Y'know what? Cults aren’t that bad. Yeah I know, when people hear the word “cult” they instantly think about Scientology and all those nasty things, but that's not true for every cult. Some cults, like the ones I’ve dabbled in, are pretty not terrible. When Allfather Perez came to me, I needed help. I was on the street, sick and poor. Winter was rolling around, and I probably would not have lived without him. When he came to me on the street, I was pretty skeptical. Everyone had heard the stories of people that joined cults becoming brainwashed, becoming druggies and dying without anyone by their side. Still, that day convinced me otherwise.
“You look cold, my son,” he said, with polite green eyes that smiled for him.
“I mean water is wet too pal, but that's not gonna change,” I shot back, looking him over. He stood almost too straight like he had a broom taped to his spine. He wore a nice looking suit, but, it looked worn. It was kinda like it was his only suit he owned. He looked at me with a sideways glance.
“You seem to lack guidance, my son. Would you like to be enlightened?” he asked, open-endedly.
“As soon as you can enlighten me with some food, sure!”
He seemed to think about that for a second. It was different than what I have seen with most crazy people. They normally would try to give you their pamphlet or their spiel about “energies” and whatnot. Some of them work by commission and just won’t shut up. Not this guy. He closes his eyes for a moment did something weird with his hands, and suddenly, there was a hot bowl of chowder in mine! I was shocked, but not as much as I was hungry. My stomach gnawed at itself, trying to digest my small intestine. I stuck my mouth in the thick chowder, and poured it down my throat. The taste of creamy, unseasoned tofu melted down my throat. My tongue was indifferent about the unexciting taste.They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. This guy had me hooked on whatever he was selling.
He walked me over into the local diner, SAVOY, and he decided to enlighten me with more food. He told me that he was looking for people down on their luck, like me, to help make the world a better place.
“This is your chance!” He said. “You’re a nobody, but with my help, you can become a somebody. Imagine it. Suddenly, the homeless of the city all have homes. Everyone is given a stable life, helping others. We create those jobs. Suddenly, all the people at the bottom of society can perform unimaginable feats, like I did, and we take the world by storm!”
He slammed his fist onto the table with scary conviction. I was too busy eating and eating to talk back to him, but I kept listening. I found myself agreeing with him more and more, but honestly, I was just in it for the free food.
The complex he took me back to WAS pretty nice, I’ll admit. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it wasn’t a box on the side of the road either. I don’t even remember how we got there. I do remember waking up in my own small room. My own! Not a box, not a shared commune, but a room! The place didn’t smell like mildew or rat crap. It wasn’t big sure, and brick walls aren't the nicest, but, this was something I hadn’t had in forever. The drawers had fresh clothes in them too! The cloth was pretty rough, but it was better than some rags I stole off a dead guy. Hey, it wasn’t like he would need them anymore, wherever he was going. It was cold alright? Anyway, my room was nice.
Outside my room was pretty okay too I guess. Do you know how actors get from one side of the stage to another without crossing the audience? It's not magic. There's usually a long hallway behind that connects the sides of the stage. That was the kinda hallway that I was in right now. Right in the middle of thinking about actors running behind the stage, pain shot up from my stomach. It seemed to claw right through my gut, at my heart. I was hungry again.
I opened one of the stage doors and walked onstage. The place was decrepit. Nobody had used this thing in years. Allfather Perez stood at the edge of the stage, looking like the protagonist of his own one-act play. He wore that same suit again, looking sharp but grainy.
“Hey, got any more of that chowder?,” I asked.
He didn’t turn around. “You’re up early I see. Good to see you so ready to help the cause,” he said.
“I more hungry than anything, but if helping the cause involves food, sign me up!”
He smiled. “I like your attitude,” he said.
We sat downstage, and he proceeded to tell me about how exactly this cult works. Everyone was already out doing their work, which was why I didn’t see anyone. Normally, everyone gets up at 3 AM to start the day. They go out and find people, like me, and try to recruit them. With words, pamphlets, all the typical cult stuff. They come back here for lunch, and then they go out again. If they get anybody, great! If they don’t, they don’t. Low risk, and free food!
“But what about all the cool food making powers?” I asked.
Allfather Perez chortled. “In time, my son, in time. Speaking of making food,” He waved his hands and in front of me was another bowl of clam chowder! No spoon again? Didn’t matter to me. But here’s the weird thing. As soon as I looked up from the bowl, the guy was gone! Like disappeared without a trace! I was all alone in this big place. So I looked around. I mean, what would you have done?
It was really big. I mean, I’d been on some stages before, but none like this. You know how on Broadway they have the seats on the mezzanine? This place had one of those. It looked like it was painted gold at some point, but now it was this nice wood color. The seats were this faded ruby color, and It was just really nice. I mean, if you overlook all the water damage. And all the mice everywhere. And all the boarded up windows.
The lobby was pretty standard, as far as lobbies go. All the doors were barricaded, and outside, I could hear the world. Cars, and dogs, and people talking and laughing. The noises came from above me, and I noticed that they were leaking through part of a broken window. There were sleeping bags all over the floor, and I realized that I was really lucky to get a room. Across the lobby, there was a door that said EMPLOYEES ONLY. I figured that was where AllFather lived. That’s what I was thinking about right before I passed out anywho.
I woke up to the sound of a school bell. God, I was so hungry. I left my room, to be greeted by a crowd. They seemed to walk past my door like a river, never seeming to stop. There must have been over 80 people in that crowded hallway. I joined them, becoming swept up inside.
As I got sucked into the crowd, I noticed someone else wearing some normal clothes. He had white hair and some serious laugh lines. This guy was a dinosaur walking. He was looking around and taking the place in, but he didn’t notice the crowd trying to push and swarm around him. He fell. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t, or I might fall too. I hope he didn’t die. But it wouldn't be so bad if he did, because he did look very old. Was probably his first day. Poor fella.
I had to keep going. We all flooded into the lobby and took some pamphlets. I saw the other members ahead of me pry open one of the doors, and they all flooded out. They spread away from the theatre like minnows. Within seconds they were gone. My stomach hurt again, but I could manage.
I took to a street by myself and set to work. You’ll find the homeless wherever you go, and this street was no exception. The sidewalk was full of people sleeping on benches and in boxes, just like me. Or like I was. I didn’t want to disturb any of them, so I worked silently. I put pamphlets next to their faces, in their tip jars, until I had paid everyone on the street a visit. The morning was peaceful, but the midmorning was awful. People started to shout at me, calling me crazy and brainwashed. Some crazy guy chased me away, telling me that I should go and get help. At least I had a home. At least someone cared about me, right?
I got back to the theater mentally drained and starving. I had hoped lunch was good, but was betrayed. What Allfather Perez didn’t tell me was that “lunch” was a piece of bread with a rotting piece of fruit. To my stomach, however, it tasted like a gourmet meal. This stuff tasted better than the chowder, and was more filling. After I ate, I went back out to recruiting, but with little success. Everybody seemed scared of me. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got back, I could tell why. I mean yeah I was homeless, but I did my best to eat SOMETHING every day. Whoever was looking back at me in the mirror was something out of a horror movie. Sunken eyes, pale skin, I looked more like a ghost than a person. Or had I always looked like that? Before I went to bed, I looked around for dinosaur guy. No sign of him. Was he even real? Or did I make him up? I decided maybe sleep would help.
After about a week I had had enough. Wasn't dead, but not very much alive. My ribs pressed into my skin, almost trying to burst from my chest like a starving animal. I WAS a starving animal. All my stomach had eaten was one piece of stale bread that day. I had seen more and more people drop and fall victim to the crowd every day. I hadn’t seen much from Allfather Peres. Maybe he could give us some meals in the morning. He’s a nice guy, maybe he would listen.
I carefully waded against the crowd in the morning and pushed open the EMPLOYEES ONLY door. It looked like a study. Books lined the walls, and it felt pretty cozy. He was sitting there, eating. Eating more food than I had seen in months. My mouth watered at the very sight of it.
“My son, to what do I owe the honor of your visit?”
“Hi. I’m not as eloquent as you, so I’ll keep this short,” I said, staring directly at the feast in front of him. “I need food. I know you’re so generous already, but I can’t live like this. Look at me! I’m just skin and bones, and I ain't exactly exaggerating,”
This seemed to amuse him.
“You want food? Do you want answers? You wish to learn the secrets of this cult?”
“No, I just want some food sir.,” I said.
He pretended to not hear me. “What do you know about the mind, my son?” he asked.
I was pretty sure this was one of those questions I’m not supposed to answer, so I stayed quiet.
“The mind is a weak construct. It can be molded and shaped to do certain things. For example, make one think they are eating food when in reality there is nothing but air. The mind can be molded to not question, it can be made to do things in sleep.”
I tuned out at this point. Man, this guy is so boring. I mean when he started to talk, he TALKED. I just wanted some food. He wasn’t even paying attention to me anymore. He was just speaking on and on and on. I reasoned that he just wasn't going to give me any of his food. Whatever he was talking about, he was really getting into it. This guy looked like a preacher, Jesus Christ. His polite green eyes seemed to turn a more sinister shade of green, like Kryptonite. He was scaring me now. I left without him noticing, thank god.
I left through the lobby door. Nobody seemed to stop me. With the last of my strength, I made it to the nearest dumpster. I was hoping there would be some food. Turns out it was the dumpster of the diner where I met Allfather, SAVOY. I could see the neon sign flashing from back here. I didn’t care that it was gross; I stuffed my mouth full of the trash mixed with food. Real taste exploded in my mouth. It wasn’t all good, but some of it was DIVINE. Compared to that bland chowder, I was in heaven.
Y'know what? Despite how I almost starved in that cult, I gotta admit that it was pretty nice. I mean yeah, Allfather Peres was some crazy guy, and we all were literally starving and dying, but at least I had a somewhat warm bed to sleep in. Pretty sure that cult was doing some pretty mysterious things too, but I didn’t care enough. All in all, it wasn’t terrible, and I’m mostly okay. At least I’m not hungry anymore.