Rap! Rap! Rap!
Indigo opened his eyes. He woke standing which was the only way he could sleep ever since the Mars mission. He unfastened the belts he used to hold him upright, straightened his robe, and went to the door.
“Who’s there?” He asked through the pressboard.
“The innkeeper. I’m waking you for church.”
“I didn’t ask to be waked for church,” Indigo replied.
“We don’t ask if you want to be waked,” replied the innkeeper. “Service starts in one hour. Be there or find somewhere else to stay.”
Apparently keeping the Sabbath was not optional, even for secular spacemen. Indigo sighed, then washed his face in a porcelain bowl resting on a credenza. His wardrobe of brown Mao tunic with a magenta bolo tie was topped off with a black stove pipe top hat. His hair spilled out from under the brim, slowly growing towards his shoulders. “Insufficient,” he lamented, but at least it was growing. He affixed his blue sunshades to his eyes, grabbed his gentleman’s cane and stepped out of his room, walked down the stairs and out into the dusty street.
It was blue and bright that Sabbath, with a cool breeze gently blowing. The bite of winter was gone but never entirely forgotten. It would be returning soon enough.
To the north of Hegeltown, the fields, which were sown with genetically modified seed back when the snowflakes still fell, were beginning to sprout. Sowing Day, as authorized by the Midsanto Department of Agriculture, was right on for once— not so early that a hard freeze killed the fragile seedlings but not so late that the crops could not ripen. It was a tight window and two in seven years were a complete agricultural failure. Hegeltown boasted a growing season of a mere 75 days which was quite short even by Midsanto corporate standards but it was just long enough for the genetically modified potatoes to ripen. Potatoes and mutant sheep and goat products comprised the bulk of the economic output of the valley.
Indigo made his way down Main Street to the church which was surrounded by sullen burros lashed to hitching posts and two methanol powered, chromium motor cars. One of these vessels was commissioned by the ceremonial Village Manager and the Territorial Vizier (who really ran things). Both cars were the property of Gaiastan but those officials had exclusive use of them so long as they remained in public service. No one else in the valley was permitted the use of transportation powered by internal combustion.
On his way to the church, Indigo passed by men in their freshened Mao tunics and their female partners adorned in the most brightly colored pantsuits one could envision. Indigo climbed the three steps at the entrance of the whitewashed temple, removed his top hat and passed into the house of worship.
Inside, Indigo found a seat on a hard pew next to an androgynous khaki and blue brat probing deep into its left nostril with its right index finger. Indigo surveyed the church. Upon the dais rested an altar draped in white linen. Behind it, on the wall, was an embroidered eye— the all seeing eye— surrounded by an aura of stylized rays extending outwards in a pattern evoking the shape of an angelic silhouette. An acolyte was setting the last of three candles alight. He bowed, then rose.
“All rise,” he commanded.
Enter the priest who was a lanky person of indecipherable gender draped in white robes. It was most likely a eunuch, as there were very few female priests and membered males were not permitted into the Gaiastolic clergy. On the table lay a single roll of white linen bound by vines. Adjacent to that was a silver grail. The priest knelt before the altar placing its fist to its forehead and closing its eyes giving the appearance of deep, meditative concentration. After a brief moment of silence, it rose and turned to the flock.
“Welcome,” it spoke with a faint grin. “Welcome to all of Gaia’s children. May the Great Benign Mother cast her blessings upon us all.”
“And may we protect her from all our wretchedness,” replied the congregation.
“I shall begin with a reading from the Book of Ehrlich.”
“We open our minds…” answered the parish in unison.
“And Gaia saw the selfishness of man was great and against her, and every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil materialism. And it repented Gaia that She had made man on the earth, and it grieved Her at Her heart. And Gaia said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth for it repenteth me that I have made him.
But Ehrlich found grace in the eyes of Gaia. Ehrlich was a wise man and perfect in his knowledge, and Ehrlich walked with Gaia.
The earth was corrupted by man and the earth was filled with violence and pollution. And Gaia looked out upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all mankind had corrupted his way upon the earth. And Gaia said to Ehrlich, the end of mankind is come before me; for my earth is filled with violence and pollution through them; and, behold, I will destroy man.
Make thee an ark of impervious steel; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and thou shalt seal it within and without. And this is the fashion which thou shall make it: The length shall be six hundred feet, the breadth of it one hundred feet, and the height of it twenty feet. Thou shalt bury this ark one mile below the pole. A shaft thou shalt make to the ark and a door of the shaft shalt thou set upon the surface.
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a frozen flood of glaciers upon the earth, to destroy all mankind, wherein is the breath of life, from upon Gaia; and every man that is on the earth shall die.
But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark. And the seed and cell of every living thing, two hundred of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep their genome alive with thee.
Thus did Ehrlich; according to all that Gaia commanded him, so did he.”
And when the reading was concluded, the priest placed its fist to its forehead and closed its eyes again. It said, “Let us pray…” and everyone joined in except for Indigo who lip-synched the words because he did not believe in any deity but was raised to be a respectful Humanist.
The congregation prayed:
Our Mother, who art the earth
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom hath come
Thy will being done
On earth for this is our heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our pollutions
As you forgave those who polluted before us
And lead us not into materialism
But deliver us from ego
For thou art the guardian, the benefactor, and the life everlasting
Long after humanity
Then the priest removed its robes and stood before the congregation naked which revealed that it was, at least originally, a male. He turned to the altar and raised his hands up in silent prayer which he concluded with a bow. He lowered his arms to the altar and unrolled the white linen bundle. He laid out an array of silver instruments and prepared them with his unclothed back still turned to the congregation. There was no sound except a stray cough. And the great, radiating, embroidered eye on the wall seemed to grow brighter casting the naked priest in a glorious halo or light. The priest walked slowly around to the other side of the altar to face the congregation with arms crossed concealing the application of his holy instruments. The congregation all lowered their heads except for Indigo who was enthralled by the Communion ritual which he had not seen for many, many years.
The priest continued, “Great Mother Earth, you have made yourself for us; our human hearts are poisoned with materialism until they’ve been cleansed by your purity. We beseech thee, cure our wretchedness by accepting the gift of our blood, so that your thirst may be quenched and you again may offer your breast to the insatiable hunger of the wretched, suckling, savage man. By the power of your spirit, lead us unto the earthly table where we may again feast on the vision of your bountiful glory forever and ever. Amen.”
And with that, the priest unfurled his arms revealing two silver needles inserted into his veins. And from those needles and down his arms ran two latex arteries which terminated in a cinch between each thumb and index finger.
“Please accept this gift, oh Great Gaia!” The priest commanded.
He released the ends of the latez tubes and his blood, the symbolic blood of man, shed for the remission of mankind’s sins, spilled out into the silver Chalice of Life. Many of those whose heads were bowed raised one hand as if to channel the great spirit of Gaia which was apparently swirling about in the ether above their heads.
“Amazing,” Indigo remarked under his breath. He wished that Staley was there to see it.