The birds sang a song of death this morning… as they did every morning for Pastor Marvin Humphrey. He dreaded the dew and coffee. And food didn’t taste the same no more either. It was the dullest of lives. He was numb in every orifice, and paralyzed in the brain. He only knew one thing anymore: how to reside over funeral processions… barely.
“Fuck...” Grumbled Pastor Humphrey as he pressed snooze on his phone.
He hit snooze two more times before begrudgingly rising from his bed. He slung a needle filled with meth and shot up to the moon and beyond. He fell back into his pillow, and dug his eyes deep behind his lids. He fell into a deep stupor. The clouds of his mind turned black, and a distant fire bloomed in the distance. A face blossomed from a muddy and putrid pit inches from his feet. Its hands reached out... and reached out even further. Like an elastic tube with fingers. A scream built from a searing silence.
He awoke in a sweat and his skin felt cold & hot. He scrubbed his eyes and hazily viewed the time on his phone.
“Shit! I’m late! The diocese will have my head!”
Pastor Humphrey rushed himself to his closet and bristled past military fatigues hung neatly alongside his manicured Marine Uniform. Both had been untouched, though hard to miss, for many years. He gazed for a few moments like he did every morning at them. He fell into his usual trance. But he snapped out of it when he heard a scream sound off in the distance... He snatched the Lord’s uniform and flung it on hastily. He flew by the mirror near his front door and saw a slanted face. But he paid it no mind. He was going to be late... for the third time – this week. He pounded the steering wheel over and over again. He zoomed through traffic like a banshee. However, he happened to glance at a pile up of cars doused in flames and smoke. The cops and ambulances must be on their way?
“Fucking hallucinations man... I got to ho’le it back a bit with that shit...”
(Save the child! Save the Child!)
Or maybe not, he thought.
The road got less perilous, but not less odd. People roamed the streets from different ages in time. There were Ancient Greeks, African Tribesman, Arabic Swordsman, and Japanese Warriors fully dressed in garbs of old. He shook his head violently and their costumes dissipated. People wore jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers again. But as he punched the gas the pedal, he heard a sputtering and loud boom. His car came to a halt and smoke arose from the engine.
He got out of the car and ditched it on the side of the freeway. He was about a mile away... figures! He thought. But he had not taken care of his car for some time. He only spent his money on food and drugs. Rent and other things became secondary – if not dead last.
The VA had stopped issuing him his medicine after he became violent one visit and demanded more. He did not spend time in prison, but his benefits were stricken from him. A doctor noticed his mental state was degrading and took a liking to him. Doctor Michelle Perry did everything she could. But even her Love and Care could not save his soul. He only wanted drugs. And more drugs. He accidently punched Dr. Perry across the face during his rancorous rage, and he no longer had allies on his side. He was a soldier in peril, with no back up, no ammo, and without rations. The system went AWOL on him.
As Pastor Humphrey marched down the pike, he kept seeing things out of the ordinary: Dragon creatures he had not seen before; not even from a story book or show. These visions did not stick for long. They went in and out of periphery. They would suddenly vanish when he literally blinked an eye. He looked down at his phone and knew he had to call. But the battery was dead. In the phone’s reflection, his face was slanted... but he quickly looked away. Had I lost my mind? He thought. He tried not to care and kept marching forward. He was going to be late, that was for sure – but at the least – he was going to arrive.
He found the garden arches on the front gate and hustled through. No one was around and he found that odd. It was going to be a funeral with about 30-40 in attendance. But no one was gathered in the front hall. He stopped moving quickly and stood silently. He looked up at a grey sky. Rain had not fallen, but it might at any moment. The world was calm, but on a slight edge. He walked down the hall and found pictures of himself hanging, but with a violent shake of the head, they morphed back into the faces of past donors and philanthropists. He paused to look at one that looked like his father, but before he could investigate further, a man burst from an office door.
“You’re late! Come, come, come. Follow me!” Said the man. He was wearing a grey robe.
“I know... but aren’t the processions done in the main hall?”
“Not this one. They had a pre-ceremony in the main hall, but they could wait no longer. They grew angry and stormed outside. Now, come!”
“But I have not seen the body. I must see if it is properly dressed and ready for burial.”
“It was done in your absence by Father Uriel. Now we must make haste! You will make it just in time for the final words.”
Pastor Humphrey had no choice. He took a deep breath and prepared apologies for the attendees. He went through it over and over again. But somehow, he knew he would not find the proper words to ease the pain. His tardiness was disrespectful to the dead...
Humphrey and the Man in Grey walked down the hall swiftly. They came to a double door and the Man in Grey opened both.
“Are you ready?” Said the Man in Grey.
“As ready as I’ll ever be...,” said Humphrey.
As they exited the hall, they entered a meadow in the clouds of an unknown galaxy. A peaceful brook flowed off of Universe’s edge. It dissipated into the clouds of magmatic stars. A figure dressed in all white was shining near a casket in the middle of a grassy hill. It was bright and blinding if looked at closely. Like the sun. The figures arms opened and the light shined brighter. Humphrey could not see and did not look up. But the light dimmed to a tolerable viewing. Humphrey looked once more and the face was grotesque and unexplainably maleficent.
“It is time Marvin...,” said the Man in Grey. “Any last words?”
Humphrey looked back and the building was gone.