The Twelfth Revision of my Pazuzu Trilogy loses yet another chapter. This one, The Good-Morrow, has been excised from Emergence – the second book in the trilogy. The chapter had been the first in the second half of the original trilogy and it had served two purposes. The first further illustrated the horrible conditions in which the UnChosen caste live. The second summarized events in the first book. Essentially, the chapter repeats and reminds readers the narrative about how folks had come to Capital, ahem, Khetam.
As familiar readers will note, names have changed. Tamara Stoughnt has become Jillie Ikraam. Ishkott is changed to Gage and Arnett is now Elmer. These are names Mr. Binger had used in the out-of-print, two-volume hardcover Tenth Revision of the Pazuzu Trilogy – named The Waste. Because I’ve adopted many of the changes, I retired those two old books.
I’ve excised The Good-Morrow because, frankly, it’s un-editable. The tense sounds off because I again travel back into the past. Unfortunately, it comes in the middle of Emergence. I’ve time traveled enough in Manifestation and doing so yet again in the second volume just doesn’t work. The story gets disrupted for no other reason than to cater to die-hard inquisitive readers. Now it’s aborted, but I’ll let it breath here on this blog. Read at your own risk. As I’ve titled the post, this lost chapter is the worst in the entire trilogy.
Jillie Ikraam had never dreamed of becoming the mother of god. The very idea was irreverent and profane. The Church condemns such blasphemous thoughts, but her blessing has brought the old woman such joy. Her life is ascribed meaning. The Mortal God has sent Jillie a child in her old age for a reason and the birth of Davey is not the curse she once accepted. The purpose of her small, slow son is now revealed and punishment has been transformed into blessing. Her son, Davey Ikraam, is the returned Mortal God. He is the messiah for Chosen and heathens alike.
Words could not describe the awe, wonder and happiness filling Jillie. When she had asked the new priest at Saint Erasmus to petition the Mortal God and heal her sick son, she never imagined her boy will become an incarnation of the messiah. Such a wild hope was too grand and beyond her mind’s humble conception. This day brought a true miracle.
In truth, Jillie had given-up ever having a child. When Davey was finally born, she welcomed her son’s birth with sad resignation, knowing he will blight the remaining years of her life. His birth was an affront to the Church. Davey had been born retarded to a lone, old UnChosen woman.
After years of unsuccessfully begging a miracle from the former priest of Saint Erasmus, Reverend Elmer, Jillie convinces herself the Mortal God has truly forsook her. Disappointment was the providence of her caste. Her family had descended from a pathetic tribe content giving thanks for meager provisions.
She was born in an inbred UnChosen clan thankful for deprivation. No one in her family knew any of life’s graces, besides lots of wine. All her long life, Jillie wished she had been born among the Chosen, the tribes that sacrificed the Mortal God. The Chosen’s crucifixion of the Mortal God was testament to their divine strength; the Chosen holds dominion over the living.
Life is a privilege the Chosen Church took away. If the Mortal God desired a corporeal shape, there were dues. Long ago, those divine entities who trespassed among the living had been fatally punished. The Mortal God himself had been overturned and gutted on a cross.
Thinking selflessly, Jillie wished not only herself having been born among the Chosen. Her ancestors should have supported the tribes from which the Chosen had been selected. Instead, they had been mute and bore meek witness to the evisceration of the Mortal God.
Taking action defined the Chosen, and the UnChosen are forever cursed with apathy. A life of servitude is the consequence of this lethargy. Reverend Elmer simply and rightfully refused her prayers because she was UnChosen. In credit to his memory, he had been kind and spoke to her.
Of course, Reverend Elmer is among the Chosen; all priests are. Prestigious birth is a requisite for the role. The man had been born into prosperity.
There were consequences with her lineage. Her eternal generations were predestined and will make amends to the Chosen because their original lack of motivation and participation. Reverend Elmer faithfully followed Church doctrine and forgiveness was not the right of the base UnChosen caste.
The actions in Jillie’s own life bore the truth of Church doctrine. Lack of morality and intellect caused her lassitude, not only hunger. Wantonness disguised by desperation had led to the immoral and irresponsible conception her son.
Davey bears the physical punishment for her listless sin and Jillie suffers the sorrow. The Mortal God had been kind because Davey lacked the wit and could not understand he has been damned since birth. The boy was senseless and happy, until he was reborn this day.
Jillie has grown too old and can no longer be productive at work – years ago. Before even those days, employers in Khetam still graciously had given her full-shift employment and sixty-hour work weeks. Jillie remembered those jobs all inevitably ended two or three months later. Her annual, mental anniversary of her last day she ever held a regular job had just past – Jillie has not has real work in thirteen years. Her son is the same age. She is five times that and more.
“You can’t keep the fast pace,” She remembers Mr. Greiss say. The cold-hearted man was her last genuine boss. To his credit, he had a kind smile and truly thought he surprised Jillie when he terminated her. His reasons were consistent why with those other employers had fired Jillie.
“The pace of manufacturing is too fast for you, I’m sorry.”
Jillie could not deny the fact.
“It’s just as well, Mrs. Ikraam. You don’t socialize with your co-workers.”
“They are children, Mr. Greiss,” Jillie complained. “Everyone is younger than me, generations younger. We have nothing we can say to each other.”
“Youth, Mrs. Ikraam.”
“The line is for working, not chatter and horse play and dirty jokes. I work and mind my own business. I don’t even look around.”
“But you are slow and maybe conversation will speed-up your pace.”
“Maybe energy and strength, too,” Jillie complains. Even then, those traits had abandoned her decades ago. She brags to her frustrated employer “I was once able to stand and work all day.”
Mr. Greiss is right. After years of productive monotony, Jillie eventually had to sit. Later, within a couple hours after standing on her feet, she’d sit again. Eventually, she required rest after every few minutes.
Her boss takes his turn and brags “Workers at this plant continue into double shifts without breaking a sweat or even drawing long breaths.”
“Please, Mr. Greiss, I can answer the phone and take messages.”
“We’ve tried that, Mrs. Ikraam. If you adopte the habit of writing down information, your memory will improve.”
Mr. Greiss was right about that, too. While her physical health waned, age also cruelly introduced an arduous contraction of her mental capacity. Jillie took her memory for granted and the woman hadn’t noticed her own slow decline worsen until her symptoms became obvious. Names and phone numbers are lost minutes after she acquires messages. She then forgets things she is told to do, right before she begins doing them. On occasions, she’s even forgotten what she was doing as she doing it.
The remaining consciousness of the creeping disability was more callous than the disability itself. Old age would have been merciful if she failed to recognize her loss. She then might have avoided the forlorn anguish and mourning that chronically persists.
Mr. Greiss finally ends her association with his business. “Anyway, this company cannot and will not afford your ill health.”
She begs the man. “I’m on the cusp, and I have less than a year before I become eligible for Church aid.”
The hopeful news does not change the fact that day Jillie loses her last real job and she gets a paycheck that doesn’t stretch that same week. The old woman then still had eight months before she was eligible and sought help from local Church offices. In the meantime, she knocks on her neighbors’ doors.
Eight months was a long time to endure without money or food. Before Jillie had become pregnant with Davey, she had already fasted involuntarily a couple days. Most people expected someone her age to have a husband, children or other family who might care for her, but she wasn’t married and had no children of her own.
Her sister and nephew lived beyond the Wall and in another city, half a continent away. Jillie was also uncertain if any bitterness existed between them. In their hometown a lifetime ago, the whole family had warned Jillie against the man she married. If they had known she was moving to Khetam, they would have never let her go.
“He’s capable of only unrealistic plans and expectations,” Joanne tells Jillie and corrects her sister. Their whole family tells Jillie the same thing a generation ago and the warning went vapidly ignored.
“Jillie, your husband and our family argue constantly. Tell me, has he betrayed you, because he’s screwed everybody else – his promises and schemes. Nobody wants his crazy crap. Who needs lawn services in a desert? What is he suppose to do with that?”
Jillie attempts to defend her husband. “The Bathierre family contracts him per diem.”
“Yeah, raking needles and broken glass. When is he going to pay back Dad. He borrowed seven hundred bucks for that truck.”
“He needs that truck for his job. He got fired because he lost that other vehicle. Besides, Dad knows he’s held that job over a year.”
“I know, so give him credit. Give him a break.”
“Obviously, a lost investment. Dad had hoped your husband had grown up. I’ll just tell you, your husband’s problem is he trusts strangers too quickly.”
Jillie cheers for her man. “He is trying to be responsible.”
“He’s never paid Dad.”
“The deal was cash for a truck that runs. The seller vanished after he got the money.”
“And Dad has to pay for that? What about the tow and the money he wasted trying to fix that crap? It’s Dad’s money.”
“Mine too, Jillie.”
“How much money did your hubby spend trying to fix it himself? A professional couldn’t even resuscitate the junk. There went another gallon of blood from the both of us.”
Frustrated, Jillie takes a stand. “He’s not going to pay Dad, Joanne. He took the loan under the condition the truck is used for work. The vehicle didn’t run and he lost his job. Give him a break, he can’t be responsible for the loan.”
“This is like when he said he needed money for leaf blowers, four leaf blowers, so he can blow around sand all by himself. What is he blowing, just sand? That stuff comes right back.”
“He does use contractors and they use his equipment.”
Joanne moans, knowing whom Jillie refers. “Tony.”
“Jillie, did your husband provide any indication he will generate extra money. That detail was overlooked when Dad gave you the cash. I just think, our family should ask many more questions and preserve doubt, and not lower our guard, when your husband schemes. He thrives in gray areas. Dad is nearsighted and gets ambushed from the shadows.”
Jillie relents a little and confesses. “The truck can’t be resurrected. He’ll salvage the junk for parts and split whatever he gets with Dad, fifty-fifty.”
“All that money rightfully belongs to Dad.”
“My husband is acting as the vehicle’s representative.”
“Now that’s just bullshit, Jillie. Good luck with what you can get for whatever is left of that butchered carcass.”
After the phone call, the family talks about the incident incessantly and scolds her husband when and wherever they encounter him. He eventually abandons attending holidays and special occasions and goes to great lengths to avoid them. Toward Jillie’s last days in her hometown, even friends of family participate in the public admonishment of the man she had married.
She had one, new friend left before leaving and Jillie spoke with her, because Joanne wouldn’t speak with her anymore – because Jillie wouldn’t speak with her. Her new friend’s name was Shelly and had moved next door. Shelly already knew about Jillie’s husband. The man was the topic of the town. The only other thing people talked more about involved heathens.
“People think he’s foolish,” Shelly tells Jillie when they spoke. She didn’t like Jillie’s husband already. “And he’s cheater, not relationship-wise, business. He cheats in business. He’s got a poor reputation.”
The news makes Jillie finally doubt her marriage. “I don’t know what to do, Shelly. Get out of town?”
Shelly has ideas. “According to Church edict, divorce is possible with mutual desire between man and wife.”
Jillie banishes the idea immediately. “He will never accept a blow like a disreputable divorce.”
She knows divorce will make the man reflect upon his worthless arrogance. He remains too proud to admit failure, too proud to own anything negative about himself. Besides, Jillie never wants a divorce.
“If he’s good enough for me,” she declares, “and all UnChosen are dishonest and cowardly, then he’s good enough for everyone else. They’re all like him, all of us. We just don’t admit it or get caught.”
Her husband could not deny his own blood – no one in her family can. The failing lies deep in each of them. The traits have passed through generations, even before the ancient transgression against the tribes of the Chosen. In this predestined, unforgiving world, where sin is inherited in the blood of the newly born, the unforgiven huddle together as a single tribe. This is was when and where her family spread apart. Before coming to Khetam, Jillie had only her husband left and her new family was to grow with him.
Entrance into Khetam was supposed to be impossible for anyone but Chosen. The barrier fulfills every promise of a magnificent monument. Its pure luster drives away the soiled and evil. UnChosen immigrants and pilgrims come to its gates daily and are sent away. This city belongs to the upper caste and the Wall forbids entrance to everyone else.
Outside Khetam, soldiers use bulldozers and push from the Wall rickety tents and the sheds of stranded migrants. A shanty town called the encampment festered a safer distance outside the Promised Land. The sinful and destitute living in the squalor hung here tormented in limbo, awaiting mercy. Jillie hoped she and her husband will not find themselves here and shut outside the Wall.
Nevertheless, her husband feels inspired to move his wife into Khetam. This pinnacle city had been embraced by the newly-constructed Wall and sheltered the Chosen’s Church. “It’s an architectural wonder,” Jillie’s husband repeated during the drive toward the encampment. “It wraps the Promised Land. Heathens can’t get into the city.”
“Heathens are in our town,” Jillie tells her husband. The villainous nonbelievers grew bolder and creep from deeper, southern parts of the Shur desert. Their skirmishes with Chosen soldiers had grown more intense because the heathen waged their thousandth crusade against the Church and Chosen alike. The UnChosen fared worst because both sides killed the meek people as a matter of collateral damage.
Jillie added an observation. “Anyone can tell when heathens arrive because they bring drugs into the city.”
“Yeah,” her husband affirms. He agrees, heathens seed crime in Chosen cities. They prey on the frightened, law-fearing UnChosen. The information is old news. Her husband giggles about something else.
“Remember, you were afraid of the Chosen and Khetam. Do you remember what I told you?”
“Yes, obey your husband.”
He laughs aloud. “Unquestioned compliance. No more doubt from you. I swallowed enough distrust from your family and all your friends. I expect obedience and respect from my wife. I deserve a new life, and you do too. They don’t respect us, Jillie. Your old friends and family don’t respect you. I promise, we’ll find new friends in a new city. How many of your childhood friends come around after your marriage? None.”
“They came for our reception.”
“And that was it? They vanished. You don’t want them anymore.”
Jillie’s husband always expounds the foibles and infirmities of everyone she knew. He does so to their faces every time he encounters them. He still had not exhausted his list of their negative aspects before they stop visiting entirely.
“I agree, we’ll start a new family in Khetam,” Jillie repeats. She had no choice. “I belong with my husband. We’ll find a home and faithful friends in Khetam.”
Her husband steers tangentially and changes the subject. “There won’t be no hassle getting past the Wall. I know someone, he’s a soldier at a gate.”
“What are you giving him?” Tamera asks her suspicious husband.
He tells her “Something he wants.”
“Is that why we’re going into Khetam? Is this the opportunity you couldn’t neglect?”
His reckless pursuits always undermines the man. For instance, if Jillie’s husband was offered a ride going his general direction, he will take the lucky boon, regardless ending his trip late far from where he was supposed to have been.
Jillie never knows what that the soldier had wanted. She never discovers what it might have been, either. Although, she makes an assumption. That fateful day, she and her husband had gained entrance into Khetam with concealed gratuity. This bribe was passed in a folded canvas duffel bag.
Jillie assumes the bag contained drugs – heathens promote the stuff as currency between cities in the Shur. The UnChosen are weak and easily manipulated and her husband had likely nibbled bait from a snare. He was caught by heathens, whom force her people to spread their illegal tender.
Regrettably, past the Wall, Jillie’s difficult life continues. Her husband never finds work and he rarely leaves the apartment in which they first squat. Only when they’ve been discovered by the landlord do the couple become liable for the rent. Jillie and her husband negotiate a simple payment arrangement. She does all their talking.
“That’s double the amount we pay now,” Jillie argues to their landlord. Her husband refuses to speak with the man. He hides inside the apartment and never goes outside or speaks with anyone.
The landlord, Lee, tells her for him “The full rent is due the first of every month or I will call the military. I might need more from month-to-month once and awhile.”
The couple scrapes-by on the meager wages Jillie brings them. She has no problem finding work for herself – corners are always cut at right-to-work warehouses. Warehouse owners prefer paying undocumented migrants under-the-table for dangerous and degrading jobs. The workers had no recourse for complaints, or often even basic medical attention.
Pride and blatant, unsophisticated lies get in the way of her husband. He can barely hold a job in any other city, so understandably, he’s not even allowed to empty trash in the Promised Land. One day, he never comes home.
The married couple survived together in Khetam a couple years. Jillie assumes her husband had grown restless and simply walked away from his wife. Worse for him, the military might caught him and sent the worthless UnChosen to a detention camp. Granted the man would then live his short days more miserably and die out there in the desert. Jillie can’t decide which fate makes her feel more remorseful.
She enjoys indulging the prolonged solitude in her empty apartment, hers alone. The woman only feels guilty when she thinks of her husband. Nonetheless, guilt is really the only emotion life’s ingrained in Jillie and she doesn’t feel much different. Otherwise, Mrs. Ikraam generally feels relieved.
Without her husband, the pay she earns keeps her fed – one less thing she worries about. She actually considers her husband’s absence a small blessing. Although technically, she was still married and hiding.
Her unaccounted marital status and fear of being discovered to be an encroaching UnChosen migrant paralyzed Jillie against changing her life. She avoids making friends or anything less. Jillie grows old and avoids even questioning herself. Luckily when rent comes due, her landlord dedicates only a few seconds with her every month.
Jillie constantly fears accidentally admitting shame or making a confession that will get her detained. Regardless, even if she slips out of Khetam, she thinks her family surely will not welcome her home – especially after her running away without saying anything. They probably think she’s dead. They all may be dead, for all she knows. Life in the Shur surrounded by heathens was that unpredictable.
Silent years pass and all the while, Jillie feels stuck. Her situation could not have been more dire than her alone on a deserted island. She is marooned inside this walled city. This Promised Land becomes her lonely cage. Jillie feels her mind slip. She obeys the doctrine Chosen priests dictate on the radio.
Many obscure years after her husband abandoned her, her bleak life entailed a baleful encounter with a neighbor. Old age and hunger pointed Jillie Ikraam toward harlotry. This evil was born in her heart and made her stomach ache.
She told herself such things and the Church confirmed her every suspicion about her own UnChosen morality. The Church repeated the accusations every other hour on their radio program everyday. She knew then that her body did not need food. Rather, evil is hungry and creates her pain. The Church once told everyone that very thing at Saint Erasmus inside Khetam. That was long before Reverend Elmer arrived then perished in the parish.
One desperate evening after that very sermon, Jillie knocks on the door of “that” nearby neighbor in her warty, conjoined apartment building. The hungry woman comes looking for a can of vegetables. She knows the man inside lusts after her and Jillie thinks she might have something they can share. His name was Jerry Yatz – was. This elderly, crippled simpleton watched her through the slats of his window blinds when she came and went.
The floor bent beneath Jerry so severely that the wall outside his door creaked and his front window twanged. His weight crippled him, but so did his shortened left leg. Jerry rocked when he ever walked on his severely bowed legs. Jillie never discovers if the man’s deformities had come before or after he had become grossly obese. Additionally and unfortunately for the man, his freakish, tiny ears and too-turned-up nose had come with him at birth and they don’t grow all his oddly long life.
“Hello, Mister Yatz,” the desperate a wanton woman says when her mutant neighbor opens his door. “I’m Jillie Ikraam. I live next door.”
“I’m Jerry, call me Jerry, Jillie,” he tells her. Jerry smiles as if his lips are glued together and he tugs against their bond. Jillie fails to notice and she only thinks of her hunger pangs. She holds out her hands.
“Hi, I was wondering, do you have extra vegetables? Canned peas and baked beans are perfect. Please, I’m so hungry and I don’t have cash right now, and curfew is in a few minutes.”
Jerry invites Jillie into his dank cave. She smells mold and sweat. Inside, he tells her “Yeah, come in. I’ll see what I got.”
The only light inside comes from a bare bulb in the single hall of Jerry’s small, one-bedroom apartment. The meager wattage of the bulb hid crumbs littering the floor and the layers of dust and lint on this artificial topsoil. A squat solid end table and slanted sofa crowded the front room. Jillie sits down on the sofa and clings upon an armrest, lest she slides toward one end with the yellow bedsheets draped over this single piece of furniture.
Short as he is, Jerry Yatz towers over the sitting Jillie Ikraam with help from an exaggerated, wide stance. While she hunts for a section of unsoiled bed sheet, Jillie feels him stare at the back of her head. She doesn’t turn around. Everyone stares at her uncommon blond hair, despite more women bleaching their heads in Khetam every year. After a moment, she’s relieved when he goes away. The whole apartment groans as he moves and Jillie finally learns the origin of the noise and movement in her own living space.
“I got peas and beans,” Jerry said. He makes no sound in the kitchen except his heavy breathing. That breath sounds closer to Jillie when he isn’t speaking.
“You do, Jerry?” Jillie asks gazing at a television set missing its cathode ray tube. Pondering its condition, she thinks her neighbor must have salvaged the shelving from a street corner somewhere else. Khetam confiscated whole television sets, not just the tubes as did other cities in the Shur.
Mrs. Ikraam asks her neighbor about the cans of food. “Can I have, them?”
“Yeah, but what are you gonna do for me?”
Jillie refuses to admit she had missed a man’s touch all those years she remained fertile, but the fact may have made her vengeful for the experience. She actually enjoyed the minutes of love-making with her crippled and slow-witted neighbor. Then after, a lifetime of grief and regret.
The act finished immediately after curfew. Jillie joyfully accepts a can of veggies and starts thinking of other ways she might feed herself the next day. Despite showering, she still feels Mr. Yatz on her skin and she is repulsed at herself for going into his sty. Taking that avenue there again would only lead to regret so she avoids the pitiful man. At her age, Jillie had never considered the risk of pregnancy, although technically, her old body believed the fact was still feasible.
Jillie’s son Davey arrives two months early. By then, his deliberately nameless father has surely died. She hadn’t heard booms or feel her apartment sway for months while she swelled. Jillie never tells him about her pregnancy. In fact, the only time she sees her neighbor again was one day a long time ago. Then she failed sneaking past the gaped drape in his window. After then Jillie decides her son will never know his father lived next door.
The regrettable consequence of their intimate dinner date was Davey inherited the man’s porcine face, and his brain suffered much worst. Only a miracle will heal his retardation. Jillie spares her son’s feelings and says to him many times, “Your father passed away before you are born, sweetie.”
She then truthfully tells her boy. “I was once happily married.”
After dreaming that aloud, Jillie never says anything more about the subject of marriage to her baby. Davey does not have capacity to discover or understand the truth, so she feels safe. The simple recognition of that fact broke his mother’s heart.
Every day, something else Davey could never do or know is revealed. Each day makes Jillie ill, but she loves her boy. He belonged to her and he had been born long after she lost hope of having children. Davey provided more love and grief than her lost husband ever had.
Davey also relieved her unbearable loneliness. Jillie felt grateful for that blessing. She comes home and has someone she talks to. Although, she scolds Davey more than anything else.
The military builds the church across the street from Jillie’s apartment after her son’s been born. Back then and not so long ago, the building wasn’t a church – and still doesn’t look any one today. Soldiers once used the facility for barracks. The military barrack just across the street made Jillie Ikraam cower and she keeps Davey and herself locked inside her apartment, literally in the dark for years. Of course, she worked. Whenever fear motivated her, she’d quit and starve herself and Davey and save money. The illegal migrant UnChosen woman retreated into the guarded isolation of her urban bunker as long as possible – watching her late husband had, as much, taught her that survival skill.
At that time and every few weeks, she braved the scrutiny of soldiers. The worst part of those years was whenever her job held her past curfew. Jillie never dared sneak home because the military watched outside her apartment. Those nights, her baby went hungry.
“I’m sorry, Davey,” Jillie tells her sobbing son when she comes home. She says the same thing many times and the boy passes those nights in tears. If she ever finds her son sleeping after she successfully sneaks past patrols in the midst of curfew and she finally comes home, Jillie wakes the boy and he cries more.
The military evacuates the church when Davey turns eleven. First, they re-purpose the building to become a way-point station. The Church then assigns a priest the custodianship of the building and the parish in which it stood. One day, Jillie finally saves enough bravery, and exhausted from her trials, she introduces herself to the priest at Saint Erasmus. The old woman is desperate for a miracle and prayers.
Once the new reverend arrives, the doors of Saint Erasmus remain wide open most of the day. Jillie strolls straight inside and intends she will ask the reverend for a miracle. The Mortal God does not heed the UnChosen and a Chosen priest must tell her lord what to do.
Jillie wants the priest to pray to the Mortal God and make him cure her son. The non-commissioned priest she meets at Saint Erasmus is an older man – Jillie likes him already. In her experience, older, non-commissioned priests are typically much more kind. They are never rash, like young soldiers. And priests don’t carry rifles.
This priest is turned from the entrance when Jillie comes into the church. She speak to his back while he stacks bricks on the altar. “Hello reverend, I’m Jillie Ikraam.”
The plump, balding priest is startled and Jillie apologizes. He hustles her outside and shuts the door, but she comes back later.
“I’m Reverend Elmer,” the pale man says when Jillie walks inside after he opens the doors again.
“I live across the street, reverend. I go to your church.”
“Yes, there are no edicts. I won’t summon the congregation until the Church council meets and the new pontiff is ordained. I don’t know who he is anymore – they now come and go every six months.”
“I know, reverend, I wonder if you will command the Mortal God for me.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll pray for whatever you need. I’ll kick the Mortal God’s butt – include your donation with your monthly tithe. You can pay for indulgences on your traffic tickets, too.”
“No, it’s something else, reverend.” Jillie pauses and feels the blood drain from her face. She is suddenly fearful. “Please, my son. The Mortal God has been negligent caring for me and my poor son.”
“I don’t take donations here at Saint Erasmus, Mrs. Ikraam.”
“Please, I need a miracle. Please, cure my son. The trials I’ve endured have been more relentless and difficult to bear than the travesties of anyone I know.”
“Who said that?” the reverend asks the old woman. The words the unsophisticated UnChosen woman speaks sounds familiar.
“Reverend Minter at the Saint Almus parish. I think he copied a sermon from the radio. Please, I’ve spent so much time in hardship, I merit a miracle.”
“You’re UnChosen, right?”
Jillie feels entitled, regardless the fact. “Even so, reverend, please. This is the Saint Erasmus parish. We don’t have money. We’re lucky we stand in the shadow of the Chosen. We’re lucky we live behind the Wall and we obey the Church. We know the Mortal God is dead.”
Reverend Elmer casually agrees to command prayers, but another year passes without relief. The priest meets Davey maybe once or twice when Jillie begins visiting with the boy. She hopes taking her son reminded the reverend about her request.
This priest usually treats her anxious visits after dark with a degree of affability. Most of the time, he ignores the old lady. In time, Davey suffers his own sickness and Jillie grows weaker and more tired. The whole while, she repeatedly seeks Reverend Elmer and asks him to solicit the Mortal God.
“I forget,” he often pleads and never apologizes – Chosen never need prostrate themselves. Supremacy over the Mortal God makes their caste blameless because no one judged them. Events in the universe transpired exactly as the Church intends.
“Things come up,” adds the reverend.
Reverend Elmer’s distraction and his memory lapses are the only faults the man confesses. Jillie thinks he’s quirky and normally inattentive – she knows a lot of people like him. She supposes his shortcomings are understandable. The watch the Chosen keep over the world was not restricted to the confines of the Shur desert; the Church watches the whole world. The guardianship of mankind and all else rests solely upon the elite Chosen caste. Their tribes had conquered the Mortal God.
Before his murder, Reverend Elmer seemed constantly distracted, so busy that he had no spare time to sleep or even take a bath. His activities remained unknown to Jillie. Because he was a priest, she takes for granted some important Church function always took precedence.
Whenever she visits, Reverend Elmer acts surprised every time. One night, she finds him at the altar. The priest moves his lips and waves his hands, making circular motions. Jillie assumes he performs some ancient ritual, from a time before the Mortal God and when the Chosen lived in secret tribes – and anyone knew who they were or believed they were special.
“I apologize,” the reverend said to the woman.
“I’m too reckless,” he says a lot. “Heedlessness,” he sometimes says instead.
Jillie never understands what he means, but for weeks before he dies, Reverend Elmer sounds distraught. She can’t talk with him.
“Davey is home now,” she announces upon her one of her last visits. “Do you want to see my son?”
“I can’t go there,” the reverend told her.
“I’ll bring him here, reverend. You can bless him here and cure his retardation.”
The reverend then says something unusual. “He’ll kill me. You’re killing me.”
Obviously, his responses concerned her. What he said belonged to another conversation. She begs the disconnected man “Are you okay, reverend?”
“I feel fine,” the reverend assures Jillie. “You should never, ever concern yourself with Church business.”
His advice is the last the reverend gives the old woman. The following week, someone brutally murders him. The night he dies, his howls first frighten her away. Curiosity and fearing her wish is forgotten again brings Jillie back to Saint Erasmus. She goes to the church after curfew and investigates the argument she had heard earlier. The doors of the church are unlocked. Jillie is thrilled, just for a moment, when she recognizes the black shapes spinning in a vortex around the altar.
A spectacle of feathers floating inside Saint Erasmus mesmerizes the old woman. When she enters the church, the feathers school and blend into one dark cloud. Her excitement shrivels the moment she spots Reverend Elmer bleeding on the floor. The feathers then become the very manifestation of evil.
The nervous old woman hopes a patrol still cruises the neighborhood, She runs outside and screams for help. After she had befriended Reverend Elmer, she had lost fear of being detained as a migrant. She feels the Chosen are at peace with her presence.
When the military comes, Jillie dwells solely on the memory of her dead pastor. She remembers the reverend promised he will petition the Mortal God and cure the sickness in her boy. The old woman thinks “He can talk to the creator directly, now.” And she hopes he does that.
Clearly, she had never explained to Reverend Elmer how she got into Khetam, and she prays her trespass and presumption were truly forgiven. Jillie also never spoke of her husband and others in her family. The priest never asked and probably didn’t care.
Old Jillie Ikraam assumed people mistook her and believed she was a surviving relative of one of the original UnChosen migrants who built the Wall. She and her son were then evidently allowed to stay inside Khetam. Even so, everyone ignored Davey. Everyone recognized the boy for the tribulation he embodied.
Saint Erasmus itself was appointed a replacement custodian almost immediately. The new priest’s name was Benedict Gage. This priest also had no rank. He employed a workman who liked Davey. The friendly workman seemed harmless and acted a lot like her son. That was a blessing and helped Jillie care less about the old priest.
Her boy and the workman – a man named after a chicken – fast became friends. The man was Davey’s first friend. Sadly, the bond didn’t last long. Jillie knew that once the restoration of the floor in the church was complete, the workman will leave. He and his brother will be shuffled out of Khetam like most contracted UnChosen workman. Jillie presumed the skinny and leathery Cortras brothers had come from outside the Wall.
Occasionally and temporarily, UnChosen migrants are brought from the shantytown outside the Wall. The settlement had become permanent and nicknamed the encampment. When skilled labor could not be found in Khetam, the military strolled through the squalid garden and pulled the least rotten root to get their job done. When the work finished, soldiers allows threw away the spoiled labor.
Reverend Benedict Gage reported to Saint Erasmus soon after the death of the previous custodian. He wasted no time cleaning-up the church – the workmen came that same day the new priest arrived. Reverend Gage also makes other improvements. Jillie frequently hears tool-made noise come from the breezeway beside the church. The sound of one particular tool, actually, came from the church across the street throughout much of the day.
A sound, like slowly sawing metal, echoed from the breezeways between Saint Erasmus and warehouses on either side. The work must be undertaken by hand; the rhythm of the saw sounds are slow and naturally rhythmic. The breezeways and the whole street rang with numbing consonance.
Jillie assumed the hypnotic noise were related to preparations against priest-killers. She might have inquired what he was doing when Reverend Ben minded her child, but she had just been too busy – thinking uselessly – she and never asks.
“I like you, Reverend Ben,” Jillie Ikraam tells the priest one evening she arrives before she takes Davey home. She tells him “You have a positive work ethic. Focus blesses you, Reverend. I wish the Mortal God heals your face – you must have asked.”
Ben makes no reply. Reverend Ben generally says nothing at all, but his character stood beyond reproach – he is a Chosen, after all. That’s why the Mortal God listens when this brand new reverend petitions the deity to heal Davey. And why the prayer’s fulfillment goes further than a cure for her boy’s retardation. Davey Ikraam becomes the incarnation of the Mortal god.
The messiah returns to the Shur with the condolence of the Chosen – Jillie thinks Ben is happy to see their risen god. Her lowly UnChosen son is an offering in testament the Mortal God serves mankind without reservation. The day has come when all suffering is relieved and no one denies the supremacy of the Chosen.
Though she is a modest UnChosen woman, Jillie entertains she has influenced the Mortal God; it is why Davey has been blessed. Her own preservation through the torment in her life reveals a lesson the deity now understands. Jillie has shown Davey, and the Mortal God, the meaning of servitude. Her own life is an example of the sacrifices she makes to serve the Chosen.
Her work that very night of the miracle provided an iconic instance. The Mortal God must answer the need of the Chosen with haste. Silent humility must be entailed in his thanks for this opportunity to serve mankind. That night, again, Jillie believed she’d lose her job cleaning shelves at a nearby thrift shop.
“Customers aren’t bothered by a little dust on anything they peruse,” argues the shop’s owner. “Look, before you finish wiping one side of the shelf, the other side is already dusty.”
“My bones move so slow,” Jillie complains hopelessly.
“If I paid you by the hour, I’d have to give you all my profit. In fact, I lost money when I paid you yesterday. You won’t cost me tomorrow’s profit, tonight is your last night. I’ll pay you if I see you again.”
“Please, a flat fee. I’ll take what you can afford and work until I’m done.”
“I can’t afford anything, Ikraam. And you are never done. You can’t catch up with dirt.”
Doddering and confused, an old man enters the shop. He exposes himself then pissed. The shop’s owner watches in disbelief and without protest. His mouth is open and his arms hang limp. All the while, the old man relieves himself. He staggers about the shop, handling bric-a-brac and a variety of unrelated items that catch his attention. The whole time, the man is apparently unconscious of his constant urination. The few other customers in the thrift store quickly desert the sopping premises.
No one stops the old man mindlessly urinating everywhere. Eventually his bladder empties, though the flow had erupted from a perpetually refilling underground spring. He never acknowledges what has happened, the fellow merely pulls his closed lips into a quivering smile and he coughs “Farewell.” He leaves the shop still exposed and dripping.
The opportunity for subservience presents itself then-and-there. Jillie seizes the moment while the shop’s owner still stands stiff and mute and in denial. She demonstrates her worth with paper towels and glass cleaner. No matter how sticky and smelly the chore, fast-thinking Jillie Ikraam never complains or protests. She requires no direction. This moment, she wordlessly soaks urine from the floor of this shop her boss owns.
“Thanks, Jillie,” gushes the grateful owner. “Come back tomorrow, and we’ll see what I have for you. Maybe there’s a something you can do for people. I might get work for you and I can manage the prices.”
Jillie only hears her job is preserved. Although, she doesn’t know what it might entail. A majority of this shop’s recurring customers are elderly, older than Jillie. They are an unpredictable bunch. Incontinence, injury, disease and death are plagues each at the end of their lives – all of with their unhygienic messes.
Jillie faithfully and reliably demonstrates her worth. This was the lesson for all UnChosen and the Mortal God alike. The deity should have shown the same initiative the first time he had come to the Shur. The Chosen would not have sacrificed him when he first came if he had only catered to those ancient anonymous and elite tribes.
Way back then, if the Mortal God had wished truly wished to remain in his flesh, humility and dignity were no excuse against shirking one’s born responsibility toward the divine Chosen people. Even today, thralldom demands selfless deference to the Church.
The Mortal God was not born a Chosen. Technically, he was born not among the tribes that eventually became the Chosen after his crucifixion. His birth station dictated servitude. The Chosen demanded this tribute and arrogance never justified fracturing caste constraints. The Church repeats these requirements on their radio shows everyday, so the lesson is readily available.
The additional cleaning that evening occupies Jillie past nightfall and into curfew. The patrols are running late, too. Feeling lucky and having earned her blessing, Jillie decides she will go straight home.
On her way, she sees lights glowing in the nave of Saint Erasmus. Since the military had evacuated the church, she had never seen the front portion of the building illuminated. Something happened that night, yet Jillie only wanted to wash and go to sleep. The opportunity at the shop had taken its toll. Pain and exhaustion had stopped being sources of her pride many years ago. Tonight, she wants only sleep and she goes home.
Jillie awakes in the middle of the night – a pestering habit she’s developed upon regularly seeing if Davey has wet his bed. After years of practice, she concludes her restless sleep patterns will persist the rest of her life. The old woman aches and will still hurt in the morning, considering the work she performed at the shop earlier that day. Pain harassed her dependably most mornings. The worst part of waking was always her inability to fall asleep again.
Davey isn’t in his bed, and neither is he in the bathroom nor the kitchen. In due time, the search for her son reveals the front door of the apartment is wide open. Jillie knows the boy had slipped out after she returned from work. She knows instantly, the blazing lights at Saint Erasmus lure him. Jillie looks outside and scans the streets. The old woman watches for patrols. Feeling confident the road is empty, she hustles toward the front doors of the church.
The doors at Saint Erasmus are locked. Before she knocks, the angry sound of an argument inside chases her back home. Jillie doesn’t want to get involved, this time. She frets a few minutes and watches the church from the window in her front room. The double doors of Saint Erasmus soon suck themselves inward and open and shadows emerge.
Two men step into the light pressed from the open doors. One man drags something large from Saint Erasmus, possibly a third man. The night is too dark and the shape might be anything. Either man might also be anyone. The argument she heard earlier reinforces her suspicion and she makes an emergency phone call to the military.
“This is Jillie Ikraam,” she announces after a short wait. “It’s me, I’m really me. Hurry, they’re killing the priest again.”
The dispatcher pauses and Jillie hears a click. If not for voices in the background on the other end of the line, the old woman might mistake her call has been disconnected. After another moment, the female dispatcher returns to the phone.
“Where are you at?”
“It’s the same church where Reverend Elmer was killed, Saint Erasmus,” Jillie scolds the dispatcher. “Someone’s dead now. They dragged out a body.”
The dispatcher singularly continues her monotone questions. “Where do you live?”
“Across the street – L99-F67, unit C-2. Please, they killed Reverend Elmer, do you remember?”
“Who is dead?”
“I don’t know, it’s dark, and I’m old,” Jillie complains. “Two men.”
“Who are the men?”
“I don’t know. Killers, heathens?”
“A patrol will arrive immediately,” the dispatcher assures her.
“Please, Reverend Ben prays for my boy,” Jillie says then hears the connection drop.
A patrol must have been in the neighborhood, because the military shows up seconds later. They follow a car stopped outside the front of the church. In the spotlight from the patrol’s jeep, the paint on the suspicious sedan looks silver. When soldiers pull the driver from the vehicle, Jillie is horrified the man resembles her son’s new friend, the one named after a chicken. Her faces flushes when she imagines what might have happened to her baby.
The other man vanish and Jillie doesn’t know where either went. Thinking about last night, she wonders if the other man was a figment of her imagination. Her memory is cloudy up to the moment a patrol detains her son’s friend.
While the patrol is present, Jillie is afraid and doesn’t identify herself as the caller. She had reported the murder of Reverend Elmer very recently – just last week, to further implicate herself in the events of tonight may be dangerous – the military might finally check her background. She wanted to find her son, but she was afraid of detainment even more.
She’s upset when the patrol arrives, but the old woman falls asleep in a chair the moment she sits down. Jillie had only wanted the weight off her legs and to relieve old aches, and she initially believed all her agitation and worry were guaranteed to keep her awake. Nevertheless, she sleeps until long after the patrol drives away.
In the morning, Jillie wakes and discovers the pain in her legs have spread up her back. Her work the night before now roost in her aching shoulders. Despite the nagging agony, she resolves herself to visit Reverend Gage and especially locate her baby. She climbs the stairs of Saint Erasmus when a familiar voice calls her name. Her motion hurts every place allowing the hasty movement.
The woman reporter, whom Jillie’s son had called the “pretty lady,” stalks up the sidewalk. Jillie thinks the young reporter looks like a mermaid she imagined when she was a little girl.
Kids born and raised in the desert are typically fascinated with stories about the sea and the creatures that might live within them. Jillie was no different. The mermaids in her fantasies are always blond, petite and beautiful. This woman reporter was those things. Her being Chosen helped promote Jillie’s impression.
The reporter’s name is Madelyn Sebash. Madelyn skips introducing the man escorting her today. He is tall and handsome, a perfect match for the pretty reporter. Still, Jillie remains preoccupied with finding her son. The lost introduction does not particularly concern the old woman.
Locked doors bar their entrance into Saint Erasmus, yet Madelyn’s friend continues knocking, especially harder once a man inside cries. Reverend Gage opens the church seconds later and lets everyone into the nave. Davey stands inside. That moment, her boy reveals he is the living incarnation of the Mortal God.
Jillie knew there Reverend Gage had compelled the Mortal God to heal Davey. The act was so gracious, the Mortal God had also been allowed to appear again in the flesh. And Davey is his vessel. The blessing is too great.
Jillie would have been satisfied if her son could attend school and care for his mother, but the Mortal God went further. Her son is now the Mortal God – a blessing Jillie can not wholly contemplate.
The transformation of Davey Ikraam, his acting and talking like a grown man, proves enough for his mother. Yet her boy works even more miracles. That morning, he heals a badly burned hand. Recovery had looked impossible; the man’s fingers had been scabbed together and the hand looked like one large canker. Too much time had passed before he sought medical care. He should have immediately got help – that hand needed amputation.
How the man had burned himself is something Jillie never discovers. The smell of charred meat and gasoline hangs inside Saint Erasmus and are her only clues. She assumes an accident probably occurred last night. She further assumes it is maybe related to the argument she had secretly overheard. Why no one then took the man to a hospital never occurs to her. Again, and the image would not leave her head, the wound had been left festering. Details then become unimportant because the mysterious accident lead to this wonderful testament. Davey heals that man’s dying hand!
Jillie’s son cups the injury in his own thin palms and wholly restores the wounded workman. The wonder manifests before her own eyes. Other witnesses also sees the miracle. Reverend Gage. a priest in the Church, and Madelyn who is a reporter, saw the wonder, so news of the Messiah’s return will indeed rapidly spread. This is how the presence of the Mortal God is revealed. Everyone will know at once with a blare of trumpets.
News of the messiah’s arrival must spread and the toils of Jillie’s people, all those sins suffered by the UnChosen, will be lifted – forgiveness abounds! Lives will be lived without sickness and disability now that the Mortal God is in the world again. He has healed her son and the hand of another UnChosen and our lord is no longer selfish and fickle.
He will serve the Chosen and UnChosen alike. Destruction will rain upon the heathens. All their maiming and killing, and the terror they lather across the Shur will become meaningless. The holy war is already lost, because Chosen soldiers will no longer stay dead or crippled. Only the matter of time stood before annihilation of the opposition. This was the message the mother of the Mortal God will preach.
And Reverend Gage will command the church of the Chosen because he commands righteous power. Because he is the priest whose authority grants these blessings. His authority permits the messiah his return to the Shur. This man was destined one day to become pontiff and serve much longer than a year.
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