The Day of the Lord

The Day of the Lord

Chapter 1

“Another babe! Another babe! Another babe for the Lord!” Gwendolyn cried out. Cheers erupted all around. Magda smiled demurely, gazing softly toward the basket. Not to be outdone, Amelia shouts, “I have two!” and another round of polite, on-demand cheering was given. 

“Will he come to see them?” Magda asked Gwendolyn quietly. She gestured towards Ezekiel, who was strutting about proudly, hollering at any who would listen. Gwendolyn looked at him, looked towards the precious babes, and shook her head uncertainly. “He may,” Gwendolyn replied, “but I would not get my hopes up. As you well know, it is in the Lord’s hands anyhow. To even hope of such is blasphemy, but I will forget your words as delirium, my dear.”

The mere hint of blasphemy terrified Magda. She wasn’t sure what even prompted her to ask the question, of course it was blasphemy. She chided herself and wondered what had gotten into her today. She felt different, she was thinking differently. None of it was good. All of it was trouble. Magda searched her brain for the right response. “Thank you, Mama. Your guidance, your wisdom inspire me so. I hope one day, I can have your faith and less of these … frustrations.” Magda said. Gwendolyn nodded indulgently. “There, there child,” she reassured, “it is natural to have a passion to serve, it is your purpose, who would not wish to serve their purpose? We just..ah, we just must not ask for more. It would be immodest. You will learn, child. You will learn. You’ve had a busy day.” 

She looked to the sky, where the sun was beginning its ascent. Ezekiel was in full celebration mode, while all of the women were settling in to await their breakfast. Magda was glancing around when she saw Amelia quietly skulking out. This was a breach most improper. Magda gasped quietly under her breath. The noise amongst the other ladies chattering fortunately hid the sound. Magda watched Amelia go to Ezekiel and speak with him urgently. She tried desperately to read the words as they were being spoken; it seemed that Amelia was asking for something. 

Magda was shocked, scandalized, and utterly intrigued. She’d never seen such brazen behavior before. Magda couldn’t even imagine being that close to Ezekiel unchaperoned, let alone speaking so … familiarly. 

Judging from Ezekiel’s body language, he was shocked too, but angry. Ezekiel began screaming at Amelia, chasing her around, smacking her, scratching, beating, and biting. The women all at once became silent as they watched. It was a flurry of chaos, violence, and shouts. No one moved to help Amelia or stop Ezekiel. To do so would have incurred great judgement and wrath – as Amelia was learning. Murmurs of scandal and tsks of judgment were the only sounds from the women. Amelia had fallen to the ground and there was blood splattered around her body and ground. She was unnaturally still, Magda thought. Her neck seemed funny. 

Coraline, one of the oldest, raised her thin voice to ensure all heard her. “You young ones do not want to learn your place and this is where your evil ways bring you. Look upon this fool. Look at her! Who was such as she to approach such as he? Let yourself feel this shame. Reject! Turn away! Repent! The Lord provides, and as we all know, the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh. The Lord strikes down those who choose not his commandments. Your purpose is clear. Her jealous heart, seeking pride, seeking her own selfish wants. Do you wish to gift the Lord with your babes as he asked? Or, do you wish the Lord to strike ye miserable, questioning heart? The choice is clear.”

No one spoke in response. The only sound was shaking and crying from 2 who had loved Amelia. They were attempting to mourn as quietly as possible so as not to attract the ire of Coraline or any others, but Coraline’s eyes and head snapped to them almost instantly when she finished. 

“Sisters. Do you hear their weeping? They mourn! They weep for that abomination. Do you share her views? Do you believe yourselves above our holy laws?” Coraline shrieked.

The women shook convulsively, hiccuping in stress and tears, unable to speak. They shook their heads and attempted to disguise their tears as anything else. Magda knew it was already too late. Her stomach turned and she thought she could be sick. The other women began shrieking with Coraline. “Sinner!” they cried over and over again as they moved menacingly toward the terrified women, whose only crime was crying for a lost friend. 

Coraline straightened, raising her voice like a banshee, “Show them how faith works! Show me your faith!” She lowered her voice, “But remember, dears. We only wound – the Lord will see to the rest. It is not for you to take, but it is always for us to give, yes?” There was a pious assent. The other two women knew what was coming, they began moaning in terror as their bowels loosened. As the others approached, the two clung to each other, sobbing. They didn’t beg or plead for mercy, to do so would have incurred further wrath. 

Magda shrank and remained still as the crush of women began pressing towards the outcasts. 

“Show these miserable creatures your faith! Show them the strength of your beliefs. Let us purge this blight! Ours to give, sisters, ours to give!” Gwendolyn screamed.

“Ours to give! Ours to give!” they began chanting in unison as they advanced. The screaming began as the beating began. It was an undulating pile of violence and blood. It felt like it went on forever to Magda, who managed to stay on the outskirts without contributing to the melee. Inside, she was crying, screaming, and terrified. Outside, she was sweet and demure. The women were unconscious but assuredly not dead. 

Ezekiel’s attention had been piqued by the noise. He walked in, and all the women gasped and averted their eyes as they prostrated. He walked in a circle around the fallen women, nodding. He then walked in front of the prostrated women until he reached Magda. Her heart raced, and she fought to stay still and quiet. She prayed blasphemously that he would pass her by. Ezekiel was unpredictable – the same thing may please him greatly on one day and cause beatings the next. Ostracization was fierce and immediate for any who displeased Ezekiel in the slightest, and that was – as shown in the case of Amelia and her friends – the best-case scenario. 

Ezekiel would also, of course, pick any woman he felt like making his companion for as long as he felt, and until he no longer felt like it. If you performed well, it could be a great honor. Or, it could be a great danger. Until Coraline had become too old, she had been his favorite concubine. Gwendolyn has, lately, become his favorite and Coraline’s puppet. 

But lately, Ezekiel had favored Magda and she was terrified. Every thought and feeling she was experiencing was utter blasphemy. She should be praying that Ezekiel would pick her again, giving thanks he had even stopped near her, let alone to be considered. If Gwendolyn or Coraline could hear her or see her thoughts? She would be as good as dead. If she seemed afraid or anything other than demure and sweet, she was as good as dead. 

Coraline spoke, her voice muffled in prostration, “Magda has brought forth your babes today. The heathen did too, but Magda simply gave as she is meant to. But, of course, she is worthy only if you deem her so.”

Inside, Magda cried about how unworthy she was. She was shocked to wonder if Amelia’s fate would be better than this. Where was this blasphemy coming from? The horror at herself was baffling, she had never thought this way before. She was simple, she obeyed and prayed. These words rushed in unbidden, unstoppable, a force of their own. Ezekiel sniffed her and Magda willed every fiber of her existence not to flinch or react with the aversion and repulsion she felt. Every centimeter he moved closer to her was causing an exponential increase in her internal revolution. 

Ezekiel grabbed her by the back of the neck, pulled her out of prostration, and yanked her to follow him. Any other moment of her existence, Magda would have cheered, and yet, inside she screamed in horror and rage. Other women murmured congratulations to Magda and thanks to Ezekiel. 

Ezekiel took Magda and began to have his way with her. He was violent, biting, and choking. Magda wondered again what the difference was between her and Amelia. She couldn’t understand how this was better, and she couldn’t understand how she could think this. Just moments ago, she would have given her right foot for Ezekiel to come gaze upon her offering. Even asking if he would come could have ostracized her, and here she is fighting the urge to rip out his very throat with her teeth. To spit it out and curse him to every hell she could imagine. All of these thoughts, here she in his direct presence, a dream come true, really, and she was… she was…somehow knew that this was actually a nightmare. Ezekiel roughly finished and shoved her aside. She remained still and silent. 

A few moments passed, and Magda begged the new voice to be quiet for their own safety. Ezekiel, suddenly, glared at her and banged her head against the ground. Magda felt dizzy and saw spots. “I didn’t hear thank you,” he growled into her ear, spittle flying on her face. She wasn’t sure if she felt his spit or her blood. “Thank you, great one. Thank you for choosing a worthless wretch like me. It is my honor to serve you…” Magda felt like gagging as she searched for good enough words to appease him, “I hope it is not so bold to have hope that I have pleasured you, too. It..” Magda tasted bile, “was my privilege. It is my purpose.” She prayed silently for good enough. 

Ezekiel was already walking away before she even finished. He gave her no more regard than a piece of scat in the yard. She felt like a piece of scat in the yard. Magda looked again at Amelia and thought of the two others laying inside. Ezekiel did not tell her what she could or should do, so she was unsure if she should go back to the others or stay where he left her. Either could be disrespect, depending on his mood. 

Magda remained still and studied the sky. The sun reminded her all of this had occurred before breakfast. All of this occurs before breakfast. She was stunned at the violence she witnesses and the oppression she feels every single day. Everything she believed in no longer made sense, and Magda was unsure if she had become possessed by a demon or perhaps lost her mind. She felt herself begin twitching convulsively as her breathing became shallow and panicked. Her entire world crumbled and she shivered as if freezing. 

“The Lord cometh! The Lord cometh!” The Lord cometh!” Ezekiel began screaming, to be joined by Coraline and Gwendolyn. Everyone joined in the chorus. Shouts, cheers, and hallelujahs whooped around the air. The Lord rained upon them their daily grain and water. Many flocked to his feet, singing his praises and worship. Normal Magda would have been at the forefront, singing as sweetly as she could, but ensuring she did not get too close so as to bother her Lord. 

That was when the bodies were discovered. “Hmm…what do we have here?” the Lord wondered, with no anger or malice, but Magda felt disgust where once was love. Then she felt disgust at her for having disgust, and once again, Magda was overcome with terror at her own mind. Coraline and Gwendolyn shoved to the front, “If it pleases you, this one,” Coraline gestured to Amelia, “Was a heathen of the worst kind. Throwing herself at your prophet, instead of awaiting her selection as ordered by such as he.” The Lord scooped Amelia up, clucking his tongue and commenting on the shame of it. 

“The other two,” Coraline hurried to keep up with him, “were her supporters. We have left them for you to judge in accordance of your will. Not ours, but yours. Ours to give.” Everyone except Magda echoed, “Ours to give.” Magda couldn’t bring herself to say these words anymore and felt terror at being discovered not saying these words. Every inhale and exhale taken became a landmine of blasphemy. Magda prayed for death, eyes directed squarely on the Lord, begging him to do something, anything to make it all make sense. 

The Lord didn’t seem to hear her, he was busy picking up the first fallen woman. He looked her over and snapped her neck. Her foot twitched a few times and she was gone. Magda wished her neck was next, but it was the other fallen woman’s body instead. 

Everyone cheered. Coraline raised her voice again above the din. “And now, my Great One, our savior…You who provides, we who give. It is our honor to give what is ours to give.”

“Ours to give! Ours to give!” Everyone cried as Magda realized with horror she would be called in front of everyone momentarily. She prayed to faint. Fainting happened often in the presence of the Lord, her piousness would be all the more celebrated. She tried to pretend to faint, but she was too frozen, and it was too late. 

“Magda! Magda! Child come forth! Come forth! Receive the blessings for your babes!” Gwendolyn called, as everyone began cheering “Magda!”

Ezekiel roughly grabbed her and pushed her towards the others, who then pushed her to the front. Magda tried to pretend she was simply too shy and humble for such accolades. But what happened was the entire opposite. 

Magda, ever meek, mild, and modest screamed with a voice so loud and intense everyone froze and stared at her. 

“YOU ARE SLAVES! YOU ARE IDIOTS! YOU ARE EVIL! THESE ARE NOT THE WAYS OF GOOD! YOU ARE LIARS! YOU ARE MURDERERS! WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?! WHY to DO WE LIVE LIKE THIS?! HE STEALS OUR CHILDREN, THEY STEAL OUR LIVES!!!!! WAKE UP, YOU IDIOTS!!! WAKE UP!!” Magda screamed and repeated wake up until her vocal cords snapped. She fell on the ground convulsing and twitching. Murmurs spread quietly and quickly, some internally assenting, most vocally dissenting. Some wondered if she had been possessed, especially one so faithful as Magda. 

Coraline and Gwendolyn knew they had to regain control fast. Such heresy was a fast spreading disease, and they must stop it immediately. “Off with her head!!” They screamed ferociously in unison. “Off with her head!” they all began crying. Ezekiel brought the Lord to Magda, who was on the ground squeaking like a deflated toy. He joined in the cry, amplifying the voices. The Lord sighed and nodded towards Magda and went to get his axe.

He placed Magda’s head upon a tree stump, straightened her neck, and chopped in one practiced, effective swing. A few twitches signaled the soul’s departure from her body and Magda was no more. Gwendolyn and Coraline prayed it was enough to discourage any new or dangerous ideas.  Cheers uproariously and passionately echoed as the Lord began stripping Magda. “Heathen!” “Whore!” Most shouted names and curses at her body, but some – enough – had been infected by her words, just as Coraline and Gwendolyn feared. They silently gathered Magda’s things. They said a prayer over her babes, still sitting in the basket near the Lord and their mother’s headless, naked body. They moved quickly to grab one and scuttle away unseen as the other two bodies were being tended to. 

Sarah spoke quickly and quietly to those who gathered inside as the chopping and cheering continued outside. “A child of Magda may teach us as Magda would have. She would want us to raise a child instead of giving it to the Lord. She would want us to raise our babes instead of giving it to the Lord. She was right. This,” gesturing towards the child, “is the least we could do for her.” Sarah whispered as they huddled in a dark corner. “There is enough time for us to pretend and make up a story to hide as one of our own. We can make a plan. Sisters, a new day has dawn. Magda laid down her life to start this. To save us.” The others nodded in agreement. 

“What can we do?” Martha asked. 

“Exactly as Magda.” Sarah replied, “You see what she saw, you understand what she did, yes? Now. We watch, we learn, and we plan. No one deserves this life, and we feel this in our souls! She woke me, did she wake you? Are you alive today? Would you rather die as she then live as we have been?” All of the women nodded vigorously. 

“So we raise this babe, we do whatever we can do to ensure everyone believes this child is mine. I am still allowed one. We ensure Ezekiel favors at least one of us, maybe more. Hopefully more.”

The women shuddered murmuring how they can’t stand the thought now. 

“Watch that!” Sarah admonished. “How long did Magda hide? She let that monster defile her just today! Our external lives must be even more holy. We must raise not a syllable of question!” Outside, the cries were dying down. 

“We will meet later. When it is safe. For Magda! For us!”

“For Magda! For us!” they echoed quietly as they returned. Outside, they sung their praises for the Lord, and inside, they sung their praises to her. A new day had dawned, indeed.

Chapter 2

“What’s all that, Hank?” Emily asked, washing dishes at the sink. 

Hank playfully shooed her aside, placing everything neatly on the cutting board on the counter. He began washing his hands. He shook his head, clearly confused, as he said, “Goddamn chickens are acting weird again.”

He gestured toward the headless, de-feathered bodies. “Any chance I can get a pot pie outta you, sweet cheeks?” He squeezed Emily’s ample butt and gave it a good whack. She giggled. “Go get some carrots and celery.” He started out back again, the hens immediately making a ruckus. “Potatoes, too!” she hollered after him. 

Then, she grabbed a few eggs and got started on breakfast.

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