And so came they with a gas-mask

Submitted for Contest #96 in response to: Start your story with the arrival of a strange visitor in a small town.... view prompt

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Jun 05, 2021

Christian LGBTQ+ Speculative

No one knows how or when... the gas-masked soldier got here, but they've been living in the spare guest room of a building we've all been using for storage. This village has been on high-alert since they've just... popped?... into existence, not even the wailing wolves nor the cawing crows saw their figure shamble on by. They've been praying in that guest room even before we came and they still are praying, not even the village eavesdropping experts wish to get near them. It's that gas-mask of theirs, just so odd but so a part of them?

Well, someone has to go and meet them:

"Sofia, come with me. We gotta eventually meet this person, and they ain't gonna die if we start at them."

Sofia coughed a bit of blood, that shit always scared me but she has to grapple me to shake me into believing she's fine. Letting me go, she picks up a pistol while handing me mines:

"Better armed than sorry, maybe they're not the threat but someone looking for them can be. Anyways, got the keys Jess?"

Giving her a kiss, my hands flashed my keys as we exited the house. Locking the door, I slide my pistol into the holster; haven't been able to change from my work-trousers, but hopefully the smell won't bother our stranger. Sofia nervously was dusting her farmer's skirt, I wish we even spent a minute throwing on some perfume so as to not aromatically smell like fresh mud. At this point, we may scare the stranger away by our smell as their presence shocked us all!

The house, despite being the farming collective's storage-place, needed some desperate repairs for the upcoming winter season. None of us really let them in, but our omission of even checking-up on the stranger was the sure-sign we welcomed them into our village and our storage-house. We were about to knock until the stranger opened the door, on the second no less:

"Welcome estranged folks, let a stranger welcome the estranged to my guest-dwelling. But I pray you, let me offer to cleanse your feet."

A strange offer from a stranger in a strangely reordered house, calling us estranged was an understatement. But since this house was impossibly cleansed of its fungal rot and dust, how could me and my wife deny the odd-request? Taking off our boots, we saw the gas-masked stranger just heaved a heavy bucket that smelled of hyssop while holding a sponge-stick; sitting down, we saw the stranger's bandaged appearance and odd-stature. Cleaning our feet – which don't get us wrong was dirty – with hyssop-smelling liquid was a nice feeling despite it all being weird. Sofia chiming in our calm rest:

"We haven't seen you come in, nor did the animals outside detected you. . . yet you set up shop and turned this house inside into a small heaven, despite the exterior looking like how it had before you came here. How have you done it, and why have you waited. . . so long to even have anyone brave the journey to you, you could've starved and here we were being shrinking from helping you!"

A chuckled ringed with ease, despite ending with a rough cough. The stranger smoothly replied, despite my wishing for Sofia's tone to have been softer:

"Good Sofia, why do you cry in fear? If I had done what you have said, then why have you resisted to apply it further into what I have done so far? Hunger bothers me not, as long as the cross I bear remains with me! The One above has sent me as a human delegate, and the red-burning star is my guide in these wastelands. Once I have cleansed ye both of the dirt, come scream with me to gather the rest of your folk to a feast to nourish your true emptiness."

We didn't know how to respond, yet the stranger knowing her name with confidence shook us. But we saw the cross on the stranger's neck, wooden but perfect – just like the interior here, so clean and done all by them. My curious mind stumbled, and I knew I had no good reason to stumble since the figure themself felt so assured of their mission:

"My good soldier, you are bandaged up from the crown of the head to the tips of the toe! I thought God or the Angels of the Lord would arrive in a burst of light or something else, yet you come dirty and bloodied like the soldiers who have mutinied against the Tsar and the Great War! I still believe you, but I confess my ill-considerations!"

Chuckling with a child-like glee, the soldier softly replied:

"You most than others in this collective are under duress, Jess! Why should I hold you to high standards in these troubled times, no less with conflict surrounding y'all? You have been whipped for turning your heads to the World to rectify the wrongs caused by vice-ridden leaders and sinful executors of the viceroys of vice, thus you all turned to look up above for sanctification and relief. You looked for divine justice, but you have forgotten the World here producers the grave-diggers against the ones who have wronged all of creation. You will have your saviors, and they shall come in the color of the flame; you will for the first time see your helper for it shall be you yourself, and y'all no less will be the savior for others suffering just as y'all are."

Here I and Sofia were thinking we would welcome the stranger into our houses, but they have welcomed us to a house of joyous surprises and wonders that have been deprived from this collective village as we struggled against the Russian Empire's besiegement. I couldn't believe it, however, that I didn't see the red pin on the soldier's parapet. Then I remembered them talking about being guided by the red-star, but where was this red-star that this soldier saw so clearly? I wanted to believe, yet my poor heart has been whipped from defending this village from the harassing officers and the occasional hostile cossacks! As if hearing my woes, the stranger stopped and gently touched both of our knees with a deep sigh:

"Must you believe with your eyes, you didn't survive that far with eyesight or all the senses alone! Your reason and undying wills carried you forth, thrusting you to victory everytime you had to suffer! Your faith in each other and yourself, that's what carried you back to safety! I am not the Word, but I will be the stand-in representative to judge that you must do the most tiring task that you have yet to face: to doubt even your own doubt!"

A whiplash of emotions flowed through both of us, and for so long have we been restless without a grasp at the hope to redeem our situation! We have thrown hope to the fire, to fuel us when uncertainty and constant danger plagued us. To die here, well we wouldn't allow our enemies to snicker at anyone's death but we all wanted to cry a flood for any fallen body. Cracking-down to my desires, I failed to resist my current impulse to ask their name:

"Comrade, what is your name and where do you hail from?"

Coincidently being almost done, the stranger finished their task and stood up:

"Stand-up, then I shall tell you what you really asked but were afraid to phrase it with someone who has neither lambasted you for coming nor judged your sapphic union with Sofia. . . Good, you stand without fault and I know for sure now that your hearts are not compromised despite the slip-mud drowning it! Open your hearts as I say the name of my mission, and lend me the heaviest thing you must bear for the Almighty above: your faith! The name of my mission is to bring to this wretched corner of the Earth its hyssop, and there are many of us out there possessed by the Divine Silence that frees us from the fears that oppressed us and given us the strength to withstand the exploitation of both the industrial-barons and the crooked commanders of the armies! We have been most disappointed at those who call themselves the authority of our Lord's words, they shall face a due punishment and the Heavens above will watch it being carried out by the downtrodden and wrongly-persecuted. I lend all of me to this cause, to ensure its happening with others like me scattered all about Russia."

We broke into tears, kneeling before them as they laid their hands unto our heads with compassion. Grasping both of our shoulders, they raised us up:

"Estranged friends, be estranged no more! Let us conquer those that keep us down, and let us liberate more of us who are wretched before the eyes of the sinful rulership above! Go now, and scream while signaling them to come here! I shall be for you as I with others like me for the soldiers on the frontlines, tonight the fire shall spread to the farming villages as it had engulfed the frontlines; fear you shall know no more towards those that see you less than nothing, you all shall know your power as it radiates from both your heads and your hands!"

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