Jazz leaned against the back of the church for only a few minutes, blowing nicotine smoke circles into the air to calm his nerves. Standing in the darkness, with no signs of life, those minutes felt like hours. He listened for any sound of movement, for the slightest disturbance, for anything that would announce his arrival. Jazz took a long drag from the Benson & Hedges he pursed tightly between his lips and rolled an empty beer bottle underneath his foot to take the edge off the night.
Then, he heard a faint sound coming from the other end of the structure. He didn’t move. Instead, he waited for confirmation. It sounded like dry grass being crushed underneath heavy feet. Then, he heard it again. The crunching sound that dried leaves and grass made underneath a foot was unmistakable in the dead of night.
He peered around the corner toward the other end of the building. He did not see anything, but all his senses were acute. Curiosity got the best of him and he stepped out and walked toward the noise. He took a few steps forward and then stopped. Something didn’t feel right. The moonlight cast a shadow on the ground—the shadow of a man.
“Hello?” Jazz called out. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, but he pressed on, hoping his feeling would give way to sexual pleasure.
“Hello?” he called out again, sounding a bit desperate. “What’s going on?” he mumbled to himself as he let the cigarette dangling from his lips hit the ground. He stomped it out with his foot. “Wassup, man? Don’t be shy. Come to Daddy,” he said, trying to sound playful. As the words left his mouth, he jumped out from around the corner and struck Jazz across the face with what felt like the strength of a hundred men. Jazz hit the ground with an incredible thud.
“What the fuck?” he screamed. The only response he received was fists that rained down on him in torrents. Jazz threw wild blows into the twisted face of his attacker, but to no avail. The punishing barrage of heavy fists continued to pound into Jazz’s body like mortar. Jazz’s terrified screams echoed in the night, but ultimately went unanswered. He knew he was alone and that if he were to survive, it would be all up to him.
He covered his face with one hand while the other desperately searched for something on the ground he could use to defend himself. He grabbed at anything and everything he could, but cupped fistfuls of dried grass instead. Spit dropped onto his face from the salivating mouth of his attacker. Then, Jazz grabbed a small rock from the ground and swung wildly, the blow landing right above his attacker’s left eye. He fell backward, covering his face with his hands.
Jazz, trying to seize the opportunity to flee, forced himself to stand. He tried to run, but he was unsteady and shaky. When he got his balance, he heard the breaking of the bottle before he actually felt the impact on the back of his skull. In the flicker of the second that it took for him to realize what had happened, he felt the presence of evil looming on the edge of night, dancing a wicked jig in the dark and laughing at his misery. Jazz fell to the ground on his back and looked up to see the menacing figure above him again.
Jazz felt his vision blur and the coming darkness ready to devour him whole, but the boot that smashed into his ribcage brought him back to consciousness with piercing pain. Jazz lay on the ground, an agonizing throbbing covering his body. He tried to scream but his voice wouldn’t carry.
The stranger moved away and fell to his knees.
Even through the blistering pain, Jazz heard a voice emanating from him that sounded as if the night itself was speaking words which were not meant to be deciphered. His raspy voice rose to slightly above a whisper as he spoke with rapid speed. It almost sounded as if he was speaking in tongues.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.”
Jazz cried out.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
When he finished, lightning lit up the sky and Jazz heard the thunder roll. He felt death was nearby.
The stranger sprang to his feet like a panther. Suddenly, panic gripped Jazz like an immovable force around his neck. He knew that more was coming. He struggled to make sense of what had happened. His face morphed into something unrecognizable and unreal. The spindly hairs of his moustache came to life and reached toward Jazz like hissing serpents poised to strike. His face resembled burnt flesh that was scorched by hatred and disgust. His eyes changed into bottomless black pits that showed nothing but contempt. What little light the moon provided was sucked into his hateful eyes, making the dark night its darkest ever. His full mouth stretched into slivers of tightly drawn flesh and Jazz closed his eyes and prepared for his painful demise.
He turned his back to Jazz and recanted the prayer again. Jazz writhed in pain and tried to scoot away from his antagonist, but he was quickly met by another kick to the ribs.
“My son, you have brought my wrath upon you because of your sins and unclean acts. You are an abomination,” he said in a gritty, throaty whisper that felt like jagged fingernails scraping the skin off Jazz’s back; even still, his gruff voice carried enough force for Jazz to feel it. Jazz tried not to show panic or fear, even though fear had engulfed him. “But, fear not, my child. I am your redeemer. I have come to save your immortal soul from eternal damnation.” He snapped his head back and looked to the heavens as he extended his arms as if surrendering to a higher power. A wild and delightful smile covered his face as he looked up and started to recant another prayer. His body swayed from side-to-side and an unsettling smile shone on his face.
“A-ma-zing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” he bellowed out in an uncanny yet angelic voice. Jazz tried to move along the ground, but could not free himself from that voice. At the same time,. he was bewildered by pain and bewitched by the spirited song that filled the night air. He tried to regroup but was startled when he looked up. The stranger’s extended arms looked like large black wings that spread the span of his reach. When the wings spread out a powerful odor filled Jazz’s nostrils and almost made him choke. The stench was so strong and so foul that it lodged in his lungs and made him dry cough.
The sound continued to mesmerize and enchant Jazz—even in this moment—until he forced himself out of the daze. Jazz closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them, the stranger peered down on him. The wings were no more. He didn’t know if he’d really seen them or if his mind was playing tricks on him.
As Jazz lay on the ground, trying to come to terms with the pain in his head, he could feel his greasy hands yanking at his body and then his clothes. Jazz tried to kick him away but to no avail. Jazz’s feeble attempt at resistance angered him, and he pulled Jazz up by his shirt and sent a strong backhand across his face, which sent him reeling back to the ground. Jazz felt as if his jaw had exploded. He repeated the prayer, this time in a more coherent voice while he continued to disrobe him until Jazz lay naked—his brown flesh exposed to the world.
“W-w-wait, stop—please,” Jazz managed to utter, but his broken words landed on uncaring ears. “Why are you doing this to me? Who—who are you?” Jazz asked as he spit blood from his mouth.
He paused. “I am Alpha and Omega; the first and the last; the beginning and the end,” he said in matter-of-fact tone. “You will lay naked before the throne of God and repent your sins. You will renounce your wicked ways,” he said in a voice that boomed across the sky. He seemed to be in some kind of trance, walking back and forth and back and forth and uttering prayer. He’d walk away from Jazz only to return with a kick or a punch. He ordered Jazz on his knees and shocked him by punching him in the eye so hard Jazz thought he had been blinded. Jazz had never known pain so profoundly.
When he was satisfied that Jazz was weak enough, he dragged his limp body across the coarse grass to the tattered fence at the very edge of the property that separated the back of the church from the woods. Jazz felt sharp rocks and shards of broken glass cutting across his skin as he grabbed at mounds of grass in an attempt to anchor his body.
When he got to the end of the field, he loosened his grip on Jazz and let him go. He walked through the hole in the fence and opened the door to a black van that was parked on a dirt trail. Jazz lifted his head to ascertain what was going on, but dizziness forced him back to the ground.
Then, he stepped from the van with handcuffs and proceeded to fasten Jazz to the fence before Jazz realized what was going on. Blood oozed from his weakened mouth when he coughed. Then he spoke in a hell-inspired voice as a foul stench permeated the air all around them.
“The reason you are alive is because it is the will of God. You have a job to do. You will be my apostle. The world will take little note of what I say here, but it will remember what you tell them. You will tell them all to repent. You will tell them of the coming apocalypse. You will tell them I am watching. I am always watching. You will do this in our covenant or I will visit you again. Jazz McKinney, you are my sacrifice to righteousness! Do you understand the task appointed to you?”
Pain sealed Jazz’s lips, but his will to survive broke through and he mustered enough strength to mumble the word yes. Jazz wanted to see the face of this maniac, but his ragged body would not move.
“Mark this day as a return to righteousness. Walk by my side and you will dwell with me forever. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.”
Jazz tried to shake himself free from his bondage, but he barely had strength to dangle the fence. He moved closer to Jazz whose wild eyes grew at the sight of the sharp stone held in his hand.
“Do not fear, my child. I will protect you in our covenant.” Jazz kicked and wiggled his body to fend off the predator, but a powerful fist to Jazz’s face ended his resistance.
He reached down and grabbed the wad of skin atop of Jazz’s penis. Jazz closed his eyes. Then, as if studying it, he looked curiously at the hull that hid the head of Jazz’s organ. Suddenly, he took the sharp stone that he held and started cutting away the superfluous skin. Jazz screamed as loud as he could as the unbearable sensation rapidly inflamed every cell in his body. A hurt like no other hurt he had ever felt consumed him. Then, he found his voice. The sound that escaped from Jazz’s mouth was previously unheard by any human ear; it reached the heavens, circled the distant moon and stars, and came back down landing with a shattering thump.
He stood before Jazz, skin in his hand, and spoke. “Tell them The Messiah has returned. And he is angry.” The weight of his heavy words and the pain Jazz felt sent the night hurling around his head.
“THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,” he continued. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.” The Messiah walked slowly through the opening in the fence toward the van, opened the door, and stepped casually into the vehicle.
Still bound to the fence, Jazz heard a rumbling noise from above and the sky grew bright as lightning burned an electric trail.
“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” His words rung like a church bell in the night.
The Messiah closed the van’s door and drove away slowly into the dark. In the final moment before his black van disappeared, the sky opened and rain poured from the heavens in buckets.
It rained for exactly six minutes and sixty-six seconds.
T H E O F F I C I A L S I T E
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