instructions to pick up these strange individuals who now filled your car. Ruth and Chris sat up front, and Mike and Kevin sat in the back. You looked over at Chris and knew from the Spirit that this boy would provide information about the evil-seeming building when you all got back to Denver.

They all slept fitfully. You were not the least bit tired–you slept at most two hours a day, and never dreamed or felt the need for caffeine upon waking. You knew that your mission was to leave the cab in Denver and find the “woman with the bus”–Peggy was going to be her name. And, the ones who’d heard the late Call would all be there to get on the bus to that designated place in the mountains where the Lord would keep you safe for the duration of the Final Church.

You wake up on a morning with hard frost covering the old Toyota Camry, covering the miserable lawn, coating the roof of your cookie-cutter, suburban Topeka home. The home is really just a house now, since he left with the children last year. Ironic, that he got out and went to a much warmer climate, Texas, where he could be near the megachurch he’d come to love so much from watching their televised broadcasts.

You were involved in the Catholic youth groups of high school and college, but never let your Catholic roots stop you from having fun in college. By the time you met Sam, you’d been with a few dozen guys, had a few abortions, and you were ready to settle down with a man who had the potential to be highly domesticated.

Sam was into Eastern religions at the time, and a bit fearful of women, it seemed. Indeed, he had yearned to have a sexual relationship in college, and told you of his many failed attempts to even work up the nerve to ask a girl to do anything more than study with him. You were his first time, and you were ready to settle down and start a family, so you let yourself get pregnant.

Sam had this look on his face like you’d betrayed him when you told him you were pregnant. It was his first time, ever. After Sam had gone through the initiations into the Catholic church, and the two of you were quickly married with the blessings of both of your parents, you also sprung on him that you had herpes, and he’d probably catch it as well.

You never felt much guilt around the way you used Sam to fit your need to plan your life a certain way. Sam would occasionally act a little riled up when he drank too much, and intimate a lot about people with impure pasts, and how he was probably more of a Catholic at heart, and all this other stuff–but, you kind of just tuned him out, because you knew he wasn’t the kind of man who was bold enough to get mixed up in an affair, or brave enough to declare a divorce and go off on his own (or just drive off one day and never look back).

Sam was endebted to your father for a loan to start a financial advisor business, and he was highly intimidated by your mother, who was always suggesting what she would do to a man who deserted her daughter and her grandchildren. And, of course, Sam had thrown himself wholeheartedly into Catholicism, and feared the eternal damnation for getting a divorce and knowing he would be committing adultery if he slept with anyone other than his wife while she still lived.

You, on the other hand, had only the sense of decorum and proper social norms to inform your reason for starting a family and going to church more regularly. You absolutely despised Topeka, where Sam had discovered a huge potential to grow a roster of clients. He’d failed to find many clients in Chicago, then Seattle, then Miami. Those markets were saturated with financial advisors–and the veteran ones had all the clients who mattered.

You hated and still hate Topeka. Not so much the people, or the lack of finer cultural institutions, or the dearth of good ethnic cuisine–it’s the intensely landlocked nature of the city that disturbs you. Moreso than any other city in the Midwest of its size, it seems to be hopelessly imprisoned by vast swaths of plains that have no end.

You got bored in Topeka. You started stopping in at the cafe on the ground floor of the building where you worked before heading home to see Sam and the kids, and began noticing a young graduate student was a regular there. He read the classics. He smelled nice. He lived in one of the condos in the building, and invited you to see his collection of books. You hadn’t read a book from cover to cover in years. You still haven’t.

Jeremy was the grad student’s name. He was everything that Sam wasn’t in the bedroom. Sam demanded that each encounter be some kind of mystical, spiritual experience. For a while, he insisted on performing tantric sex, and locking the two of you in a yab-yum position while you went cold inside. Sam often couldn’t perform, and would want to just lie there naked next to you as if you were in a post-coital embrace. He thought most sex talk was dirty, and could still get red when one of your girlfriends from college was in town and you all were having dinner and reminiscing. Jeremy was like a delightful return to the fun of college–encounters with no strings attached, just two people wanting to enjoy each other’s bodies and have fun.

Jeremy was meant to be a brief fling, a way to diffuse some of the tension that had started building up inside of you, that Sam was utterly incapable of addressing. But then, he got a fellowship at his school, and decided to stay on to work on his PhD there.

Of course, you couldn’t keep it hidden once Jeremy started thinking he was falling in love with you. He wanted to meet you at times and places other than 5:30 PM weekdays in his condo.

Sam was bound to find out, and he did after the affair had gone on almost an entire year. Sam sought advice from the priest, who urged Catholic family counseling. You grudgingly went along with it, and soon saw just how much your past infected Sam’s every waking thought of you. Sam insisted you find work elsewhere, and he began talking about moving his own business to Oklahoma City, even though he now had such an impressive list of Topeka’s elites on his client list. Sam wanted you to go into confessional for hours and confess your sins in detail, including every sin from college. He had all these other ideas for New-Agey purification rituals that he said were the only way he could ever know you again carnally.

One night, after months of you and Sam going round and round about this, he shocked you. He presented you with divorce papers to sign, which you gladly did, and then nabbed the kids from school and daycare the next day, and drove off without a note of explanation. Two days later, Sam and the two children were found dead from carbon monoxide inhalation when they got caught in a blizzard outside of Denver.

Jeremy found someone his own age, and you found that Sam had rung up a mountain of debt to build his business. He’d covered several investment losses with his own money–well, it was really his money, but money he’d borrowed from bookies and loan sharks and anyone else in town who he could convince to let him borrow from them. Sam had put your name and forged signature on almost all of this as well.

Your own job had always meant to be a supplemental source of income. You worked as an administrative assistant at a life insurance company. The loan sharks came around every two weeks and collected almost all of your paycheck. The bank was in the process of foreclosure on the house. You kept the lights and heat turned off most of the time, sleeping by a little space heater during the winter.

You’ve been living on Ramen noodles and peanut butter.

A dirty taxi cab pulls up in front of the house as you are standing by the Camry, waiting for it to warm up.

“Rachel Rule?” asks a bearded, dissheveled fellow with shockingly thick lenses of his professor frames.

“Rachel Gower,” you correct him, having recently legalized the return to your maiden name. You automatically assume this bunch is part of some low-level crime syndicate Sam borrowed from. The cab driver is acting like the leader, but you can see a better-kempt man in the back who looks like a small-time bookie or drug dealer. He’s sitting next to a woman who is clearly a prostitute, and the fellow in front could be a sad little excuse for a heavy. “How much money does he owe you?”

“We work for God,” says the professorly cab driver, “We all have debts that we would never be able to repay. Praise Jesus for his mercy.”

“Did Sam’s parents send you? Is this some kind of sick joke of his, to let me know that they blame me for his death and the death of their grand kids?”

“No, Rachel, the Lord sent us. Everyone in that cab is a founding member of the Final Church. We’ve all been healed by Jesus. And, you shall be, too.”

“I don’t need the Lord. I don’t need the Church. I don’t need to be healed. Do I look unwell to you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’re wrong, I’m fine. Now, I need to get to my job. Please take your crusade to someone who cares. I can give you directions to the area in Topeka where you’ll find a receptive audience. In this economy, there are plenty of brand new poor people that are looking for magical quick fixes.”

“I don’t doubt that. But, you are very sick. Do you remember what happened to you when you were twelve?”

“Yes, of course, the molestor priest. I went over this with Sam and our priest. Frankly, this is none of your goddamn business. I realize that Sam probably trotted our business out with all kinds of random people, and this is why you’re showing up at my door today. So, one last time, and then I’m calling the cops.”

The man doesn’t come any closer, but he raises a hand and points his palm at you, chanting in some strange language. You feel oddly mesmerized, held captive by this. You think of a History show on Rasputin, and try to snap yourself out of this trance. The man begins to walk toward you slowly, and you can’t move your arms to grab your phone.

He reaches you, lays a hand on your forehead, another hand on your heart. You feel a thousand aches and pains leaving your body. Then, you pass out.

You wake up, and immediately know that you are in the cab, and that your head has been resting on the prostitute’s. The man who you think must be the leader of this bunch, the crime boss, appears to be related to the young boy who is sitting next to him on the bench seat up front. The “heavy” is sitting on the other side of the prositute. At least these people haven’t positioned you between two of the men in the back. That is saying something about their intent.

“Look,” you say, “I don’t know who you people are, but I know what you want from me. And, I’ve set up arrangements with all the other characters Sam took loans from–you can’t get money from me if I can’t go to my job.”

“Your debts here on earth are of little concern to us,” says the driver. “And, your debts to God will soon be wiped clean once you sincerely ask for this.”

“I’ve been to confessional more times than I can count,” you say. “I think by now God probably owes me something.”

Nobody laughs or says anything.

“Rachel,” says the woman sitting next to you. “My name is Ruth. I will tell you my story, about how I too suffered from much abuse as a girl, and sought out avenues of self destruction as to try to run as far away as I could from all of the original trauma.”

“Look,” you say, “I can appreciate that you have a story of a rough childhood. It no doubt is rougher than mine was. Which is why I can assure all of you–especially you, Mr. Driver…”

“My name is Koheleth,” he says.

“I can assure you that I don’t need saving or healing or any help. I’m doing just fine on my own.”

“My name is Kevin, but soon it shall be Peter,” says the man on the other side of Ruth, “I was born with a limb that remained a weak, useless appendage that never grew. The Lord grew a new leg for me.”

“And, I’m Chris, but I will be called David from now on,” says the boy in the front, turning around to look at you, “They called me autistic, but I was possessed by demons. The Lord freed me and made me whole and human for the first time in my life.”

“I’m Mike,” says the man by his side, “I’m David’s father. I don’t know what my name shall be, but you can call me Mike.”

“And, what did the Lord do for you, Mike?” you ask him in a voice full of sarcasm.

“He healed me from myself. I was a pastor, you see, and thought I was more religious than any man in town. I certainly didn’t think I needed any sort of healing. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood–my parents never divorced, I was never abused, I got a college education, and did quite well as a pastor. The demonic possession of my son was the first bad thing that ever happened to me.”

“So, what the Lord did for your son was really for you as well?”

“Of course it was. But, don’t you see how you and I are alike? The church for you and me has been another “i” to dot or “t” to cross when planning our perfect adult lives. It’s necessary in the same way that joining the local Kiwanis club or Chamber of Commerce is necessary–but, you and I both have lived with the utterly mistaken belief that we don’t need the church to be anything more than a nice, well-landscaped yard in front of the homes we call ourselves. After tending to our yard once a week, we can then retreat inside and go about other, more important business.”

“Yeah, so what? That’s an apt metaphor, for sure. And, I certainly would have no need for my lawn to be brought inside to help with making my home a more satisfying place to live.”

“But, don’t you see? The church, and Jesus especially, was never meant to be like a lawn. It was supposed to be the foundation of your home, but also an ever-present fire extinguisher, to always be available to put out all kinds of fires that might get started in your home. But, even more than that, Jesus is like a well-stocked fridge, and Jesus is like a carefully grown library of wisdom, and…”

“All right, Mike,” says Koheleth, “I think she gets it. At the end of the day, though, Jesus is Love and Truth, and shouldn’t be subjected to too many metaphors where such analogies could easily break down.”

“Okay, now that you get that I get it, can you let me out? I will be happy to rent a car or catch a bus back to Topeka. I realize that we are living in strange times, with over a quarter of the country out of work, and half the country suffering from strange viruses. I know the wars in the Middle East, Mexico and Korea are taking their toll on everyone. So, I can understand how little cults like yours spring up and become seized with a kind of zeal to save the world as if this were the end of days, but…”

“This is the end of days,” says Koheleth, “Did you think your husband and children were going to get taken up in the clouds?”

“Look, pal, I don’t know who provided you with all of my information. I mean, it’s not that hard anymore to go online and compile it. Hell, you are probably one of my friends on Facebook, pretending to be someone I knew in high school. But, the mystery just isn’t there. Will you please let me go before this becomes an official crime?”

“Rachel,” says Koheleth, “I really wish we were still living in times where, like in so many movies, I could let you out, say something like ‘suit yourself,’ and let you decide. Perhaps if we had the luxury of time, this would be a story where you come to an epiphany as we are driving away, and then you wave your arms, and we turn around and retrieve you, or you show up in Denver several months later, having found us through guidance by the Spirit. But, you really have to understand. These are the end of days. In a few short years, the final opportunity to turn back from the gates of hell will be lost. The Lord has ordered me to take you with us, as he ordered me to specifically pick up each one of the individuals in this car. So, you are staying put. Make friends, read the Bible, sleep, pray that the alien demons don’t overtake too many souls.”

You start to make a run for it at the next stop for gas. You scream to other motorists that you’ve been kidnapped against your will, but people just look at you and shrug. The country is fast turning into one where each man, woman and child is only looking out for himself or herself. Too many people on the road running from too many of their own problems. The civilization of the United States that you’ve taken for granted your entire life is dead, and something strange is growing up in its place.

You run to a pool of tractor trailer trucks that are parked, and begin asking the men standing around outside of them for a ride back to Topeka. They look at you with lustful grins, and one of them says, “Sure, darling, I’ll give you a ride to Topeka, but then, what kind of a ride are you going to give me?”

He’s kind of fat, but you think to yourself, I’ve had worse.

“Do you believe in Jesus, the Messiah?” asks a voice behind you.

The truck driver’s face falls with a look of shame. “Surely, I do. I mean, I just, you know…get lonely out here since my wife died a few months ago.”

“Then seek out his love and mercy, and turn away from the impure thoughts that fill your heart. You are in grave danger, my brother, of dying and not being able to return to this earth to seek true salvation.”

The truck driver looks at you and shrugs and gets back inside his truck.

“Now, Rachel,” says Koheleth, “You can either come with us and do something exceptional with your life, abandoning your senseless pursuit of working to pay off debts that aren’t yours, or come with us and be a member of the Final Church, witnessing the final manifestation of Jesus’ love on the old Earth.”

“That’s not really a choice, is it?”

“No, not really.”

***

You wake up in that hypnopompic state again, as you’d dozed off here in the back of this cult leader’s cab. For, that’s what he is, really. You can’t explain how your leg was healed, but maybe it has something to do with advanced nanontechnology this Koheleth guy stole from a lab. Wouldn’t that be a trip? Here you are, having willfully given yourself over to a complete stranger who in all likelihood is some rogue scientist who decided to escape from a big pharma or government lab with his discovery, once he realized he could use it to convince people he had a hotline to Jesus.

Over the next few days, Koheleth will probably use less and less of the rhetoric where he claims to be a mere instrument of the Lord, and start trying to convince you and the others that he is Jesus himself.

But, you are along for the ride in spite of all this. Even if your “new leg” is merely some kind of psychadelic hallucination, coupled with a nanobot swarm assembled in the shape of a leg, it still feels good to be able to walk around like a whole man for the first time in your life.

Here come the aliens.

Again, Koheleth’s head appears to turn to you while another version of his head continues to face the road.

“They’re actually trying to get inside Chris or Rachel. The rest of you are pretty much immune to their entry.”

The cab is now black with these alien/demon figures who somewhat resemble the gray aliens of Ufology, or perhaps the Gollum or Dobby Troll from Harry Potter.

“Yes,” says Koheleth, seeming to read your thoughts, “They are all pretty much one and the same thing. Nothing like children’s bedtime stories to insert a lovable demon or two, huh? Most of the adults left on this planet are full of these things, and just wait until they get the Mark.”

“What about you?” you ask the bizarre second, bearded head. “You seem pretty Excorcist with your multi-heads that twist about 360 degrees.”

“I have limited gifts of insight into the upper dimensions. It’s like God has handed me a flashlight to look up into the filthy attic of a once-pure and beautiful home. You clearly have some, too, though you obviously must be half-asleep to have access to them right now. That will change.”

Rachel, sitting up front with Ruth, announces: “God, you all are a sorry lot. Half dead. What do you people eat? Where do you sleep/bathe/go to the bathroom?”

“We haven’t had to, yet,” says Ruth, “It’s only been a day since we started on this journey. But, come to think of it, I haven’t been the least bit hungry, nor have I felt the call of nature.”

“The ones who appear to be half dead are in trances, receiving instruction,” says Koheleth, “Generally speaking, I don’t think any of us will be speaking much. Our time is too precious.”

“Where are we going, anyway?” asks Rachel.

“Denver.”

“What’s in Denver?”

“Peggy, the bus driver. She will be conducting the other members of the Final Church who are coming in from around the country to an unknown location in the mountains.”

“Why Denver?”

“I don’t really know. I suspect that the Antichrist will set up his Global Capitol there. I’ll tell you when the Lord tells me.”

“That’s wonderful. Just perfect. I’m in a cab with a cult, going to meet the larger cult’s caravan. I suppose at some point we will be boarding a spaceship after we take some sleeping pills and Vodka?”

“Look,” says Koheleth, “You have every reason to believe you’re part of something like that. And, scripture tells you to be skeptical of men who would claim to be Jesus, or say: look, go into that house, because Jesus is there. But, that’s not what we’re about. If I ever even indirectly claim to know where Jesus is, or much more blasphemously claim to be Jesus, then please do get as far away from me as possible. For, the flesh of Koheleth in front of you will no longer be inhabited by me, or some kind of simulacrum of me will be speaking to you instead.”

“You are completely whack, man” says Rachel, “I’m going to try to keep us somewhat connected with reality by finding a news radio station. Then, everyone in here can hear for themselves that we are not in the End Times or any of that bullshit.”

The radio is talking about the new wonder chip–the miracle technology that has evolved from smartphones, RFID tags, and antiviral nanotech. “You need the WonderChip, created by a corporate/governmental collaborative R&D effort. Your favorite tech companies decided to stop competing for a year, and come together to create this revolutionary tool that will eradicate all chronic diseases and usher in world peace. You won’t need to ever access a computer again, to have all of Mankind’s information right there in front of your eyes, right inside your brain.”

Koheleth looks at all of you and says: “That’s the Mark of the Beast. You all should know that. Kevin, you know those demons you saw in your half-awake state, the ones you thought were gray aliens?”

“How could I forget?”

“Those demons have, throughout the history of mankind, come to our plane of existence in small numbers in civilizations where individuals have successfully begun to open their third eye. But, not like now. With that chip directly embedded in so many poor, hellbound souls’ skulls, these demons are arriving in droves. Those chips are pure mainlines for demons to get embedded in your soul, and once they are in in such high numbers, forget about it.”

The outer suburbs of the city of Denver begin to appear before you, and the haze of mountains on the horizon now come into view. Flashing lights are up ahead, and I-70 traffic is slowing down.

“Well folks,” says Koheleth, “This is where we get off and walk.”

“Are you crazy?” says Rachel. “It’s probably just some kind of sobriety check.”

“Nope, they are looking for folks who haven’t taken the chip yet, and strongly urging them to leave their cars off in the field over there, and get on one of the shuttle buses that will take them to one of the mass-implanting stations.”

“But the chip is purely voluntary–everyone knows that. They can’t force us to take it if we don’t want it. And quite frankly, I don’t believe your nonsense about the chip being the Mark of the Beast. It’s technology no different than a computer or a car, and the WonderChip website gives you all of the technical specs you’d need to know for how it’s made.”

“Rachel, if the good Lord hadn’t told me you were one of us, I’d say, sure, go ahead and voluntarily submit your soul to Satan. But, I can’t do that. You will come with us, and we are exiting at this next off ramp and quietly abandoning the taxi. If we say no to their strong suggestions, we will be put on a highly-watched list, and it’s not quite time for that, yet.”

Rachel seems to be the kind of person who is adept at putting on a strong front of not letting others tell her what to do, but at the same time, she also appears to be quite incapable of following through with her strong-willed words. She is, in fact, an individual who has often been easily manipulated and led about by others, and just happened to have lived a sheltered enough life with suburban church picnics and sorority bake sales, that she was never led astray by overly manipulative boyfriends or nefarious teachers or bosses.

In a lot of ways, you all are quite similar in this regard. You are, at your very core, sheep looking for a Shepherd–and for each one of you, the Shepherd has failed to appear to your satisfaction, being replaced by drugs, men and self-destructive behavior. There are so many people out there who are rapidly acquiescing to acceptance of the WonderChip, and what makes them different is that they long since abandoned their childlike, instinctive urges to find a Shepherd. Instead, they see themselves as mere biomachines, and the WonderChip a way to enhance and improve what little life there is left in their biomachines, which they truly believe will expire sooner than later. The decoupling of the human identity with the immortal soul was the endgame of the upper echelon–ever since around the end of WWII.

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