Spoilers: 'The River', 'Lonnigan, Texas', and 'Insomnia'.
Disclaimer: Surely Daniel Knauf has greater plans than mine for this guy.
THE HAND OF GOD by Jayne Leitch
There is a small chapel off the common area of the asylum, and Brother Justin takes a Bible from it the first day he is well enough to attend services. His fingers pull at the book's fragile, sharp-edged pages and scarred paper cover; his thumb wants to rest in the smooth impression worn into the cover of his own, leather-bound Bible, but the book he holds now is not the same one he left behind to condemn Iris, and he buries the urge.
This is a newer book than he is used to, but still old enough that the ink has been smudged under countless guilty hands. He glances over familiar passages--
*--thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule--*
*--easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise--*
*--offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did--*
--and feels nothing but curiosity, or perhaps dry wonder that he ever responded to them with such apprehension. They are merely words, after all, and not even the right words. Not God's words.
God's words are not printed on these pages in columns of greying serifs. They were not given to this book for transcription. They have been given to Brother Justin, entrusted to him that he may bring them to others as they ought to have been from the beginning.
Brother Justin has been entrusted with great responsibilities.
This was not visited upon me. This is my birthright.
He is always Brother Justin, inside his head, inside himself. He has been Brother Justin of the seminary school, Brother Justin of the Ministry, Brother Justin to all the faithful and unfaithful for whom he wears the cassock.
He is Justin, Brother to Iris. After the day by the river when they abandoned "Alexei", he wore the title even in their informal moments, just as he wore the cassock over the scars on his back.
Like the bible, the title with Iris is a crutch that he can no longer believe was ever as useful as he wished it.
Pain is an unavoidable side effect.
He sits with his back against one wall of his cell. The bible is innocuous on the floor beside him.
The asylum--the world--is filled with lost souls, souls that have strayed or been diverted from their God-given paths toward righteousness--souls being wasted. Brother Justin closes his eyes and feels them like breezes, uncertain and tremulous and lost in a vast desert. But now he is among them, his spirit planted in his purpose like an ancient tree in God's Earth: he chooses a single weak draught, places himself directly in its current, feels it respond like rustling leaves, like the wind being forced to flow around a Sequoia. And there is grim exultation as he feels it splitting around the solid thrust of his presence, submitting to his will to remain grounded, because the trial and determination and, if necessary, subjugation of man's free spirit is the God-given purpose of Brother Justin's existence. Through him the soul is awakened from its druggedness, from its numb lethargy, and Brother Justin takes it into himself, drinks its will into the very roots of his own destiny until they are one. Man and Messiah and Message, inviolable as God intends.
I am. The left hand of God.
Quiet falls over the asylum, and Brother Justin opens his eyes.
I have journeyed into the wilderness and returned with the love of God.
He picks up the bible, and the wetness on his hand soaks the pages.
Bible Passages: Genesis 4:7, Matthew 9:4-5, Hebrews 7:26-27
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Jayne Leitch
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