The rest happened quickly.
Red was revealed to be Edward ‘Eddy’ Self. Born and raised in Portland, joined the army at eighteen, honourable discharge at twenty-two, travelled for a few years working odd jobs, mostly of an illegal nature, until falling in with a sect called ‘The Rock of God’ based in Washington state with several functioning, but mostly slight, hives dispersed around the country.
The founder claims, not surprisingly, to be the Son of God, though not Jesus precisely. He prefers to be known as the Black Sheep Boy and has been witnessed wearing a homemade mask fashioned to mimic a sheep’s head, though a decidedly fearsome version with bird feathers in lieu of horns and sheep’s wool tarred to the cheeks as if he had a black, scraggily beard. In videos circulated to the hive groups, and obtained by local authorities, the Black Sheep Boy preaches oneness with brethren, including the obvious sexual connotations, and complete dedication to the word of God as writ by him. Such scriptures were difficult to come by but pages have been smuggled out, which paint a vague but grave picture.
Several paragraphs detail their views on world policy and the sects’ solution to the ‘problems’ inherent in such systems.
‘Complete destruction of those who oppress this sect and thus the very word of God.’
They have also included the Middle East and several prominent Asian countries in a list of ‘Chada’, which appears to be a primitive form of Jihad. It is unclear how this sect intends to overcome what they dub to be the ‘Ministers of Falsehood’, as the followers are few, but they have proven to be rabid. When, late last summer, the group were approached by authorities on a routine investigation, a altercation broke out which almost turned violent were it not for the actions of Father Jessup, the areas principal clergy member and a vocal supporter of ideals similar to the sects own, such as the immorality of abortion and contraception. He organised a peace treaty, for lack of a better term, in which the law force and the sect members would remain separate and operate under their own practicality, without interference or intrusion. This truce was tenuous, but it seemed to hold.
The FBI holds a file on the sect, flagged with a warning of ‘possible violent intentions’ though this tag remained unsupported by solid evidence until now. Their psychologists had studied ‘The Rock of God’ but were unconvinced of its sincerity. They believed it was driven by the fear created by 9/11 and the atmosphere maintained by the current administration, one which should dissipate in time and thus erode the power held by the Black Sheep Boy over his population. They declared the sect a ‘minor threat’ and placed it in the middle of a pile of documents dominated by known serial rapists and murderers. It was effectively forgotten about.
But Eddy changed all that, his actions charging the sect up the pile into the hands of the FBI’s top officials. They gave it immediate priority and assigned a trained team to enter their grounds, a farmyard with echoes of Waco, to eliminate the Black Sheep Boy with deadly force. So, on the second day after Reds apprehension, in the dead of night, the sect was stormed successfully and their target eliminated. His followers put up minimum force, the attack coming as a complete surprise, and they have been detained for rehabilitation. However, several significant issues remain unresolved.
A thorough search was conducted of the farmyard and it surrounds for the missing children, but no trace is found. The FBI elite interrogates the apprehended sect members but each professes ignorance, except for Red. He takes joy in detailing the grimaces of the slain mothers, confessing to six such murders and abductions. However, he refuses to reveal where the children are or what condition they are in, only announcing that they are ‘alive and well-looked after’.
Ian is offered a position in charge of a considerable team of detectives with a permanent role on this case, now classified as a ‘missing persons’ assignment. He declines, instead opting for relocation to a department in the country where hopefully the worst thing that could happen is for the coffee to be cold in the morning. This case has left Ian exhausted to his core and he finds himself questioning his every action, even some of the more innocent tasks.
“Why do I drink this coffee?”
“Why do I wince when I pee?”
But when he asks some of the more pertinent questions, he feels suitably unsatisfied by the answers.
“Why do I do this job?”
So, instead of trying to fit to the answer, he just changes the question and decides to move upstate, where he has friends and family he hasn’t seen in years.
The experience of brushing his teeth seems fresh on the last night in his apartment. Ian can’t decide for certain, but he imagines the room was a different colour before he left for work for the last time this morning. Somehow a darker shade of green. Perhaps it’s the shaving light, which is hardly ever turned on except for tonight, as Ian decides to use it this once since it’s there.
A few boxes are packed with his possessions but the apartment doesn’t seem any less empty for it. He always kept it for it’s functionality and never considered it a home in the normal sense of the word, but Ian had grown into this place, even gaining the ability to navigate it in the dark if the need ever arose. It is almost like a lover to him, in the sense that the apartment and he distorted to match each other, like two awkward jigsaw pieces cut to fit.
His bed collaborates this, imbuing a feeling of comfort more pervasive than it has in years, as if nostalgia itself crawled into bed with Ian and in doing so changed the contours of the mattress to suit Ians sleeping habits, blurring the memory of broken bed springs and mysterious blots. He sleeps well that night, with ease supplied by the knowledge that he doesn’t have to go to work, or wear his suit like a uniform, or try to believe his eyes.
Down a cragged corridor, rectangle as if constructed but with jagged pokes and hollow cracks which seems to indicate that it may have been carved from rock. Into a flame lit room, shadows dance like restless spirits from lanterns hung about in ways to suggest mood rather than to provide illumination. Inside walls are hidden beasts, their rustling emanating as if from within the mind, totally overpowering despite how soft the sound is. It seems to eat up the air and dull the damp, mossy smell pervading the cavern.
But from the shadows flickers a friend and it twirls through the air with purpose and destination, certain of its trajectory. The moth navigates through the caverns and tunnels, sometimes in complete darkness, avoiding pillars and stalactites and even tilting to evade a steady drip from an underground stream. Ahead, about a hundred feet, cuts a light brighter than before, the moth gaining speed with its reveal. Even at this distance, the sounds accompanying the light are recognisable.
There is a room attired in the fashion of a nursery, with the equipment and materials necessary for the illusion. The moth, though an ample size for its kind, is dwarfed as it enters the makeshift nursery as several, what seem to be, giant versions of it descend from the cathedral high ceiling clutching young human children. Each great moth is gentle, their wings, spanning about ten feet from tip to tip, create little disturbance in the air and they place and switch children in cots lined evenly in rows along the length of the cavern.
The little moth glides along like a whisper to the end of the third row of cots, stopping above the second last which contains a little baby girl with pitch bark hair and striking green eyes. She cries healthily, her wail echoing high up into the caves. The moth hovers inches above the child’s face, attracting her attention and stopping her cries. She whimpers as the moth gently lands on her bare chest with the touch of love. She relaxes and it wilts slowly, withering and shrivelling, its essence becoming absorbed by the baby, into her breath and into her soft skin. She rests then, comforted and fed.