"Lost and Frightened"
The following day, the H.S. L-1378-55 Combat Team, fought with swords and shields, in the Gymnasium of a Yeshiva High School on Level 723. This School's Team fought on Sundays, to avoid profaning their Sabbath. Warrior guys and girls from both teams lay dead or wounded on the gym floor. The seats were filled with cheering students and faculty from both schools.
On the sidelines, the Host School's Band played the ancient "Washington Post March."
In front of the Visiting Team stands, Alyce Vanderland was among the H. S. L-1378-55 cheerleaders, who wore tight, green and yellow tee shirts, and very short skirts. They leapt high while whirling about, waving their green and yellow pompoms, and chanting.
"Jimmy Haskins--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Landis can!
Larry Landis--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Torelli can!
Louise Torelli--She's our gal!
If she can't..."
Today, Louise Torelli was among the warrior girls and guys, who fought hard against the guys and girls on the host team.
This is a lot better, Louise thought, than me being a shirking wussy, sitting in the stands with Dave Krendell. He was praying for someone who wasn't me.
Yesterday she'd thought, Dave is gone, permanently. With Karen Bennet. Permanently. He's gone, with the one who God Himself had chosen to have his children. They're outside the City Building; in the custody of people who are not gonna kill them? They're probably gonna live so long that they'll die in bed from old age.
I, on the other hand, am still inside the City Building. I'm now a warrior girl, who'll probably be dead, cooked and eaten, sometime before graduation. That's what I'm here for. It's the right thing to do, so why not party?
Last night she had attended a team party. Everyone there got drunk, naked and laid; including Louise, who'd done it with Jimmy Haskins. Then she and Alyce punched each other out. The two fought bare breasted, and the guys were cheering, and it was all a lot of fun. Once the fight was over, she and Alyce remained friends.
Today in the midst of combat game fighting, Louise got her sword around the shield of the girl she was facing, stabbed her under her left breast, and drove the blade up into the girl's heart. The girl made a single, brave cry.
Louise shouted, "Welcome to Paradise!"
The girl sighed, collapsed, and lay dead on the gym floor.
The H.S. L-1378-55 kill score rose by one.
In the visitors stands the fans cheered.
Then another girl on the host team took on Louise. They both eagerly slashed at each other, with their blood stained swords. Louise managed to get her sword around the shield of this second girl, and stabbed her to a killing depth. This one also made a brave cry, and fell dead while Louise again shouted.
"Welcome to Paradise!"
The H.S. L-1378-55 fans cheered again.
Now I've scored two kills, she thought. I'm really enjoying this!
She turned to her right, to take on her next opponent, and found herself facing a guy twice her size, plunging a spear deep inside her chest, between her breasts, straight into her heart.
Now it was her turn to make the single brave cry, while she thought, I'm killed! I'm dying! I'm harvested meat! It's the right thing! A good thing!
She saw the words, "Kasin's Keys to Paradise", engraved along the weapon's shaft, and thought, I'm unlocked.
She fell away from the spear head. The blade ripped the front of her tee shirt open, exposing her breasts for everyone to see.
The guy called out, "Welcome to Paradise!"
He's sending me to Paradise, dressed to party.
Louise lay dead on the gym floor. The host team fans cheered.
She heard the voice of Alyce among the H.S. L-1378-55 cheerleaders, who chanted.
"...See that score!
More meat to eat!
We want more!
More meat to eat!"
Then she was aware of nothing.
Louise's ghost rose up out of her body. The fighting continued all around her. She saw herself lying dead on her back, in a drying puddle of her own blood, with a deep broad gash between her fully exposed breasts. Inside the gash, she saw her heart split open. She lay beside the two girls who she'd just killed. Debbie Sheridan also lay dead, a short distance away.
I'm a ghost. She wondered, Am I gonna be watching myself get ground into sausages, and watch my meat getting cooked, and then eaten by the students at this school? I don't want to see that.
Then Louise's ghost was no longer in the Host School's Gymnasium. She was no longer inside the City of Manhattan Building.
She found herself standing in the open, beneath a glowing blue sky and bright yellow sun. She knew she was facing north. To her left was a one story tall white Church building, with a tall steeple rising high, beside a leafy green tree with a thick trunk, which grew on the building's front lawn. The Church had a line of six arched stained glass windows along its side. A dark gravel road passed in front of the wooden structure. A pathway of blue slate went across the lawn from the road to the church's entrance.
Beside the pathway to the Church, a white wooden sign with black lettering stood. The sign stated,
"First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Domnick Luzak: Pastor
Sunday Morning Worship: 10:30"
A larger, temporary sign was set up on the lawn announcing,
"Annual 4th of July Barbecue!
All Are Welcomed!"
On the opposite side of the gravel road, there was a single; two story tall, bluish gray building with a front porch. A sign above the porch identified the building as,
"Zabelton General Store"
At the back of the porch, the storefront consisted of a pair of picture windows, with a screen door between them.
The road between the church and the store went further on to the west, going between green fields, with growing crops planted in rows, and continued on, passing a barn with a silo, then disappearing over a low hill. The fields were surrounded by tall rounded mountains.
Another dark gravel road went north and south, along the east side of the Church, crossing the east-west road, and continued on past the general store, with the fertile green fields to its west, and thick woodlands to the east. The road between the church and the general store came out of the woodlands to the east.
She wondered. Am I in Paradise?
Two men were seated in wooden chairs, on the front porch of the general store. One was in his mid forties, wearing neatly pressed black pants and a white, short sleeved shirt. The other man was a few years older. He wore blue jeans, and a short sleeved shirt with narrow blue and white horizontal stripes.
Louise's ghost was then beside the men.
The man in the striped shirt said, "Fourth of July's this Wednesday Domnick. How many do you expect to show up?"
The other man said, "The entire Congregation as always, Frank. About 100 of them, along with an equal number of guests. The ladies are gonna be spending all morning, preparing all the fish we catch on Lake Wallenpaupack, the day before."
"If we catch any."
Domnick chuckled. "If not, there's always plenty of everything else for everyone." Then he got serious. "What we don't have this year, is Margaret Kranowski to supervise."
"It's always a pity Reverend."
"Well she was 79 years old, and her suffering has mercifully ended, but like you said, it's always a pity."
"Is the funeral Tuesday?"
"Yes. Funeral and burial, Tuesday morning. Then the next day's the barbecue."
Frank said, "Well she wouldn't have wanted us to cancel it on her account. She'd want us to celebrate the fact that she's now with the Lord, and back with her husband Jack again."
Domnick nodded. Then he said, "My bigger concern about the barbecue, is who's gonna show up. There're always those people from Hawley, who bring the liquor to everything; including
Church sponsored events. People are gonna get drunk, and then you know what happens."
Frank nodded, "Nick starts hitting Beatrice."
"Then she comes running to me. Then he shows up fully repentant, but she won't take him back. Then he has to spend the rest of the week at my brother Henry's Motel.
"I've see these things before Frank." Domnick went on. "It's just gonna get worse."
Louise thought, This is not Paradise, but it's a lot better here anyway.
Now as they sat together on the front porch of the General Store, a State Police hover-car came along the road through the woods on their left, hovering six inches above the gravel, with its rotating lights flashing. It went through the crossroads. Then it stopped moving, and set down at the foot of the Church's slate walkway. The left rear door opened, and two people stepped out of the vehicle.
They were a young man and woman in their mid-teens. They both wore zipped open dark green light jackets with yellow trim, full-length dark pants, and sturdy shoes.
The left rear door of the vehicle shut. Then the Police hovercar lifted up and sped away from the crossroads, heading past the barn with the silo, then over the hill and out of sight.
Domnick said, "What going on? The Police just dropped two strangers off in front of the Church, and then took off without saying a word to me?"
The two stranded young people turned and looked at the Church. They had insignia on the backs of their jackets, which said, "HS L-1378-55."
Frank said, "These kids are lost."
"That's what we Christians are here for Frank."
Louise's ghost recognized the two lost teenagers. They were Dave Krendell and Karen Bennet. She was immediately beside them.
Dave and Karen looked around nervously.
"Is this it?" Karen asked, "Is this the 'Community'? One tiny Church building and a tiny store? Only two guys and their families? Is this all there's gonna be for us, from now on?"
"Don't worry." Dave said, "From now on isn't gonna be all that long. Look at that sign."
"Fourth of July Picnic?"
"Right. We haven't been brought here to help with farm work. We'll be getting barbecued and eaten by the people of Zabelton Pennsylvania, at the Holiday Celebration."
Karen told him, "I'm not so sure about that Dave."
"Of course we will. These are civilized people, and they're obviously very successful, at filling their kill quotas."
"But people out here don't eat people."
"Sure they do. It's just those characters who live out in the wilderness, outside the City Building. They don't eat people, but they are very strange and backward."
Louise's ghost thought, This is wonderful! This is what I'm here for. The moment that Dave's killed, I'll be here to greet his ghost. Then he'll be here with me, in this beautiful place forever; but so will Karen Bennet. Then her ghost will always come between me and Dave, for all eternity.
Now Karen told Dave, "This may be the land that the Lord has given to me and my children; so I'm not going to be killed and eaten here, at least until after I've had those children."
He asked, "Then why have we been brought here, just before they have a major celebration?"
She moved her hand in the direction of the General Store.
"Let's ask them."
Then Dave and Karen headed across the gravel roadway, and came up to the porch. Domnick and Frank got up out of their chairs. The High School Kids stood on the hard packed soil in front of them, looking very uneasy.
Dave said, "Good day gentlemen. My name is David Krendell. She is Karen Bennet. I'm not sure what else to say."
The man in the white shirt said, "Good afternoon David. Good afternoon Karen. My name is Domnick Luzak."
Karen said, "You're the Pastor."
The other man asked, "How did you know that?"
Domnick said, "They've read the sign Frank."
Then the Pastor asked, "Are you here for the barbecue?"
Dave said, "It looks that way. We weren't told exactly what our part in it would be."
Frank asked, "Why were you brought here in a police car?"
"We were transferred to them, by the New Jersey State Police."
Domnick asked, "What unlawful activities were you engaged in, in the State of New Jersey?"
Now Karen spoke, "Nothing unlawful sir. We were just lost, in the land near the City of Manhattan Building."
Frank asked, "What were you doing in that wilderness?"
Domnick said, "If you were lost, why did they bring you here, instead of returning you to your families?"
Dave and Karen looked nervously at each other.
He told Pastor Luzak, "They couldn't return us. Our families are inside the City of Manhattan Building."
Now both men on the porch looked startled.
Frank said, "Inside the City of Hell?" He spoke to Domnick. "They're Citizens of Hell, Dom."
"They are kids Frank," Domnick told him, "lost and alone.
"Remember what the Lord said. 'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me.'"
Frank asked, "You want us to invite them in?"
The Reverend told him, "The Lord said, 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'."
"Brothers of His?" Frank asked Dave, "Are either of you cannibals?"
"Yes sir. We both are."
"Frank." Pastor Luzak said, "In the City of Manhattan Building, they have nothing else to eat."
Frank asked, "Have either of you ever killed anyone?"
"Yes sir." Karen said, "We are both warriors, on our High School Combat Team."
"'High School Combat Team'? I've heard that war was a high school sport in the City of Manhattan Building, but I thought that was just a joke."
Now Domnick asked, "Tell me. Is there any knowledge of the Lord, in the City of Manhattan Building?"
"Yes Pastor Luzak." Dave told him, "We both attend the Level 1378, 8th Avenue Presbyterian Church, between West 59th and 60th Streets. The Reverend Robert McDougal is the Pastor."
Frank asked, "A Church inside the walls of Hell?"
Domnick told him, "The Psalmist did write, 'If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.'"
Karen said, "We have accepted Christ as our Savior sir, so all our sins are forgiven, and we have no guilt before the Lord."
Frank repeated, "No guilt?"
Domnick said, "That's called the 'Scandal of God's Grace' Frank. His undeserved, total forgiveness is extended to all sinners, who accept Christ as Savior. Even to those who are trapped behind the walls of Hell."
"Lost and Frightened"