Second Coming: Chapter 23
Not far from Capitol Hill was the rally. The planning for it had gone two whole weeks, longer than any previous event. Plenty of locals had pledged themselves to set up, decorating, or simply being around to help with the menial tasks. Even more people were called to join as special guests and speakers, including my parents and the mayor of Tallahassee who had helped Joseph with our fateful first rally back in January. As for myself, I was still being kept at an arm’s length, left to do my own thing, which was in fact very little.
I had seen some of the agents around during those two weeks, but I hadn’t heard from, let alone seen, Barth himself. The night of the event when we pulled into the rear of the venue in the RV was the next time I found myself within speaking distance of him. Nevertheless, he seemed to pretend as if I were not there the whole time that the event organizer was speaking to Joseph nearby. Finally, when the Pastor and his family went off to gossip with Mayor Malcolm, I encroached on his space while he was fiddling with his headpiece.
“Barth, how are things proceeding?”
“Huh, oh, it’s you, Jude,” Barth replied, barely able to look my way. He pressed his hand to his ear as if listening in to something certainly more important than himself. His eyes traveled about the plastic net fencing that kept the backstage area of the open-air venue from anyone unwanted. Farther up near the field of folding plastic chairs were miniature hoards of people awaiting entry to the event. A mixture of volunteers and dark-polo-sporting security guards were holding them in place.
“How are we moving forward? I’d like to be included if something is going to happen.” I asked again, attempting to step into Barth’s field of view.
He held me at the end of his arm. “Back off. It’s too late for you, Jude.”
“Just for me?” I asked, searching for a reason for my rising indignance.
“We both blew it, Jude, actually.” Barth frowned, giving me a shove away. “The Pastor caught us in the act, even if it wasn’t in the way he actually thinks.”
“You think your phone was the only thing we bugged to listen in on you lot?” The agent said, looking down his nose at me. “We heard when he disowned you. Well, you could have spared yourself a bit of embarrassment if you hadn’t come out to the girl.”
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” I sighed.
“Of course not. At least not your sexuality. But you could try and be ashamed about still accepting a paycheck from Joseph this whole time that you’ve been deceiving and holding him back. Alas, that’s not illegal, nor any of my business.”
“Your business…” I said, arms crossed. “Your business is… should be… stopping all this nonsense. Iowa already gave him their delegates. Joseph is projected to win the upcoming primaries before Super Tuesday, too. The further you let this move forward…”
“Shush.” Barth butted in. “You’re good at the whole social media thing. You should know what’s coming tonight.”
“I haven’t been paying attention so much, actually,” I confessed. “Been writing a book, to let you know. Which rotten parts of the internet have I been missing out on?”
Barth clicked his tongue, and then pulled me to the side, out in view of the entrance of the venue. Right at the gates where the tickets were being checked were tall picket signs in cardboard and sharpie. Not our messiah, I was able to make out one. “Of course, I see. What are you going to do about them?”
“Hopefully nothing.” Barth shrugged. “Just if they get too rowdy. We can see how Joseph and JC deal with the rabble they’ve roused.”
A check-one-two of a sound-test echoed about the surrounding park of trees. Barth shoved on my shoulder and distanced himself, hand returning to his ear-piece. I checked my phone for the time and found a text from my mother, saying that she and my father had been able to make it inside the venue.
After finding them and making sure they were in a good enough seat to stay away from whatever crazy event was supposed to happen, I excused myself back to the rear of the stage. Joseph was primmed in his finest navy suit, and the supposed holy man’s crisp white robes were as pristine as they always were. Sharon and Jess were in nice ankle-length dresses and looked out upon the settling crowd. “Good luck to all of you tonight,” I said.
Joseph took notice of me immediately and took up my shoulders in each of his hands. “No luck needed, my boy. I’m just going to tell the crowd what they want to hear, it’s the same thing I want to hear as well.”
Before I knew it, the stagehands were pulling aside the curtains and allowing the first of the presenters out before the podium. The crowd died to a low hum, but somewhere beyond the muddled voices and shuffling were shouts of rejection. The master of ceremonies, someone from the main party office from there in D.C., opened for Joseph, warming up the already steaming crowd. Then came Mayor Malcolm, who told the story of the Tallahassee Rally, making up a tale of how he felt the divine energy. “…and at that moment, I felt my heart and body open up truly to Jesus Christ, and unto all of us, he appeared, joining hands with the very important man who will soon lead this one nation under God- Mr. Joseph Cummings!”
The crowd roared, deafening even from beyond the heavy curtains. The Pastor, his family, and most importantly the man departed from the back and took a stand behind the podium. Joseph and the women waved, and JC stood, looking as stoic and as indifferent as most other times. The voices finally died down, and Joseph took the chance to finally speak.
“Good people of Washington! Only a few blocks away we find one of the most important structures in America- The White House! And this November, it will be you all, passing your votes to me, to bring faith back to our great country and lead us to said place of power! As I have stood in front of my parish for so many years, speaking the good word and spreading God’s great bounty, I will soon stand before every single American and spread the same good word, and bring prosperity and morality to us all!”
The cheers rose with his words, but as soon as they began to subside, another cacophony of voices replaced it. At the front entrance, the weak borders of the plastic fence had been breached. The protesters pushed in, leading a parade of signs and shouts down the middle aisle and around the sides. “Not our Messiah! False Prophet! Sheep of God!”
From their seats, the attendees began to shout back or look for any sign that the interruption would be quelled. The protesters continued and finally arrived before the stage and shouted up at Joseph, who was speechless. Sharon pulled Jess back and looked for help from any of the others. Joseph glanced at the man, then to the backstage curtains.
The two sides of the audience began to argue loudly, passing back and forth angry gestures, and some threatened to strike out. Joseph attempted to clear his throat loudly into the microphone, then he spoke loudly. “It is a shame, for those people who do not wish to hear the word of God!”
The protesters booed in unison and marched about in circles, hoisting up their signs. To my surprise, the one who stepped up next was none other than the supposed holy man himself. He touched Joseph’s shoulder gently, before taking his place and leaning into the microphone.
“Foolish people- every single one of you here! You will listen!” His sudden cold words put an immediate stop to the marching and shouting. “The most powerful land on this insignificant blue planet. Yet you can only fight among each other. How can one lead such a group of people if not a single individual can agree with another? It is all I have seen during my time here. Things made up to speak down upon one another and attempts to create divides. Impossible. You are filth and are not deserving of our presence here. I will go and hope that there is another time when reason prevails you. Farewell.”
With those words, the man held his hands to the sky. The entirety of the gathered people stood and looked up at the sky, awaiting something. Just like in Tallahassee, the bright light arrived in the blink of an eye. Before my vision could clear, the man had disappeared from his place behind the podium, and the blinding aura was once again gone. Joseph glanced around, while the crowd and protesters stood in shock.
In the confusion, I had not noticed Agent Barth taking a spot beside me. “Well, that makes it easier, doesn’t it?”
“Makes sense too. Rather than… ‘take me to your leader…’ you might call the plan… ‘we’ll make a leader of our own.’”
“You don’t mean…?”
Barth patted me on the shoulder and turned backstage. “All we have now is the inevitable fall of the Pastor, in our best-case scenario. Better collect your last paycheck quick, Mr. Jackson. Both of our jobs are done here. But, uh… feel free to get in contact with us if you ever want a job with the Bureau… or a date. Either way, my number is in your phone.”