Leland Shaw

 
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He believed in the Rapture. He believed that the Divine was coming for him, to raise him right up off his feet. He’d stand out in the middle of Times Square, a cardboard sign in his hands. It said: I Believe in the Second Coming. On the flipside, it read: The END is NEAR.

He believed he was a faith healer, and that there was power flowing from the palms of his hands, as well as the sway of his long, flowing locks of hair. People would flock to him, hoping to get some of whatever Kool-Aid he was serving up in his basement apartment in Hoboken.It wasn’t so much Kool-Aid as vodka, mixed with Red Bull and orange juice.   

He believed that he could start his own religion. That he was the son of all of the others—as though everyone’s gods and goddesses got together and then decided to make him, to be like the Ultimate God. After all, he had a message. He wanted everyone to know that...and then, he’d go on to something else. One time, I asked him.

“What is it?” I tapped on his shoulder. He smelled of smoke and unwashed hair.  

“What?” When he turned to me, his pupils were blown.

“The message, Dad.”

“Doves,” he whispered, raising his hand and fluttering his fingers. “The patterns they make when they rise into the air.”

“And?”

“Vampires. Everywhere.” He waved his hands around over his head and walked away. Then I watched him deliver a sermon, surrounded by all of his wide-eyed followers. They really got into what he was saying. Not that I could tell what it was. Maybe I was too young to understand.   

Belief is the crux of religion. His beliefs were challenged, at 9:45 AM on June 26th, 2019, when he stumbled drunkenly off the subway platform, just in time to face a subway train, barreling down the tracks. He closed his eyes, crouched down and prayed.  

The answer to his prayers may have been a brief moment of pain, and then eternal darkness. Or maybe, he opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by flames and all of his unearthly parents. Or maybe, he opened his eyes and found himself reborn, snuggled up in a brand-new body.

Out of all of his followers, none of them came today. It’s just me, here with a closed casket. All his life, all he did was talk. Now, there’s nothing here but silence. It’s almost as loud.