Contrary to popular belief, not all cult members are crazy. I mean, they can be a bit nutty but the majority of members are just regular people, practicing their beliefs…even if those beliefs are a bit strange. They aren’t all technology hating, goat sacrificing, cloaked psychos. They’re mechanics and salesman. Just people working 9-5s, watchin sunday night football, ordering takeout, just regular people. the followers are just that, people following a belief…the same however, can not be said for the heads of the organization, I’ve come to learn that first hand.
Not too long after my early retirement from the marines after taking two bullets in a firefight, I was hired to run head of security for this cultist group that called themselves “The Lords Hand.” A semi militaristic group, led by a family of four, the Chiles family…those fuckin Chiles…cold bastards from blood to bone, but i’m getting ahead of myself.
The group had of very “speak softly, and carry a large stick” Idealism, believing themselves to be chosen by god to act as both his sword and shield. defending the innocent, and when the rapture comes, they will act as the peoples savers, or if they cannot open their eyes and repent, their executioners. At the head of it all sat Kenneth Chiles, or as his followers refer to him as, the divine commander, who claims he was given visions from the lord showing him the fall of man, and him along with an army saving the innocent, and punishing the wicked.
Then you had his three captains. There was Jackson, a lanky pale stick of a man, and older brother to Kenneth, who was just in charge of vehicle and arms maintenance. He also acted as one of the groups IT guys on the side, as he went to a technical college and was rather knowledgeable in terms of computers.
Carter, Kenneth’s oldest, and a fellow former member of the military. he was in charge of training the cult’s militia. He was well enough, quiet and it was apparent his time overseas messed with head, often going through episodes that left him frozen in place, and I mean completely paralyzed. Most likely PTSD that developed during his service, based on the faces he made when in this state.
Rounding out the cult’s head was Hope. She was Kenneth’s daughter, who had been in charge of the more legious aspects of the group like baptisms, sermons, holding mass and all that. She was also head of recruitment. Real pretty girl too, no doubt playing a part in her position. People seem to listen more if the pair of lips speaking is given a crimson red gloss, and belongs to a cute, young, blonde in a skin tight dress. Hell thinking back on it i’m sure that even I subconsciously fell for that tactic.
I met her at the grocery store to pick up some things, I can’t remember what exactly, but during my trip I came across Hope. She struck up a conversation and soon noticed my dog tags and took that moment to talk about her brother, before slowly transitioning in an admittedly pretty subtle way, to her group having a militaristic mind set, making them sound less cultish, and after talking about my discharge due to injury, she saw and opportunity to ask me if I was interested in joining the family.
At first I politely declined, explaining I’ve never been the religious type and I’ve always been a “seeing is believing” type of guy. This is when she suggested hiring me for security, with the promise her and her family will do there best possible to prevent anyone from trying to convert me, with the mention of free housing, nearly for 4k every two weeks, and a few strokes of my ego with things like “we could use another real soldier around” and “It’d be nice to have a young guard around, all the ones we have right now are basically ancient” I took her up on the offer to which she smiled too and gave me an address telling me I start tomorrow morning, before leaving the store.
The next morning I arrived, and the moment I set eyes on their compound I debated backing out. The place was a small town of it’s own, over two dozen buildings of all different varieties. I had just barely reached my mid 20’s at that point in time, yet I was supposed to run this small fortress’s entire security. Before I could put my car in reverse though, I heard a knock on my window. I turned to see Hope waving with a smile, before gesturing me to come out. With a deep sigh, I unbuckled and exited my car. She eagerly welcomed me telling me how excited she was to show me around. As we went through the compound grounds she began explaining how everything runs here.
“Think of it as one big family” she said widening her arms. A very cult like thing to say, but the way she spoke made it sound relatively normal. “there isn’t a single person behind these gates that holds hate for anyone else here, I know plenty of people think of us as crazy cultists, but we all have each other, so if we are hurt there is no shortage of comfort and support.” She continued as she began to walk with a slight skip in her step. Normally I would’ve taken this as a sign I was walking straight into a Manson family situation, but she spoke so care free and honestly I could see at the very least she believed that.
“I know people outside these walls and fences think we’re crazy, and fair enough. When you’ve been labled a cult, all people see is another Jonestown or Heavens gate.” she continued, her voice taking a more saddened tone. “can I ask you something Reese?” she asked, stopping in place to look to me. “Yeah, shoot.” I responded. “Does this look like a group of crazy people?” She continued, gesturing her arm outwards. I studied the area, and from what I could see this seemed like a pretty normal place. There were people doing lawn work, walking their dogs, making business calls, and the buildings looked to be constructed by professionals. You could take any house and drop it in a upper working class suburb and it would fit right in. The only thing that stood out to me was that they had uniforms.
Now it’s not uncommon for cults to have uniforms, but these weren’t your weird hooded robe or shiny purple jump suits kind of uniform. No just jeans and flannel button ups for the men, and the women wore what looked like sun dresses that cut off at the knees, all of varying color. If I was not aware of the fact they were cultists I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
“Well you guys aren’t followers the giant flying pasta monster, or the great alien lord Xenu are you?” I asked in a joking tone trying to ease any tension…but at the same time, that was definitely a question needed to be answered if I were to take this job. She giggled and shook her head. “No we don’t, in fact I’m sure you’ll learn all about it when we speak to your new employer.” She announced as we arrived to the Chiles family ranch, and this place was one hell of a plot of land.
The 1% of society would’ve eaten their hearts out if they saw the size of this place. The house itself was modeled like a palace, and I mean a palace, one that looked like it belonged in a high school, world history book, more then a relatively modern day village. The pathway of pearly white, marble panels had been lined with slightly larger than life size statues of the members of the Chiles family. Two of each, one standing parallel to its counterpart, aside from Kenneth, who’s statue had been erected on the top of the building, and built much larger. All this sat behind an 8ft tall gate, designed to resemble the gates of Eden, or maybe it was supposed to be the gates of heaven…either way it was designed to symbolize the building as the ultimate salvation.
After a solid minute of marveling over the property, I looked over to Hope. “So uhhh, someone’s living lavishly, you a princess or something?” I said teasingly, pointing to one of her statues, standing in front of both her older brother’s , and uncle’s. She laughed a little nervously, as she began rubbing her arm. “I mean some of our more…devoted followers might believe so. To be honest I’ve always hated it, I get treated too proper for someone who lives in backwater Michigan.” She said with a slight chuckle as the gate slowly opened and we made our way to the large front door.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice knowing my presence brings people joy and hope, no pun intended, and the fact people are willing to build us this, and well feeling special is always nice.” she continued as we reached the large golden stone patio. “I’m sure waking up in silk sheets and to servants at your beckon call is a nice bonus too.” I chimed in sarcastically, as the Zoldyck family level gate of a front door slowly opened through some sort of piston, like mechanisms. “Silk is quite comfortable.” She retorted equally as sarcastic, before calling out to the home she’s returned.
“Well it’s about time, kid. Your computer is completely fucked by the way. I don’t know what you did to it but it’s riddled with more viruses than 1350’s Europe!.”
I heard a sniffling voice call out in annoyance. It was a voice you’d give a stereotypical nerd for a cheesy, 80’s romcom. “Not like I ever asked you to fix it in the first place, uncle Jack!” She responded with equal annoyance, before a tall stick of a man came into view, standing over the balcony the hung between twin stairs.
“Ah so this is your pick for the new head of security I see” he said as he began to somewhat jogging down one of the staircases, before getting up close. Face to face, I could see how extremely pale he was, and all the salt and pepper spots on the small strip of hair that wrapped around the back of his head. he began to study me, before adjusting his glasses, and putting a hand to his chin. “Little too young don’t you think, sure hes got enough qualifications? This is a big place for a boy to run.” he said in a somewhat patronizing manner.
Hope simply grabbed the chain around my neck, pulling out my dog tags from underneath my collar, quickly jingling them in front of her uncle, before releasing them from her hand in a slightly exaggerated manner. “I think a former marine would fill the position better then another banker or salesman. Seriously why have we never hired someone with any combat experience, plus he could always help with the training if Carter goes into one of his…moments.” She replied. Somewhat lowering her tone of voice at the end of her rebuttal, as if it was a secret. It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together for what she meant by “moments”.
She mentioned her brother and how he served when we first met, and trust me when I say one of the most common phrases used to refer to PTSD, if people want it unknown for one reason or another, is “a moment.” I’ll admit that them mentioning something like that swayed my choice. It’s one of the worst effects war can have on a person, and knowing its effects…with intimacy after returning home, I felt I had at least some sort of obligation to help others who struggle with something I understand all too well. Whether this was intentional on their end I’m not sure, but knowing that family…hell I wouldn’t be surprised if every sentence I heard spoken to me in that house that day, was painstakingly thought out before we even stepped through the gates.
With that, Jackson gave me another scan, before giving a skeptical nodded and telling us to move forward. “Alright, alright. Bring ‘em up to the office, let’s what Ken thinks.” He’s said, extending his arm to gesture us to walk upwards. “Don’t worry about directions if that girl can’t find you to the office, then she’s gonna need a brain exam fast.” He mumbled, taking a jab at his niece, which had been met with an eye-roll as we made our way up the stairs, before reaching a long hallway. It had been lined with paintings, leading do a set of wooden doors, gold trimmings and engravings throughout them, and somebody standing between them. “I take it that’s your fathers office?” I asked as I pointed to the doors. she nodded “what gave it away?” she asked sarcastically as we began making our way towards them.
On the long walk I took time study the paintings. All depicting the family in what I can only call biblical settings. Jackson, leading a large group of armored horses as he rode on majestic white pegasus-like creature as he held a staff upwards, the sunlight beaming directly on it. Carter, leading a legion of winged soldiers armed with swords and shields made of pure light. Hope, leading groups of innocents to salvation as the rapture happens around them.
But none was more obvious than
They looked like paintings you’d see of Jesus performing miracles and self sacrifice. Just replace the son of Christ with a 60 something year old with a mullet and a pretentious, hipster curled mustache and gel soaked beard combo. If Leonardo Da Vinci were alive he’d sue the ever living shit out of this family for copyright laws, as two paintings depicted both his famous last supper painting, and his painting of Christ’s crucifixion, replaced with the Chiles family and a few devoted followers, and I mean the exact same painting. Down from the setting, to the way each member of the painting was posed Identical to Jesus and his apostles. Now I’ve never been much for religion, and after the shit I’ve seen…don’t even know if there is a God of any kind. Despite my lack of faith I still found it kind of disrespectful to plagiarize one of the world’s most historical works of art, that holds a lot of meaning to a good deal of people.
Hope must’ve picked up with my slight displeasure of seeing the artwork, as she let out a small sigh before speaking. “that’s dad for ya. He means well, and he does nothing but try to make keep our people happy…but so much praise and love can give him a bit of god complex every now, and then, and as you can see when he gets a complex he kinda forces the rest of us up to a higher podium with him.” she said in a somewhat embarrassed tone, before a new voice chimed in.
“Uncle Jack sure don’t mind though.” I heard a deep mumbling voice say from in front of me. Being so baffled at the paintings on the walk to the door, I completely missed the fact that we even reached it. I turned my head to see a man in a cookie dough camo jacket. He looked older than me by a margin, I’d say maybe 5 year’s apart. his black hair was a complete mess, and he had a patchy 5 o’clock shadow. “Reese this is my brother Carter. Carter, Reese. Is dad in?” she asked her sibling as she hastily introduced us. he much like his uncle began evaluating me in his head, though was far less vocal about it. He simply nodded and stepped aside, before walking down the hallway. As he did I noticed the back of his jacket had a punisher skull, with a number 3 in the center of its forehead, put on by now rather faded black paint. “well shit…no wonder his head got messed up…” I thought to myself as Hope opened the door, and we entered.
The office itself looked like a mini roman palace. Now granted most my knowledge of italian history stems from Assassin’s Creed 2 so I could be completely off, but this room looked liked one you’d find a chest in, from said game. Large pillars sat between each corner, with the walls between painted with extravagant art you’d see come from the renaissance, a polished black marble flooring.
In the center of it all, A large oak desk, given a similar gold trimming seen on the door. In the center of the desk was a heart shaped shield, with a sword’s hilt sticking out from behind it. the desk was lined in front of a lightly colored glass window positioned to shine onto it, and seated behind the desk, Kenneth Chiles.
The moment I saw him my first thought was “well the paintings definitely did him too much justice” as my eyes looked at the sight of an extremely fine suit, worn by a man with a beer belly and an unkempt goatee, they got the mullet right though. He began to light a shiny silver tobacco pipe, while gesturing me to sit down.
I did so as he too a long drag from his pipe. whatever he was smoking was a completely unknown substance to me, but it damn sure didn’t smell like any kind of tobacco, or pot. Unless they’ve started growing everything with salt water and vanilla, cause those are the only smells I can even remotely compare it to. When he exhaled, I could see the smoke gave off a very faint, dark, purple color. Once he took a pull of his…whatever, he put the pipe down and cleared his throat, before leaning forward, his hands clasped together on top of his desk. As he leaned in I noticed his eyes had a similar faint purple, as the smoke. It only lasted a few brief seconds but I definitely saw it. I chalked it up to a similar effect weed has to your eyes, just without the smoke, and cleared my head, as he began my interview with a single question.
“What do you consider a sinner, Reese?” I felt myself internally sigh when he asked that. I expected some religious talk and questioning, but I was hoping he’d give a few minutes to ease into it. After a few moments of thinking, I answered. “Well…people who cause pain for their own selfish means, a person who’s death would would bring more joy than sadness to the people. If I’ll be honest with you I’ve always found the whole “7 deadly sins” thing to be kinda bullshit. human nature shouldn’t be considered sinful. That would mean we’re sinners the second we enter life, and personally I wouldn’t feel too good calling a child a sinner, for pouting or getting greedy with the cookie jar sometimes.” This answer seemed to be the right choice, as he gave a large grin when he heard it. “that’s the kind of answer I like to hear.” he responded as he grabbed his pipe once more, standing up and walking to the single window in the room.
He lit his pipe once more before returning to the conversation as he stared over his community. “we are indeed children of god here, and we do indeed agree with parts of the bible…” he paused to take a drag from his pipe, before exhaling and continuing. “but they are not the words of god. Religion is no more than old books written by humans, of words people wish god to say. Everyone of us has a different vision for what god is, and everyone of us is wrong in some way or another, but a constant is that he loves all children. Yet many religions are written to condemn and shame groups of said children for having different mind sets.” he said before returning to his seat. “Then they will hide these heinous actions under the façade, that it’s god’s will they are carrying out” he started up once more, tapping his desk softly “God needs not humans to carry out his will. He always has his wrath prepared to be rained upon us when the time comes that humanity’s poison grows too deadly to treat with care.” he finished before looking to me. “and that’s where the lords hand comes in.”
I knew the man I was talking to was the leader of militaristic cult, but he knew how to talk. I was able to listen to what he had to say without coming out thinking he was insane. Oh how deceiving first appearances can be. “Until he is ready to release wrath, we act as his shield. This sanctuary is for those who wish to escape from the cruelty of humanity. No blood is spilled here, no person is above or below another, no hunger is found here.” He paused to look at me. “then when he is ready to bring down that wrath, we will act as his sword, for there will be the cruel who will take gods punishment as a chance to reek havoc of their own. True human nature is never more apparent, then when that human see’s the end of their time. And if that true nature is wicked and cruel, we either open their eyes…or strike them down. Does that make any sense to you?” To be completely honest, while I thought the way he spoke had been a bit dramatic, I was able to follow along, and even understand a bit of where he was coming from. I responded with a simple nod, which was met with a smile before he spoke once again.
“Now one more question for you my boy” he said as he put his pipe down again. Now, I’m not blind, at least not at that point in time. I knew the man I was speaking to was someone who saw themselves as a prophet of sorts, but I could see how he got as many followers as he did. The bastard was definitely a smooth talker.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions. what do you think of that phrase?” He asked leaning back in his chair. It took me a minute to really think about it. I mean I’ve heard it used here and there but I never looked too deep into the meaning of it. “uhh…well that depends. At the end of the day, good & evil are just as much opinions as they are facts. There are obvious evils. Genocides, mass shootings, serial killings. All these are henious no matter how you cut, but those obvious evils are always gonna have people to defend them, claim they were acts of justice, or vengeance, maybe even claim it were to better humanity” I said, before thinking about the other end of the spectrum
“…but at the same time I’d argue there are plenty of people who’s ends, justify their means, I’ve personally always been a fan of the classic “Robin hood” story. Taking cash from people who have enough disposable income to use $1000 stacks like fire starters, and giving it to people who see pigs fly, more often than they see food. Well I don’t see how that could be considered evil, hell I wouldn’t even consider it immoral. Plenty have enough cash to fill pools, and they’ll go piss half it away on card games, designer clothes, or exotic animals, cause fuck you they can buy your house with pocket change.” I finished, realizing, I may have a bit of a grudge with the rich. However this seemed to be another answer he was looking for, as his grin grew wider….a little too wide. What he said next took me back a bit.
“Looks like Hope was right about you, you seem to be everything she said.” I could only raise my eyebrow in confusion. We had a five minute conversation in the produce aisle of stop & shop. How much would she be able to tell him about me? I looked over to her by the door, who simply smiled. “I knew it when I saw you. You give off a strong sense of justice, and true righteousness.” She said softly, before my attention was brought back to Kenneth. “You see my Hope has a gifted eye for these things, and that eye has never lead us astray. So when she senses something in a person, good or bad, We have a strong urge listen to her, and once again, my little girl was right.” he said turning his chair to face his daughter.
Thinking back on it now, it was nothing but mind games and manipulation, but at that point in time I was a barely 25 year old, who lived in a one room apartment, living off a diet of instant noodle and Arizona ice tea, after being wounded halfway through my second tour…should’ve signed up for more than honor and pride I guess…anyways, my point is I wasn’t exactly in a great position. So hearing a girl like her, along with her father who had a good amount of power, say I had a righteous soul. Well it did what cults do best…made me feel special. Now not enough to completely give in and join, but definitely enough to persuade me to take the job. So a few hand shakes later and soon enough I was being shown to my new living quarters, which made my apartment all the more sadder.
The place was a four room modern day cabin, already set up with the works. TV, kitchen appliances, AC, bed and living room furniture, anything you’d expect to see in a typical “american dream home”. At first it was a little unnerving to be honest. The place looked too polished. It felt like I was on some sort of movie set, that level of so picture perfect it reached down into the uncanny valley. It just didn’t feel right, but that feeling of unease was quickly overpowered by the feeling of joy I had for owning my own home…in a way. But hey, three meals a day, not to mention tax free. Didn’t even consider the fact there was a 90% chance that it was illegal, considering the government didn’t recognize them as a legitimate religion.
I was too in awe with the fact I was given keys to a house, for no charge and being told I’m free to do what I please with the property, as long as it didn’t violate any health safety issue, of course. It felt like that moment when your parents tell you that you can organize your room however you want, just give that feeling a shot of steroids. Soon after a few more brief rundowns on the home, along with some, water cooler talk, we began finishing my move in. Right before him and hope left however, he turned to me, standing on the small porch as he held my door open just wide enough for me to see the two.
“I have just one request Reese. would you be so kind as to join us for morning mass? It’s not mandatory of course, and you won’t be required to join in. but I believe it’d be good for you to make an appearance. Meet the people you’ll be watching over.” Kenneth said, leaving before I could give a real answer. I was debating it rather a bit, but with all the smooth talking leading up to this. along with a final “I’ll see you later” from that oh so seemingly perfect daughter of his, well I found myself in a church the next morning. I was greeted with…a little too wide open arms for my taste. But as promised none of them tried talking to me about beliefs. they simply thanked me for helping the community, before going to their seats. I kind of just stood to the side, observing the place around me. The building itself was a regular church, on the outside anyways. The inside looked closer to a giant briefing room, and I mean giant. Say for a lone podium that stood in the center of the room. there were also no cameras in this building, which I found strange, as most buildings I’ve been shown did have cameras on the inside. But once a familiar, soft and sweet voice, began speaking, thanking everyone for joining her this morning, I began studying the people.
The first thing I observed was how a room of easily over 500, was suddenly silenced all at once, the very moment she began to speak. It was as if someone had hit the pause button on the crowd the second her voice reached it. This led me to my second observation that Hope was…um…revealing for a church girl. She looked more like she was ready to clubbing rather than preaching. Short cut, skin tight pill red dress, hair curled, crimson lipstick and quite a bit of jewelry. Well I guess it worked cause she definitely had my attention. She caught my stare and gave a mischievous smile, suddenly calling me to the center of the room to introduce myself.
I jumped back a bit at the sudden change of atmosphere, as 1000+ eyeballs were suddenly staring into mine. It was a little unnerving how excited everyone looked. the smiles and wide eyes almost seemed painful, like they were trying exaggerate the joy they had for seeing a new face. I slowly took a deep breath, and made my way to the center of the room. As I began to stumble my way through my introduction, I noticed everyone had been too cheery. There would be roaring rounds of applause at the mention of even the slightest accomplishment, or howling laughter at any half-assed joke I made to break the ice. At first all the overwhelming support felt great, then it got…well, overwhelming.
After a somewhat uncomfortable intro, I quietly made my way back to may former spot against the wall. Not long after Hope introduced Kenneth to the crowd, which was met with even greater praise and cheer. He cleared his throat and began his sermon, speaking about the brotherhood they have all formed, and how god’s judgment continues to inch ever closer. It didn’t take long to pick up on how enthralled his followers had been with his words. They hung on to each letter as if they were holding on for dear life, and all had faces of pure wonder and obsession, some even brought to uncontrollable tears. Sure the guy was a smooth talker, but the reactions his words received were far too drastic. They looked at the man like he was god himself, which I no doubt believe was his intention.
After a rather intense first greeting I went outside for some fresh air. Being surrounded by troves of religious radicalists racked up more nerves than I’d care to admit. “well they seem to like you.” I heard come from behind me. I turned around to see Hope walking towards me. I sighed and started rubbing the back of my neck. “y’know you didn’t need to throw me on the spot like that, shit was brutal.” I let out. she softly laughed and shrugged. “and you didn’t need stare at me like a deer in headlights.” she teased. I felt my face heat up a little. She must’ve noticed my reaction, cause it was here she decided to really sink her hooks in, leaning in til her lips were close to my ear
“you know, you’re cute when you’re shy.” she whispered with a small giggle. I felt myself swallow my nerves as I turned to look at her, only to be met with a soft smile and wave saying she’ll see me around. At that point in time I wasn’t exactly the best with women, and was infamous for catching feelings for a girl way to quickly. This often lead to relationships more toxic than cyanide tablets, or embarrassing rejections. I was a lovesick puppy, naively calling myself a hopeless romantic. I was hopeless alright, hopelessly stupid, and played into her hands like fuckin’ silly putty. It didn’t matter what happened, as long as they had me convinced she was falling for me, they had me right where they wanted me, and ended up keeping me there for five years.
Five long manufactured years of hell, hidden behind the guise of a utopia. I was groomed to see the place as a paradise in my eyes. Made to live like an elite and made out to be some kind of war hero, everyone knew me and gave me more respect then I’ve ever came across, Could buy basically whatever I wanted, and among all that, a beautiful girl, who was completely infatuated with me. The old saying ignorance is bliss never rung more true than those five years of my life. Like I said it was a big place, with a lot of people. So it took quite a while for me to memorize every name and face…but once I started memorizing…I started noticing just how much people changed after entering this place.
As the years went on the group steadily grew more radical. The more devoted followers got a lot more violent, the idea of being the people’s shield was slowly lost, and more time spent sharpening the sword. Even the tamer members of the group became engrossed with the idea of bringing down god’s wrath. it seemed as if over night waves of people were being converted from simple believers, to complete zealots. That previously mentioned blissful ignorance however, lead me on just enough to look the other way. it wasn’t til the very end my curiosity became too great to ignore.
You see the group had a semi-annual ceremony to graduate the current batch of trainees. In the afternoon everyone would be called to the briefing room, to which Carter would call the class to the center of the room, then Kenneth would join them to congratulate them on their graduation. Once Hope and I got together I also came to learn they had a more private nightly ceremony. At first I just figured she was meeting her family for some kinda discussion of the ceremony that had taken place earlier, because when she would leave for the night all she’d say is “I’m going to meet dad now” and I never felt the need to really ask why. However as I spent more time there, I noticed it was always the morning after the ceremonies when the cult members lost a few screws.
Eventually I ended up asking Hope what the deal was the night of my tenth and final attended ceremony. Like regular around midnight, I heard the sound of footsteps coming from behind me, and a pair of arms wrap around me. “I’m heading out to meet with dad, I’ll be back in a few hours, love you.” Hope said, leaning over the couch to kiss me goodbye, before making her way to the door. normally I’d just say “love you too” or “have fun” something along those lines, but after the mass amount of personality switches, it was clear something was going on and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
“hey so what is it you guys do anyways.” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible, as I turned my head towards the door. she stopped dead in her tracks, and for a moment, the house was filled with complete silence, before she turned around to face me, with a soft smile. “what do you mean.” she asked, sounding much more convincingly casual than me. I shrugged and continued. “oh nothin really, just noticed after every graduation you meet with your dad, I’m just curious is all I don’t think I’ve ever asked.” she chuckled, and waved her hand in the air. “oh just a family meeting about the new privates positions and what not” she said with a smile…one a little wider than her usual soft smile, wide enough to be a little unsettling, and make things seem a little more suspicious.
“oh, alright well have fun, love you too” I said, managing to sound as I normally would when giving a goodbye. she responded with her regular smile and a “see you soon”, before leaving the house. I waited a few minutes, but my curiosity had grown far too high, and I too left the house and made my way to my office rather hastily. After a few moments of surfing through the security cameras I was able to just barely catch Hope, Kenneth, Jackson, Carter…and the newly promoted cultists, along with some of Kenneth’s “royal guard” entering the church. I raised my eyebrow as I slowly got out of my seat “the hell…” I thought to myself. Hope said it was just a family meeting, so why bring the rookies? I decided I needed to check it out myself, knowing the only way to know was to see it with my own eyes, so I got up and left the building. Before doing so I grew a strong feeling to arm myself, remembering Kenneth was accompanied with his personal guard, along with his much more dangerous SpecOps son. So grabbed the riot control shotgun, one of those guns that shot bean bags instead of buckshot.
Not too surprisingly, the door had been locked. However there was one window in the janitor’s closet that was open just enough for my to slide my palms under and open it before I climbed in as quiet as possible, before slowly exiting the closet. Down the hall I could hear Kenneth giving a long speech about fire and brimstone, and as soon as I entered said hallway…the stench of salt water, and vanilla hit my nose. the same exact smell as the day I met Kenneth, but it was much stronger, to the point it made me feel kinda nauseous, as if I was sea sick. I began making my way towards Kenneth’s voice, occasionally dry heaving as the smell grew stronger the closer I got. Finally I reached the end of the hall, leading to the briefing room. I poked my head around the corner to get a look at what was happening…and sweet hell was it fucked
The group of twelve new recruits had been seated in a semi-circle, strapped into metal chairs and bound by the wrists and ankles. From what it looked like some were even beaten, pretty badly too. Even worse than that, each prisoner was attached to an I.V drip filled with a thick purple liquid, and it seemed to cause smoke of a similar shade of purple, to spew from their swollen eyes, and foaming mouths. I concluded the poor bastards were being pumped with a mind altering drug of some kind, a hallucinogen maybe, most likely the same substance Kenneth had been smoking on our first encounter. In front of them was a giant projector, displaying a slideshow of destruction, poverty, prison footage…murder…footage of abductions filmed from the kidnappers point of view…and other more horrendous crimes I’d rather not speak of.
Running the projector had been Jackson, and standing in front of this projector, Kenneth speaking about how the world is too tainted. “My children, rejoice. For now you are truly part of our family, and as members of this family it is your duty as well as all of ours, to carry out the word of the lord. Well my children, after many years God has brought his voice to my ear once more, and he has told me the time for his wrath is upon us.” he began, as he spread his arms out, posing as if he had been hoisted onto a cross. The group of strapped down cultists began babbling and muttering incomplete, almost incomprehensible sentences about how the rapture is coming, often repeating the same lines over and over. things like “time now…now..now…time” or “…lord…safe now, safe, safe, safe,safe,praise” others were only able to mumble out slurred gibberish before Kenneth continued.
“But he has informed me it will not be the sound of seven horns, nor the charge of the four horsemen that will start the rapture. For the lord has called upon us for that role. We will be the ones to signal the lords army to start the worlds rejuvenation” It didn’t take long to realize the slimy bastard was spouting propaganda. Propaganda that would be reinforced with drugs…and as I’d soon learn, reinforced with torture too.
“No…” said a weak, shaky voice from the group of captives. One of the boys who seemed to still have a shred of free will left slowly lifted his head up to look at his leader. “this isn’t…why I joined.” He whimpered out in pain and fear. Kenneth’s response was to grab the boys shoulder, before smiling. “so it seems you still aren’t ready, it’s okay though, we shall continue to open your eyes.” he said before walking over to Carter, who had been standing far from the group staring at his feet the whole time. Kenneth started speaking to his son, and while I couldn’t make out most of it, I was able to understand the last sentence. “it’s time to open their eyes, Carver.”
At first I was just confused, did he forget his owns sons name? I quickly learned this wasn’t the case however, once Carters face twisted into a wicked grin as his whole demeanor changed, from a timid soft spoken guy to a borderline psychopath. Even his voice got an octave or two lower and developed a slight, I wanna say southern accent. he eagerly walked his way over to the boy tied in the chair, and began savagely beating him. He repeatedly drove his fist into the kid’s face, a slight crack heard each time his knuckles connected, before moving to the boys hands as he began to play “this little piggy” with his fingers, slowly tearing out his fingernail, before aggressively pushing the finger back til the tip touched the back of his hand each time he landed on a new digit. he cackled and howled like a coyote OD’ing on laughing gas as he continued to beat the kid til I could see his chest was no longer rising, as he laid motionless in his chair, say for a few minor involuntary twitches.
The moment the boys body had gone completely limp, Carter’s face instantly returned to it’s normal blank expression…til his eyes locked onto the body. Once he saw what he did he quickly began to tremble violently, before collapsing to his knees as he stared down at his bloodied hands, tears beginning to fill his eyes while his family began to tell him he did good, and was doing god’s work.
The wheels in my head began to turn and it made me sick to my stomach once they did. From what I could tell based on the drastic and sudden violent outburst, Carter likely suffered from some form of split personality, possibly developed as a coping mechanism during his time in the service, and that demented, evil family of his was taking advantage of it, using him as their personal torturer. The feeling of disgust only grew stronger when another laugh began filling the room…a soft giggle I’ve heard all too many times before.
In all the chaos I had completely forgotten Hope was a member of said family. “No, no, not her I’m hearing things. She’s not like them, it can’t be true, she can’t be.” I desperately thought to myself, but as I looked over, I saw her. Hope…the girl I had completely fallen far, the girl who seemed like a complete angel…clapping and cheering for her brother’s good work as she grabbed the dead boy’s battered face and began examining it with a face of pure delight. That was too much for me, The smell along with the violent acts of torture I had just witnessed was already enough to make me sick to my stomach, but seeing the girl I loved take such pleasure from it all, well it made me lose my dinner.
I tried to hold back my vomit, but my nausea had grown too strong, causing me too rather aggressively puke up that nights pasta and meatballs. This of course caught the attention of the room. I could feel the families eyes on me, before hearing a sharp whistle from Kenneth, and with in seconds his royal guard had gave chase to me, drawing their firearms and focusing them on me. Luckily I managed to draw my own gun in time to put down the two closest to me before they could fire. Unfortunately for me however there had been two more stationed in the balcony above that were too out of range for me to hit, forcing me to turn and make a break for it. As I did so they began opening fire, one of the shots managed to hit me in the leg, but I was too amped up on fear and adrenaline to fully acknowledge the pain, simply continuing to make my escape as the sound of footsteps slowly made there way behind me.
I managed to make it back to the storage closet I had entered from, hurling myself back out of the window, and made a break for my car. I didn’t take into account I had left them a blood trail to follow me, so it wasn’t long til I was blind sided by a hard smack against my face as I turned a corner, everything went black for a few moments but I could hear what sounded like metal hitting the ground, as well as an ever so familiar giggle, before feeling immense pressure on top of me.
My vision returned just in time to see Carter taking the mounted position on top of me, before wrapping his hands around my throat, and slowly starting to strangle me. I grabbed his wrists to pull his arms away, then resorted to flailing around punches, but it was, he was built like a brick shit house and had an iron grip around my neck. I looked to the left, and through my blurry vision I could see a steel pipe lightly spattered with blood laying next to Carter and standing over him, his sadist Bitch of a little sister. she posted her elbow on top of her brother’s shoulder, before leaning down to reach closer to my blue, oxygen deprived face. “You know it’s a shame you had to get all nosey on me.” she said with a small, condescending laugh. “for what it’s worth Reese, I really did Love you. the way you acted like a lost puppy, it was adorable. I’m gonna be very sad when you’re gone, you we’re definitely one of my favorites” she mocked, before leaning in even closer. “Now I know you love to make me happy, so please hurry up and die, okay?” she whispered gleefully before kissing me on the forehead and giving me a big grin. “Now wrap this up Carver” she said before giving me a sarcastic wave goodbye.
When she said that I looked up to Carter, now currently Carver. I saw while his mouth wore a wicked smile, his eyes were in serious pain, as if he wanted to cry. In moment of desperation I tried reaching out to him. “You’re Carter” I managed to get out through choked gargles. Once I said that his grip loosened for a brief moment, before quickly squeezing around my neck once more. thanks to that brief catch of breath, I was able to repeat myself slightly clearer. Once hearing his real name for the second time, he released his grasp completely, looking down at me shaking. “Run” he shouted through a shaky voice, before aggressively throwing himself off of me, almost as if he had to force himself to move. I did just as instructed, managing to make it back to my feet as oxygen began returning to my head and lungs and waking me up from my dazed and hazy state of mind. “No, no, no!” I heard Hope repeat to herself loudly as she rushed over to the the pipe Carter previously planted across my head. I kicked it out of range before she could grab it, shoving her to the ground as I rushed past.
I finally managed to reach my car, before hopping in and hitting the gas as fast as humanly possible and driving off. I didn’t even know where I was going, I just drove til my car was running on fumes, just wanting to be as far away as possible from that place. After making enough distance, I decided to call the police and try explaining the best I could what I witnessed. They went to the compound the next morning only to find it…completely abandoned, even the interiors of the buildings had apparently been stripped clean. Not a single shred of clothing, table scraps, nothing to even suggest people had been living there…say for a single note…one found in Kenneth Chiles office…one directed to me…simply reading four words, written in bold red ink. “we’ll find you, sinner”
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