This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
I first saw him in a church. It was at the end of my third year studying law at Otago University. I had agreed to go to the church with my roommate Ann. She was from Dunedin and was studying journalism. It was the beginning of summer and we were both bored. The masses of out of town students had left as usual at the end of term and the city felt almost empty. We lived in a four bedroom flat on Castle Street, almost opposite Selwyn College. Our other two roommates had left, gone north to their hometowns.
I had chosen not to go home that summer but to work in Dunedin. Ann and I got on well and had a lot of fun. Not in a romantic way at all, more like brother and sister. She was a year younger than me and had a wicked sense of humour and we got up to all sorts of happy mischief.
Her parents were affluent and she was something of a socialite. She seemed to know half the girls at university, so hanging around with her had other advantages. Two of her friends were Pentecostal church members. They were identical twins, both brunettes with curly black hair and gorgeous dark brown eyes. They had such clear healthy eyes, which could only be possessed by people who drank no alcohol, took no drugs, and only ate healthy food. But they were extreme believers. In fact, they were said to have the rare ability of speaking in tongues. That meant they spoke in some kind of sacred language when they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ann feigned interest in them and their ability but behind their backs openly mocked them as was her way with many people. So they had invited her to attend a church meeting one night. She invited me along. I was not religious in the least and had only attended churches at weddings and baptisms but I was bored and the twins with their beautiful angelic eyes interested me, so I agreed to go along.
Ann was more interested in the dark side. We had done stuff together like an Ouija board and had visited the cemetery overlooking the ocean at St Kilda stoned one night, though we had sped out of there when the smoke from the crematorium freaked us out.
The church was very large and ornate and was about three quarters full that night with loyal worshippers. The priest did some prayers and bible readings and things warmed up pretty quickly into some songs. I was standing at the aisle and next to me was Ann then the two twins. During one song Ann dug me in the ribs slightly with her elbow then flicked her eyes towards the twins. They had their eyes shut and were indeed speaking in tongues. Ann used her usual short high pitched laugh reasonably loudly and I smiled but was too polite to laugh. It was kind of interesting, though it did appear to be completely faked. I guessed they believed that they were speaking God’s language but I was far from convinced.
The next part was the miracle of God part where people told the congregation of some wonderful experience. The first guy was a Maori and he cheerfully got up and said that he had injured his leg terribly playing rugby but through his faith and the power of prayer and God he had become healed and could play again.
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Everyone echoed the words.
It also seemed very fake to me and I just scratched my head and smiled to Ann. After that others got up and shared their great news.
About this time I had lost interest and was more interested by the sounds coming from the rear of the church. It seemed there was some kind of argument going on which I thought was odd.
Before I looked back he was beside me, arrogantly walking to the front of the congregation followed closely by two far smaller men who were trying unsuccessfully to stop him. He was very tall and a little fat and was holding a big bottle of Lion Brown beer.
He turned to face us, the congregation, while the priest tapped him gently on the shoulder and asked him to leave. He had a big head and unkempt brown hair and looked kind of mean. He took a swig from his bottle. There was complete silence in the church and all eyes were upon him.
“I am the closest thing to the antichrist you will ever see,” he said quite loudly and clearly.
It was the first thing in the church that night that I thought might be real. He did look very evil.
He laughed loudly, took another swig from his bottle then began mocking us. The priest reacted by getting most of the people to sing. And people started yelling, “Praise the Lord,” over and over again. It drowned his voice out and perhaps sensing defeat he started to walk back to the rear of the church.
I have to say a remarkable thing happened to me. I was overcome by some emotion and could feel the evil in him and the goodness of the people in the church and I found myself joining in and saying quite loudly, “Praise the Lord!”
And when he was finally out of view we all clapped and cheered in victory including Ann.
After the service we talked little about it with the twins but when we got back to our flat Ann and I opened a bottle of white wine and began discussing what had happened.
“It was a set up totally,” said Ann.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“They got some local wino off the street and paid him to do it. Easy money,” she replied.
“He was no wino. That guy had presence. Jesus, I was gone there for a while. Could they really have staged the whole thing?”
“Of course. Happens all the time.”
“You know that for a fact?”
“No, but it must, come on. It’s a kind of cult. You saw the twins and the crazy people with their miracle cures didn’t you?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
A few days later we had both pretty much forgotten about the whole incident. I finally got a job through Student Job Search. It was a selling job, going door to door selling prints of original paintings for the art gallery. There were six prints, all copies of original paintings held by the gallery. They were twenty five dollars each and I got a generous ten dollar commission for each one I sold.
Ann had a job at a book store near the Octagon and we would often have lunch together.
The next Friday night I was in the front bar of the Cook with friends. We were stoned and drinking beer slowly. The front bar of the Cook was frequented with a different crowd than the rear bar. It had a rougher crowd with bikers, bodgies and musos plus the more alternative senior students. The bar was only about half full and the music was so loud we hardly bothered to speak to each other.
I was facing the bar and some guy sitting there vomited violently in front of him. It was a full on power chunder and I counted the seconds waiting for him to be violently thrown out by the bouncers. But they never came. He just wiped his mouth and snorted a few times then continued drinking.
Then the barman who was much smaller than the guy turned up dutifully with a metal bucket and mop and began cleaning the stinking mess around him. They didn’t speak at all and the big guy did not even move and just continued sipping his beer.
“Jesus, did you see that?” I shouted to my friends.
“That guy just vomited all over the front of the bar.”
“He didn’t even get thrown out. Man if that was a student we would be out face first onto the concrete.”
They were stoned and didn’t seem too interested. But I watched the guy for a while and eventually he left to go to the bathrooms. When he turned I could see his face clearly. It was him again. Our man from the church!
He left shortly afterwards. I raced home on my bike to tell Ann about it.
“So?” she asked. “He’s a drunk. I told you that.”
“Don’t you think it was weird that the barman cleaned up around him and didn’t even say anything to him about it?”
“They are probably used to him doing it. Feel sorry for him I guess.”
She was right I knew but for the next few days I couldn’t get the guy out of my mind.
Christmas came and went and Ann and I decided to attend an outdoor New Year’s Eve party. It was in a nice country setting and we knew quite a few people there. It started early so people were with their children having barbeques, playing soccer and so on.
We were pretty bored and were drinking wine and talking about heading back into the city before the countdown. Just then we heard a group of kids scream loudly. We looked down the hill to see what was going on. To our surprise it was him again. This time he was dressed all in black and his face was painted with green paint. He looked very scary and he had jumped out of the darkness to scare the kids. He did it again about ten minutes later to a different group and got the same reaction.
“God who is that nut?” said Ann laughing.
It was the third time I had seen him and all in fairly odd circumstances.
We left soon after that and went back to the Gardens for the New Year’s countdown.
After this Ann took more of an interest in him. He was no longer a common drunken bum in her eyes. We were both curious to find out more about him. But we did not see him again for some time.
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