“The time of your salvation is upon us, initiates. May the Fred and the Jane take their rightful places.”
That’s my queue. This is what it’s all been leading up to: selling the apartment, the station wagon, leaving the kids... it will all have been worth it. To finally be clean. Pure. Cheryl DeVille is dead, I am a Jane and I belong! At least I will once I prove I’m worthy.
‘Jane’ skirted through the crowd of a couple of dozen figures in crimson robes, their hoods up and shadowy faces obscured by masks crafted from animal skulls and other bones. They congregated at the top of the canyon in secret, nested like malevolent birds, hidden away from the distant twinkling of California’s civilisation.
She took several strides towards the edge, deliberate yet careful, so not to stumble in the gloaming which was the uneven midnight cliff. The silence was absolute, with the exception of the warm breeze filtering through the canyon, stealing dust from the ground at her feet.
She took her position next to her fellow initiate – a Fred.
He was twitchy like someone looking for their next fix. He must have been at least twenty-eight, but the wrinkles of his face were worn to someone twice his age, running through his skin like polluting rivers. He glanced at her without turning his head and suppressed a cracked-toothed grin.
They peered beneath them, the cliff tumbling 500ft or more to raging waters running below, the red moonlight danced playfully on its shimmering surface.
“Praise be!” announced the One True Profit, Vox Cervi, from atop his ochre podium carved into the cliff rock. His hands shook wildly as he spoke, his mighty antlered headpiece silhouetted in the moonlight.
“At the striking of 12, the blood moon over Buck Ridge shall be full with the love of the Cervus Lord and you will be ushered unto his embrace, should you be found to be pure of spirit. You shall have a seat at the forest table, eternal bliss at the dawning of the new age.”
“By the Deer’s grace, natures embrace!” chanted the crowd in a low chorused collective.
“Indeed, praise be!”, the Vox Cervi continued. “Those that are deemed unworthy shall not be joining us on the great journey, however, your contributions to the cause will not go unnoticed as you join us at the feast, aiding us in a new capacity.”
Wow, my Lord! I really do love the Profit. He is so wise and gentle; I wish I had met him before Jeremy wormed his way into my life. I can't wait to be close to him at the forest table once this is finished with. To think that he was chosen from all the people on Earth! To speak for him! Gosh, he really is something.
Freaking people, they deserve what they’ll be getting. Those greedy suits in their towers with their cheap whores and endless cocaine. The swine that roll in their own filth far below. Sleaze, all of them. They’ll be the ones crying, I’ll see how much they like being pillaged and burned.
Meandering clouds drifted apart in the midnight sky and Jane’s burning thoughts dissipated along with them. Unmistakable, the blood moon loomed there, placed as a remarkable jewel in a dark and otherwise distant crown. The robed collective kneeled as one and chanted deeply, archaically.
“Destiny has aligned,” the Profit announced with absolution, “you may now begin the first steps on your journey to becoming one.”
To jump or not to jump? That was the dilemma facing Jane and Fred as they stood at the edge of the cliff, looking down at the stream below.
The Fred spun around to face her, eyes as mad and wide as the moon above them.
“This is it, sister! I’ll see you on the other side!” he spluttered in a raspy cackle.
Before Jane could reply, the Fred bound over the edge, shrieking excitedly like a demented beast. His echoing voice sang as he fell lower through the canyon, until suddenly it stopped without warning. What continued downwards was the beat of grotesque thuds and cracks belonging to a mortal body meeting uncaring stone, a tune which reverberated back through the canyon, before concluding with its final note, a deep splash.
Unflinching, the crowd of hoods remained motionless, and the chanting continued still with all eyes upon Jane.
That poor Fred, my stomach is inside out! I suppose his sins must have outweighed his potential for salvation in the new world. He must have deserved it; I can’t think about him now. Ignore that, there really is no turning back at this point.
Silently, she closed her eyes and leapt over the edge. There were a few blissful moments of weightlessness where everything of the world was forgotten, peace overcame her, then howling winds rushed by her ears with the sensation of falling. She tucked her legs into her chest as tightly as she could manage.
Jane plunged into the watery depths below, disrupting them with a mighty crash. She unfurled at the riverbed, floating motionlessly with no sound for her ears to hear except bubbling waters. Unclear which way she was facing, Jane squinted; the depths around her were as black as the night.
It was calm there.
Red light beams shone from below her, piercing through the murky water like stray bullets. A calming voice called out to her from within the recesses of her mind.
“Jane... there is much to be done.”
She could feel herself being pulled downwards.
No one heard from Cheryl DeVille after that day, another missing person in a city of lost people.
Some hikers claimed to have sighted her traipsing around Buck Ridge completely naked and drenched in blood, supposedly with antlers sprouting from her head.
“You’re that DeVille girl the police are looking for!”
“The new age is now.” she uttered as she faded into light before their eyes.
The police did not believe them.