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Suspense Horror

1

“Who wants to see a miracle today?” The crowd, made up mostly by Bremen township locals and filled to its entirety with out-of-towners, murmurs a low clap. While folk like to talk about every Sunday being God’s day, it takes only a mildly muggy day to sap the Holy Spirit right out of them. “I said, WHO!” I give a slight pause for effect, “Wants to see a MIRACLE,” another small pause to really resurrect them this morning, “TODAY!?” 

The mass clamors. With the loud jeers comes a collective surge of oxytocin, producing a feeling of warmth and trust amongst the gathered worshipers. Before, they were just a crowd of people aimlessly piling through the doors of our parish to find refuge from the humid Indiana heat. Cooled by the air conditioning and refreshments that their contributions to the Almighty helped pay for, they are now an almighty congregation; united by oxytocin and hope. 

Maintaining the comfort of our church is pivotal to its success. Sure, people are supposed to go to church and worship on Sundays, but there are plenty of options for that now. Gone are the days of piling people under tents in the middle of nowhere, it’s the 21st century and there are new standards to contend with. That’s why when you come to our chapel, we take care to immediately greet you with an aesthetic that is representative of the services performed. 

The Revelation Apostolic chapel was built to appear like an older building. It was constructed with all of the romanesque architecture influences a small Indiana town could afford. The building’s center is a large, pointed tower constructed of stone. On the face of the central tower rests a giant, arched glass panel with interwoven striping along the edges of it that causes the light reflecting off of it to appear as a rainbow if looked at from the right angle. In the center of this arched panel is a stained portrait of Jesus Christ rising to the heavens as his loyal disciples revel in his ascension from the ground below. Additional glass panes can be found on the remaining of the tower’s sides. These panes share the same height of the face’s panel, but are more narrow and make a point up to the sky, as opposed to the smooth curve provided by the arch. Within these side panes are stained red crosses that change the incoming light to appear as though it might be the blood of Christ itself when you peer up at them from within the Church’s atrium.

Wooden double doors tall enough to fit giants lead people into the chapel’s atrium. Within the atrium, a church-goer is greeted by a hosted table, draped with an emerald-green cloth and topped with refreshments and a guest-list. Should our guests peer to their left, they would find the community/social board, and if they were to peer to their right they would see a door that would lead them into my office. Directly ahead of them is where the magic happens. 

The main part of the chapel is not as tall as the towered-atrium, but its outer stone walls share the slightly shorter versions of the same pointed, stained glass containing crosses on the tower’s sides. A diamond-checkered, white and emerald-green tile floor draws eyes down the path of the church’s nave, or center. There are five aisles in total, including the nave. To the left and right of the nave rest two sets of ten rows worth of solid-oak pews separating the aisleways. Each pew is tilted perfectly towards the altar and includes kneel bars on the back of them. The pews are padded with a red cushion on the bar, seat, and seat-back. On the seats, a deluxe pattern includes cross-stitching with buttons centered that almost act as a guide telling people exactly where they should sit.

From their seats, onlookers would be able to look straight ahead to the golden altar my family and I helped build. God’s altar, of course, but our altar technically. The altar is adorned with white roses and a golden cross splays as a backdrop to the altar to help further remind people of the sacrifices that were made.

Obviously we weren’t able to start at this point. My family and I were able to purchase this chapel in 2009 on the heels of the recession. While the societal collapse helped, it was my miracle working that brought the funding together. When we started our small, family-run operation we quickly found that straightforward readings and worship led by a then unknown Pastor Gil wasn’t going to cut it, especially with us having 5 mouths to feed. No, we needed something more than that. 

2

“Somebody shout HALLELUJAH!” 

My favorite line.

“HALLELUJAH!”

The crowd chants in unison. 

It’s going to be a holy Sunday after all. 

“I say shout to the lord tonight!”

“I say that GOD LOVES!” 

Not my smoothest transition, but a transition nonetheless.

“God is experienced in love.” 

Comfort them.

“God knows true love because he has loved every single person on this planet. Despite their debauchery and numerous other sins.” 

He knows that pushing buttons pushes paychecks.

“God knows that true love is the kind of love that can bring life into the world!”

He knows what they came for. 

“And I’m going to show you the POWER of that love today.”

“Who here wants to see a miracle?”

“I heard it’s going to be a VERY special miracle today. Yaaa-WOO!”

I love this religion.

“But I need your help in finding who. Let’s hear the holy spirit move through us today. KAAAAAAA-YAEE-YAEE-YAEE-YAYEE!” 

“Join with me now!”

The crowd erupts in a furor of prefixes and suffixes that become rearranged and emphasized to the point of distortion. Sharp consonants stab at the beginning of their words. Prolonged vowels rise and fall through different keys and tones like a child whose parents chose to volley them on the swingset as opposed to a simple push. Most stand still when speaking in tongues, raising their hands in the air and closing their eyes tightly. Others aimlessly sway, occasionally knocking into their neighbors before being drawn closer with their colliders. A small few descend recklessly to the floor or to seats that have become open in the flurry. 

“I NEED ALL OF YOU TO CHANNEL YOUR SPIRIT INTO THIS VESSEL!” 

It would be unfair to my wife if I was always the center of attention.

“The POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT is going to move THROUGH HER for she too was SAVED by his MIGHT!” 

Amens fire out of the crowd like the last remaining kernels telling you that your popcorn is ready for the show.

“She was SAVED by his voice, and now his voice will SAVE one of YOU.”

“PLEASE! Kneel in the presence of the LORD, for he is with US right at this moment. His presence is HERE!”

“If she says your name, please stand. We’ve done this many times and have learned that God has a PLAN and also respects surnames.”

The followers hurriedly drop from their feet, or pull themselves up depending on the results of their earlier frenzy. They eventually rest on the kneel-bar positioned ahead of them. Those in the front row kneel on the carpet, they will receive help back up if their body can’t handle it.

3

“CAH!”

Leanne snaps out of her droan, with a loud scream that sounds like a crow alerting others of a nearby threat.

“Cahhhh…’

We love the theater.

“CahhhhhhaARRRR!”

Maybe a little too much.

“Carrrr-laaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAA!” 

This time her voice inflection rises to a high pitch squeal.

“CARLA BRYSON!”

“CARRLAA BRYYSONNN!”

Now it’s time for the lead to reclaim center-stage.

The crowd peers around the room carefully. No one wants to appear too frantic. Looking too quickly takes away from the suspense, and there is of course the fear. The fear that they will scan the entirety of the room and find nothing. Which, initially, is exactly what they see. It would be too convenient for someone to be standing anyways.

Seeming unfamiliar with my surroundings and how to come to grips with my own bodily functions after being consumed by the Holy Spirit, I ask, “Is Carla Bryson here?” Carla Bryson is an elderly woman with early-stage Alzheimers who lives with her daughter, Lisa Bryson, on the outskirts of town. Carla took home Bremen High’s first ever title of Prom Queen and spent her early 20s to mid-30s living as a stay-at-home mother of four. When her kids finally got old enough, she tried her hand at writing cookbooks, but never amounted to the success she achieved at the height of her youth. Of her children, we were fortunate that Lisa was the one who chose to care for her. Lisa is a God-fearing woman and places total faith in the church. She brings Carla every Sunday, despite Carla falling out of the church for a time.

“Carla, where are you?” From my peripheral, where Carla and Lisa usually sit, Lisa encourages her mother to stand. “Mama, you need to stand up. God is calling you! He is going to help you!” Carla, in a fashion so dramatic that it bordered on seeming rehearsed, fumbles her hands along the back of the pew in front of her. She eventually finds her grip, and with her daughter providing a gentle, upward push from Carla’s lower back, she makes her way to a full stand. “I’m here!” A wrinkled, frail woman of moderate height wearing a faded yellow polo shirt, a jean skirt, and a head covering to help distract from the dark glasses and bandages over her eyes announces, while staring off in a direction nowhere near me. She’s perfect. Lisa stands with her for a moment, also wanting to also relish in God’s attention. But I’m sure to give Lisa a downward nod after I make my way over to them. She needs to know her place. What happens next is between only Carla and God.

Carla was diagnosed with blindness six months ago. You can still catch snippets of conversation amongst the townsfolk in after-service gatherings, chattering about her circumstances. “It must be in God’s plan.” “She lost her sight so she wouldn’t have to see what the world’s becoming.” “Already losing her mind and now she’s losing her sight? Make it make sense.” They’re all so quick to escape rationality. She’s aging and deteriorating, that should be why she’s gone blind, not some obscure form of predestination. The same townspeople call city-folk sheep, but don’t think to question who told Carla that she was blind in the first place. We don’t even have an optometrist in the city limits.

“Carla, my child. God’s child. God has a plan for you today. HeeeeeYOU!” Amens again splash from various sections of the room. “God tells me that he has FORGIVEN you for your time away from the church. He tells me that he wants you to live your GREATEST LIFE in your remaining time on this Earth. He has seen how you carry yourself and how you treat others, he has seen the way you pray, and now he wants you to SEE also!” The crowd takes another bump of madness. The sporadic amens begin to get replaced with coos. Would they “FloMINGhoww,” if they knew how easy it is to deceive someone like Carla?

“I need everyone in this congregation again now! We’re going to channel the lord one more time.” Send someone to her house. “Can I get a HALLELUJAH! SHAMBACKA BOWWOW!!” The congregation once again joins with their disjointed collection of sounds that seem to resemble a demonic hymn composed by a jazz ensemble. Ask them to wear a cross and pay them well. Her daughter will believe the word from any man of god, especially if he seems charming enough. No one else cares about Carla, her other kids have all but forgotten about her. Don’t even come home for Christmas. 

“CARLA ARE YOU READY FOR THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO FILL YOU!?” I vehemently posed. She complained of poor eyesight before. “Ye… Yes,” she replied, letting on that this environment might be too much for someone with her ailment but the crowd is too caught up in the moment to catch her body language. Lisa shows a moment’s concern, but continues to put her faith in the power of the lord. Tell her and her daughter that the light will hurt her and will make matters worse unless her eyes are immediately covered.

“Now I’m going to remove your glasses and bandages from your eyes. When I do, I want you to keep your eyes closed. You will see light poke through, but you must keep your eyes SHUT!” I wouldn’t want to hurt her any more than we already have. I remove the bandages from her and she immediately falls back down to her knees. The crowd begins to quiet down as Lisa goes to her mother. To help protect Carla and the ceremony I offer,  “She’s okay, she just needs a moment. There are a lot of senses rushing back into her body, it can be a lot to handle.”

“Everyone, let us continue to pray quietly as Carla’s senses are RESTORED!” A sprinkling of whispered prayer drops around us. “We must all close our eyes as Carla has closed her’s.” 

4

“I can SEE!” She exclaims. “I saw him when I first lost my sight, and I can hear him now!” People who force blindness onto themselves report intense hallucinations, especially in the first few days.” 

“He says he has a plan for you too, Pastor Gil.” The congregation shouts a collective, “Praise GOD!” As if she was the one who led them there. What could she mean by that? I move to pull the attention away from her, “I want to remind everyone that all of your contributions today will be used for the church and its FIGHT FOR LI-!” 

“NO PASTOR GIL, you don’t understand. He told me he has a PLAN for YOU!” The bitch rudely interrupts. This is what I get for putting my faith in the elderly. “He told me that he wants you to burn this church down to the ground.”

A deafening silence falls over the room, making it somehow quieter than when it sits empty. “Well I DOUBT God said that, you must be confused Ms. Bryson.” I add with a nervous chuckle, not knowing how to handle a situation like this. Over 500 miracles performed in this church, and no one has been more ungrateful than this old hag. “Let’s get you home so you can lay down, you’ve had a long morning.” 

“HE says that you have until tonight Mr. Thompson. If you don’t then you’ll see what REAL POWER LOOKS LIKE!” She screamed the last word until she collapsed on the floor.

5

Shortly following Ms. Bryson’s outburst, the congregation filtered out of the chapel in a sea of hushed murmurs. I could feel them conspiring against me, but I could also sense their uncertainty in what she said. Was there certainty in her words? Will something worse happen if we don’t set this place ablaze? What more harm could come to us than losing this church? Will something happen to us? To our children? Tonight will tell. We’ve worked too hard to simply burn this place to the ground at the direction of some possessed hag. Possessed hag. Possessed by whom? Tonight will tell.

July 02, 2022 03:50

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3 comments

Marino Bubba
16:39 Jul 08, 2022

The perspective of this story is quite intriguing! I love how, by nature of taking place inside the mind of one person during a charged event, the details that are included don't follow a classic progression. The longer the audience sits in the story, the more we get to know about it, which makes the reading experience dynamic. That being said, I think this story could benefit a bit from more clear detail being presented throughout. It doesn't have to come all at once, but by the end, it might help ground the reader if we have more to hold o...

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Nathan Cameron
01:26 Jul 16, 2022

Thanks so much for the feedback! I'll try to take this to heart, thanks for reading!

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Nathan Cameron
07:07 Jul 06, 2022

I didn't quite nail the landing on this one, but hopefully there's a nice moment or two. Thanks for reading it if you do!

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