There's only darkness in the dungeons, and almost nothing can be seen. From one end, a light suddenly flashes. A tall, gaunt male carrying a flashlight walked through the rotten dungeons. He seems to be looking for something, but not in such a hurry.
Finally reaching the other end of the hall, he crept into one cell, smaller than the rest, the stink of blood mixes with that of urine.
He moved the light around the cell, until it landed on a loose slab of stone on the floor. He held the light in his left hand and used his stronger right hand to lift up the slab.
Inside, he saw a series of torn paper and pens, and below, a book. He found what he was looking for.
It was a journal, written by the prisoner of the cell. His history wasn't a pretty one. Physically tortured, mentally torn, it is a wonder the prisoner was able to write anything sensible. Yet, when the man opened the journal, though the words aren't very legible, there is sense in the writing.
He checked his watch, decided he still have time to spare, and sat down to read the book.
) o o o (
It's the thirteenth year of the Great Fall, or the time when a meteor struck Earth and created a series of worldwide disasters and sent the already troubled humanity into further confusion. By the time you read this, I have already died. Well, murdered would be the right term, although the righteous might call it "punishment".
It doesn't matter what it's called. I'm dead.
The world is in chaos. No free speech, no more media that contends the brutality being done to a multitude of people throughout the world. No. Everything is under the control of the Lord.
That was supposed to be sarcastic.
As you may know, the Revelationists declared that the time of the Lord's coming is upon us, and that either we all repent or we are sent to hell. It didn't help that the meteor created fiery infernos around the world that the religious community called "Lakes of Fire."
Anyway, being the thirteenth year, the higher-ups decided to "cleanse" away evil in society, so that instead of it being a bad year, it will be a year of cleansing. So they say. As such, Abominations like me are finally going to be "cleansed out" or permanently removed away from the Lord's lambs for eternity, to suffer my just punishment.
I don't have much time, so I'll telling you my story.
Honestly, I don't know why. For all I know, you might be a Hard Core Fanatic, and you'll burn my book before you even reach this line. But I just feel a need to express myself. I've never been a good writer. But I guess when you see Death closing in, you tend to express yourself in any readily available medium.
When I was a kid, my parents slapped me silly, calling me names like "son of a devil" and such things, until I jump in the bathroom and change to go to Church every Sunday. I hated it. The church always made me feel dizzy. But because I was brought up that way, I believed that it was the right path for everyone. Unfortunately, just before high school, I realized that I was attracted to other boys.
It didn't help that I was forced to study in a religious all-boys boarding school.
You can imagine the dilemma that I was facing then. I wanted to be go to paradise, and avoid the eternal pain of hell. But at the same time, I have love interests whom I can never admit my feelings to.
"Hey, Chris! Wait up!"
I stopped and waited for James. He's one of the "cool" guys in school. With his wavy, brown hair, perfect teeth, and killer dimples, girls from the nearby all-girls school sigh audibly each time he passes by. His eyes look like they're always smiling. Add to all that his friendly demeanor... well, you can guess how I've felt.
"You're going home already? Why don't you join us for one game of soccer first?"
I cringed. A court full of guys wearing shorts and sweaty shirts. Sometimes topless, which James is usually inclined to do.
Not a good idea.
Of course, I wasn't about to give myself away. "Nah, I'd rather go home and study. I don't like playing rough games."
"You rarely play any game at all," he accused me.
I grinned. "Is that a crime?"
He laughed. It was such a nice sound. At least it was for me. "No, but you're growing up weak."
He shuffled my already messy hair then ran off. "Catch ya later Chris."
I scowled at him as he laughed away, but I was secretly pleased. I like it when he touches me.
I always daydream of him every night, "talking" to one of my pillows like it was him, or that he can hear me or sense my feelings for him. That he felt the same way about me. I had fantasies that I'm saving and protecting him from bullies.
Of course, each time, I also berate myself.
"Why can't we be together?" I asked one pillow.
"Coz everyone's against us," I answered for the pillow.
I felt a cold wave wash all over me. I know I said it myself, but it felt so sad to me that I started crying. I hugged the pillow tight and muffled my cries with it.
I asked it again. "But you love me, right?"
"Yes," I answered for it again. "But as a friend."
Funny how I can put myself down like that. Although I still kept hoping.
"It's just my imagination. He does love me," I told myself. I'm notorious for twisting my own fantasies.
I never saw him after high school. I never grew the courage to tell him how I felt, although I almost did just after graduation. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the circumstance), he was surrounded by his family and close friends. I never counted myself as one of his close friends, that's why I wasn't there.
Leaving an all-boys religious school for a co-ed university gave me a sense of freedom, but mostly it gave me breathing space from the torture that high school brought me. It was also a time for me to consider maybe dating a girl instead.
"Chris, you are so cold to me lately."
Her name's Diana. We were sitting in a posh cafe near our university. I let her buy her own drink, like I always do. For some reason, she just noticed.
"Well, I'm pretty busy in school. I have clubs that need my help in events. Such things," I replied nonchalantly.
She scowled at me. "You always do. You're always doing something here, there, everywhere! You have time for everything else. But you don't have enough time for me."
I shrugged and took a sip of my iced coffee. "Sorry."
She slammed her bag on the table.
"That's it! We're done. Don't call me," Then she left the cafe.
Finally! was all I can think of then. As if I didn't have enough problems on my own.
Since there are a lot more students in the university, the boarding places around the campus are usually reserved for athletes. I ended up getting a bed space in some nearby dormitory. Unfortunately, they can be both unsanitary and expensive, and I had to keep transferring places.
I finally got a decent one that's a bit far than I would have wanted.
I was thankful at first that there's a good-looking guy in that dormitory. Tim wears eyeglasses though, his black hair almost covering his eyes, so he looks kinda nerdy, but still hot somehow. I was disappointed when I ended up in a different room. Of course I know better than to fantasize about us. It never did me any good in the past. For a few days, he provided a nice eye-candy.
I became fascinated with yaoi around this time.
That's when I got annoyed at him. When I go online to enjoy some nice yaoi, he suddenly pops up behind me and asks what I'm doing. I have several pages of window open so I can switch to non-yaoi pages in case somebody appears, and so far I've been successful. Except that Tim's been popping up way too much that I started to think he's actually out to get me.
"What's up kid? You checking out something interesting?" he suddenly called out one time. He calls me kid, although I'm probably no more than two years younger than him.
I quickly shifted to a non-yaoi site. Funny how the computer works far slower when you need it to work faster.
I don't know whether he saw the intimate pose of Kurama and Hiei or not. I was burning red with shame and anger, but didn't have the courage to look up and glare at him. Then he just moves away like he's not interested anymore in whatever got him interested in the first place.
Because of what he does, I usually ignore him, although we share the same circle of friends in the dormitory.
One weekend night, after drinking a few bottles of beer and getting ourselves drunk, we went back to our rooms. Since it was weekend, my own roommates are back in their hometown and I'll be all alone in the room.
Then Tim's roommate called out, "Hey Chris, you can stay with us in our room."
I was excited, but at the same time reluctant. I don't know how Tim would react since I think he saw me watching yaoi.
Just then, Tim added, "My bed's wider than the others, so you can stay with me."
I was so dumbstruck I couldn't even think. Maybe he didn't see me watching yaoi at all and it was all just in my imagination.
Or maybe... no. Can't be. I don't want my imagination to run amok.
But... I can't resist the idea of sleeping beside Tim.
"OK," I managed to answer.
Despite the fact that I was all excited to sleep beside Tim, I fell asleep before I can even think about it. I guess I drank too much. When I woke up, the light's are all out, and I can hear everyone else in the room snoring.
Or almost everyone. The warm boy beside me barely whistled the air out of his lungs. I was lying on my right side, facing away from him, so I moved around until I was facing in his direction. Although it was dark, I can see and feel the outline of Tim just beside me. He was sleeping on his back, and I can see a bit of the rise and fall of his stomach. Deep breathing. I guess that means he's in deep sleep. And he's so warm.
I held my hand out tentatively in front of his face, to feel his breath. Is it deep enough? Will he suddenly wake up and catch me?
I wriggled carefully closer to him. His head was tilted towards me. I moved my face closer to his, and moved my right hand from over his face, carefully down over his chest, over his moving stomach. I slowly let my hand rest on his moving stomach. Up... down... and up. It was almost hypnotic.
I moved my face no more than 3 inches from his. I can smell the alcohol escaping with each of his exhalation.
I moved my face closer and closer, until my lips touched his, and I started licking it. It still tastes of alcohol. I hoped that meant he won't be waking up anytime soon. I was enjoying every moment of it.
My breath was getting shallow as I get more excited, so I reluctantly moved away. I moved my hand to his torso and let it rest there, then wriggled the rest of my body closer to him again.
I can already feel my private part in my pajamas, seeking for an escape. Tim seems like he's still fast asleep, so I decided to risk it further.
I moved hand down from his stomach to his navel... down to his warm crotch.
I didn't see it but I felt that he's still wearing his jeans to bed, so I didn't feel his sensitive part. I just rubbed the area a bit before moving on to unzip it.
My own tool is warm in anticipation, trying to escape from my pants. It's getting harder to unzip his pants because my hand is shaking uncontrollably, because of fear and also of excitement. I had to use my left hand to get more control. So while my right hand pulled down the zipper, my left hand is holding up the button of his jeans so the whole thing won't get pulled with the zipper.
When the zipper was all the way down, I started inserting my left hand into the opening. My hand landed on his briefs but I can feel the shape of his private part.
My head is already swimming and I can't focus. I just want to jump on him and tear his clothes apart. I'm not sure how drunk he is, so I can't risk too much. Besides, I'm still surrounded by snoring guys, any one of which could beat me to a pulp. So instead, I move my head close to his face again to check if he's still breathing deeply.
When my face was right in front of his, I can still smell alcohol, and deep, rhythmic breathing. I hope that is good sign.
It was getting really inconvenient for me, so I turned, lying on my stomach, I moved my right arm across him, and I was practically on top of him. Once more, I moved my face in front of his and kissed him hungrily, with barely controlled desire. I had to move away in case I cause a disturbance to his breathing and wake him up. I moved down his body, putting my head on his chest and inhaling his scent. I felt his nipples through the shirt and started licking them, and moved my right hand on his crotch. Right then I felt his hot rod starting to grow. I can feel my own heartbeat gaining speed, and from his chest, I can also hear his heart beating faster than before.
Is he going to wake up? I thought.
I moved off his chest and back to his right side. I can barely see, but it seems his mouth is still hanging partially open, and not much physical change except for his heartbeat and breathing speed. I decided to risk further.
I inserted my right hand into the opening of his pants, and felt the beautiful warmth of his rod through his briefs. I adjusted a bit so I'm right beside Tim and I clipped my right leg over his, my own private part pushing against his side.
I played a bit with his growing rod through his briefs, rubbing it gently with my right hand. I didn't notice any reaction otherwise, so I imagine it's still safe. I tried to detach his jeans' button, but it seems its harder than it seems. I keep pushing it into his waist, which might cause him to wake up. As such, I contented myself with being able to get my hand through his pants.
Then I tried something else.
I took out my hand, checked to make sure he's not waking up yet, then moved myself down to his waist. He was right about one thing: his bed is wide.
Next, I positioned myself in front of the opening of his pants. At this point, it's easy to remove the jeans' button using two hands, so I did just that. I then pulled open the area. It's still dark, so I can barely see a thing, but I can still feel his warmth. I lowered myself into him, my chest on his thighs, my arms the sides of his waist, and my face just in front of his briefs, covering his sensitive part.
I slowly moved my face closer until I felt his rod trying to escape his briefs. I touched it gently with my nose and inhaled its scent. He smells so clean, like soap. So he took a bath before retiring, but I guess I was asleep then. He smelled so nice.
I started rubbing my face gently into his rod, and kissing it each time my lips passed it. I grabbed each side of his pants and pulled them down. I just realized that his body his yielding pretty easily to my force. I think, and hope, that means he's still drunk and fast asleep. Probably dreaming about something nice and nasty. At least I'm not. I'm enjoying every actual moment of it.
Once his pants are down to just above his knees, I lied down with my chest on his thighs and my face right beside his warm rod hiding inside his briefs. I licked it tentatively and almost lost myself in the sensation.
I was getting more confident now. It seems that Tim's too drunk to wake up now.
I was wrong.
Something suddenly hit my head. I jerked in surprise and almost screamed.
"What the hell?" Tim yelped in the darkness.
I can see vague outlines, but it's still too dark. I tried to jump off the bed, but something caught my hand and pulled me back. Then an arm wrapped around my throat.
"Chris?" Tim whispered, incredulous. "Sheesh, man!"
He let me go and pushed me away.
"Don't you EVER do that to me again." He hissed. I heard some rustle and felt the bed sheet being pulled away. I face was hot from embarrassment. I don't know how to face the day after this.
Needless to say, I didn't stay long in that place.
To his credit, Tim didn't announce what happened to the world. But he noticeably avoided me every chance he gets, without saying a word. When I can't take it anymore, I decided to leave the place. I was careful not to feel anything for anyone this time, and kept mostly to myself.
Around that time, there was a massive news. A meteor is seen headed straight for Earth. The only consolation is that it isn't any bigger or it would have incinerated every life on the planet. Panic still ensued. As if that's a surprise. It will take a lot of nuke to take it out, but not completely. Environmentalists were concerned it's going to spread radiation throughout the world, which will still kill a lot of people. Laser technology is not powerful and refined enough to destroy it.
Most unfortunate for us. Fortunate for the Revelationists, who became much more active at the time of the announcement. That's the start of their exponentially more active declaration of the "End Times Are Upon Us" theme. Religious churches and temples were filled with people, praying to drive away the calamity. Most Revelationists do the "take this cup away from me, but not by my will" thing, but obviously, the vast majority of them wanted their will to be done.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The impact created earthquakes and tsunamis throughout the earth, as well as huge openings that seem to cut through the core of the planet. It took several months for everything to settle down a bit, but the damage has been done, and the world will never be the same again.
The teetering economy collapsed, livestock, crops, and world markets went down, several nations destroyed, governments overthrown. The only thing that flourished at this time is religion, especially those that are vocal about the end-times. On the surface, it seems it is the only thing uniting the people. The truth is that the several competing factions are trying to get hold of as much support as possible. As world governments and laws didn't have any more hold on the people, violence became the only resort. Until it came to a point where those who chose not to join a side were insulted, hurt, and generally treated as third rate citizens.
As such, while End-Time Believers have their temples and churches, the rest of us have to live in ruined but stable buildings, houses and whatever other living places we can find.
Some may ask why we didn't just join one church and be done with it. Well, some of us doesn't want to bother with bloody battles of worthless causes. I mean, we're sick and tired from the calamity as it is, but those people still managed make it worse.
Unfortunately, the only good places left were the churches, temples and their communities. Or at least houses and buildings that were turned into temples, churches or religious communities. Nothing but rats, mice and other vermin survive in the ruins, and a lot of people died from sickness because of eating them.
Some of us worked instead as "Helpers" in the temples and churches, and the community that surrounds it. In return, we get decent food and shelter. Helpers are the ones who cultivate the crops and cared for the livestock. It would have been rightfully ours if only we have our own clean places to grow and feed them.
I was in my late teens when I worked for my first church. It was a pretty active one, so even the Helpers are being brainwashed to support the cause. Some were converted, and are mostly used in the front lines of physical and non-physical battles.
In short, even if we convert, we're still merely cannon fodder.
So I contented myself with helping and feeding myself. Unfortunately, my family didn't survive the calamity. On the brighter side of things, I don't have to worry about anyone but me.
I was pretty much dirty when I started, and finally got cleaner and healthier the longer I stayed there, thanks to access to cleaner food and water.
Helpers have daily "sermons" early morning and before sleep, on how we are all headed for hell unless we embrace this particular brand of faith. I turned a deaf ear to it all.
The head of this particular church I'm in is called Mr. Keith. I'm not sure whether that is his first or last name. I didn't bother to check. He is around forty to fifty years old, and his black hair is retreating from his forehead. He's not fat, but has what I think is a beer belly.
It was after several weeks of cleaning the place, feeding the animals and caring for the crops, that I felt the creepy feeling of someone watching me.
Almost each time I turned to look, I see Mr. Keith, although he's not always alone. But when he is, he almost immediately turns away once he realized that I noticed him.
I shrugged it off, mostly. It's hard to shake off the feeling of dread those days.
Then one day, there was an announcement about a one-on-one brainwashing session for each non-believing Helper. Of course, they didn't call it "brainwashing." I forgot what they called it, but I termed the whole thing brainwashing.
I wasn't first in line, but I observed that every single one who went through the process are converted. Although they don't look too happy. Some, especially the girls, even cried in their sleep. Let me repeat that the converted Helpers didn't stop being mere, third rate Helpers. They are still doing the dirty work and treated the same way. The only difference is that they won't suffer hellfire when they're dead. They are "saved".
Naturally, I was nervous when it was my turn. They always set the schedule after hours, from nine in the evening to around four in the morning. I don't know why they set it during those unholy hours.
Everyone is sent to bed and all the lights turned off first before the brainwashing begins. Then I was summoned to Mr. Keith's room. I figured he was the only person conducting the brainwashing.
I walked through the darkened hallway, and upon reaching the room, I knocked on the door and a voice answered. "Come in."
I gulped and opened the door. A flood of dim yellow light flooded into the hallway from the open door. The room is quite huge and lavish, at least compared to our own messy Helper rooms. There was a bed on the far left side of the room. Mr. Keith was looking away, kneeling in front of the bed, with his hands clasped together in front of his forehead.
I was partially inside, but didn't go through. I don't want to be in a room with this man.
A moment later, Mr. Keith looked back at me and smiled. "Close the door son."
I almost went out and closed the door, but I know clearly what he meant, and there's no way out of this. I wasn't reassured by his fake smile. I hesitantly went inside and slowly closed the door.
Then Mr. Keith stood up and faced me.
"We are happy to have you with us in this community," he started. "But I notice that you still don't believe in the ways of the Lord."
His face twisted into what he probably thought was worried look. It only made him look uglier. "Even though we are now facing the obvious fulfillment of age-old prophecies, you still refuse to believe."
He prattled on, walking around the room, waving his hands as he talked. "In our church, we want everyone, as much as possible, to be saved. We want everyone to be in paradise after we have gone through this hell that the Adversary has put upon humanity. We want to meet everyone again and sing to the glory of our Saviour in his eternal throne."
He paused to catch his breath then went on. "We are here tonight so we can let the Lord go into your heart and tell you himself about his plans."
He was smiling all this time. I wasn't convinced. "How?"
His smile widened. Not a good sign.
"If you read the Good Book, it showed several times how the Lord brought his messages through dreams," he answered enthusiastically.
So that's why it has to be done during the night. But the creepy feeling still hasn't left me. And why do they call it a "good" book if it brought nothing good anyway?
"Why one at a time?" I asked him.
"Because if we put all of you together, you will encourage each other to defy the Lord's message," he answered. "But each alone..."
There is less chance for us to escape and avoid the situation, I thought.
He smiled. He probably had no idea what I was thinking then, but it served to confirm my suspicion.
"So we just sleep on it. No problem," I told him.
Just then, he produced a glass of liquid. He smiled at me, "You have to drink this dream elixir first. This will help you easily get into an inspired dream."
My body turned cold. I am not naive. I remember the muffled cries of others during the night.
"I don't want to drink anything," I answered him coldly.
That wiped the smile off his face, and he stared just as coldly as me. For few seconds we just stared at each other. Then he seemed to regain his composure and smiled again.
"I'm afraid we can no longer let you stay here if you continue to be a non-Believer. We cannot risk anyone influencing the others of godless ideas and be pulled down into eternal agony."
I wasn't intimidated. "Can't I get an inspired dream even if I don't drink the liquid?"
Now he's hesitant. He obviously didn't think about things thoroughly. He looked at me strangely then smiled.
"Very well. If our Lord choose to make himself known, he will do so with or without the dream elixir."
Good for him. That way, I can still stay and fight him off if he starts anything nasty.
He let me sleep on the bed and he got and sat down on a chair beside the bed. He said he'll keep praying while I sleep.
When he saw that I lied down on my stomach, he was obviously bewildered, but didn't say anything. What can he say anyway? That his Lord prefers people sleeping on their back?
I didn't realize when I drifted to sleep. The next thing I knew is that something heavy is pushing me down the bed and heavy breathing just behind my neck. I immediately woke up and felt hands on my shoulder. I turned my head and bit down on one really hard. The scream that ensued was deafening. I took advantage of the distraction and pushed him off of me. The bastard was right on top of my waist and would have been hard to push off if I was lying on my back. But this time, I easily pushed him off and he fell to the floor with a loud thud. Then I realized my hands were tied to the bed. I struggled to free my hands from the make-shift restraints, just when I saw a naked Mr. Keith stand up and approach me.
He was about to grab me when I realize my legs weren't bound. The next second, Mr. Keith had another meeting with the floor.
"Serves you right, you pig," I spat at the unconscious figure on the floor, and finished removing the cords from my hands. I checked my body; nothing seems to be broken or defiled. It seems I woke up just in time.
Just when I was removing the last bits of the knots, I heard a groan from the floor.
I sat on the bed and scowled at a naked Mr. Keith, in obvious pain on the floor, with blood on his face.
"What the hell were you doing?" I shouted at him.
That gave me a sense of deja vu.
He looked at me with a mixture of shock and anger.
Mr. Keith took his clothes from the floor and ran out the door shouting "Help! This boy is possessed by a demon! Help!"
I was chased out of the community by an angry mob. None of them are willing to listen to my side of the issue. All they know is that their beloved leader was stripped butt-naked and bloody when he was supposed to be helping me get saved. So they chased the demon out of their holy community that is led by a pedophile.
I spent several years travelling across ravaged lands, scavenging for food in ruined buildings and houses, avoiding main roads to avoid fights between different sects. I heard they get bloody sometimes, and I don't want to be the center of their aggression.
Occasionally, I have to fight with other nomads for food when it is rare. I mostly hid in some remote buildings and houses, and move after a few months. The only things I carried with me are books that I haven't finished during my stay in one place. Even if by some stroke of luck, there's power in one place, media is full of religious propaganda so it's not really worth listening to. A good book is the best companion.
A few years after, I passed by the shore and saw a ship loading people and some goods. It wasn't the best ship I've seen, but it's been a while since I've seen any ship. Most have been destroyed by gigantic tidal waves during the calamity, together with the shipyards, and not too many people had the energy or cash to build some more.
I covertly closed in near the docks where they store the cargo. I hid behind some boxes, checked some and, true enough, they have a variety of food inside: chips, fruits, packed foods. No meat as far as I can see.
I was hiding some of the goods in my clothes when somebody shouted at me.
"Thief! Stop thief!"
I ran, but it was no use. Every hand on the area had me surrounded within a minute, and I was slammed to the ground.
"You godless thief!" shouted one as he kicked me in the ribs, while the others kick me on every part of my body.
After a good round of beating, one finally said, "Okay, that's enough. There's no point wasting time and effort on this guy."
"Let's bring him along. He can prove to be entertaining," suggested one.
I was so weak I couldn't stand, so one big guy carried me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"He's so light, he probably hasn't eaten for some time," the guy told the others.
"That's too bad. We'll give him some meat to eat on board," said one, and the others laughed.
"Yeah, and he smells nice too. For a heathen."
They took me up the ship and I was dropped in a room on board. It was a messy room filled with buckets and rags. Not the best place, but I've been living in rags for years anyway. I snuggled into some sheets and fell asleep.
I became a Helper in the ship because I had no choice. We travelled on the sea, and there's nowhere else to go. I was assigned to bring foods to others. But in this ship, the line between Helper and Believer is not clear. Everyone's doing their job, and helping others, or nothing will get done, and so I started enjoying the work for its own sake. During my years on that ship, I was contented.
) o o o (
"Chris, we're landing soon, so hurry up."
The ship reached its final destination after some years. We docked on some lands, but only temporarily, a few months at most, not enough to get attached to any place. And where would I go anyway? Every place has its own problems, the damage is thorough.
I felt the sense of fear and panic that I've been feeling for some weeks now, after it was announced that the ship is "on its way home." Everybody else was happy. I was the only stranger in the ship that they picked up during their travel. In many ways, I had called the ship my home.
"You won't be able to live here, son," the captain told me with a sad smile. "Nothing but water around you."
He's a Believer, but he's not enthusiastic with the upcoming Armageddon. He lost his family during the calamity, and they have never been a religious family, and he feared that he might never see his family again. So he chose to believe in the teachings of religion to find solace, but had resolved to himself that he will beg for the souls of his family to be taken to paradise as well once he is face-to-face with God.
He took the job of travelling for trade and commerce to avoid the local battles between sects. He wanted none of those.
I know he is just as sad as me that the tour is about to end, but he's just putting on a brave face.
"Old man," I asked him. "What if there's no God?"
He didn't answer right away, but we both stared at the sea. The sun was just setting down, looking like it's about to drown in the water.
"Maybe," he answered finally. "But I am not willing to risk the souls of my family for that seed of doubt."
I sighed. "Well, I'm off to hell then."
"You don't want to join as a Helper in our local church?"
"I had a bad experience with one. I don't want another."
He smiled. "You had a good one with us. Just give it a try."
"I hope I can leave if I don't like it."
And that's how I met Ben.
I was around twenty-nine that time. Ben is a Believer, but he has hope that everyone will be "saved" nonetheless, Believer or not. He is quite tall (almost as tall as me) for his age, which I estimate would be around sixteen years old. His bright blue eyes mesmerizes everyone who look into them. His blond hair is cut short, like most Believers in the community.
Ben was never assigned to do sermons to others, especially to Helpers, for obvious reasons: he's too young, and I'm guessing the higher-ups fear he might take pity on us, or that he's fertile mind will be clouded by "godless" ideas. Overall, he's a good kid.
We met one early morning while I was feeding the chickens. A lot died during the last wave of strange chicken sickness, but thanks to the Believers' fervent prayers, further calamity was avoided. Of course, they are perfectly sure that the medicine some Helpers took from some ruined veterinarian hospitals had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, I was feeding the chickens early dawn like I usually do, when Ben passed by. He was doing some sort of exercise, facing the rising sun. It was the first time I saw him this early, and I admit I was entranced by him, so I decided to start a conversation.
"Hey, morning," I greeted him.
He smiled at me, greeted me back and went back to what seemed like calisthenics. I couldn't tell.
"It's the first time I saw anyone else this early. What's up?"
"Oh, just catching some early morning sun," he replied.
I looked up at the horizon. The sun is not yet up, and it's not a good idea to stay out too long under the sun, what we medicine and hospitals not readily available.
"Well, that's good, I guess, until the sun comes up and burns your skin off," I told him.
"Yeah," he grinned sheepishly. "Well, it's been some time since I've done some sort of exercise. By the way, I'm Ben."
I smiled at him. "I'm Chris. Well, if you wake up early each morning and water the crops, cover them with filters and feed the animals, you'll get plenty exercise."
"Are you trying to make me work?" he asked, fake horror on his face.
I did an evil grin. "Maybe."
We laughed aloud.
We started hanging out often after that, within the confines of the church and the community. Others are either too serious (on the part of the Believers) or too distracted (on the part of the Helpers). Ben's the only person who seem to understand me, and he's almost half my age!
Well, like they say: age doesn't matter.
Of course I know the danger of feeling something for another person. So I decided to make this just a simple, clean, fun friendship. Anything more will be disastrous.
I wasn't prepared for the totally unexpected.
We were out one night. It is cold, but cold is welcome these days. Since electricity is out, we need to use generators to generate electricity and fuel them with what we can find in abandoned houses and gas stations. As such, houses are noisy and hot. No, air conditioning units are not provided to save power. So most stay out at night, while older, more responsible people read their books, and the leaders plan the next strategy to bring the End sooner.
We looked for a particularly remote area. The other Helpers are too noisy, while the Believers are too sanctimonious (which can be "noisy" in their own way) to be any fun.
Finally we found peace on top of a ruined building, which could have been a hotel but we couldn't tell from the rubble it became. Obviously, we didn't go inside the building, but climbed up some other set of blocks and metal wires. To his credit, Ben is quite nimble, so I didn't get the usual complaints of places being too high or out-of-reach.
We lied down on the cement roof and watched the stars. The building is leaning a bit to its side, kind of like the leaning tower of Pisa (in case you're wondering, that one didn't survive the meteor), so we weren't facing directly upwards, but at an angle.
We were silent for a long time, just taking in the peace that the night sky scene brought us.
"Do you think it will really happen?" I asked Ben.
I heard him sigh. "I don't know. We can't really be sure. I mean, that's what they all say in the Good Book so maybe it will."
I smiled to myself. "So you don't really believe it."
"It's better to believe it and find out it's not real, than not believe it and have it turn out real."
"So you're afraid."
He was silent for a moment. "Yes, I am afraid. I don't want to suffer for eternity. Do you?"
It was my turn to be silent. "Well, I don't really believe in eternal suffering. I'm more afraid of the stupid mini-wars the sects are doing amongst themselves. I'm more afraid of the reality of them burning me alive than of the illusion of being turned for eternity."
"I guess nothing can really persuade you to be a Believer."
"Not unless they make me king of the world," I answered him jokingly, but Ben didn't respond.
When he was silent for a few more minutes, I started to worry that I offended my only friend.
"Hey, I was just kidding," I told him.
"I know," he sighed. "I... I just can't take the thought of you suffering in hell Chris."
Ben sat up and looked down at me. He looked sad.
He leaned down closer to my face and kissed my forehead, and I inhaled his scent as he did so. I slowly extended an arm around his head and one around his torso and then pulled him closer to me, until he's lying right on top of me, his hands around my head, his lips still on my forehead.
I carefully pulled him down to my face until our eyes met. I closed my eyes and slowly kissed his lips. Hesitantly, he kissed me back, and we went into a full embrace, with my back on the cement surface.
Then Ben pulled back to breathe. He looked down at me again with sad eyes, then leaned down on my shoulder.
"I don't want to lose you," he whispered, and kissed my ear.
All the emotions I've been suppressing just exploded out of me, and I started crying.
For the next few weeks, I was too happy to be dreadfully honest about the world's situation. Ben and I usually hang out early morning or during the night alone in some remote rooftop. Ben is too conservative to do anything more than hugs and kisses, but I don't mind. I still think he's too young anyway, although admittedly more mature than most people despite his age.
Then came the dreaded thirteenth year.
I'm guessing the religious people of the world grew tired of waiting for the battle scenes of angels and demons and locusts of insects that suck blood off people that they decided to fulfill their own prophecies.
They were doing a "cleansing", or preparing the road for their Savior.
At the helm of all this is a balding, fat man. Mr. Keith. The bastard probably abused several more kids after I was chased off their church. He knows he's going to hell anyway so he's bringing the rest of humanity down with him.
The ironic thing was I was accused of pedophilia. People noticed I frequently accompany the young and admired Ben, and made conclusions of their own. Inspired by the "cleansing" done by Mr. Keith's group, they decided...
"You are corrupting a pure and innocent mind to your own evil ends!" a pastor accused me one day.
"No," Ben defended me. "He's not telling me to do anything I don't want to!"
The pastor looked horrified. "You are under his spell, child! You don't know what you are saying. You were ensnared in his trap, but we will remove and heal you."
"No! I am FINE!" Ben insisted. He was not known for outbursts of emotions, and everyone took this as a sign that he is not being himself and that I was, somehow, manipulating him.
That was the last I saw of Ben. He was crying my name as they dragged and locked me in a room. I didn't stay long in that place. They brought me up to the new, if haphazardly constructed, dungeons. The name is only whispered among them, and they refer to it with distaste, like it's a disease.
In the dungeons, there are other "sinners." But "Abominations" are thrown into the worst area of the dungeons, so as not to be seen by "innocent" eyes. One cell is packed with about six or seven people, without any bed but the cold floor, and the only sanitation they put is a hole in the corner, so the place stinks of human waste. Very unhealthy to humans.
"You pigs aren't humans," one guard spat in the dungeon when I complained about the situation.
The other people in the cells also shout and scream at the guards, but they get a good beating if cause any problem. At least one was killed in the dungeons, and their rotting bodies we're just thrown in an empty cell not too far from the rest. Eventually, some of them are removed.
One day I asked one cell mate what's going to happen to us.
"We'll be executed," he said simply.
"For what crime?" I demanded.
"The crime of love, my dear," he answered.
I pressed him for information, but he retorted, "Why are you here?"
I started to speak, but stopped short, the memory of Ben's cries cutting in. I think my heart missed several heart beats then.
"Hey! You bastards shut up or I'll beat you up!" a guard shouted.
For the following days, I just crept in my own corner of the cell. I didn't have the energy to do anything anymore, and I just woke up and realized I was crying in my sleep, my eyes soaked wet, and a dream fast escaping as I reached consciousness.
I didn't know how long I was there, but after some time a group of guards carried me to a new cell. Smaller than the others, and away from of the other prisoners. I absentmindedly listened to the small talk of the guards.
"Why are we putting this guy in that cell?" one asked.
"Isn't it obvious? Someone up there wanted this guy in a 'special' cell," another replied.
The third one snorted. "What are you guys, morons? The chief himself ordered this guy put in a different cell. Said he's possessed or something."
The first one poked me in my face. "He doesn't look very dangerous."
"Can I ask for something?" my hoarse voice suddenly made the guards jump. I cleared my throat and continued. "A pen and blank notebook."
The guards hesitate. I realize these aren't bad guys. They're just following what they are told.
"You're one lucky guy. I happen to have some here." It was the first guard. Probably a writer, or maybe just a dreamer. He gave me quite a good blank book and a few pens.
That's when I started writing this, but only when no one is around, which is easy to know, since the only time anyone comes near my cell is when they bring in terrible food...
Or when some guards come in to visit.
From the tone of their voice, I can tell they weren't the ones who brought me in the cell. I manged to kill one and blind another when they tried to defile me. The two others were too shocked to do anything but kick me until I can't move without pain. Then they dragged themselves out of my cell.
They left me alone with no food for a few days, which was fine with me. By then, I'm used to not being able to eat.
When a new set of guards arrived, they equipped themselves weapons. At least they learned something.
It is finally the day of "cleansing." I don't know how they explained our execution to the people. Maybe the higher-ups didn't even tell their own media, or told them instead not to say anything about the event. I will never find out.
Maybe you can.
) o o o (
The tall, gaunt man closed the book.
In the dark cell, nobody can see as his beautiful blue eyes fill up with tears, as he pressed the book closer to his chest. His muffled cries audible to no one.
) o o o (
) o o o (
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