The Age of Enlightenment

My dad wasn’t great at being a dad.

I’m not saying he was Satan incarnate, he just had a bad temper is all. There was five of us kids, and after mom passed he was stuck raising us on his own, so he had to run a tight ship. Otherwise we would be nothing but lazy troublemakers.  

I was the second oldest, my sister Naomi was the oldest, and then there was Abby, Caroline, and Lil’ Liam. The moment Naomi was in highschool she was in charge of keeping house and making sure we were all good by the time dad got home.  

She was super bossy about it, but she just didn’t want to see Dad mad. And he was pretty scary when he was mad- threw things against the walls, screamed how we were all selfish brats who didn’t respect him, sometimes we got whacked but it was mostly just the yelling. Naomi was pretty grateful when I entered highschool- meant she wasn’t the only one who had to be bossy.

We did our best, you know- we cleaned the house, we did the laundry, everyone did their homework and by the time dad walked through the door dinner better be done or close to done and the table set.  

Like I said, we did our best. We didn’t always succeed, cuz the kids got cranky or didn’t want to clean or would hide their homework from us. Couldn’t hide homework from dad though. He could just about smell it.  

It was Thanksgiving vacation when they showed up on our door.  

We did good that day, Dad didn’t even look mad when we sat down for dinner. And then the doorbell rang.  

You could see the vein pop out of his forehead from across the table. I nearly sunk into the floor, we’d done so well that day and someone had to interrupt dad’s dinner. Not much made him more ticked than that.  

Initially he ignored it, grumbling something about salesmen, but we were all on edge. Caroline was pushing her peas around her plate instead of eating them and Liam was sucking on his thumb, at four he was too old for that but it was a nervous habit we’d yet to break out of him. I silently prayed for the people at the door to get the hint and leave.

Another ding-dong later and I knew we weren’t that lucky.

Dad shoved his plate away and stomped to the door while cussing up a storm. Naomi groaned and buried her face in her palms. All our hard work was now ruined by some jerks interrupting dinner.  

Since we were already screwed, I figured it couldn’t get any worse by sneaking after Dad and peering out of the wall to see who was at the door.  

My dad pulled the door open and barked an angry ‘WHAT?!’ at the people outside.  

They weren’t neighbors, obviously, most knew better than to come over to our house but I also could tell they weren’t salesmen. It was a pair, a man and a woman. The woman had curly brown hair and a wide smile, the man was prematurely balding and was more somber. The woman offered her hand to my dad, completely missing the fact he looked ready to blow his top. “Hi, I’m Ann, this is my husband Kennen. We’re here from the church down the ways. May we come in?” 

I swore Dad’s face went redder than a tomato, before he proceeded to literally laugh in their faces. “Get the hell off my porch, I’m not buying any of your damn books or going to any damn meetings.” He proceeded to slam the door in their faces… or would’ve, had Kennan not stuck his foot in the door.  

The door bounced back open and Kennan managed to mostly disguise his grimace with a cough. Ann was still smiling, offering forward a pamphlet. “I understand you’re likely a busy man, sir, but no one doesn’t have time for the truth. What time will you be available for a chat?”  

My dad snatched the pamphlet, crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage right next to the door. “Never. I work a full time job and have five brats to parent on my own,” He snarled.  

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, but if you’re looking for support, the church offers daycare and there’s counseling services for those who need a little help from their day to day-”

My dad slammed the door again, this time Kennan didn’t attempt to stop it. I skittered back to the dining room to avoid being caught away from the dinner table, but it didn’t matter. Dad stormed back in, screamed at Caroline for playing with her food, and told us all to get to our rooms, right now. I’d not had more than a bite of meat loaf but it didn’t matter- no one deserved dinner right now.

The thing is with a strict parent, you learn how to get around them. Even if the price was a heavy one to pay, I knew how to sneak around my dad to snitch something to eat. I couldn’t sleep with my stomach growling like it was.  

After gorging myself on cold, greasy meatloaf that was still on the table, I headed back to my room only to pause at the trash can.  

I almost went back up to my room, knowing if my dad happened to realize I snitched the pamphlet from the trash I’d be in for a beating and a grounding. But my curiosity outweighed my fear and I carefully lifted the crumpled up paper from the trash before hurrying to my room, careful not to step on any squeaky floorboards. I’d learned where each one was over my years of sneaking around.

Before you make an assumption, this wasn’t from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or really any other church I’d ever heard about before.  

These people were from The Enlightened. The pamphlet was nothing special, white paper with black print and a cartoony picture of a lamp on the front, probably some sort of clip art or whatever. But the words inside… they did something for me. I still have the first sentences memorized… ‘The age of enlightenment is upon us. The reason behind everything exists with us.’  

I poured over the few pages for days, hiding the pamphlet in my pillow so I could read it every night before bed. They said everything I wanted to hear- how we’re all here to help each other out, how life should be about loving and respecting others… it was truly enlightening.  

I wished so hard that Ann and Kennen would come back, I had so many questions I wanted to ask them. I was still a bit skeptical, back then, but just after we got home from school there was that knock at the door. I answered and there they were. Kennen now had a crutch, apparently Dad broke his foot, but there was no hard feelings.

“I read the pamphlet,” I blurted out before they could say a thing. Ann blinked a few times before she grinned ear to ear.

“I hoped someone would,” She said, taking my hand in hers and squeezing tightly, “Can we come in? Just for a few minutes.”  

I invited them in, poured them lemonade, and we talked. They explained everything.  

The Enlightened revered something called Beings. They weren’t to be worshiped, only respected and asked of for guidance. The Beings were here when we first arrived, after we swum through the stars as fish. Hell was in fact located in the sun, or well, a portal to hell was. We were lucky to have made it and were not distracted by the warmth.  

The being that Kennen and Ann revered the most was called Riesis, and Riesis asked them to come to my house. They knew someone would be interested in hearing them speak. And although yeah, back then the Being stuff seemed silly, Kennan and Ann were nice. We all liked them, even Naomi, who was even more unimpressed by the Beings than I was. Liam was practically curled up in Ann’s lap by the time Dad came home.

Not a single chore was done, homework hadn’t been touched, and Naomi had completely forgot about starting dinner when the door banged open. That meant Dad’s day at work was lousy so we better have done everything that needed to be done. Which. We hadn’t.

When he saw Ann and Kennen in our living room, his face went from white to red to purple so quickly I thought he had a stroke.  

“What the hell are they doing in our house?” His rage immediately turned on Naomi, who began to shake.

I couldn’t let her take the blame, not this time, so I stood up and told the truth. “I invited them in, Dad, they’re nice-”

I couldn’t tell him all I knew now, how I had become enlightened. Before I could, he backhanded me so hard I think a tooth almost went loose.  

“Are you stupid?!” Spittle flew from his enraged lips as he pointed at the couple. “These nutjobs aren’t even from a real church!”

For the first time, I saw Ann look mildly peeved. Her lips pressed together in a firm line as she stood. “At first I thought you were just jaded, but now I see you’re just as close minded as most of the world. The enlightenment is coming, sir, whether you want it or not.”

“Go back to your fish stories, you crazy bitch,” My dad sneered, “And get out of my house before I call the cops and tell ‘em you and your husband were doing some freaky shit with my children.”

My face went red at the implication and Ann sputtered angrily before taking a deep breath and the smile returning to her face, a smile that didn’t come close to seeming happy. “Fine. Good day, sir,” She walked to the door, her husband limping right behind him.  

After they were out of the house I got the worst beating of my life. My dad made me give him back the pamphlet and he shredded it into itty bitty pieces. I’d never be able to read it again. I couldn’t even lay on my back in bed that night because of how sore I was. My siblings were threatened with worse if anyone brought up The Enlightened ever again.

I fell asleep crying because I’d never be able to feel that happiness I felt with Ann again.

In the middle of the night I woke up to someone collapsing against my door. It scared the hell out of me, I nearly fell out of bed.

I heard a gurgle and against my better judgment, I walked up to the door and opened it.

There was my dad, slumped up on the ground, his front all soaked with blood pouring from a jagged wound in his throat. Naomi was standing right behind him, holding a steak knife so tightly in her red stained hand it was shaking.

I stared blankly at my dying father, who reached up to me in a silent gesture for help. I looked at my sister. A few specks of blood were drying on her bone white cheeks. I held out my hand. “Sis, give me the knife,” I said.

I didn’t need to ask twice, she gave it up so easily. I looked at my dad, who looked so damn relieved… until I raised the knife and jabbed it right into his chest so hard the blade snapped off the handle.  

My dad managed a final gasp before he slumped down dead. I looked up at Naomi, who sniffled and wiped the tears off her cheeks. “He… he came to me in my dream. Riesis. He told me… that this is what I needed to do so we could all join the Enlightened.” For the first time I can remember, she smiled. My big sister was always so serious, so grumpy and bossy. Now she finally looked free.

“Go call the cops and get cleaned up. Don’t worry, I’ll wipe off the knife so your prints aren’t on it. Go.”  

My sister took all the blame. Said she was done with my dad’s bullshit and finally snapped. I think it helped that everyone in the community knew that my dad was a dick and she was only sixteen. She’ll be out of prison in about seven more years, we’re planning on throwing a big party when she’s out.

Helped that Kennan was a great lawyer too. Turns out despite rarely saying a word out of the courtroom once he was in it he was a master of words. He represented Naomi pro bono, not a dime was spent on his defense and we owe him forever for it. And to add to this happily ever after, we got adopted by Kennan and Ann.  

Riesis told them they were meant to be our parents, it turns out. Ann couldn’t have kids, but he came to their dreams and told them to go to my house, and return when our dad wasn’t home. Originally the plan was to convince us to come along before he got home, but this way still worked. Ann’s a near perfect mom.  

I’m now eighteen myself. Much better off than I would’ve been if my dad was still alive. Tonight I’ll devote myself to service of Riesis.  

In return he will teach me how to whisper into people’s ears as they sleep, to tell people what he bids. I’ll be his voice now, along with Kennan and Ann.  

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