The Catacombs

Sun, 29 Nov 1998

The parking lot was unbelievably huge and impossibly full. 'This is the least populated service,' she told them as they pulled in to park in section G. 'There are two more after this one and they're both packed. Every time the Church gets more money they just put it into the parking lot.' —They must've gotten quite a bit of money together by now, he observed as he looked around the acres of macadam.

'Well, look at all they have left to do,' she told him, pointing out the bulldozers and backhoes, one poised in mid-scoop in a dirt-and-clay sandbox which spread out for more acres than were visible. 'They say they have some three thousand kids come through here each week.'

Through the underside of the city, the dark-robed figure picked his way carefully from shadow to shadow. Much of his journey could be made underground, but here was a point where his path led him directly past the Temple guards.

Often it was possible to bribe the guards to look the other way for a moment, but the dark figure knew these two too well. Devoutly religous, they stood on their honor and righteousness and were completely above corrupt, heretical behavior. Every time these two were on duty, the hooded subversive found the need to create a different diversion if he couldn't get a pass. He almost always needed the diversion: of all fifty cult members, they'd only received five passes in the three years they had been meeting in secret.

He believed that figure. They passed between the two octagonal-shaped Information Kiosks into an atrium so large it needed signposts to denote different sections of the Church. To the right was a meticulous architect's model of the new development, which was clearly (as evidenced by the construction vehicles outside) already under way.

In lesser-travelled sections of the building, four separate nurseries divided children after the fashion of the most successful and populated daycare centers. Nevertheless, the squalls of unhappy infants could be heard from within the walls of the Sanctuary in which the population size of a small city gathered to be righteously entertained.

An expensive television was in one section of the building, surrounded by the few but devoted who only seemed to be able to absorb messages over an impersonally safe screen. Sounds of a lively game of basketball came from a gymnasium, while outside the building a van unloaded even more camera equipment.

As he waited there for anything he could use to his advantage, he grew concerned about missing the meeting which must surely be ready to start. It wouldn't take long to close the remaining distance, if only an opportunity would arise so he could cross this street unobserved ... he prayed, aware that no sound must escape his lips.

In quick answer, his opportunity walked by the guards. A half-starved stray nosed its way along the road, and he waited until it was on the far side of the guards before he made his move. With a quick prayer of thanks, he took a small stone from beneath his robes and flicked it with blinding speed and unerring accuracy across the twenty or so cubits to his target. The mongrel yelped as it began to circle around to attend its stinging hindquarters. The guards turned.

He climbed the stairs toward the upper level of the sanctuary, passing by a very young child (not, he noted to himself, in the heavily-invested daycare) who balked, tugging at his father's sleeve and wailing for his mother. —Too old by half to be wailing for his mother, he thought to himself impatiently. —Nevermind what they're teaching the adults, what could they possibly be teaching the children here? he wondered to himself. Not for the first time, he shook his head sadly at the overindulgence of the self-satisfied supremacist society in which he found himself immersed.

The band was already playing as he entered the sanctuary, and as he looked down he could see the thirty-two channel mixer used to ensure that every nuance of the band's instrumentation translated to each corner of the sizable sanctuary. —Sounds like an AA meeting, he thought to himself as he listened to the sermon of the song. The singer dropped his voice and started whispering to the crowd in this hugely phony voice. 'Hi, folks, this is my story. I know each of you has your own story, and this is mine. God is writing a story for each one of you and you are the main participant.' Very phony. As though anyone with the imagination of a potato couldn't've figured that out for themselves if they were interested enough. —sing, you moron, he thought angrily. The question of its appropriateness notwithstanding, the band was very good. When the singer was singing, that is. Translated well to video as well, he remembered.

—Every week it has to be a different miracle, he mused to himself. —How much longer until we get thrown to the lions? Faith will sustain you, the answer echoed in his mind, and with that he was content.

He entered the area in the catacombs of the meetingplace, and tapped on the door five times: once on each side of the door (top to bottom, left to right) and once on the center. It opened from the inside and he was greeted by his brother with a warm kiss of love and pride and joy. After being kissed by everyone in the room, he noted that he was in fact a bit late, and saw no reason not to call the meeting to order. He doffed his cloak, revealing a white tunic and kilt adorned only by a cross of iron hanging from his neck. He stepped to the podium, called for their attention, and began to speak.

The minister used as the basis of his sermon an adaptation of an interpretation of a translation of a language long lost to speaking civilization. This mystical inspiration was certainly a trained talent which required divine guidance.

'Our culture is losing its Christian religion — in fact, I'd say we've lost our Christian religion. And the main reason is that we lost our Sabbath day.' The minister says this with no evidence of expensive irony whatsoever, apparently unaware of the effects of advertizing on the product it sells. 'You won't believe what's happening in the world against Christians today.'

'We must all learn to listen to the Lord,' he continued. 'There's not enough time spent in communion with our spirituality in this godless world of deities and demigods.' He looked over them all, his beloved brethren, and yet their transgressions were known to all — a close community bred close communication, even when it had to be in secret. 'Be certain to take that day of rest and rest to the best of your ability — make certain that you spend six days providing for seven.'

Sermons couldn't be long — but didn't have to be. They prayed together, and discussed what they could do for their imprisoned brethren, all the while straining their resources to their snapping points so that they all had the chance to one day live in peace together along with their current oppressors. 'Remember, ' the minister concluded, 'Everyone must follow his conscience and not impose that conscience on others.' Just then there was a single knock at the door.

'Everyone must follow his conscience and not impose that conscience on others,' the minister said. This was, of course, on the heels of the discussion of 'The Puritans ... whom I hope we all revere ... no greater people lived in the face of God,' and if the minister recognized the tragic hypocrisy, he made no sign. He then discussed his plans to do missionary work to help Christianity take hold in Korea. The Unified Church of the State was, of course, sponsoring this trip the better to solidify its investments in Asia.

The two guards that the minister had tricked, devout followers of Jove and worshippers of the Divine Caesar in his current incarnation as Claudius, had seen him after all and had had themselves hastily relieved of their posts before tracking him to their meeting place.

They beheaded anyone they could not subdue, and the only thought circling the minister's mind as he sat in his cell awaiting his role in the Lion Act of the next circus was the prayer that one day, his Lord Christ could be worshipped openly and as the people saw fit, free of persecution - and the message that he was dying to bring to the world could be brought to everyone, unfettered by politics or prejudice ...


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