Lies of the Truthful | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Lies of the Truthful

LIES OF THE TRUTHFUL By: Dallas G. Releford Emily Rogers—once voted the most beautiful girl in the class of 1963 at Hustonville High School—stood in front of a mirror combing her long blonde hair. She had thought about sleeping in instead of going to church. However, at the last minute, she had decided she didn’t want to stay in bed for most of the day. She was like that sometimes and the habit annoyed her because she always ended up having to rush about to get ready just because she was so indecisive. She wondered if the person she saw in the mirror could possibly be the same person that had graduated from Hustonville High School, married the most handsome man in her class and had conceived two kids. After four years of marriage her husband had left her for someone else and she had gone to work in the shoe factory in Danville so she could support her family. She hurriedly got the kids ready for church still thinking about her past. She really didn’t care much about going to church and listen to the Reverend Hargis preach his “fire and brimstone” sermons except there wasn’t much else to do in the little community on a cold Sunday in October. After all, the church had helped her when she needed help like the time she was laid off for three months. The church had helped her with the bills and had even given clothes to the kids. Many in the community didn’t like the Reverend because he showed them the “error of their ways” and they didn’t like facing their own realities. Emily found most of what he said to be truthful. Most of the people in the church didn’t like the Reverend because he warned them about their sins. He never actually directed his accusations at anyone in particular. Most people with a guilty conscience thought he was talking about them and were offended. Some people even said that Reverend Hargis had the “spirit of the devil” in him while others proclaimed him to be a saint. It was a cool fall morning so Emily bundled the baby up in a blanket and made sure that Jody had his jacket on and that it was zippered up as it should be. Carrying the baby and with Jody following closely behind them, she walked down the street toward the church. When she arrived, the church was packed and a few people were standing outside waiting for the sermon to begin. They would drift in just before the preacher reached the pulpit. The Reverend Hargis had once claimed he could preach loud enough for the devil to hear him in Hell and few in the back of the crowded church doubted him. His voice echoed from the walls like hail bouncing off a tin roof. Emily managed to find an empty seat near the end of the large room. Several men had stayed outside. Emily hadn’t seen them come into the church. She supposed that most of them wanted to be outside where they could talk about the weekly events and other things because she saw several empty seats. She watched as the Reverend entered the room and stood before the congregation. He was dressed in his customary black, wide-brimmed hat, black suit and black high top boots. At over six feet, he cut quite a figure. It was his dark eyes, long hooked nose and loud voice that scared the love of the Lord into most people. “I would like to thank you all for coming here tonight. The subject of tonight’s sermon is life after death. We all know that when you die your spirit goes to one of two places, Heaven or Hell. Now, I can look around this room and tell you that most of you will be going to Hell.” Several people gasped to learn such a thing. Most of them believed they couldn’t possibly go anywhere except to the good place. The Reverend ignored several comments from people saying that they knew they were going to heaven and continued with his talk. Their protests were loud. His voice drowned out their voices as if they were simply a whisper in the wind. “You people come to church, sit there and listen to me and then you go home and do your evil deeds as if I don’t know about it, as if the Lord don’t know about it and as if the Devil don’t know about it. You can all go home today satisfied and assured that we all know about it.” The more he talked, the louder he became. The louder he became, the more active he was slinging his arms, stomping his feet and some had actually said that he breathed fire out of his nostrils. At fifty-six years old, the Reverend found himself perspiring and out of breath before the sermon was half over. Just as he was yelling at the sinners the loudest, he grabbed his chest, his mouth flew open, his eyes retreated to the back of their sockets and he collapsed to the floor. As several members gathered around him, he spoke his final words. “The Lord has seen fit to call me to his side in my finest hour,” he whispered, weakly. “I’ve always had the conviction that not one single member of my church will end up in Hell and you must make sure that they don’t.” With the Reverend gone, the church members searched desperately for someone to replace him. Nobody was found to fill the position. As the weeks turned into months, the people in the little community became more evil with each passing day. Without the constant threat of damnation the Reverend had bestowed upon them, the crime in the neighborhood increased. There were fights, theft, beatings and even a murder as time passed by. Many people were heard to make the comment that “this sort of thing didn’t happen when the Reverend Hargis was alive” and many wished outright that he would come back to help them. * * * Andrew Potter and Mike Nelson were busy hotwiring the blue Ford that belonged to Old Lady Miracle. Her car would make the sixth vehicle they had stolen and delivered to the man in Nashville who was more than happy to pay them for the “used” cars even if they didn’t have a title to them. “Hurry Mike and let’s get out of here. You never know when the sheriff will come along or the old woman will wake up,” Andy told Mike as Mike fooled with the wires under the dash. “It takes time, Andy,” Mike insisted, “but I’ll have it in a minute. Just be a little more patient.” Mike finally got the engine started and they drove down the back streets hoping to avoid the law. “In less than five hours, we’ll be in Nashville and we can catch the bus back a thousand dollars richer, just as we always do,” Andy told him. “Yes, but you stole from an old woman to get that money,” someone said. “What did you say, Mike?” Andy asked not understanding why Mike would say such a thing since he had been a willing participant in the theft and was just as guilty as he was. “I didn’t say anything,” Mike told him, “you must be overly tired or something.” “You are guilty of more than theft, aren’t you Mike?” The chilling voice said to Mike. “What about that little Riley girl that you raped last year?” “What?” Mike said nearly running the car off the country road. “What did you say, Andy?” “I didn’t say anything Mike,” Andy insisted getting more confused and frustrated by the minute. “What’s going on here?” Mike wanted to know. “If you didn’t say anything then who did?” “Maybe it’s your conscience speaking to you,” a voice said and they both heard it that time. “Where? Who? What is going on here?” Mike asked looking around to see where the voice was coming from. “I know we both heard it, but there’s nobody in the car with us.” “Oh, my,” the voice said again as the two petty thieves listened in complete horror. “They never look in the back seat, do they?” They both looked back at the same time into the darkness. Nobody was there. “It has to be the radio,” Andy said playing with the knobs, “it probably has a short in it or something and we’re just listening to some radio show.” “That’s it, of course, that’s what it is,” Mike said more confident now they had found a logical explanation for the mystery. “But I’m not sure about that,” the voice said again. They both looked back again sure that either nobody was there or someone was playing a trick on them. “I always knew you boys were no good,” the Reverend Hargis said, “and now I’m most sure of it.” They both glanced over their shoulders into the back seat at the same time. What they saw paralyzed their minds and chilled their souls. They were looking directly into the pale face of Reverend Hargis. Mike realized too late that he wasn’t watching the road. By the time he turned back around, the car was already going off the road and over a cliff. Reverend Hargis preached to them all the way to Hell. * * * Susan Nutgrass had been meeting Jess Asbury in the apple orchard without his wife knowing about it for over a year. They had made love on the green grass, in the snow and even in the pouring rain. They had enjoyed the company of each other during each passing season. Tonight, she was eager to see the man she loved once again. She had a very good reason to see him because she had just found out that morning she was pregnant. Neither she nor the doctor could explain how she could be six months pregnant and neither of them had discovered it. She hadn’t felt any different than she always had except for the flu and a few colds, until last week. He came just as he always did. They met once or twice a week after his wife and kids were in bed. He simply told his wife that he was working in the barn or doing some other chore. Susan was surprised his wife even believed him. The farmer, Morris Vanderbilt, had once told her that as long as Jess kept his wife and kids fed and clothed she didn’t care what he did. Susan had met his big, fat wife once and she believed him. Morris had also said that all she did was sit and watch television. That was the only thing she knew how to do except sleep until noon everyday. In addition to the farm work, Jess did the dishes, mopped the floors and took care of the kids, when he wasn’t busy doing other things. “We have to talk, Jess,” she said as he made his way cautiously into the grassy clearing through the bushes. “Sure,” Jess said wondering what he had done now. “What about?” “I’m at least six months pregnant,” she informed him. “I just found out today when I went to the doctor.” “What? That’s impossible,” Jess insisted. “You can’t even tell it by looking at you.” “I know,” she agreed, “and I don’t even feel it. I never would have known if the doctor hadn’t given me a complete physical.” As she spoke, her eyes grew wider and the calm look on her face turned to one of pure terror. “What’s wrong with you?” Jess asked, becoming alarmed. “It’s coming, it’s coming,” she screamed with tears in her eyes, “it’s coming.” “What? Who’s coming?” Jess asked getting agitated with her because he was confused about what she was talking about. “The baby,” she screamed even louder as she spoke. “The baby, it’s coming.” “That’s absurd, impossible,” Jess replied, grabbing her by her arms trying to hold her up as she nearly collapsed onto the ground. He was bewildered since he didn’t know whether to believe her or not. She barely had time to remove her pants before the head was entering the world. Jess could not bear to look. He had never observed one of his own kids being born and he most certainly didn’t want to see what was happening now. Susan watched as the baby was being born and frequently cursed the terrible, searing pain she was suffering. She screamed while trying to endure the worst pain she had ever felt. The baby was large, almost too large to exit from her opening that was stretched as far as it could be stretched. Susan thought that if it was stretched any more that it would surely kill her. Jess looked to see what she was yelling for him to look at. Before them stood a baby with dark hair, dark eyes, a beaky nose and thin lips. The baby grew before their eyes until it was over six feet tall. “Who, or what are you?” Jess asked, harshly. The terror was so bad he could barely speak. “I am the evil result of the evil you have enjoyed.” They didn’t recognize Reverend Hargis until he had spoken. There was no mistaking the voice they had both heard a thousand times. “What do you want from us?” Susan cried so confused and terrified she could hardly talk. “What have we ever done to you?” “You didn’t listen,” he reminded them. “If you had listened then you would have remembered that I told you my congregation was going to Hell and I was telling you the truth.” Before he could say anything more, the ground around them opened up and Reverend Hargis preached to them all the way to the center of the Earth. * * * As more people suddenly disappeared in the little community, there was a sense that something unusual was going on. No matter how hard they tried, nobody could come up with a reasonable explanation for it. Some people thought that “space aliens” were the guilty culprits while others thought the devil himself was the cause for all the missing people. Very few even dared to whisper the name of Reverend Hargis or to even suggest that he was to blame. As the population dwindled, the yearning for religious guidance increased until the members of the church demanded that a new preacher be found. In answer to their prayers, a young man by the name of Damon Green was hired. He was described as easy going, inexperienced and sensitive to the needs of the church. That was exactly what the church members wanted, someone they could form into a reverend to suit them. It was Sunday morning and Emily Rogers walked the short distance to the church with the two kids. She had dressed in her best clothes hoping to make an impression on the new preacher. After all, she had heard that he was tall, nice and handsome. When you had two kids that had to be fed and there weren’t very many eligible bachelors in town, any man with a paycheck seemed like a good target for matrimony. She took a place in the front where she could see and be seen by the young preacher. She was surprised that he had not been at the front door greeting all the members as they entered. Reverend Hargis had never missed greeting the members as they entered and she expected the new reverend to do the same thing. Since it was his first day as the new preacher, maybe he had chosen to introduce himself to all the church members at once, she thought. She wasn’t disappointed when he finally appeared. He was indeed handsome and had a smile that instantly won the hearts of every woman in the church. When he spoke, it was with a soft, crisp voice that seemed almost like the voice of an angel. Several women claimed they could hear music and angels singing when he spoke to them, especially after he had preached the sermon. Things went fine for the congregation the first two Sundays. They felt that they had really found a preacher that was just right for them. On the third Sunday they began to notice a change in the way the Reverend Damon Green spoke and in his actions. As he preached in an ever-increasing ferocity, his voice became louder and he became more aggressive toward the congregation. He called them all cowards because they were afraid to meet God by submitting themselves to his will. He called people by their names and pointed out all their sins right in front of the rest of the members. Many commented to others that even Reverend Hargis had not dared to go that far. Just when the members of the little church thought things were as bad as it could get, it got worse. The Reverend paced back and forth yelling and screaming various insults at the people, pointing his finger at certain ones and condemning them to Hell as he preached the gospel. While he paced back and forth waving his hands at the shocked congregation, a terrible storm was brewing outside the little church. There were loud blasts of thunder that almost drowned out his voice. Summoning up all the strength and courage he had, he yelled louder as the lightning flashed almost constantly and the thunder boomed. The lightning bolts lit up the room so frequently they almost blinded everyone except the Reverend Damon Green who just ignored the disturbance and went on with his preaching. As he paced back and forth, he began to physically change. Members of the church were horrified to see Reverend Hargis parading in front of them where the Reverend Damon Green had been just a few seconds before. Emily Rogers was terrified as was everyone else. That terror and the sudden need to get away from it saved her life and the lives of her two kids. Grabbing the baby from the seat beside her, she pulled Jody by his arm toward the rear of the church. She made it out the side door just as the walls burst into flames. She could hear Reverend Hargis still preaching over the screams of his congregation and the crackling of the flames as she ran from the burning building. The congregation watched in complete terror as the dark figure with the devilish eyes, the dark hat and suit continued to yell at them as the building burned. “I told you people that you were going to Hell, but you wouldn’t believe me. You were willing to listen to a worthless Reverend Damon Green as long as he told you what you wanted to hear. You didn’t want to hear the real truth. Some will argue that it is not my duty to judge you so I judge thee not. You have already been judged and you will spend eternity in Hell to prove it.” As Emily watched from a safe distance, the church was consumed in flames and then it disappeared as if it had never even been there in the first place. Emily was the only survivor and she left town before anyone could ask her questions that she didn’t have answers for. The little church was never forgotten. People spoke in whispers when they talked about it. Reverend Hargis was never mentioned again because they were afraid he would come back for them. The End
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