Savior, by Scott Craven
New Mexico's Very Large Array Radio Telescope
Debra lost count of the hours, days … weeks? Two things she knew: her restraints were looser and the stories more depraved.
Oh, and that she is probably going to die when this is all over. If you ask her, it’s a shitty way to treat a savior. Or, as they refer to her, The Savior.
Debra sits in a cold barren room on a sturdy wooden chair, one that had sucked the feeling from her butt within the first hour. She listens to them one by one, each story worse than the first. Not just stories, though. Confessions. She is a sin sponge, absorbing their transgressions and granting them absolution, an act that will – as she’s been told time and time again – to save the world.
She shifts to restore blood flow to at least one butt cheek, but it only aggravates the pain in her back. Debra focuses on her current confessor, as if she can concentrate the discomfort away.
“So, I continue to have sex with Toby even though I know it’s an abomination,” he says while wringing his hands.
Though Debra’s she is to say nothing until the forgiveness phase, she can’t let this one pass. What are they going to do, kill her? Yes.
She shifts again, levels her gaze at eyes that reveal a hollowness behind them. “Homosexuality,” she says, pausing a half beat, “is not an abomination.”
“Oh, I know,” the man nods. “Toby is my neighbor’s dog.”
He is followed by another and another and another, each in shapeless gray sweatsuits purchased at a thrift store’s going-out-of-business sale.
Debra remembers nothing between the accident and waking up shackled to a bed, her head throbbing and her ribcage feeling as if being squeezed by a giant nutcracker. The details over the next few days remain fuzzy, but all comes into brutal clarity with the first visit of Valkronus, surely not her birth name unless her parents knew she was destined to lead a cult.
Debra’s arrival, as if she’d had a choice in the matter, was no accident, but destiny (though Debra would come to believe it was more kidnapping than anything else). Valkronus went on to spell out Debra’s duties for the next hours, days … weeks? Those pursuing moral awakening and blessed enlightenment would sit across from Debra and divulge their deepest (and as it turned out, depraved) secrets. Debra, in turn, was to listen in silence, speaking only at the end to offer forgiveness’ and absolution.
“We do this not to save ourselves,” Valkronus said, voice dripping with grave concern, “but the world, as we have done for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”
Valkronus, a frail woman whose billowy sweatsuit suggested she could be carried off in a slight breeze, placed two fingers under Debra’s chin, their gazes meeting. “This is your duty as The Savior, and The Saviors before you.”
How many, Debra wonders, sat on this same chair in the same featureless room listening to the same degenerates mistaking hostages for saviors?
Another enters. Debra recognizes her as the woman ordered to feed Debra, emptying the bed pan as needed. She reaches into the memory haze for a name. Esmandia? Delvania? Something like that, if not more ridiculous. Wrinkles crease a forehead framed by graying brown hair. A round, soft face shows none of the anxiety of Debra’s previous visitors.
“Forgive us Savior, for we have sinned,” she starts.
Us, we? Debra thinks. For the first time, a confessor has her complete attention.
“I’m sorry for the way you’ve been treated,” the woman continues. “It’s time to atone for our greatest sin.”
In a dramatic fashion, the woman pulls off her sweats to reveal jeans and a white “I (heart) SF.” She goes to work on the restraints, Debra feeling the blood rush back into her hands. She stands but the world tilts. Debra stumbles backward, preparing for impact just as hands grip her elbows, hoisting her back to vertical. Her vision clears, revealing a second person, the one still holding her upright. He’s young, no more than thirty. His expression seems to be one of sympathy, a look Debra never thought she would see again.
“We’re getting you out of here,” he says.
“Why?” The question crosses Debra’s lips before she even knows she’s asking it. She doesn’t trust anyone, especially those who want to help her.
“Because it’s time this came to an end,” he says.
He steers her toward the door. “I’m Eric, by the way, formerly known as Osvalder. You know Bess as Marvanya.” Noticing Debra’s hesitation, he adds, “I know you have a million questions. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for answers. If you want to live, you’ll follow us.”
“They’re going to kill me, then,” Debra says.
“Yes,” Bess says, holding the door open. “Burned alive, to be exact, which happens to every sixth Savior.”
“How many have there been?” Debra asks.
“Enough to save the planet,” Bess says. “Too many,” Eric says at the same time.
Sandwiched by her two (maybe) rescuers, Debra rushes down one hallway after another before bursting through a door and into the cold night air. She briefly wonders what time it is, only because time hadn’t mattered for days.
They race through a maze of alleys, Debra keeping up because it’s the only thing she can think of doing. Every step away from the chair and its restraints was a step closer to freedom. She has to believe that if she is to cling to hope.
A door opens and Debra stumbles into a room identical to the one she left, this one without a chair but with a window high on the opposite wall, which casts a moonlit square in the middle of a concrete floor.
“They’re close,” Bess says. “I can feel them.”
“How much longer?” Eric says, nodding toward Bess’s wrist. She looks at her watch. “Sixteen minutes.”
“According to the Book of The Prophecy,” Eric says, sounding to Debra as if a challenge.
“Exactly. And as long as they believe it, that’s all that matters. We just have to-“
Shouts echo outside. Debra has no idea how far away they are, but she they make those sixteen minutes an eternity.
“What the hell is going on?” Debra manages to say. “Who are you people and what does a book have to do with anything?”
Bess and Eric exchange glances. “She deserves to know, especially if …” Eric trails off, Debra hardly needing to read his mind to know where he was going.
“Fine,” Bess says, taking a seat on the cold concrete. Debra and Eric do the same. “Welcome to the Sacrificial Order of Divine Perpetuity, keeping the world alive one death spectacle at a time. Every few months, at a specific time outlined in the Book of Prophecies, we kill someone by various and rotating means. You were to be burned alive.”
“That is fucking crazy,” Debra says.
“Yet perfectly logical to everyone’s who’s witnessed a sacrifice and woken up the next day, sun shining,” Bess says. “Small price to pay to save the planet, right? Until the day they take your brother” (she looks at Eric) “or your mother. Because just maybe they don’t believe as strong as they should.”
“But if you miss a sacrifice and the sun still rises, it ends,” Bess says. She looks at her watch. “Eleven minutes from now, with another five minutes built in to adjust for any errant timing, all this come crumbling down.”
Seconds tick as shouts approach. By the time the door is broken down, the three are surrounded by the absolved, it is too late.
Bess smiles at Debra. “You’re free,” she says. “So are we.”
The report comes up on a computer terminal rarely checked by the handful of astronomers whose days are filled with coffee and boredom.
The intern taps a few keys, double-checks the results. It’s significant enough to bring to one of the more sympathetic researchers.
“A solar ejection,” the scientist says. “Unusual given the age of the star, so catalog it-“
“That’s not the most unusual thing about this,” the intern says. “That system has, well, several planets, can’t remember exactly. But only one that’s inhabitable. And that ejection? Wiped it out, as if aiming at it.”
“Nice catch, young lady. Exceptional work. How did you find it?”
“For some reason, I had an urge to check the Deep Exploration Base Radio Array. There it was.
“Funny, I thought we’d taken DEBRA offline. Anyway, write it up the notes so we can present them tomorrow.”
“But I’m off tomorrow.”
“Finish them when you return to the office then. It’s a fascinating discovery but hardly worth sacrificing your free time.”
Scott Craven is a former journalist with more than forty years in the newspaper business, spending his retirement to spill a few stories of his own. He recently placed a twisted tale, “Gone Fishin’,” with Dread Imaginings. On the lighter side, Scott's middle-grade trilogy “Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie” was originally published by Month9Books and Blackstone Audio. The first book was optioned for a TV movie by Nickelodeon.
Leave a Reply.
HalfHourToKill.Com is a literary website publishing authors of Flash Fiction and Short Stories in the genres of Fantasy, Horror and Noir. Feel free to submit your Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction work to us year round.
Site powered by Weebly. Managed by SiteGround