Mary: First Observation
I am Mary Cobbler.
I live in Far East Territory Region 1 of the God’s Domestic Haven Sect.
I do not know what I want out of life, because all my life I have been told that I only need two things: to live a Godly life and to please my husband and family.
But I have a secret I have been keeping.
A confession to make that starts by the dark waters of the little bay town where I live.
Something I have seen and should have reported but did not.
It was three nights ago.
I was just getting ready to go to bed. Father and mother and I had finished our nightly vigils. We lit the candles and prayed as the Founder orders us to do every night and morning. Then Father and Mother went to bed in their separate rooms, and I in mine.
Our house is in the center of the town. Our town is very tiny and old. More than a hundred years, or so I am told. All of the buildings are dilapidated, tiny, two storey buildings. Some have wrap around porches with white fences and swings. Some have tiny gardens with brown, picket fences in the back. Mother loves our garden out back. She used to spend so much time there growing herbs and vegetables...until, until...
….I am getting off track. Father says I do that...too much.
I can see the bay from my house. It curves around the town and on the other side are all these abandoned buildings and docks.
There is a small bridge around the bend and another one further down. Both are abandoned as well. The roads along them are all full of potholes and rotting tar, unlike the narrow, gravely streets that wind through our small town.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Again.
When I go to bed at night I like to leave the window open so I can see the river. Sometimes I imagine myself sinking to the bottom of it and swimming with the fishes, floating away to wherever I want whenever I want. No vigils. No daily lessons. No rules and rules and rules.
Usually, the river is calm, but not that night.
It was rough, with waves shifting and lapping the shores. I kept thinking to myself that I wished it would stop because the sight of it was upsetting me so.
I kept thinking to myself that even the river cannot escape it’s trappings and that is why it is so angry, but those thoughts only further made me upset because to put feelings to an inanimate object would be to anger God...or so the Founder tells us.
That is when I saw it.
I can see part of the street too, and the houses and buildings that line it on the other side, just before the bay starts.
There is an old warehouse that is long with grey, planks for siding on that side of the street.
There are posters along the side of its planks. Posters of the Founders face. Posters of a family of five people. Mother. Father. Sister. Brother. Sister. The poster of the family says “Protect the family unit.” I can read the bold writing on it from my bed.
That night it was obscure, however, because a figure was standing in front of the posters and the warehouse, waving his arm around in a strange fashion. Sometimes he would lift his arm up and down in a wave. Other times he would move it in a circle. It took me a while to figure out that he was spelling something in the air with his hand. No. With something in his hand.. It was a figure dressed all in black with a black mask covering his face.
He finished at the end of the row of signs and then started for the street. The figure was walking briskly. In a moment, he disappeared around the corner.
Something inside me compelled me to get up and rush to the window so that I might follow this figure’s path.
I shifted my covers aside and tried to keep my footfalls quiet on the squeaky floor as I moved towards the window.
When I got there, I could see the figure heading down the street that our house is on towards the bay. He walked quick until he got to the little dock that was down there. There is a small shack with a sign whited out and boarded up windows.
I could see no more as the figure disappeared around the side of the shack.
But then I felt a shiver rush through me as I turned towards the warehouse with all the posters. I squinted my eyes in order to see better.
There were words written on the posters, sprayed on.
“ Art and Freedom Prevail!”
I didn’t know what that meant, but they chilled me to the bone, seeing those words.
And I have never gotten them, or the figure in black, out of my head.
Father has a rule that we all must wake up at 7 in the morning except on Sundays, then we are allowed to sleep in one hour extra.
Mother must get up one hour ahead of us and fix breakfast, or my father will pull out that horrid wooden spoon he fancies and use it.
I don’t like it when he does, especially when he uses it on me.
But I have no say in the matter.
The morning following my vision, however, Father comes banging on my door and Mother’s too. He rouses us and we all rush down the stairs because there is a big to do going on in the streets.
There is a small crowd of people gathering around the warehouse. Men in their work trousers and boots. Women with scarves over their head and long skirts and blouses. You can tell the married ones apart from the rest because they have brown scarves and they all stand in the back of the crowd with any children present.
The single women have white scarves on to emphasize their purity. They also stand at the side, behind the men, but away from the crowd a little ways.
I start to head out the door.
“Mary! Your scarf..” Father reminds me, and I have to rush back again and grab it hanging on the peg by the door. It’s white and it covers my mousy, brown hair.
Father has to hold me back because he must be the first to step outside. Then Mother follows. Finally, I am permitted leave.
The sky is cloudy gray and there is a light mist in the air. It is chilly and I am grateful for the scarf and shawl around my shoulders.
We turn the corner around our house and start to approach the crowd.
There is a wailing noise coming from the distance, the sound of sirens in the air. I hear tire tracks over the narrow, gravel road behind our house as a squad car races to the edge of the road and stops. It is a white car with a gold and yellow flag painted on the sides of its doors. The flag has a cross and wooden spoon on it. The words “Protect the family. Protect Faith. Protect the Founder. Protect Life,” are written in small, blotchy letters underneath.
Two, tall men dressed in white uniforms step out of the car and approach the scene. The crowd parts immediately. The men and women closest to the Guardians of Life, or GOL’s, as they are called, all nod their heads in a bow, as is customary.
“Come Mary,” Father says, and we cross the street to the other side.
By now, the crowd has closed around the scene and all are watching the GOL’s examine the scrawling writing on the warehouse wall.
“It is another one, sir,” the first GOL says. I am tall, so I can see him above the heads of the others in front of me.
The second GOL, the Order Guardian, holds up his hand as he sniffs once at the air. “Spray Paint, like before,” he says.
Then they begin to speak in tongues, their own language, sacred to those of the Founder’s Order. We can only gape and watch as they exchange quick conversation with each other.
“Who would do such a thing?” a woman next to me gasps.
Then the two GOL’s turn to face us. The OG raises his hand. “My good people of this region. We must bow our heads and pray. Pray to the Founder for forgiveness of this injustice. Pray now.”
We all bow our heads and he begins the prayer.
“Glory be to our Founder
Who restored life and love to our surroundings
and eased the confusion in our hearts
with his most sacred order
ordained by God...”
As he continues, the other GOL scans the crowd with his head and eyes. He is like a hawk, seeking prey.
I can feels his eyes over the crowd. They are heavy. Too heavy. Suddenly the realization that I, and possibly, I alone have seen who committed this deed. It is too much and I suddenly feel a rush of heat. The tops of my shoulders are heavy and my heart is racing in my chest.
I fidget and raise my hand to my chest, laying the palm across my heart in order to silence it, desperately.
In the simple act of fidgeting, I risk a glance upwards and I can see the GOL is staring straight at me. His hawk eyes are fixing on me alone, more than anyone else.
Quick, I look downward.
The OG finishes the prayer and we all cross ourselves.
I don’t want to look up but I have no choice. I have to raise my head again, slow, along with everyone else. My face is red and I am sweating underneath of my clothes.
He is still staring at me.
The GO speaks. “You must all attend a vigil tonight at the Ordainment Center. The memory of this will be purged from your minds and its troubling message eased from your souls. That is all for now.”
He turns to the other GOL and speaks in tongue again. The GOL turns to face him slowly and I heave a sigh of relief.
“Come Mary, we have stuff to attend to before tonight,” Father says. I am grateful as I follow them to the house.
But in the back of my head I can feel heavy eyelids upon my back, following me. Perhaps two of them?
I am not sure, and I dare not risk a glance back.
I keep walking. Walking with my family.
Walking, but they are with me, growing heavier and heavier.