Note: The views expressed in this story are not, nor have they ever been, the views of it's author. The author means no offense to those who do believe and hopes he has presented your views respectfully.
You know what they say about curiosity and the cat. Though it can be hard not to be curious about something that challenges your beliefs in such a way...
I've never really been challenged in my beliefs. I was raised a Christian and surrounded by Christians, everything was Christian so I basically just accepted it. I've never had a reason to doubt any of my beliefs... Well, honestly, I hardly had any beliefs.
I guess I was bound to meet somebody who didn't believe what I've been told I believe eventually, and I was bound to be frightened by it, even if I hardly believed in anything.
Quite an anomaly in our little town... A new church is to be built but when me and Jeb investigated the construction area on the way home, we noticed they were digging what seemed a bottomless pit. On the edge of town, under a partial tree canopy, sunset. "That is... Deep." I said. Jeb says "Yep." "Why would they need a hole so... So deep? Isn't this going to be a church?" "Yep." "Why would a church need such a deep basement?... Eerie." "Yep."
In a dinner conversation with my parents, in the kitchen, at a cheap wooden table, white walls, I mentioned "That church that's going up down the street... They are digging up a rather deep basement." "I saw that." my father remarked. "It's... Abnormal." "Sounds like a cult." "Oh it's gotta be a cult." Mother came in with "Our new neighbours moved here with the church." "Interesting... Have you met them?" I asked. "Yep. They seem nice." "Are they... Too nice? Creepy nice?" "Now that you mention it... A little. Yeah." "Mhmm" says father.
Me and Jeb were back at the site, checking things out... "I don't know how I feel about this. I should probably mind my own business but the place just creeps me out." I said. "I don't know. They seem like nice people. As long as they love Jesus Christ I don't got a problem." said Jeb. "The niceness isn't helping." "What kind of harm could they possibly cause?" "I don't know... Cult stuff." Jeb laughs and says "Cult stuff..."
I was walking out of the house, into the well managed front lawn with a tree canopy, when our new neighbour called out to me. "Hello there!" "Oh. Hello." "Howdy neighbour. You must be Darren." he said with a big grin on his face. "Yep. And you are?" "Roland's the name. Nice to meet you." "Nice to meet you too. What brings you to our town?" "Well sir. We decided to move to a place a little simpler. A place that might understand us." "I see. So you're with... That new church, correct?" "The Church of Modern Prophets, that's right." "Hm. Well nice to meet you." "You too."
Sitting around the fire eating sunflower seeds at night, nothing much visible but the fire and us, maybe a little bit of trees in the background... "Jay should be here any minute" says Jeb. "Cool." I said, then "My new neighbours are weird. Weird like that creepy cult and it's creepy basement." "Still thinkin' about the church, are you?" "Can't stop thinkin' about it." Jay comes up to us with a case of beer. "Hey! Where's the party at?" says Jay. "Party? This ain't no party." says Jeb. "Well we have the booze and we have over two people. That's a party." "I ain't throwin' no parties." "Well I guess I'll just leave then." "You see that new church that went up at the end of my street?" I said. Jeb laughs. "Why yes I did." "You see them digging the basement?" "No. No I didn't." "Hm. It's really fucking deep. Tell 'em Jeb." "It's deep." "Yeah... You know what we should do... We should sneak in there." Agitated, Jeb says "Holy!" Jay says "Yes we should. But let's get drunk first." "Deal."
We came up to the church, only to notice it had been set ablaze. "Huh." I said. "Huh..." Jeb says. "It took... What was that, three days? I guess they're not welcome here either." "I guess not." "Sad..." "Yes it is..." "I mean they creeped me out but they couldn't have possibly been that bad..." Jay comes in with "Oh sure... Play it innocent. I know what you did." "I was with you all night." "I know what you did..." And we shared a fairly awkward laugh.
At the dinner table with my parents again... My father says "Who in this town would do such a thing? I don't know anybody that would do such a thing." "You know everybody?" I said. "Pretty much." "No, you just know all the normal people." "I guess." He then says "They're putting a community centre up in it's place." "Oh good." "Yep."
Back at the fire pit... "So they're putting a community centre up." I said. Jeb says "I know. I'm doing the flooring." "Oh cool." "Yep." "I wish I had a job... And a house..." Jay comes in with "I don't. I got Jeb's house." "Good point." Jeb says "Yep. They gotta tear up the old basement before putting the new one in." "...So you'll be in the old basement."
Jeb brings me to the new community centre and tells me... "I tore up the floor around the hole and there was a passageway further down the basement." I say "Huh... Well, shall we?" "...Yes. Wait no." "No?" "...I'll go after you." "...Pussy." I took a look down the hole. "I'm gonna go back and get a flashlight."
I dropped through the floor into the hole. It's dark, I can't see anything. I turn the flashlight on and reveal a set of wooden stairs. I take a long, creepy walk down the stairs. About half way down the stairs I yell "You comin'?" and Jeb says "Let me know what you find down there first." I laughed. Pussy. "Okay." A little further down I notice a smell and cover my nose. Uh-oh.
At the bottom I see white walls, an altar, some empty shelves, some pews, and... Three mother fucking decomposing bodies. I dropped the flashlight. I yelled "Oh shit! Oh shit there's some bodies down here!!" and Jeb yells "What was that!?" "There's three bodies down here!" "I ain't goin' down there!" "Fair enough!" I climb the stairs back up to the surface. At the top I say "Pull me up before the zombies get me!!" I have a feeling my curiosity is going to get me killed.
"Oh shit... Huh... This wasn't arson." "I guess not, no." "Huh."
Back at the fire pit... Jeb tells me "So I was talkin' to the owner of the community centre... Say's he's a member of The Church of Modern Prophets." "What!?" "Yep." "Well that's... That's awfully curious." "Yep." Jay says "What's going on? We've been infiltrated!" "Yes we have. Did he try and brainwash you?" I said. "We talked a lot about the church, yep." "What did he say?" "Well he talked about the old ways. He says they're conservatives in the truest sense and then he ranted for awhile about the word conservative." "Did you ask him about the basement?" "Nope." "Hm." "The man made some sense." "Oh did he?" Jay says "Oh god he's been brainwashed." Jeb says "I ain't goin' to attend a sermon or nothin'" "...I would have asked about the basement. Not the bodies but the basement" I said. "I didn't wanna' know." "Hm... And you promise me you haven't been brainwashed." "I don't want nothin' to do with these folks." "Yeah..."
At the dinner table... "They caught the arsonist." my father says. "W-What!?" "Said he didn't do it. The cult said they wouldn't press charges." "They wouldn't press charges. OKAY." "Huh?" "What is it?" "We broke into the basement, okay!? We broke into the basement and there was three dead bodies down there." "What!?" Mother says "You did what!?" and father, looking surprised said "Woah... Woah..." Mother says "I don't want you getting in any trouble with these people. They sound dangerous." "Oh they're dangerous" I said. "You're not going to get in any trouble with them, now are you? Don't go pokin' around or anything." Father says "Your mother's right. That's right. Don't do it." "...Fine! Fine.."
I came and visited Jeb at work again. "You gotta introduce me to this guy. I want to know about the basement." "...I guess so, fine." "Thank you." "No problem. Let's go."
In his partially renovated office... "What's with the basement!?" "Woah! Excuse me?" Jeb says "I, uh... I found the entrance to a second basement." The owner says "You didn't go down there, did you!?" "No! No..." says Jeb. I say "What's down there!?" "It's a secret... Look I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to... It's only for the higher ups in The Church of Modern Prophets." "And you're not one of them?" "No... Not yet. I am being considered." "I see..." "You promise me you didn't go down there?" "...Yes." "Good. Don't. You don't want to see me shed this pleasant exterior." "All right." With a big smile, reaching for a handshake he said "Good!" and shook my hand. "You know, the two of you look like interesting young lads. Why don't you stop by my place for coffee later? I'd like to tell you about the tenets of our church..." "Certainly."
At the dinner table... "So... Me and Jeb are going to have coffee with the man building the community centre later... He's a member of that cult." "I see..." my father says. My mother says, quite distraught, "What are you doing having coffee with these people!?" "I'm interested in seeing him try to sell me this cult." "They're dangerous!" "It's just a pleasant conversation about the tenets of their church." "I don't want you having anything to do with these people..." "Well I'm going... Don't worry about it. He doesn't know that I know anything about the bodies." "I don't like this..."
Millard, the owner of the community centre's house, white walls, wooden furniture, gaudy sofa and love seat... "So we decided to form our own community. Away from all those who seem to disrespect our rights." "I see..." "It's better this way... Our church could not truly flower until we made this decision. Now we can truly live the way we please." "I see... So you built a commune." "Yes... Yes... We built a commune." "Interesting." "This way we can live like our forefathers. We can live like a proper community. A community that cares about it's residents rather than these stale, lifeless communities. We did things right the first time." "I see..." "Now I intend to sell you on our virtues." "Please do." "For starters, we believe in the Old Testament Bible." "Not sellin' me..." "I figured as such. I decided we needed to get that out of the way first." "Now I'm just going to be listening to you thinkin' this guy believes in the Old Testament." "Yes, but we believe in it for a reason. It is central to our philosophy. We did it right the first time." "It's just, I'm a little bit more... Moderate." "But you are a Christian, correct?" "I'm a Christian." "Good. Are you a Christian conservative?" "No. I'm a moderate." "I see. Now I'm not your typical Christian conservative. I'm not a capitalist." "I'm interested..." "I believe in a strong, stable community. In a strong, stable community the individual is suppressed." "I see." "In a strong, stable community individual quirks and eccentricities are suppressed. Non-conformity is a disability, you know. In a strong, stable community everybody thinks alike. In a strong, stable community everybody works towards the greater good. In a strong, stable community everybody thinks positive." "I see." In a strong, stable community everybody's individual quirks and eccentricities are celebrated, I think. But then again I guess I've never really given it much thought. In a menacing tone, he says "Everyone thinks positive... Which is why things like what you saw in that basement must remain a secret." I didn't-" "By barging into our secrets you have made yourself a part of our community. You know too much. You are no longer an outsider." "I didn't-" "Save it. Now... I don't know what you saw down there but you must remain a positive member of our community and keep it a secret." "You... You don't know what's down there?" "The church leaders have instructed I stay out. I may come to know what is down there after I am initiated into the order." "But you know enough to know it's worth a lecture." "I'm speaking on behalf of the leaders of the church." "Okay." "I can only assume your friend Jeb knows of this as well, so you can both consider yourselves honorary members of our community. You will meet with the leaders shortly." "O-Okay."
In the car to the commune, deep forest, I asked "So why a community centre? Is it just for recruiting unsuspecting townsfolk?" "Why would it only be for recruitment? Is there an ulterior motive for everything I do?" "I guess not..." "They sold me the lot. The town needed a community centre." "Yes... Yes we did." "We're not exactly after the unsuspecting townsfolk. But if we inspire people then we inspire people." "...Alright."
"...Are you a cult?" "Was early Christianity a cult? Every major religion has started as a cult." "I guess you're right." "Essentially we are a cult, to be brutally honest, but we won't be that way forever. Once people realize what we have, we won't be a cult for very long at all."
Sitting on the leader's, Mr. Redford's open porch, overlooking a lawn and forest, biting my nails. Millard sitting beside me, he says "He's a very nice man. A very patient man." Agitated, I said "Good." "Yes. It is good for you that he is patient." "Yes." Mr. Redford enters, "Hello Darren." "Hello!" "So you are interested in joining our church? You have been convinced?" "Yes! Yes sir... Yes... Stable community! I'm all about a stable community!" He asks Jeb "And you?" "Yes sir." "Good. Good... Come with me everybody."
Inside Mr. Redford's house, awfully similar to Millard's house, Millard is kneeling before Mr. Redford. "You are now a member of the clergy. Liam Switzer and Gabriel Dircatch's positions have now been filled. And Martin Redford's by myself." "Thank you." "Later the three of us will... Discuss some things." "Thank you."
Back outside on his porch, Mr. Redford is saying "And so it was my decision to move everybody out here. Where we can have our own community and live virtuous lives." "I see..." "As you can see from our community, it was a good decision." "Yes!" Kindly, he says... "Relax. You are in no trouble." "Okay!" "You are anxious about the basement..." "Yes!" "Hm..."
In the yard, overrun with weeds, Jeb says "Yep... Yes I agree." Millard says "See? At heart you are a socialist. Anybody who cares about the well being of their brethren is a socialist." "I suppose so." "And a traditionalist. See, you were meant to be here. You are with your brethren." "Maybe I am. Yep." Millard says, under his breath... "But I don't know about your friend..." He probably assumed I didn't hear that... Or maybe he knew I did. Trying to scare me straight. It's working.
I walk up to them and Millard says to me "Surely you are an evangelical?" "No... Not really..." "But you understand the importance Christianity has to the world?" "I, uh, I guess so. I mean, I'm no missionary... But... But it works for me." "It should work for everybody." "Well, I don't know about that, I'm fine with others practicing their own religions." "Christianity is what separates us from the animals. Without Christianity we would be animals." "I... I disagree." "We need Christianity to keep us from killing and raping at will." "I think, without Christianity, people would still know the difference between right and wrong." "Without Christianity people would be animals, so no, they most certainly would not know right from wrong."
Back on Mr. Redford's porch, he tells me "See, now, you saw something... Of some magnitude... So you see, we can't let you go. You belong with us now." "I see..." "Are you a socialist?" "Uh-Uh... Yes." "Are you really? It's okay." "No! Not really, no... Somewhat yes." "Hm... But Millard tells me you are a Christian. Do you believe in hell?" "I... Don't... Know..." "Hm... Good. Hell is a recent addition to the bible. We don't trust it." "Oh." "And despite being old testament, we believe in Jesus Christ. He was not the son of God, he was merely a prophet. The son of God didn't come about until more recently. He walks the Earth." "Oh." "You wish to know where we walks?" "N-No... I think I can figure it out." "Good... You will stay here the night. Do you wish to call your family?" "Please." "The phone is in the kitchen, left corner."
My mother answers the phone. "Hello?" "Hi! Uh... Hi." "How are you?" "Fine! You?" "I'm okay... You sound nervous... Are you sure you're okay?" "Yes! I, uh... I'm staying at Jeb's house tonight." "Okay. What's wrong?" "Nothing! Nothing... Uh... I, uh... ... ...I'm not at Jeb's house. I'm at Mr. Redford's house." "Who's house?" "Mr. Redford. He's... He's the leader of The Church of Modern Prophets." "Oh my god." "I'm a member! I'm a member of their church now..." "What!?" "They... They made me." "Oh my god! Oh my god!" "C-Calm down... I'm not in any trouble." "Are you sure?" "N-No... But Mr. Redford says I am not in any trouble." "Do they know you saw the basement?" "Yes." "Oh my god!" "Look... I... I have to go now. I love you." "N-No!" "What is it?" "Come home." "I don't believe that's an option." I asked Mr. Redford "May I leave?" "No." I told my mother "Not an option." "Oh my god." "Love you, Mom. Good night." "L-Love you too honey."
At the breakfast table, Mr. Redford's wife is clearing the table. "Thank you, dear." He asks me "Do you believe in traditional gender roles? That women should be kept in their place." "N-No..." "I see. How unfortunate. How about you, Jeb?" "Yep." "Good." Mr. Redford sighs and says "Not a socialist either... We might have some trouble with you." "Please let me go home." "Your place is here for now." "For now?" "For now." "...Okay..."
On the porch, I ask Jeb "What's happening to you?" "What?" "You've become brainwashed." "No..." "You're staying here?" "I don't think I have a choice." "No... Perhaps not." "I can see myself living here." "I see..." Mr Redford walks in and kindly says "Hello." I say "Hello." Jeb says "'Lo." "Will you be joining us for today's services?" "I-I guess" I said. Jeb says "Yep." "Good."
In the chapel. White walls, wooden pews... "We are to welcome Jeb and Darren to our community." the crowd says "Welcome." "Thank you for joining us. Shall we begin?" He then starts his sermon... "It is God's gift to humankind that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil..." And then I zoned out. Even if I cared, I'm in too much danger to absorb their sermon.
Back on the porch, Mr. Redford and Millard walk up. "Did you enjoy our service?" "Y-Yes." "Good." Millard says "What was your favorite part? What speaks to you?" "I, uh... I liked... The part... About... Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil..." "I see. So... You're not much of a traditionalist, are you?" Millard says "We did things right the first time, son." "N-No... Not really." "We did things right the first time. Why do you think there's so much trouble in the world today?" Mr Redford says "Well that's a shame..." "I'm sorry. I don't fit in here." Millard says "No you don't..." "Can I go home!?" Mr Redford says "No. There are things we must discuss before we can get to that." "I see."
"We did things right the first time."
In Mr. Redford's living room, he walks in with wine. "So you're probably wondering about what you found in that basement." "Y-Yes. Yes sir." "There was a... Falling out of sorts in our community. Some of us wanted to leave, and some of us were unclear on our mission. They were the reason we moved to your town instead of a separate community. The current leader of our church was unclear about our goals." "So you murdered them." "Yes. And we burned the church for the insurance money." "You murdered them." "Now you know something reserved for the higher members of clergy." Starting to get a little drowsy, I say "Y-You..." "Something that can never reach the ears of the public." I'm starting to get dizzy. "I am the son of God!! I am here to save the world from their sins!! They will all see the light soon enough... And we can't have an outsider come in and ruin everything." I passed out.
I awaken in the basement I know all too well. There is a single candle in front of me illuminating the room. I can just make out the outline of the bodies and some of the pews. I get up and start pacing. "No no no no no!" I cried for awhile. I then gave up and accepted my fate. The smell of the bodies is overwhelming, and I know that I too will be among them.
As they always say, curiosity killed the cat...