Writing Calisthenics

AvatarA collection of short stories, essays, and exercises to keep my brain from rusting between larger works.

Redemption Hall

On the waydown, they saw a lot they don't remember
And if you asked them how, they couldn't say how they got there.
And if you want them now, you could just pull on the lever
And say, "I'm hung up on gravity".

Modest Mouse - The Waydown, from the EP “The Fruit That Ate Itself”

On the waydown they saw a lot they don't remember, and if you asked them how, they couldn't say how they got there. But I know. Sin is a black hole that centers in the breast, and separates man from God like meat pulled from the bone. These shells of men come in empty and hungry, and we fill them back up with Jesus. We feed them and give them a place to sleep, but their true hunger is for His everlasting love.
   Righteousness is fraught with peril and these fragile men seem drawn to darkness. It is our mission here at Hesed House to bring them back to his Glory, but there are days when their struggle is hard for me to bear. I know our Lord is the shepherd, but as director of this shelter, I must make sure the fences are mended and the flock doesn't stray beyond redemption. It is a difficult path I've chosen, but He glorifies my works unto himself.
   There is a moment of grace that each of them experiences when they are absolved of their sins and Jesus floods their hearts. When it happened for me, my life became a vessel for God's plan. I was no longer in control; all I did was for Him and His glory. But for some, it seems that even the fullness of God's grace is not enough. For some it seems the pull of drugs and despair are detours to God's plan that they can't avoid. I needed a way to prevent those stumbling blocks from ever leading them astray again.
   It was with this goal in mind that I started the prayer and fasting that led to the construction of Redemption Hall. During my fast I fell ill, and by the fourth day I was wracked with demons. My lungs filled with fluid and each breath became a struggle. I felt as if I was drowning, as if God's own hand covered my face. My lungs threatened to burst as I sucked the boiling air from between the web of his fingers. The room had become a shining white hall and I felt his presence in every fevered cell of my body. I awoke two days later in a hospital bed, filled with the certain knowledge of what I had been called to do.
   The hall is small and simple. It is white, with one locked door, no windows, and a simple cross affixed to the wall behind the altar. It is an empty cross, unburdened of the risen Lord; not like the hateful icons of those Papists. To the left of the altar, large ventilation fans hang from the ceiling. Below them, the only color in the room: the baptismal in clear lake blue.
   There were questions when I ordered a tub of high-density polyethylene. There were queer looks when I insisted on drains, plumbing, and pumps of stainless steel. But this was God's work and I felt the honor of these withering looks just as Noah must have as he built the ark.
   The ceremony is simple, and tonight we will bless Brother Stephen. He will strip naked and don the white robe that will embrace him like the loving arms of Jesus. When he steps into the baptismal I will instruct him to kneel before the Lord and ask for his forgiveness. We will pray together until he professes his faith. When he tells me he is ready, I will cradle the back of his head with one hand and lower him under the water with the other.
   He will fight at first, but with his knees bent backwards and the strength of the Lord flowing through the hand that presses firmly against his chest, this life that struggled to follow God's plan will finally rest. The pumps will whir and start to drain the baptismal as I remove the robe from the empty vessel that was once Brother Stephen.
   With the work of God done, the work of man begins. There will be plenty of time as I pull on the sausage-fingered rubber gloves and cinch down the military-surplus gas mask. There were experiments, but eventually the Lord guided me to the concentrated Sodium Hydroxide which starts to pour into the baptismal. Sensors keep the level high enough to cover Brother Stephen's remains until God's miracle fluid has returned him to earthly clay. I will have to stir him with a stick now and again and sometimes peskier bones will have to be milled into a slurry I will pour down the drain. Eventually though, on the waydown, all yield to the will of God.


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