Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forty-Third Entry: Cast Out

May 19th


Well that didn't take very long.

She did it; it took her more than a month, but Maria finally managed to push shit too far and get us kicked out of Alisdair's church. To be fair she really only got herself kicked out, but....

It's not going to be easy to leave all of that behind. We have people other than the six of us to talk to. We have clean clothes, like cleaned in a washing machine clean. We have hot water not heated over a fire, and electric lights, and music not on vinyl, and all of the other things we used to take for granted.

We really did plan on staying here. We had unpacked the Excursions and everything. Our food supplies have been added to the church's, our weapons cataloged and secured, our fuel supplies added to those of the church, and our other possessions moved into our sleeping areas. Pippa even found herself a boyfriend, although I just found out about that.

In the last couple of weeks Maria has managed to piss off pretty much everybody here, and ruin every attempt at trying to make her feel welcome and get her to put in some effort for the whole group. She has been rude, combative, and downright horrible to pretty much everyone.

I really wish I understood what the hell is wrong with her; what her damage is. Once she realized that the female Swords would not fight her she did start on the men. It is a testament to the serenity and discipline the more experienced members of The Sword of Gabriel have that no one had knocked her into next week. I know if she kept on me like that I would have hit her... again.

Speaking of discipline and serenity, Gerry puts me to shame. He really is the only friend she has left in our group (which is not to say that Sharon and Pippa aren't still trying), and he is also the only one she seems to have any respect for. She looks at me and Sharon with utter disdain, Pippa is still a little afraid of her after our first day of sword fighting practice, and whenever she's around Beth the two of them look like they are one off comment away from getting into a fistfight.

It's going to be real fun once we're on our own again. I mean it's not like we don't have a target in mind, someplace where maybe Maria won't be such a problem. I don't know what we'll do if she is. I don't know if Gerry has it in him to do what he said he will.

It all went down like this; we've spent the last few weeks trying to settle in here. Alisdair has continued to have us go on runs to exterminate zeds (or the unholy, as he prefers). He's even been trying to teach us to ride motorcycles, although not with their Harleys and Indians, but with dirtbikes. It's been going pretty well actually, I wouldn't want to get involved in a car chase or anything, but I feel pretty confident about staying up on two wheels now.

We've been having zed sightings every couple of days now. I don't know what it was like up here last year, but this is almost as bad as it was last summer in Covenant. Still, with us going out in force we have not even had any close calls; every run is an absolute slaughter. It's a real confidence builder.

While we have been doing this, Alisdair has been trying to get Maria involved in something, but she resisted all of his efforts to get her to contribute. When he tried to get her to help in the farming efforts she managed to flood an entire field of corn, and that may still die.

When Maria was assigned to kitchen duty she managed to somehow over salt canned soup, making that night's dinner nearly inedible. I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky that it was salt, and not something worse. She probably couldn't get her hands on any laxatives.

I'm not even sure what the hell Maria was doing when she managed to knock Marty's forge over. That probably would have been the last straw for us if she had managed to actually ruin it, or set the place on fire. Thankfully the forge was cold when it happened.

As I have written before, there are some pretty strict gender separation rules around here, but let me elaborate on them now. There are four “dorms”, which is to say areas for sleeping. There's the men's dorm, the women's dorm, the married dorm, and the family dorm for couples with kids (there are three families in there). In order for me and Sharon to sleep (in the literal sense) together, we had to get married (and that is going fine, thank you).

Maria, in another attempt to anger people (Alisdair in particular, I assume), decided to just go waltzing into the men's dorm one morning last week. It's not so much that she particularly offended any of the guys, but her blatant lack of respect for Reverend Thomas' rules is what angered people.

I asked Gerry what her issue is, and he says that he doesn't know, “I've begged her to talk to me, but she won't. She won't tell me why she has been acting like this, why she wants to make Alisdair and the Swords angry. Why she seems to be mad at the rest of you,” Gerry explained to me, “She's pretty normal with me, but she just kind of shuts me out as soon as I start talking about that kind of stuff.”

The final straw was two days ago. Maria stole one of the motorcycles from the parking lot, and started riding it around the church, tearing up the grass, driving through one of the new vegetable fields, and scaring the hell out of people. As if all of that weren't enough, she finished her display by riding into the church building, into the chapel, and driving the bike through the reverend's podium, and crashed into the ten foot tall cross at the back of the stage.

By the time I got there, Peter was pulling Maria out from under the big cross, which had fallen over onto her, the bike, and the band's drum kit. Peter was pissed, and was holding Maria in the air by the collar of the dark green sweater she was wearing, her feet dangled a good six inches off of the floor.

“Peter!” I yelled, pushing past the others who gathered to see the damage. He looked like he wanted to put her through the wall.

Peter turned to look at me, “This is too much,” he said, although I am not sure if it was at me or Maria.

“You don't want to do that, man,” I said, trying to defuse the situation, “If you do, you'll regret it later.”

“Oh, I do want to do it,” Peter said, this time looking Maria in the eyes, “but you are right; I would regret it later.”

Peter placed her down on her feet, “Are you injured?” he asked, his voice straining to remain even.

“Like you care,” Maria replied.

“I care about all of God's children,” more straining in his voice,” No matter how misguided or ill-behaved they may be.”

Reverend Thomas arrived at this point, “What is going on here?” He asked in genuine shock as he surveyed the scene.

“The troublemaker desecrated the chapel, reverend,” Peter answered.

Alisdair looked past Peter and Maria to the splintered stump that used to be the base of the cross. He looked at the broken top of the cross, the damaged motorcycle, and the crushed drum kit. He looked at me, and a sad look came into his eyes, and he signed heavily, “Peter, please take Maria to classroom three, and keep her there until I come for her.”

Peter nodded, placed a hand on Maria's shoulder, and shoved her forward none too gently.

When Peter and Maria had left the room Alisdair walked up to me, “Please gather your friends and come to my office. We need to talk about her future with us.”

On my way out of the room, I was nearly bowled over by Gerry, as he came running down the hallway, “Where's Maria?” he practically yelled at me.

“She's okay, but Revered Thomas wants to see us in his office.”

“Shit. I knew this was going to happen,” Gerry answered, and continued past me without any explanation.

It took me a few minutes to track everyone down. Beth and Sharon were out back dueling with practice swords, and I found Pippa playing Barbies with one of the few children here, a little girl named Latonya. Gerry was already waiting in Alisdair's office when we go there.

Once we were all in his office, Alisdair rose from his desk, crossed the room, and gently shut the door, closing us in. Without speaking, he returned to his desk. He looked sad and a little conflicted.

“So I suppose we all know what happened by now, right?” Reverend Thomas asked in a gentle voice. We all nodded a reply.

“I've tried talking to her, but she won't open up to me, reverend.” Gerry said.

“I know you have; you have been as good a friend to her as anyone can expect, but she still shows no sign of changing,” Alisdair replied, “In better times I would have been willing to give her as much time as would be necessary to find out what is tormenting her so, but these are not better times.”

“So what are you saying?” Beth asked.

“This is not a decision I have come to lightly; in fact it is one I have been trying to not have to make almost since you all arrived here. Maria's behavior is inexcusable, and it is putting the lives of the other people seeking shelter here at risk. Not only is she unwilling to help out around here, but she seems determined to ruin things for everyone. She needs to leave.”

“What?” asked Pippa, “You're kicking her out?”

“You're turning your back on her?” asked Sharon.

I said nothing; this is pretty much what I expected when Alisdair asked me to get everyone together. I could tell that this was hard for him to do.

“You can't do that, reverend!” Gerry yelled, as if he had been expecting this too.

“I don't want to; I have never turned away anyone seeking my help before, but she is endangering the lives of those under my care. What if she had hit someone with that motorcycle? Never mind that she stole it, never mind the complete contempt she showed by riding it through my chapel, and never mind the damage she caused; she could have seriously hurt or killed someone.”

“But she didn't,” Gerry stated.

“Thank God,” Alisdair said, “but she will eventually. I have to balance the chances of helping her against the potential hazard to my flock. She needs to go. She may take whatever supplies she wishes, one of the SUVs you showed up in if she wants, but she needs to leave. She doesn't want to be here.”

“Then we're going with her!” Gerry said firmly; and then not so self-assured, “Right guys?

Gerry looked at the rest of us, a look of desperation on his face. I know what he was thinking; he thought we would say that Maria could just fuck off and die, and a huge part of me wanted to say just that. I may even have done so if not for Pippa.

“I'll go with her,“ Pippa said softly.

“What?” asked Beth, her face a display of shock and anger.

Pippa looked like she was getting ready to cry, “We can't let her go alone. It's horrible out there alone. She'll die alone.”

Sharon put an arm around Pippa, “She's a strong woman,” she said.

“She's my friend,“ Pippa said, a tear running down her cheek.

“She's not either,” Beth yelled, “She wanted us to turn you away! She wanted to leave you out there alone!”

“I know. I heard your conversation, but we can't do that to her. She needs us.”

“She hates us!” Beth said

“No she doesn't,” Gerry chipped in, “She's just hurt somehow. We've all been hurt,” he focused on Sharon, “We didn't abandon you!”

I couldn't let that go, “She wanted to.” I said.

“She doesn't know what she wants. Please, guys!”

Alisdair kept quiet during our argument. I think he knew what decision we would eventually come to; why else meet with all of us to tell us he was kicking her out? He didn't want to influence our decision any though.

“We'll go with you,“ Sharon said, and then looked at me, took my hand in hers, and squeezed it, “Right?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“She's sick too,” Sharon's eyes sparkled through her glasses at me, “Maybe not sick like I was, but she is sick. We can't abandon her.

'You people are fucking crazy!” Beth almost yelled, and then looked at Alisdair, realizing what she had said, “Sorry, Alisdair.”

Alisdair just nodded a reply.

“You said there's another settlement, right? Lockheart or something?” Gerry asked.

“Lovelock, yes. Depending on the road conditions it is probably a two or three day drive from here now.”

“We can try there then, maybe Maris will get better there,” Gerry so clearly wanted to believe this, but wanting something to be true doesn't necessarily make it so. I guess we'll find out though.

“But what about what we have here?” I asked Sharon.

“We've had each other since the beginning, and we've done fine. We need to stay together. When it has really mattered Maria has always been there.”

“And if I say I'm staying?” I asked.

“Then I'll have to go without you,” Sharon said, her face sounding lie she felt the same pain at that answer that I felt in my heart.

“You would choose her over me?” I asked, a little shocked on top of the hurt.

“The man I love wouldn't make me choose.”

Ah yes, fantastic. A guilt trip! It's not like I was going to let Sharon go off with them without me, so what choice did I have but to say, “I'll go with you then.”

Beth looked me in the eyes, her mouth hanging open, “Seriously? After what she put you through? After all the things she said?”

Sharon reached out and placed a hand gently on Beth's shoulder, “She's one of us, Beth. I know you understand that.”

“But we fit in here. We are part of a group again. We are wanted here; no one is trying to kill us. We can have a life here.”

“Could you really sleep at night know that she's out there alone?” Pippa asked.

“Yes, I'm sure I could!” Beth replied, and then more softly, “But I couldn't knowing that you guys are out there. “

“So you'll come with us?” Pippa asked.

“Yes; someone has to keep you guys safe,” Beth turned from us to Alisdair, “I'm sorry, Reverend, I wanted to stay.”

“And I wanted you all to stay, but I cannot chastise you for doing right by your friend even if I am personally unhappy with your decision. I am sorry that I failed Maria so completely that I put you in this situation.”

“Isn't there anyway I can change your mind?” Gerry asked, “She's just not well, and I don't know what is wrong with her.”

“I recognize that she is ill, but the only thing that any of you could do would be to get Maria to give her word that she will make an effort. She has not tried to fit in since the moment you all got here, and maybe it is partially my fault, my way of handling newcomers is a bit heavy handed, and I could have handled our first practice a bit better,” Alisdair acknowledged.

“Still, I have tried to make amends for those things, I have tried to make her feel a part of this community, but I have failed in all of those attempts. Nothing could make me happier than for her to solve whatever her problems are and become a part of this group. She is in classroom three if you want to try; I will wait here for you to return.”

With that, we set off for the school area. Aside from holding Sunday services, The Church of Christ's Light also did early childhood education, Preschool to third grade classes were held here, so there are six classrooms up on the second floor. One of them is the family dorm, one is still used to try and teach the few kids that are here, but the other four go mostly unused.

Classroom three was not hard to find, it was just a matter of finding the room being guarded by the giant scowling black man. He looked curiously at us as we came down the hall.

“So what did Alisdair say?” Peter asked.

“He said we can stay if she will promise to try, “ I answered.

“'We'? He's making you all leave?” Peter asked in disbelief.

“No, but some of us won't let her go alone, even though she clearly doesn't give a sh-, doesn't care about us,” Beth said bitterly.

“I will wish you good luck, but I doubt it will do you any good. I'm going back to the Rev's office, please don't leave her unattended; she might try to burn the whole place down.”

Peter left the five us us standing outside of classroom three unsure how to continue. We looked at each other, as if each of us was thinking on how to best approach her.

Finally Gerry spoke, “Would you guys mind if I talked to Maria alone? I think it might give us our best chances.”

I certainly didn't know what to say to her, so I just shrugged. The rest of the group just kind of mumbled our agreement. I don't think any of us thought we had any chance at all of getting her to pull her head out of her ass.

“Wish me luck then,” Gerry said.

When Gerry opened the door, I got a momentary glimpse inside the classroom. Maria was sitting at a short table in a chair that was clearly meant for someone much younger than herself. If it weren't for the fact that our future was on the line, the scene would have been comical. Actually, it was comical anyway.

After a few moments, Pippa out her ear up to the wooden door.

“What are you doing?” Beth asked.

“I want to hear what's going on,” Pippa whispered.

“Don't you think we should give them some privacy?” Sharon asked.

“Yes, but I also want to hear.”

“Fair enough,” said Beth, and put her ear against the door too. Not wanting to be left out, Sharon and I crowded against the door so that we could hear as well.

“-st tell me what is wrong?” Gerry asked.

“Nothing's wrong, Gerry,” Maria answered, “I don't belong here.”

“But you are screwing this up for everybody, don't you understand that? Alisdair is going to tell you to leave.”

“Then that sounds like things will get better for everybody. They all hate me anyway.”

“No one hates you, “ Gerry replied, “They just don't like who you've become; how you've changed.”

“I haven't changed. My goal is the same as it ever was; survival.”

“You have changed. You've been a complete bitch since Christmas, and you've progressed from bitch to spoiled child since we got here. Alisdair just wants you to be part of the group, and that's all I'm asking of you too.”

“If you think I'm so horrible, then you'll be glad to see me go too.”

“I don't think you are horrible, Maria. I think you're sick.”

“Oh fuck you!”

“No, Maria, fuck you! This needs to stop before someone gets killed over it. Just tell Alisdair you will try, and then do it. This is a nice place, and it's more stable than Mallville ever was.“

“This place is a joke; as if God is protecting these people. They survive based on the same things that have kept us all alive this whole time. Luck and their our own skills. They did not get those skills from God!”

“Is that what it is? Are you mad because this is a church? Since when are you not a Christian? I've seen your place, I know you're a Christian.”

“I was a fool, that's all. I know better now.”

“So you're mad at God? You've been putting us all through this shit because you're mad at God?”

“There's no God, Gerry. No benevolent being would do this to his people. If there ever was a God he's dead and gone, or he just doesn't give a shit. Either way, I'm not wasting one more second on the bastard!”

“If that's all your problem is, I'm sure Alisd-”

“If that's all my problem is? You make it sound like I disagree with his choice of paint colors. I disagree with the idiotic fairy tale that Reverend Thomas is feeding all of you. I am not going to take part in this bullshit.”

“What if Alisdair was willing to leave you out of the religious stuff then? What if he let you eat alone so you wouldn't have to say grace? What if he excepted you from Sunday services?”

“So your solution is for me to make myself an outcast here anyway?”

“You have been making yourself an outcast; no one here has done anything but try to include you, and yet the only person you don't treat like crap on your shoes is me. Just make an effort. Stop sabotaging things, stop trying to pick fights with the Swords, stop trying to ruin things for everyone. If you can just act civil then things will be okay.”

“No, if the good reverend thinks the Christian thing to do is tell me to fuck off, then I will, no problem,” there was a crashing noise inside the room as Maria overturned something, or threw something onto the floor

“Then we're going with you. All of us.”

“What? Why?” Maria sounded genuinely puzzled.

“Because, believe it or not, we are your friends. Pippa, Sharon, everyone would rather put themselves at risk than think of you out there on your own.”

“Thats... that's ridiculous.”

“That's the way it is. The only way to keep us all safe is for you to stop being such an ass, or at least try.”

“No, if you all want to throw in with me, then do so. It's your decision, I'm not asking for your help, and I'm not taking responsibility for you. “ the meanness returned to her voice.

“Fine, Maria. If that is your final choice then that is what we'll do. I want you to keep something in mind though, whatever happens now is your fault; we are all your responsibility now. Anyone who gets hurt is on your head. We'll make for Lovelock, but when we get there, if we get there, you had better knock this shit off. If you fuck things up for yourself there, and they want to kick you out I will not fight for you again. This is it Maria, I love you like a sister, but this is it!”

“Gerry,” Maria started.

“No! Not another fucking word! Whatever happens next is on your head, you keep that in fucking mind the next time you act shitty towards any of us. You keep it in your head that we are all willing to risk death for you!” Gerry yelled, and he sounded on the edge of tears. There was another crash, presumably from Gerry knocking something over.

“Stop being so dramatic!”

“I am not being dramatic. I am going to hold you responsible for every cut, bruise, and scratch that anyone gets on the road, because it is all you!”

We all jumped back from the door as we heard Gerry's feet clomping across the classroom floor. He threw the door open to find all of us trying to look inconspicuous, which is of course the worst way to not look guilty.

Gerry scowled at each of us as he slammed the door behind him. He put his hands to his face to wipe at his eyes for a moment.

“Didn't go well then?” Asked Beth somewhat smugly.

“Fuck you, Beth, I know you were listening,” he replied crossly, “So are we all still in agreement to go with her?”

Sharon and Pippa both nodded, while I shrugged noncommittally. I don't really want to go with her, but I'm hardly going to let Sharon go without me. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to her because I wasn't there.

Beth shook her head slowly.

“What?” asked Pippa, “You're staying here?”

“No, I'm going with you,” Beth said sadly, “I just can't believe we're doing this. This is insane. We stayed at Mallville while being attacked by a gang and being threatened by Kaur, but we're going to leave what we have going here because Maria is acting like a petulant brat? It's insane.”

Gerry, still cross, turned on Beth, “No one is making you go!”

“I've stuck with you guys this long, I'm not leaving you now,” Beth smiled, “That doesn't mean I have to be happy about this though.”

Gerry stayed outside classroom three while the rest of us went back to Alisdair's office. Alisdair was less than surprised to find out that we had not been able to convince Maria to change her ways.

“So are you still all sure that you don't want to let her go on her own?” Alisdair asked solemnly.

We nodded our replies, even Beth.

“Okay. I'm not going to lie to you, I am truly disappointed to be losing you all, but standing by your friend is the right thing to do. I have told Peter to retrieve your weapons, have you gas cans refilled, and get you a couple of weeks worth of food and water. It should be more than enough to get you to Lovelock.”

“So I guess this means we're out of the Swords then?” Sharon asked.

“No, it just means that you will be spreading our mission to Lovelock. Maybe this is what God wants; maybe He just wanted me to train you, and send you on to fulfill your purpose elsewhere. Your swords are yours to keep, and you will always be considered members of The Sword of Gabriel.”

It was decided that we would leave in the morning; tomorrow morning. We spent the early evening loading up the cars. I think we are leaving with almost as much food and water as we came with, but then water in particular is not such a big deal here.

One thing I did not realize is how much we are carrying around in the way of firepower. We've got quite a bit of ammo, but I know that it will run out fast if we start using it on a regular basis. Besides, I kind of like my sword. I can't really figure out how to describe how I feel about it; the best way I can think to put it is that when I am holding my sword I feel like I have the entirety of The Sword of Gabriel standing behind me.

Yeah, I know that sounds dumb, but I really can't think of any better way to put it.

Alisdair told me that they would be letting Lovelock know that we are coming in their next radio communication, and that he expects to be told when we've arrived safely. I hope we'll be able to do that. I feel a bit of hesitation about hitting the road again after a month in relative comfort and safety.

So I mentioned before that Pippa has herself a little boyfriend (did I just write that? I am getting old). I discovered this when I was heading up to the bell tower to write this entry. It's clear out there tonight, and I wanted to get one last look at that view under the moonlight. Unfortunately someone had a similar idea.

When I got to top of the stairs, I found that the hatch was already open. I poked my head through and saw Pippa and a boy named Mark leaning against the waist high wall with their mouths glued together.

“Oooh!” I said mockingly, and maybe a bit cruelly, “Pippa's got a boyfriend.”

Pippa jerked back from Mark so hard that for a split second I thought that she would fall out of the bell tower.

Pippa yelled at me, “Get out of here, you pervert!”

I retreated down the stairs, singing the whole way, “Pippa and Mark, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G”

“Jerk!” Pippa yelled after me.

I ended up in classroom five, surrounded by children's drawings of flowers, and Jesus, and angels. I wonder how many of the kids who drew these pictures are still alive?

I'm going to get to bed now, Sharon's probably wondering where I am. I'm sad to be leaving all of this behind, but it's not the first time I've lost my home, right? As long as I have Sharon though, I think I can face anything.

Tomorrow we venture once more into the unknown; into a world that looks both familiar and alien. I hope Maria appreciates this, but I doubt she does.

Goodnight.