Note: In a departure from the usual fare, I thought I’d try my hand at fiction. Nevertheless, there are several important ideas in the following short story.
The man Leslie was currently calling “Dad” found it.
He wasn’t really Leslie’s dad–Leslie had never met his dad, but he had called 11 men dad over the past 10 years. At 14, Leslie couldn’t really remember much before that.
“Just wait until your mother comes home” the man had said. Leslie sat on the edge of the bed and wondered what his mother would do. Like everyone else Leslie knew, his family was Christian. Like all the other children in his neighborhood, Leslie went to public school, where he had been taught all about Jesus and Christianity. Christianity, he had learned, was all about loving your neighbor, tolerance, and not judging. Or, more accurately, only judging certain things: certain sins were of course antithetical to Christianity’s ethos of tolerance and therefore anathema. These cardinal sins included racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and slut-shaming.
Jesus was the only son of God, and She had sent him to earth to teach people about the errors of the aforementioned cardinal sins. Jesus was a man, but he was a gay black man who liked to fuck his disciple John, and so the savage, patriarchal, hetero-normative people he had been sent to enlighten killed him. This made him a hero and a martyr, despite being a man, and demonstrated how God, in Her goodness, could use even men for good despite their predilection to all the cardinal sins. The first step was to realize that as a man he was inherently sinful, and follow the instructions of his female betters, just as Jesus had followed God’s instruction. From the time Leslie could remember, he had been told to be like Jesus. That’s why he was in trouble now.
Leslie had hidden it under his mattress, and the man he was currently calling dad had found it.
Leslie knew it was a stupid place to hide it, but he had been secretly reading it at night in his bed, and it seemed too risky to try to move it every day. He wondered how the man he was currently calling dad had known. Still, he was glad the man hadn’t called the police. He wondered if his mother would call them. Leslie had been scared of the police as long as he could remember. It didn’t help that he was now taller and larger than any policewoman he had ever seen. He knew that the police were allowed to shoot any man who displayed “patriarchal or threatening” behavior due to the inherent violence of all men. Ever since he had found the book and started reading it, he had gotten in regular trouble at school for patriarchal posture.
Leslie thought briefly of calling the police himself, and reporting that the man he currently called dad had the book. He really wanted to, and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing the man hauled off or shot by the police. But he couldn’t. Before he had found the book, he could have–and certainly would have–but now he couldn’t. Leslie knew that possessing a copy of the book had been illegal since 2020–the year of perfect vision. He had learned a little about the book in school, where they always called it “The Book of Hate.” According to his teachers, it was a book of heinous blasphemies and hateful bigotry written by the very men who had killed Jesus. It claimed that God was a hateful bigot, and many people used it to justify their bigotry and commission of the cardinal sins.
Leslie hadn’t even known what it was when he found it. After all, he didn’t know it had any name other than The Book of Hate. He had started reading it out of curiosity, because he had never seen a book like it. It was tiny, much smaller than any book he had ever seen, fitting easily in his pocket. The cover was red, with a picture of some kind of vase inside a circle, and the title was New Testament. It was written by someone named Psalms Proverbs, which Leslie thought was a funny name.
After he realized that it was The Book of Hate, Leslie kept reading because he thought it was funny to read all the lies. But as he kept reading, he started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t so wrong. What if it was his teachers that were wrong? He almost threw the book away several times, but for some reason he just couldn’t. It was like the book had a perverse hold on him. Leslie wondered if he was a just a bigot. He didn’t want to be a bigot, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that the book convicted everything around him.
Leslie looked up. His mother was standing in the doorway with an old grey-haired woman who was holding the book and wearing a pink suit that assaulted his eyes with a large bag over her left shoulder. “This is Bishop Jendricks” Leslie’s mother said. The old lady stepped into the room, and Leslie’s mother disappeared from the doorway. Leslie stared at the old lady. He had never heard of a bishop, except in the book. His brain was spinning at maximum speed.
“Where did you find this book, Leslie?” the old lady asked. “In the old hotel, in the basement” Leslie answered. “Are you really a bishop?” The old lady looked at him. “Yes, I am. Do you know what that is?” “Not really” Leslie admitted. “But doesn’t a bishop have to be a man?” The old lady sighed. “You’ve been reading this book, haven’t you?” Leslie nodded, his eyes focused on the book. “This book is full of lies” the old lady continued “Lies about God, lies about people, lies about Jesus, and yes, lies about bishops. When I was a young girl, some people thought that I should not be a bishop because of what that book says. But the year of perfect vision, that book was outlawed because people realized how dangerous and bigoted those lies were.”
The old lady sighed and opened her bag. “You’ve read a lot of this book haven’t you?” she asked as she put the book in her bag. Leslie nodded, keeping his eyes on the book until it disappeared into the bag. “I’m going to show you that the book is full of lies” the old lady said, pulling a board from her bag. Leslie saw that the board had the letters A-M written in one line on it, with the letters N-Z in a second line underneath, and the words “yes” and “no” written in a third line below the first two. The old lady laid the board on Leslie’s bed next to him. She reached into her bag again and handed Leslie a triangular piece of plastic. Then she smiled at him. “I’m going to give you a rare privilege. I’m going to let you talk to God. I’ll ask the first question.” Leslie was confused. For two weeks now he had been talking to God–praying. He wasn’t very good at it, and he never heard God talk back, but he was pretty sure that anyone who wanted to could talk to God. Then the old lady bellowed in a loud voice “who are you?” and motioned for Leslie to place the piece of plastic on the board.
The moment the plastic touched the board, Leslie’s eyes opened wide in fright. He could not lift the plastic up again or release it, and some unseen force was dragging it across the board, moving his hand and arm. Leslie watched as it stopped on the letter G, then O, then D. “See?” said the old lady. “God is willing to answer your questions. Why don’t you ask Her if that book is true?” Leslie prayed as best he could. Suddenly, a change came over his face, and a depth came into his eyes. The plastic dropped from his hand as it left the board and he stood with his eyes focused on and hands raised towards a spot on the ceiling. “Help!” cried the old lady, trying to slide her chair away from Leslie and stand up at the same time.
At the first cry from inside the room, the four policewomen standing outside the doorway flowed in, rifles at the ready. Two went left and two went right, driving into the room and bringing rifles to bear on Leslie, who was still standing with his face and hands raised. A strange glow seemed to emanate from his face. Slowly, Leslie turned and faced the old lady, who had now comported herself and was staring at him as if transfixed. Leslie’s arms came down as he turned, his right dropping to his side and his left pointing at the old lady. In a slow, measured voice that somehow seemed to shake the entire building, Leslie spoke. “In the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her!”
The policewomen were all trained professionals, so Leslie was dead before he hit the floor. And yet his final act of bigoted violence–somehow accomplished through speech alone–was still terrifying. When the ringing of the shots had faded from everyone’s ears, the bishop was still writing on the ground. She was rushed to the hospital by paramedics, and released the next day, but something was different about her.
Two years later, about nine months ago, handwritten copies of the New Testament began to show up all over the city, causing no end of problems. It was eventually discovered that Bishop Jendricks was behind this string of hate crimes, and she was convicted and executed. However, the viral, addictive nature of hate had caused nearly a dozen persons to be infected by that time. Two have been captured and executed already, but the others remain unidentified, and it is feared that each of them may have infected at least two others by this time. The Bureau of Hate Investigations is working overtime to try and stamp out this bigotry, but needs the help of the citizenry. Please report any suspicious behavior.