For John, Sunday was the worst day of the week. Most would consider Monday considerably worse, being that dreaded first day of the week, but john hated Sundays. He wasn't quite sure why. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was usually hung over Sundays, and spent the day recovering in bed. Or perhaps it was that ominous feeling of work the next day. What ever it was, he hated it.
Today was Sunday. He wasn't hung over, him and the wife choosing to stay in Saturday night to watch a talent show devoid of talent on prime time TV followed by an early night. He had slept past 10am and had since spent the morning reading the same page of the Sunday paper over and over again without taking any of it in. There was football on, but the wife had claimed the remote and was now watching her soap omnibus.
He hated soaps. The whole idea baffled him. People with boring lives spent most of their afternoon watching a group of actors act out extremely boring lives. He sighed. It was becoming a habit for him. He wouldn't admit it to himself, but John Bogel was a miserable man. There was no particular reasoning behind it, he was just plain miserable. It hadn't always been the case. There was a time, not so long ago, that he even enjoyed Sundays. He had been young then and madly in love with life. But marriage had drained the life out of him. Squeezed every ounce of colour from a once colourful life. It wasn't that he didn't love his wife, he did. He just sometimes wished that she'd fall asleep and not wake up. Only for a week or two.
'What are you smirking at?' asked his wife suspiciously. Typical woman! Any hint of happiness must be stamped out immediately. He stared over at her, an innocent look on his face as he said,
'Nothing my love.' She'd already turned back to her soaps. His wife was a pretty woman, even at 35. He was older than her by 6 years, and his work pals considered her a catch. He wasn't an attractive man himself, but that didn't stop him from wishing his wife didn't have such chubby cheeks, or that little bit of fat around her waist.
When he'd first met her, she'd been dating a college of his from work. They'd got talking at a work event and an affair had ensued. That was 9 years ago. Then, she had been beautiful, a beauty enhanced by the excitement of secrecy. He sometimes wished for something like that again. The secrecy, the sneaking around. That feeling of something feeling both terribly wrong and terribly right at the same time. His wife's sister was pretty. Younger, looked much like his wife did when he'd first met her. He hadn't caught her looking at him, nor was there any spark. But perhaps there could be.
He found himself dousing, and spent the next few hours lounging on the couch slipping in and out of sleep. A knock on the door woke him, but he didn't have the energy to answer.
'Kate! Door!' John shouted over his shoulder. No answer. He sat up as a second knock drifted into the living room. it was a quiet knock, a single rap of the knuckles on the panel of glass in the middle of the front door. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes and re-adjusting the sport shorts he'd adopted as pyjamas he went to answer the door. A note was left on the phone table in the hall reading 'popped out' in his wife's handwriting.
He peered through the frosted glass in his door to see two small silhouettes standing side by side. Opening the door a crack he peeked his head out.
'Hello there,' said a little old woman, smiling up at him. It wasn't cold out, but she was warmly dressed, with a matching grey fur coat and hat, a tiny black hand bag in the crock of her left arm. He eyes seemed tiny, hidden beneath the wrinkles on her face. She must have been at least 70 years of age. The man next to her was equally as old, dressed in faded brown pants and white shirt, with a black coat and brown, leather shoes. In his hands he held a bible.
Oh great thought john, this is all I need. He'd never spoken to a Jehovah's Witness before, which he considered a blessing. They where rare around these parts of London.
'Do you have a minute to hear the good news?' asked the elderly man, winking encouragingly.
Unless the good news is you fucking off, I don't have any time, he thought with a grin. He didn't say it though. He opened his mouth to say he was busy.
'Or would you just prefer us to fuck off?' asked the old women, that wrinkled smile still in place. John froze. The old pair didn't move, just stood there, smiling up at him.
'Am just actually getting ready to go out, in a minute.' He said, pointing over his shoulder to the stairs behind him. He literally had to force the words out, still in shock at the ladies foul language.
'Oh brilliant!' exclaimed the old woman, clapping her gloved hands, 'so you do have a minute.' The next thing John knew, she was squeezing past him and making her way into his living room. The man, who John assumed to be her husband, followed straight after, clasping John on the shoulder as he past.
John didn't know what to say, simply closing the door and following them in.
So this is how they get you aye? They've been here 30 seconds and I'm ready to swear eternal service to the Almighty just to get rid of them.
Entering the living room, he found them sitting opposite sides of the couch he'd been sleeping on, a small space in the middle left for him. The old woman patted it invitingly. He sat between them, perching himself on the edge of the couch. Both where still smiling. Silence followed silence for the next minute or so until the old man spoke.
'Ann. Why don't you go get a nice brew going aye?' The old woman leaped up.
'No, it's fine, I don't want any tea or coffee.' stuttered John as the woman wobbled out of the room. She didn't turn back.
'Nonsense, a nice cup of tea will be a well needed ice breaker, if you ask me.' John had half stood up, but was eased back onto the couch by the old man. 'Would you like to hear the good news son?'
'Why not?' said John, deciding it would be better to just hear them out than trying to get rid of them. The old man hefted his bible and started flicking through the pages. He had glasses on a chain round his neck, but didn't put them on as he decided on a page. The cling-a-ling of tea being stirred could be heard from the kitchen.
'Don't forget those chocolate biscuits now Ann!' shouted the old man, winking again in John's direction. 'Now am sure you're already a godly man, my friend, but we'll see if we can change that.' Ann appeared from the kitchen, three steaming cups of tea in one hand, a pack of chocolate biscuits in the other.
Has she taken them out of my fridge?
'Time's are changing, friend.' said the old man, as Ann, the old lady, perched herself on John's right. She placed the cups on the table and proceeded in struggling with getting a biscuit out of the wrapper. They where his biscuits! He'd opened them last night and taken a few. The old man continued. 'The world is in chaos. Look around you, everybody is struggling. We have forgotten who we are. We are sheep with out a shepherd. You want to know why?' John said nothing, mind racing from the biscuit incident. Ann was just now dipping a digestive into her tea. The old man continued. 'Because we are sinners John. Each and every one of us. We pray to our perfect god and give him nothing but sins.' He lent forward and picked his own cup up, sipping at his tea whilst staring at John through the steam.
John didn't touch his tea. My biscuits. They where right at the back of the fridge. How on earth did she find them? How did she know they where there in the first place!?
'Berney, I think you need to ease up.' It was the first time Ann had opened her mouth since the swear word incident. 'Let the poor fella' catch a breath.' She put her gloved hand on his thigh. 'It ain't all bad Deary. When the world seems upside down, it just means that you need to start praying down, rather than up.'
'That's right' added Brney, with yet another wink. John found himself nodding along. He just wanted them out of his house. Sunday was bad enough without having an earful of preaching to go with it. The two spoke back and forth, with john just sitting in the middle, listening, but not actually hearing what the old pair where saying. He caught words here and there;
'Blaspheme!' shouted Berney.
'Evil men and women for sinning,' said Ann quietly, or it may have been Berney again.
'End of the world!'
'Not a sin for just wanting to fuck her,' finished Berney. That snapped John out of his ignorance.
'What was that?' asked john, turning in surprise.
'You was just telling us about your wife's sister, that she was very beautiful and that you wanted to have sex with her,' answered Ann behind him. He didn't even remember opening his mouth. He must of, otherwise how would they have known.
'I… I didn't mean it like that.' stuttered John. Ann put her hand back on John's lap, whilst Berney squeezed his shoulder.
'You've no need to lie to us John. We're all friends here,' said Berney. This was all so absurd. These people where supposed to be talking about God, not his wife's sister and his sinful desires for her. 'Is this her?' asked Berney, picking up a picture on the side of Kate and her sister Natalie. John nodded. 'I don't blame you my friend,' he laughed, winking again. Aren't you winked out yet? 'How about both of them together? Now that would be something, wouldn't it?'
John could do nothing but stare. Berney was admiring the picture of his wife and sister, whilst Ann just nodded encouragingly. What sort of Jehovah's witness's where they? Something they had been said sparked in the corner of his memory. 'Now am sure your already a godly man, my friend, but we'll see if we can change that.' Berney had said that, when they'd first sat down. Another memory flared. 'When the world seems upside down, it just means that you need to start praying down, rather than up.' What did that mean? 'Not a sin for just wanting to fuck her.' Yes it was. Of course it was.
'You two are very strange, for godly people,' stated John, still trying to puzzle out the situation. He'd felt uncomfortable from the beginning, but that was due to the fact he had an old pair of Jehovah's Witness's in his home. Looking at the pair of them now, that uncomfortable feeling had changed. Something isn't right here.
Berney chuckled. 'I suppose we would come across strange, if we where godly folk.' That brought a laugh from Ann behind him.
'Is this some sort of joke!?' stormed John, standing.
'John, sit down.' said Ann, standing. How does she know my name? I hadn't given her it. Berney had used it as well. What is going on here?
He edged around the coffee table, back away from them till he hit the back wall. There was nothing sinister about the pair, nothing threatening, but there was an underlying feeling of wrongness coming from them. He hadn't noticed it before, but it was there, and had been all along.
He considered punching one off them. Ann was the closest. But she's so old. 'I'd like you to leave. I'd like you to leave right now.' he pointed to the door. Ann stood still, her arms raised as a sort of peace offering. Berney sat on the couch, still sipping at his tea. He took one last slurp, and then placed the cup down.
'John, what is the matter?' said Berney calmly. 'Have I missed something?'
'I don't know what you two are playing at, but you are not what you seem.' He pointed a finger accusingly at Ann.
'And what do we seem?' asked Berney coolly.
'Well,' said John, stumbling over his words. They seemed genuinely shocked by his reaction, despite there strange behaviour. Was there behaviour strange? I've never met a Jehovah's Witness before, how do I know how they act? 'Well your preachers, aren't you? Jehovah's Witnesses?'
Ann and Berney burst out laughing simultaneously. 'Well then what are you?!' stormed John, red faced and embarrassed.
'John,' said Berney, reining in his laughter, 'why don't you sit down and we will tell you.' John was led back to the couch like a tired child being led to bed. His mind was racing, unable to understand what was taking place around him.
Not Jehovah's Witness's? They surely look the part, they even have a bible. They have a bible! 'You have a bible!' shouted John, more triumphantly than he'd intended. Berney patted the book, a thumb running along the cracked, brown leather spine.
'There are plenty of truths in this book John,' he said seriously, 'and most people only know half of them.' Ann nodded knowingly.
'Who are you people?' he asked quietly, looking down at the floor. He wanted them to leave. He hadn't invited them in, hadn't offered them a cup of tea or any chocolate biscuits and he certainly didn't want to hear any of their preaching, or whatever it was they were doing. Yet he stayed there, sitting still, waiting for an explanation.
'A good question John,' said Ann. 'One that I will be happy to answer, if you answer me a question first.'
'Deal,' said John.
'Are you a believer?' she asked, nodding at the book in Berney's hand. Looking down at the book, John didn't know what to say. Try telling a religious person that you'd never really thought about it! They'll have my head off.
'I'll take that as a no then,' said ann. John went to open his mouth to protest, to lie and say he was. Why am I lying? I don't know these people, and don't care if I upset them. Their own fault for barging in and eating my biscuits. Before he had the chance to say he wasn't a believer, Berney turned to face him.
'John, you know what I say to those who aren't believers? I say "what if you're wrong?"' he narrowed his eyes, as if he was trying to read something deeper in John's vacant expression.
'Think about it,' added Ann. 'You spend your life thoughtlessly, living sin after sin. Then, one day, the big man upstairs tells you everything is real, that heavens a paradise and you're not getting in.'
'So you're saying I should believe?' asked John.
'Depends what you're after, John. Do you want to tip toe through life, following the rules and regulations given by this very book?' Berney placed his hand on the bible before continuing. 'Life is too short to be thinking about whether you're doing right or wrong. Why can't the Lord just love us for who we are?' he shook his head, seeming genuinely upset.
'I don't understand what you are saying.'
'We're saying,' said Ann, 'that there are alternatives, John.'
Berney opened the bible again, to the page he marked earlier. '"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." That was from the Romans, 5:12. It's the life we're living right now. There are two sides to every coin. Two storys to every argument. Your prayers are falling on deaf ears. Perhaps there is somebody else who will be willing to listen.' He inclined his head towards the floor. It took a moment for the movement to register in his head.
'You meen the Devil!' shouted John, jumping up again and pointing a finger accusingly in Berney's face. This time Berney grabbed his wrist, not letting him move. The old mans grip was suprisingly strong. 'What sort of Jehovah's Witness are you?' he asked pitifully.
'We're not Jehovah's Witnesses.' said Berney.
'We never said we where,' added Ann. John looked between the two. That's true, they never said they where. I just assumed. Why do I care any way, these crazy old bastards are talking about Devil worshipping.
'Okay then,' said John, clapping his hands together, 'this has been very enlightening, it's been an absolute pleasure but I really need to ask you to leave, my wife will be home any minute.' With his arms he made a sweeping motion towards the door, as if he was trying to waft them out. The two rose slowly, looking at each other. John had a vision of them jumping on him, tying him to the table and sacrifing him in some crazy devil ritual. Instead they just moved round the table, Ann pinching another biscuit before she did so, and head towards the front door. Berney stopped in the hall.
'Think on it John. You said yourself your not a believer. What different does it make which god you choose to workship if you don't truly believe. If everything goes the way you think it will, we'll all just end up in a box in the ground and it doesn't matter how we live. But the truth is, is that this is very real. Every lie you ever told, every curse you ever made, in the after life you'll be punished for them. Follow our path and you'll be rewarded for your sins. God, he has forgotten about us. Remember the last prayer you had answered. I bet you don't.' John stopped in the hall, halted by his words. Berney went on. 'The world is changing. There are more people who have seen the truth then you realize. People in this city, in this very area. People you see everyday who live their natural, sinful lives without consequence. The balance of power is shifting, and when He inhabits the earth, the faithful will be rewarded.' He finished, nodding his head as if to justify his words. Ann took a smaller version of the bible Berney held out of her hand bag and placed it on the phone table next to Kate's note. Berney left without another word, opening the door out into the street. Ann followed soon after. She stopped at the door.
'Think about what we said. When you lie with your wife later, think about what we offered. Think about that wonderful sister of hers, and think about us.' Then she was gone.
John hadn't moved from the hall where he had frozen. As soon as Ann left the house, Kate entered, looking over her shoulder, frowning.
'Who where they?' she asked him, a puzzled expression on her face.
'What?' asked John, startled. He hadn't heard her come in. 'Oh, erm… they were Jehovah's Witnesses.'
Kate doubled over laughing. 'Why on earth did you let them in?' She looked up, raising an amused eyebrow at John's scowling face. 'What? Did they convert you did they?' She laughed again.
'No!' stormed John defensively. Kate shook her head, smirking all the way into the living room. He followed her in, sitting himself on the corner of the couch, the space Berney had vacated.
'Want to have a look at my new sandals Moses?' she asked, tongue in cheek as she reached into her shopping bag. John didn't hear her, lost in thought. Idly he reached over to the picture on the small table. Stroking the image of his wife and her sister, he turned to Kate.
'When will we be seeing Natalie again?'