Second Coming: Chapter 6
I went to sleep that night, hoping that the entire wild day had been a nightmare, and I would suddenly return to consciousness in reality. What actually happened was me waking up some time at the ass-crack of dawn, remembering that The Pastor would be doing his sermon live over the internet back home to his parish that day. I jumped out of bed and pulled out my laptop to face the blinding light of the screen. I had never before sought out his sermon, nor had any previous interest to, and frankly had no idea where it was going to run.
With a search of the church’s name, the same on pasted on the bus the previous day, I found its home page. It had a dated design as expected, but led me easily to the embedded video player, ready to broadcast from the office. I looked to the clock on my computer- 6:12 in the morning. The schedule on the page gave me just over two hours to wait it out, as I had no idea whether or not Joseph would be up and willing to answer a call that early.
Biding my time, I went to the front room, where I spotted Steven awake in his room, likely still up and wired on caffeine and the desire to continue picking apart the previous day’s footage. He glanced at me with a dead-eyed gaze from the open door of his room. “What day is it? Monday already? You’re going to work?”
“Thank god, I thought I had gone into a fugue state.” He said, rubbing his eyes loudly.
“Don’t say that… name? Word?”
“…God? Oh, right, christ…” He huffed. “Piece of… never mind.”
I glanced out the front window at the first of the morning light. “I’m almost sorry that I didn’t get you involved with Joseph earlier.”
“What nonsense are you saying now?”
“He does a live broadcast every Sunday to his church congregation back where he’s from.”
“Typical. Yeah, I could have helped him with that, though. And?”
“And if he decides to bring that… person on with him, what sort of crazy things are the viewers going to think or do? Can’t help but think something like that will spread even worse than it already will be. If you were there, at least you could cut the cord or something.”
Steven’s chair croaked loudly as he leaned into his keyboard. “I think it’s a little late for that. You didn’t watch the news last night, right?”
“Oh crap, I totally forgot…”
Steven pulled me over with a motion of his hand. The web page was from the biggest news station here in the state, the parent station to our own local one that had been represented there at the rally. The headline read ‘Rally Brought to its Knees by Divine Intervention?’. The video beneath began silently autoplaying, revealing the anchors leading into the washed-out footage that fast-forwarded to a more watchable picture showing the man walking up the stairs of the plaza to meet with Joseph.
“You’re there too.” Steven commented with a laugh, pointing to my obscured face behind the camera equipment at the edge of the crooked footage.
“Wonderful.” I stood back up away from the computer screens. “Well, Joseph’s broadcast starts at 8:30. I could try to call him, or just hope for the best…”
My anxious waiting was interrupted sometime before the scheduled start of the broadcast with a call from the office’s landline. “Hello?”
“Terrence, glad you’re awake.” The Pastor’s voice rattled through the speaker. “I was about to start up the sermon… you know, over the internet… but something’s up with the connection. Maybe the phone that we use for it…? Think you or your friend there could offer us an idea or two?”
“Over the phone might be a stretch…”
“Well, we could just-” His voice pulled away suddenly, and a second voice came up from the background. “Huh? Oh, he did? Okay, Terrence, nix that. It got working just now. Our guest did something apparently.”
“The guest as in… him?”
“The good man himself.” Joseph’s voice brightened. “Divine touch, maybe? Anyway, sorry if I woke ya’ up, gotta get on camera now.”
“Keep him off-”
I looked to Steven who had poked his head out of the door of his room. I sighed and turned back to my laptop screen. “Well, I have to hope he has some better judgment.”
I managed to prepare and force down some breakfast while the sermon began. Only Joseph was present in full fuzzy detail of whatever phone camera he was using, and his sermon began without mention of the previous day’s happenings. As his speech winded down, he addressed whoever was likely present at his home church. “Finally, some of you have heard rumor, or watched the news of my rally yesterday. Unfortunately, my campaign manager has urged me to… keep things under wraps, but know that for the continuation of my campaign across the country… I will have Jesus with me.” His final words came out with a wink, barely visible over the connection. “Have a good week, and may the Lord also be with you.”
I lurched the lid of my laptop down before slouching back on the couch, my arm over my eyes to block out the early morning light outside the window. “I’m not going to survive this entire campaign like this.”
The following day, I returned to the office bright and early. I came fearing having to look either Joseph or the man in the face, but knowing that I had to delve more into the supposedly holy figure’s true identity. The office’s front door was unlocked as if nothing had changed, and Sharon was talking diligently to someone over the phone from her desk.
I reciprocated the silent smile she offered me while she talked on the line. “-yes, you’d be supporting The Pastor’s campaign, and it is also tax-deductible.”
The door to Joseph’s office was halfway closed, but I managed a glance inside to Joseph sitting at his desk, talking to the strange man standing stiffly at the center of the room. “Is that you, Terrence?” The Pastor called out to me, leaning forward. “Come in, if you would.”
I shuffled the strap of my pack off my shoulder and put it in the visitor’s chair before entering. The man looked at me with a dreamy nod. “Good day, my child.”
I glanced to him, then to Joseph. “Morning. Is there… any news that I should be included in?”
“Nothing in particular.” Joseph shrugged. “Oh, in case you were wondering, though, I got in touch with Mayor Malcolm yesterday, he said he we didn’t have to worry about the… ruckus that happened at the rally.”
“Oh, well, that’s quite surprising…” I said, looking to the man, his eyes still on me.
“He’s holding a press conference at 1 in city hall today, though, and he asked if we could provide a statement on our guest.” Joseph said, lending a hand to the man. “I figured you might be better prepared to tell him what he needs to hear. I can give you the number to his secretary, if you could take care of that ASAP.”
“Of course.” I nodded. “Thank you for your consideration. With yesterday as well.”
“If I may offer my word.“ The long-haired man spoke up for the first time. “I have learned that Joseph Cummings is of great influence, and so I must make sure not to tread upon that. Just like yourself, Terrence Jackson, I will work to only support this man.”
“You see?” Joseph said proudly, shifting himself up out of his chair. “It will be good to have a… morale adviser, perhaps we want to call the position? Excuse me for a moment, I’ve drunk too much water this morning…”
Joseph shuffled out the door, leaving me to debate whether or not leaving the man alone was rude or not. My eyes shifted away from his gaze, and to the crucifix on the wall behind Joseph’s desk. “If I may ask…” I said, trotting to the far wall.
“Yes, my child?”
“This sort of… imagery doesn’t perturb you?” I asked, looking back to judge his ever unchanging expression. “Your… sacrifice, I might call it? Do you remember the pain, or maybe the feeling of being treated in such a way?”
“Pain and despair are only temporary. Salvation is eternal.”
“I see. If it’s eternal, why return to the Earth at a time like this, at all even? Would that not imply something like your desires changing?”
The man looked at me pensively. “You seem to think that our divine, limitless wisdom is something that cannot change with the times.”
“What is time to someone omnipresent?”
Outside the door, I heard the scuffling of a part of feet across the short carpet. I pulled myself back around the desk and to the back of the chair just as Joseph came back through the door. “Oh, you’re still here, Terrence? Oh, that’s right, ya’ll need the phone number for the Mayor’s office.”
I noticed Jess having come into the office sometime during my call to deliver the message to Mayor Malcolm. She had leaned herself on the edge of my desk as I said my goodbyes and hung up the headset. “I need your help, if you could.” She asked.
I looked to her mother, still making phone calls, then to the girl. “More schoolwork stuff?”
“Yeah.” She nodded furiously, tapping her fingers on her arm. “It will be real quick, I promise.”
I followed after her out the back door and up to the interior of the RV. She looked out through the window to the parking lot before letting out a loud sigh. “I hate that man so much! He creeps the… heck out of me.”
You’re telling me. “I wouldn’t say that so loud…”
Jess tossed herself back on the hard pull-out couch with a huff. “I know. My dad would disown me. Sorry, I just needed to vent. Nobody else to talk to around here.”
I leaned back against the passenger’s seat in the cab area. “Well, I can agree there’s more to know about the guy. He isn’t staying here in the RV with you? Where does he sleep?”
“He doesn’t.” She said, pursing her lips. “He sits real still, here on the couch, like… meditating. Went to the bathroom the other night, he was still sitting, unmoving. I just want out of this RV and into a real bed with actual privacy…”
The low rumble of an engine from outside in the parking lot pulled my attention away. A black SUV appeared in the window, placing itself between the RV and the rear entrance of the building. A pair of men in suits stepped out and immediately went to the door. Jess pushed herself against the window. “Wait, who are those guys?”
I jumped down the stairs and into the back door. Cramped into the hall were the two men, blocking off any entrance further. “Who do you think you are?” One shoved at my chest.
“I work here. Who are you all exactly?”
“Get inside, then.” The other shoved me past. Inside, there were another two that had come through the front entrance, talking into earpieces. Sharon was back into the corner by her desk, holding her chest. Joseph and the man were being ushered out of the office after.
“What’s all this ruckus?” Joseph complained.
“We’ve got a headcount, four of the six.” One of the men counted off.
“Jess is…?” Sharon worried, looking to me. I pointed back to the rear of the building with my head to notify her.
“I want to know who ya’ll are, and what you’re doing in my office.” Joseph spoke up again, moving before the suited man blocking off the front entrance.
“Yes, the one and only.”
“We’re with the secret service.”