The old church was smaller than Zach had expected, but it looked pleasant enough. The bright white steeple shone brightly against the sunny blue sky. It was an old building, of that much Zach was certain, but it seemed to have been taken care of exceptionally well.
This is the place, right? Zach asked himself, digging the flyer the girl at the coffee shop had given him out of his pocket.
Since losing his job at Bookface during a corporate restructuring, he had felt as if he were in some kind of funk and couldn’t escape. He moved back to his hometown with all of the money he had saved (which was quite a significant amount) and began doing some odd coding jobs from his bedroom. This resulted in him going stir crazy.
In truth, he always felt a certain energy in the city that his old suburban hometown lacked. People were always busy and moving here and there. It felt alive. However, now he felt adrift and almost half-dead. What else could he do other than try to find a girlfriend to keep himself occupied?
Naturally, he signed up for some dating sites and went on a few dates, most of which didn’t go anywhere. This last one was different though. The girl he had met for a coffee date at a local shop was well put-together, very pretty, and extremely kind. On top of all of that, the date seemed to go extremely well.
To his dismay, about an hour into the date, the woman pulled out a flyer and began asking him about religion. He remembered feeling his heart drop into his stomach.
Oh, it’s one of these types, he had thought to himself.
But he had really liked the girl, so he decided to hear her out. In truth, the church she described was fascinating, and she had told him that attending would undoubtedly help him with his current bout of aimlessness. There was one moment that really sold him though…
“If you came, you’d be the first one to actually take me up on the offer,” she had told him, fiddling nervously with her gorgeous blond hair. Zach distinctly remembered how she blushed while she said it.
I really really hope she’s here, he thought, examining the flyer in his hands.
It indeed seemed to be the correct location, and the fact that the parking lot was fairly full gave him even more confidence in his assessment.
Well, here goes nothing…
Zach pulled open one of the double doors at the entrance and made his way in. The inside looked just as old fashioned as the outside, with a high wooden ceiling filled with visible rafters. The floor was also wood, and some of the planks squeaked as he walked over them.
The pews were filled with happily chattering people, all waiting patiently for the church service to begin. After a moment of looking around, Zach spotted the girl from his date sitting up near the front, wearing a gorgeous powder blue dress. She waved excitedly after they made eye contact.
“I’m so happy you came!” she said, scooting over a bit so he could sit down next to her. “You’re gonna love it, I’m sure!”
“Yeah, uh… I didn’t have anything better to do,” Zach replied nervously. He could feel the blood run up to his face while he watched her adjust her long blond hair. “I figured why not?... Ya know?”
The girl giggled playfully. “It should start any minute now,” she told him. “We’re just waiting for Mr. Winchester to get here.”
“The reverend, of course! Mr. Enoch Winchester.”
The church quickly fell completely silent as a large man walked through the entranceway. He carried a black and gold-speckled cane and kept his long graying hair up in a ponytail. Above his long beard, we wore a black eye patch that matched the black suit he wore.
That must be him, Zach thought as he watched the man walk up onto the stage at the front of the room.
The man had a kind of commanding aura about him that Zach couldn’t quite put his finger on. He’d worked for a lot of powerful and wealthy people back in Silicon Valley, but Enoch Winchester exuded a very different kind of power. On top of that, the way the light streamed in through the church windows gave the room an enchanting, almost otherworldly atmosphere. It was as if they were inside a world of Reverend Winchester’s creation; his personal domain.
“Good morning, folks,” he told the patiently waiting crowd. As he spoke, he pulled the hair tie from his hair, letting the long grey locks fall down to his shoulders. The hair almost gave him the appearance of some kind of ancient shaman who had somehow travelled forward in time.
“We’re here to celebrate the end of the world,” the reverend continued. Zach felt a bolt of anxiety course through his body at this opening statement. “For we are indeed at the end, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it if we wanted to. But why would we want to? What really is an end except a new beginning? A rebirth? The end is liberation, and the freedom to build a new world on the ashes of the old!”
Winchester glanced down at the blond girl next to Zach. “Delilah, do you remember what Timothy 3:1 tell us about the final days?”
Delilah recited the verse perfectly in an almost robotic tone. “In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
Winchester looked around at the rest of the congregation, a proud smile on his beaded face. “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” he repeated. “Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Remind you of anything?”
He lifted up his cane and pointed it to the roof of the church. “We’ve all been playing God, trying to unshackle ourselves from the world that was built for us. All of these rich people are building rockets to escape the planet… think about that for a bit.”
His face grew stern, and he cracked the cane against the wooden boards below his feet. “What could they possibly be trying to get away from, other than the gifts bestowed upon us by our creator? The answer is clear: we’ve rejected the lord in favor of our own selfish ends, and for that we’ll be punished severely.”
The silence in the room was deafening. Everyone had their eyes locked onto Enoch Winchester, and were waiting hungrily for his next word.
Suddenly, Zach saw a flash of light outside the church, followed by a deafening “CRASH!” A bolt of lightning seemed to have hit the roof of the church. Suddenly rain was pelting the windows as well. A storm had apparently swept in out of nowhere, and the church was in the eye.
What the hell is going on?! Zach thought, astonished. It was completely clear out there before!
Enoch let the congregation listen as the rain gradually faded away. Just as quickly as the storm had swept in, it disappeared, and sunlight was once again streaming in through the windows. At this point, the smile returned to Enoch Winchester’s aged face.
“Of course, for the true believers, what the lord will bring won’t truly be a punishment. Far from it. It will be a true blessing from the lord. His most devoted children will be the ones left behind to pick up the pieces and rebuild among the ashes of the sinful. And that’s how we’ll build a paradise on earth!”
Zach was mesmerized. He simply couldn’t take his eyes off of the old reverend. While skeptical at first, more and more the man’s message began to make sense. It made Zach think of all of the things he saw back on the west coast; all of the depravity, inequality, poverty, filth and squalor…
Perhaps we really are at the end, he thought. And if that was true, then the only way forward was to embrace it and rebuild after it was all said and done. That would be their one and only hope.
That day, Zach formally joined the Half Moon church, and would go on to provide his programming expertise in interesting ways that he had never expected…