In a crumbling, Ann Arbor Victorian that had once housed up to thirty university students in its co-op hay day, a lonely monitor flashed and jostled with color and mesmerizing rhythms, selling soul redemption charms and potions for the desperate waiting for their shot at the Revelation.
The house, once a hub for higher education along with thc-induced enlightenment had become swallowed up by urban decay. What remained were what looters had seen unfit for survival or profit. Dirty, handmade rugs sprawled across termite infested wood floors. Birds flew in and out of the holes in the roof. In the war-like conditions of the Revelation, the swooping in of judgement soldiers and the gathering of people in the middle of the night, the city streets were filled with debris. A pair of tennis shoes at the empty bus station gave the impression the person wearing them had so violently been taken that he or she had been ripped away from their very shoes. Banks, grocery stores, the University of Michigan and its many buildings all lay silent as a tomb. Mother Nature began to slowly reclaim what had been pillaged from her at the dawn of the human technological advancement. No animal nor vegetation seemed to miss humanity.
War, famine and pestilence had struck for decades, whittling down the population. The survivors, hardened to suffering, hadn’t noticed the Revelation at first. Final judgement started small like a snowball tumbling down the top of a mountain. Tiny villages like Hum, Croatia and Cayman Brac disappeared without anyone noticing. Ancient civilizations had evaporated much in the same, mysterious way.
News sources in Africa and the Netherlands began to report the disappearances of entire towns and then cities. The alarming reports hit the Internet and then the larger news agencies like the BBC and CNN. Soon, images of a category five hurricane swallowing up entire communities flashed across every screen in the world. When it passed, the town residents had vanished without explanation. Every once in a while, a few survivors could be found climbing their way out from under the rubble.
When interviewed, many described an invasion, soldiers, people gathered up and taken away, families separated. Experts were called in. Survivors were deemed victims. Those who were left behind were diagnosed with everything from head trauma to delusions to post traumatic stress disorder.
His Holiness the Reverend Father Jacob Marley was arranging his purity potions in the front room window of the old Victorian on State Street. He had been released from the mental ward after two weeks of observation after surviving the Ann Arbor invasion. “Travelers”, those too afraid to stay in one place for too long for fear of being taken away in the Revelation often were drawn to the empty places of previously judged cities. Fearing some sort of end of the world, many stopped into Jacob’s shop of sorts to buy tonics and pills that might purify their soul and make them more worthy of heaven.
Prior to the Revelation, Jacob had been a drifter. He had left school to pursue his passion for hallucinogens and weed. When odd jobs and manual labor failed to meet his life expectations, he had found a calling in the emulation of religion and growing things. The hippie, reverend/farmer life combined with his passion for like minded women and a smattering of leadership skills had brought him to Ann Arbor. He spent many nights talking for hours about the mind-opening benefits of marijuana and Silvia to eager university students. Religion in all forms had been a sort of bedfellow that gave him credibility and a way to rise in social status above the average pot head. He signed up for every online religious certification he could get. Somewhere along the way, he believed in all or most of it. When they pulled him out of the debris, he fervently declared his pure lifestyle had saved him. He set up shop and waited in the glow of the dying Internet for the chosen people to come to him.
“Revelation count has risen today” said a tired looking anchorwoman. She looked as if she had been repeating the same sentence and reporting the same story for her whole life. “Here is the latest from the most recent incidences in Detroit.”
A wide shot camera angle zoomed in as it tracked a small girl bursting out of a metal door and running into the arms of her mother. “I just couldn’t imagine that heaven could be all it was promised unless she was with me,” confessed the overjoyed woman as she held the little girl tight. “We had been watching the ads on the Revelation channel about voluntary judgement. I agonized for weeks whether or not it was the right thing to do. Now, I’m so glad we came to this judgement facility. My baby and I are headed to eternal happiness.” She smiled sincerely for the camera as the narration of the reporter chimed in.
“Meanwhile, in a separate facility just down the road, this happy reunion is something that will never come to fruition. Our cameras and crew were held back at the gate of this much larger judgement facility. Upon investigation, we were able to use our highly advanced audio equipment to capture these sounds coming from the far most building near the wooded area.”
Jacob turned from his potion arranging to stare at the blank computer monitor. He strained to hear the faint sounds of screams and protests. Pleas for mercy came next as parents begged to spare their children and spouses tried to cling to one another. Then, the sounds of tasers and stun guns ripped through the darkness. The reporter continued as a few blurry images flashed upon the screen.
“A source who wishes to remain anonymous has said that a few of the condemned have been seen clinging to the barbed wire fences making attempts to escape what they call the Damnation facility. We asked Revelation spokesman Mary Hughes about the anonymous statement but she refused to comment.”
Jacob shuttered to think about it. He walked to the stack of pallets where the monitor rested and shut off the computer. The sound of the birds chirping in the trees and the light wind blowing filled the old house. For a moment, he felt as though he were the last man on earth. A gut wrenching terror traveled down his spine. Soon he might be just that. What if no one else escaped? What if every person was judged and sorted on Earth and he was the only meek man to inherent the lonely earth? Anxiety turned to panic, engulfing Jacob in thick tar of sticky, stifling depression. He gasped for air as his heart raced. Purposefully making his way past the colorful bottles in the window, he thumbed through an old cigar box for a blunt that might settle him down. Ashes from previously smoked joints covered the tips of his shaking fingers. He blinked as his search became more frantic until he finally found what he was looking for. A small, unfinished marijuana end had gotten stuck in the crevice of the corner of the box. He pinched the minuscule end between his lips with the help of his teeth and lit the end which sat dangerously close to his face. Jacob inhaled deeply and passionately, begging the drug to enter into him, much like that of the Holy Spirit and take away his sadness. He drew in deep, meditative breaths until there was nothing left between his lips but the smoldering remains of a few shreds of paper. A slight comfort washed over and through his mind and his heart rate began to return to normal. “Amen” he whispered.
He sat down and closed his eyes, reminding himself of his place in the universe and his belief that peace came to those who believed that everything would be cool if people could just chill. He listened to the sound of his breath. It flowed in and out in counterpoint time with the latest bird song. Somewhere, off in the distance was the faint sound of something Jacob had nearly forgotten. He was one with it. The holy smoke that he had allowed into his body told him to be one with the approaching noise. It grew louder and Jacob could feel himself opening up to the joy within. Someone was coming. Someone with a car. There was no need to fear. The universe heard his anxiety and was providing. He opened his eyes and got to his feet, making his way to the filthy bathroom. If a traveller was coming, he had better make sure he looked presentable. Tying back his long dreadlocks and changing into a clean t-shirt, Jacob picked up a folding chair and sat in the window just behind his colorful, soul purifying potions bottles. He was ready for his first follower to enter the temple of enlightenment.