Calmly, I viewed from my balcony the city below, happily as an observer and nothing more. The city, a tirade, flooded with an array of sounds so overwhelming that I felt its citizens were in danger of having their sanity washed away by it. People, stranded in miles of traffic, rudely broadcasted their grievances with obnoxious honks, while speaking in aggressively provocative ways. Of course they were answered in kind with an assortment of hand gestures by equally irate people who growled garbled nonsense in reply.
The pedestrians of this fine city were of course of the same mold, who stood on street corners to count money they just picked off from some naïve tourist who mistakenly entered the, “bad part of town”, as if it could be said that any part was the good one. A population of vultures, rats and wolves, occupying a concrete forest of gaudy billboards and ostentatious skyscrapers as substantial as their designers’ egos were pretentious.
Above the city hung a thick gray mist, caused maybe by bad weather or the smog its denizens flushed into it. Or perhaps the sun preferred to shine its light onto greener pastures; of course maybe the city was just smothering it to death. Either way, it made little difference to the populace. It wasn’t even tanning season. The city was not having a bad day or even an odd day, just one proceeding like any other. That was until the Visitor arrived.
Amid the daily confusion, I watched as a small light began to reveal itself through the darkened sky. Steadily it increased in magnitude until it appeared to beat the carpet of degenerate clouds away. Suddenly as a beam of incandescent light, it shone forth from the firmament, tailing into the heart of the city. I confessed to being utterly startled. Several minutes passed before I could fully comprehend what I had seen, and it appeared all those below shared my awe by the sounds of screeching brakes, and gasps that encompassed the city. Total silence followed. For how long? I can not tell you, for my perception of time froze as well, as I gawked at its brilliance.
When the beam dissipated, as if escaping back into dreams, a lone soul was standing motionless amongst the multitudes. People had to shield their eyes with their hands to look upon the figure, but I know of no great light radiating off of it. Now, I have never considered myself an excitable person, and those in my social circle would agree with my sentiment, but at that moment I felt compelled to join my ilk in the city’s heart, so I descended down my apartment’s stairs with all possible haste.
As I weaved my way through the crowd, I could not restrain myself from eavesdropping on their conversations, which seemed transfixed on the visitor’s description, but perhaps what was most startling to me, was that every account differed significantly. I would expound on what I saw when I gazed upon the visitor, but I fear my untrustworthy eyes, and my deficit vernacular. Suffice it to say that the words angel, saint and spirit were freely used by numerous witnesses, while others proposed that the Visitor was either an alien or a traveler from a distant or alternate time.
With an earnest smile, the previously inert figure caused the gossip to cease, returning full attention to our guest. Its face exuded sincerity, causing even the most hostile soul to lay down their defenses, exposing ourselves entirely to whatever sermon we so curiously anticipated the departing of, like eager young students ready for a first day’s lessons. The visitor then spoke in a sonorous voice, which was at once deep and commanding, lovely and sincere, and filling all available space but perceived as intimately as if the words were being whispered softly into my ears.
“I have not lost my faith in you,” reassured the voice, as it outspread its arms. “Though you have lost your way, I do not blame you. Perhaps I have been idle for too long. The parent should never stray too far from its young.”
The affect these words had on the populace was immediate and profound, with each person responding by their nature, needing no further evidence to stimulate their faith. I watched as some grasped their rosary beads as if their souls were stored within, while others folded their hands and began to pray to the stranger. Personally, I attempted to maintain my skepticism, though my resolve ebbed the more I looked upon the visitor.
“I shall lead you back unto the path, and assure that your direction holds true,” continued the Visitor.
“Oh, show me the way!” proclaimed a woman standing beside me dressed in an expensive fur, and draped in valuable jewels.
“Guide me!” exclained a man. I had known this man to be a Wiccan, for he was a neighbor of mine for several years. These words were echoed by a man standing beside his new jade sports car, and another dressed in a suit worth as much as the other’s vehicle.
“There is only one true god,” preached the stranger, as it peered into the eyes of every individual in the crowd, appearing to speak to that one alone. “Do not corrupt yourselves by praying to false deities, but feel secure in your love for god, as I am secure in my love of you.”
Silence was the first response to these unusual words spoken by the Visitor. Many, like me, were not ready to accept this being as the almighty, or what those beliefs would entail. It may be easy for some to pray, as if there was a being to receive them, but to know absolutely there was god to judge you, is far more difficult to acknowledge.
“Our savior has arrived!” yelled a priest from amongst the crowd, as he held up a copy of the New Testament, clenched tightly in his hand. “See? You all see? There is a god, and he his of the faith.”
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s not my god, I can tell you that alright,” grumbled my formal neighbor as he turned his back on the Visitor and proceeded to exit the crowd, to which the assembly did not look favorably upon and began pelting the heathen with insults, while one woman signed the cross over him as he passed. Few others followed the wiccan’s example, dwindling the crowd little. The rest eagerly awaited the next commandment, like canines begging for scraps at their master’s table.
the Visitor noticed or cared about the few deserters, no evidence could be discerned upon its features. “Faith needs not religion, nor religion an institution,” continued the stranger. “Worship as your heart commands, for truth resides in just thoughts. An honest man has worth equal to a city of penitent souls.”
The fickle crowd now glared intensely at the lone priest who had previously so proudly waved his book and golden cross, but now was desperately trying to hide them under his shirt with all possible haste. He was unsuccessful and an instant too slow. A large intolerant man dressed in a leather jacket, swatted the book away from the old priest and then held it fixed under his heal. The priest turned to me, his face pleading for assistance, but what did he expect from me? At the moment, I looked upon him as a charlatan, no different then a medieval alchemist. It took all the will power I could muster not to join the crowd in issuing his abuse. Looking back now, I am still unsure what had come over me. Where previously I relished my role as an outsider, I had found myself shifting alliances with the tide, growing more scornful with each dissenter.
The priest, finding himself greatly outnumbered, scuttled away from the masses to hide behind a dumpster. With his back flush against it, the holy man began to shout, “My brethren do not listen to it! He is a demon wishing to capture your souls. Run! Find safety in the church!”
A small fire was started at one corner of the city, by patrons ready to incinerate any flammable article of religious significance, while crosses and rosemary beads were tossed bitterly into nearby sewers. Some began to chant garbled nonsense, while kneeled before the Visitor. I must confess, I almost joined them.
The figure then waved to us for silence, and instantly the city became mute. It then continued. “Money is a sinner’s pursuit. Avoid excess, and know that value lies in life not riches.”
For the first time since the stranger initially spoke, the crowd hesitated before acting, but when it did it was with certainty. Those with the least money seemed quickest in shedding themselves of this vice. The woman with the new fur coat, held it tightly to herself while she raced towards her limo, but her husband, probably guessing how the tide would turn, had already ordered the driver to made haste, abandoning his wife to the whim of the masses. Her escape was brief; stopped by three teenagers in full gothic gear, who did not hesitate in tearing the lady’s expensive necklace from her neck. With a cruelty that would have disgusted me only an hour before, the three teenagers shoved the social butterfly onto the flames, with witnesses applauding as they did so.
“Discard your possessions,” Spoke the Visitor. “To fill ones life with trifles is to decay the soul with sins.”
The crowd froze with confusion at this next sermon, causing those who had been eagerly throwing their money into the flames to halt in disbelief. By this time the wealthy had long since fled into the further reaches of the city, abandoning their expensive belongings far behind. For my part, I was unsure of my emotions. A life built around the acquisition of things, could not be so callously dispelled, especially since I really liked the things I had acquired. I had defined my successes by them. What did that mean for my life, if it all was for naught?
“Surely, you don’t mean for us to rid ourselves of all our stuff, do you?” finally asked a befuddled citizen of the Visitor.
“You mean just the bad things, right?” echoed the concerns of another.
“My DVD of “The Ten Commandments” is okay. I really like it.”
“Then my “Last Temptation of Christ” must be too.”
“Definitely, that was a real good movie.”
The figure stood silently as it listened to all our complaints before continuing, “I know it will be hard. Their evil has by now seeped deeply into you, but do not fret. The path to righteousness remains in view for those brave enough to seek it.”
When it dawned on the populace that the Visitor was sincere, by the dozens the Visitor’s flock shrunk in numbers, with some waving a backhand to the figure in disgust. Others mumbled their grievances as they retreated back into their daily lives, having heard enough of sermons. One man mentioned to his wife that they had church the next day anyways, and needed to get some rest.
“If you dedicate yourself to following these words….” Continued the Visitor, but no one was listening, each having already heard enough. I was the last to remain in sight of the Visitor. The stranger peered directly into my eyes, and I returned its gaze. Times passed slowly in those moments, until finally I too turned my back upon the Visitor, preferring the company of my brethren. Dissenters as they may be, I was one of them.