by Adam Huddleston
Here’s another taste of dystopian story that I’m working on.
“Ben. Go ahead and close the blinds.”
I stand up on legs that are a little shaky and make my way across the carpeted living room. There is no movement from outside, so I quickly draw the blinds, casting darkness over our meeting.
“Thank you son,” he says.
My father stands tall in the center of our circle, looking around at each of us with a firm and steady stare. He raises a smooth, long-fingered hand and smiles.
“I’ll Fly Away,” he whispers.
We begin singing the familiar first verse, piano, so as not to draw the attention of anyone walking down the sidewalk in front of our house. My father directs us in 4/4 time, marking each downbeat with a pop of the wrist. When we reach the chorus, I struggle to resist the urge to raise my volume. Father, sensing my hardship, grins wider while using his other hand to direct our small congregation to sing ever quieter.
“…When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away,” we finish in not much more than a whisper.
We sing another handful of hymns, all from memory of course. Decades before my dad was born, the government enacted the Freedom From Religion Act. All religious books, hymnals, pamphlets etc. were banned. Any public displays of faith were prohibited as well, so no more churches, synagogues, or mosques. Praying before a meal at a restaurant warranted the same punishment as any other infraction.
My father removes a cloth covering a brass plate. Resting on top of the plate is a thin, round loaf of unleavened bread. Beside it sits a bottle of homemade wine and a few small cups.
“In times such as these, we still remember our Savior. His body was broken and his blood shed so that our sins would be forgiven. No matter what dangers we face, we will partake in this supper until the end.”
Father didn’t have to explain what the “end” meant. It could be our individual deaths or the death of the world. Either way, Paradise awaited.
He breaks the bread and people outside begin shouting. I run to the window and gently peek between the blind slats. Two houses down from us, Mr. Langston is being dragged out of his house by two men wearing black, armored uniforms. One of the officers steps away and the other pulls a sidearm from its holster. Our neighbor holds his hands up and shouts something and that’s when the officer shoots him in the forehead. I see a brief cloud of blood in the air behind his head and he slumps forward onto the ground. His wife and sons are standing in their doorway screaming. I turn back to the dark room and begin crying.
My father leads me to the couch and sits beside me. He wraps a long arm around my shoulders and pulls me close.
“I’m sorry, son. I’m so sorry you saw that. George was a good man and I’m gonna miss him. I’m proud of his resolve, too. Like us, his family never stopped worshipping.”
This makes me feel a little better but then my mind begins forming a scene where something similar happens to us.
“What if the Agency ever discovers us? I’m scared, Dad.”
He looks away for a moment and I follow his gaze. On the wall across the room is a picture of my mother. She was killed a few years after I was born when an Agency officer suspected her of trying to evangelize while shopping for groceries in town. My father, who speaks often of her, but rarely of her death, says that he doesn’t know if that’s true or not. Part of me hopes that it is. If she had to die, I want to think that it was for a noble cause.
He sees me looking at her picture and hugs me tighter.
“It’s alright, Ben. The government is strong. Our family is stronger. God is the strongest.”