Most of my flash fiction leans toward dark subject matter, but that usually means horror or suspense or fantasy. Today’s story is a bit different. I blame the prompt from the 500 Club and my own conservative upbringing. Not that I was born into a cult or ever called a compound home. Far from it. But I was born into a world view that was tragically limiting. Like Ester in the story below, I made my escape, but one of the truly horrifying thoughts that sometimes crosses my mind is imagining what my life might be like now if I had never learned to think for myself. If I had never left. If I had been like Rahab.
It illustrates how all the stories we imagine and tell are really just elements of our own stories–the stories of the author’s life. They are our fears, our failures, our victories and our fantasies brought to life. Sometimes the names, dates and circumstances are changed dramatically, but the stories almost always have pieces of ourselves hidden in them. This one, I guess, is that for me as much as any other I’ve ever written. The details are completely different, but the sentiment…I know the sentiment well.
The prompt I chose was simply this:
Write a story about someone fleeing a cult. Not at all inspired by recent, totally insane events in the celebrity gossip columns. No, not at all.
leaving the fold
“Ester, you must go to The Binding. You must. Jedidiah will be sorely vexed if you do not.”
Ester looked into Rahab’s eyes. She’d known Rehab all her life and, until 3 weeks ago, never spent more than a few hours outside her company. That was before she wander away from the group in town while they were buying supplies for the compound. Before she met Eddie. Before she saw how small and constricted her world was and how wide open the outside world could be. How open it would be for her.
“You were named for a whore,” she said to Rahab. “Have you ever thought to ask your Pa why he named you that?”
Rahab recoiled from the words. “She’s in the geneology of Matthew,” she stuttered. “She saved God’s people.”
“And she was a whore.”
Rahab’s lip quivered, her eyes filled with tears.
“The Binding…” Rahab said, still reeling.
“I’m not going.”
“But, you’re promised to Jedidiah. You’re to be his wife.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“But, the elders have decided it. It is God’s will. It is God’s way. It is–”
“Not my choice. I’m not going.” Ester looked up at Rahab. The girl was badly shaken. She sighed.
That first day, meeting Eddie, it had been the same way for her. “What the fuck you dressed that way for?” he asked. Her cheeks turned red at the use of the devil’s tongue, but she talked to him anyway. Perhaps her mind and heart had already left before her feet were willing to follow. It certainly hadn’t taken Eddie long to convince her to part ways with her old life. She only wanted a few things–a necklace that had been her mother’s, a couple of dresses, just until she could get some normal clothes, and her dowry. It was, after all, more than ten grand. Enough to buy her freedom and a new life.
“You can come with me, Rahab. If you want.”
“What? Leave home? Leave the fold?”
“It’s all shit anyway,” Ester said.
“They’re just words. Come with me. Please.”
“I can’t.” Rahab’s tears dried as the very idea of such betrayal scared her white.
“You can and you should. All of this is bullshit.”
“Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because it is. Rahab, you don’t have to be Bound to Seth. You could make your own choices. Think about it–isn’t that what you think God really wants? For you to choose? This life–the way we are forced to live–this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”
“You’ve become an abomination!” Rahab declared.
Ester closed her bag and shook her head, defeated. She moved toward the door, preparing to slip out into the night.
“You’ll burn,” Rahab said, her voice flat with judgment and finality. “You’ll burn in hell if you leave the fold, and I’ll not weep for you.”
Ester closed her eyes. She wanted to hug Rahab, but she did not. Instead she simply said, “I’ll weep for you,” and left.