With apologies to Jorge Luis Borges

 

Vision of Allison Morehead, Child of God

The Ascetic is an important part of Christian society in America. We watch the Ascetic every week on television, instead of going to church. Some people do both, but my dad says they are nuts. I used to cry when I saw the ascetic, because I thought he was scary. But I am not afraid of him anymore, and I am helping Kimmy (who is my little sister and who is two) not be afraid either.

The ascetic dies for our sins. This is good, because he is an evil, horrible man. Every night I pray for another lock on the door, which is a hymn that we sung when I went to vacation bible school. That song is about asking God for another lock on the door, so the Ascetic can’t escape. Mom says I sing really well.

 


 

Vision of the Television, Revelator of the Ascetic

Every week it is the same. The program doesn’t have any introduction, and the camera is always in the same position. A thin, gaunt man is dragged on to frame by his guards. They are dressed in the clothes of a police officer, without any ranking or identification. The prisoner is covered in a hood, and he has been gagged. His struggle is in vain, for every week the prisoner is forced into the machine. The machine is built like a thanatoptic weight bench, a long foam-padded platform inclined at a 45° angle. At each side are hinged cuffs, two at the bottom for ankles. Once the cuffs are on the prisoner, there is a period for each family is urged to pray for the magnification of pain.

Once the machine begins, bolts emerge from the cuffs. They are blunt, and piercing the skin takes time. There is no sound, but it is clear that the prisoner is screaming. They always scream. Once the bolts force their way through the skin, the platform inclines to a 90 degree angle. The prisoner is crucified. There is an assumption of death, but it rarely happens on screen. When it does, it is considered to be a good sign. The whole ordeal lasts about an hour before the program ends as abruptly as it began.

 


 

The Visions of Marcus, Guardian of the Ascetic

His identity is supposed to be a secret. Each week they give him a dossier on the prisoner and his crimes, a thin folder of autopsy photos and police reports that turn his stomach. He has stopped reading them. The hood does two things, his boss tells him, it protects you and it protects their families. It prevents you from becoming too emotionally involved, and it protects their families from being attacked. These men are the scum of the earth, he says, but their families have suffered enough.

He never sees their faces. They are all the same; they stink of solitary confinement and have greasy skin. When he tries to remember them individually, he can only see a blur of all of them.

 


 

Another Lock on the Door, the Hymn of the Ascetic

You give your grace,
You gave your son,
I dare not ask for more.
If it be your will,
To aid me still,
God, Put another lock on the door.

Another lock on the door,
Another lock on the door,
Lord grant me mercy,
I am not worthy,
Another lock on the door.

My road is long,
But I’m not weary,
With you my heart will soar,
‘Til kingdom come,
Your will be done,
Lord, put another lock on the door.

Another lock on the door,
Another lock on the door,
Lord grant me mercy,
I am not worthy,
Another lock on the door.

 


 

The Vision of Thomas Thiery, Personal Inquisitor to the Ascetic

For two centuries, we have running on borrowed time, living as if tomorrow would not come. We have prayed for the end, sung about it, attempted to write it into existence. When it finally came, we panicked.

There is still so much we have left to do, and because of this, the Ascetic is unwelcome. We do not lie to ourselves, we cannot prevent the end. But we may postpone it.

Every week I pray that when we pull back the rock, he won’t be there.

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