The word “son” conjures up images of my father. It reminds me that I came from a long line of killers and may possibly continue the tradition one day. I try to appear stone faced so that I don’t look guilty.
“Have a seat,” the man in the suit says to me.
I sit in one of the splintered pews by the front door of the church, and the man sits one pew ahead of me. He turns around and faces me halfway, with one leg tucked underneath him and the other one dangling from the pew.
“I’m Reverend Alvin Porter,” he says as though I should know his name. I don’t. It’s been so long since I’ve actually come into contact with a reverend to do anything but kill him that I’m not sure what I should do when I hear “Reverend” in his title.
“What can I do for you, son?” the reverend says, breaking the awkward silence.
He keeps calling me “son” and never asks my name. I’m starting to like it that way. The less he knows about me, the better. I’m not sure about this business of him waiting on me, though. Had someone told him about my past as a Death Leader? Was he here to finally confront me or make me pay for what I’ve done?
“You said you were waiting on me?” I ask.
The reverend nods yes matter-of-factly.
I start to get a hunch that he’s lying. “No disrespect,” I start, “but I’m not sure that’s even possible. I didn’t even know I was coming here until a few minutes ago,” I say.
“But He did,” the reverend says pointing to the sky at the God that the Regulars worship. He’s the same God that I’m sure is waiting on the perfect moment to burn me at the stake. “You felt something pulling you to come in here, didn’t you? Like a nagging?” he says.
“Well…yeah, but…” I chuckle out of pure nervousness—on one hand because I’m speechless and on the other hand because I’ve never been nervous and not had the option to do something about it. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m a little confused,” I say.
“Do you believe in fate, son? A higher power?”
“I think so. I’m not exactly sure what I believe in these days.”
The reverend runs his fingers over his head thoughtfully like I’ve said a mouthful before he starts to speak again. “Well, It’s out there and you better believe It exists,” the Reverend says as he pokes my chest with his pointer finger. The feeling of being touched still sends a surge of fear through me, but the reverend doesn’t seem to notice.
“Mind if I tell you a story?” He starts the story without waiting for me to answer. I lean back in the hard pew, trying to ignore the shooting pains and the numbness on my bottom. “This morning, I was making my to-do list like I do every morning. At the top of my to-do list this evening was date night with my wife. See, son, when you get to be my age, every little moment counts. And date night, to us, is very special. I picked out my clothes for that evening—what you see me wearing now. Got all gussied up. But when I came downstairs, my wife still had her nightgown on. She says the good Lord told her that somebody needed me more than she did tonight. As much of a man of God I am, I thought she had lost it a little bit, or even worse, that I had done something wrong.” He laughs a little after he says this.
“After she just kept insisting and insisting, I figured I’d come on down to the church and get some things done. Anybody who needed help, I had decided, could find me there. Once I got here, I figured I might as well leave the door open. I normally keep it locked to keep the troublemakers out of here. Ones who might wanna write that ugly language on the walls and carrying on. But you don’t strike me as the type,” the reverend says smiling at me.
No, rev, I’ve done a lot more in my life than scrawl a couple of cuss words on a crumbling wall. I smile back at him and wait for him to continue.
“Anyway, I figured I’d keep the door open and not an hour after I unlocked that door, here you come walking in. Right as my faith faltered, you come walking through that door. And so, I know that you must need my help. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”
I’m speechless—incapable of giving an appropriate response that might compliment the reverend’s story. The reverend must sense my discomfort. He doesn’t wait for me to answer.
“I’ll tell you what, son. Why don’t we kneel and I’ll pray with you?” he says.
I’m hesitant because I’m not sure how. Back when I was a Regular, I never prayed to a god, and The Book of Agonis has never mentioned any instructions or commands on how to pray.
“Come on. Kneel with me, son. Just talk in your heart. Doesn’t have to be out loud. Tell Him what you really need Him to do for you.”
I get on my knees, grateful for the relief from the wooden pew, but now the hardness of the floor presses into the bones of my knees. I feel silly at first, and I don’t really know what to expect. I’m not sure who I’m praying to or what I’m praying for, but sitting with someone who’s not a part of the Divine Order of Death makes me feel safe. I bow my head with the reverend but I don’t close my eyes like him.
It’s there that he starts praying for me—sometimes out loud and other times in silence. And I feel the warmth that I first felt standing outside spread a tingling feeling throughout my muscles.
So this is what it’s like to live as a Regular. To live on the bottom of the food chain, powerless but joined with billions of others by the common experience of humanity.
The man—who I don’t know and haven’t known for more than an hour—prays for my wellbeing, my health, my safety, my family, and my finances all because we are both human. Equals—brothers in his eyes.
That night when the man lays a cot out for me in a small backroom, I try to remember what depending on Mortimus was like as a Death Leader, but I fall asleep trying.