Bucks County Writers Workshop
The Yellow Bus
uffer the little children to come unto Me, He thought with a scowl, and slammed the receiver down. And where the hell is Needham when I need him? Beau Riser almost smiled at the seeming echolalia of the thought, but He was pissed. Beau was used to having everything He wished at His beck and call whenever He wanted it. Damn Yankees couldn't even arrange to kidnap a bus full of defenseless children. He looked again at his Patek Phillipe Calatrava. Let the kikes and the nigger drug dealers have their Rolex Oysters. They were clunky. His watch was slim and elegant -- and more expensive. Beau denied Himself nothing: Saville Row suits, handmade Italian shoes, silk shirts and satin sheets. It was fitting, for G. Beauregard Riser was, after all, the Master.
He had ordered Jolene to get Him a glass of iced tea, but the oaf hadn't yet got the hang of moving properly in His presence. The result was disaster: iced tea spilled not only over Him, but on the raw silk duvet, running down to join the smashed Baccarat crystal goblet on the white rug. Christ, would nothing go right today? He grabbed a handful of Jolene's beautiful red hair in His left hand, yanked her up by it and slapped her hard across the face. She had the whitest skin, with a faint tracery of blue veins here and there. The results of the slap were immediate, as the outline of His spread fingers appeared on the left side of her face in deepening red.
"What is the path to heaven, Jolene?"
She repeated the cant which had been repeated so often and so forcefully it was inculcated in the forefront of her brain as the most important commandment, the very key to life itself. "The path to heaven is the immediate, complete and unquestioning obedience to the Master."
"And do you think this is obedience to Me?"
"No, Master. Please forgive Your Jolene. It will not happen again."
"I don't expect it to ever happen again, but that does not expiate your sin. You will go to the Matron and report yourself for twenty strokes of the cane at the next Punishment Day. When you return you will clean this mess up."
She kissed His feet, as expected, then half rose and backed away from Him to the door, where she retrieved the scant clingy shift dress all the handmaidens wore and silently closed the door behind her. She would be back, as she was still on duty until the night handmaiden appeared. There was a handmaiden on duty around the clock, even while He slept, ready to do His bidding. When she returned she would drop her dress outside the door, for no slave entered the Kadosh Hakadoshim, The Holy of Holies, as both His bedroom and His office were known, any way but naked.
The Matron was also a slave, but a very trusted one, as were His Deacons. She ran His huge faux-antebellum mansion, Beyt Hamigdash, The Temple, including the cooks, cleaners and the handmaidens.
Beau rose from the edge of the bed and leaned heavily on the windowsill as He tried to calm Himself. Six of His Deacons were at the rendezvous point, the Virginia Game Preserve, far away from the Kingdom of Heaven, awaiting the delivery of His two-dozen new acolytes. When the expected deadline had passed, they called to report neither slaves nor bus had arrived. They would wait until the preserve closed and would only call again to report success in Operation Broodstock.
If it failed Beau was no worse off, except for His investment of time and materials to design the gas device and have His Deacons build it. He could have brought the whole busload to the Kingdom, of course, but He wanted to force Needham to take the lives of the excess. Bending Needham to His will had been important from the outset.
He looked out the window on His fields and His human property still busily tending them. He had walked the fields earlier, realizing that His minions needed to see Him in some capacity other than preaching -- or punishing. But the heat had risen from uncomfortable to ungodly, and He had retreated to the air-conditioned comfort of His palace. Jolene had washed Him well, and dried Him lovingly - speaking of which, where was she? She was flirting with having her punishment doubled.
His slaves never complained about the long hours of exhausting stoop labor, for they had achieved their earthly goal: eternal salvation. It never ceased to amaze Beau how many simple souls there were who found life too complex to negotiate. They longed for someone certain enough and strong enough to tell them what to do. And if they wanted this strongly enough to give up their very freedom in exchange, the Master willingly obliged them and brought them to the Kingdom. Unlike His sartorial splendor, they were given simple work clothes. While He lived in the magnificence of teak and marble, they were quartered in rudimentary cabins. They dined communally on stew and hamburger served on tin with stainless flatware, never privy to His meals of elegantly prepared lobster and chateau briand accompanied by the finest French wines, served on fine china, crystal and sterling silver flatware. It was enough for them, and they were happy. Beau blessed them for their simple-mindedness, for here at the Kingdom He had no need to preach about God. Here, He was God.
Beau had specified the number twenty-four simply because this was the number of empty lockable rooms He had on the third floor. He had to keep them separate, He knew. These were not like the recruits He selected at His quarterly revival meetings all across the south. These youngsters (He shouldn't call them children. At fourteen-years of age, most if not all of them should be menstruating and having wet dreams) were raised as Yankees (which to Beau meant corrupt, willful and stubborn.) He would have to break them. The Master knew all the techniques: starvation, sensory deprivation, subliminal suggestion, and outright torture -- and He would use whatever was needed to turn them into Brothers and Sisters. Those who could not be broken would be silently returned to the ecosystem of the Great Dismal Swamp, which surrounded the Kingdom on three sides here in the rural northeast corner of North Carolina.
Land was cheap in rural North Carolina, but 400 acres still came to a pretty penny. The money came from His blessed daddy's estate. R. Prescott Riser started out as an itinerant revival preacher, like Beau, graduating to radio and television, which Beau wanted no part of. Beau wanted to see His congregation face-to-face, first at the meeting and then close up in private sessions. How else could He recruit for the Kingdom?
Beau started preaching at age five. His daddy taught Him Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and Beau knew the Bible, Old and New Testaments, almost by heart -- in all four languages. He could argue either side of an issue, and quote appropriate Biblical verses to support it. Being a walking concordance was only one of His talents. At six-feet-four, He'd let His wavy chestnut brown hair grow past shoulder length with a full beard kept closely trimmed, as Jesus was commonly depicted. Beau favored flowing, caftan-like garments to further the image, and His eyes were an arresting ice blue. But His crowning feature was His voice. Deep and resonant, capable of a vast range of instantaneous emotional shifts, Beau's voice was hypnotic. Once upon a time, Prescott Riser had been called, 'The Voice,' but soon after Beau reached puberty and His voice matured, daddy lost the sobriquet in favor of his son. Beau had a southern drawl, of course, but since He'd never been north of the Mason-Dixon line, and had no desire to, it never was a detriment.
Operation Broodstock was a radical departure from His usual recruitment methods, but He knew why He'd undertaken it. In the first place, His absolute power and authority at the Kingdom was infectious. It was almost impossible to shed the mantle of godhood when He went out into the world. He had to constantly remind Himself to be careful in His recruitment. At base, He couldn't quite shake the feeling He could do anything He wished and get away with it.
The second reason was His desire to push the noses of the Yankee 'couple' who had asked for a private session at one of His revival meetings in Richmond in the dirt, to see just how far He could make them bend to His will.***
When He looked at the data sheet before the private session he almost told His Deacon to cancel it. What on earth could two Yankees from Pennsylvania want a private audience with Him for? Beau supposed there were a lot of lost souls ripe for the picking up in Yankeeland too, but this pair certainly didn't look like it. Paul Jones, according to the sheet, was a school administrator, and Ingrid Smith was a teacher. Jones and Smith, how inventive. Still, they had waited through all the other private sessions after the service to see Him. This was the final session of the evening. Sue Ellen was the designated handmaiden tonight, and much as He wanted to go to the delights of her firm flesh, He knew Sue Ellen would be wet and ready whenever He got there -- if she valued her skin. Perhaps He could have some fun with these Yankees. He turned to His Deacon.
"Show them in, James."
Paul Jones was tall and rangy with a receding widow's peak of sandy blonde hair. A lightning appraisal of his clothes said 'cheap, off-the-rack.' Ingrid Smith was a head shorter than her companion and tending to plump. She wore little or no makeup and kept her bleached blonde hair swept back off her face with combs. Her dress, likewise, screamed J. C. Penny or K-Mart, and her shoes said Payless, not Manolo Blahnik.
"Y'all come right in, sit down and make yourselves comfortable." Beau noticed they hadn't been holding hands when the entered, nor were they sitting close together. Neither held His eye. The body language didn't say 'happy couple.'"Paul, why don't you tell Me what brought you here tonight."
Ingrid flinched slightly at the name 'Paul,' so that probably was a lie too.
Paul cleared his throat, and a nervous tic started in the corner of his right eye. "We're here in Richmond for the School Administrator's National Conference. I guess you know it's in town, right?"
Beau said nothing, letting the silence grow until Paul got uncomfortable enough to need to fill it.
"Yes, well, I'm not much of a church goer myself, but some people at our hotel said I simply had to hear 'The Voice' - that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Beau smiled, but said nothing.
"So, anyway, I came to hear you two nights ago ... I found your message so moving, so comforting that I brought Ingrid with me tonight so she could hear it for herself."
His message had been the usual 'repent sinner,' which was part of every revival meeting. But to it He had added 'balancing the books,' based on the ancient Jewish customs of Tsedakah, charity, and G'Milut Chasadim, deeds of loving-kindness. The idea was that a sinner could improve his chances of forgiveness and avoiding the fires of hell by doing good works. Beau chewed on how this fit with the private audience.
"And how have you been enjoying the conference sessions, Ingrid?"
She started and blanched. "Oh, I'm not attending the sessions. Charles is."
Charles. Beau now had all He needed. He put a scowl of wrath of His face, rose to His full height, fixed them with a cold, icy glare, and pointed the Finger of God in Charles' face.
"You! You have the effrontery to come into My house with the sin of adultery so heavy on your souls this poor woman is about to break. You come with lies on your lips and expect to gain My grace. To be clean you must come clean. Your name is not Paul, but Charles, right?"
Charles seemed to collapse in on himself, his eyes pleading. "Yes."
"Charles what? For surely Jones is but another lie."
The answer came in a broken whisper. "Needham."
He turned to face the woman, who was silently weeping. "And you?"
The Finger of God was now pointed squarely at her, and she shrank back from it. "Ingrid McGovern."
He stayed with the woman, not saying that He had observed the indentation on Charles' left-hand ring finger from years of wearing a wedding band. "And you know he has a wife at home?"
She nodded, weeping more audibly.
"In the days when My temple stood, adulteresses were stoned to death."
She choked back an involuntary cry as He wheeled on the man.
"And no less a penalty awaited those who desecrated their marriage vows and fornicated outside their marriage bed." It wasn't true, but Beau was certain Charles wouldn't know that.
"Yes, forgiveness and salvation can yet be had, even for such blatant sinners as yourselves, if you were willing to repent, to go and sin no more. But I can see your hearts, and there is no repentance in them. You want absolution, but you also want to continue your sins of the flesh, don't you, Charles? That's why you wanted this private audience."
Charles nodded dumbly, awestruck at how the man knew so much about him and the innermost desires of his heart.
"And you, Ingrid ..."
She looked up at him, fear in her eyes that he would do to her what she had just witnessed him do to her lover. Nor did he disappoint her.
"You've wanted him for so long, haven't you? Worshipped him from afar. And when it finally happened, you were sure your prayers had been answered. Even though you're here in shame and secret, you cannot imagine giving up even this precious small piece of him and sending him back to his wife, while you resume your chaste, oh so lonely life."
She collapsed across the table, and that was when Operation Broodstock came to Beau, whole and completely developed, in a blinding flash of inspiration.
"There may be a way ..." He waited until they both were focused on Him again. "Though your sins are enormous in My sight, I might save you from the fires of hell and bless your continued relationship if you are willing to render extraordinary service to Me."
They both sat unmoving, trying to digest the glimmer of hope he had just offered them.
"This undertaking is not without risk. Would you be willing to knowingly violate the most serious laws of man to serve My needs and achieve eternal salvation?"
Both heads nodded in unison, as if He were a puppet master. Beau had seen the effect before. He couldn't tell them He intended to turn the precious children into slaves. Enthralled as they were, His control only went so far. So He invented some ritual for which the children were required, which they readily bought into.
"You may call Me Master."
He offered the back of His hand to Ingrid and she promptly kissed it fervently without instruction. "Thank you, Master."
Charles repeated the obeisance. And so it began.***
There were problems along the way, especially when Charles wanted to involve his father-in-law, Mason Munford. Munford was stone crazy, but Charles' repeated assurances wore Beau down. Munford wanted a reward too. He wanted to talk to his dead wife, to which Beau readily agreed. Shortly after Munford set foot in the Kingdom, he could talk in person to his wife forever, while his body fed the critters of the Great Dismal. Then Beau would summon Charles and Ingrid for their reward as well. The Great Dismal had a voracious appetite.
Beau checked His watch again, anxious to see His twenty-four gifts. He hadn't specified the mix of sexes, but He hoped there would be more girls than boys. Middle class, white, fourteen-year-old Yankee girls should still be virgins. The Brothers, already worked to exhaustion, would push themselves to near death for the right to deflower one -- after Beau had selected out the really pretty ones to train as handmaidens. Some of His handmaidens had been around for too long, and He was tiring of them. Time for them to join their Sisters in the field. Jolene, on the other hand, was new and still learning her duties.
Beau hadn't even heard her re-enter, but there she was, squatting on her haunches by the door, her back straight, breasts thrust out, hands on her thighs which were spread to an extreme angle, revealing her innermost private charms, exactly as she had been instructed. He snapped his fingers and she quickly crawled to Him on all fours.
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Bucks County Writers Workshop