15 People From HellMature

Until Tuesday morning, most of Dave's and Karen's time in Zabelton had been spent in their motel room. On Sunday afternoon, they'd turned on the television, and watched a movie that had recently been produced, outside the City Building. The picture titled, "And the World Will Be One", concerned events that occurred outside the City Building, at the time right after the mighty structure had been sealed. 

The drama showed people who'd remained outside, living on a vast collective farm, where they existed at a subsistence level. They were shown working in the fields, with the massive bulk of the City of Manhattan Building rising in the background. 

Dave said, "That's the world that the people who ordered the construction of the City Building, wanted to create all along. They called it a 'More Just Society'." 

The movie showed what happened when winter came. A heavy snow and ice storm occurred. The power was knocked out. They had no heat or electricity, and no way to contact anyone who could help. The power lines were down all over a vast region, and people qualified to handle the problem, had all been sealed away. 

The roads were blocked with heavy show. Automobiles had been banned, to prevent pollution, so there were no trucks to push snow plows and clear the roads. They were unable to go and get help. 

They were running low on food. Many of them were sick, and their "folk medicines" weren't strong enough. The nearest doctor was blocked from coming by the snow. 

The snow finally melted. They were able to get through to people in other collectives, who told them, 

"We're sorry. We're having the same problems ourselves. We just don't have enough for ourselves, so we don't have anything to spare to help you." 

Then the people in both communes attacked each other, in an attempt to grab what little the other's had, for themselves. 

Karen told Dave, "The 'More Just Society' wasn't worth the cost; for them or for us." 

After the movie, Dave and Karen turned off the TV, and it was time to eat. 
They'd found pre-packaged dinners in the room's refrigerator, and put two of the dinners in the microwave oven. They ate this evening meal while seated at a circular wooden table near the door. The meals, set in plastic plates, consisted of meat called pork chop, with two vegetables called string beans and carrots, along with a dessert called chocolate cake. The food was accompanied by a beverage called apple cider that they drank from large plastic cups. 
"This was really good!" Dave said. "Imagine this. So many different types of food, with so many different tastes. I like this 'pork chop'. It tastes so different. Everything we've eaten so far, has tasted so different than what we've always had before." 

"Right," Karen told him, "But it's still a shame that human meat won't be on any of their menus." 

"I know what you mean. That woman in the office looks like she'd be good to eat. She'd be fun to harvest too." 

"The Pastor's niece? I agree, but let's not tell her that. She might not consider it a compliment." 

They'd just finished dinner, when there was a knock on the door. Karen went to the door, opened it, and found a man in his early forties standing there. He looked startled at her appearance, and turned his face away. 

She said, "Yes sir?" 

"Good evening." He stammered slightly. "My name is Henry Luzak. I'm the proprietor of this Motel." 

"Good evening Mr. Luzak." 

Dave walked over to the door and stood beside her. 

"Miss." Now the man spoke firmly. "In the City of Manhattan Building, it may or may not be acceptable for a woman to come to the door, dressed the way you are, but it is not acceptable here." 

Karen had removed her top garments a few hours earlier, and now wore nothing above the waist. 

"I'm sorry sir." She told him, "We don't want to offend anybody. I thought it would be okay, since we weren't in public." 

She turned away and headed for the closet. 

"Mr. Luzak." Now Dave spoke. "We don't want any trouble with anyone living around here." 

"And we don't want trouble from either of you." 

"Sir." Dave told him, "You people out here seem to know a few things about us, but we don't know any thing about you at all. Until yesterday, we had no idea that anyone was actually living outside the City Building. We didn't even know that life was possible out here. 

"Now we have no idea about what's gonna happen with us. What we do want to know is what we have to do, to get along with all of you, so we can avoid trouble." 

"That sounds reasonable." The Motel's proprietor told them, "You've met my brother the Pastor. You can always get a lot of good, practical advice from him." 

Now it was Tuesday morning. Dave and Karen left their hotel room fully clothed, and stepped out onto the gravel road, that went through the woodlands. In the warm morning breeze, they walked up the hill, to the Church. 

Yesterday, Charlene had come to the door, with some used clothing for them to wear. She'd told them that Members of the Church had contributed the garments, at Pastor Luzak's request. She'd also said that there were some things that the Pastor wanted to discuss with them. 

They arrived at the Church a few minutes after 8 AM. About 3 dozen people had gathered in the Sanctuary, where the organ was being played. In the warm weather everyone was casually dressed. This morning, everyone wore a black armband. When Dave and Karen entered, the man named Frank handed black armbands to them. 

Dave asked, "What's going on?" 

The man said, "Funeral for Margaret Kranowski." 

The two young strangers from the City Building, put the armbands on, and sat in the back row. People kept turning around and looking at them with curiosity. 

They heard a few whispers of "Cannibals." 

Up front, displayed before the pulpit, a wrinkled old woman lay dead in an open oblong box. 

Karen spoke softly to Dave, so no one could hear her over the music. 

She said, "That's the unhealthiest meat I've ever seen. If they're gonna be eating her, everyone here's gonna get sick." 

He replied, "I don't think they're gonna eat her. I think this is what our ancestors called a 'funeral'. It's a ceremony in which everyone says 'good-bye' to somebody who's died." 

"You mean it's like saying, 'Welcome to Paradise'?" 

"I think so, except that this takes a lot longer. I've read that some of these ceremonies lasted even longer than any combat game." 

Karen sighed with a groan. "She doesn't look like any warrior girl." 

Some people seated nearby turned around and looked at Karen. She looked away from them. 

Dave said, "I think the best thing for us to do, is to just sit here and be quiet." 

"Right." 

The Ceremony began. Reverend Luzak read from a liturgical text, praying the same prayers that Dave and Karen had heard back in the City Building. In the Level 1378 Presbyterian Church, those prayers had been spoken during the Moment of Bereavement, at every Sunday Morning Worship Service. That was when Pastor MacDougal took a moment to offer the routine prayer, for everyone who'd been killed and eaten during the previous week. 

The difference here was that Pastor Luzak was praying only for one person, and the entire funeral went on for almost an hour. Sorrowful people actually spoke words of tribute about the wrinkled dead woman in the box. 

Then the box was shut, and carried outside the Church, to a graveyard just west of the House of Worship. There the box with the inedible woman's meat and bones was put in a hole in the ground. The hole was then filled in. 

Dave told Karen quietly, "It's their way of waste disposal." 

Throughout all this, many of the people wept at losing the old woman. 

When the burial ended, and people began to disperse, Reverend Luzak came over to Dave and Karen. 

He said, "Thank you for coming. Let's go to my office. We'll discuss things there." 

The Pastor's office was a room behind the Sanctuary, with an open window behind a screen, facing out across the fields of growing green corn, toward the rounded mountains in the west. The singing of birds came through the window. 

He sat behind the desk. Dave and Karen were seated across from him in padded folding chairs. 

The Pastor told them. "I've phoned the local Police. I asked them what they have to say about you. I've also spoken with the New Jersey Police. They told me the same thing you told me, that you were lost outside the City of Manhattan Building. They also told me that you didn't explain why you had left the City Building, except out of curiosity. 

"Now many of my neighbors are very concerned about having you two staying here in our community. We've heard many evil stories about the things that go on inside the City of Manhattan Building. I am sure that many of those stories are greatly exaggerated. Now whether or not they are exaggerations, those stories have made the people of this community worried that you may be a threat to them. I have to take their concerns into consideration. There are some things I have to know, that I hope will reassure the neighbors." 

Dave said, "We want them reassured too, Pastor Luzak." 

"Good. In order to do that, you'll have to be completely honest with me." 

"Then we will Pastor," Karen looked at Dave, "About everything. Even about the things that we don't think you'll believe." 

"Right." 

"Very well." Pastor Luzak asked, "What do you want to be honest about, that you don't think we'll believe?"

Dave told him, "The reason we've come outside the City Building in the first place." 

"Which is?" 

"Well, we've told you that we were both members of our High School Combat Team." 

"Yes. We've all heard stories about that." 

"I was a warrior, Karen was a cheerleader. Something like you have in this game you call 'Football'." 

Karen smirked, "But ours is not a wussy game." 

Dave said, "Karen. Please. Be careful what you say." 

"What did I say? He wants us to be honest, and that's what I'm being." 

She spoke to the Pastor. "I was a cheerleader, like he said. Now you've probably heard that when the game ends, one cheerleader from the losing team is hanged from a goalpost." 

"Yes." The Pastor told her, "We've all heard about that too." 

Dave told him, "Well, a week ago on Saturday, our team lost and Karen was the cheerleader who got hanged." 

Pastor Luzak was taken aback for a moment. Then an amused look appeared on his face. 

"Oh was she?" 

"Like I said sir, there are some things that you'd find hard to believe." 

"Indeed." 

Karen said, "I have proof Pastor." 

Dave said, "You do?" 

"The same proof that Mr. Avery had." 

Now Karen reached inside her handbag. She took out a laminated clipping from last Monday's edition of the H.S. L-1378-55 Student's Newsletter, containing the photo of her hanging dead from the goal post. She put it on the man's desk, right in front of him. 
Pastor Domnick Luzak gasped. He recoiled backward, and turned his face away from the clipping. 
"This is." He had trouble finding words. "This is horrible. This photo is. It's... It's obscene. It's sadistic pornography. It's unbelievably evil." 
Dave and Karen gave each other a puzzled look. 

Dave asked, "It is?" 

The man was trembling. He told them, "I don't know what else to say about it." 

Karen told him, "You can say if you recognize who the girl is." 

"It's you." he said, without looking at the picture again. "Could you please put that thing away?" 

Karen picked up the photo and showed it to Dave. He looked at it, and made another puzzled expression. Karen looked at it herself, shrugged, and put it back in her handbag. 

She said, "That was taken at the end of the combat game that was held at our school, Saturday before last." 

She asked the now deeply troubled man, "Do you believe me now?" 

"Yeh...yes. But how is this possible?" 

Karen repeated what she'd told Mr. Avery. "Prayer sir." 

"Prayer?" 

"Yes sir. I was as dead as every other cheerleader who got hanged that day, and then got ground into sausages or meat patties that night. I heard Dave pray for me. He said, "Lord Jesus, please keep Karen alive, I love her." 

Domnick asked Dave, "You prayed that?" 

"Yes sir. Those were my exact words." 

Karen said, "I also heard the Voice of God. 

"He told me, 'Karen arise and choose life, so that you and your children will live, and possess the land, that the Lord your God has given to you.' 

"And that's just what I did." 

Pastor Domnick Luzak, of the Zabelton Presbyterian Church, sat there silently, trying to understand what the girl from "The City of Hell" had just told him. 

The man finally said, "You're quoting the Bible. Deuteronomy: Chapter 30." 

Dave told him, "She's quoting the Word of God, spoken by the Voice of God Himself." 

Karen said, "Now I am alive and intact, and in Zabelton Pennsylvania." 

Dave added, "This might be the land that the Lord has given to Karen and her children." 

Pastor Luzak again didn't know what to say. 
After a long silence, the man finally spoke. "I'd like you both to come with me. Today I'm going fishing in Lake Wallenpaupak, with my brother Henry and my niece Charlene. You're both welcome to come along." 


The End

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