The Brotherhood #18
By Mark W. Meier
Prophet of Death
Sunday morning you dug through the groceries Amy had given to you. There were three packages of instant oatmeal, and you tore one open. After dumping the contents into a bowl, you opened the mini fridge for milk. Nothing.
You sighed, then measured out some water and stirred it together. A moment later you remembered the small microwave on your counter had been disposed of because of the popping noises you thought it gave off. Another sigh, and you dug into your scant inventory of dishes for a pot.
Grumbling, you turned on the back burner of your gas range. The front one had stopped working a year earlier, and no amount of complaining brought the building’s maintenance worker.
You waited, but the back burner failed to ignite. The smell of mercaptan filled your tiny apartment.
I smiled and took the opportunity. POP!
Your heart rate doubled. Natural gas . . . possible shorting circuits . . . potential explosion. You nearly panicked, but instead turned off the burner and threw open the window to air out your diminutive living space.
A part of me wanted to simply incinerate you, but that would look suspicious. I didn’t want anyone questioning my work.
When the apartment grew too chilly you closed the window and lit the stove’s pilot light. The tiny serving of oatmeal didn’t take long to heat through, and you stirred the slimy mess.
You ate in a mechanical manner, scooping the slop one spoonful after another. All too quickly it was gone.
I could see you thinking of cooking another packet of oatmeal. The analytical part of your mind rejected that, since taking two today would only leave you with one for tomorrow.
You shook your head and sat wondering what to wear to church. Your best set of clothing had already been worn two consecutive days –well, a day and a half, but Amy had seen you in the same clothes both days.
Amy. Her distraction couldn’t be tolerated much longer. I’d call on another Brother to help out, but didn’t want to give the impression I wasn’t capable of fulfilling my role. My first assignment as a full Brother had to be a test of sorts.
As you sifted through your meager selection of attire, I kept projecting distaste in your mind. That shirt had a stain, those pants were torn, and so on. Your cleanest items were socks. For some reason you had a dozen pairs of socks, but only three pairs of pants.
Humans. Only one thing to do with them, and I was doing it.
You settled on a third day with the same clothes, using the last bits of your five-year-old Aqua Velva to cover up any accumulated body odor. The aged cologne probably smelled worse than your shirt, but I wasn’t about to say anything.
You made it to the exterior door of your building a full sixty seconds before Amy. That left five minutes before her friends were scheduled to pick you up. The pair of you chatted about the eight inches of snowfall the previous day and wondered aloud if the plows would have enough streets cleared for you to get to church.
A dark gray sedan pulled up.
“That’s Josh and Sarah.” Amy tugged the sides of her coat closed and pushed open the cracked glass door.
Caught by surprise, you waded into the drifts behind her. You wanted to open the car door for her, but she’d already climbed in before you got there. The only thing left for you to do was to circle the back side of the vehicle . . . .
POW! The car backfired. I laughed to myself.
You staggered a step before slipping on the packed snow of the wheel tracks and fell on your butt.
Amy must have been watching. She jumped out of the car. “Are you okay?”
Mostly you were. Your bruised tailbone would trouble you for days, and you sitting on hardwood pews would be a delight to witness.
“I’m okay.” You stood and brushed snow off your pants, then climbed into the back seat behind Sarah.
You were introduced to the couple in the front seats.
Josh glanced at you in the rear view mirror. “Sorry. I don’t think the car has ever backfired before.”
“No problem.” You could already tell it would be an uncomfortable day.
Josh carefully accelerated through the snow. Tricky going, but he’d obviously driven in deep snow before.
The street between your apartment and the park had been plowed, but the parking lot still had a thick layer of powder. That meant quite a berm of packed snow at the entrance. Josh had already forced his car through that pile to get into the apartment’s lot, so getting out wasn’t difficult.
After an awkward silence you decided to get Amy talking again. Since she liked to talk about the Bible, you thought that would be the best way to start things up. With three of their kind in the car I was powerless to do anything about it.
“So tell me how those Wise Men got from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.”
Sarah turned in her seat. “The star?”
Amy nodded. “The Wise Men left Herod’s palace and probably looked up at the stars. Being astrologers, they’d have an opportunity to look at a night sky from a different location. And in the morning, just before dawn, there was Virgo and a thin crescent moon in the east.”
“Revelation talks about that,” Josh added as he turned onto Willow Street.
“‘A great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet,’” Amy quoted.
Sarah said, “Revelation also tells of a woman giving birth –”
“Don’t talk about Mary,” you interrupted. “Nobody believes a virgin could give birth.”
Amy put a calming hand on your arm. “This isn’t about Mary. Just listen for a bit.”
I tried to keep you from doing just that, but there were three of . . . them.
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