I returned to consciousness the following day in the same, messed-up reality, and certainty way too early for what should have been a relaxing Sunday. I followed the smell of decaf to the rear of the first floor, where I discovered a den of sorts, nicely but somehow gaudily decorated with crucifixes, artwork of religious appeal, and bookshelves of well-used and faux-leather bound texts. Among the artwork of Jesus was his dead-ringer, in full flesh, accompanied of course by The Pastor.
“Good morning, you’re right on time.” Joseph looked up to me from his papers upon a simple wooden lectern. Jess came in through the doorway just after me with a phone tripod in her hands. Joseph adjusted himself and the stiff shoulders of his blazer jacket as his daughter took his phone and prepared it for the broadcast.
“You work fast, Joseph.” I spoke up.
He tapped his papers confidently and winked at me. “Indeed. Perhaps it’s just ingrained in me- Sundays and putting out my best, that is. Just you listen. Jess are we ready to roll out?”
“As soon as I hit the button.” She nodded, poking her head out to the face of the phone screen. I pulled myself away, looking to make sure that both myself and the strange man were out of the view of the camera.
The Pastor began with a clap of his hands. “Good morning, those congregated in the hallowed halls, and those who have come to join us virtually. While still away from you on this blessed day of the lord, I am in fact closer than you may think. I’m aware that my following, both spiritually and politically has grown as of recent. Some of you may… fall into both categories. In fact, recent events may have reached your ears already. Such news is the reason for making sure I was able to reach out to you personally this morning. And even as I have denounced much of the media as liars and false prophets, know that even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.
What I mean to say to you… is that something unparalleled… divine has descended upon us. Depending on what you have seen, you may have thought that such a record was edited, extenuated, even fabricated. But I bring you news today that, despite all of your misgivings, God himself has nevertheless proved himself as good as we all truly believe. Proper believers have always been aware of his watchful eye and providence, but today, I will show you the greatness that he hath provided for us once again, in our lifetimes no less. What he has given to us will not only forward our campaign for the presidency, but will provide the means to show that we are the chosen ones, the same as Mother Mary herself .”
Joseph’s eyes danced about the room wildly, his breath heavy. He looked to me, then to the strange man, locking eyes as if to ask him to come forward. “Once at the right hand of his father, the holy spirit, now he has been reborn here on Earth. Whatever you may have seen on the television… a bright, divine light, unyielding… a figure descending upon us… I can place my hand upon this very Bible and swear that it is the truth. He hath come again, Jesus Christ!”
The man walked forward before the camera, and Joseph placed his hands upon the figure’s white-clad shoulders. I felt my palms begin to sweat with the desire of pulling the man back out of view, or tossing down the tripod, or simply whispering in Joseph’s ear to tone down his message. At the same time, I felt powerless, not powerless as man is to God, but powerless as an individual is among a sea of others.
Joseph’s eyes were fixed to the cell screen showing the live feed of himself and the man. “All along, I knew the lord would give me power, the insight and wherewithal to bring this campaign to The White House, and from Washington, lead this country to a better place. From my wonderful supporting family, an insightful Campaign Manager whom I told you all about the week previous, to the man himself- who I have decided to name my running mate!”
My breath caught in my throat as I heard these words. I nearly jumped in and pulled both of them out of the way, when the landline rang, echoing from the various locations about the house. Jess ducked to the side to grab up the silenced handset just out of view of the camera and answered it in a low voice. Joseph flashed an annoyed face as the daughter attempted to leave the room, only to stop in place.
“Dad-” She said, jutting back around.
“Is there something the matter?”
The teen tapped on a button on the face of the phone, and a voice began speaking through the handset. “Joseph, are you there?”
“Hank, is it?”
“I’m really, truly sorry, Pastor.” The voice said lowly. “It seems like we had a huge spike in visitors. Seems like… the server crashed.”
“I don’t speak any of that technical stuff.” Joseph huffed, pulling himself closer to the phone. “What do you mean?”
“The website is broken, down. We lost the feed here at the church, too. Father August is filling time, but I don’t know if I can get it back up before the end of the time slot.”
Joseph sighed and rubbed his face, noticeably red and slightly shiny with sweat. “How much did you get?” he asked defeatedly.
“Up until… you brought in… the other fellow.”
“Though, Joseph, err, Mr. Cummings…” The man apparently called Hank, spoke up again, hesitantly. “Is that really… who I think it is? That man?”
Joseph clicked his tongue and hummed with a teasing tone. “Do you have faith that it is, Hank?”
“Ohhh shoot, Mr. Cummings,” The man seemed to rattle with excitement over the phone.
“Get that website stuff working for me, will ya, Hank?”
“Right on it, Pastor.”
Jess hung up the call and sighed before exiting the room with the phone in hand. I found my breath finally returning to my chest as well. Before Joseph could post himself back before the tripod, I grabbed his arm. “Good show, Joseph, but-”
“Something wrong?” The pastor asked, eyebrow to the ceiling.
“Announcing a running mate… this early in the game…”
“Nothing wrong with it, is there?”
“Timing, no. But… there are certain things… requirements for vice president. Age, citizenship…”
Joseph’s face twisted up pensively, before offering a glance to the man. “I suppose we can sort out those things eventually.”
“Thank you,” Joseph began, landing a heavy hand on my shoulder. “for keeping me on track. I’m just getting ahead of myself with all these things happening. And that’s why you’re already two steps ahead, right?”