Stories

The comet – pt. 4

The world really is a crap place. Going to hell. Fast. And getting worse by the microsecond. And then the comet comes along.

 

It just gets worse. Ever hear of the Purge? Something like that. People become the worst versions of themselves. Every vice, every weakness suddenly comes to the surface, with the end of the world imminent. It’s like the whole damned world has lost its mind.

 

I’ve seen people killed, right in front of me, and nobody tried to stop them. I didn’t fight back. I just stood there, idiotic. Like it was happening on TV, not right in front of my face.

 

“How did it make you feel?”

 

F— you. That’s how it made me feel. F— you. What kind of a question is that?

 

“This isn’t about the whole world, Tommy. This is about you.”

 

How can it be about me? I’m not the one crashing into the Earth and killing everyone. I’m just along for the ride, like the whole lot of us. There’s nothing I can do about it. We’re all f—ed. That’s what we are. F—ed. And I can’t stop anybody from hurting themselves, or hurting somebody else, because we’re all gonna die, anyway.

 

“We were always all going to die, anyway, Tommy. Is that why you started using heroin? To run away and not take responsibility for anything?”

 

How can I take responsibility for anything? I didn’t make this mess! I can’t fix it. Nobody can fix it!

 

“So you stood there. You watched it happen.”

 

Yeah. I stood there.

 

“You didn’t do anything.”

 

What could I do?

 

“How did it make you feel?”

 

Helpless. I felt helpless, ok? Damn you and your stupid questions!

 

“Now we’re getting somewhere.”

 

 

“Yesterday over two dozen reports of mass lynchings, and that’s just in America.

 

“It appears local vigilantes all over the country are having the same idea, and ‘cleaning up’ their neighborhoods. There doesn’t seem to be anything the police can do to quell this new violent trend.”

 

“That’s an unfortunate, but understandable, sociologic response to the cataclysmic societal events occurring around the globe, and manifesting in people’s every day lives, Martha.”

 

“Dr. Fitzpatrick, can you finally admit this lawlessness, this anarchy, is simply a foreshadowing of the complete societal breakdown to come?” Martha O’Neill knew she had the sociologist cornered this time. The smugness shown through the tone of her questions.

 

“Not at all, Martha. A readjustment in societal norms, perhaps. But a social breakdown? No, I do not see that.” Dr. Neil Fitzpatrick was resolute that society was not being destroyed in the face of the comet’s certain wrath, and likely unavoidable extinction of the human race.

 

“The justice system doesn’t appear to be working. Vigilantes all over the country are taking the law into their own hands. Are you not alarmed by these developments, Doctor?”

 

“I do not agree with their methods, Martha. I would prefer a more organized social structure. But, there is not mass hysteria. These appear to be well organized attempts by well meaning people to keep peace where they live. I do not condone this vigilantism. But so far as what it says about our ability as a species to retain a distinguishable social order in the face of insurmountable odds? I do remain hopeful.”

 

“Thank you, Dr. Fitzpatrick. I would expect nothing less from you. ‘Hopeful.'” Martha was shaking her head.

 

“Thanks for having me.” The doctor smiled.

 

Fade to black, “And we’re out!”

 

“You know, you really are something, Neil.”

 

“Yes, Martha. I have a lot of practice.”

 

“One of these days I’m going to make you admit there’s no hope, Doctor.”

 

“You know, Martha, one of these days, you just might.”

 

 

The preacher sat in his cell. He was awaiting trial, on charges of raping and killing those two angels. He was thankful for the guards. The mob was demanding blood. There had been two attempts to breach the walls of the county jail this past week. The other prisoners were all aware of who he was, and what he had been accused of doing. Thankfully, most of the prisoners had been released, as the County Judge didn’t have much stomach for keeping drug addicts and petty criminals behind bars with the end of the world looming.

 

So the jail was mostly empty, which made it easier to keep the preacher isolated and away from all other inmates. So the threat from inside the walls was minimal — limited primarily to the guards themselves.

 

Gil Hadley, the Sheriff, understood this. Sheriff Hadley was a good man. He had personally overseen the dragging of the Des Moines River last summer. He knew the toll this case had taken on the community. He had spoken to the members and elders of First Community Parish, where they had uniformly defended the preacher’s honor. He had looked into the pleading eyes of the parents of the two missing girls, and tried to understand their pain. And the preacher had confessed.

 

Well, not confessed to harming the young girls. But he had confessed to being the last person with them. He says he baptised them in the river, and then taken them to the barn to pray. And that’s where it had happened.

 

When asked why he had acted alone, why there were no other witnesses to the baptism, the preacher had said God told him to do it this way. When asked if he had ever baptized and prayed with other young children, alone, he said, no, this was the first time.

 

Witnesses seemed to back this up. No other reports had surfaced of the preacher engaging in this type of behavior in the past. Of course, nobody believed the girls had just disappeared. But there was no evidence to contradict this theory, as outlandish as it was.

 

And so the sheriff was uncertain. And even if he knew for sure the preacher had killed those two little girls, he wouldn’t give him up to the mob outside. And so he had taken special precautions, even with his own men, especially with his own men, to be certain no harm came to the preacher before he could be properly tried.

 

That was his sworn duty, as sheriff of this county. And he would see to it that his solemn oath was upheld, to the very best of his ability.

 

And tonight that meant standing guard, as a mob of at least 200 men stood outside and threatened to burn down his jailhouse.

 

 

 

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