Domnick and Charlene continued moving along the crowded corridors of the CityBuilding with Dave, Karen and Louise. As they approached the "Next Elevator Going Up", a slow moving, electrically motorized open truck made its way cautiously through the mass of people, who opened a path for the vehicle.
As the truck went by them, the people in the crowd kept calling out, "Welcome to Paradise!”
Then the vehicle went past Pastor Luzak and the others in his group. The truck's bed was packed from side to side, with several layers of dead men, women and children. Along the sides of the conveyance, the logo of the West Side Meat Company was displayed beside the words, "Healthy Meat That's Good to Eat" along with the photo of the dozen healthy young women in bikinis.
Dave, Karen and Louise joined with the crowd in calling out, "Welcome to Paradise!”
Then they boarded the Express Elevator Going Up, which occupied about one quarter of the block, from one street to the next. The Elevator was quickly packed with passengers. The doors slid shut, and the car began to rise.
It went up 90 Levels in five minutes. Then it stopped at Level 100. People getting off went to the right, while those getting on came from the left. As soon as the car was full again, the doors shut, and they rose up another 100 Levels. The procedure was repeated, every time the elevator stopped, at the next hundredth Level.
Inside the elevator, the air was not only very warm; in here it was stuffy. Many people had removed their top garments, including many young women. Domnick noticed that a large number of them wore necklaces carved from human knucklebones. Their earrings, bracelets, and hairclips had also been carved from human bones; so had their belt buckles. Many of them also had one or more shrunken human heads dangling from their belts.
When the doors opened at Level 700, Jimmy and Alyce boarded the Elevator, along with Larry and Sarah. They saw Karen, Louise and Dave, and came over to join them, along with the Pastor and Charlene. All four of them had removed their top garments and wore nothing above the waist.
Larry also carried a bulging clear plastic bag, with a young woman’s head inside. Charlene saw it and began to tremble.
Dave told her, “He’s going to have it shrunk, so he can wear it on his belt.”
Louise spoke in a peeved tone. "So here they are; the four wussies. You all wimped out, on one of the most important events in history, just 'cause you didn't like the smell."
"Yeah." Larry grinned, "But I did get to kill this woman.” He held up the plastic bag. “She had really big boobs. I shot the string bikini top off of her. My arrow cut right through the string between her boobs, and her whole bra went flying off in both directions. She died with her nipples on full display. That means she entered Paradise dressed to party."
"Hooray for you."
Now Dave called out, "Hey guys! I'd like to introduce our guest. This is the Pastor Domnick Luzak."
Larry looked embarrassed; so did the other three with him.
Larry said, "Pastor? You mean you're the clergyman who Louise went to find; the one from outside?"
The man nodded, "That's right."
The boy said, "I was just helping add to the food supply."
Domnick told him. "I understand that."
By the time they reached Level 1378 Domnick and Charlene were exhausted; so were Dave, Louise and Karen. The five of them moved in the crowd, going east through the West 52nd Street Corridor. Jimmy, Alyce, Larry and Sarah had remained with them.
As they continued moving along, Domnick noticed a sign ahead of them saying "Glad He Ate Her", hanging out from the wall above that establishment's entrance.
Domnick said, "Oh. It's 'Glad He Ate Her'." His voice sounded tired. "Not 'Gladiator'. The name is a pun."
"Actually," Dave told him, "The name describes how the owner would like his patrons to feel, after they leave."
The Pastor said, "Well personally, I will be glad that Charlene and I will have eaten the packaged food we brought with us. Then as soon as we're done, I'd like us to find a place to stay."
Louise groaned. "As soon as you're done? I've been going since 5:30 this morning; and I've gone a lot farther than the rest of you; at least today I have."
"It's all right Louise." The Pastor said, "You've done enough, but I'd like Dave and Karen to stay with us. They can show us the way to the Church, and introduce us to this Reverend MacDougal. It's like Charlene said. She and I are in going to need immediate help, finding a place to stay. I hope we'll be able to get that help from a fellow Christian."
"Uncle Domnick." Charlene said, "I'm just too hungry. I'd like to stop now. I've got packaged meals in my backpack."
"It's all right Charlene." The Pastor said, "You can go ahead with Louise and her friends, and use one of the microwave ovens."
His niece looked uneasily at Larry.
"I think I'd rather stay with you Uncle Domnick. I can wait to eat 'til you do."
Then they said good-bye to Louise and the other four, who went down the street and through the entrance into the Glad He Ate Her.
Pastor Luzak and Charlene continued on their way with Dave and Karen, heading toward the Church which stood one block east of the Glad He Ate Her, occupying the entire block between the 8th and 7th Avenue Corridors, and between West 51st and 52nd streets.
They went through the Church's broad front entrance on the east side of 8th Avenue, into a very large lobby, called the narthex. Beyond the narthex, an unbelievably gigantic sanctuary stretched all the way to the 7th Avenue end of the building. The pulpit rose high on the right, about halfway between the narthex and the 7th Avenue end. On the wall above the pulpit, a large, Presbyterian Cross hung, with a circle radiating around the crossbeams. To the left of the cross, was a symbol of the Holy Spirit/Dove descending. To its right was an Alpha and Omega symbol.
The Sanctuary was crowded. The pews, that all faced the pulpit, were packed with casually dressed people. Some were praying, others were reading the Bibles that they'd found in the racks, on the backs of the pews in front of them.
Pastor Luzak gazed at this all from the narthex.
He asked softly. "Are there worship services on Saturday afternoons?"
"No sir." Dave told him, "These are people who've just come in off the street to pray, read the Bible or meditate. The Church is open 24 hours a day for them."
The man nodded, "That's very good; a Church being available for these purposes whenever they're wanted."
Then he noticed just how casually many of the people were dressed. Some of the younger women sat praying, or reading the Bible, while wearing nothing above the waist, except necklaces carved from human knucklebones. Their earrings, bracelets, hairclips and belt buckles were also carved from human bones.
Back on the elevator, Karen had told him, "They're dressing for comfort."
Now one comfortably dressed woman shut the Bible she'd been reading, and replaced it in the rack. She got up out of the pew, and came out of the sanctuary. That was when Domnick noticed that she had a human bone cross dangling between her bare breasts, on a knucklebone necklace, along with a pair of shrunken human heads tied on her belt.
She smiled at Domnick, Charlene, Dave and Karen as she walked past them, saying "Good afternoon."
The Pastor greeted her courteously. Then she went out the door, and joined the crowd on 8th Avenue.
He then asked Karen, "Do you ever dress that casually yourself?"
"Oh yeah. Plenty of times. All the girls do."
"Do you ever wear any of those human bone 'accessories'?"
"Of course. A woman never goes anywhere, without being properly accessorized.
"Even the shrunken heads?"
"I do, when I'm being fashionable. A fashionable lady never goes anywhere, without at least one shrunken head on her belt. Of course it's not really considered chic, unless she has a male and a female pair on her belt."
Now Charlene said, "Of course."
Dave told her, "That's what every candidate for Homecoming Queen had on her belt, on the night of the Homecoming Dance."
Now Pastor Luzak asked, "So where do we find your Reverend MacDougal?"
Dave said, "He's probably in his office."
Dave led them down a stairway to the left of the entrance. They started moving through a long, brightly-lit corridor. Many people strolled back and forth, between notices that were tacked on bulletin boards, on both sides of the corridor, announcing many upcoming church sponsored activities.
A man's voice called out behind them. "Karen! Dave!"
They halted and turned around. A casually but fully clothed man approached them. He was in his mid-fifties, chubby and balding.
The man came up to Karen, Dave, Domnick and Charlene. He spoke to the high school students with concern.
"You're here. You haven't been killed. That means you've been skipping school. That's so unlike either of you."
"I know." Dave said, "Sorry Reverend MacDougal, but we have a legitimate excuse."
The man sounded peeved. "You're 'sorry'?"
"Reverend MacDougal." The Pastor of the Zabelton Church spoke. "I am Pastor Domnick Luzak. This is my niece Charlene."
"Welcome." The man shook his hand with both of them.
Domnick went on. "David and Karen have been with me. I will personally vouch that they do have a very legitimate reason for not being in school this past week."
The other man now listened.
"As I said, my name is Domnick Luzak. I am Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Zabelton, Pennsylvania, where Dave and Karen have spent every day of this week, from Sunday until yesterday morning."
Reverend MacDougal was taken aback. He wasn't sure what to say.
He finally repeated, "’Pennsylvania’?”
"That's right. We've come from outside the City of Manhattan Building."
The man put a finger to his lips. Then he lowered his voice.
"Let's all go to my office. We should discuss this in private."