"Tonight is the night my angels," he says looming large over his pulpit, scribed in local advertisements and unknown sponsorship, "Tonight, he comes and we have to be ready." He wipes that sweat glazed, liver spotted, bald head of his with his red handkerchief and stares down the lens with those mad evangelical eyes we all tune in to see.
"We have one last chance to repent, one last chance to free your soul from the eternal hell fires of damnation, one-a. Last-a. Chance-a. To find salvation in his loving arms and rise UP!" A dramatic pause, his clawing hand punches the air as if he could burst the bubble that separates this one from the next, as if he could tear through to heaven, grab god by his ply white robes and drag him kicking screaming down to earth to show all us sinners how right he had been all along, how righteous his word is above all other words. Maybe today actually is the day. The one he has been has been getting us ready for, counting down the days to Dooms day, one vicious daily broadcast at a time. He goes on,"to that glorious garden up on high, where we shall be delivered to our rightful place lying in the blissful meadow of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Whilst, the unrepentant, the sodomites, the faggots, the dikes, the philandering adulterous women bathed in sex and sin. THOSE who choose to renounce the word of our lord, who reject his love and his infinite forgiveness. THOSE! who when asked "will you take his hand? Will you accept his love?" Turn their backs. THEY! They will be burning in the hell fires. Their flesh being torn from their rotten sinful bones over and over, whilst they scream in eternal torment, hung by meat hooks from their bellies, crows eating out their eye balls, over and over, forever and ever amen...now here's a message from our sponsor."
"Like the Israelites, weathered and beaten on their exodus from Egypt we all struggle with the desperation of dry skin. But not any more. Thanks to Salvation hand cream."
As the ads roll on the battered TV screen in background reverend Isaiah Heronimus Sweetheart steps down from his branded pulpit wiping his dripping brow with that wed hanky of his. "Sweet lord, I am sure on fire tonight huh? Pteu!!" He spits into a bucket by the camera 'B'ding!' It echoes in affirmation.
"I didn't know where to turn", the background ad goes on "I thought all was lost. And then I found salvation”...."hand cream" the narrator continues.
“You're doing great, as always, Pastor Sweetheart" Temple Garrison says from behind her clip board. She has been, for as long as the pastor has been spraying his hate fertiliser out to the county's public access viewership, by his side. Sweetheart looks her up and down, his eyes stopping on her breasts in that tight top she's wearing, he assumes just for him. He stays there a moment, thinking about them, his tongue rolling along his teeth, making a little sucking noise with pursing lips as he ponders what he would do to her. He puts his hand up to her cheek looking her in the eyes. That same dirty old man look of a playground peeping tom "Hmmm" he exhales pinching her cheek, just a little too hard. She winces, "Good, good," he says and starts to walk on his hand stroking down her cheek and dragging it across her right breast like he is wiping her filth off his hands.
"Made from the holy trinity of frankincense, doves and petroleum jelly, Salvation hand cream will literally burn the sin out of those hard working mitts of yours..."
It is a full house tonight, all 100 of Sweethearts faithful live-in parishioners are packed like slaughterhouse cattle into the small home made studio at the back of the compound. It takes his eyes a few seconds to adjust from the bright glare of the studio set to the gloom of the benched area for the live studio audience. It is standing room only here today. The today of all today‘s. The big day. No one would miss it, not after the years of devotion to every last horrific word that Reverend Sweetheart had uttered from the pulpit under those bright studio lights beamed out between 54MHz and 60MHz once nightly to every home that is bothered to tune within a fifty two and a half mile radius.
"Brothers and Sisters, tonight is the night, can you feel it?" Reverend Sweetheart announces to his parish. "HE! IS! COOOOOOOMING!"
The crowd whoops and cheers, stomps on the ground, they are up on their feet. He is arms raised, hell bent, Jesus Christ pose, here to save the day.
"2 minutes till your back" shouts Temple over the cooing crowd.
The ads roll on "Sick of coming home to find nothing in the refrigerator? 'Momma I'm hungry' Your family going hungry night after night after night? 'Will we ever eat again' Well look no further.... Jesus meat..... Jesus meat....Jesus meat! MEAT! With Jesus meat you can feed as many people as you want. Jesus meat.... from 1 to 500 Jesus will provide. Jesus meat..."
Sweetheart raises his hand to quiet the din. "We are so close, so so close. Can you taste it my children?" He licks his lips his eyes flicking between the ladies in the audience.
"YEAH" the crowd cries.
“Yes I can too..." and in unison the crowd and Sweetheat cry out "AND....IT....TASTES...GOOOOOOOOOD" they burst into applause
"......900lb's of 90% reconstituted animal parts....Jesus meat.....cut it to any shape...'Yay I'm having steak tonight', 'I'm having drumsticks', 'is that a fish?'..Jesus meat.... “
“1 minute Father" says Temple placing her hand on his shoulder
"ALIGHT, ALRIGHT," sweetheart barks flicking her hand from him like a picnic wasp. Temple scuttles back across the studio, back to her dark hole behind the camera lest she make a mistake of placing a hand on the Holy Father again.
"My children, I must get back to it, but you must know that we are on the cusp.... we are on the edge.....all our hard work and hard worship is about to pay off" he has the grin of a maniac, his eyes roll, his teeth grind. Without turning from his adoring fans the Reverend walks backwards across the studio as if he is performing a miracle, as if him walking backwards is somehow divine; raising the dead, walking on water. His audience are in rapture, caught in the moment, caught in his net, that same net that started trawling the ocean of the vulnerable 3 years ago, following the Glory Hole. Before that he sits outside a restaurant begging for money, money for drugs that will get him through another night, The night of the Glory Hole he has been awake for 30 hours in the freezing cold north slammed on methamphetamine. The night of the Glory Hole he sits outside that same restaurant gurning like raver, watching customers pie down on burgers and eggs. yearning for a break for a second chance at anything at all. The night of the Glory Hole, as Stephen K Dwight's balls empty into the fabric of the universe, Milton Sweetheart III, as he is called then, lights up cigarette butt from the curb. As Dwight is pulled inside out, dragged into infinity through his piss hole, Sweetheart, sees a customer grabbing a waitress by the waist, pulling her up against his semi inflated dick. As the Glory Hole starts to reach critical mass consuming Dwight's apartment block and all of its inhabitants, the would Reverend is through the door grabbing the man by the shoulders a hurls him backwards across the diner, tables parting like the Red Sea. As the ground, sky, earth and sea begin to shudder and convulse, Sweetheart yells:
“You leave her alone!”
And at that moment everybody drops in a world wide seizure. Everybody but the Reverend. He sits there in that restaurant, alone, the only man left on this fragile planet of ours. He looks up at the shaking TV set bolted to the wall. He sees the news anchor convulsing on the evening news desk, he sees her co-anchor lent back fitting on his wheelie-chair spinning round and round until he slides off dropping to the floor. In that moment, the would-be, Reverend has no panic, no fear. At that second Milton Sweetheart III, is at peace with himself, absolute and total peace. And as the world collapses around him, as tables and chairs up-turn themselves, windows smash and the walls swing and bend like rubber, Sweetheart get on his knees clasps his hands together and starts to pray. And at that moment,114 seconds after all that starts, all that stops. A dead stop, no gentle fade out, a switch turned off. Sweetheart opens his eyes, he sees the waitress coming too, the patrons confused and concussed. Sweetheart knows then and there, who he is, what has happened and what he must do. He is a vessel for the lords power, a lightning rod for his grace and he must devote his life saving every last man woman and child who dare to take his hand and walk into the fires to be born again in his name, immortal in his eternal light....
...Or so he says. This is the story he has been peddling since Dwight's last load. The story of a sinner turned saint, a miscreant turned messenger, a tom turned jerry. But who actually knows, nobody thats who. All we know is what I am telling you and who am I? Nobody that's who. What we do know is that this guy is a real charmer, one-hell-uv-a-guy, a real man of the people.
Isaiah Sweetheart stands at his lecture and grinning at the camera with those yellow stain teeth of his, mopping the sweat dripping from his face. Back in 5...4...3...2...
"My children, welcome back," he says as the wave of cheers engulfs him "You are home, yes you are home....settle, settle, you are home. We are here tonight, because tonight is the night, the night when our lord and saviour returns. Where we are set free." The crowd whoops and hollers " settle down, settle down, we are all excited...we are all ready.... within the next 45 minutes, he will come, HE! WILL! COME! And finally all of those that denounced my word, those who called us liars and deceivers. Those, who judged and condemned my children as zealots and terrorists. They shall know his word, they know his POW-A."
The cooing crowd are a deluge and Sweetheart steps out in front of his pulpit.
"Temple honey, back up for me darlin'." she obliges, cowering behind the camera, pulling the clunky old apparatus backwards over warn laminate floor. "I am here, not as your saviour but as a conduit of his power, a vessel, a cup. Benjamin, come up here, you're ready. Laura, Travis you help him up here." Two people, presumably Laura and Travis, are helping up a lame man, tears in his eyes, 2 years of waiting for Father Sweetheart to look down and say those words, 10 years lamed by that faulty machinery in a job which never admitted negligence, that never said sorry, that scraped him off their shoe on the side of a curb, found some grass to wipe him off on.
With his arms over their shoulders they slowly and carefully support Benjamin up next to The Reverend.
"Benjamin" Sweetheart says "how long have you been waiting for this moment?"
"A long, time," Benjamin chokes,
"And why hasn't the lord seen fit to free you of your affliction?"
"Because....I wasn't ready"
"Because you weren't ready.....that's right. And are you ready now Benjamin?"
"Y..y..yes, i am ready"
"You really think... that right now, you are ready? More ready than you were yesterday?"
"And why do you think you are ready now child? What is in that heart of yours that you didn't know was there before?" His voice seesaws between mother and master, turning the screw then releasing it.
"Answer now son…"
"I...I...ifeelhiminmyheart" the words burst out of his mouth, desperation, fear in his eyes.
"You feel him in your heart. YOU...feel...HIM...in...YOUR HEART?" Sweetheart's eyes blaze, his hand is raised, swiping across with all force Benjamins cheek. The poor lame duck is sent toppling over like Bambi on ice. The audience are a dead silence. Benjamin a whimpering heap on the floor. Laura and Travis acting on instinct take a step to try and help him.
"LEAVE HIM" Sweetheart shouts hand raised, spit flying from his mouth.
"He can do it himself." His voice is milk and honey "Benjamin...Benjamin my child, it's time for you to rise, to rise like Jesus rose, like Lazarus rose, it’s time for you to stop blaming your legs for your weakness. If you truly can feel him in your heart then you will GET OFF THE GROUND AND WALK! WALK IN HIS NAME.....WALK IN HIS NAME.... WALK.....IN....HIS....NAAAAME!"
The crowds is still a hush leaning forward reaching for the finish line, feeling each and every second stretch out longingly to behold a miracle. Benjamins whimpers muffle, a fire doused in a blanket. He puts his hand flat on the ground on after another, hands full of purpose, his hands full his gods will.
"That's it, feel him in your arms, feel him your legs. Feel him in your heart." Sweetheart is his general. Benjamin is on all fours. Readying himself for the final assault.
"Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart" Benjamin murmurs in prayer, his head down his eyes closed.
"Uuf" his first foot is planted, flat on the ground, oscillating like a struck tuning fork before it is placed on its end. "Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart," There is a sharp intake of breath from the packed house, as in it as he. 'Uff', the second foot lands on the ground. Sweetheart stands over him his hand raised over benjamins head summoning him to rise. "Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart," Benjamin raises his head his eyes streaming with tears his teeth gritted, his face a a focussed grimace.
"That is my child, that is it, feel him, FEEL HIM...FEEL HIIIIIIIIIM." Sweetheart raises both his arms aloft turning away from Benjamin towards the audience in triumph.
""Heisinmyheart, Heisinmyheart, HeisinmyUuuungh,"
Benjamin, with all his might, pushes with his arms and legs, the crowd cheers anticipating the miracle. His legs shudder under his weight, he is moving upwards, he is straightening his back, He...is...falling forward, he is falling forward quite quickly, he is face planting into the ground, ass in the air, followed by a slow motion fall back in to a whimpering ball on the floor. The crowd gasp, for one moment Reverend Sweetheart is standing unaware of the calamity that has taken place right in front of is live studio audience and the tens of tens of people watching around the area. For a moment he is oblivious, mid miracle, as sold on his snake oil as everybody else. Then as the crowd do not begin to cheer again, as the miserable sound of Benjamin's failure penetrates his power drunk mind he opens his eyes and slowly and he turns his head to the cluster fuck lying like a sack of all his lies on the studio floor. At first he is shocked, terrified at the embarrassment, tonight of all nights but then, and very quickly then his eyes begin to burn with rage.
"YOU ARE A LIAR!" He screams at the blubber bag Benjamin "HE IS NOT IN YOUR HEART. HE IS NOT WITH YOU. YOU WALK WITH THE DEVIL BENJAMIN! THE DEVIL IN YOUR HEART."
And turning to the camera, "CUT TO COMMERCIALS" Temple scrabbles to put the advertisements on, every muscle in panicked fever. The Reverend turns back to Benjamin and raises his hand…
"Drown your sorrows......in Joy! Joy! from the people who brought you, Salvation hand cream and Jesus meat, now comes Joy! a new product that will have beaming from ear to ear. Scientist are all agreeing that Joy will blow those blues away. With just 5 easy to drink daily shakes you can turn that frown upside d…."
The Reverend mops his brow and wipes the blood off his knuckles. Wheezing like the stuck pig he is.
"Get him out of here" he says beckoning Laura and Travis over with his eyes and dismissing Benjamin with his hand. "Take him to the gates and throw him out."
"You see," he says turning to the crowd, "Benjamin did not have it in him. So he won't be coming with us. He won't be taken because, he is not in his heart. I gave him every chance, every chance to get it right, to turn his life to god. that's why I left it so long, why i didn't call on gods power to heal him, because I knew he wasn't ready, that he was a sinner, that he still walked arm in arm with the devil. But I had to try, cause any later would have been too late. I had to ask god to come into his heart or he would not be coming with us. He would have been left to burn so I had to try. But he didn't want my help, he said he did but when I came he could not step into light."
The audience are just nodding dashboard dogs, shells with human faces hollowed out by the years of indoctrination and life times of waiting to be indoctrinated. Not one of them doesn't swallow Reverend Sweethearts words whole, in fact they O.D on them, get rushed to the hospital have their stomachs pumped only to go straight back to to him the next day to do it all again. The message is clear if you don't believe enough, you wont be on the ark and god forbid it be one of them who wants to risk it.
"Fill yourself with Joy for just ninenintynine a day everyday. Five shakes no fakes..."
Without warning the studio starts to vibrate like a hum on your lips. 'OMMMMMMMMMMMM' Father Sweethearts face drops, its red, drunkards hue drains chalk white. "Quick, it's happening, t...Temple, quick, stop the commercials, its time, it's time."
'OMMMMMMMM' Temple is fumbling with wires on the floor, desperate, connecting cables, sticking one thing into another. Something is wrong,
"STOP THE FUCKING COMMERCIALS YOU STUPID CUNT"
Everything goes black, no power just OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
"TEMPLE YOU FUCKING WHORE, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO,"
"I did nothing, father, I did nothing.”
"YOU DID FUCKING SOMETHING! COME HERE Y...."
The lights are back, the camera light turns red...lights camera action...Reverend Sweetheart is a picture, hand round the cowering Temples throat arm fist clenched to punch. He is frozen in the realisation of what this looks like. He lets go, temple crumpling to the floor in loud sobs, OMMMMMMMMMM, the camera starting to oscillate across the floor.
“Man the camera, Temple. Now" he growls.
Temple is on her feet and behind the camera in a flash, thumbs up to the Reverend, tears in her eyes, shaking, and not for the first time.
"MY CHILDREN, IT IS TIME" he shouts over the hum "CAN YOU FEEL IT?"
The crowd stutters into life, a chain saw pull struggling to turn its engine over. But one by one b two by twelve they begin to shake off the shock of this vibration not one effected by Sweetheart's anger or violence. Maybe it's a normal thing for them, maybe it's a weekly, daily, hourly thing that they have grown accustomed to through the years, your guess is as good as mine.
The crowd are on their feet, their excitement floats across the hum. Sweetheart stands at his pulpit. A grin on his face, sweat dripping from his chin. Has he bought his patter? Or maybe it was the truth all along. Either way he is ready and so are they. Vindicated for all their protests at abortion clinics and gay funerals. Vindicated for all that so called "hate speech" outside mosques and gospel churches. They were right all along and this moment here is the proof, the moment this handful of believers in a compound on the edge of anywhere will be taken to the light.
There are sobs of joy, songs of praise, the crowd arm in arm waiting and ready for what comes next.
"MY LORD, WE WELCOME YOU WITH OUR ARMS WIDE OPEN," shouts Sweetheart "WE WELCOME YOU, YOUR FAITHFUL SERVANTS.”
Next to his waist a tiny crack appears glowing a brilliant bubble gum pink. The TV monitor flickers the image of the Reverend spins like a fruit machine, glows bright, hot pink then black. At the same time the cameras red record light starts to flash like a strobe before it too dies dead. Temple looks at Sweetheart panicked. But he does not care, not one tiny, itty, bitty, bit. He doesn't care about anything at all, he is caught in the pink cracks mesmer. His eyes wide like Christmas Day. He climbs down to his knees, face to face, with his creator.
"You came," Reverend Sweetheart says to the pink glow, as mist smokes from it in thin plumes, his eyes filling with tears. This powerful man a babe in his mothers arms. "I wasn't sure you would. But you came"
The crowd are entranced, hand in hand, arm in arm, in absolute silence, all leaning in, all ready for all of Sweetheart's promises to come true.
The crack begins to open the bright pink light expanding out gently engulfing Sweetheart, the studio, the camera. It is warm and soothing, a bath, pulsing through them each and everyone. Reverend Sweetheart has his hands clasped together in prayer, heart open to be filled the lords light. The audience begin to sing one of their favourites from Sunday mass, a modern melodic born again rewrite of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
"Bring his light out, it's not dangerous, here he is now, he's called Jesus" swaying from side to side.
Still staring into the light, nose to nose now with hole, his lips almost kissing the crack in space and time as it starts to purse and open, Sweetheart shouts out to the crowd still enraptured in song. "THIS IS IT, MY CHILDREN, THIS IS IT. HE IS COMING, HE IS C......"
The back of Father Sweetheart's head explodes outwards, brains and bone fragments scatter across the studio, time stretches slow motion, his arms are falling from prayer, his mouth hangs open. Inside it protruding from the hole is a glowing fleshy shape disappearing into Father Sweetheart's gaping pie eater straight through and out of the newly made hole at the back of his head.
Someone in the crowd starts to scream, followed by another, then all, the realisation that something horrific is happening dawning at 24 frames per second, The pink glowing shape pistons back and forth, it's bulbous end thrusting out of the back of his skull pushing brains, blood and head gunk like a baby tonging food out of its mouth. Father Sweetheart’s body is limp and swaying slightly back and forth with the motion, the pink appendage keeping him up like a coat hook.
The audience are chaos, screaming, cowering chaos. A group have broken for the door, clambering over each other to get away, some are hiding behind plastic chairs or lying flat on the ground like they are following the steps of a nuclear attack survivors guide. The rest, those poor souls, are stuck fast, tethered to horror like a harpoon. Staring, dumbstruck as Sweetheart is skull fucked by a space dick. The vibration becomes a rumble, becomes a quake. And then, as if you hadn't seen where this is going, the glowing extraterrestrial phallus protruding out of the back of what was Reverend Sweetheart bigoted brain-case, begins to spasm and buck; spurting hot green space spunk in torrents from out of its glistening end. The first to be hit are those at the door the green rain melting through them like boiling water on ice it, no time to scream out in agony, no time to scream at all, just fall into a pile of smouldering flesh and bone. The group still by the chairs either duck and covered or frozen in horror are hit next the full load pours out over them eviscerating them, the plastic chairs and burning through the laminate flooring onto the dirt and dust below. With two final squirts the space gunk splashes onto the stage before oozing down Sweetheart’s back, the fatty love handles bubbling and fizzing away posing his spine and kidneys, burning through his intestines, through his colon and out of his anus.
The quake turns rumble, turns vibration, turns off. The glowing pink pecker starts to slide backwards through Sweethearts useless head. Back through the hole, back from whence it came. The hole zips shut. The lights in the studio begin to flicker. The camera’s red recording light flashes on. Temple Garrison opens her eyes, peering around the camera as Reverend Sweetheart’s dripping assless, brainless body slips to the grounds, splashing down to the ground guts, and inside body stuff spraying out over everything that’s left. On instinct or whatever Temple hits the button on her desk. “Jesus meat, Jesus meat, Jesus Meat” the advertisement booms.