It was a cruel damp night. The year was 1983; sex, drugs, and rock and roll were starting. Kids began listening to devious rock bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Motley Crew, filling the youth with bad influences and a taste for rebelion. Children and young teens lost their faith and innocence by caving into the temptations of the world’s evil. In the Stilton’s home, the night was filled with sinful events…
“God damn you!” An overweight, middle aged, bearded man barked at his under fed son. “You’re useless. Don’t got a damn clue. You’re the reason your mother left us.” He drew his fist back.
“Please, I’m sor-” Before the young boy could finish his sentence he felt the ridges of his fathers knuckles smash into his already bruised arm. He let out a painful screech.
“Next time don’t let the fire go out.” The man plopped down in his stained brown recliner, picking up the closest beer.
“I’m sorry sir… I- I forgot.” The boy said with a shudder. The man stomped his size 11 steel-toe boot down on the hardwood flooring. The boy flinched and tears began to form in his eyes.
“Did you let the fire go out on purpose?” The man said with a growl.
“No sir.” The boy said, avoiding eye contact.
“Because it’s beginning to seem like you want me to hurt you. Do you like when I beat you Michael?” He said snapping his greasy fingers. “How about you sit here on Daddy’s knee.” He said softly putting out his hands. The boy sniffed away his tears as he climbs upon his dirt cover blue jeans.
“You’re such a cute boy. If you didn’t have as many bruises and scratches you’d be even better.” The man said stroking his sausage fingers against Michael’s cheeks. “Shhhhh. Close your eyes buddy. It’s all going to be okay.” The man said with a smile filled with terror. A single tear travels down Michael’s face as he begins to close his eyes. He lets out a deep breath…
:Ten Years Later:
“Okay, who wants to close the prayer circle tonight?”
“Oh me, me, I wanna do it!” A squeaky young voice said from the side of the room.
“Okay Blake. Go a head.” Michael said with a smile.
“Dear Lord, um, thank you for this happy day and thank you for keeping everyone safe. Oh, um, and keep Sarah’s mom in your thoughts. We love you, God. Amen.”
“Amen.” Everyone said together.
“Good job Blake. That was a good one. Study is over. You all may go down stairs to your parents.” Michael said to the children as he wiped off the smudges on his glasses with the end of his black tie. Like a stampede of meerkats, all the children bolted towards the stairs.
“Careful children.” Michael shouts to them.
“You know, you are really good with those kids.” A beautiful, faint voice came from behind Michael. He shifts his glasses on his face, focusing on the blurry object in the corner.
“Oh Jennet. Couldn’t tell who you were, ahaha, glasses, am I right?” He said as his hands began to clam up.
“Haha, you’re funny. You know you are a great speaker. I really can get lost in your lessons. You’re extremely passionate. Not a lot of people can master that.” She said as her cheeks began to turn red.
“Well thank you. It’s just something I really care about. I love these kids, and I want them to come here for help and to feel safe.” He shifted his tie. “Church was the only place I felt safe when I was a kid.” He looked down at his shiny black shoes, swallowing the pain from the past.
“Well, you definitely touch these kids in a special way.” Jennet walked by sneaking a kiss on his cheek. “Goodnight Mikey, see you Sunday.” Michael’s eyes followed her till she disappeared from under the lamp post in the parking lot, then he slowly started down the stairs. Getting closer and closer to the bottom, the roars of loud children and instruments rang in his ears, bringing a smile to his face. Walking around the corner, Michael became bombarded by happy parents.
“Michael, Michael!” Everyone came running.
“Blake here talks about you all the time. You must be a great teacher.” One tall man said to him.
“Yeah, little Rosey has never been so intrigued by the word of God before. You’re doing something great here.” A younger women said.
“These kids are really learnin’. You got a gift from God boy.” A older man with a grey beard shouted in a southern accent.
“Thank you all, really, it’s just me speaking from the heart. I really must go. I’ve got some errands to run. You guys have a blessed night.” Michael said passing by them in a hurry. He quickly walked to his eggshell white Volkswagen Golf. He buckled his seat belt and let out a long sigh.
“What a day..” He said as he pulled out of the parking lot.
Michael laid wide awake in his bed staring at the popcorn style roofing tiles. His arms and legs began to ache as flashbacks popped in his head. Horrible memories of trauma and neglect filled his heart as a tear trickled down his chin. He wiped the salty tear and began embedding his nails into the palm of his hands until blood began to drip from the creases of his fingers. Michael let out a whimper as his lips began to pucker up. Turning to his side, he glanced over at the clock radio on his night stand. 6:48 A.M. Next to the radio was a golden picture frame with a young women and an infant in it. Michael reached for it and sat it on his chest.
“Oh Mom, why did you have to leave me. Why did this happen to me. What did I do?” He began to sob hysterically as snot and tears ran down his face. Then all of a sudden, the crying stopped. Michael’s eyes filled with hate and rage. He began to sit up, pulling his hair. “ Why would you do this to me!” He wailed. Michael stared at the picture for a quick second before he felt the fire start in his stomach. The frame flung across the room, smacking against the wall sending glass through the air. “Damn you!” He said as he stomped on the dismembered frame. Panting loudly, Michael moved the hair from his eyes. His eyes were black as coal and filled with a burning hatred. He stared at himself in the oval mirror above his dresser. Voices, from his head, screamed at him. “You’re useless… You can’t do anything right.. You’re nothing but a failure…”
Four beeps from the clock radio disturbed his unintentional torture. “7:30? I’ve got to go.” It was as if he completely transformed into a new person. His eyes lightened and a smile formed on his face again. He grabbed his Bible and ran out the door.
“Okay kids,” Michael said to the circle of young children. “Time for our first lesson. I’m going to recite a Bible verse, and you guys tell me what it means.”
“Okaay.” The children all say together.
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become the little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Michael closes his Bible and looks towards the kids. “So what do you guys think that meant? Cyle, what do you think?”
“I think, um, that you have to be as good as a baby to come to heaven.” The little blonde boy says as he picks a scab off his arm.
“Okay that’s good. What about you, Francey?” Francey was a little girl who was very shy who always seemed to have bruises and scrapes on her knees. Her shoe laces were never tied, and her face was always dirty.
“God is saying we all must be children to come to heaven. As open minded as a baby.” She looked away with red cheeks when Michael began to smile at her.
“Exactly.” Michael said before moving on to his next lesson.
At the end of the day Jennet passed out fliers to a Bible camp the church was arranging the previous week.
“Here you go kids, give these to your parents. Bring them back signed and get ready to go on a week long vacation! There will be a lake and lots of food. Michael here was chosen by the pastor to be the leader of all activities, so we all know it’s gonna be fun.”
“Wait, what?” Michael said confused. “This was never ran by me.”
“He thought it would be a great surprise. The children’s parents talk about how amazing you are with the kids. So who would be a better candidate than you?” Michael sat thinking of ways to get out of it. Her blue doe eyes made it very hard to deny.
“Um, ah, okay.” Michael said nervously.
After everyone went home, Michael stayed behind in the church reciting Bible verses, making new lesson plans, and talking to his God. After taking care of his studies, Michael sat in the back pew staring at the rose thorn covered cross upon the stage. It was dingy, crisp, and silent. Michael stared blankly at the cross for a while before a tear slid down his cheek. He began reminiscing on the days that had traumatized him. The days he went without food as his father ate meals fit for a king, and the nights he lied on the stained mattress without blankets, afraid to fall asleep. Fearing every moment his scandalous father would sneak up on him, touching and beating him. The memories triggered thoughts of his mother, causing Michael to fly into a rage fit, flipping pews over and tossing Bibles across the room. Anger filled the room and trapped Michael inside. His eyes were as black as coal and his face was hot. Michael, not thinking twice, ran over to the cross. He grabbed the cross and three thorns puncture his palm. “Dammit!” He looked down as the blood dripped down the sides of his hand. He dropped to his knees and buried his face into his covered hands. “Why God? Why must it be me who suffered. I try so hard.” He began sobbing horrendously, choking on tears and air. Underneath the loud sobs, Michael started to hear footstep approach him. He raised his blood splattered face to see who had been near him. A man in white had been standing in front of him. No one he had ever seen him before.
“Rise child.” The man said. Michael said nothing, just listened intently. “You are here for a purpose. You are a leader. You must make your family and conquer all evil in the world to be pure, my son.” The man said, stepping closer, laying his hand on Michael’s shoulder. A warm fuzzy feeling filled Michaels icy heart. The man started stepping back, “Place the child among them.” And he said; “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Michael, flabbergasted, stared straight till the figure completely evaporated. Michael ran out of the church, scurrying all the way home.
Michael bolted straight for his writing desk once he arrived at his home. He slammed a piece of notebook paper and a pencil down on the wooden surface. He began scribbling intensely. Michael sat in the same spot for hours not moving an inch. Once he was finally done he looked out the window. Birds chirped and the sun shined. This was a sign of a new beginning for young Michael. He lifted his pile of unorganized papers and let out an accomplished sigh. “This.” He said. “This is the beginning of a whole new world.” He smiled and kissed the stack. “I’ve finally found what I’ve been meant to do.” He stopped and looked around. “I’m going to lead the righteous to the land of paradise.” He gave a crooked smile.
:Six Days Later; Sunday:
Michael made his ritual coffee and headed out the door with his duffle bag and swim wear for the church retreat. “Oh, what a happy day.” Michael said with a grin on his face looking towards the radiant sunshine as he stepped into his car. Walking into the church was like a zoo. Children ran wild, excited for their eventful week, and clingy parents sobbed from separation anxiety. Michael tried making his way through the chaos. “Why did I sign up for this? Oh wait I didn’t,” Michael said to himself as he made his way to the back service room where he had bumped into Jennet.
“Hi Michael!” Jennet’s eyes lit up when seeing him. “Are you ready for this crazy adventure we have got ourselves into?” She said giggling.
“Oh most definitely, been planning all week. I’ve got some intense lessons that will really change the kids.” Michael said confidently, tapping his briefcase full of plans.
“Good, I’m looking forward. I love hearing you teach.” Jennet said brushing her fingers along his tie as she exited the room. Michael’s face turned red and flutters formed in his stomach.
“Parents say goodbye. Time to load the bus,” said the Pastor, guiding all the children out the door towards the big chader bus. The bus ride was long and loud. The children, anxious to get to their home away from home, jumped from set to seat as their mentors scolded them for their dangerous actions. Eventually the bus came to a loud sudden stop.
“Here.” The overweight bus driver said with a monotone growl.
“Okay kids, single file line. Line up on the sidewalk so we can make sure we have everyone.” Jennet ordered.
After making sure everyone made it in one piece, the mentors started splitting the children up to show them where their cabins were. Michael had a group of 10, the largest group. They had been assigned cabin 6. After gathering the children in the cabin, he began roll call.
“Raise your hand when I call you. Jack, Francey, Cole, Gracey, Holden, Mark, Blake, Heather, Jim, aanndd Hary. Okay everyone is here. Unpack and meet at the cafeteria at noon for lunch and we will start our first service. Go have fun.” The kids dispersed and ran towards the courtyard. Michael stepped out to smell the fresh air and hear the birds chirp. Looking around, he saw children enjoying the moment, running around playing with bugs and cannonballing in the lake. Bringing back memories of his hell of a childhood, he became angry and walked a trail he had discovered when the retret first started. Walking down the path, Michael began to write lesson plans to show and guide them to the kingdom of happiness. Getting sucked into his work, Michael became oblivious to those around him. Not looking at his surroundings, he came up on an enormous root sitting out of the dirt. Walking over it, the tip of his shoe snagged the root sending him face first into a pile of mud and sticks. Pulling his face away from the imprint in the mud, he realized he had broken his glasses.
“Damn you!” Michael, furious, stomping on the mud caked glasses. From behind him, he hears a faint giggle. Pushing brush and branches out of the way, he sees a blurry Jennet, but not alone. Jealousy filled Michaels body. Jennet had been sitting on a rock with a stout blonde haired man. He had large hands and a wide chest, making Michael look scrawny and unhealthy, making Michael’s blood boil more.
“You’re so funny and sweet Kevin.” Jennet said pushing on his chest.
“You’re a dork.” The man said smiling at her. There was a moment of silence as the two on the rock gazed at each other. Michael’s jaw clenched at the sight. The man slowly moved his hand on Jennets and began to lean in. Michael’s heart stopped as his eyes got wide.
“Don’t do it, don’t do it.” Michael repeated in his head. He watched Jennet’s face turn red as she closed her eyes. Michael let go of the branches and stomped away. There was a fire in his eyes and hatred in his heart. “Why would she do this to me! I thought she liked me. I’m not good enough for anyone!” He wailed, throwing his books at the nearest pile of bushes. He began ripping any and every plant out of the ground, tearing branches down and kicking rocks. He started towards a big bush of flowers when he stopped in his tracks.
“What in the world?” He started to inspect the flowers. “These are Prairie Bundleflower.” It was a green fern looking flower with an odd smell. Michael knew exactly what these were used for. “This contains DMT. One of the craziest psychedelic drugs out there. How is it out here?” Michael looked over both shoulders making sure no one had been watching. He grabbed the handkerchief from his shirt pocket and picked a couple ferns. Then he folded it back up and slid it in his pocket. Turning around, Michael was frightened by a giant coal black raven that had swooped down from the towering trees. Michael’s stomach jumped. He stood in fright not able to move. Beep…beep…beep.. His fright was broken by the 12 o’clock alarm that was set on his wrist watch. He started on his way back to the cabin to put the flowers in a safe spot.
“Everyone grab a tray, everyone gets one serving, and once you are done, you must wash your plate.” The pastor announced to the children in the cafeteria.
“Hey Michael.” Jennet began walking up to him.
“Hi.” Michael said very plan. Jennet felt confused, but paid no mind.
“Come sit with me. I’m lonely.” She said smiling, grabbing Michael’s hand, pulling him towards her table. Michael tried his hardest to forget what he saw, but it burned a hole in his heart. She had been the first women since his mother had left. He let her into his life, and he felt nothing but betrayal. A feeling he was too familiar with.
“Are you okay Michael?” Jennet asked concerned,
“I’m fine.” Michael said hiding his true feelings. Jennet took a hold of his hand and laid it on her leg.
“Well, I’m always here for you Michael. You mean a lot to me.” Michael pulled his hand away.
“I mean a lot to you? That’s funny.” Before even starting their prayer or any service Michael throws his tray away and stormed back to his cabin. Blowing off the scheduled plans.
“Everyone uses and lies to me! These people don’t deserve me! They are all damned. Damned to hell. Hatred sinners.” He rose his fist to the sky and cursed those who weren’t worthy. He started throwing lamps and books off the tables, ripping down paintings, and flipping beds over. His eyes filled with a terrifying black hate. Not realizing, he picked up the air conditioning unit and hurled it through the double paned window. Sending a crash through the valley. Glass went flying through the air, showering the grass with a shiny coat. Michael ran out of the broken window. He flung his arm, furiously running down the pitch black path. He suddenly came to a forced stop. A large dark figure moved in the dark in front of Michael. The night was so black there was nothing to see but the outline of the ghostly figure. Michael, horror-struck, let out a tiny wimper, sending the figure into full alert. It swiftly turned around, looking directly at Michael. It had beating red eyes, and seemed to set the environment around it on fire.
“It’s time I finally caught you child. You were a tough one. But I knew I would win you over.” The creature said with a menacing laugh. It reached its hand out, laying it on Michael’s shoulder sending a searing burn to his core. “Follow me kid.” The creature said as he started forward, continuing to keep a tight grip on Michael. “You are so worried about that God you “love” so much, when it was I, the Devil, who could answer all your questions.” Michael’s heart began to jump out his chest. He was too terrified to speak. “What? Ain’t gonna say anything? That’s fine, it’s usually the reaction I get. Listen, you want to matter? You want to change the world? Be known and loved by everyone? I got you, just listen closely. You take this,” The Devil handed Michael a vial of liquids. “You put this in their water, food, showers, clothes, ANYTHING, and you got everyone under your wing. You’re my man on the upside. You are going to guide these people to he-,” The Devil caught himself. “Uh- heaven. Got it. Good.” He slapped Michael on the back then disappeared, sending a shock through Michael’s spine. As soon as Michael recollected himself, he was off, sprinting towards the dock on the lake. Michael pulled the vial out of his pocket. Looking up at the radiating moon and quiet waters, he smiled. “I’m going to matter.”
:The Next Day:
Michael woke up at 6 A.M. to the chirping birds and warm sunlight in his face. Once he was finished getting dressed, he pulled from a drawer the DMT from the bush he discovered earlier. He made his way to the kitchen. Snooping and searching, Michael finally found the breakfast for the children, big pots of oatmeal. He dropped 5 little flakes in each pot, then making his way to the laundry rooms, dropping a fern in every detergent bottles and rubbing them in the lint traps, he started back towards his cabin. On his way he bumped into Jennet.
“Hi, Michael.” She said looking down at the rocks.
“Hello, Jennet. Today is the day I go down in history,” He kissed her on the lips and began to walk away. “You’ll see.” He said smiling. Jennet, extremely confused, walked towards the lunch rooms to set up for breakfast. Once breakfast was over, and the sun was at its highest, the effects of the liquid began. Children began acting delirious, and the adults started spitting nonsense. Michael had been the only one unaffected by the mysterious liquid. Michael, standing in the middle of the craziness, looked around him unsure of what he has done.
“See, just what you wanted.” A voice came from behind Michael. His neck started to sweat, and he felt a ball in his throat.
“What is happening?” Michael asked.
“They are now all under your control. They have been so drugged out of their mind that they can be manipulated by anyone. Especially someone they already love so much.” The Devil smiled, showing his needle point teeth. Before Michael or the Devil could say anything else, a child ran over to Michael.
“God, it is he. Teach me. Show me. Lead me.” The child said throwing himself on the ground, kissing the very spot Michael stood. Once one child started, the rest followed. Soon the whole camp was on the ground worshiping Michael.
“See, told ya kid,” The Devil said lighting up a cigarette, “You didn’t even have to say anything. They already know and trust you. With this stuff, you have them all at the tip of your fingers. You can do whatever you want with these people. You are their leader.” He blew his smoke in Michael’s face as a deep chuckle escaped. Michael gazed upon all those who were “willing” to comply with him. He felt the power start to overwhelm himself. A sadistic grin formed on his face. Michael raised his arms to the air.
“MY CHILDREN!” Michael said towards the crowd. The Devil chuckled as he put his cigarette out and disappeared. “Listen to I, your God.” Michael smiled. “I will lead you to the promised land and defeat sin in our world!” A loud roar came from the crowd that rattled Michael’s bones. He liked this feeling, too much. This is great. Michael said to himself. After the roar began to disperse, he continued. “You precious children are the key to our future. The adults of our day have poisoned the youth, damning us forever. But, I.. I am here to stop this. To turn our world around starting with you all.” He glanced intensely at the crowd. “To start our transformation, you all must study an individual who has sinned. Sinned so badly it’s an abomination to even walk our earth. Then you must send that sinner to where they belong. Hell.” The crowd dispersed, almost robotically, after Michael stopped speaking. The delusional children and church officials scattered, looking for shameful candidates.
“I’m important. I’m the one controlling instead of being controlled.” Michael’s fist tightened and his sinister grin grew larger. “This is going to be great.”
A couple hours later, Michael’s flock gathered in the courtyard. One by one, they would approach Michael, giving detailed descriptions of their applicants. Telling him their life schedule, what they eat, when they sleep, and most importantly the biggest sin they have been committing. They studied adulterers, pedophiles, lyers, and murderers. Michael was overwhelmingly happy with how quickly his plan was working. It was all falling right in place.
That night, while Michael’s minions were resting for their big day, he went through his checklist making specific notes on each individual. Telling his disciples his way for taking out the sinner, usually in the cruelest way. As Michael wrote down these sinister ways to defeat the sinful race, it filled him with great joy, joy from defeating the type people who had destroyed his life. It gave him happiness knowing that he’s torturing these people who deserved it, instead of them hurting the people who don’t. After going through all the targets, he stacked the papers in a neat pile. He let out a happy and successful sigh. He climbed into his soft bed, closed his eyes, and smiled. He slept soundly as the thought of him cleansing his world ran through his head.
Michael woke to the sound of thunder and rain. The world looked bleak and dark, but in Michael’s mind it was still bright and shining on this day of rebirth. Michael connected to the loudspeaker, “Children, we all shall meet in the dining hall to discuss our next move.” Once everyone was rounded up, Michael jumped onto the stage. He grabbed the microphone that was presented on stage and held it close to his mouth. Quietly he started, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become the little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” He paused a moment before he continued. “This is what we live by. This is what we sleep by. This is you now. You are the children God was talking about. We are the children that the others must model to be welcome to his kingdom. WE are the children to morph this world into what God has intended for us. He inspirited I, knowing I’m the only one powerful enough to lead you all to happiness. Together we shall do what our beautiful God has written for us and for those who wish not to listen.” The crowd began to clap and yell out Michael’s name. “Once you, my children, finish your plentiful and blessed breakfast, your task will commence. Remember children, get rid of the sinners at all cost and follow EVERY direction I have given you. We shall meet back when the new day awakes.” The crowd, cheering and roaring, dispersed one at a time. Michael, after his speech was over, headed back towards his cabin to conjure up his next plan.
Once he went to his cabin, he sat up a video recorder in the corner of his room. He began to slip over his head a black coat. It had a pointed, black hood that covered his face with two holes for his eyes. He lit 6 candles and shut off all the lights. He tapped the oval button on top of the camera. He backed up, staring at the red blinking light, showing his recording had then started.
“Children of the word, I am God’s chosen one. I am here to lead the worthy ones to the righteous kingdom and send the ones who aren’t to the burning home where they belong…” As Michael sat safely in his cabin, something was happening on the outside.
One child had been in the middle of their task when they were hit with a force that had drained them, sending him to the ground. His vision became disordered, and he felt confused. He looked up and saw two cowering adults. “Wha-what’s happening.” The child grabbed his head trying to figure out where he was. “Mom? Dad?” The child said to the two terrified faces. “What’s going on.” The child looked down at their hands and saw a blood covered axe. “What is this from?” The child screeched as he tossed the axe on the hardwood floor. The child ran to his parents, hugging them with dread. Suddenly all the children from the camp had fallen out of their trance, exposing Michael and his headquarters to everyone. Michael was in for a very big surprise.
Back at the cabin, Michael, still in his black cloak, had been rambling on about the destruction these sinful people had caused to his precious world. Then suddenly, Michael stopped to the faint noise of footsteps. Before Michael could approach the door, it came tumbling down from an outside force.
“GET ON THE GROUND. DON’T MOVE!” Six S.W.A.T. officers trampled down the door, pummeled Michael to the ground. Shouting at him and sticking the cold barrels of their guns against his face. They cuffed Michael and dragged him heinously out the door. Once the reached outside, loud thuds from the sky pierced Michael’s ears as dust and grass whipped up in his face. He looked towards the sky and noticed three S.W.A.T. choppers circling him. Looking around him, he realized the whole camp was surrounded by hundreds of police officers. Each officer had a child that Michael had corrupted.
As the officers cocked Michael’s head to place him in the police car, Michael’s face turned pale and black. He had realized what he had done. He had sinned.