When I was growing up, I lived near a cult.
It was what it was, it wasn’t openly talked about but it was gossiped about during Saturday afternoon barbecues and whispered after the church service. Other than, ya know, growing up next to a cult, I lived a pretty down to earth life.
These guys were known as the Flyaway Colony. The leader, Douglas Luther, believed that he was sent by god to lead people to the cause and that one day he’d take them all away by levitating them to heaven like Jesus in the new testament. Yeah, pretty basic crazy cult crap. They lived off the grid for the most part, the followers camped out in tents surrounding this old farm house where they’d eat and worship. You could always tell if you ran into someone in town was apart of the colony- they wore plain brown clothes and smelled kinda ripe. The men always had beards. If one of the women was in town, they’d always have one of the men with them, probably their husbands.
And now that I think back on it, I never saw any of their children. Not once.
Of course we kids made up stories. How the Flyaway Colony put the kids to work as soon as they were able so they could serve their elders and betters, how Luther (honestly with a name like Luther, they should’ve known he couldn’t be trusted) had multiple wives, some as young as thirteen, and how they’d kidnap kids to work on the farm. Our parents would tell us to shush about it but the forbidden aspect of it all made it all the more tantalizing.
The colony was on a private patch of land in the middle of the woods. I actually lived within walking distance of it. Occasionally we’d dare each other to peer past the treeline to watch the members, running off the moment we thought someone spotted us while giggling and joking that we’d be forced to join the colony if Luther caught us.
Then one night I was dared by my friends to actually go onto the property.
We were bored. It was the dead of summer, I remember how hot it was that night as we all clambered around a fan during a sleepover. None of us could sleep. I thought I might actually die.
Orion then rolled over and said, “Brandon, have you ever gone up to the farm house?” He didn’t need to be specific, we were all making jokes about how the Flyaway Colony was sacrificing kids in the attic a few minutes before.
I snorted. “Hell no,” I double checked to make sure my mom wasn’t coming up the hall to hear me swear, “I don’t have a death wish.”
“So you’re just a wimp.” Orion grinned. “I bet you don’t have the guts to go up to the farmhouse and knock on the door.”
“I’m not a wimp!”
I regretted those words the moment they left my mouth. Orion’s cocky smirk grew, revealing all of his crooked teeth. “Dare you to do it then.”
I knew at that moment if I said no Orion would call me out on being a wimp. Not that I wasn’t scared, oh no, I definitely was. Mostly of what would happen if Luther caught me, he kinda gave me the creeps, always wearing these big old sunglasses no matter the weather and grinning like a creep. Not to mention if my mother caught me instead I’d be in for the ass whooping of my life.
I grumbled before I mumbled, “Fine. In the morning I’ll go and I’ll bring something back from the house. It’s too damn hot to go out now.”
Orion thankfully accepted that excuse and rolled back over.
I left at about six in the morning, it’d finally cooled off but I knew it’d be a scorcher by midday. Plus I wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. The sun was starting to rise, last autumn’s leaves sticking to my shoes as I walked through the forest. It wasn’t long before I got to the colony and right away I knew something was wrong.
The Flyaway Colony wasn’t a quiet place. Teenagers would be working in the fields while singing hymns, mothers would be cooking out and taking care of squabbling babies, and there’d be music playing from the tape player that sat near the typically open kitchen window.
Today all I could hear was the tape player.
I carefully walked into the campsite, nearly tripping over a dropped kitchen pot that was caked in mud. Some part of me wanted to call out but I bit my tongue. What if Luther was lurking around the corner, waiting to grab me and turn me into a member of the colony?
It was deathly silent other than that damn tape. I recognized the faintly playing song as ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ No one was there. I poked my head into one of the tent flaps.
Empty, except for two well-worn sleeping bags and a Bible sitting on the pillow. I walked in and picked up the Bible, flipping it open to find a picture hidden in the pages. It was of a middle aged woman with two teenage daughters that looked just like her. They all looked so happy. I flipped it over to find a message written on the back-‘MISS YOU EVERY DAY. HEAVEN CANNOT COME SOON ENOUGH.’
Another looked and I realized I did recognize the woman. It was hard realizing that this smiling woman was one of the grim faced members of the cult that I’d occasionally spot in the grocery store.
I stuffed the Bible in my belt so I could have my proof. I set the picture back on the pillow though. I couldn’t bring myself to take that too.
I walked out of the tent and headed up to the house. Maybe they all went on a field trip to some holy sight or whatever. That would give me plenty of time to explore. As sick as it was I really was curious about the place.
The screen door swung open with a groan. I slowly stepped inside.
It was like the owners of the house meant to go out for just a second and never returned. Something that might have been tomato soup had long boiled over onto the stove and stank up the house. Naturally I went up to the stove and turned it off, not wanting the place to burn down around me.
The whole place smelled like that burnt tomato soup. I nearly gagged but I looked around the kitchen. Someone had been reading from the Bible at the table, someone else had been balancing their checkbook there as well. A pacifier laid on the threshold between the kitchen and the living room, now covered in dirt from being dropped on the floor.
The wind banged the screen door against the wall and I screamed, nearly shitting myself as I fell back on the floor with a bump.
After I realized I was just being a dumb ass, I thought I heard something upstairs. A groan or someone resting on the floor boards. Yes, I was a dumbass back then and decided to go up there and make sure no one was dying. Because that’s the smart thing to do when you’re exploring the base of a cult.
The living room seemed more askew. A chair was knocked over, a glass was smashed on the floor. Whatever was in it had long dried, leaving a sticky stain on the wooden floor. I peered in the room that was next to the living room and discovered a child’s room.
I thought everyone had lived outside, other than maybe Luther, so I walked in to get a better look. It wasn’t very wide, I could probably spread my arms out and touch both walls, but it was long. There were bunk beds pushed against the wall, the beds made with white sheets that had gone gray with age.
All over the walls were pictures of angels, drawn with crayon and likely by a very devoted five year old. Probably two given the bunk beds. The pictures on the walls were basically what you’d expect, golden hair, smiles, white robes and a set of wings. The overflowing garbage bin caught my eye though, it full of crumpled up paper balls.
I knelt beside the bin and carefully opened up one that didn’t seem overly torn.
These pictures weren’t of pretty blonde angels with smiles. These were of… something else. The child drew them with much more care than the ones on the walls, spent real time on them. The thing in them had many wings and eyes, almost too many to count. It carried a bright orange sword in its right hand, probably meant to be a fiery sword.
This time I knew I heard a groan coming from upstairs. A groan of pain. I dropped the photo and bolted for the stairs. I threw open the door and ran on up, the smell of burnt hair causing me to choke and nearly trip on my knees.
I turned into the room at the top of the stairs and froze.
You can see a dead body in a coffin, but that’s nothing like stumbling across a corpse.
Two men laid on the floor. One was face down, or well, his torso was. His legs were still facing right ways up. The other guy died in a position that made it look like he was holding his guts in and not doing a great job of it, his intestines spilling out on the ground.
In the center of the room stood the person in the drawings. I couldn’t tell you male or female, only that they had skin almost pitch black but still glowed with a blinding light. Their hair was inky black and cascaded down their back. Their face was covered in glowing orange eyes, I saw no mouth or nose. Their white robe was now stained with red, the sword hanging loosely at their waist. Blood still dripped from the tip.
In their arms were cradled two tiny girls, both with dark brown curls and looked asleep in the creature’s arms. For some stupid fucking reason, I stepped into the room and saw the source of the groaning.
There was someone still alive in here, propped up in the corner of the room. His face had been mutilated, his nose and ears cut off and his jaw hanging crookedly. He made another groan and blood spilled out of his mouth onto his scabbed chin.
The only reason I recognized him was because of the sunglasses. Luther.
I ran up to him and carefully removed the glasses, only to see that his eyes were gone. Dug out of his skull, blood coating his cheeks and crusting on his glasses.
I heard a voice in my head and I collapsed with the weight of it. I can’t ever forget the sound of it nor what it said.
“Do not be afraid.”
I started uncontrollably sobbing, slowly turning to see the creature approaching me. Now that I saw the girls closer, I realized that their heads were flopping loosely on their bruised necks, that their lips had turned blue. Dead. They were dead too.
“Go home and tell your father and mother what you see here today. Tell everyone who will hear. This is not a day of joy or good news, but it is a message to be learned. These children…” The creature clung tighter onto the children’s corpses, “Too late for them, but not the others. Tell them. Tell all the people the fate of the Flyaway Colony.”
I don’t know how I got home. I do know it was nearly night time by the time I returned and that my parents had called the cops. I showed up to the house with second degree burns on all of my exposed skin, clutching a Bible and Luther’s sunglasses. I was unable to speak for three days. My eyesight was permanently damaged, I’m now considered legally blind. I can see enough, but I can’t drive and I go everywhere with my guide dog Marco.
Once I could speak again, I told people about the Flyaway Colony. My parents, my friends. Classmates. Teachers. Cops. Doctors. Anyone who will listen. I can’t explain it, but I feel obligated to share what I have experienced.
And I suppose since you’re reading this, I’ve successfully shared the story of the Flyaway Colony with you too.