The Secret of Hope

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic


The awakening begins with a yearning to know the secret.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Solitary Reflections

Submitted: October 04, 2017

Reads: 327

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Submitted: October 04, 2017

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Secrets are kept by some people for very long times.  There are those who, in their last breath, finally reveal that which they have guarded so closely for so many years, yet, a rare few take the most intimate side of themselves to the next life without ever sharing the secret of their hidden truth with anyone on this side of the Veil.

 

Journal entry for October 4, 2017 ~

 

When the cold fronts start barreling down from the arctic cooling the northern continent and altering the landscape, the water, and the seasons, the chill wind breezing across the vast open expanse of the endless plains can blast a person’s soul right out through the empty spaces between their rattling rib bones.  

Stowe Bridger had been made fun of by his classmates on account of his odd-sounding, unusual name.  Now, fully adult, but at a relatively young thirty-four years of age, Stowe lay  on his lumpy queen-size bed.  He was cold.  He needed a blanket.  

The word ‘Occult’ forced itself into his drifting mind. He stared blankly up at a low ceiling.  Several of the tiles were missing leaving dreary gaps measuring one foot square; dark openings which permitted occasional puffs of icy prairie wind to filter in from among the shadowy rafters.  Of the tiles that remained, many drooped and buckled out of place, much of the papery fiber was water-stained from rain seeping in through the leaky roof.  Some of those dull tiles were crumbling under the relentless effects of time and the ever persistent elements.  Cobwebs huddled thickly where the ceiling and walls converged in cubic vanishing points of geometric perspective.  

Stowe had a lean, sinewy pair of mildly hairy legs hidden beneath the striped pajamas that stretched toward the foot of the mattress in a symmetrical formation of the letter “V”.  His feet splayed at an angel that reminded him of rocket launcher rod holders on the center console bay skiff that he had left behind in Florida.  The chamber in which he sprawled himself was in the back of a small, two room shack.  His bedding was bare, no blanket, no sheet.  There wasn’t a frame or even a box spring.  The stale mattress was lying on the dusty wooden floor.  The only other object in the room besides himself and his smelly mattress was a much dilapidated chest of drawers.  The drawers emitted an odor as musty as his mattress and all the drawers were completely empty except for the very bottom one which contained a yellowed newspaper clipping from many are the days gone by.  

Stowe thought of moments captured in newsprint.  Then he thought of moments not preserved by mediums of mass communication; moments which fade into obscurity with the deaths of the minds whose memories bore them and so perish quietly in anonymity; so many long ago moments buried in nameless graves amid the silent cemetery of time.

Stowe was normally a fellow not much given to fancies of the imagination, but being alone in an unfamiliar location far away from his home invoked a strange mood of hollow confusion within him.  He felt a slight sense of emotional urgency to escape being consumed by mortifying depression, yet instead of combating the onrush of the eerie psychological affliction, he opened his consciousness to it.  He let the gloomy feeling overcome him.  He let it spread inside him.  He let the encroaching mold of psychic fungus wash over his spirit like a numbing frosty film of ectoplasmic snail slime.

As his mysterious unnerving despair grew in proportion to the amount of time he made himself vulnerable to it, his gaze remained immovable, fixed directly above his supine body.  He watched with lackluster eyes as a large furry wolf spider crawled slowly across the close ceiling.  From higher overhead the ragged sputtering of a small plane rained down to Stowe’s finely sculpted ears; probably a little two-seat Cessna 152 much like the one in which he had not so long ago logged six hours of dual flight instruction.  

He knew a 152 came with one of two engine brands, Lycoming or Continental.  At the back of the arched structure of a corrugated galvanized steel hanger, known as a Quonset Hut, beside a grass runway strip cleared through a stand of slash pine, Stowe had once seen a Continental with the cylinder head off.  He had been amazed at how large the bore was on these compact contraptions.  His thoughts drifted from that rarely recalled memory back to the faulty coughing spurting from the downward facing exhaust of the squat little aircraft.  In his saturnine mind he envisioned the disproportionately large pistons of the four cylinder Continental as it labored clumsily to keep the propeller whipping through the atmospheric turbulence of a gelid twenty-five knot north wind.

He hoped the plane didn’t crash down on him.  Since childhood Stowe Bridger had harbored a secret terror of a plane crashing down on his head.  It must be a horrific way to die. The plane seemed closer overhead now.  The sputtering coughing engine didn’t sound good.  The little plane could very well come crashing through the rusty tin roof of the collapsing shack and land right on Stowe’s upturned face.  The impact would utterly annihilate his skull so that identification from dental records would be impossible.  The fuel from the wing tanks would ignite and burn the rest of him beyond recognition.  Nobody knew where Stowe was. He would die alone and not a single solitary soul would ever know what had become of him.

Outside the shack, the frigid prairie wind blew in ill-tempered, inconsistent oscillations sending irregular puffs of October air through chinks in the clapboard exterior of the scrabbly, weathered hovel.  Stowe felt out of place.  His destitute reflections were hounded by the infernal insistence of the unchecked wind of the primal grasslands as it pierced the ramshackle shelter the way the ghost of cold isolation was sighing through sparse fibrils of his  heart.

Loneliness made Stowe’s morbid mind wander back to sweet memories of Natasha.  He recalled the day he had first met her.  A cloudy day in late February.  Even though that encounter had occurred back in his hometown of Pensacola, the air had been brisk and icy, much like the prairie wind that now harangued his spirit in the forsaken bleak shelter on the vast flat plains of North Dakota.

Natasha, a timid brunette with pale skin wrapped in tight jeans and a windbreaker jacket, had been waiting alone at a bus stop.  Some worthless sleaze had pulled up in a muscle car and was talking luridly, trying to get Natasha to get in with him so he could drive off with her.  Natasha’s English wasn’t very good at the time.  All she knew to say in the threat of the fearful situation was an awkward, “I wait for bus!”

Stowe had walked up to the bus stop just in time.  He stood beside the terrorized Natasha and told the drug-addict in the muscle car that he had better leave else the authorities would be summoned.  Burning rubber with heavy metal music blaring from the car stereo speakers, the sleazy ruffian sped off down the street and never returned.  The bus pulled up a moment later.  Stowe motioned for Natasha to board first, then he followed up the stained steps of the Bay Town Trolley.  Natasha sat in an empty seat near the front, while Stowe, not wanting to embarrass her, made his way to a vacant spot at the back.

He was very surprised when Natasha rose and walked back and sat down beside him.

“Thank you,” said she.

“Ah, it’s nothin’,” was Stowe’s humble reply, “losers like that are no good.  All they are is trouble.  They shouldn’t be allowed to roam the streets and bother decent people such as yourself.”

“My name,” she paused because Stowe was blushing.  She waited until her silence forced him to make direct eye contact with her.  Sweet angels in heaven, she was beautiful.  Her Prussian blue eyes reached into his beating heart where their hypnotic color infused his scarlet blood with a desperate glowing yearning compassion for her.

“Natasha,” she finally completed her sentence of clumsily spoken strongly accented English.

“I’m Stowe Bridger,” was his raspy reply.

That fateful encounter had begun a trust-based and devoted friendship which he considered the best and most blessed he had ever experienced.  Natasha had been one of life’s greatest gifts to him.  He hoped he had at least meant half as much to her as she did to him.  

It happened that Natasha and Stowe were residing in the same apartment complex.  Her reason for being in Pensacola was to attend the University of West Florida, a time-honored institution of higher learning in the state which is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the entire nation.  It seemed that large corporations in Russia were keenly interested in recruiting young talent educated in the United States, so Natasha’s parents who lived in Rublyovka, an affluent suburb of Moscow, were financing her Western schooling.

Natasha was majoring in Economics with a minor in Accounting and Finance, while Stowe was aiming at a career in journalism with his major in English.

For nearly four months Natasha and Stowe cultivated and nurtured their growing friendship, yet, as fate would have it, the blissful heavenly experience wasn’t meant to last.  Natasha got sick.  Something went wrong with her blood.  So, her eldest brother journeyed from the Russian capital to help his ailing sister back home to the Motherland.  She had given Stowe her mailing address in Moscow and of course he had her email and phone number.  Why had he never called or at least written a letter to ask about her health?

Natasha had emailed to let him know that she and her brother had arrived safely home.  Stowe’s reply was short, yet warm and endearing.  After that, he had simply no longer corresponded with what had been the best female friend he had ever had.  Why had he stopped communicating with Natasha?

Stowe knew why and the eerie knowledge was creepy.  It was on account of something Natasha had said about secrets.  Late one night when she had invited him over to eat a distinctly Russian cuisine she had prepared, she read something to him after supper in the light of the pumpkin-scented candles - something which had disturbed Stowe deeply.  Natasha had an old book which had belonged to her maternal great grandmother.  The book was entitled The Secret of Hope.  When Natasha read a certain passage from the ancient tome it had altered something in Stowe - made him feel the sharp pang of colossal inhuman nature and the stinging prick of his own frail mortality.  A foreign shadow moved over Stowe’s spirit that night; a shadow which had never left his brooding soul.

He had become so uneasy at the reading of the cryptic passage that Natasha had, observing his drastically altered mannerism, realized how blatantly affected he was and apologized for reading the haunting stanza to him.  He pleaded her forgiveness and suggested a game of Beggar-Thy-Neighbor, yet Natasha, being unusually sensitive and perceptive, had rightly interpreted the extreme degree of duress Stowe was suffering and had therefore excused him for the night so he could return to the privacy of his own apartment to recover from the shock in the sanctity of not having anyone’s peering eyes upon him as he attempted to come to grips with the profoundly awakening knowledge Natasha had so unexpectedly revealed to him.

What was The Secret of Hope?  Natasha had read it to him that uncanny night so long ago, yet he had deliberately blocked the staggering, life-changing knowledge from his mind.  Stowe had forced himself to forget.  Why did he want to remember now?

The sound of the sputtering plane had faded, but was coming back again louder as if it were circling overhead.  Why would a small plane be circling out here in the middle of nowhere North Dakota?  He could understand if they were viewing the Badlands from the air, but the endless featureless emptiness of the Great Plains?  Something about that small sputtering plane was worrying Stowe far down in his subconscious, but his conscious mind hearkened back to the reason he was here - The Tabernacle of the Locust.

Stowe had achieved his aim of becoming a well-paid journalist and the assignment which had brought him to the cold of autumn in the open remoteness of the Lakota plains was to interview the leader of an unorthodox religious sect, a growing group of outsiders considered by many to constitute a dangerous threat to society.  The Tabernacle of the Locust was a reputed cult, and the flamboyant leader of the isolated commune, one Cicada Dealbatus, claimed to be a powerful faith healer.

Tent revivals were held to attract new converts.  News of the revivals was spreading far and wide.  The gatherings were growing and so were the ranks of The Tabernacle of the Locust.  

All female initiates were assigned tasks within the commune based on their natural feminine instinct to fertilize and foster unquestioning faith and obedience among other members of the sect.  The woman placed in charge of these select acolytes was known as the Matron of the Locust Maidens.

The official website of The Tabernacle of the Locust was obviously aimed at citing astronomical signs to legitimize a campaign of exploiting fear of an impending holocaust, a rapidly approaching doomsday which could only be survived by joining the safety of The Chosen, which is what the members of bizarre religious sect were called by their nefarious chief who modeled himself after the Paiute prophet and holy man, Wovoka.  Cicada, a shrewd cult leader in Stowe’s view, realized how important song and dance are in brainwashing people.  To this illicit end, Cicada made extensive use of tribal drums, chants, and Wovoka’s Ghost Dance, to which Cicada added some modifications of his own device.

The effect was devastating as demonstrated by the wild abandon to which the cult members yielded themselves during all-night tent revivals which were becoming infamous for the savagery of the rhythmic music, the otherworldly eeriness of the diabolical chants, and the violently physical undulating gyrations of overtly erotic dancing.

 

~ This is the first chapter of the newest saga being written by Sean Terrence Best.  The novel shall be published in its entirety in the near future.  Meanwhile, there’s incredible fun to be experienced by feasting your eyes on the other books authored by Sean Terrence Best which are available via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and many other booksellers.


© Copyright 2019 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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