Cult Illustration #16, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


   This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Once she had a year’s distance from the Foundation, Ms. X came to the conclusion that all religion was a form of absolute certainty, and if others do not agree with you, then it becomes absolute misanthropy. After that, the only thing that makes sense is death to all those who do not agree (or something like that!).

The Foundation made no pretense for the killing, it was very honestly the centerpiece of the religion but to its credit, it was safely confined to animals and so could be interpreted as legal (under the first ammendment, freedom of religion) and perhaps even superior to other forms of religion. This, Ms. X surmised, would bring out the worst in any guru, including herself.

She was feeling particularly low, so low she became sluggish, as if drugged on depression. She brewed and sipped a cup of coffee and felt lighter, mobile enough to take a look out the window. Then she kept sipping that coffee until she felt stronger and then she went to her computer and opened the e-mail, the one about bloodless initiation. Now was the time to read it.

Her heart pounded as it did for some time now in such emotionally charged events. It pounded fiercely with the growing awareness that it was her weakest organ. In proximity, it was just above her weak stomach, and in frailty a notch up, letting her know that it would fail her one day. She rebutted her heart and went forward willing to taste bitter fruit.
As she read, she felt her heart take ease. Yes, if she had thought about the reasoning behind a bloodless initiation hard enough, she would have guessed what it would say. Deep in the recesses of her subconscious, she knew what it would say. Translated, it stated how wonderfully possible it was for the Foundation, (meaning the Guru and sometimes his wife), to accomplish the impossible because He had risen to a special level of character and spiritual awareness so vast and unattainable for most, that a bloodless initiation performed with his participation was indeed the real deal. You even had a choice for the “traditional type” or the new and improved "bloodless type". Attached were photos of the guru, looking older and fatter, but still provocative, grinning with parted lips and eyes squinting with clownish wisdom. If he kept on with his white papers, Ms. X supposed, he would eventually declare that there was no need for a guru at all, posthumously, of course.

After skimming the article, she read it backwards very quickly from the last paragraph and then up to the next paragraph. Before reaching the top of the page, she quit and closed it. She was reading the Guru's words now the way she always read the wife's, never totally absorbing every detail. That pleased her.

Ms. X was unaffected by the email, at least in the way she thought she would be. There was no doubling over with regret.  She noticed that there were no pictures of other priests to share in this tale and decided that this was purposeful. Recounting her old work fellows, she knew the way that the Guru regarded them, they would never be fit for this level. They would always be just behind him, hoping. 

Ms. X decided to take a peek at their website. She pulled up the Guru's weekly video blog and clicked play. He looked and talked the same, same old points redefined with a few new words, delivered with intelligent confidence. People need a kindly looking father figure, Ms. X decided, a man who reassures them, tells them everything will be alright, especially if they follow him very closely. In his blog he first talked about being "right" about the Presidential election prediction.He had told them that the underdog candidate would pull ahead by a landslide.

It was not so hard for Ms. X to foresee.  She went even further presaging that if his opponent won, it would most certainly have been election fraud, again. But why resort to fraud when you can convince millions of people to elect a man who had already been chosen by the few gurus who rule the globe? (she guessed that the monarch pair would have found this idea most blasphemous, as gurus have a way of protecting each other even when they are at odds with each other).

Then he spoke about the economy, which at this point had suffered a huge crash. It seemed to Ms. X that this so called crash actually sneaked up on everyone, in a peripheral manner, slowly, affecting their lives for years and then suddenly swallowing them whole, like a snake. Finally, he gave his generic prognosis, saying that everything would be okay, not ever the same, but okay.

Ms. X felt greatly comforted by his promise of salvation, which included the caveat that everyone who followed the philosophy would be better off. He urged the audience to keep on practicing . . .

Well, I do, thought Ms. X, I haven’t stopped doing my offerings and small ceremonies even though I do them completely alone. She felt for a moment privileged and saved. Then the Guru uttered the final words, “using your tools” meaning those procured from the Foundation and it was as if a counter spell had been employed breaking the enchantment for Ms. X. She knew that the tools were good only for some time. Once a year was over they had to be fed, or reconsecrated with blood, at substantial cost. Even more prescient, they became useless even when splattered with fresh blood once the devotee was able to access energy without them. And maybe "accessing energy" was just a fancy way of saying, use your innate ability of awareness, which is as natural to the human being as breathing. This was never a topic of his blogs!  Clients were never told that. His message was for those who were dependent on the idea of blood letting, and had not yet figured it out. So, this was where the bloodless initiation begins, thought Ms. X, it was never necessary at all! He had nothing new to tell her, but somewhere deep down, she felt comforted by his words as strongly as she felt content in her total alienation from the monarch pair. It was an ambiguous confrontation that she was not sure how to process.

“I think,” Ms. X said to herself, “the oldest profession in the world is not prostitution, its guruism.”

And she said the word gurusim over and over softly with an emphasis on "ism". Guru-ism, guru-ism, guru-ism.

The school year was coming to a close. Months passed since Ms. X left the Foundation and became a Substitute Teacher. Six months and then seven and then eleven and Ms. X was gaining some control over her feelings of abandonment, however, it was not completely finished and maybe it would never be done. Like a severed limb it would sometimes remind her of its existence with a phantom pang.

In the eleventh month she had what can only be described as a vision where the wife pulled up in her sporty car and the passenger door seemed to open, magically, invitingly, and the wife turned her head to face Ms. X with a rudy smile. Ms. X climbed in with a warm womblike feeling, embarking on a journey as a special companion to a special woman and then she jolted straight up out of the reverie with such an abrupt emptiness that she could have gone mad in that very second.

Her instinct was, as always, to fight insanity but these were the moments when she would find herself softening. They were so unexpected and involuntary, these semi conscious fantasies, intruding on her studied acceptance of life with the message that she had lost entirely what she had fought her whole life to gain. She would feel frightened and alone for a while until her stomach turned it all over with painful regret.

Then she remembered the secrets the wife told with her soft contemptuous voice. The old man would weep uncontrollably sometimes when the wife stayed half an hour longer than expected at the beach or if she were delayed on some local errand. He would drive around hysterically searching for her, sobbing, thinking she had just dropped off the earth. It was the kind of thing that Ms. X had no reply for. It was as if the information was too much to process, rendering her incapable of thought, let alone some kind of verbal response.

Ms. X wanted to shout "No, don't do it!" when the Guru prodded the wife about getting another puppy. Their were strict rules in their gated community against the number of pets one could own. The home owner's association had no appetite for rule breakers nor compromise but, somehow, the Guru had thwarted all of them.  A pack of full-bred dogs ranging in age and size was an enduring feature of their home. There was at least one biter among them, and this was the Guru’s favorite. He liked to talk to it in a baby voice the way a mother coos an infant.

In the early days the biters were large and powerful and kept on, till it was deemed they might actually kill someone. One succeeded in killing a large ram once, despite the animal's formidable horns. The dog gave it a swift bite on the neck. The Guru never euthanized the small biters, who were exceedingly threatening, but not likely to kill anything larger than one of their own.

The pack erupted in discordant tumult, barking wildly whenever a two legged came within shouting distance of their large house. They ran zig zag through the place with such ferocity the neighbors were alerted to every person who honed in on the structure, the delivery man, tutor, computer technician, client, maid, handyman, and other odd soul who would perform the tasks that all others could not. The neighbors met with their home owner’s association and made their complaints public so that the Guru and his wife were pressed to make an effort to quiet their beasts but any reduction in noise was temporary as the dogs were plainly in charge.
They all found the indoors a perfectly compatible place to relieve themselves and it came to be a kind of routine the older dogs taught the younger ones so the cycle was never broken. A cleaning woman was employed to do the floors everyday, sometimes twice, with a clever deodorizing compound that fooled the brain into thinking the atmosphere was slightly piquant in aroma, but not offensive. Ms. X was never entirely fooled. Her sense of smell was impeccable. Like a dog, she even smelled emotion. She smelled when something wasn’t right or if someone was lying. She smelled things about people that even they did not know about themselves.
In time every one else would smell the shit too.  Small dogs emptied themselves behind furniture and deep in closets that were left unexplored for weeks at a time. The underlying stench would build until the deodorizer had no effect and then the wife would be forced to investigate. She always had to care for the pets and she was embarrassed by the constant pools of urine and piles of feces so she scurried around picking them up with paper towels in the course of her busy days. She had to make sure that no one would see it, not even the cleaning woman.

Whenever the Guru wanted to add another pup or breed the existing batch the wife loudly protested but it was no use. She would lose and complain to Ms. X about it. Ms. X wanted to tell her that it was one of the ways that he kept her at bay, distracted, unable to move about to satisfy her own emotional needs. It was so obvious. The dogs were a whole set of dysfunctional clients on four legs, meant to suck up what little time the wife had between her sick two legged patients. Ms. X wanted to tell her but she could never bring herself to do it. Her words might cement the reality, make it more true than it might have been, and worse yet, it would be perceived as a betrayal.

The dogs were trained well in some respects. When special clients were over for dinner they did not normally jump up on the table to feed. They would wait until the group moved elsewhere and then have their banquet. It was too bad, thought Ms. X, because then they would get sick and start their merciless shitting and then she or the wife would have to do their covert shuffling about with stinky papered bundles. The groups were always boisterous and into their own talk or quietly rapt by the words of the Guru so the relationship between the dogs and their masters appeared quite normal.
The dogs usually barked at Ms. X when she first arrived at the compound, even though they knew her well, so it seemed strange that they were completely silent on the very last day that she stopped in. She walked into the warehouse which was the work space where she did most of her duties. It was a crowded place where one would have to shimmy between tables and storage bins and boxes to get to the large sink piled with plastic containers blackened with stinky dried blood. They could be stacked high in and around the sink and even on the floor. These were used to hold the sacred objects during ceremony, ensuring they would be soaked and marked with authentic blood. It was a hard task getting them clean. It made the hands foul. This was the place she toiled for hours, scouring off blood, sorting objects, wrapping and packaging the ephemera for shipping to clients.
It was so quiet that day. The dogs were not barking. Ms. X took it as a sign that she was doing the right thing, pushing back the feeling that she was an intruder bearing dark gifts. This sole day in her history with them, she had broken the Guru’s fail safe sound barrier. It  was clearly auspicious. On a work bench, she placed all of the things that the wife had given her, packaged neatly, and labeled accurately. Without a sound. She left.



Cult Illustration #34, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved