Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
“…and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars…” Revelations 2/2
Amna pulled the ragged coat around his shivering body. Two buttons were missing and it was hard to keep out the freezing wind. Most of the richly dressed people walking into the newly built NEW WORLD CHURCH OF THE DIVINE LIGHT Convention Center ignored him and the wooden sign he carried. Still he thought with thousands of people using the main entrance, someone would notice his words. He didn't have to wait long.
A hard faced man stooped to study Amna's sign; close enough for his coat to brush against Amna's cheek. The material was of the softest cashmere and smelled store fresh. Amna reckoned that coat had probably cost the equivalent of two months' welfare checks.
“THE END IS COMING!” Cashmere Coat read the words out loud with contempt and then laughed. “Why doesn’t a scumbag like you get a job instead of stinking up the doorway for decent people?”
“This is my job,” Amna replied. “I am to make wide a path of righteousness for he who comes.” Amna knew the man was an officer on the New York City Police Force and a vain man with ruthless ambition but he was not afraid. More information about the man was pouring into his memory all the time. Captain Charles W. O’Conner was evidently a very important part of God’s plan and purpose.
“I should run you in for blocking the sidewalk,” O’Conner said. “But I don’t want to get my hands dirty.” He pulled an I-phone from his coat pocket and punched a call-button. “I’ll have a car here in five minutes. If you don’t get the hell out of here you’ll spend forty-eight hours in lock-up and one of my boys will break that #%&$@# sign over your head. Do you understand?”
Amna nodded and began to shamble down the paved stone walkway. The tiny soft voice in his head told him to leave. The voice in his head was always right. And lately, all it took was the slightest brush or contact with another person for the voice in Amna's head to know everything about that person; good and bad.
A long white stretch limousine pulled to the curb and the Reverend Jason White and four others, one a woman wearing a fur coat made of Russian sable stepped out. Three of the men wore dark suits and dark glasses, the usual choice of uniform for bodyguards. In keeping with his name, the Reverend White wore a white silk Brioni suit. Amna glanced at them. The men all had hand-guns with silencers hidden under their coats. White had a VIPERTEK VTS-881 micro stun gun in his vest pocket. The charismatic evangelist hated for his followers to touch him. The value of their clothing would feed the poor who flocked to the Eighty-sixth Street Mission for the Homeless for more than a year. O’Conner held a door as he waited for White and his party. “Can’t you do something about these vagrants?” The woman was pointing at Amna. “They make our Crusade of Light look bad.”
“It’s been taken care of,” O’Conner assured her.
“Then let’s go inside … my obedient flock awaits!” Reverend White took Cecilia Evans’ arm and they walked behind the first guard. Cecilia had been a thousand-dollar a night prostitute before White reformed her. Now she came from a wholesome Nebraska farm background with impeccable credentials thanks to O’Conner’s vast connections.
“…and it’s shearing time,” Captain O’Conner finished White’s words, but not too loudly. There were still hundreds of people clambering to get inside and find a seat. Some of them recognized White and surged forward trying to touch his hands or even his coat. The guards kept them away. Every seat in the 41,900 capacity stadium was taken. The roar of the crowd was like the rumble of thunder. Surely this would be a night to remember, White mused as he waved his arms in the air and moved toward the stage.
Amna almost made it to the alley that was his home, when a blue and white police car squealed onto the curb and blocked the alley’s entrance way. One of the officers (a cop with five children the oldest named David attending New York University) threw him to the ground. “You want to put him in the back?” Louis Constello asked his partner.
“Naw,” the other cop said. (Pete Swensen who made an extra six thousand a month reselling confiscated crack cocaine.) “O’Conner wants him out of the way. They only hold these creeps for two days … I’ve got something in my belt that will save the city a few bucks. He unfastened a baton called a Texan, a length of lead wrapped in leather, from his utility belt as they dragged Amna into the alley.
Amna felt the first blow that struck his head … but not the second … or any after.
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Revelations 3/8
A child’s cries roused Amna from unconsciousness. Although his right eyelid refused to open, when he squinted towards the child, the pain in his head disappeared. Tears made white vertical lines under six year old Dani Garafalo’s eyes as she staggered into the alley. “What is it … Dani?” Amna beckoned the raggety-tag child towards him. She held a lifeless animal in her thin dirt-smeared arms.
“It’s Tripper,” Dani sobbed. “My gatti (cat) got ran over by a taxi.”
“Bring her to me,” Amna’s voice was soft and reassuring. “I think she is only sleeping.”
The animal’s head was crushed and bloody, the body already cold when he took her in his arms. Not much older than a kitten … too young for such a fate.
Amna closed his eyes and concentrated on a mountain stream he’d seen as a boy hiking with his father in the mountains of South Eastern Idaho. Bright clear water had bubbled out of solid rock like a kind of magic. He blocked all of his senses until he could hear the sounds of the water and feel the mists of memory on his face. A cool breeze cleared his mind of all tribulation and replaced it with faith. All power comes from loving God.
Tripper was purring when Amna handed her back to Dani. The cat snuggled into her arms.
“Thank you Benim Kurtarıcım,” the child said.
“Turn your back on sin,” The Reverend Jason White declared from the pulpit as thousands in the audience rose to their feet, “and say no to the demons who seek to lead your children into the darkness.”
Offstage, Cecilia Evans sucked at a cigarette and checked her watch for the twentieth time; only an hour had elapsed since the three-hour revival meeting had started. Captain Charles W. O’Conner made sure that none of the stage crew could see him then he slid one hand seductively across Cecilia’s stomach and over one breast. “Let’s go in the lounge area and lock the door,” he suggested.
“The Alter-boy suspects that his enemies may be a lot closer than he thinks,” Cecilia whispered. “What would he do if he knew someone from another farm was riding his pony while he was out gathering the hay?”
“He’d keep his mouth shut if he knew what was good for him!” O’Conner cursed under his breath as he squeezed her breast with an iron grip. “I’ve got enough dirt on him to create a dozen farms! God, I want you bad!”
Cecilia moaned. “Why didn’t you say this was a prayer,” she whispered as she took his hand and led him toward the lounge area, “…as the good book says … ask and you shall receive.”
“And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book …” Revelations 5/4
They were getting to the part that Jason loved: A very pretty twenty-three year old woman wearing a simple cotton yellow-flower print dress pushed a wheelchair toward the stage. Her passenger twisted in the chair as if in the midst of a serious seizure or convulsion. He was dressed in an Operation Desert Storm officers-uniform which automatically granted him the title War Hero. Reverend White stopped in the middle of a discourse on the evils of homosexuality as if startled by the intrusion. He left the pulpit and approached the woman as the crowd gasped. “What is it my child?” The audience was alarmed; many rose from their seats. Three microphones on booms miraculously appeared and picked up the woman’s voice with amazing clarity and detail. “It’s my husband,” her voice broke. “He came back from Iraq broken and twisted.” The crowd was hushed. “We’ve always believed in God … and in you … Please help him!”
“My child!” the Reverend declared. “What makes you think I can help you?”
“They say that you have been touched by the hand of God,” she whispered, “and those you touch shall be healed.”
“It is true that I have seen God and that I have eaten at his table,” White said. “But I have no power unless it comes from his grace.”
“Please help us,” the woman wailed.
White raised his hands as if in exasperation. “I truly know how Jesus felt,” he boomed. “The troubles of the world come knocking on my door.”
“Please,” the woman sobbed hysterically. “Touch his head and he will be healed.”
White addressed the crowd with wide eyes. “Shall I heal this woman’s husband?” he shouted.
“Yes!” the crowd thundered back.
“Shall I rescue him from Satan’s bloody child-stealing hands and lead him into salvation?”
Jason White removed his $18,000 Armani white silk coat and dropped it on the stage. The crowd was working itself into a religious tumult.
“Yes!” thousands of voices chanted over and over like the first rumbles of an earthquake. Jason secretly thought the sound was better than snorting cocaine. He dashed from the stage, caught-up in the crowd’s fury and placed his hands on the disabled soldier’s head. “By the grace of God I declare you whole,” he thundered. Overcome by the apparent release of power from his hands, the Reverend trembled all over, and then slumped to the floor the same time as Corporal Edmond Lewis rose from the wheel-chair and began to walk. Mrs. Lewis dropped to the floor and began to pray as four men lifted the unconscious White and carried him from the stage.
Lemont Hicks who was head Pastor at one of the more than twenty-six NEW WORLD CHURCH OF THE DIVINE LIGHT branches picked up the coat and as he hung it on the pulpit the microphones picked up his voice. The next two hours belonged to him. “Come forth,” he declared over the noise of the crowd. “Come forth and feel the power of God!”
The congregation was formed into six lines … those who dropped more than five-hundred dollars into the collection box were moved into the fastest line, and were allowed to actually touch the coat. Others, who donated less, were allowed to shake hands with one of the more than fifty Angels who made a tremendous spectacle over touching the white jacket and then passing on God’s power to the masses.
Jason White watched from backstage. It was a good night. The last Evening with God had netted almost seven-million dollars in tax-free donations … tonight looked to be even better.
Gracie Lewis followed her now healed husband off the stage. Jason grabbed her from behind the curtain. “You’re a good actress,” he told her, “and so is your husband.”
“Eddie is not my husband,” Gracie giggled. “God! That damn queer doesn’t even like women.”
“Ten thousand for three hour’s work … is that right?” White’s eyes roamed over her cotton daisy-print dress.
“Yes, that’s for each of us,” Gracie said. She was aware of White’s hand moving across her backside.
“Then I still have more than two and a half hours of your service.” Gracie shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head … she’d been with rich and powerful men before.
“Just don’t get too rough,” she said.
White smiled as he led her to one of the private healing rooms. This one had a lock on the door, a furnished bar and a king sized vibrating bed.
“Ten minutes later, after they had each drank a tiny glass from a four-hundred dollar bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne, White pulled the yellow daisy-dress over her head and removed her underwear. He pushed her roughly onto the bed and enjoyed the look of fear in her eyes. “Now you’ll see the power of God,” he said as he removed his belt.
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.” Revelations 6/1
Amna and Dani walked east toward the river. “Where is your mother, Child?” Amna asked her. Carla Garafalo was a part-time prostitute dying from alcoholism. Dani still held the cat in her arms; the just-out-of-kitten-stage animal appeared to be sleeping.
“Sometimes when Mama goes viaggio she is gone for several days. I haven’t seen her since Wednesday.”
“Who looks after you while she is gone?” Amna was impressed with how bright her eyes were. It must be the result of her love for the feline.
Dani laughed. “My mother does not look after me, I look after her …. I have been searching for her.”
“The voice tells me that I must find a proper bed for you to sleep in until your mother returns,” Amna told her. “You’ll see, I’ll help you find her.”
“How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Revelations 6/10
It was snowing. They were approaching a narrow service access between two tall apartment buildings. In addition to the apartment blocks dumpsters, a makeshift ghetto of cardboard boxes and torn-fabric tents lined both walls. Amna thought this might be a good place to look for Carla Garafalo. More than forty-five adults and sixty children lived in the forgotten alley some residents of the inner city called Bratton’s Abyss after the heartless police commissioner who said “ …stop giving these troublesome bums money and they’ll go away..”
They were halfway down the alley, stepping over several men sleeping inside plastic garbage bags and a woman trying to wrap her child’s feet in discarded newspapers. Amna noticed a headline on the first page of the New York Times: TURKEY DOWNS RUSSIAN JET! IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR III? A new Dodge Ram pickup-truck screeched to a stop in the alley entrance. Six young men wearing New York University sweat-shirts and waving metal NYU Bobcat baseball bats jumped from the back. Four others, including two women with lengths of metal bars, climbed from the truck’s cab.
“It’s time to take out the trash!” a red-headed youth yelled as he beat a man trying to run with plastic tangled around his feet. Blood from a broken jaw splattered against a wall and started a frenzy of clubbing as the homeless were driven to the end of the alley. Thin childish wails pierced above the screams of men and women, Amna followed behind the murderous college mob.
“This is what’s wrong with America,” a young man thundered as he broke a woman’s nose with a bat and sent her squalling baby rolling across chunks of broken asphalt and frozen garbage. “All of our tax money goes to these lazy people who refuse to work and live off the system!” He chased three Asians from an overturned garbage-can where they’d been huddled together. Amna noticed the shoes on the thug’s feet: $1800 Nike Men’s Air Jordan 5 Retro Premio "Bin 23" and would most likely feed a family of six street people for three years.
“We ain’t asking you for money! Why don’t you go on and leave us alone?” A black man wearing a Vietnam era army jacket threw his arms in front of the woman. Mike Bloomberg broke-out his teeth with the bat and then sneered. “You people are the #%$& of the Earth and by God! It’s time someone cleaned things up!”
“Do not invoke God’s name unless you are here to do his bidding.” Amna’s voice was a whisper that echoed down the alley like a gunshot. Eight young men holding bats and lengths of rebar turned and looked.
The thug wearing obscenely expensive shoes pushed attackers out of the way and opened a pathway for Amna and Dani. “You want to join your friends?” he yelled. “Go ahead! This will say us the trouble of hunting you #%$&$ down later.”
As Amna moved forward, a beautiful co-ed wearing a Trump for President tee-shirt tried to grab the kitten from Dani’s arms. “They buy the best cuts of steak with their damn food stamps and then waste it on mangy animals like this!” she sneered. Dani screamed and clutched the cat tighter. The woman grabbed and tried to twist the child’s arm. Amna closed his eyes for an instant, when he opened them the woman was flying across the alley. A stench filled the alley as she splattered against the cinder-block wall like an over-ripe tomato and her inner ugliness spilled out. Several of the men in the mob backed away from the strange homeless man who appeared to be radiating some kind of light.
Amna recognized the frightened faces of John Bingham and Conner Wilson huddled with the frightened homeless. The two obviously homosexual men were trying to drag the injured behind a flimsy barricade made of cardboard.
“Let’s get this over with,” Mike Bloomberg yelled. “The first keg at the Sigma Alpha fraternity party should be getting tapped … just about now!”
He moved forward and swung his bat at Conner Wilson just as the overly meek man opened his mouth to beg for mercy. Alma lifted his hands in the air and the baseball bats the attackers wielded turned into pythons. The iron rods became red-hot liquid metal and dripped onto the women’s hands as the huge snakes curled around the shrieking fraternity brothers’ arms. Backward curving fangs, acted as barbs as the fraternity brothers ran shrieking from the alley dragging the snakes behind. The girls followed screaming and holding burned fingers in the air like blistering forks.
“Amna! God walks with you,” Conner Wilson gazed at the homeless man who had saved them all from a terrible beating as John Bingham fell to the ground.
“Is your friend hurt?” Amna asked him.
“Not by theses fiends,” Conner said. “John has a large lump in his abdomen. We think it must be a tumor. Unfortunately neither of our jobs offers medical insurance.”
“I know a place that will look after your friend without charge,” Amna said. “It is important that we take him there at once.”
“…and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” Revelations 7/15
Amna and Conner Wilson helped carry John Bingham into the Emergency Room Entrance of New York City’s Mercy Hospital. There was almost an hour wait as friends and family raged over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police. “This is outrageous,” the father yelled. “My son was shot sixteen times … that officer reloaded his gun and shot him again and again as he lay on the ground.”
Amna sat with Conner, Dani and Tripper when the medics finally took John into a room for a computerized axial tomography (a C.A.T. Scan). The group waited for more than two hours. Conner told Amna how he’d been a member of The Presbyterian Church of Oak Springs and a choir boy until first his parents disowned him and then the Church. “Being homosexual puts a weight on a person,” he said, “and the equality in life isn’t always fair.”
Amna disagreed. “The balance in life is always equal,” he said. “People choose the good in this world and in the next. Good must always be balanced by an equal measure of bad.”
“You may be right,” Conner said. “I was in a despair so deep I though death was the only way out. I was on a high bridge over a ravine getting ready to jump when John found me. He spoke with truth and courage when others, even my own parents, only acted out of fear. They thought they could change me. Only John accepted me as I truly was.”
“It sounds as if you and John were made for each other,” Amna said, “did you ever think about getting married? That seems to be the in-thing for gay couples now-a-days.”
“John doesn’t believe in gay marriage,” Conner said. “He believes that those of us who are different were put on this Earth for a specific purpose. We never engaged in any kind of sexual activity. We are first and foremost friends but we don’t take the term lightly. We would die for each other in a heartbeat.”
“Let’s hope it don’t come to that,” Amna told him.
Edward Dickens, the doctor caring for Conner, came into the waiting room flanked by four other doctors. “We have examined John Bingham thoroughly,” he said to Conner. “John has you listed as his closest relative and to be notified in a medical emergency.
“That’s right,” Conner told them. “Is John okay?”
“We performed over twelve physiological tests and some Neurological ones,” Dickens said. “Finally James here who is an Obstetrician suggested an ultrasound.” Dickens pointed towards a white faced white coated man behind him. “We all laughed because we checked every inch of John’s body and we know without doubt that he is male. There is absolutely no evidence that he was ever anything else. No sex change operation, nothing of that kind. No one in this hospital or any hospital anywhere in the world has ever seen anything like it. Although there are no other female organs, John Bingham has a uterus … and he’s pregnant.”
“This can’t be right,” Conner stammered. “Things like this do not happen.”
“Actually they sometimes do,” another doctor said. “Parthenogenesis (same sex reproduction) has been documented before, but it’s confined to the female of the species, never the male, and it’s never occurred in humans.”
Henry James handed Conner several x-ray films showing the curled fetus. “It’s a boy,” he said.
“How will you deliver this baby?” Amna asked the doctors.
“We have some of the best doctors in the world flying in to New York City as we speak,” Doctor Dickens said. “I’m sure it will be similar to a standard C section with every precaution taken for the safety of the child and the mother … err make that the father,’ he stammered.
The small voice inside Amna’s head muttered a warning. Out-loud he asked, “How many people know about this … son of man?”
“I think it’s safe to say, that by morning, the whole world will know of this baby’s impending birth.”
On the other side of the city, the Reverend Jason White emerged from a shower. A towel was wrapped around his mid-section while he dried his wavy hair with another. Gracie Lewis lay naked on the king size bed. Most of the welts and her back and butt were bleeding from White’s belt. He liked to show women who God put in charge.
An aide knocked twice before entering. White recognized Lemont Hicks who had been with him from the time when they burned their first church in Mississippi and then blamed it on a rival congregation. The people’s wrath had propelled White into his first position of power. Religion was a game like any other and Jason intended to win, still he was furious at Lemont’s intrusion.
“Don’t you ever knock?” he complained when Hick’s eyes wandered over the naked girl.
“I try,” Hicks said. “But you said to keep our eyes and ears open. What you’ve always predicted has come true. A baby has been born into this world with no mother and only a father.”
“Where?” White blasted. “This better not be some kind of trick.”
“Right here in New York City,” Hicks said. “Isn’t that convenient?”
“And you are sure?”
“We have confirmation from at least a dozen different sources,’ Hicks said. “It is true.”
“Prepare a news conference for the morning,” White said. “This news will rock all nations and thrust us into the spotlight of the world.”
“You are prepared to embrace this child? After you know what is to come?”
“Of course I will at first,” White said. “Then I will receive a revelation from God declaring that the child is the spawn of the Devil himself and must be destroyed. All the Christian Churches of the world will accept this. Is the father not a homosexual? The one sinner on Earth whom Christ truly hates? By the time we are done I will lead not just a congregation but an army … and no power on Earth can stop me.”
TO BE CONTINUED …