As it appeared in the August 2014 update of @perihelionsf.com.
Beyond the Reach of Proof
By Seth W. Kennedy & Edited by Sam Bellotto Jr
I KILLED MY FIRST EVOLUTIONIST at sixteen, and my second a month later. After the third, my palms didn’t even sweat.
From the gravel roof of the Municipal Authorities building, I watched as the city library burned. Greasy black smoke billowed from its broken windows, the collapsing roof. I smiled; charred bits of paper falling about me like urban snow. Something cracked, groaned, and the centuries old edifice died. It was a tranquil sight, like watching some monstrous beast being put down for its own good.
The city was better for the loss.
Red froth bubbled from pale lips as the first Defender expired at my feet, bright blood pooling on the tiny gray and black stones about his head. A halo for the dying. The wound he’d inflicted in the meaty flesh of my forearm—though hastily bandaged—still trickled blood into my left glove, coating my fingers and palm. My dermal-mites would take care of any poisons or bacteria, but the wound would need proper care. Closing my eyes, I recited a prayer for the dead.
I hustled to the east side of the roof, gravel crunching. The rust-coated fire escape groused in protest as I scurried down—copper-red flakes showering into the alleyway below. Water dripped somewhere to my right, and the ion-blue light of an ancient TV monitor flickered in a distant second-story window. No other sounds. No alarms, no sirens, nothing. A clean kill.
Four meters short of the alley floor my foot hit empty air, and the rickety structure shook—metal squealing as I re-gripped. Right arm through the rungs, I looked down into the misty-dark. The last section of the ladder was gone, cut away; most likely salvaged by some Sec-Denz with no sense of morality or personal property.
Descending the remaining rungs, my legs dangling, I dropped the final two meters to the alley floor. Pain lanced through my shins, the Kevlar-polymer soles of my strike-boots absorbed the sound, but not the force of impact. Hand clamped over my mouth, I stifled a grunt.
Hobbling to the mouth of the alley, careful to avoid the reeking forest of slime coated dumpsters and piles of rotting garbage, I checked the streets beyond. No movement; only the lightless gray of cold shadows and the grinding crash of distant waves. Having penetrated the Evolutionist’s perimeter, I headed east, deeper into enemy territory.
Tired and in need of a fix, I hunkered down in the well of a darkened doorway. Tearing the blood-soaked wrappings from my forearm, I inspected the wound. The mites had done their work, the wound was closed, the scab a healthy reddish-pink. The bruising was minimal, but the hand was weak; I would need to be cautious.
Reaching into the thigh pocket of my shadow-fatigues I removed a small packet of antiseptic pads and ripped them open with my teeth. The wound clean, I wrapped the old bandages in the spent pads and tossed them to the mist-wet ground. A second’s pause, and the active enzymes consumed the cloth, my DNA.
Arm wrapped in a fresh layer of dermal-tape, I closed my eyes, rested my aching head against the grimy-streaked door.
Faces floated up through the darkness, ghosts haunting the blood-warm depths behind my lids, wicked and terrible. Pre-mission conditioning was unpleasant business, and the injection sites at the base of my spine still ached. But the pain was a source of comfort, my own internal cilice. A sign to the Almighty that my devotion was complete.
As a Warrior of Truth, I would endure this and more. It was my duty.
Digging into an ankle pocket, I removed my rig. The intricate red and gold emblem of the House of Swords pressed into the smooth plastic lid. I snapped the case open with my thumb, ran my fingers over the injector, the vials: Spirit, Glory, Salvation. The small glass tubes glinted in the soft light like gemstones— whispering to me from the depth of the black foam.
Running low on Glory, I dropped a bullet of Spirit into the injector.
I’d been on the hunt for several days now, and it was starting to grind me down. I was beginning to believe that stealth was a waste and that perhaps I should slam my vial of Salvation, reveal myself, and force the sinners to come to me. Rash? Possibly, but the fractal edge of desperation was closing in, a swelling tide, its bleak and frozen wave a blight on the distant horizon.
But it was a wave that had yet to crest. Inhaling deep and slow, I placed the nozzle against my wrist and hit the plunger.
And light filled me; the power and presence of God flaring in my chest. Burning with the pure white fires of heaven. My path clear and luminous, I headed east.
When Abbott Boyle found me, I was just another street urchin, stealing from the discarded souls that ghosted the streets and alleys of Battery Station. Preying on the weak to keep my belly full, I was a tool of the enemy, destined for the fire and the pit; for there is no path to righteousness for a Newton City orphan.
In the cold environs of Battery Station salvation requires ... a divine intervention.
Hidden behind a shelf of ancient porno cassettes, the gray particleboard peeling and water stained, I watched the clerk blunder through his morning routine. Across the narrow aisle of blue linoleum, a thin wire rack steamed with fresh loaves of sourdough. My mouth watered at the sight, the smell, and my hands shook with anticipation. Fortunately for me, the clerk was soon distracted by the sclerotic antics of a local drunk.
“Where ’da fuckin’ whiskey at?” the drunk demanded, spittle flying. The stench of his last bottle hung about him like a shroud.
“Out.” The clerk bellowed, pointing frantically at the door. Scrambling over the counter, the clerk took two long strides and intercepted the drunk in mid-stumble, blocking his path to the liquor.
Alley cat quick, I snatched the closest loaf and plunged through the doors, mouth filling with saliva as I sped through the chill morning air. The bread safely tucked under my ragged shirt, I put as much distance between the clerk and myself as I could. I dug into the loaf while still on the run, its warm crunch and starchy taste a blessing in a world of stale and rotting shit.
Hunger, my friend, is a powerful motivator, and in those bygone days my stomach was seldom full. So I justified my crimes in the name of all that is reptilian, sacrificed my honor on the altar of instinct. How was I to know that transformation lingered just beyond the horizon?
Squatting against a graphite-spattered wall at the mouth of Killers Alley, I was ripping into the loaf’s second half when a shadow slid crossed my vision, stopped, returned. Pretending not to notice the figure standing at the alley’s edge, I kept eating, hoping against hope that it was not an Overseer. And, that if I ignored it long enough, it would go away.
“Did you steal that, lad?” The shadow asked. The voice was warm and deep, and crackled like fire.
Eyes down, I clutched at the bread, crushing it to my chest. My first bite of real food in three days, I’d be damned if I was going to give it up because this fool of a shadow thought that I should earn my meals.
Calm and gentle, the figure knelt, cupped my chin in a large soft hand, and lifted my face to the sun. As our eyes met, and in place of the burning contempt I’d come to expect from adults, Abbott Boyle’s gaze radiated a deep and honest empathy, an unconditional love. I did not speak.
“Would you like a proper meal, son?” He asked, pulling me to my feet.
I glared, suspicious. He stuck his hand out. “My name is Abbott Boyle. And yours?” We shook, and my mind went numb. Helpless in the face of unexpected kindness, and for reasoning I still can’t explain, I allowed Abbott Boyle to lead me away—the streets of Battery Station fading as we traveled north, out of Newton City.
He did not take the bread.
Mist buzzed against neon as I slid from an alleyway and on to Ocean Street, devoid of revelers. I loped across the rain-darkened asphalt. Slipping into the shadow of an unlit vending machine, I crouched down, scanned the street. The shops and dance halls that lined the sprawling boulevard felt more than empty. What with the City Library in flames, and the havoc I reeked in the previous week, there wasn’t much nightlife on the waterfront these days.
My Comm-Link began to pulse, PDA vibrating in my breast pocket. I glanced at the number—Javon, my new Tactical, checking in. I pressed the sticky patch of NuSkin below my Adam’s apple and engaged the throat mic.
“Archangel Four, what’s up Javon?”
Static crackled in my left ear as the Comm-Link went live, connected.
“The next Defender is one block east.” Javon’s voice phased with encryption. “On the roof of an old gun shop.”
Miles away, in a cheap motel room, Javon watched the waterfront through the artificial eye of the order’s Cyclops drone, its black carbon-fiber carapace invisible against the curtain of night. Silent. Brutal.
“Ten-four,” I replied, reflexively looking up. “Keep the eye in the sky for me, the rain is getting worse.”
“No problem Archangel, will do.” And Javon closed the connection. The Comm-Link hissed as the encryption died.
Over the past year, Archangels from The House of Swords had driven the Evolutionists from every sector of the city, cleansing it of their secular filth. In a bold act of defiance, a small and dedicated contingent had returned, setting up a new facility. Within a month, they’d begun broadcasting their lies to the world, corrupting our holy city with their arithmetical poison.
My PDA pinged. I tapped in the lock code and checked the map. A bright blue pin marked the location of the next Defender. I headed east.
A slender figure in black fatigues stalked the roof of a condemned apartment building behind the gun shop. The second Defender. Not where he should be. Once again, Javon’s information was either old or inaccurate. I ground my teeth in frustration, jaw popping.
As the Defender began the southward leg of his surveillance pattern, I darted across the quiet street, slipped under the low-slung canopy of a shuttered Italian bakery. Listening for the Defender’s footfalls, I stared into dark and shuttered windows, Spirit enhanced thoughts drifting.
Does God see with human eyes? I wondered. Does he see the soul and the flesh around it? Or does his sight cut through the temporal shell, slicing deep through flesh, molecule and atom—to the eternal gem buried within?
Two doors up from the gun shop I noticed a disintegrating brown paper bag lying beneath a bus bench. To my left, neon sputtered and I caught the sharp glint of glass. Checking the Defender’s position, I slid through the shadows to the bench, reached out, and snagged the bottle. It was, as I expected, booze, cheap vodka, half full.
Tearing away the remnants of wet paper, I hefted it, testing the bottle weight.
Sliding along the abandoned storefronts, I worked my way back to the gun shop. Gravel scrapped and crunched as the Defender continued to pace the apartment’s roof. As the sounds faded and he neared the far side of the building, I emerged from the shadows and hurled the bottle high into the air, let fly a throat-ripping scream.
The bottle hit the wet asphalt with a sharp, heavy thunk, and shards of glass impaled the night, droplets of vodka arcing out like poisoned rain. Ducking back into darkness, I moved to the northern edge of the building, peered around the corner, waited.
The clank and rattle of a fire escape echoed up from behind the gun shop, and the pop and crackle of a radio accompanied the scuff of boots on wet asphalt. Slipping back around the corner, I crouched beside an old news kiosk. The rain fell harder now and the street light directly across from me guttered out, adding to the watery dark.
Dagger drawn, I listened. Footfalls, unhurried, coming closer.
The Defender paused at the edge of the building, the new darkness that lay across the sidewalk and alleyway ratcheting up his tension. His head slid around the corner of the building—dark close-cropped hair wet with rain. He scanned the empty street, eyes falling on the shattered remains of the vodka bottle. He scanned again, smooth and easy. He took a step out of the alleyway, another.
Thunderbolt quick, I leapt from the shadows and jabbed the point of my dagger into the back of his right knee. I ripped the blade free and the knee buckled. The Defender screamed and I lunged forward, elbow cracking him in the temple. Driven sideways by the force of the blow, he stumbled into the wall, went down, head slapping the rain-darkened concrete. I pounced.
His arms pinned beneath my knees, I stared down into the Defender’s face, his eyes rolled up to the whites. Needing him to come to, I slapped him across the face. His head lolled, blood dribbling from his lower lip. He blinked rain out of his eyes and groaned, stirred—his left hand struggling towards his reddening cheek.
He glared up at me, confused. Our eyes locked and I smiled, showed him the blade—smeared and dripping with rain-diluted blood. His blood.
He opened his mouth to speak and I slapped him again, harder, cutting off his words.
“Where is the White Matter Spectrometer?” I asked, blade at the ready.
White Matter is what the Evolutionists had so brashly named the massless particles that formed the soul. It’s biological they claimed, an area of the brain, nothing but a ganglion. It was a disgusting description, and my mouth felt greasy and raw from just this one utterance.
“I don’t know.” He lied. “I was just told to watch this street. I—”
My fist crashed into his nose and his head bounced against the concrete, eyelids fluttering.
“Where’s the Spectrometer?” I lay the edge of my dagger against the skin of his throat.
A cold shadow of panic flashed across his face, then something inside him broke and he began to quiver. He swallowed hard, grimaced, went limp. “Two blocks east,” He said. “The big gray warehouse that housed the old Root Server, behind the container storage yard. But you’ll never stop us. The march of science is inexorable, you can’t—”
Grabbing the Defender’s head in both hands I slammed it, once, into the concrete. His eyes rolled up, and his lids slid closed. They did not reopen.
Beggars Hall was a dream beyond my comprehension, with its silent wards and hints of cinnamon drifting through the corridors, the polished wood floors that shone like mirrors, and the colored sunlight that streamed in through massive stained-glass windows. When Abbott Boyle led me to my room, I broke down for the first time since I’d left home—my malnourished body heaving as I sat on the temper foam mattress, face buried in dirty palms.
My father was a ghost before I could walk, and by the time I was five my junkie mother was only good for one thing. Too familiar with hunger and tired of getting cracked in the skull for just being in the vicinity, I set out on my own at age eleven. Unrestrained and free to roam the streets of Newton City—as dark and hateful as they were—I learned to survive, the cold underbelly of society my bleak and treacherous home.
The other children at Beggars all had similar stories, and Abbott Boyle—in his warm and comforting way—encouraged us to bury them, to pack away those cold days and hard places, to relegate them to the dungeons of our minds. As the months passed, Beggars felt more and more like the home I’d never known, the family I’d never thought to have.
Life at Beggars was heavily structured, built around a strict routine. We attended Bible Study every night, and most of us attended school for the first time in our short, manic lives. We ate three meals a day—something else that was foreign and beyond my experience.
Life at Beggars taught me that I was a sinner, and that if I wished to have a place in the heart of Jesus, I must dedicate my life to his Will, follow the Path. After a year of intense study, prayer and instruction, I felt my faith begin to flower—like a rose whose corolla is not wrought of flesh, but of flame.
In the warmth of God’s love, my soul was given new life and when the time came, I accepted Jesus into my heart and joined the Order. The week after my induction ceremony, Abbott Boyle sent me to a new Hall, where I would learn to walk the Path of my chosen service.
He sent me to the House of Swords.
In contrast to the academic sensibilities of Beggars, the House of Swords cultivated a more ... monastic lifestyle. Cots in place of beds; oatmeal, stew and bread in place of meat and vegetables. I took to the routine as if born to it. And under the hard and demanding tutelage of the Master Archangels, I grew in faith and skill.
Recognizing my potential, the Masters stoked my zeal and I learned the true and ultimate fate of God’s enemies: death, death to the Evolutionists and their secular rabble. As a man of faith, it was my duty to remove their infected ilk from the world.
A dedicated and diligent student, my passion and rage soon reached a fevered pitch, and the Masters—having plotted out my path—introduced me to a new area of study: justifiable homicide. I took to the new concept without reservation.
After four years of pain, prayer, and sweat, Master Daniel raised me to the rank of Archangel. It was Easter Sunday. I did not cry.
As a newly forged weapon of God, the monks introduced me to the New Trinity: Spirit, Glory, Salvation. Each devotion a small but potent communion, a peace of God in molecular form. I took to them as I had taken to the monastic lifestyle, and with the same hunger I had devoured that loaf of bread the day Abbot Boyle founded me lurking in Killers Alley.
The injector—cold and made of red anodized aluminum—spooked me at first. But once I felt the rush of God coursing through my veins, my flesh alive with his divine light, I knew that this was my destiny. I was an Archangel, a sword of God. I would be feared.
A nidus of filth and urban flotsam, the loading dock at the rear of the old gray warehouse reeked of decomposing garbage and rotting flesh. The roll-up doors, coated with a decade’s worth of graffiti and old dirt, were rusted shut. Crouched behind a rusting and dented shipping container, I prepped my rig.
Extracting my vial of Salvation from its bed of black foam, I popped the cap with a flick of my thumb and up-ended its contents into the injector. Adding two pellets of Glory for good measure, I relaxed my shoulders and closed my eyes. The pile driver sense that this was the most important mission I’d ever been assigned thumped rhythmically at the back of my mind, like one of God’s own pulsars.
Was it fear? Anticipation?
Pressing the injector against my left wrist, I inhaled deep and slow. Pushed. And the quantum fury of God exploded in my flesh—every pore, every follicle, draining divine light. Soul humming in perfect pitch, I stood, tossed the spent rig into an empty dumpster, and slid my dagger from its sheath.
An old box spring mattress, sagging, wet and black with mold, leaned against the cinderblock wall left of the loading dock. Pushing it aside, I uncovered a man-door; its fresh coat of paint and gleaming brass deadbolt confirming that I had arrived at the right location. The door was locked.
Talking a step back, I set my feet, mouthed the twenty-third Psalm, and I spun, strike boots grinding in the dust. My left heel struck the door and there was a nanosecond of resistance, a twinge in my hip, then the flimsy pressboard splintered, flew open, slammed into an unseen pile of rubbish. Rebounding, the door wobbled on twisted hinges. Blade at the ready, I strode into the darkness.
Pain exploded in my right cheekbone and my ears rang with the receding clang of a million church bells. Stumbling left, my arms pin-wheeled and I went down to one knee, rolled, shoulder grinding against grimy concrete, gravel, and shards of glass. Pushing myself up, I knelt in the dark and waited for my eyes to adjust.
“I’ve come for you, heathen,” I whispered. “Fall to your knees and pray!”
The third Defender, obscured and lost somewhere in the darkness, did not reply. The third Defender. Our intel indicated that three Defenders guarded this last core group of Evolutionists. I had removed two.
The dry scrape of boots against concrete hummed somewhere to my right and I ducked down behind a pile of splintered two-by-fours and busted lengths of sheet rock. Peering through the gloom and the drifting dust, I watched for the glint of steel, the glow of stray photons bouncing off a retina. The world was silent and still.
A door cracked open at the far end of the warehouse and a thin wedge of yellow light sliced into the dark. Shouts echoed from the small cluster of offices as the Evolutionists scrambled, readied their defense. Breath held, I watched, waited.
There—a pair of eyes, glinting in the light from the door, half-hidden behind one of the warehouse’s massive support pillars. No time to waste, I abandoned my position and slipped into the pillar’s stretching shadow. Breath steady, I slid towards my target, blade concealed behind my thigh.
The Defender bolted, sprinted for the door, short blonde hair bobbing above a willow-thin torso. Flinging the door wide, he vanished into the bright void of the corridor, shouting, raising the alarm. The element of surprise gone, I crouched in the shadow of the pillar. Watched the door. Listened. Devotions singing as my pulse thumped.
Standing, I sheathed my blade and headed for the light, a wet mulch of rotting cardboard squelching beneath my boots.
As I approached the suite of offices, the low hum of half-dead fluorescents grew louder. To my right, behind a tall painted window, angular shadows loomed and jumped. Slipping through the door and into the hallway, shoulders pressed against the peeling, gray paint, I slid along the wall.
And found the door. I Looked left, right, then kicked just below the knob, hitting the cheap particleboard with everything I had. The door gave, swung open, splinters of rotting wood and drywall clattering to the floor. Pivoting back into the corridor I drew my dagger, ducked, lunged across the threshold, my blade outstretched, hunting for a target.
I was on my back, a large needle-tipped dart jutting out of my chest, bright orange fletching waving in the draft from a ceiling fan. A glimpse of spiked blonde hair. Pain. How had it penetrated my body armor? I ...
Rolling onto my side, I tried to stand. The world slid to the left, folded back, its jagged edges rounding, flowing like water down a slope of jet and silver stones. Then the world was gone, tumbling to black, Salvation and Glory ebbing away into the cold and forgotten distance—lost islands of want and liquid silence.
When I was a young seminarian at the House of Swords, Brother Nichols would oft instruct us in the subtle art of interrogation. Accompanied by several fellow devotees, he would collect us in the dead of night, drag us gagged and kicking through the moonlit halls and into a small soundproof room where we’d be strapped to a chair and forced to answer questions; or rather, try not to answer them.
I never broke, not once. And I was praised for my fortitude. Brother Nichols, a man of rigid thought, often used me as his main counterpart in the interrogation of the other students. Although I was honored that Brother Nichols had faith in me, I found the torment of my fellow students distasteful. Simulation, harsh as it may be, inevitably takes on an air of ritual.
It was solid training, but simulation can never truly prepare the mind for the real thing. It is a distinction best expressed in the subtle, yet terrifying similarity between holding your breath and drowning. The two may be analogous, but they are by no means equivalent.
Fear. It lay about me like a raw stink and I strained against the heavy straps that bound me. Thick and course, a rough sack stretched taut across my lips, cheeks and chin, chaffed at my flesh. Disoriented and locked in darkness, I felt like a child lost in the wilderness, waiting for the coming of night and the baying of the wolves.
Dense and hazy from the sedative, I had no clue how long I’d been under, or even where I was. The warehouse? Maybe. Or had I been moved? Dumped in the bowels of some Abortionist’s slaughterhouse—a hell of plastic covered walls and sluice equipped floors. The thought sickened me and my throat filled with bile.
The scrape of a key sliding into a lock broke the silence and I quieted my struggles. The world decompressed, grew colder, as an unseen door swung open on angry hinges. Dark figures loomed as light seeped in though the rough weave of the hood, accompanied by the low rumble of voices.
“What Sect are you?” The voice was calm, deep, arrogant. I did not respond. “I have the talent,” The voice continued, “to force a confession. What Sect are you?”
Again I said nothing, frantically searched my heart for God’s light. But its warm comforting glow was lost in the distance, crowded by out fear and anger.
“Your soul,” said the voice, “and mine, is nothing more than a bundle of neurons, a cluster of brain cells and myelinated fibers. Did you know that? And when you die, they die. No great mystery, no divine force, nothing. Meat. Faith is a fool’s errand.”
Flushed of Devotions, I fought against the rising tide of fear. The hood vibrated where it stretched over my nose and mouth, and its mossy stench filled my nostrils, congealed in my lungs. And yet, I longed to respond, to fight with words if I could not fight with steel, with rhetoric as sharp as any blade.
“So, do you like being alone?” The voice was snide now, as if he knew my thoughts. “No Salvation, no Glory, no Spirit? Anchored in the cold, dark reality of the living universe? The one your drugs and faith blur, distort, mangle into a false sea of sins and sinners.”
The urge to speak, to shout God’s words from the mountaintop—to hear them ring off the wall—bubbled and churned in my gut. Jaw clenched, my teeth creaked under the strain.
Fight and flight warred in my head and my body began to twitch. The room filled with laughter. Discipline, like a fine china cup tossed to the greasy asphalt of Battery Station, shattered.
“The clockwork logic of the scientific universe only exists in the minds of man.” The words gushed from my lips, uncontrolled, crazed. “Born of our need to impose order on the mind of God. To reduce his unfathomable intelligence, to shun the transcendent, to claim God’s power as our own.”
Again the laughter, my tormentors taking pleasure in my impotent rage.
“You arrogant bastards,” I continued. “You think you understand the mind of God, but you have not the capacity.” The laughter continued, but I pushed on. If I was going to die, I was going to die fighting.
Half of me, the indoctrinated half, rejoiced in the thought that I would die a martyr. The mortal half, the half washed free of Devotions, feared the void to come, the nothingness that is death. A metallic click shuddered through the room, and I slowly reclined, the sound of ripping plastic and the clank of glassware echoing in the darkness beyond the hood.
Overcome by panic and raw fear, every muscle in my body locked and I thrashed with newfound terror, fingers clutching at the arms of the chair, tendons and bones straining with effort. The chair clicked into position and I exhaled, breath rattling out of my lungs like a dog stricken with distemper.
Eyes closed, I resumed my prayers, seeking the familiar warmth of the Almighty.
Smooth and unhurried, a syringe slid into the meat of my left bicep. Blue heat flared as the needle withdrew, and nausea crushed down on me like a wave. I gagged, coughed, mouth suddenly tinged with the taste of garbage. An unseen hand ripped away the hood and my eyes burned in the naked glare, pupils screaming as they contracted.
A second syringe pierced my flesh and a familiar tingle started building at the back of my skull, pushing its way forward, swarming down my spine. Spirit, Glory, Salvation, my opening to ... A third needle stung the back of my hand and I was filled with an unbearable heat.
God was gone. Ripped away. I wept harder, my soul once again an empty well of fear, doubt, and loneliness. my flesh burned with their spiteful poison, barbed and terrible.
I wanted to kill them all. But my heart was too sick, my soul too heavy, my will a rank smattering of disparate desires. Frantic, I clung to the heat of my hatred as my flesh congealed—a tidal-pool of cold, dead matter from which I could not escape, the desire to scream an arctic nova in my throat.
“The flesh is cold isn’t it?” The voice crooned. “Cold and lonely.”
Through eyes blurred with wet and shame, I watched a dark figure emerge from the shadows, face obscured by a white surgical mask. Gloved hands slid forward and a fourth injector glinted in the tense light. It pierced my flesh. I stiffened, waiting for the pain. But there was no pain, no rotten taste, no chemical flames, nothing.
The drug hit and my body and mind went slack, thoughts drifting away on a flat neural sea. And though I did not cry out, I heaved painfully against my bonds, the tears still pouring down my cheeks. The room exploded with catcalls and derisive laughter. My shame sharpened. I was a failure, unworthy of the status of Archangel.
I reached for the light, for God ... Nothing.
“Now,” the voice said, “the punishment due.”
A display lowered from the unseen ceiling and filled my visual field. A live scan of a brain bright in writhing pixels. My brain, neurons firing. The image zoomed. My temporal lobe.
The final syringe pierced my shoulder, burned a trail of black napalm through my chest. Writhing, my body suddenly afire with the malice of science, I strained, a ragged and primordial screech dying in the back of my throat.
The soft pulse at the center of my temporal lobe, once hot and fierce, faded, guttering, like a tallow candle caught in a winter storm. Fear rushed in, filled the room, the world, the whole of God’s glorious universe. Drenched in terror, my heart thumped an uneven rhythm and my eyes burned.
Overcome and overwhelmed, I went limp. Gone. The fire at the center of my temporal lobe was gone—taking the pure light of God with it. It was over. Done. God and faith extinguished, executed, by a simple shot in the arm.
I wasn’t even angry, couldn’t feel it. All was ... flat, flat and gray and cold and dead. Dead. I stared at the inert lump of gray flesh that occupied the space where my faith had been, and I felt ... nothing. My comm-link went live, crackled, encryption phasing. It was then that I heard Javon’s voice, Javon, faint in my ear.
“You got what you deserved,” my betrayer said.
Alone in my cell, the sound of water dripping in the corridor, I do not lament the breaking of the artificial soul upon which my faith rested. As to my fanaticism ... It was a lie, a crime, a strange and exotic species of self-induced madness. A madness from which I’ve been saved, cleansed. And yet, in the same moment, I was betrayed, robbed of my faith and robbed of the ability to have faith. And that too is a crime.
Despite my radicalization, it was faith that saved me from a life lost among the forgotten, the wounded, and the damned. Was I a murderer? Yes. Was my zealotry an affront to God? Yes. Was my faith to blame?
As I sit here now, with the advantage of long years, I am certain of one thing. The Evolutionists had no right to destroy whatever true faith I had. It was mine, and it was real, and they had no claim to it. Its harsh removal with that last syringe makes them as guilty as I before they crippled me. Where is their eternal pain? Where is their punishment due? Where is their forced contrition for fanaticism?
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a man—a man alone on his island, surrounded by a sea of what might have been. A man who’s lost his faith. Whatever that means.
Seth W. Kennedy
Ventura Ca, 2014