The church building was several hundred years old from the look of it. Uncontrolled ivy had covered the front except for the bright blue door, and entire western side of the building. The steeple rose high into the sky, the cross still attached. Joseph turned his head and glimpsed the sign. It read HIGHROCK COVENANT CHURCH. A mob of people was forming in the street chanting something. As they neared the door, he saw several people being herded into the church. They were next. Khan’s men shoved them through the door and towards the back of the sanctuary. Several men with automatic weapons were standing at the front door ensuring no one that wasn’t supposed to, left the building.
Joseph ran for the door when he saw Khan enter with Jeremiah. One thug cracked him on the back of the head with the butt of his rifle. He collapsed, his vision spinning and ears ringing. After a minute, he could open his eyes. There, above him, was Khan holding Jeremiah’s hand. The boy was pale. His eyes fixated on Joseph. No, they were looking through him. He was in shock.
“Jeremiah. Son, it’s me. Look at me son.” The boy continued to stare off into the distance. There was no spark of recognition. Joseph looked into Jeremiah’s eyes, “Are you okay, Jeremiah?” They were dark and empty as if everything that was his beautiful little boy was just wiped away. A tear ran down Joseph’s cheek. He looked down and closed his eyes. With every ounce of strength he had, he pushed back the pain and tears and rose to his feet. Three of Khan’s men grabbed him and held him in place. He stood at least a foot over Khan, yet the there was no sign fear in the leader. “What did you do to my son? I’ll kill you!”
A deep sigh escaped from Khan. “Mr. Kane is it. Jeremiah is fine. I gave him a little dose of something to make him more agreeable. I couldn’t have him kicking and screaming and causing a ruckus during the Cleansing. Oh, and you should know he is no longer your son. I claim this boy as my heir.” Joseph’s face went pale. “He is a kindred soul. I see the fire and untamed spirit of my ancestors in him. I will raise him in the ways of the Brotherhood. He shall be my son and I will be the father you never could be.”
In one swift move, Joseph broke free from his unsuspecting captors and ran down the dais towards Jeremiah. He grabbed the boy in his arms and looked into his eyes. They were dark and empty.
“Jeremiah! It’s me, your father. Wake up. Come on, wake up.” The boy remained unresponsive, staring off into nothingness.
He looked at Khan who had stopped his men from subduing and beating him. “What did you do to my son, you monster?”
Khan smiled at him. It wasn’t a smile that put you at ease. No. It was more of a smile a Tiger would make towards the goat it was about to devour. “Mr. Kane. I’ve already told you, Jeremiah is no longer your son. He is the heir to the Brotherhood now. Put him down and let us finish our work. We must continue to cleanse our world from the impurities that infest it.”
Joseph continued to cling to Jeremiah. He looked at Maria up on the Dais. Three thugs were holding her down and had gagged her to keep her quiet. She struggled but to no avail.
“Enough of this,” Khan said. “We have work to do and no time for this foolishness. Jeremiah, come here, son. Come to me.”
Jeremiah looked over at Khan and smiled. “Yes, father. I’ll be right there.” The boy flicked his wrist revealing a short dagger from his shirt sleeve. Without thought or concern, he plunged it into Joseph’s ribs. Joseph screamed in pain, dropped the boy, and fell to the floor as Jeremiah ran to Khan’s side and settled into the leaders embrace.
“No Jeremiah. Why? I don’t understand?”
Khan looked down at Jeremiah and mussed the boy’s hair. “I told you, Mr. Kane, Jeremiah is no longer your son. He belongs to the Brotherhood now. Now I must go. The Cleansing is almost here and I have a speech to make.” He looked down at Jeremiah and smiled. “Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Kane and thank you for bringing me such a wonderful gift.”
Stay Tuned Next Week for Part 9: The Manifesto