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Part 4: God’s Kingdom

Reuben devoured his dinner so ravenously that he almost choked and gagged on it. He was sure that he had been greeted and welcomed by half a dozen people at his table. But he had not heard them. He had only heard his stomach. He could faintly hear some of the guards laughing at his gluttony, but he paid them no mind and kept on eating as though he were famished to the bone. So zealous was his pace of consumption that he was nearly exhausted by the end of it.

Only when his feasting was ended did he take any notice of his human surroundings. Having supped altogether, everyone now left together too in a single flock. They herded themselves not back to their duties or to their rooms, but to another part of the compound which Reuben had not yet seen. Relying on gut instinct, he assumed it was only right that he join them in their pilgrimage from the dining hall.

Shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, armpit to armpit, they trooped their way down a corridor which led to a doorway wide enough only for one person to pass at a time. One by one the mass trickled away into this unknown chamber up ahead. So cramped and squashed together were they that it nearly reminded Reuben of the days of public transport at morning rush hour, all the more since absolutely no one was wearing a mask. And as with those half-forgotten days of overcrowded trains and buses, there was no uniformity to the people here at all. There were the typical white hillbillies that one might expect to find in such a place but there were also African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians too. One and all they had gathered to this weird little sanctuary, cut off from the purgatory of reality.

Reuben almost felt like pinching his nose and holding his breath he was that uncomfortable. He desisted from such temptations though and suppressed his almost habitual urge to socially distance. If he wished to survive here on this island of yesterday’s world, he would have to learn all that he had learned to survive in the outside world.

Finally, he reached the door and entered the chamber beyond where he could avail of a little more breathing room for himself. No sooner had he been able to take a breather though than he was at once struck by the room he had been herded into. The layout most closely resembled a church with rows of chairs lined up to face a platform. Sitting on that platform were three wooden thrones and hanging on the wall behind them was a statue of Jesus on the Cross. Reuben was at once taken by the site of this statue. He had seen it so many times in so many other places in his life. But never had he seen one like this. For on this cross, the Son of God wore a black cloth over his face.

The King of Heaven was masked, and there was something so subtly sinister about that.

Without the black cloth, it would have been like any other crucifix. It would have had the same sad, indifferent, numb face which every depiction of Jesus seemed to have on every statue and in every painting. But the mask, almost paradoxically, gave him more humanity than before, it implied that there was a practical reason to cover his face. It suggested that there were real eyes peering out through that black veil, watching them, judging them.

Reuben consciously chose not to seat himself with the rest of the congregation. It would take some time before he was used to people sitting so close to him again. He opted instead to stand and lean against the wall. As the flock assembled itself, it at once struck him that he could not remember the last time he had seen so many people gathered in one place in an orderly fashion. Every time he had seen large crowds over the last two years it had been chaotic and uncontrollable in its collective power, embodying the mindset of a swarm more than a herd. But here the people took their seats alongside each other like good sheep. It was truly surreal to experience – like looking through a window into a memory.

As Reuben dwelled on this, a door opened to the right of the platform and Douglas, David and ‘Fisherman’ – or rather, the Holy King, the Brave King and the Shield King – stepped through. The three kings stepped up onto the dais, turned their backs on the assembly and knelt before the masked Christ. Silence fell upon the congregation and all bowed their heads in deference. The three kings each spoke an indistinct whisper beneath their breath and crossed themselves. The Holy King then rose from his knees and turned to meet his followers while his two lieutenants took to their thrones.

There was an otherworldly life to Douglas’ face as he set his gaze upon the mass sprawled out before him. The simple, friendly, amiable man that had rescued Reuben had been whisked away. Here stood another man. Here stood the Holy King. There was a brimming confidence to him, an intensity of character that captivated the senses. Every set of eyes in the room, from the youngest to the oldest, was upon him in adoration and that in itself made the man only more confident in his pose and posture. His pale blue eyes scanned over all before him, the strength of his gaze so potent that Reuben felt as though he was being looked at even when his eyes were fixed on the other end of the room.

“Children,” began the Holy King finally, extending out his arms to mimic the inanimate Christ behind him. The tone of his voice had a soft paternal quality to it. “Today... was the day... Today was the day of days... Today, the dirty... rotten... lyin’... Commie... Government up on Capitol Hill... ran away, like a gaggle of nervous chickens and left this here state of ours to us the people... Now I understand y’all might be something scared about all this... because I can tell you now it's ugly, I mean real ugly out there right now. You don’t even wanna know how bad it is... but let me assure you now that so long as you are here, you are safe. Ain’t no carpet-bagger low life gonna come in here and take your shit... those scumbags make one step towards this place and our boys’ll blow ‘em sky high.”

With his solemn opening complete, the Holy King now began pacing up and down the stage. He curled his hands up into fists and glared out at his faithful with a fire in his soul.

“But you know what? Today was a good day. Yeah. Today was the day of days! Those liberal sons of bitches have skedaddled off with their tails between their legs. You know why? Because they couldn’t handle us! That’s why! They wanted you to wear masks, they wanted you to be alone, they wanted you to be afraid, they wanted you separated from your kids, and if they could have had their way they would have wanted to kill your kiddos before they were even born! That’s right. But we beat them! Governor Dwyer fought them on those masks and when they got rid of him, all our sheriffs fought them, and when they fired all of them, well heck we fought them on it. And you know what, they couldn’t take it! They ran scared shitless like a bunch of schoolgirls! They’ve drawn their line and they’ve said that they can’t govern us no more. Well, hip-hip-hooray boys and girls! So long and farewell to their yankee asses!!”

“Hallelujah!!!” suddenly heckled one of the Brave King’s guards with a punch to the air. The Holy King pointed out to him and nodded.

“Hallelujah! You said it right there! Halle-fucking-lujah!!!” vindicated the Holy King. “They’re gone... but now am gonna tell you there’s even more good news here. Now that those abortion-lovin’ heathens are gone, we have ourselves the chance to redeem this world. That virus out there, it’s sweepin’ those streets faster than a roadrunner. All those doubtin’ shits that thought they were better than you, who thought their money was gonna save ‘em, they’re all dead in the ground... The wicked and the conceited are no more. The reckoning has come and the day of the chosen is here.

“Now, I’m tellin’ y’all this because there’s gonna be some changes round here pretty soon. Not all those people out there are sinners. There’s a lot of good hearts out there. And we gotta save ‘em. This is the Haven, the Ark. And all those who deserve to be saved will be saved. And we need to save them. Because once God’s plague has laid waste the wicked, the Earth will be ours and we’ll build God’s Kingdom on Earth just as he intended it. Because we, we are God’s Chosen Tribe. I am your Moses and I will lead you to the Promised Land!! Prophecy has said that I will shake the nations!”

“God wills it!!” shouted an anonymous female voice filled with emotion.

“God wills it!! God wills it!!!” followed another and another and another in fanatical frenzy.

“That’s right, God fuckin’ wills it!!” boomed the self-proclaimed Messiah, his whole persona now transmogrified entirely into a fully-fledged demagogue. “Ours will be the Kingdom and I am your king and your deliverer... He chose me... in my dreams, and He chose you too. Every one of you... You’re not just survivors, you’re the rightful inheritors of the Earth. And you don’t need to be afraid of no damn virus. Show your face dammit and show it proud! Those Commies wanna make you frightened! They wanna tape up your beautiful smiles! Let me tell you something, that mask of theirs is a uniform. It makes everyone the same. It makes you subservient, makes you compliant and reliable. It takes away your spontaneity and your individuality. It wraps up your soul and paints it with the face of the soul they want you to have, and they want all of us to have the same soul... But when you face God, you gotta answer for yourself... not for everyone else who looks like you... What are you gonna say when God asks why you refused his fine ventilation eh? You gonna say you were scared of his judgement? Because that’s the excuse those godless heathens of Sodom have... And they’re all gonna die!”

“Damn straight they will!” another heckler hollered.

“Hallelujah!!!!” bellowed another.

“Hallelujah!! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!!!” they chanted, all their voices united as though they were of a single voice and mind. Douglas stood there on the platform, nodding in approval as he lapped up their love and their adoration. When the chanting died down, he continued as before, his voice as accusative as ever.

“Those animals in the dark who wanna rule your life, they think they’re above the law. They don’t think it applies to them. But they’ll still dictate to you, how you live, how you think, how you breathe! They think they’re God!!!” At that final damning accusation, he tapered off slightly. He caught his breath and relaxed a little. Then he spoke with a low and sinister darkness to his words. “But they ain’t,” he growled. “Only God wears a mask...God is everywhere, and nowhere. He watches everyone and no one, in many forms... God is without shape, without body... that’s why he wears so many masks... to watch you... and judge you... these Commies think they can do the same, but they can’t... He who tries to usurp

God will only usurp himself! And that’s what God is doing... he’s eradicating these lyin’, thievin’, arrogant pretenders and judgin’ them accordingly... but we, the true children of God... we will prevail and know his love.”

At that, the Holy King’s sermon was at an end. The whole room rose in thunderous applause and worshippers fell before the King to kiss his hands and feet.

Reuben’s mind was left reeling. He hardly knew what to think or how to process what he had just seen and heard. So much of it was factually incorrect or just plain garbage that he didn’t even know where to begin. Then a lone soothing thought entered his head as it had before, and it said to him:

“Food, guns, safety... Just nod and smile.”


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