Wednesday, January 29, 2014

37. How a man of God fell from grace

The Reverend Robert Lowry almost thought that the woman was Shannon Stone with hair dyed blonde, when he first laid eyes on her through the semi-see-through screen of the confessional in his church.  Only when she began to talk that he could tell the difference.  She appeared out of nowhere within hours of Solar Cross III being erected and came straight into the booth while he was there.

Without preamble, she said through the screen, "Father, please absolve me, for I have sinned, and am about to commit a capital crime."

"I'm not sure that I can absolve a crime before it is committed," said Lowry.  "But you said that you had sinned, so let's address that first."

"The Lord teaches that just imagining doing something sinful, even without actually committing it, is itself sinful.  Adultery, for example.  I am married, but just an hour ago, maybe even ten seconds ago, I was imagining having passionate sex with you, and in sordid detail.  So, I have sinned."

Lowry was momentarily rendered speechless.  Then he said, "And what capital crime are you about to commit?"


Lowry was rendered speechless again.  On the other side of the screen, the woman brought out a ziploc bag from her purse.  In it was a thin, pink-colored straw, one end of which containing a small amount of white powder.  She brought the straw out of the ziploc bog and inserted the end with the white powder through the screen.  She brought her lips to the other end of the straw and blew into it.  On the other side of the screen, a small puff of white dust blossomed, which in the duskiness of his cubical he still noticed.  He thought it slightly unusual, but as he kept on breathing, he drew some of the dust into his lungs.  Meanwhile, the woman brought out a surgical mask from her purse and put it on herself.

"Are you serious?" he said, not sounding priestly even to his own ears, while quickly adding, "about murder I mean."



"You," she said.


"Yes, you."


"Ten seconds ago."

Lowry chuckled with ill-concealed relief.  "Well, since I'm still alive, you either have a strange sense of humor, or failed in your attempt."

"You won't be alive same time next week, and you should be dead serious about this, no pun intended.  I have just infected you with a lethal virus for which there is no counter-measure, and your oncoming disease has no known cure.  Its gestation period is three days, after which 98% of those infected will develop symptoms that will kill them within another three days.  The symptoms are similar to those of E-Coli, Ebola and the Black Death, but more horrid and indeed hideous than even all three of them combined.  You will be extremely infectious once your symptoms have begun to appear.  Then the only way to render yourself non-infectious is to stop breathing, preferably 6 feet under.  But even so, the disease can still spread, because I will be spreading it on your behalf first to your entire congregation this coming Sunday myself.  They will then bring the virus home or to work or to shopping malls, or via travel to other cities around the world.  Even if you call off the service, we have hacked your computer and obtained your membership list, and will go after them one by one.  The only way to ensure that I won't do so is if you abide by all of the following conditions: 1. destroyed your Solar Cross III within 48 hours; 2. close your church once and for all within 72 hours; 3. disappear within 96 hours for good; 4. do not report your illness to police; 5. do not report it to media; 6. do not go to any hospital; 7. do not tell anyone about it even in confidence; and 8. do not let your body ever be found.  If you violate just one of these conditions, we will go after your followers, even if we have to blow the virus into their homes through their mail slots one by one.  If you violate more than one condition, we shall infect the entire Pittsburgh.  This is all I have to say.  Follow your conscience and act accordingly."

"Who are you?"  Lowry asked feably.

"Come on, Father, you know that a priest is not supposed to ask a confessor this.  Oh, this reminds me.  I have one more thing to confess.  The white powder I blew into the confessional could be the virus, but also could be just baking powder.  However, here is something definite.  The virus attacks humans and canines alike, and about an hour ago I infected your dog, the gold retriever, with the virus, for sure.  Here's the thing.  The gestation period of the virus in dogs is not 72 hours as in your case, but only 24 hours, and the animal dies within another 24.  Same time tomorrow, he will develop symptoms you cannot miss.  Observe, but do not handle; do not even be in the same room with him in case what I blew into your confessional was only baking powder.  And, I repeat, do exactly as I said."

And with this, the woman left the booth, marched to the parking lot and drove away in a vehicle which Lowry, totally stunned, did not make it out there in time to see. 

At the end of the second day, Solar Cross III lay shattered on the ground.  On the third day, the front door was sealed by a poster saying simply that the church had been closed indefinitely, with no reason given.  On the fourth day, a small mound appeared in the backyard of the church, bearing a bouquet of flowers tied to a dog-toy.  The Reverend Robert Lowry simply disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again.

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