Well, the Big A is over and I survived. I made my way down to the Kingdom Hall this morning. By the end of the day, most of the congregation had gathered at the Hall. Some brothers and sisters are still missing. Ed Thorn, our presiding overseer, told us that those who were missing should have spent more time in field service.
Brother Thorn called a special meeting this morning. He announced that he and the other elders would now be assuming full authority over our new community until contact was reestablished with headquarters. All decisions regarding community regulations, living arrangements, work assignments, and other matters would be at the sole discretion of the elders. Sam Greene objected to this dictatorial policy until Thorn pulled out a letter from the Society dated several months ago which stated that, after Armageddon, the local body of elders would be responsible for all decisions until otherwise directed by te Society. Sam voiced no further objections. The rest of also accepted the new arrangement. The first new rule was not long in coming - all brothers and sisters were required to report to the Kingdom Hall at 8:00 every morning to receive work assignments and other instructions.
Brother Thorn has assigned me to the burial detail. It seems that most of us single brothers have been assigned this unpleasant duty. The dead bodies are already starting to get to me. It sickens me to watch the birds and other animals scavenge the corpses. I actually saw a raven pluck out an eyeball today. Disgusting! Rob Johnson got a bulldozer running and has begun to dig a large common grave. My job is to go around collecting bodies and load them into the back of a pickup truck.
We had our first judicial hearing today. Larry and Sue Winters had moved into the McRae mansion in what was once the exclusive Cypress Oaks subdivision. The problem was that Sister Thorn had already had her eye on the place and, as wife of the presiding overseer, she figured that she should have first choice. Brother Thorn told Brother and Sister Winter that they had no right to claim anything without approval of the elders. They were ordered to get out of the house by nightfall. The Winters were very disappointed but they agreed to move out.
At the morning meeting, the Thorns announced that they would be moving into the McRae place. The Winters were livid, but they didn't say anything. It was also announced that the surrounding estate homes had been assigned to the other elders. Position has privilege, even in the New World. Some of the brothers have started calling the area "Elder Hill". It was also announced that anyone wanting to appropriate a home must first file a request with the elders. I have decided to stay in my own house. It doesn't seem right to move into someone else's home, even if they were worldly. It makes me sad when I go into someone's house and see the family pictures and personal belongings. Most of the others don't feel this way, it doesn't bother them to loot the dead.
The elders announced a new meeting schedule at the morning meeting. On Sunday, we will still have the public talk followed by a study of old Watchtower articles (until we get new magazines). On Tuesday night, we will have a congregational book study. The Service Meeting has been canceled (no need for it anymore) along with the Ministry School. They have been replaced by an instructional session to be held on Friday night. This new meeting will instruct us on how to conduct ourselves in the New World Society. The best thing, of course, is no more field service!
This burial work is taking a heavy toll on me. I can't help but feel saddened at the waste of so much human life. Why couldn't Jehovah have found a way to save more people? The children are the worst, I can't stand to see their little bodies anymore. I don't think I'll report for work tomorrow.
I didn't go to work today. Ed Thorn came by later in the morning and asked me why I wasn't at work. I told him I didn't feel well. He told me to get to work, that everyone feels well all the time in the New World. He also told me that depression and mental anxiety were things of the past. Of course, he doesn't have to bury the bodies.
It's been two weeks now. I really miss things like electricity and running water. I wonder if we'll ever get those things working again. Rob Johnson and I borrowed a generator from the Hall last night and hooked it up to my television and VCR. We had a great time watching some "Star Trek" videos and a tape of last year's Superbowl. I really miss television.
At the morning meeting, Brother Thorn publicly reprimanded Rob and I for watching television. The elders have decided that, henceforth, watching videos is prohibited since we do not want our new paradise to be contaminated by the old world. Thorn speculated that one day we might have "theocratic television" from the Society. The Watchtower Channel?! Spare me!
Still no word from the Society. We have spoken to representatives from surrounding congregations but the elders are not allowing any travel. Carol Woods wanted to visit her sister in the next county to see if she made it through okay, but Brother Thorn told her to stay put and be patient. After all, she would have plenty of time to see her sister later. I think that was a cruel thing to say.
We finally finished most of the burial work. I am so relieved. The scavenger birds are still hanging around. I have grown to hate the sight of the fat, disgusting creatures. One of the damn things attacked me today. I guess they have acquired a taste for human flesh.
Many of the brothers and sisters are getting sick of being bossed around by the elders. They run things like an old South plantation, we are the slaves, they are the overseers. I have been reassigned to work on the communal farm. It is hard work, but it beats the burial detail. Sam Greene is organizing a committee to speak to the elders about some of the complaints that we all have.
The elders found out about Sam Greene's attempted "rebellion". At the morning meeting, he was publicly reprimanded and told to pray for a humble spirit. No one is to speak to him until he has shown proper repentance. I can't believe that we are disfellowshipping people in the New World!
Today a messenger finally arrived from the Society. Wade Peters, a young Bethelite, arrived on horseback. He told us that the Society has moved all headquarters staff to Patterson after the destruction of New York City. We also received the first post-Armageddon Watchtower (now issued quarterly). Many of us had hoped that it would contain information allowing us more personal freedom but we were disappointed to read that we were to keep following the instructions of the local elders until further notice. He also gave the elders a copy of a new procedure manual (titled "ORGANIZATION FOR THE NEW WORLD"), but none of us were allowed to see it.
My best friend got married today in a shotgun wedding! Rob and Sally Kennedy were discovered together while engaged in a heavy kissing session . Sally's blouse was unbuttoned and Rob had his hand on her exposed breast. After a judicial meeting, Brother Thorn announced that they were now married, without a ceremony or anything! Rob objected strenuously, explaining that he and Sally had not had sex. Brother Thorn, however, declared that the decision was in keeping with the new elder procedure manual. Sally seems happy enough but Rob is in a state of shock. I remember he once told me that he liked Sally's body, but thought that she was as dumb as a box of rocks. Now he is married to her forever. I'll have to remember to keep my hands in my pockets when I date any sisters.
The newlyweds are not getting along. There has been a lot of gossip about their horrible spats. Rob confided to me today that he went to the elders in an attempt to get the marriage annulled. They told him that according to the Society's new procedure manual, no divorces or annulments would be allowed for any reason. In addition, all marriages now have to be approved by the local body of elders.
Sam Greene was reinstated today. He is still unhappy, but keeps his thoughts to himself now.
We are all in a state of shock! Rob committed suicide today. I guess the idea of spending eternity with Sally was not acceptable to him. The elders refused to let us hold a funeral service. I volunteered to bury my friend. Brother Thorn instructed me to bury him in the common grave where we had put the worldly persons. No one came to the graveside, not even his widow. I said a prayer for my friend. I will miss Rob greatly.
Life is becoming miserable for many of us. The elders keep placing new rules on us every day. We are told we must lead holy lives of service and submission. No dissent or discussion is allowed. It seems like we had more freedom before Armageddon. I never thought I would be nostalgic about the old world!
I can't take it here anymore. I am going to travel to my brother's place, about a hundred miles from here. Traveling on foot, I think I can make it in about five days. I wish I could get gasoline for my car. I'll have to sneak out, since the elders still aren't giving anyone permission to travel. I have stored some food and plan to leave tonight after the curfew. I hope my brother is still alive, maybe he will know if Mom and Dad are okay.
I made it out of town today. I wonder if they miss me yet? The destruction in the countryside is incredible. How will we ever rebuild everything? I've seen quite a few skeletons already. I guess there is still a lot of burial work to do before we build a paradise.
I ran into a group of brothers from Westview congregation. I was detained at gunpoint! Brother Thorn had gotten word to them to be on the outlook for me. I am furious! Why can't I visit my brother?
Ed Thorn and two ministerial servants arrived today to escort me back "home". They were all carrying guns.
After my attempted escape and several other disciplinary problems involving other brothers, the elders have now set up a gun-toting police force. I was, of course, disfellowshipped at the morning meeting. I have been assigned to latrine duty.
I was instructed to report to the Kingdom Hall after work for "additional instruction." I saw Sam Greene and a couple of other "troublemakers" there. We were subjected to an hour of "reindoctrination," mostly the usual crap about maintaining a servant's spirit and not to think too much of ourselves. We were told to come back next week for more of the same.
I blew up today at the reindoctrination meeting. I told Ed Thorn that I was sick of him acting like a theocratic Hitler. I also told him that I was leaving the community and that he better not try to stop me. Big mistake. Thorn called his police force in and had me arrested. I am being detained under armed guard in a makeshift jail cell in the Kingdom Hall basement.
My judicial hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. Sam Greene came by to see me. When the guards were out of earshot, he told me that his efforts to contact the Society about the local elders had done no good. He had been told by the Society to keep quiet and obey the elders without question. Sam is very depressed about this and about my situation.
My judicial hearing was held today. Ed Thorn acted as lead prosecutor. I, of course, had no defense counsel and could call no witnesses. After the hearing, which was held in secret, I was judged guilty of being an unrepentant apostate. I was solemnly informed that according to the Society's instructions (as contained in "ORGANIZATION FOR THE NEW WORLD"), the punishment for apostasy is death by stoning. My execution is scheduled for tomorrow.
Well, this is the end. Later today, I will be led out for my execution by stoning. I would rather be shot in the back of the head, but the Society obviously feels that stoning provides a better object lesson. If I get a chance, I will throw one of the rocks back at Ed Thorn! The funny thing is that I don't really feel so bad about my impending demise. This New World Society is not my idea of a paradise and I don't want to live with these people for all eternity. From paradise lost to paradise regained to paradise lost again.
Everyone turned out for my stoning, even the kids. Ed Thorn solemnly pronounced my death sentence and then quoted scripture telling everyone to "not to let their eye feel sorry." No one did. My only regret is that they tied my hands behind my back so that I couldn't return any of their rocks with interest. Not very sporting. The last thing I saw before the lights went out was a sickening smirk on Thorn's face. Then I woke up. In Heaven. And there was St. Peter.
"Welcome to Paradise, my child" he said as he gently took my hand.
Confused, I said "But I thought paradise was back on Earth with the Witnesses."
"No," explained St. Peter, "That was Hell."