Author : Ian Hill

The day’s outlook was bright as my father woke me up with a smile on his facing, saying that it was finally time to visit the holy city. So it was that we hastily underwent our morning rhythm with a great deal of fevered haste. We, my father and I, boarded the luxurious royal train replete with yellow carpet and finely crafted oak furniture emblazoned with crushed velvet. Everything was decorated with faint translucency, almost as if nearly invisible substructures sat underneath the surface of every material on the immaculate train. It was a wonder to behold, a creation of the church’s most revered officials.

There were others on the train, taking the same pilgrimage as us. Like me, they were children accompanied by their white-clad parents. An odd pall of worry had settled over a few of the church officials that patrolled the train’s various cars. I, however, was excited for the prospect of finally beholding the glorious splendor of this legendary city that had been put on a pedestal of perfection for my whole life. Others had told me it was as if a segment of heaven had descended down to bless the scorched human reality below. The city shimmered gold as its rich banners snapped in the cold, infectious wind.

I gazed to my side, looking out the window and at the field of decay beyond. The train cut a clean path through the tract of ruined vegetation, leaving a billowing trail of searing heat in its wake. We passed by partially melted deserts, calcified remains of sea creatures from an evaporated ocean, and great prairies dotted with massive impact craters. Tooth-like metal structure jutted out of the purpled ground, too geometric to be natural but too marred to be recognizable. It too was a wonder to behold.

The voyage was progressing as it did everyday for a different set of inductees, but something was wrong. The firmament wasn’t obscured by the haze of smog that plagued the world. The sky was clear, sharp, and tinged with natural color. I marveled up at the wide plain of blue that seemed to bubble and swirl with life. Puffy wisps of radioactive material roiled as they dissipated into nothingness.

My father leaned over my seat and glanced out the window, his expression a mask of fear and confusion. A sharp cry echoed through the train as the lead engineer slammed on the brakes. The unpleasant noise of metal grating on metal sent tremors of discomfort through the bright-eyed pilgrims. Something odd was happening.

The train system was broken from its endless routine as the massive chugging machinery of the church faltered in response to the looming anomaly that descended from the heavens to meet the cowering people below. I covered my ears as a side door opened, letting in a rush of sickeningly clean air. Never before had I breathed such purity so deeply. My lungs were unfamiliar with the untainted oxygen, causing me to cough violently as my troubled father rose to his feet.

Gradually, we funneled out of the train and onto the landscape beyond. This marked the first time I had stepped foot in a realm not constructed by man. The ground was soft and flexile, almost as if it had been assembled by the almighty hand of randomness instead of the cold calculation of the church’s machine efficiency.

My father gripped my shoulders and tried to push me back into the train as we heard the voice rumble across the terrain and permeate our very psyches. I resisted, knowing that this was important. This was what we had been waiting for. The church officials collapsed to the ground in reverence, smelling the sweet rot of the irradiated landscape as the fresh air released its toxins into the burning atmosphere.

The other children and I remained standing, gazing up into the lacerated firmament where he reached down from his holy realm. For the first time, our eyes truly opened and we saw the being that our whole lives had been devoted to. The church cried out in terror as their synthetic prophet manifested into reality, breaking their widespread reign of endless paranoid prayer.

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