...She (Melissa) turns the music up again for a few seconds, then lowers it and continues, “Since I quit the drinking and the drugs, I just couldn't fit in in bars. The suburban town that I lived in was the kind that was proud of having not much to do. We also had no world wide web in those days, and ringing up random strangers on the telephone had always been frowned upon. I head to a local church, mostly because there was nothing else to do, and found the light; no, I only thought I did. I did horrible things but thought I was right because they convinced me that it was what God wanted me to do. They called it tough love and taking a stand for the so-called truth. One time, in an effort to get my daughter Tabitha to do a better job at cleaning her bedroom, I said to her while in a grocery store, 'We're in the last days. You'd better behave, or I might be taken and you left.' I snuck out and went home without her seeing me, and left her wandering, hoping that a rapture-scare would get her to work harder. At home the telephone rings, I know it's her, and I don't answer the telephone. She dials and dials, but as far as she knows I’m not home.”

Another turn-up of the Rachmaninoff music. Bill almost lip-syncs Eric Carmen’s chorus line.

“I go back to the store at closing time, she is nowhere to be found, and a cashier says that she saw her leave and accept a ride from a stranger. I report her missing to the police. Three days later, her still not found, my son, 16 year old Peter argues with me about why I should not do what I did. He spoke very softly, and I would just scream and yell over him quoting Bible verses without giving any thought to what they meant. I would wield the Bible like an axe and scream down at his face, 'Nunnuvuss ah good. God has forgiven me, not so sure about you. Now you better forgive me and do whatever the hell I say, or God won't forgive you. I will be taken, and you left.' At this, in a flash before my eyes, like magic, his body disappeared. His clothes fell to the floor. I believed in the rapture and all that, and wouldn’t stop talking about it, then, in horror I quickly realized the unthinkable. I often thought of how there may have been a time when one could worship the Lord, I mean really worship the Lord in spirit and truth. My chance was gone.”

A little more Rachmaninoff music turned up. Melissa removes a fake-skin veil covering her forehead. She holds her hair back. It reveals laser-etch marks in the image of a book with a sewn-in string bookmark, your typical classic Bible. Under the center seam of the book are images of an eagle, a dove and a sparrow, each bound in chains, and crushed under the weight of the book. There is a circle of six images depicting churches around it. She turns the music down and says, “Anyway, I'm what's called a Gray Rabbit Runner. I buy goods from the stores to distribute in the underground markets. Those who don't have the OCS chip can't buy anything in the stores, and can't get jobs. Those under 18 can buy limited items with cash and an ID card, but once you are 18 you are expected to make your decision.” She points to her forehead, “Six failing churches. One of the first things the book of Revelation talks about. Sixty six books in the Bible. This symbolizes enthroning the letter above the Spirit. No kicks, it's six, six, six, the Number of the Beast, and I ain't rocking out to it if you know what I mean. They've got the people clinging to a form of godliness but denying its power and, worse yet, destroying His goodness. I fear that I may have sacrificed my soul that those refusing to get the OCS chip can survive. I hope that the true Lord may see my efforts to fight the system as a kind of repentance.”

“You knew that there would be a Mark of the Beast. Did you really let them do this?”

“No. I was in the hospital. They gave me drugs. They told me it was to help with the pains in my knees, but what they really did was put me to sleep. As I wake, it is three weeks later. I go to the bathroom mirror and see that the Mark of the Beast is already in my forehead, operation done and over with.”

Bill says, “But now we have seen the true Word, and it is spreading throughout the world again. Let us take up the Arms of God and bring tyranny and hell alike unto its just desert.”

“Amen and Amen.”

“Amen and Amen.”

They arrive at the grocery store. Melissa loads up 700 cans of canned goods including tuna, corn, peas, tomato paste, and 50 boxes of macaroni into two carts. Bill is glad to help lift them from the shelves to get the job done quicker. Bill and Melissa unload the cart at the checkout belt. The cashier waves a wand across Melissa's forehead. Beep. The screen on the belt reads, “Please wait.” In ten seconds, “Checking account balance: $8,273.83. Order total: $2,378.39. OK.?”

Melissa taps the “Yes” button.

The screen reads, “Please wait.”

Forty seconds go by. Melissa looks a bit uneasy, but is hiding it very well. The cashier taps a button. Thirty more seconds go by.

The screen buzzes and reads, “Transaction declined. Medical evaluation required.”

The cashier gives dirty looks as she reads the screen on her side of the checkout belt. Bill can see it reflected on her eyeglasses, and knows how to read backwards. It says, “Detected symptoms of Faith Ideation Disorder. Suspected of practicing gifts of the Holy Spirit without Ministry authorization.”

Melissa and bill leave the store. They get back in the car. It won't start. The dashboard beeps and shows, “Authorization to operate terminated. Alerting…

(From Chapter 6 of Forbidden Honey Dew Chronicles, Book 2: Balor’s Reign & the Dungeons of Britnoitula) © Glade Swope