The Martyr’s Wet Dream

Words like “God” and “Allah” must go the way of “Apollo” and “Baal,” or they will unmake our world.
— Sam Harris, The End of Faith

Under a sky awash in blood and rust, a squad of rusty marines and I patrolled the outskirts of an obliterated city, hunting terrorists. A thin strata of ash covered what was once a road. Stripped trees pushed out from phosphorescent soil like mummy hands. A mushroom cloud lingered over battered skyscrapers, watchful archon of fire and hate.

I felt something small under my boot. I looked down. Beneath the ashes, a small gold crucifix glinted in the glow of a thermonuclear dawn. I knelt, picked it up, watched it sway hypnotically at the end of a thin, silver chain.

I once strangled a man in boot camp because I found him wearing one of these crosses around his neck. The corporal had me immediately promoted. Later, I learned he wasn’t actually a terrorist — just impersonating the terrorists as a joke around the other rowdy trainees. They don’t call me Cain for nothing.

I reported the rebel artifact to the corporal. Once intel confirmed the proximity of the terrorists, we were ordered to unleash the D.E.M.O.N. from the armored carrier — Divine Entity Mutilating Organic Necrobot — but we just called them demons. My heart sank. I instinctively dreaded the demon.

The metal gangway crushed the dust and the demon came crawling and hissing from the shadowed carrier and into the twilight. Twice as large as a man, a beating heart caged in its core fueled its whirring motors and sparking circuits. Ours resembled a scorpion, though I heard they were manufactured in at least a hundred terrifying models. Corporal Ahaz kept the thing on a leash. I had seen it climb smooth concrete walls and dodge gunfire, and kept a safe distance. Our side invented them in the war against the terrorists, and we’ve just about won because of them. The demons track believers like a bloodhound, then it exterminates them and assimilates their nutrients, so there’s never been a need to fuel them. This one had not fed in twelve days.

We hardly believed it when we received a report that there was a terrorist hideout in the fallout zone. No military intelligence could justify what drove the terrorists into the irradiated wastes of their own making — perhaps the zealots were oblivious to atomic sickness, or they believed it was holy fire that would heal and refine them. Whatever the case, it was why they were going to lose the war.

“Why did they do it, man?” said Esau, wirey and fidgeting with his rifle like a toddler. He was a drifter and a drugster before the revolution and enlisted because the secularists aimed to repeal the drug laws, and he wanted in. His sort always ended up as frontline fodder. “I mean, why kill all those people?”

Saul, some grad school dropout, was too fat to be a soldier. “Who cares? They’re terrorists, they’re insane, it’s just what they do.”

Jezzie’s plaited locks were dyed purple and blue, bunched neatly in her helmet. She lugged a hulking machine gun against her hip. “They just don’t think the way we do. Their brains are wired differently. We can’t wrap our heads around their beliefs.”

“Maybe if we understood ‘em,” Esau said, breathily, “we could communicate and negotiate. Maybe this is all a misunderstanding.”

Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

They turned to me, because the words were mine.

“It is faith,” I said. “The only reason they die is for their faith.”

We marched slowly, glowing dust coiling and tapering around our boots. When the others weren’t looking, I slipped a photograph I kept in my pocket of my dead husband. Passion, to remind me why I chose to fight. Rage, to remind me what the terrorists had done.

I didn’t tell them I was married for a year before the war — our unorthodox pairing was not even legal until the June 2015 SCOTUS ruling. It was the most wonderful month of my life. James was soft-spoken and gentle, dark-haired and with full, red lips. A medium told us we were two-spirited. He went to a job interview in the city, but never came back. I heard the 9/11 stories, people sensing a horrible premonition before the terror attack, warned their loved ones bound for the towers to cancel their plans. It was not that way for me – I never saw it coming.

No one could have predicted the scale of ensuing chaos of a nuclear blast: half a million dead within a minute, emergency services overwhelmed for days, a massive exodus from every major urban center in the nation. The day was July 12. There was speculation the terrorists chose that terrible day in reverence of the seven days creation and the twelve tribes of Israel. For a while, it looked as if they’d won.

To kill a weed, merely cutting the stem is not enough. One must pull it from its roots. That root was religion.

I joined the secular revolution. I believed in my duty to James to stop this evil in its tracks. We closed down the believers’ gatherings, burned their books, censored their preachers. That served merely to drive the terrorists underground, into the dark where their religion grew like fungus – the terrorists worshipped secretly in their houses and their basements, and the attacks on abortion clinics and schools persisted. We hunted them, and when we found them, we deported them to the re-education camps. If it was impossible to educate the terrorists with clear evidence for evolution in the camps, then we exterminated them. At least, not without getting a solid years’ forced labor out of them.

That was my job. I was fresh out of the training program, but I had already proven my innate talent far above the others. All I lacked was experience on the battlefield. They don’t call me Cain for nothing.

Before that day, I had never actually laid eyes upon one of the terrorists. I had only seen them in the propaganda videos shown to us at boot camp and broadcast in the secular-aligned cities that were still habitable. My mind raced with nightmares of cross-branded, Eucharist-shrieking lunatics lunging from the rubble, barbarians that would strap suits of C4 to their chests and vaporize themselves simply to keep a fetus alive or to stop us from having sex. My finger itched on the trigger.

Ahead of us, the demon’s tail twitched. Its sharp legs quickened, and it veered around a corner.

“Looks like it’s picked up a scent,” said the corporal. “Pick up the pace, ladies.”

Esau paced alongside me. “Man, how does it track ‘em down?”

Ahaz pulled the demon under control with the electrical leash. “It smells their faith. The terrorists, their blood is full of faith. Demons feed on faith, but are repelled by sin. You and I? We are full of sin. It courses through our blood since our birth, it gives us the pride and power of humanity. But the terrorists?” He sighed and shook his head. “The terrorists don’t have sin to protect them.”

My fellow secularists smirked. It wasn’t uncommon for officers to be Gnostics or Luciferians. I myself knew how the machine actually worked, since it was covered early in training. There was a bar code on the back of my hand — rumors say it digitizes to the numerals 666. Every marine in the secular front was branded with these “lucky numbers,” so the demons were repelled from us, but would kill any living thing without the mark. I preferred the flavor of mysticism of Ahaz’s explanation, but I would remind myself that mysticism is filed among illogical beliefs and declared illegal in our brave new world.

We crossed a field of broken tombstones to the foot of the terrorist stronghold. The hideout was nothing but a flimsy little wooden shack on a small hill — optical readouts screened inside my helmet indicated the structural integrity to be less than a pile of glue and toothpicks, and dated the material to the late 19th century, a dark age when hundreds of thousands of these stain-glassed abominations infested our nation. I would have my doubts, had not all of our gathered intelligence indicated that the terrorists would gather on first full moon after the spring equinox, the extremists’ most important day of the year.

“This could be an ambush,” Jezzie’s uneasy whisper filtered inside my helmet.

“Faith degenerates the brain and usurps reason,” I said, reciting the training mantra. “The terrorists are expecting a miracle, but miracles violate the known natural law. We’re safe.”

Esau chuckled. “Maybe we should let them keep their faith after all,” he said.

I laughed while making careful note of his treasonous comment.

“Quit the chatter,” the corporal’s voice barked into all our helmets. “Do you want us all dead?”

We reached the oak doors and assumed formation. Ahaz manned the doorway. Esau and I guarded the flanks. A lofty cross guarded over the threshold. Silently, I accepted the symbol’s challenge.

Ahaz gestured the countdown.

THREE.

My hands clenched the rifle. Equipped with a laser refracted by a parabolic mirror, this would be like burning ants with a microscope.

TWO.

Fresh rounds in the magazine. A thermo-sensitive scope. A bayonet sharp as Occam ’s razor, perfect for cutting down assumptions and flesh.

ONE.

I vowed to kill every terrorist on the planet.

We kicked down the oak doors and streamed into the sanctuary. We swept the pews, scoped out the rafters, tore open curtains, wrecked their stronghold in search of its defendants. But the “church” — or so they called these terrorist factories — was forsaken of human presence.

Ahaz regarded the desecration coldly, then spat. “Destroy all of it.”

We baptized the sanctuary with our bullets: wooden pews flew up in a shower of splinters; stained glass windows exploded into a hurricane of flashing razors; curtains danced into shreds; organ pipes sung a cacophonous hymn and collapsed into dented scrap metal; a bowl of holy water crashed to the carpet. Muzzle-fire highlighted the slack-jawed glee of my comrades (“Blessings upon the non-existent God!” “We are free thinkers!”). They hurled the black, gold-rimmed books into the air and shot them for target practice, howling with laughter when those books (Bibles, now I remember that’s what they’re called) erupted into feathery bits. Desecrating the enemy camp was their greatest catharsis — it satisfied the predatory lust of our evolutionary ancestors.

It was a pleasure to murder God.

For me, the purging was purely duty. I dumped a canteen of gasoline on the walls, benches, and carpet. I cleaned this place up like a janitor swabbing a drunkard’s puke, reviled by my fellow secularists’ irreverence. Didn’t they realize that this was no game? It was these churches that spawned the scum who reduced our planet to a nearly inhospitable wasteland. In my fervor, I was sure that every filthy superstition stained in the human mind must be quarantined, erased, and forgotten. Only then could humanity move on.

An altar stood at the heart of the stronghold. There was a white porcelain figure surrounded by two candles. It was the only five square feet of space unscathed by our assault. I didn’t bother wasting bullets; I snatched up the illogical object, raised my hand to hurl it down on the mosaic. Then I looked closer at it.

A robed woman, her palms outstretched. For a strange moment, I forgot that the figurine was crafted by the evil hand of a terrorist. The small smile and the open palms were merciful and mild. I thought of my mother, my sister, my husband, all who were now charred skeletons buried in a tomb of phosphorescent rubble. My fingers pressed and rolled the figurine. The surface was smooth on my callused palms.

“Cain, what are you doing with that thing?”

Esau swaggered toward me, eyes fixed on the cross in my hands. “I’ll take care of that for you,” he says.

“This could be evidence.”

“What, that little thing? We’ve been ordered to destroy everything.”

I glanced again at the figurine. It was beautiful, and reminded me of beautiful things. James, I want you back, I thought absurdly. But the crafter of this image had barred us away from each other, and in the end they stole him away forever. “Opiate of the masses!”

I hurled the crucifix and it plunged to the mosaic floor, split asunder, vaporized into a plume of dust. Esau turned away and fired bullets into the last remaining window.

My hand, the one which cast the vile object, was paralyzed. I was stricken by a sudden ache in my chest: that relic, symbol of man’s greatest folly and falsehood, had captivated me against my will.

In a corner of the sanctuary, the demon clawed at the mosaic, slavering and whining. It worked desperately, churned up clawfuls of ancient stones, strings of saliva mingling with ash. We suspected it had malfunctioned — then it broke through the floor and the demon burrowed inside like a graveworm.

Ahaz burst out into laughter behind me. “Well, well, so the terrorists hid themselves under the ground like rats! See how useful these demons are, Cain?”

We leapt down into a steel tunnel. The demon had already dug ahead, to the left corridor. We followed the demon down twists and turns, until we heard a tumultuous banging up ahead. The demon was hurling itself against the large sealed hatch of a fallout shelter. Ahaz tugged the leash — that issued electric currents and shocked the demon into a meek cringe.

Saul shifted anxiously. “Too easy. We’ve hardly searched at all, and we got them.”

“They’ve probably given up,” said Jezzie, smirking as she set her gun to its laser and began to cut the adamantine door.

I stood my ground, eyes darting down each tunnel, prepared in case the terrorists were setting us up for an ambush. As I listened, I could hear a soft sound coming from behind the hatch. Jezzie and Saul set to work cutting open the door with lasers. As if aware of our efforts to break open the hatch, the sound grew louder.

The laser sawed a complete circle into the hatch. Half a ton of cauterized, smoking steel fell inward and crashed.

Through swirling shadow and pools of torchlight, I saw a spacious vault was inhabited by a huddle of emaciated vagrants. All heads were bowed, eyes shut in capitulation or wide open in ecstasy. Whispers, supplications, shouts of “Alleluia!” echoed through the dank dungeon. They appeared to have surrendered already. I assumed that these frail people were hostages, probably imprisoned by the terrorists for so long they may have been brainwashed. They were fixed in a strange, collective trance.
My rifle nearly slipped from my hands. I had expected to charge into enemy gunfire, to wrestle masked murderers to the ground, just like our training. I did not even see any young, combat-aged men — just women and children in ratty garments, with sunken, emaciated faces. There were empty crates, bags, and opened cans picked clean by rats. These hostages must have struggled together without food for at least a week.

There was a man on a sort of platform at the far end of the vault. I thought he may be holding them hostage, but he was unarmed, with only a copy of that black book in his outstretched hand. His eyes were fixed on us, filled with the dread of devils, but even as the liberating forces took up formation in the room, he shouted to the crowd of hostages, his voice beating the rapture rising all around him.

“I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice–”

A shot rang out. The black book dropped from his hands. He lurched, clutched a wound in chest, crumpled to his knees. There were several screams, but the prayers all around us did not cease.

Ahaz lowered his rifle. Smoke tapered from the barrel. He strode out from the squad, his face as unreadable as a stone.

He came behind the bearded man and pulled him by the hair. Then he projected his voice out to the rest of the occupants in the room. “Stop praying!”

The whispers sharpened, some taking on a tone of defiance, most desperation.

Ahaz screwed the barrel of his rifle into the bearded man’s scalp. “Stop praying!”

One old woman’s voice broke, and she fell on her knees, sobbed out in strange tongues.

“STOP PRAYING OR YOUR LEADER DIES.”

One after the other, all the voices faded, until there was silence except trembled breathing and whimpering.

“Where are the terrorists?” I asked Esau.

Esau slapped my back, laughed with mirth. “Here they are, Cain! God’ssheep, all rounded up and ready for the slaughter.”

My finger slipped from the trigger. These were terrorists? But these were a herd of unarmed peasants, indistinguishable from civilians. They were disguised, I assured myself, and steeled my sentiments. Extremists were nothing if not cunning.

Ahaz wrenched the bearded man’s hands, and I heard the click of handcuffs. “Every participant of this gathering is hereby under arrest for crimes against humanity. Namely superstition, sedition, and treason.”

The bearded man stirred at Ahaz’s feet. He belched out a thin strand of blood, then croaked.

The corporal leered. “What did you say?”

With all of his strength, the man raised his face and inch from his own spreading puddle of blood. “‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”

The corporal’s face twisted with menace. “A true believer, eh?” He drove the rifle into his spine, and the man flailed on the floor.

We lined the people — the terrorists, for a moment I had forgotten what they actually were — up against the wall. I noticed only one male, a small boy. He had dark hair and a pale face. His small fists were clenched at his sides, trying to stop himself from shaking. He was the only one among the terrorists who was absolutely terrified.

The demon would have ripped every last one of them into bloody shreds were it not for the electric leash. It was lunging and snapping its jaw, howling in paroxysms of mechanized hunger. Some of the terrorists wept and cowered back from the demon, but I saw some — namely the oldest women among them — who stood peacefully, faces shining, welcoming the worst of all deaths we could ever inflict upon them.

Ahaz prowled up and down the line of terrorists and addressed them. “I would not take pleasure in merely killing any of you, though according to the law of natural selection, that would be the most efficient method of cleansing our species. Strong genes eliminate weak genes.”

He lit a cigarette. It occurred to me that he had likely recited this speech hundreds upon hundreds of times to other groups of terrorists. Before he murdered — I mean purged — them all.

“I understand that most of you cannot resist your religious compulsions,” he said, puffed in the old woman’s face. “Because most of you probably possess the faith gene, you are clinically insane and prone to hallucinations and delusions. Or there is the hope that some of you are just ordinarily ignorant. Religion flourished in the old days as traditions passed down, the mind of a child being plastic and fragile. Highly contagious. So I will give you only one chance to save your lives.”

The corporal’s face cracked open in a grin, and he shook his fist. “Join us as comrades, as fellow secularists! I will free you from the desert of faith and guide you to the fresh springs of reality. I will show you science. I will show you real miracles — how to change your sexuality, how to harness the blastocyst to save innumerable lives, how to clone your loved ones so that you may never lose them. These things, and so much more.”

A defiant voice rose from among the terrorists. “The dragon was given a mouth to blaspheme God and deceive many.”

The corporal’s teeth clenched. He nodded in my direction. I was afraid he had selected me, but Esau strode out. He took a dark haired woman and pulled her out from the crowd. It was she who had spoken. The boy shrieked and clung after her. His mother.

Ahaz addressed the terrorists again, chiding. “I understand that some of you believe God commands you to treat others as you would yourself. But from one look at all the cities you people obliterated to appease your angry God, I could claim that isn’t very many of you. If you do not give up your superstition, this woman will die. You do not wish to sin, do you?”

The woman in his grip was held in a captivating peace. None of the terrorists answered. I wanted to scream at them, and at her. Didn’t they know he meant what he said? Did they not believe him? Had faith completely destroyed your will to survive? He will kill you all if you don’t submit. Just confess your crimes and we can be done with this.

Ahaz nodded again, and Esau dragged the mother away. The boy broke out from the group and clutched her, pitching dire sobs. Esau lashed at him.

“Don’t worry,” whispered the mother to her son. “I will see you in He–…” but she trailed away. There is no Heaven. Through mere inductive reasoning, the ultra-brains of the philosopher megalords had utterly disproved the existence of an afterlife. Her hands slipped away from his and the boy dropped to his knees.

Esau dragged her to the slavering maw of the demon. She went with the dignity and anticipation of a bride approaching her love at the altar. Upon realizing it was about to receive a delicious treat, it emitted a renewed paroxysm of ghastly ululations, the caged heart throbbed, and the mouth plunged open and revealed a gullet lined row upon row with spinning, roaring blades.

She gazed into the abyss, serene. I realized that she did not see the horror. She did not have our eyes. She saw the light and outstretched arms of mercy, the very same mercy of that figurine. She knew there was a better place; it would be a swift departure through agony before arriving on the other side.

A claw lashed out and clamped her around the hip, cracking bone. Blood escaped her smile, ran freely down her neck as she murmured a final prayer. Metal jaw and palate collided, severing the body at the torso. The demon flexed back, swallowed, and there was a slushy, grinding racket inside the mechanical bowels, then dark fluid raced through transparent tubes into the heart. It grew flush, pounded with rejuvenated vitality. The pale legs flapped comically when it shoveled the rest of the woman into its industrial digestive tract. Then, maddened by the faithful blood, it flew at the rest of the huddled terrorists — only to recoil at the taught length of Ahaz’s leash.

“That will be the devil’s appetizer,” he said, “if you persist in your delusions.”

Jezzie coughed. Saul shifted uneasily. I realized that it was the first measure of discomfort among the marines. If I could have only convinced them that this mission was going out of control. I could have stopped it.

The boy stumbled forward. His eyes were blank. I realized the boy had been shrieking the entire time. He gazed up at the corporal. “I don’t believe anymore,” he whispered, crumpled at the corporal’s feet.

Ahaz looked up at the crowd, eyes afire, and laughed. “This boy is evolving! Who else among you?”

No one moved.

Ahaz cursed. “Just like a herd of sheep.” He let go of the bearded man, who managed this time to stay upright on his knees. Ahaz fixed his eyes on me. “Cain. Come here.”

My comrades began to mutter excitedly around me, like boys chuckling upon realizing one among them was about to lost his virginity. I approached, but my will to kill was gone.

“This is your first purging,” said Ahaz, fists planted proudly on his hips. “No more of those silly training videos. You’ve seen the terrorists for yourself now. I’m going to spare their leader the death by the demon, because I want you to kill this terrorist. This is what you have prepared for.” Ahaz stepped away from the bearded man. “It is time for your test. Go ahead. Send this terrorist to paradise.”

The terrorist leader did not move. Hesitant, with the eyes of my comrades and terrorists alike fixed on me, I lifted the rifle and hovered it over the man’s head. I set the rifle to laser mode. I was afraid of the mess a bullet would cause.

I was about to fire when he spared me a feeble glance. Those rheumy eyes shimmered, but did not blink. Was that forgiveness?

No. Killing this man would be impossible. I could not kill any of them. I did not know who these people were, but one thing was sure — they were not terrorists. What was I supposed to do now? Either I shoot him, or I would be blacklisted as a traitor, stripped of my arms, possibly shot. I considered setting the gun to myself.

“What are you waiting for?” Ahaz whispered.

I’m a large man, even larger than Ahaz. During our excruciating years of boot camp and training, I was the strongest in the camp. Yet the corporal’s gaze, hardened from years of this heartless murder, paralyzed me.

“I ordered you to kill that terrorist.”

I swallowed. “I have just begun to suspect that it might be unethical.”

The corporal blinked. He stopped breathing.

“Unethical?” A cryptic pause. “Recite the oath of the secularists, marine. NOW.”

My body snapped rigidly and I answer, the syllables falling out of my mouth after years of daily repetition in the education camp.

“I am a loyal soldier of the Secular Front. We are the alliance of free nations pledged to the progress of humanity! Superstition, faith, and religion are anathema to the virtues of human existence: superstition is the contradiction of natural causation; faith is the capacity for the terrifying and vile; religion is the virus that spreads the disease of ignorance.” My voice pitched as all of the truth for which the Liberation Front waged its glorious war flooded back into my memory became bright and real. “We believe in evidence. We wage war against delusion. We walk in the true light of Science, Reason, and Conscience. Only when the evil that is ignorance is vanquished can humanity thrive once again. Let us live, so that Death tremble to take us!”

Silence. Ahaz’s eyes remained fixed on me.

“Let me tell you what is truly unethical,” he said. “How many of your loved ones died in that city? Do you remember what these… terrorists… have done to civilization? The belief in God itself has been responsible for every crime that has plagued man since his cranium evolved to be able to contain contradicting thoughts: divine right of kings, feudalism, caste systems, slavery, executions, sodomy laws, taboos, cannibalism, stoning heretics, human and animal sacrifice, child labor… you should be struggling not to puke that these believers, these mistakes of evolution, have even cheated their way out of natural selection this long. There exist beliefs that are so terrible, so insane, that it is our duty as rational citizens to kill those who hold them. That is the revolution. That is what we do. That is our only mission.”

I pressed the rifle deeper into the man’s temple, but my finger was locked with dread.

“Kill him!” screamed Ahaz, spittle spewing from his mouth, veins bulging from his neck. “End humanity’s dark age of ignorance! Bring us to the light!”

I was nearly sweating blood, my mind fleeing the inevitable. Evolution is the means which humans exist. Evolution demands practicality. If there was one thing I learned from serving the secularists, I knew that we were obsessed with two contradicting principles: ethics and efficiency.

Ahaz ripped out his gun and put it to my own head. “Kill him, or you can die with them.”

I swallowed an upsurge of bile, and stammered. “Sir, I do not believe that killing him would be efficient, either. I suggest that we let him live.”

The corporal twitched. It was as if I had slapped him. “Why in Darwin’s name would we do that?”

“He is a terrorist leader. There is much we could learn from him.”

“The secularist front has interrogated hundreds of terrorist leaders. None of them relent. We don’t have the resources to hold more prisoners.”

“I agree. But if we take him into custody, we can also study the faith gene. Perhaps we could even find a cure for the God delusion.”

There was a pause. I waited for the bullet. But the gun peeled from my scalp.

“You’re intelligent,” said the corporal. “But you will never be my superior. Now bind that terrorist, and we will take care of him.”

It took me a moment to realize I had convinced the corporal, and I wasn’t being arrested. I retrieved handcuffs from my belt and bind the man’s wrists. He did not look at me. I wanted to tell him I knew now the true nature of this mirrored madness that drove my kind against his. I wanted to tell him I was deeply sorry, that I was just following orders.

Suddenly, there were screams.

I looked up. The demon was off its leash. It was barreling among the crowded terrorists, butchering and gorging itself, seizing believers in both claws and ramming them into its gullet. Blood began to mist over the chamber, until beads of blood condensed on the walls and our rifles. The demon could not digest them as swiftly as it consumed them — human meat spilled out from its mouth and between gears and joints, but that did not slow its slaughter. A wolf unleashed among sheep. Yet in the very face of death, the believers, our faithful victims, did not run away.

They were singing a hymn.

I turned back to the corporal. His hands were folded, empty. He watched and smiled. He had released the demon on purpose.

“Stop this!” I took the corporal’s shoulder. “This is a direct breach in protocol. They’re to be held in custody, put on a fair trial, sent to the re-education camps. What are you doing?”

Esau and Jezzie grappled me. Ahaz, lips peeled back in mania, fisted my stomach. “Ending. This. War.”

Helpless and bound, I sank to the ground. All I could do was watch the genocide, the blood spreading across the floor and rising until it soaked my hands and ankles. In the midst of charnel howling and the butchery of flesh, the words of the believers’ final hymn reached a crescendo, like the ethereal anthem of seraphs rising to the heavens.

“Nearer my God to thee,

Nearer to thee!

Even though it be a cross

That raiseth me.

Still all my song shall be.”

~ ~ ~

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