Michel Hansen started a FaceBook page called Black Mercy as a challenge to write a short story based on that title. https://www.facebook.com/BlackMercyIndeed So, here is my short story in response.
This story is fiction.
Black. Why do they always call it black? You know, when something is bad they attach the word black to it. I’ve always liked the color black. Mostly because I couldn’t pick a favorite color and black is basically the presence of all colors. White doesn’t really appeal to me much. After all, it’s the absence of color, it’s like liking nothing.
So, here I am with the words “Black Mercy” attached to me. At least that’s how people are explaining how it is that I didn’t end up in prison or on death row.
I’d spent my whole life being lied to, manipulated and controlled. Then he came along, Pastor Jacob Eden. He offered me a way out, a life, freedom, and hope. Before I had felt like I was living in a dark hole, like at the bottom of an empty well and there he was, standing over the well with a rope. So, I grabbed on.
Being pulled out of a hole in the ground, being loved, well, it was like a cold fresh drink of water on a dry throat. I’d never known true freedom, so, how was I supposed to recognize a different kind of trap.
At first things were nice. I was given choices I never had before. Pastor Eden and his wife treated me like an adult and sided with me about my terrible past. But, slowly they started taking my freedom away. It started off far and few between. Like, jeans, I love wearing jeans. I’m very active so I’ve never much cared for skirts and dresses. Pastor Eden started preaching about how women aren’t supposed to dress like men. Mrs. Eden took me aside and told me that wearing pants showed ones legs and bottom off causing men to lust and that out of respect I should wear skirts. I reluctantly wore skirts during the services. Then Pastor Eden would start preaching about the “spirit of rebellion” and how there were some in the mist who had it and how displeased the Lord was. So, I gave up jeans altogether.
That’s how it always started and ended. As time went by more and more rules were added along with shame for those who didn’t comply. I went from being free and happy to being nervous that I was doing something wrong with out even knowing what. Somewhere along the line it got to the point that whatever I did do I was harshly rebuked and when I corrected myself and did what I was told I was put down for that as well. There was no pleasing these people, no matter how hard I tried.
To make matters worse, the other church members took advantage of my gullible state. When they wanted something from me or for me to do something for them if I didn’t they would “tattle” to the pastor about me. They were in a better financial state then me so their requests and complains were acted on. I would then get to hear about what I had done wrong for the next three months from the pulpit. Pastor Eden said it was important to use as an example for others to learn from.
This was how I spent my twenties and most of my thirties. Taking care of the pastor and his wife and the other church members as well as visitors. Any outside friends I made were either freaked out by the pastor and the church or the pastor would preach about how they were sent from the devil to deceive me. Then he would praise himself for protecting me and watching over my soul.
One day it all changed. It’s a long story to share just how it got to this particular point, but to get to the point of it, the pastor did something very hypocritical and I saw it plan as day. I had many unanswered questions on the back burner of my mind. So, when this obvious two faced thing happened it all came together and I knew I had to get out. I knew once I left I would be preached about and lies would be told, but, I couldn’t stand being in yet another dark hole one more minute.
I gave my landlord my months notice and started trying to figure out what to do next. I had told her I didn’t want anyone to know I was leaving and explained why. She said she hated to see me go but she always knew “those” people were strange and didn’t trust them. She told me she was happy I got out of that cult and wished me the best.
However, small town people always talk. Barley a day passed and Pastor Eden along with the congregation knew of my decision. My phone was ringing off the hook. “I know your going through a tough time right now, but God doesn’t want you to quit.” “Don’t let the devil have this victory.” “You know we love you, you are family to us, we’d do anything for you.” I kept hearing them say. “We’re praying for you”, They all ended their conversation with.
They just wouldn’t leave me alone. I‘d go somewhere and be afraid to come home. Often they found me and would ask me how I was as if some tragedy happened and they wanted to help. They did this in a way to get attention from those around us.
Then that one fateful day came. I came home from shopping and was pleased to see there were no church members cars in my complex. I walked carefree to my apartment but when I realized my door wasn’t locked a sense of dread filled my gut. When I opened my door the pastor, his wife and elders were standing in my kitchen. Most of the congregation were lounging around in my living room. I could see the anointing oil on the counter next to the pastors large worn black Bible. Part of me wanted to bolt out of the door way and run, but I just stood there paralyzed.
“Sister”, the Pastor began, “The Holy Ghost led me to call a prayer meeting for you. Satan has a hold on your life and we are here to set you free in Jesus name. You know we have given up much for you because of the love of our Lord, and we are not gonna give up on you in your time of need.”
I suddenly unfroze, turned around, shut the door and walked away toward my car as fast as I could without running. I didn’t look back to see if I was being followed. As I drove out of the complex driveway I caught a glimpse of what looked like the pastors car. I didn’t know where to go so I drove myself to the towns only strip-mall and got out.
I went to the only comforting place I knew, Marge’s Dinner just on the end of the mall. I had worked there for a while and enjoyed the time away with people who didn’t tell me I was wrong all the time, they were good people. Marge, who owned the place, saw me come in and greeted me warmly. She insisted I say hi to Sam the cook, cause apparently he missed me. So, I headed to the back.
I hated quitting Marge’s Dinner. But the pastors wife saw me having coffee with Sam one day and told Pastor Eden who then preached about lust for the next three months. Mrs. Eden also had a dream that I married him and lost my soul. He was nice and he was a Christian, he even visited my church one time, but he was never interested in coming back.
Sam was happy to see me and along with Carla and Silvia the waitresses on duty. Carla gave me a quick kiss on the cheek then left the kitchen to care for customers. Silvia was on a short break so she stayed to chat for a bit. Marge joined us to hear how I was. I was just starting to tell them what had happened when the back employee door flew open. Pastor Eden was standing there, his body taking up the whole doorway. He looked bigger then usual and very frightening.
“I’ve come to bring you back”, his voice boomed. “God told me to do this.” Sam and Silvia turned white, I probably did too. Marge was slightly behind me so I didn’t see her until she stepped in between me and Pastor Eden. Marge is particularly shot but she didn’t seem so shot at the moment. She boomed back in a voice I didn’t know she had, “get out of my establishment or I will call the police!”
He hesitated for a moment, something I’d never seen him do before. I almost thought he would actually leave, but he didn’t. He pushed Marge out of the way causing her to trip and fall. Sam and Silvia took a step forward but had no idea what to do. I stood there petrified in place with my eyes wide open. He grabbed my right wrist and as he pulled, my left hand reached behind me on the counter looking for something to defend myself with. It just happened to be that my left hand found a butchers knife. Without thinking I swung my left arm around and plunged the knife into the nearest part of Pastor Eden that I could. My adrenalin was pumping and the knife went all the way in.
He froze in place for a moment. I didn’t know wither to be afraid that I had just stabbed the pastor or afraid that it didn’t do any good. He released my wrist and stumbled backward. Sam had already grabbed the phone and was entering 911. Pastor Eden fell to his knees and looked up to me. First his expression was shock, then it changed to pity, self pity that is. Marge rushed to me. She must have read the terror on my face because she started shouting, “it wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t your fault!” She turned to Sam and Silvia and shouted to them, “you saw it, he attacked her, it was self defense!” They both wide eyed nodded in agreement.
The police arrived. A rookie came in first and panicked when he saw the knife sticking out of Pastor Edens chest. Before anyone could stop him he ran over to the pastor and pulled the knife out then placed his hand over the hemorrhaging wound. Pastor Eden’s face turned white, he looked up to his left, his face froze in terror, then he fell over dead.
It turned out that it was the pulling the knife out that had actually killed Pastor Eden. The tip had just barley pierced his heart and when it was pulled out it finished him off.
Mrs. Eden and the congregation tried to use the confrontation in my apartment and my “rebellious behavior” as proof that I intentionally killed the pastor. But, the bruises on my right writs and the eye witnesses testimonies, plus the fact that he hurt Marge, who everyone loved, provided proof of self defense. The judge ruled in my favor and I was released to go.
After some time several other of Pastor Edens members left the church that Mrs. Eden took over with a heavy hand. From them I learned that the pastor and the congregation had planned on doing an in home church house arrest to me that day they came over to “pray.” They had it all planned out. They had a schedule of shifts for who would stay and watch me at all hours and everything.
When I told Marge about it she said, “Sweetheart, that’s what we call Black Mercy. You were given black mercy both by escaping the lock down of the church and the lock up of the court by a very grave and dark deed.
So, Black Mercy it is then. Black Mercy saved me, but really, I saved myself. Maybe with this new found freedom I’ll leave this town, buy a boat and name it Black Mercy and just sail away.
By Lori K Revels (Hobbs)