Hello again! Updating schedule? What is this sorcery? I... really can't believe how long it took me to write this up for all three people who care, but, well, tempus fugit. Hopefully, updates will now be more regular. Thanks to Admiral Bangle for betaing and, well, being generally awesome. Enjoy!
It'd been a long day for me, so, late in the evening, I sat down with a mug of tea, a biscuit and put my favourite CD on. I logged on to the Room 101 chatroom, and Tim, who was the only person online, greeted me with the typical "Hey, Wings," etc.. He then posted a link to a website he'd set up, explaining that he was using it to document his investigation into the cult he'd mentioned a few days ago. Naturally, I had a look.
Mission log: Day 1
This is a document I'll be keeping my "investigation" in. Maybe I'll publish it as memoirs one day. Or I may just die in the process of research. Hopefully not.
Anyway, today I tried the Children's website, but it was just the same generic crap as the leaflet. It did, however, give me their headquarters; they operated from an apartment building that one of the wealthier members had apparently bought. It wasn't far, and college's over for the summer, so I decided to drive over.
When I got there, I was immediately greeted by a small crowd of cheerful cultists, led by a thirty-ish woman dressed head to toe in fluorescent blue. She received me quite enthusiastically.
"Hi! Welcome to the Children of the Sky!" she vociferated excitedly with a thick Texan accent. She bounced up and down like a six-year-old outside an ice-cream van, her red hair flying everywhere.
Trying not to shield my eyes out of politeness, I responded with a tentative "Um... hello. I'm here 'cause I got a leaflet from-"
"I KNOW!" she squealed at a pitch that probably made bats in Hawaii (does Hawaii have bats? If not, why? And why am I getting sidetracked like this?) grimace in agony. I certainly did. "Alan told us all that we'd have a new member soon! So why do you want to join? Who are you? Where are-"
"I think that's quite enough, Lauren," an amused voice interrupted gently. Lauren immediately began pouting, but shuffled away, and the balding man who gave me the leaflet popped up in her place.
"I'm Alan. You'll forgive me if I don't shake your hand; you're still a heathen," Alan told me. It was less a question, more a statement.
Unable to remain dispassionate after such a charming comment, I muttered "You sure know how to win followers."
Unfortunately for me, my dear friend Alan had been blessed with good hearing. Fortunately, he misinterpreted the jibe. "I know! Of course, I'm not the head, but I take part in the recruitment, Mr...?"
I smiled, drawing myself to my full (meagre) height. "There are some who call me... Tim?"
All my comment aroused from my new chum and the onlookers were blank stares. "What?"
"Tough crowd..." I murmured under my breath, surprised not one of them caught the reference. "I'm Tim."
A radiant smile emitting like a supernova from his wrinkled face, Alan shouted "Everyone, please welcome Tim to our ranks!"
As everyone cheered, I protested. "Now, hold on a minute! I never said I'd join jus-"
Alan gave me a sharp glare with his grey eyes. "Come on then! I think it's time we filled you in on all the details that go on in our glorious community, and welcomed you fully to the light!"
People actually talk like that? I thought to myself. Nevertheless, I followed my tall acquaintance like a meek little lamb into the building, where a few more people had congregated. One thing that occurred to me was that, despite his periodic heathen comments, Alan seemed rather... normal. Well, you know. In relation to most of the crazy apocalypse cultists you meet in everyday life.
We continued our voyage through the building. We had still only seen about two dozen people there on the whole, which didn't fit in with my previous impression that it was rather a busy place. More unnervingly, the entire place was completely silent. No-one was saying anything, just wandering about, seemingly aimlessly.
"Rather unconventional church, isn't it?" I said to him, as we pushed our way past two young twins milling about in the corridor before us. I felt slightly anxious at disturbing the quiet, as if I'd interrupted something serious.
Alan snorted, and responded with "Only a few truly see enlightenment when it is first shown to them. Think of the great geniuses. Galileo was placed under house arrest as a heretic. Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, and that was to his sister."
"Actually, it was to his friend's sister," I interjected.
He briefly looked as though he were caught off guard, but his smooth demeanour soon returned. "Yes, of course, that's what I meant. Anyway, this is where we conduct our lessons to those naïve and new to the light."
I started, looking around at the stairwell I had previously been unaware of entering, having been distracted by my conversation. It seemed just like a regular one to me, except for the various books scattered about on various philosophy. Giving a slightly incredulous look, I queried "Not to sound rude or anything, but you deliver your sermons in a staircase?"
With a small, vaguely condescending smile, he responded "Where else? Here, we can fully and physically demonstrate the ascension to heaven and the descent to hell!"
I took a moment to dwell in the implications of his statement. Noticing my alarmed expression, Alan hurriedly reassured me, laughing. "No, don't be silly! People don't actually go to hell from here!"
I relaxed for a moment, but then I took in the fact that, just for a moment, I had actually been worried that he was sincere. Either this place was getting to me, or its inhabitants were.
Alan carried on speaking as though nothing had happened. "If you're going to be a member of our glorious community, then you'll have to know more about us." He indicated that I should hold my arms out, and then suddenly pulled a huge pile of books out of nowhere, dropping them into my arms. You wouldn't think a heap of paperbacks, even ten or so, would be so damn heavy. "I want you to have read all of these by the next sermon, which'll be on Thursday!"
The thought of returning here sent a whole brigade of stormtroopers stampeding over my grave, but I forced a smile and nodded. "I'll make sure to be here then!" I said, as chirpily as I could. I made my way out of the building as best I could, but before I left I noticed something that had eluded me earlier, since I hadn't been paying attention. Silence. No-one was around; even the handful of cultists earlier had disappeared. Even the birds were quiet. As you can imagine, I revved up my little Fiat's engine and got the hell out of there.
When I got home, I did some research based on various books in the stairwell, ones Alan had given me and other stuff I'd seen in the building. The Children of the Sky seemed to just be a huge mishmash of various philosophies. They were vaguely influenced by New Age, with their belief in spiritual healing. There were also some elements of the Abrahamic faiths in there, as they believed a messiah and an "Anti-Christ" would visit the world, leading to massive world upheaval and the end of all things. The Children seemed to think this would be quite soon, however, which I find quite worrying. There was a chunk of Objectivism, as well, seeing as they believed in capitalism and hard logic. In the end, however, I didn't really know what to think. It was so confusing and nonsensical that it just hurt my head. I decided I'd try and do a bit more poking about another time and just go to sleep.
I don't know why I find the Children so creepy. There have been loads of cults in the news and in fiction throughout history, and few of them escalated into anything. All the same, there's just... something about these people that doesn't seem right. Maybe on Thursday, I'll find out something new.
Thanks for reading! Remember, when you review, positive or negative, a baby penguin is born.
And I'll try to include more Penguin Glory from now on, just for you, and you know who you are.