A man in white robes stands at an apartment door. A heavy, pendulous necklace hangs near his belly. The apartment is not the sort to which you invite friends and definitely not where this guy normally hangs out.
“Can we please just talk for a moment?” he says
“Look, ever since I found out you guys are a cult…”
“Just because we’re a cult doesn’t mean we don’t care about you, Carolyn! I was just coming to see if you’re OK, and to see if — ”
“I’ll come back to your cult?”
“Well, of course! But I genuinely care.”
“I don’t know, Josiah. I was just getting used to calling you ‘reverend’ and it was a little creepy, and then I saw you were on the cult watch and I asked and you said yes, you were. And then I’m looking around, and we’re doing chants, and drinking oil, and trying to convert people. It just makes me uncomfortable now.”
“Well, I understand,” he says jovially, almost like Santa Claus. “But you don’t have to do any of that stuff… right away.”
“OK, that’s how you get me, though. I don’t want to get sucked in again.”
“It’s family! We suck you in, but it’s loving! Can I please just talk to you face to face?”
After a moment, the door creaks open. “Look at you here, Carolyn, in your studio. Aren’t you lonely, don’t you want community?”
“See! This is why I didn’t want to talk to you. Don’t make me feel bad!” she slaps at his arm. “I’m going to do racquetball or something.”
“Racquetball! Please! Do you think they’re going to have chanting at racquetball and soul bonding? No! You don’t find that kind of depth of connection outside a cult! And I know the word has a negative connotation because of Jim Jones and everything, but that’s not what we are! We are just coming together and bonding souls! Yes, there is some blood and some oil, and fire. Oh, you haven’t seen the fire yet. Don’t worry, it’s fun!”
Carolyn is playing with something with her toe.
“In our modern society, we’re so alienated from one another. It’s important to have a cult to go and connect with people.”
“It was the happiest I’ve been in a long time. It’s just, I’m always falling for things and I feel like an idiot. Like, when I saw you were on a cult watch, I felt like an idiot.”
“You assume that cult is a bad word!”
“It literally is, in the dictionary!”
“Well, we’re taking it back. It’s like our N-word!”
“You’re ridiculous,” she says, giggling.
“It’s just a spiritual gathering, you know? Just people coming together and connecting to something bigger than themselves, that’s it!”
“Reverend!” she says. “You have to believe that God is a goat and that he Baa’s our desires out of us as long as we drink a lot of oil. Saying it to you now, it sounds ridiculous. When we’re chanting in the halls of the old chapel — which, by the way…”
He puts up his hands in surrender. “We’re aware of the irony.”
“Yeah. It sounds normal in there somehow! But look, a goat god?”
“It doesn’t sound weird to me.”
“That’s because you’re leader of the cult!”
“Well, OK, I can’t change how you feel…” he pretends to leave. “Steve has been asking about you, you know.”
“Steve has been wondering where you’ve been.”
“I’m not lying! Just saying, you know… ‘Where is she?’ ‘Is she coming back?’ He’s not married, you know.”
He takes the first step down the stairs.
“Ok, I’ll come back to one meeting. And I’ll drink some oil. And I’ll make one blood pledge. But that is it!”
“Ok, see you on Thursday!”
Originally published at https://www.tumblr.com on January 30, 2020.