Michelle smiled as she was shown into the library archives.
“What are you studyin’?” asked the librarian.
“Mary Gurney,” Michelle sat at a table by herself. “She was a Quaker missionary in the early 1700s. Very prolific writer. I’m reading her Journal.”
“Quakers?” the librarian asked. “Those floppy hat weirdos?”
Michelle laughed, “Yes, the same. I have Quaker roots, so this stuff is fascinating to me. It’s what I’m doing my doctorate over.”
“Wow,” the librarian popped his lips. “Wow, wow, wow… great stuff.”
Michelle noticed a necklace of an upside-down gold triangle on the man’s neck.
“I like your necklace,” Michelle said. “Where did you get it?”
“Oh, family heirloom!” the librarian answered excitedly. “Passed down from colonial days and such. Ain’t it beautiful?”
“That is awesome. I wish Quakers believed in jewelry back then to pass something like that down.”
“Well,” the librarian slapped the book. “Lucky for you they knew how to write and read and such.”
A few hours later, Michelle sat across from Lee—another grad student from Hahvahd.
“So what is it about Quakers that fascinates you?” asked Lee.
“They were radicals,” Michelle brushed her hair back. “The foundations of our country were founded on Quakerly ideals in sharp contrast to the Puritans.”
“What was so radical about them?”
“Well, George Fox, the founder, was thrown into prison several times for preaching equality. He once stood up during a sermon and yelled at the priest for preaching against women in ministry. Instant prison. They didn’t mess around back then.”
“I’m sure that was really some-”
“Another guy, Benjamin Lay, was a little person who would go from meetinghouse to meetinghouse preaching against slavery. He took a sheep’s bladder, filled it with beet juice, put it in a hollowed-out Bible—then he went to the meetinghouse, and stabbed it. The juice sprayed everywhere as Benjamin preached about how they were all in sin for owning slaves.”
Lee’s face was both amused and shocked: “Do you always talk about this on first dates?”
Michelle’s face turned red, “I’m sorry.”
“No, no… it’s fine. Tell me more. So, were the Quakers a part of the Revolutionary War?”
“No, they’re pacifists. They believed that the wrath of God would pour onto those who were owning slaves, those who were exploiting women-”
“I thought the wrath of God was reserved for Democrats and Methodists,” Lee smirked.
Michelle rolled her eyes, “In the Quaker vision for the Gospel, the apocalypse, end times, were present—and the wrath of God would eventually flow to bring in a new world. A world without suffering, with equality.”
“A lot better than what I used to hear in catechism, that’s for sure.”
Michelle sat at her home desk and opened Mary Gurney’s Journal.
As she flipped through it, she noticed that the last chapter was a number extra than the original documents she’d read before.
“What?” she raised an eyebrow.
Michelle flipped to the front of the book and went by the chapter titles one by one.
That’s when she came across the outlier: Chapter XI — Of the First and Last Journey to the Unity Brethren Colony and of the Strange Exodus of the Valley Orphans
“The Valley Orphans?” Michelle leaned back in her chair.
Her cell phone vibrated on the desk.
She picked it up and noticed it was a news announcement: Sex trafficking sting ends in arrest of presidential candidate James Harris.
Of the First and Last Journey to the Unity Brethren Colony and of the Strange Exodus of the Valley Orphans
I was taught to feel the Motion of Love from the earliest age, to listen to That within Me to guide Me, to heed staying still in the Light. Christ, whose Tender Mercies followed Me, spoke to My Inner Condition at the age of fourteen: “Preach to the Societies around You and tell Them of My Furious Love.”
In the Year 1721, a Colony who called themselves Unity Brethren, fleeing persecution and the Snares of Satan, was erected near my Meeting House. They preached ungodly Wisdom of Men, speaking against the Calling of Women preaching Truth, insisting that God preferred the Africans in Chains, and that Great Plagues against the Indians were signs of His Wrath.
The Lord had been gracious with Me and showed Me what to do with the Unity Brethren through the Ministry of the Friend Elizabeth Penn. We had both sat still in the Light in Meeting for Worship, waiting upon further Revelation of what to preach against the Principalities and Powers of the Unity Brethren.
Elizabeth Penn stood up and spoke into the Silence: “We must show the Love of Christ to Those who do not understand It, or claim to understand It.”
Our time among the Unity Brethren showed us that even Men who preached against Us had That of God within Them. They prayed to the Lord before every Meal, showing us Grace and Mercy. For a short while, Elizabeth and I feared the Worst, that We were the ones in Sin, but We felt no Sign of Reproof. We prayed to the Lord for Mercy and Courage to preach Truth to the Unity Brethren, to show Them that of the Lord within Themselves, and to turn Them to Their Better Natures.
On First Day, We sat and listened in Their Worship. The Women looked down at the Floor in Fear and Trembling. The Preacher Jonathan Greene stood upon the Pulpit screaming and flailing his Arms.
“The Lord cometh soon and He cometh in the Night! He cometh for Your Sons, Daughters, Mothers! Any second, the Floors will open and we will all Fall into Hell unless We make unto God a Sacrifice.”
From the side of the Chapel, a Goat was brought into the middle of the Sanctuary, with Knife laid at Its Throat, by the Preacher, and It was slit open. The Goat seemed to accept Its fate as the Blood poured out, with the Congregation singing Hymns of Joy. We had not seen such Debauchery even among the Puritans when They executed our Ministers.
Michelle sat in the office and waited for her colleague, Harold.
She bit her lip nervously as her leg thumped up and down.
“Michelle?” Harold came into the office. “Long time no see!”
Michelle smiled, gave a half-hug, and sat back down.
“What’s up?” Harold leaned back in his chair.
“What do you know about the Unity Brethren?” Michelle put Mary Gurney’s Journal on his desk.
“Oh, man,” Harold laughed. “A bunch of whackos. Another one of those fringe radical reformation traditions where nothing happened. They eventually died out at some point.”
“Is it like the Shakers who pretty much went extinct because they stopped having sex?”
“No, no… these ideas just never caught on. Puritanism and Quakerism, and other free church movements, seemed to outgrow those folks.”
“What did the Unity Brethren believe?”
“Well, their eschatology was such that they believed they would be the only ones to get raptured and taken away from moral depravity. What makes them different from the other free church traditions is that they didn’t believe that North America was specially sanctioned by God. There was no optimism with the New World. Only despair and fear.”
“Everyone thought the end of the world was happening back then,” Michelle looked out the office window. It was autumn, with the sun shining brightly through the red leaves. “It’s easy to label people as wackos when we’re not living what they lived. I’m not asking about that, really. I’m just wondering if you have any documentation about what happened to the Unity Brethren.”
“There’s nothing that I know about.”
Michelle flipped open the pages, “There’s a chapter in here that I’ve noticed wasn’t in other copies of the original Journal. It claims to know what happened to them.”
Harold picked up the book and started the chapter.
As he finished it he let out a deep sigh, “Where did you find this?”
“There’s no marks or indication it belongs there.”
Harold pointed out the spine and the cover page.
“But I checked it out from there,” Michelle grabbed the book.
“I’m sure it’s a mixup,” Harold waved his hand. “This is a great find, but it seems so… fantastic, mythic right? Do you remember George Fox’s Rites of Exorcism?”
“Yeah, the full book was never found—only fragments.”
“It’s something like this. Not an accurate history per se, but interesting. A great historical find. I’d love to hear more about what you uncover.”
“Well, thanks for the info you could give.”
“You’re welcome. Are you interested in lunch?”
“No, I have to do a few more errands.”
Harold stood up, “Alright, Michelle… let me know if you need anything more about this. I’m excited for your research and where this will lead.”
“What?” asked Harold. “I got a class to teach in a few minutes.”
“Can you please sit?” Michelle leaned back in her chair.
Harold sat back down and folded his hands, “What do you need, Michelle?”
“You say that the Unity Brethren were pessimists in their theology, that there was fear and despair… how exactly did they believe the end would come?”
Harold stroked his beard for a few seconds, “They believed they were the ones to receive the ‘blessing’ of God’s wrath. That they would bear witness to it, inflict it, or experience it poured onto themselves.”
“Nothing about strange objects in the sky?”
“Not a thing. That’s what makes me doubt this is reliable. Nobody was thinking of looking to the skies and imagining things like that… well, Mary Gurney was, apparently, but no one else.”
Their doctrine was anti-Christ, with an Insistence on the Sacrifice of the One to prevent them from the Fires of Hell. Christ was not Their Guide, but rather some Strange Doctrine They discovered within the Land. Their language was That of Christians, but their Beliefs were That of a Strange Being whose Name We had yet to learn.
This god’s Name was spoken in Whispers, with Men trembling at the very Sound of the Name and openly weeping. Elizabeth and I grew increasingly concerned about how to preach unto their Condition.
“I do not know this Doctrine,” said Elizabeth in whispers. “It is of the Devil. How do We Preach Truth against the Darkness?”
I did not answer for I Myself did not have the Answer.
We both tried to listen to the Voice Within, only to find there was no Voice.
Michelle sat in the bar parking lot waiting for the library to pick up their phone.
“Hello?” asked a feminine voice on the other end.
“Hey, so I checked out a book from you all a few days ago—a copy of Mary Gurney’s Journal. The guy working there… I forgot his name… he had this upside down triangle necklace…”
“We don’t have any men working for us currently. Are you thinking it was a student?”
“He checked out this book for me.”
There was a long pause.
“I’m confused,” said the voice.
Michelle’s hand trembled.
“Are you okay, miss?” the voice’s suddenly became concerned.
“I… think so. Things are weird right now.”
“I understand. Is there anything we can help with?”
Michelle stared out the window at the leaves falling to the ground in the parking lot, “… I don’t think so.”
“What’s new with you?” Lee sipped his beer.
“This new project is really messing with me,” Michelle ate some peanuts.
“What about it?”
“It’s new… unsettling, a bit, information about this weird Christian cult called the Unity Brethren.”
“Haven’t heard of them.”
“Most people haven’t. They used to hang Quaker missionaries though, sacrifice them.”
Michelle sighed and sipped her beer, “I don’t want to talk about it. What’s new with you?”
“You know I work with the James Harris campaign, right?”
“Oh… no, I didn’t.”
“… yeah. We’re in over our heads.”
Lee scratched his neck.
“Did you…do anything?” Michelle raised an eyebrow.
“No, nothing,” Lee touched her hand. “Nothing happened on my end. This is all news to me too.”
“It’d better be,” Michelle grinned. “My ex was a mafia hitman. I don’t know if I can date someone who is the crony of a corrupt politician.”
“Oh, no worries. I’m not crony material.”
A waiter stopped by their table: “More beer?”
Michelle looked up and saw the waiter wearing the same upside down triangle necklace.
“Where’d you get that?” Michelle pointed.
“Passed down from the folks. Came from the early colonial days. Pops says settlers stole the symbol from Natives or something like that. I’m not sure. I think it’s pretty though.”
“I saw that same necklace at the library today.”
“Yeah, there’s quite a few of us around here.”
“That’s cool,” Michelle forced a smile.
“Are you okay?” asked Lee.
“Yeah, yeah… I’m fine.”
“We’ll take two more beers,” Lee held up two fingers.
The waiter nodded his head and disappeared.
“What’s going on?” Lee touched Michelle’s hand again.
“I’m stressed… I’m connecting things that aren’t there… the reading’s getting to me…”
“I know how to make you unstressed, if that’ll help,” Lee smirked.
“Don’t push it,” Michelle chuckled.
Jonathan Greene screamed as he preached all sorts of Darkness.
“You, there, Sinner—do You believe You are beyond the Snares of Hell? Repent and believe for the End is near!”
Elizabeth’s hands trembled as She stood in the crowd, speaking truth boldly: “The Light of Christ makes Love known unto All.”
The Silence that followed was not sacred.
Jonathan Greene hissed and jumped upon the Floor, and pounded on the Pews in front of Elizabeth, yelling that She was not of God but of the Dark One.
“Who are You to Speak, Witch?” Jonathan Greene slapped her across the face and Elizabeth fell to the floor with a loud Cry.
“Please, sir!” I pleaded with earnest desperation. “We are Quakers! We mean You no offense! We come bearing the Light of Christ!”
“Quakers?” he yelled into the Sanctuary. “See what Hereticks the Lord bringeth unto Us? They do not baptise or take part in the Blood. These Women are Witches and Hereticks!”
Jonathan Greene then ordered his Church to bind us and throw into a dark Barn, where we prayed and sat in Silence, waiting for the Still, Small Voice to guide our next steps, for Death was fast approaching, and we knew it with every shout for Blood we heard outside.
Michelle awoke to distant blue, greenish lights shining in her room.
She rubbed her eyes, and checked her phone: 3 AM.
“What the hell?” Michelle mumbled as she stood up to look out the window.
As she opened her blinds, the light disappeared—revealing only the street she lived on.
Her memories went back to Mary Gurney’s Journal.
“No,” Michelle whispered. “It’s not that. It can’t be. Don’t get ahead of yourself. You’re just stressed is all.”
We awoke in the Night to see Bright, Flashing Lights outside—a Light we had never seen before, with sounds that made the walls shake.
“Is this our death?” Elizabeth whispered while she held My hand.
“I do not know,” I answered in earnest. “This Light I do not know but Christ is with Us still.”
In the Corner, We saw Children hidden with the Livestock, looking at Us with Fear and Trembling, as if We were the Cause of Their Afflictions and, after some Questions, We soon found out That they too were Prisoners.
The Lights stopped with Jonathan Greene shouting and preaching into the Night, with Shouts of Worship and Joy that echoed throughout the Valley.
“Where is God?” Elizabeth asked me as the Morning broke and the Rooster crowed. “I do not feel His Voice within Me.”
I soothed Her and held Her close to my Breast, knowing that these Fears were not rebellious but rather fearful, and that the Lord in His Kindness and Grace would never leave Her behind.
Michelle sat in the Meetinghouse in silence.
She was the only one there that afternoon.
“Michelle?” asked a friendly voice behind her.
Michelle turned around and saw Leslie, her old college friend.
“Oh my God,” Michelle laughed. “You’re a Quaker too?”
“I converted some time back,” Leslie sat next to her.
“I’m in a weird situation with my studies,” Michelle bit her lip.
“Yeah. You know, it’s funny. The Quakers did so many amazing things… but their original views on the wrath of God is something I’m wrestling with. How can they square that with the Inner Light of Christ?”
“I tend to think of the wrath of God as him allowing the consequences of people’s actions to catch up with them.”
“I guess that’s one way to look at it.”
“Well, as George Fox would say… Paul says this, Peter says that… but what do you say? It’s up to us to figure it out, I guess. But also… wouldn’t you want God to be angry at some of the shit that’s going on? Or would you want him to be indifferent?”
Michelle bit her lip, “That’s a good point.”
“So, what’s the research about?”
“It’s absurd. You won’t believe it.”
“Let’s get out of here. I don’t want people thinking something odd’s going on.”
The Congregation sang Hymns as They led Elizabeth to the Center of the Sanctuary while the Preacher listed off Her Sins against the Unity Brethren, of which were preaching, looking at Men in the Eye during Worship, and Denying the God Without a Name.
I looked into Elizabeth’s Eyes and saw Courage, as if the Voice She did not feel the Night previous had finally spoken to Her. When the Noose was tied around Her Neck, She looked Me in the Eye with a sudden Peace, and She and I both knew that She had passed the Test of Peace and would soon be in the Presence of Christ.
They led Her up on the Pulpit with Shouts of Joy and Glee, and it became apparent that Elizabeth was not the first Human Sacrifice to the God Without a Name, and that soon I would be joining Her in the Light of Christ. Jonathan Greene smiled and laughed as He threw the Rope around the Rafters of the Sanctuary, and screamed about how it was the God Without a Name’s Will, and that this was a beautiful Act, and that the Congregation would be rewarded by the God Without a Name in Paradise.
Elizabeth spoke into the Madness: “Christ Jesus can even speak to You.”
Jonathan Greene slapped her to the applause of the Church and then pushed Her off the Pulpit, causing Her neck to snap, and Her feet to dangle in the Air. Jonathan Greene looked at Her Eyes, and pushed Her Body back and forth while humming Strange Melodies. While the Martyrdom of Elizabeth was embraced by Christ Jesus, it was terrible to watch a dear Friend die.
My execution date was then set by the Council, with Elizabeth’s Body still hanging in the Sanctuary. The Heathens were Excited to see my Blood on the Floor to satisfy their Lusts.
Michelle and Leslie sat across from each other silently in Michelle’s living room.
“That’s nuts,” Leslie shook her head. “That whole thing is nuts. Are you sure you didn’t dream of the lights?”
“I’m not sure,” Michelle sipped her tea. “But who was that guy at the library? How did I get this book if it wasn’t checked out? Did someone leave it there for me to find?”
“I think you’re a little stressed and maybe you need a night out or something. Have you told this to that guy you’re dating…?”
“Oh, Lee? No. I don’t know how to explain it to him without sounding crazy. We’re only on our fourth or fifth date. I described some church history stuff to him and he didn’t know how to take it. He was clearly uncomfortable.”
Leslie sighed, “Damn, girl. You got yourself into something crazy.”
In the middle of the Night, as I prayed, I saw a Circle flying in the Air above the Sanctuary, and it made all sorts of strange Noises and Sounds. The Congregation sang loudly towards It, and I saw Elizabeth’s Body taken up in the Disc from the Ground. That is when Christ Jesus spoke to My Condition: “You need to only stand still to win this Fight. Do not say a Word tomorrow.”
I gathered the Children together and taught them the Good News of the Light of Christ, and how He too could speak to Their Condition in the Darkness of the Night. The Children received it with Delight and Joy, knowing that the Seed of Good in their Hearts was placed There by a Loving Father, and that Their Place in the Kingdom of Heaven was especially precious.
Michelle awoke in the early morning to her cell phone ringing. It was from the local county jail.
Leslie stayed the night with her, cuddling her and easing her stress whenever Michelle flinched in her sleep.
“Hello?” asked Michelle.
“Hey, Michelle,” said a voice on the other end. “It’s Lee. Just letting you know I’m getting investigated too. I was listed as a suspect in the human trafficking thing. I didn’t do it and they’re letting me go… but I wanted you to know before you turn on the news. I just have to show up to trial, give my side of the story and my alibi… you know, it’ll be okay. Everything will work out.”
Michelle paused, “Are you really in a place to be dating?”
“Michelle… c’mon… you know how this shit works, right? They’re going after the whole staff. It’ll be nothing. I promise you.”
Michelle sighed, “I have to think.”
“What’s there to really think about? I didn’t do anything.”
Michelle rubbed her eyes, “I’m not sure I see this going anywhere.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone.
“Listen… I need to go, but can we talk about this tonight?” Lee asked.
“Yeah,” Michelle sighed. “I guess.”
“You know what’s crazy? The cop that arrested me? He had that same necklace.”
Michelle’s hand trembled.
Jonathan Greene insisted My execution to be at the Stake for He believed the God Without a Name insisted upon It, and that My crimes as a Woman and a Minister of Truth justified the Execution. I prayed with the Children before They took Me away and led Me through the Congregation Who were gathered Outside.
Jonathan Greene tied Me up on the Stake and laughed with Joy, knowing that His Lusts were soon to Filled and that His Joy was to be met, He yelled to My Face about My Heresies in the Eyes of the God Without a Name.
“Yes, glory to God!” He shouted.
As I looked to the Heavens and prayed for Deliverance, the Strange Circle from the Night before came from the Sky, and the Congregation and Jonathan Greene bowed before It. The Circle opened up and Souls Lost to the Sacrifices came down upon the Earth, and the Congregation shrieked in Horror to see those They had Killed return to Them. The Congregation spoke Words of Kindness at first, and then the Martyred Bodies started attacking Them, breaking their Bones, pressing in Their Eyes, using the Torch to set Fire to Jonathan Greene, who screamed in Horror at the Wages of His Sins. The Violence I had witnessed was too horrific to repeat fully, for I had not seen such Depravity in My Life.
I looked across the Crowd and saw Elizabeth staring back at Me, making knowing Eye contact with Me, and I did see that this was an Agent of God’s Vengeance, of His Holy Terror for the Sins of the Unity Brethren. My Life was spared that Day, just as the Lord had promised. After the Death and Destruction, the Martyrs were taken into the Disc in the Sky and never were seen again, and the Blood of the Congregation flowed freely through the Field around Me, and I prayed a Prayer of Thanks for God’s Mercy.
Michelle nervously watched the news.
“You need to dump his ass,” Leslie urged. “There’s no way he didn’t do it.”
“What if he’s innocent?” Michelle brushed her hair back, trying her best not to share the connections she started to make about the necklaces.
It can’t be true.
It’s a coincidence.
“You got enough stuff going on without him in your life. Dump him, even for the sake of your sanity and self-care.”
“… you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. I’m always right.”
Michelle paced back and forth in her living room and waited for Lee to pick up the phone.
“You gotta do this, you gotta do this,” she whispered.
It went straight to his voicemail, which was full.
Michelle cursed under her breath and went back into her house.
Lee didn’t respond to any texts or calls that night.
Michelle awoke to the greenish lights shining in her room again.
“Leslie,” Michelle whispered.
Leslie woke up and looked at the room.
“Holy shit,” Leslie whispered.
They both got up and ran towards the window.
Opening the blinds again, they caught a glimpse of a disc in a sky flying away from them.
“Oh my God,” Michelle’s mouth dropped.
Leslie and Michelle both sat in her living room in silence.
“Do we tell people?” Leslie asked.
“I don’t think we should,” Michelle shook her head.
“Because it’s crazy! How do we explain this away?”
“JAMES HARRIS AND HIS STAFF HAVE BEEN FOUND BRUTALLY MURDERED—”
The TV flashed on suddenly, making Michelle and Leslie jump.
The news reporter on the screen walked past the body bags on the sidewalk.
“Are these all the staff?” asked an anchor at the station.
“Yes,” the reporter replied. “Pieces of them. They’re trying to figure out what pieces belong where, and why. What is unclear is how this was all done seemingly in the course of an hour with people living in separate places.”
“Do you think this was connected at all to the lights above Philadelphia earlier?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised, I’d tell you that. Times are strange.”
Michelle’s eyes widened as she saw the same necklace on the anchor behind the desk.
“Oh, no…” she mumbled.
“What is it?” Leslie asked.
“Turn it off,” Michelle said.
Leslie grabbed the remote and switched stations.
“Are you okay?”
“… I’m not sure.”
“Do you think Lee’s dead?”
Michelle knew in her gut what the truth was, and that powers beyond her understanding knew Lee wasn’t innocent.
She was never going to see him again.
I took the Orphans from the Barn to My Meeting House, and They were adopted into the Society of Friends with no Reservation. Many Friends spoke in Whispers about that Night, for some saw the Circle from a distance as well, and They knew that it was best to not ask questions which had no Answer.
Of all of my Mission Journeys, this was the Strangest, for many Friends were martyred for their Testimonies of Peace, and I was close to Death as well, but the Lord’s Mercies and Lovingkindness kept Me safe from the Depraved Lusts of the Unity Brethren, and I pray continually to stay in that Embrace of the Light.
Michelle opened her door to a package on her porch.
She picked it up and opened it.
Preserved in a plastic baggie were the complete works of George Fox’s Rites of Exorcism with a note attached to it:
“Warn the City of Love of the wrath to come to the evildoers and mockers amongst them. Warn them they are not alone and justice exists amongst the galaxies and worlds. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
Michelle took the book to her desk and sat for a few moments in silence.
She wanted to pretend to not know anything about this.
But what choice did she have?
Michelle opened her laptop, logged into her school documents, and started typing.
The cell phone vibrating on the desk repeatedly pounded in the truth deeper, the things Michelle was too afraid to say out loud.
It was true.
All of it.
And there was no going back.
Michelle closed her laptop and stared ahead despondent.
The phone once again started vibrating. She looked down and saw Harold was calling.
“No, no…” she whispered.
The phone stopped shaking and a new text notification popped across the screen.
Michelle knew she needed to deal with the situation, or it would deal with her.
She picked up her phone after a minute or two of silence and read Harold’s text:
“We need to talk about last night… I got something in the mail…”