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Fantasticoe 2010 Contents
Unquestioning Faith

Laura Simmons

It was 10:24 pm, Saturday evening. Father Michael sat at his humble desk searching for the right words to use in his sermon the next morning. He wasn't coming up with anything. What could he say to these distracted people that would bring them back to the light? They were unconsciously being controlled by the information age. iPhones, Internet, reality TV, gadgets that tell you how to live your life and exactly when to live it. There was no room for God in this world. Why did he bother?

Without many activities to fill his day, Michael often occupied his time by baking bread. It wasn't a difficult task, but it was plenty time consuming. Michael was a priest. He was the only priest that presided over St. Luke's Catholic Church. He was about to finish his 20th year of being a part of the clergy, but he wasn't excited about it. He baked bread because it was the only thing that kept him clinging to his faith. It helped him reflect on Jesus and the last supper. But lately, Michael could only think about how he wished his next supper was his last. Michael just couldn't find the passion he once had. People were choosing to sleep instead of worship on Sunday mornings.  He used to consider his faith to be as strong and sure as cathedral walls, but now those walls were crumbling down.  He often thought to himself, if my parishioners aren't passionate about their faith, how can I possibly be expected to be passionate about mine? It wasn't such an unjustified question. It wasn't that he hated preaching as much as it was that he missed the many faces starring at him from the pews, grasping onto every word like it was the morsel of bread being handed to a child on the brink of starvation; those looks of complete fascination and joy that encouraged him to continue. He didn't see those faces anymore. Now all he saw were grey, drooping expressions of boredom and obligation. He was nearing 70 years of age and he was facing the most confusion and unrest he had ever experienced in his whole life. He had never had a midlife crisis and puberty was a breeze. So why, when he was supposed to be happy and content, full of wisdom and experience, did he feel like he was entirely at the end of his rope? He couldn't say for sure, but the thing he knew better than anything else was that he was absolutely and completely miserable. 

Michael stood up suddenly, having gotten nowhere with his sermon and started pacing his small living room. It was a bare room with only a few furnishings; a worn sofa, a bookshelf with maybe 8 books occupying the shelves, an antique grandfather clock, and his tiny desk in the corner. Michael stared discontentedly at the floor. His breath began to match the pace of his steps. Hours passed and his dread had only grown. He grasped at a solution, any solution, to end his living nightmare. Preaching more wouldn't do anything. All he ever did was preach, but no one ever listened. Idea after another entered his troubled mind. I could stand up at the altar and scream at them. I could rip off my robes and throw them on the ground in the middle of mass. I could refuse to preach throughout the entire morning, or…

A menacing idea crept into Father Michael's mind. It was so wickedly perfect. The question was could he do it? He practically leaped to his bookshelf and yanked the worn Bible from its dusty perch. Flipping violently through the pages, he stopped on a particularly striking verse. "Ezekiel 7:3 - The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices." That was all he needed. It was God's will and Michael knew exactly what he needed to do. He deserved a good life, the people at St. Luke's didn't. What would they know about deserving anything? But he would teach them. He would show them exactly how much they didn't deserve what they had. This isn't wrong, He thought,  I'm doing the right thing and God will love me for it. Michael hastily gathered his modest belongings together into a suitcase and then looked at the clock. It was 3:00 am. He went to bed and fell asleep instantly. He slept like a baby and felt rejuvenated the next morning, Easter morning. It was time.

Father Michael got into his car and drove to St. Luke's. It was a very special morning because everyone who skipped mass year round would be there. They only went to church Easter and Christmas. But this Easter, they would experience a new start, something that would never be forgotten. He was going to give his church a new perspective. They would all be resurrected from their sinful lives. He would show them how lucky they were and how ungrateful they were. He arrived just as a few families started filling into the front doors. The sun shined brightly on his face through the intricately colored stained glass windows. There were pastel colored banners hanging from every pillar and the Paschal candle stood majestically next to the altar, its flame standing straight up, like a king on his throne. The candle was lit every Easter and represented Christ's light leading to new life and salvation. I'll give them salvation, Michael thought to himself as he nodded to a few parishioners, hoping they could not see through his façade and scurried to the back door that led to his office. After locking the door, Michael pulled an assortment of poisonous cleaning chemicals from out of his bag a stared at them lovingly. This was his way out, his way to happiness. It was so easy. To think he had wasted as much time as he had and not thought of this earlier. The people of St. Luke's were going to really learn the value of Gods greatest gift…life. 
Michael made his way to where the wine was kept before it was blessed during mass, constantly looking over his shoulder. He opened the wine container with shaking hands and poured a generous amount of chemical cleaner into the red liquid. Excitedly, Michael proceeded to put his robes on and prepare for mass. 
His knees felt like jelly as Michael finished reading the opening prayer. "The word of the Lord"

"Amen," came the communal response.

The rest of the readings felt like novels. This was the slowest mass Michael had ever experienced. He frequently looked over at the pitcher of wine in anticipation. At last, the moment came and the Eucharist was brought up to the altar. Michael went through the motions of blessing the bread and wine. His hands were sweaty and tense. He almost forgot part of the Lord's Prayer. Then the organ began to produce loud notes and the various people from the pews came up to help distribute communion. He recognized one of them. It was a woman, about 30 years old. Michael had baptized new baby years ago. She smiled at him kindly as she stepped towards the altar. He looked back at her pew and saw her husband holding their little boy's hand. He couldn't have been more than 10 years old.  Michael gulped down a lump in his throat the size of a large rock. He couldn't think about silly things like guilt. God wouldn't think about that; he was concerned with bigger things and so was Michael. 

People walked in lines towards what would soon be their death. Michael watched in awe at the simplicity of it all. Finally, everyone was seated again and Michael was wrapping up the mass. One of the altar boys walked up with the Sacramentary, containing the closing prayer, and opened it for Michael to read. "Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing." As Michael said this, the first of the parishioners collapsed. One after the other, people died. The entire church was filled with crying, choking, and screaming. All of this was interspersed with large thuds as one body after the other hit the floor. Michael watched in satisfaction, continuing to read the prayer as all of God's people fell to the ground like a holy domino effect. Their faces were plastered to the pools of human waste. Their end was just as ugly as their existence. When the last person had exhausted his last breath, Michael spread his arms and said fervidly, "May you go now in peace to love and serve the Lord." Then he calmly walked toward the Paschal candle and licked his thumb and index finger. He snuffed out the flame just as he had snuffed out his church. It was over.

With small, brisk steps, Michael headed towards his car where he had his suitcase sitting in the trunk. He whistled a tune as he unlocked the door. He hadn't felt this rejuvenated since his baptism. He got in the car and towards the airport. A huge, toothy grin was reflected in the rear view. He made it to the ticket line only 30 minutes before his plane's departure. He approached the counter to get his boarding pass and over heard two employees conversing solemnly. 

"Did you hear about St. Luke's?"

"No. What happened?"

"There was a massacre of the entire church this morning. No one knows what happened."

With a tiny smirk on his lips, Michael checked his suitcase and got his boarding pass. He had decided that the time was ripe to strengthen his faith and make a pilgrimage. He glanced down at his boarding pass and saw the words, New York to Jerusalem. 11:00 Am. He started towards his gate and genuflected, saying with satisfaction, "Amen."