Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Light

     John Wilde escorted me across the vast expanse of a manicured lawn towards a brick building twice as long as it was wide. He held the door open for me and I entered somewhat reluctantly. I expected more from the interior of a so called 'cathedral'; it looked more like a school auditorium with rows of gray metal chairs. Almost every seat was filled with a white robed occupant staring blankly ahead; or at least they were, before the door slammed announcing our arrival and every head turned to study us. John and I walked quickly to the front and took two of the four empty seats directly facing the podium. No one spoke. Their weird silence made me question my decision to come here alone. I'd known John thirty years ago when we were in elementary school; I hadn't seen him since. But when I called, he was pleasant and accommodating.
I'd seen him on the news a few times, always standing beside the Prophet; John was in deep. In spite of his cordial attitude, I was shocked when he'd agreed to set up a day of visitation and an interview with the reclusive leader of The Light. The mainstream media had never been allowed inside the gated compound. The one stipulation of my invitation, was that I wasn't allowed to speak to anyone other than John or the Prophet during my stay. And I had signed a statement that I had come to The Light of my own free will. I wondered if that had been a wise decision. These people were obviously insane.
The lights dimmed and organ music played softly through the sound system. Heads bowed as a red robed figure strode across the small stage before us. He stopped at the podium, the lights came back up, and the music stopped. He smiled, and everyone beamed. Even I felt the electric charge coursing through the room.
He was an exquisite creature with crystal blue eyes and a full mane of wavy dark hair; the crowd was mesmerized. I caught my breathing which had quickened.
“Good morning my children.” He spoke with an accent I couldn't quite place.
In unison they responded, “Good morning Brother.”
I leaned in whispering to John,“So, where is he from? Does he have a degree?”
“We don't question Brother Malachi,” he snapped.
“I wasn't. I'm questioning you.” I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief. This guy had them all brainwashed. I breathed deeply and calmed my heart. I would not get taken in.
John cleared his throat and handed me a colorful tri-fold pamphlet.
“This should answer any questions you have. We find that after you've been integrated into the community you won't find the outsiders questions to be relevant. Look around, the Master has created all of this for us. It is Utopia for his chosen. And we, in appreciation, have chosen him.” His voice was soft, but the intonation was firm.
I pressed on. “So there is still free will?”
His face screwed into a half smile.
“Oh yes, there is always that. And you can change your mind about us at any time, you are always free to leave. Just as Brother Malachi is free to ask you to leave, should he deem your 'investigation' to be in violation of the Moral Code.”
I studied his face. He was testing me.
The others watched me with their cold vacant eyes. I was keenly aware of their steely stares pressing into the back of my head. I wondered if all it would take was a wave of the Prophet's hand to have them attack me.
“So what's next then? I get my robes and trade in my heels for some Jesus sandals?”
My playful mocking tone was lost on his stoic demeanor.
“First you have a private session with Our lord. Oh, and don't call him that. You must address him as Brother Malachi, or as Prophet LeFevre. He prefers the latter from... non-initiates.”
I almost choked. Brother Malachi was no less than their savior.
This was exactly what I'd been waiting for; the reason for my visit. Several former members had made accusations of sexual impropriety in The Light; never specifically referencing Malachi, but the local papers had made it pretty clear it had been one of the higher ups. I'd been reading about the The Light for the past year. There had never been any concrete evidence, and never any formal charges filed, which was typical of cults like these.
I'd done a smattering of freelance investigative reporting, so I figured, why not? If I could get the right angle, it promised to be the expose of the decade.
“Well show me the light.” I whispered back, chuckling softly at my pun, until John shot me yet another icy glare. It was clear he was one of them.
The organ music resumed in the background as Brother Malachi began his spiel. I hoped his monologue wouldn't last long.
Electronics were forbidden in the compound, so I'd brought a pen and notepad. I listened intently, jotting down random quotes. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but the delivery was hypnotic. I realized I was getting lost in his words and began to consciously block them out.
When he finished speaking, he was ushered off the stage by two burly men in black robes.
John stood up and asked me to follow. We exited the same way we had entered, and followed a stone path to a small white cottage behind the cathedral. Brother Malachi was seated in a gold velvet chair by a fireplace with no fire. It was cold and I shivered as he glanced up at us. I stepped towards him and he arose and held out his hands to me. I took them reluctantly and he guided me to an identical chair opposite his.
“Let me look at you,” he spoke softly as he took my face in his hands.
I recoiled slightly, but said nothing.
After a few seconds he dropped his hands from my face and stepped back. There seemed to be a faint indigo light around him; or had I imagined it? My breath was shallow and my heart raced; I felt dizzy.
“Please, sit.” He motioned to the chair behind me. I didn't make it. I collapsed onto the floor in front of him. His smirk was the last thing I saw.
When I awoke, I was resting on a hospital bed in their infirmary; white robed novices rushing around and speculating in hushed voices.
I felt his presence before I saw him.
“Amber-Lyn. I have chosen you.” He was speaking inside my mind.
I nodded yes without thinking. I couldn't remember what my name was, but I was pretty certain it wasn't Amber-Lyn.
“What... what have you done to me? I... can't stay here. I want to leave.” I tried in vain to sit up but I was strapped to the bed.
He glided closer and touched my hand. This time I was certain; there was a bluish glow surrounding him. I was physically paralyzed as an electric current pulsed through my skin and up my arm. As it worked it's way through my body my mind fought against him. But he was stronger than me; his aura flowed into me like a drug, and my resistance fell away. I belonged here, to him.
I was one of them now, peaceful and happy. Happier than I had ever been.
I had no doubts, no fear, no questions. I had been shown The Light.

© GardenSummerland 2018

Photo: Copyright 123.rf

Saturday, March 10, 2018


     Leanne hadn't left her house in over seven years. She hadn't even been outside on the porch or the back patio. She'd forgotten what the air smelled like; the smell of fresh cut grass and the stench from the meat processing plant that should've been shut down ages ago.
     She walked carefully along the new sidewalk, observing the turquoise houses. Just yesterday there had been nothing there. Just a wide expanse of weeds and wildflowers growing unchecked. Wasn't it just yesterday?
When had it changed? No, it wasn't yesterday.
     She shook her head and tried to remember the way. She counted four pink houses in the row, and one yellow one. The rest were greenish-blue with white shutters. It made her sad. Maybe she wouldn't go back home. Maybe she would keep walking; walk and walk and walk until she fell down from sheer exhaustion.
     The row of houses seemed to go on forever. She couldn't go back home now; she had no idea where she was. She shivered and pulled her gray cardigan tighter around her. 
     Her flip flops made a smacking sound with each step and she tried to remember the rhyme her father had told her when she was a little girl.
     That was yesterday too. But she'd already forgotten.
     He had told her what to do when she felt like this. She could see his face and hear his voice, but now the words were jumbled inside her head.
     “If you get lost, find a policeman.” He'd spoken gently and patted her on the head. She had been five then.
     A tear rolled down her cheek as she remembered the happy times with her father; living in his car, playing at the beach and collecting shells. He'd bought her cotton candy at the fair with money they'd gotten from collecting bottles, and they'd walked hand in hand to the end of the pier to watch the sun set.
     That was yesterday too. But she'd never forget that. It was the one thing she could remember forever.
     The sidewalk ended, but the row of houses never would. She sat down and pulled a half eaten moon pie from her sweater pocket. She wished she had an orange soda. The moon pie was a bit stale, but the sweetness took her back to her childhood; when there were no yesterdays, only tomorrows.

© Garden Summerland 2018

Photo Cred: Sasin Tipchai 

Saturday, February 3, 2018


“What kind of message does that send when you go out of the house looking like that. Do you want people to call you a freak?" Lenny cocked her head to one side, and gave me that disapproving look she'd perfected.
I stared down at the floor. People already called me a freak. It wouldn't matter what I did now, I'd been labeled. And I really didn't care, it was who I was, or at least it was who I'd become. And maybe I'd done it on purpose. I didn't belong here; I didn't belong anywhere. I knew it and so did she.
“Annalise? Are you listening?”
I shook my head without looking up at her. “Yes ma'am.”
“Well then go back upstairs and change your clothes. And wipe that black stuff off of your face. You look like a Satanist.”
That was her favorite one. A Satanist indeed. She wouldn't know a Satanist if one held her down for a blood ritual. Of course for that matter neither would I. I'd lived my entire life in Colvale; a quiet little town with a grand population of just under two thousand. There was one religion and two churches. The residents all looked the same, thought the same, acted and reacted the same. Anyone with black eyeliner and an Anarchy t-shirt was a devil worshiper and a freak. That was me. A wanna be member of a sub-culture that didn't exist in my neck of the woods; just a freak, a lonely freak. It probably also didn't help matters that I was almost six feet tall with slanted golden eyes and fiery red hair that I kept cropped close to my scalp. I was their lost lamb; a project to some. Those with their plain clothes and religious zeal. I sat next to them in the pew every Sunday, waiting for God to strike me down. He couldn't miss me. The pseudo-goth in the third row amidst a sea of long print dresses and modest hairstyles. My face had been scrubbed clean, and yet the wildness within me screamed from every pore. I had no control over it.
Lenny didn't know how to deal with me, no one did. I'd been in seven foster homes since my mother abandoned me when I was two years old. I'd been with Lenny for three years; and she had more patience than most. I think on some level that she loved me, no else had even tried. Not that I'd ever heard her say it. But it was in her soft gray eyes. She cared, and it was for that reason I decided to spare her. But none of the others.
It was the second Sunday in February of last year the first time the pastor shook my hand. The iciness of my skin burned into his, stealing his warmth until he yanked his hand away. I smiled and narrowed my eyes concentrating my thoughts into his until I heard him gasp for air. I looked away and he coughed.
"Nice sermon Pastor Jim." I winked at him as the color began to return to his face and I lost myself in the crowd. I knew then that he would be the first.
Days turned into weeks and now it had almost been a year to the day, but he hadn't looked at me since. Maybe he knew what I was waiting for; he was, after all, a man of the cloth. As an educated spiritual man, he should've known the signs.

The day of reckoning had arrived; a Sunday on a full moon, a bitter cold morning with frost on the ground and even colder hearts waiting to receive their judgment. Today was the day.  

©2018 Garden Summerland

Photo/Artist Cred: Iulian Dragomir via