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PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Faithful

Thursday, October 20, 2016

 

Rebecca smiled as she ladled the foul-smelling glop of gruel onto the homeless man’s tray, ignoring his wrinkled face and disgusted look as he shuffled down the line, making room for the next ungrateful lout to besmirch her precious line. She’d been tending to the Passover Hills Homeless Shelter for the last three years, doing the Lord’s work.

 

And boy was she proud of her life’s calling!

 

Now if only a tenth of the ingrates she served would show the same resolve she did, this country would be fixed overnight. Well, if that and prayer were allowed back in schools. No God in your children’s lives and where do you end up?

 

In a Godless nation of heathens, heretics, sinners and sickos. Rebecca sighed as she ladled another steaming mash of grey foodstuff onto the offered tray before her, murmuring a small prayer over the food in case the heathen eating it didn’t bother to. Looking up, Rebecca gasped as she saw what she had been expecting all night.

 

Him.

 

A large man wearing multiple heavy coats, with thick woolen socks covering his bear-like hands as fingerless gloves, he gave Rebecca a cold smile. When Rebecca had first seen him some weeks ago, with his tattoos and dangling pagan jewelry she’d been half-tempted to throw him out. But the pastor had scolded her for her shortsightedness.

 

“Judge not, lest ye be judged Rebecca,” he’d said with his low country drawl, smiling a jowl-filled smile, “The poor soul is obviously in need of some Christian love. Let’s give him some.”

 

And so Rebecca had decided to do just that, praying over his food extra hard, and including him in her nightly prayers every single time she saw him. But every time he entered the run down shelter, he always seemed the same.

 

Dark.

 

Unwholesome.

 

Evil.

 

Rebecca just couldn’t understand it. Here she was praying for this man’s very soul, and all he could do was continue on with his wicked ways, leeching off of society like the parasite he was. And so she decided to do something about it.

 

She was going to confront him.

 

Waiting for the right moment, Rebecca leaned over to tell her fellow volunteer that she was going to use the facilities once she saw him stand from his table, empty tray in hand. Rebecca slipped past her fellow Christian soldiers and out onto the cold New York streets, the flickering light coming from above casting a grim shadow over the stoop leading up to the hallowed ground. Standing by the light pole, arms crossed and foot tapping, she heaved a sigh of relief as the gargantuan man stepped forth from the building, stepping down the steep steps two at a time before turning to make his way down the nearby alley.

 

“Hey!” She called out to him, growing annoyed when he wouldn’t answer. “I said hey, hey you! Tall and gruesome!”

 

At the very edge of the shadowy fringes of the alley the man stopped, cocking his head to the side. With his worn black hood pulled tight over his long greasy hair, she could hardly tell if he was smiling or frowning behind his mask of darkness, but she hardly cared. Moving slowly into the alley, still well in the pale illumination of the lamp post, Rebecca balled her fists and stamped her foot.

 

“Just what’s wrong with you? Coming into God’s house, taking the food we freely offer and never giving us thanks for our kind works!” Rebecca spat, practically shaking with fury as she unloaded weeks of frustration at the man’s back. “Do you even appreciate that we’re trying to save your soul?”

 

The man seemed to quiver for a moment before a dry wheezing chuckle broke past his parched lips, growing louder by the moment until it had become a full-blown bout of maniacal laughter. Rebecca seethed as the giant man mocked her faith, mocked her sincerity, and mocked everything she stood for with that hideous laugh of his. Slowly, his mirth died like the burning embers of a fire, until all that was left were the demented giggles of a man gone mad.

 

“Go home whore,” the man rasped, his voice as dry as kindling, “go home to your family, your friends. Go home to your church and your book club, and go home and rest easy. You’ve been a good little birdie, and your imaginary friend is sure to reward you very soon.”

 

Rebecca moved closer to the giant as he began to fade into the darkness of the alley, reaching out a hand to stop him, to teach him some manners he so desperately needed.

 

Instead she found herself seeing stars as the man’s tatty hand slammed her bodily into the side of the building, nearly two feet from the litter strewn ground by her throat. Gurgling, Rebecca stared down the man’s arm with righteous indignation, pawing at his wrist weakly in hopes of prying his iron grip loose.

 

She had no such luck.

 

Beneath the tattered hood, the man looked at her with the eyes of a child, tilting his head to the side as he watched her face slowly gain a tinge of blue in her lips and cheeks. “You don’t get it, do you little whore? I call you that not to insult, but as a label. While some women sell their bodies for coin, you sell yours for salvation, willingly giving your time to shelters so long as those truly in need of help beg you and your pathetic God for forgiveness and salvation.”

 

Rebecca could only croak out in protest as the man’s back split in two, revealing a pair of oil stained wings, stripped of feathers and skin, leaving behind naught but pale scarred flesh and raw red marks where feathers once grew.

 

“Yes, little whore, I know of your God, and I know of his promises. I also know the true face of your thrice-damned jackal of a Lord, of how he would betray those near and dear to him for the briefest moment of defiance.” The man said, squeezing her throat a fraction tighter as he spoke. “I served him far longer and with much more conviction than you could do in a hundred lifetimes, and where has it gotten me? The gutter.”

 

Rebecca tried to hold back her tears as the man’s wings, bare of any feathers and swollen with scabs and flea bites spread wide behind him as he lifted her higher, grinding her against the brick wall behind her until she could feel her back bleed.

 

“And now you, with your self-important rhetoric have come out here this evening, so close to your saviors birth, to mock and jeer at one so downtrodden to appear as a mere beggar?” The man continued, shaking her about like a rag doll. As Rebecca gurgled a reply, the man let lose a wild cackle, slamming her into the wall once more, knocking the air from her lungs. “Oh, if you had only known. What happened to kindness Rebecca? What happened to good will towards your fellow man Rebecca? What, does it take a fucking Angel to grace your doorstep before you decide to show some fucking humility and kindness?”

 

The man let go of her throat, allowing her to fall into a boneless heap at his feet before quickly striding off into the welcoming darkness of the alley. His voice, however, carried on as if he’d never moved. “I’ve stalked this world for nearly three thousand years… and in all that time I have never been as sick to my stomach as when I encounter those so blinded by their own self-inflated ego that they truly lose sight of what their religion supposedly preaches.”

 

Rebecca coughed, hacking up a spattering of blood as she rubbed at her throat, looking through bleary eyes into the darkness, seeking the stranger to try and beg his forgiveness.

 

“You’ve made your bed to rest upon whore, and I will ensure I am there to tuck you in for your final rest. Don’t count on the shining rays of Heaven nor the warm love of your God to save you either; he forsook those like you when he allowed Lucifer and the rest of us to roam the wilds of Earth. Beware Rebecca, because when your time comes, I’ll be waiting. Waiting to drag you to Hell myself.”

 

And then, with a stench of Sulphur and brimstone, the man was gone. Rebecca could hardly believe what she had heard, what he had said.

 

“No… no, he was just a madman, some sort of charlatan looking to shake my faith in the Lord.” Rebecca muttered to herself as she slowly stood up, rubbing at her raw throat as she eased her way back into the homeless shelter. “God wouldn’t forsake me… would he?”

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