Picture Perfect 120
“Thank you Margarette.” Margarette, adjuster her robe and stood with the help of a cane. A man in the front row got up to help her. It was Troy AuCoin from Flannery’s Cafe. He was not wearing a robe. His white shirt was buttoned to the neck.
“Before we start this special service I will ask you to turn off all electronic devices to silent. We do not want to any distractions or sudden noises to disturb the spirits as they manifest themselves amongst us through their envoys. Silent means silent, not vibrate. No recording devices are to be used.” Janis looked directly at Dan, then Cameron. “What we witness here today is only for our eyes & ears.”
“Amen.” several of the attenders said.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Janis began. A song was sung without musical accompaniment. The lyrics scrolled on the large screen TV beside her. In the songs and prayers that followed they affirmed their trust and assurance in the Creator as their protector.
The congregation rose and sat at various points. Janis signalled for the TV to be removed. Troy from his side of the room and a man, also not wearing a robe, from the other side stepped up to roll it to one side. Behind the TV was a glass aquarium with snakes it. The top of the tank was about waist high. A light came on over the tank & the statue of Christ & the snake coiled around it appeared to be made of bronze.
“Lord. Creator. We are here in utmost humility to demonstrate our faith in your protection. We are here in utmost humility to allow you to demonstrate your protection for us.”
As Janis said each sentence the people repeated it in unison. Troy assisted Margarette back to the organ. She adjusted her green robe and began to play. The lights in the room dimmed except for those around the glass tank. The lights made the tank appear to float in the air in the dark.
“These envoys were sent by Our Creator to not tempt us but to challenge us.” Janis said as she removed the wire covering the top of the tank. “They mean us no harm. They are not of Satan but of the just God who made all good things Look upon God’s creatures with compassion and they will increase your compassion. Look upon them with fear and they will increase your fear.”
As Dan watched the snakes it was as if they were writhing in time to the music. The different skin patterns smoothly coiled and uncoiled around one another. Different patterns would be closest to the glass. One of the snakes was nearly white with pale green markings on its throat. The head would at times rise above the others and the snake’s red eyes would look directly into his. The glint in them was calling him.
“Yes.” He started to get up when a man behind him shouted out.
“I am ready.” The man rushed to the tank pulling off his robe, then shirt as he went up the aisle. When he reached he cage he removed his pants. “I am shedding what holds me from trust.”
“I am ready.” “I am ready.” Came from different parts of the room. Several people left their seats. They stood naked at the front of room. Their bodies bathed in the blue and green lights that illuminated the snake tank.
“It is good to see so many of you ready.” Janis intoned rising her arms to the ceiling as a snake twined around them. “I call upon the radiance of Your care to be here now with us. Be here now in this special service as we thank Daniel James for finding the bodies of those souls lost so many years ago. Souls that now can find peace and rest in Your everlasting Grace.”
Dan heard her say his name. It was like hearing it on a TV in another room. It was a name it wasn’t him. His saw the people around him, in front of him. Naked men. Naked women. Undulating slowly in the light around the tank.
“I am ready.” The first man reached into the tank and picked up a snake. The snake hissed and bared its fangs “I am protected by faith.” The man said as he brought he face of the snake closer to his. He touched his eyes with the snake’s nose. The snake’s tail coiled around the man’s arm then freed itself from his hand and slid back into the tank.
Others of the congregation did the same. Some naked. Some clothed. All fearless.
“I thank you Creator.” Janis chanted. The others joined in.
The music and chanting stopped abruptly. Everyone sat. The room was silent except for the breathing of the people around him. He continued to gaze at the tank. At the constant shift of patterns. The lights gradually came up.
“It is good to see so many who were called but amongst us we have one who calls.” Janis said.
Dan felt her hand gently touch him on the forehead. There was a weight on his upper thighs. A white snake reared from his lap, the sides of it head flared as its red eyes looked into his. He heard Peter gasp.
“What do you see Mr. James?” Janis asked. “Open and see what you’re are shown.”
He turned his head slowly to look at the faces around him. Janis, Peter, Troy, the first man to undress. The room receded as returned the snake’s stare.
“I’m at school. My class is getting our pictures taken. The whole class. I told my mother about it. I hate this dress. It isn’t good enough. The other girls have nice dresses just for this picture. I don’t want to have mine taken. I won’t. I won’t.”
Dan was in the school auditorium where student photographs were being taken. There were children lined up waiting their turn. A part of him was Dan but part of him was Dorothy O’Connor. This was the day when his Dad was taking pictures at her school. Taking the picture of her that he had seen.
“The man taking our pictures is coming over to me. He says my dress is fine. Not to worry so much. He’s giving me some candy. He sits me in front the screen and goes behind his camera. I’m afraid to smile too much. He tells me to look over his shoulder. Then it is over. He says I was the best model he’s had all day.”
Dan repeats “All day” as he becomes aware of the room. The church is empty except for Troy who is sitting beside him.
“You feeling like yourself?” Troy asked. “I’ve never seen anyone go so deep like you did. Dorothy O’Connor was one of the bodies you found?”
“Yes. She was the first to be reported missing.”
“Then she was the first you found.” Janis said from behind him as she walked in with Peter.
“He is good. Isn’t he Ma.” Troy said. “Silas sensed him.”
“The white king cobra.” Janis said. “What are you thinking Mr. James?”
“My thoughts are all over the place. I don’t know where to start.” He braced himself on the back of the chair in front of him and pushed himself up. He was unsure on his feet.
“Are you okay.” Peter held him steady.
“I just need some fresh air.” Dan said.
“The room is a little warm. It helps to keep the snakes docile.” Janis said. “Cold snakes tend to be unpredictable.”
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