(Disclaimer: Relax, it’s just a story. Enjoy!)
The Secret Psalm
By: Antwan Crump
“ As the seeds of sin, we dwell – raising hypocrisy. Apparently mediocrity. The atrocities of the forlorn and the unborn are unquestionably out imminent downfall. Fall, fall, fall. I do recall – lest you not- the one God. The one true God above – that promises to damn your souls, without reprieve, without relief. Without belief, you are damned to lucifer’s swinging crucible. Deftly defiant of the lord our god – your flesh shall not be missed. Yet your souls will burn – faith does not miss. Sometimes, the only thing left to build -is a fire.”
The priest continued to ramble until he became inaudible – too lost in his egregious stammerings. We walked past the abortion clinic – unaware of the flame that he had just lit under a dying tree just outside of the building that would offer a choice to many downtrodden – would be- parents. The crowds rallied outside. Ike and I just kept walking and talked about the pick-up game that we had just completed.
“They’re burning the clinic!” – I can still remember the woman’s’ screams. You know it’s funny what time does to your memories. To this day I’m unsure if she was championing the early subtle flames that had been set – or damning them. In any case, they had finally gotten our attention.
Dozens of patients fled from the inside of the building, only to be welcomed by dozens more of the pro-lifers outside. It was interesting. For weeks since the clinic had opened – they had preached tolerance, understanding, patience, and above all- credence to the scripture. Yet here they were, creating a barrier of screams, intolerance, and hurling rotten eggs.
It would have been funny if this had been any other situation. Think about it. Had that building not been on fire – this all could have just been reconstrued as a dirty prank by some angry people. Maybe, I’m cynical. Maybe I just had a hard time processing what had been so evidently put in front of me.
On one side innocent women – bowing out of a task that they certainly weren’t prepared for – on the other- people that hated them for making the responsible decision – and that would hate them even more, had they chosen to keep their unwanted offspring. Maybe I’m the asshole here. But in this particular situation – couldn’t everybody think that? I’m narcissistic at best. I don’t blame you for being turned off. The firefighters hated my humor too. But I was fourteen, what else could I had done? There was nothing left to do but wait.
The flames grew larger, as the protesters refused to let the doctors, young ladies, and supporters exit the building -without being pelted with the eggs. I changed my mind – this was horrible to watch. As they moved closer to the group of protesters – they were pushed back. The firefighters just kind of stood there. I mean – I get it. This is a Christian town and all – but wasn’t this hypocritical?
Blazing and blazing the situation had begun to show itself as more than just a mild disagreement – with an overreacting side. How could a group get so angry – that they defeat their own purpose? Not only would these innocent people die – but so would the lives that these protesters claimed they’re trying to save. Okay, I’d seen enough. Ike and I threw rocks.
We were able to distract the Christians long enough for about a third of the women to escape. At least that was before the police caught us. We were thrown in the back of the patrol car, as they helped the protesters collect the fleeing young women. A brawl broke out – the fire still burned. Handcuffed to each other in the back seat – Ike and were forced to watch. It was the longest fifteen minutes that I had ever had to bare.
One by one the civilians were collected and told to enter to building- that had by then been consumed in flame. The doctors walked in first – after several moments of unsuccessful pleading for the lives of their patients. I had never seen Ike so quiet. I had never been so infuriated. We had seen our arresting officer raise a gun to the damned group. They were with them. This gave Ike and I no sympathy for what would later come.
As the final victim entered the building – they chained the front door and all of the emergency exits. To drown out the screams – the priest continued to preach his blood soaked words.
“ We did not create the chapel. We are the Chapel!” he said with undeserved optimism.
A woman screamed, “Please, help us!”
The priest continued , “ And we did not follow through with the law of God – we sought justice for it!
A man screams, “For the love of God – there are children in here!”
The priest continued , “ And as followers of our lord and savior – Jesus Christ our God – We have done right by our church. Judge not – lest ye’ be judged. And rest assured my congregation – they will be judged rightfully and swiftly by our wonderful god.” he stepped off from his soapbox to near unanimous applause from the mixed group of pro-lifers and the members of his church.
“And then what happened?” Jonah asked
Job replied. “Then, Ike and I just kind of faded. The officer brought us each home, told our parents what had happened, and momma thanked him.
“You ever go back?”
The next day Job and Ike snuck out of the house -against their parents’ wishes. The small town had grown quiet since the incidents of the previous day – albeit that was normally how the town was. In this highly religious section of the south – they may as well had been completely cut off from the current year.
Families were large, the men worked, and the women stayed home – caring for the children and tending to the chores. Job and Ike were barely teenagers when they had first uncovered the backward nature of this small society that they had been trapped in. Though they dreamed of the day that they could escape – the lack of information and proper schooling kept most people mentally bound to the town and its’ ways.
Ike had heard rumors that he had an older brother at one point. He rarely spoke of him to Job – but when he did – it was always a description of some sort of hell-bound pagan – who carried around a shiny book , with no pages – just a lit glass sheet. He would sparingly question his parents about those memories. This lessened still after a particular incident that had sent his mother into a sobbing rage – and led to Ike’s father beating him -to near death.
Events like the one that the two had just experienced weren’t uncommon – though this was the first time that either had seen it first hand. In a way, they were ready for this sort of initiation. The two quickly discovered that these instances were more than they could handle in conscience.
The outside world had made several attempts to naturalize this small town. However, with everyone in the town’s roots deeply embedded in their extremist level religious practices – most of these attempts had failed- most recently, of course, the abortion clinic.
A few of the rumored townies that had made it out – had returned. Some as doctors, others as administrators, all as activists against these egregious practices -and particularly its’ leader -Pastor Levi.
Pastor Levi came from a long line preachers. If you were to hear him tell the story he’d tell you that one of his ancestors had been a disciple of the messiah himself. Going so far as to say that his bloodline had been hand-picked to carry the word of god throughout the centuries and generations.
Most of the town bought into the tale – those who didn’t were too afraid to question it. His level of influence made it outstandingly easy for Levi to impregnate the women – his anti-abortionist stance, may as well have been a front for his familial conservatism. As the old rumors went his father and grandfather before him had used a similar tactic. Most of the town was directly related to the Levi’s. Again, this didn’t slow down his sexual deviancy, and again no one was brave enough to question it.
Ike and Job met at a nearby market. They would usually fear being caught – but after a mass sacrifice like the one that had occurred on the previous day- most of the adults would attend service – where pastor Levi would assuredly be receiving yet another message from God.
The two continued a few miles out- to the scene of the scorching – naively hoping that perhaps there had been some survivors that they could dig out. The scene was heartbreaking to the two, who had expected to see -at the very least – some semblance of the structure that had once stood in the place of this giant pile of ash.
A few beams stood tall, one wall barely erect, and the smell of burning flesh was almost too much for them to handle. Determined to try – they tied their shirts over their noses and mouths and proceeded to dig. They dug well into the night – only able to recover some bones, charred clothing, and medical equipment (that they couldn’t even recognize). Finally giving up the two stared at one another in silence – then began to walk to church.
“Why would you go back to the church?” Jonah asks with terrified intrigue.
“To fight” Job answered.
Arriving outside of the church the two formulated a plan and separated. Ike retrieved several pieces of the thick rope – used mainly to tie down the horses. Job retrieved matches and collected piles of dried wood – placing them at the corners of the church – he waited for Ike’s signal. As Ike tied the church doors closed – Job lit each corner of the church. The two waited outside, holding back smiles while hearing Levi preach-
“ The lord has sent me a message! He’s sent you a message! All of us! Our new goal is quite simple. Just as we have liberated those poor girls – rest their souls- we must now liberate our own sinners. You know who you are. I know who you are! You may hide from us, you may hide from me – but you can not hide from the fury of the Lord. No! No! You can’t. The Lord will burn the sinners! And when he comes for you , you best be ready.”
The congregation screams ,“Amen!”
“And when the lord does finally smite thee, do yourself a favor and just sing a psalm and go peacefully.” Levi jokes as smoke begins to fill the church. Job and Ike watched as flames consumed the outside of the building, as the roof crumbled, and then -as the walls collapsed.
“Wait. What happened?” Jonah asks.
“They sang a psalm and went peacefully. The next day Ike and I began to our trek North – until we got to a city. We met some friendly folks and told them our story. Obviously, we left out the whole mass murder thing. Not long after that, we bounced around a few foster homes until we were eighteen. That was about ten years ago.”
Ike screams from down the hall – “Job! Are you talking to Saint Jonah again? Come on, we’ve got to start service soon!”
Job answers, “Yea! Be there in a minute!”
Then the statue [Jonah] asked , “What will you do now?”
Job answers “Mass.” He smiles and continues into the church – envisioning the statue of Jonah returning from human – back into stone.
3 thoughts on “The Secret Psalm”
Interesting moral ambiguity going on in this piece. And especially the element of Job talking to Jonah brings a very dark atmosphere. Nice work.
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Thank you. I’m glad that it intrigued you.