Another excerpt from: A Train Called Forgiveness

This excerpt is from the chapter titled “Of Love and Loyalty.”  I was only a teenager when this took place in reality, but I was able to recreate the gist of what happened.  The leader of the group created his own sort of communion.  In this scene the fictional leader, Peter Smith asks for his followers devout loyalty.

7.2

In the summer of 1977, Peter held a special meeting.  He came with his Bible, a bottle of wine, and a silver chalice.

He preached about Jesus’ disciples.  He spoke tenderly, with a soft, kind voice.  He spoke of the disciples’ love and loyalty for Jesus, their teacher.

He compared us, his followers, to the disciples.  He compared himself to Jesus.

Suddenly, Peter raised his voice.  He became angry, enraged.  He shouted loudly concerning Judas, the betrayer.  He clenched his fists, shook his hands.  Peter shouted, “In the end the betrayer dies.”  He warned us never to betray him.

Peter claimed to be a messenger, sent by God.  He swore his never-ending love to all who’d follow.  He threatened painful death to those who’d betray.

He raised his arms above his head, palms toward the sky.  He claimed he was MIchael the Archangel.  He promised paradise to those with patience.  He claimed he was the light in the darkness.

Everyone clung to his words.  Eyes filled with tears.  Their savior had come.

I sensed something wrong, something dubious.  I silently questioned Peter’s claims.  Something didn’t feel true.  I was the son of a minister.  I went to Sunday school.  I knew the Bible stories.  This wasn’t one of them.  Yes, I was only a kid, but I knew right from wrong.  This was definitely not right.

The ceremony continued.

Or was it a performance?

Peter took the silver cup and filled it with wine.

He started with those closest to him, those in power, Jared, Milt, Russell.  Each pledged absolute loyalty to Peter.  Each took an oath to uphold the goals of Paradise Farms.  Each drank from the cup.

Peter moved from row to row, member to member.  He made each member repeat after him: “My loyalty to you will follow me unto death.”  Each member drank from the cup, and Peter said, “Child, you are mine.”  He made the women kiss him on each cheek.

Every member over 16 years old pledged absolute loyalty to Peter Smith that night.  I thanked God I was only 14.

In closing, Peter said, “You’ve shared the cup.  You’ve shared my blood.  We’re eternally bound.  Remember this oath.  Go in silence.”

* * *
A Train Called Forgiveness is available at Amazon, Ibis Books, and in the Yakima area at Inklings Bookshop and the Yakima Valley Community College Bookstore.

Excerpt: At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy

I’m currently working on a follow-up book to A Train Called Forgiveness.  The second book is built on the premise that former cult leader Peter Smith faked his death and is still alive.  This excerpt is from the initial draft of the first chapter of the book.

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It was early summer, 2001.  I had just accepted a job in Southeast Kansas.  My wife, Xena, and I were visiting family near Seattle before making the cross-country move.  She’s always been curious about my childhood cult experience, so I drove her to Bonneveldt.  I took her to the old property that used to be Paradise Farms.  I took her downtown and showed her some of the stores that were owned and operated by Peter Smith’s followers.  Most had changed names.  Smith Publishing on Third, and The Silver Frame, a small art gallery on Main Street, had not.

I wondered if Peter Smith’s people still ran The Silver Frame?  ”I doubt they still run this place,” I said.  ”Let’s check it out.”  We slowly stepped inside.  A string of bells hung loosely inside the door.  They jangled as the door swung open and then closed behind us with a small thud.  The shop was filled with beautiful artwork, original paintings from well-known Northwest and Southwest artists.  There was a wide collection of custom-made frames in many sizes and colors.  The shop was colorful, yet the lighting wasn’t right.  ”A gallery should be well lit,” I said.  The Silver Frame was dim, teetering on the edge of darkness.  The darkness was more than a lack of light.  It was an aura, a deep feeling.  It seemed as if someone had lowered a black veil over my mind.  Darkness seeped through the air like a thick, black liquid from every painting, every crack, every corner, exposing the beauty of The Silver Frame for what it really was.  The Silver Frame was a facade.  It was the skin of something much deeper, something unsettling.  In all its colorful grandeur and external beauty, something was amiss.

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You can learn more about At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy and A Train Called Forgiveness at http://www.danerickson.net.

Excerpt: A Train Called Forgiveness

The following is a short excerpt from my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness: A Novel Based on Reality.  It’s the story of Andy Burden, a young man who’s struggling with his childhood experience of being subjected to a cult.  The following excerpt depicts the beginning of the cult leader’s loyalty ceremony.  For more information about the book, go to http://www.danerickson.net.  The book is now available at http://www.amazon.com.

* * *

In the summer of 1977, Peter held a special meeting.  He came with his bible, a bottle of wine, and a silver chalice.

He preached about Jesus’ disciples.  He spoke tenderly, with a soft, kind voice.  He spoke of the disciples’ love for Jesus, their teacher.

He compared us, his followers, to the disciples.  He compared himself to Jesus.

Suddenly, Peter raised his voice.  He became angry, enraged.  He shouted loudly concerning Judas, the betrayer.  He clenched his fists and shook his hands.  ”In the end,” Peter said, “the betrayer dies.”  He warned us never to betray him.

Peter claimed to be a messenger, sent by God.  He swore his never-ending love to all who’d follow.  He threatened a painful death to those who’d betray.

He raised his arms above his head, palms toward the sky, and claimed he was Michael the Archangel.  He promised paradise to those with patience.  He claimed he was the light in the darkness.

Everyone clung to his words.  Eyes filled with tears.  Their savior had come.

Excerpt from “A Train Called Forgiveness”

What follows is a short excerpt from what I’ll claim as a fictional work.  It comes from a story about a young man who’s dealing with his childhood experience of having been in a cult.  In the excerpt he’s considering how he can tell his intensely personal and painful story without reliving his past.  If you want to read more, you can go to http://www.danerickson.net

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Cult life is the same thing, day in, day out, day in, day out.  For most, this kind of repetition is too much to bear.  Yet, the epic nature of a cult story seems impossible to recreate.  The story could easily have 100 characters.  It could easily span twenty years.  It’s monumental.

I glance across the river and look up to the hills.

The emotions attached to cult experiences are heavy.  The subjects, sometimes shocking, extreme.  How can I share ugliness with grace?

I run my fingers through the rocks and sand along the riverbank.

My own struggles, the voices, the fear, all distract me from the task.  Yet, they are both a part of, and a result from, my experience.

I reflect on my predicament while watching little glints of light reflect on the water.

I can only share my story be disconnecting myself from it, by deconstructing it, and then reconstructing it in a way that allows me to write the story without reliving it.  That won’t be an easy task.  It will be drudge work at best and sheer hell at worst.

So, I’ll break the story into little bits and bites, tiny digestible pieces of poetry and prose, jumping between the life that is and the life that was, while looking forward to the life that’s yet to come.

I sit.  I think.  I watch the river flow.

I ride my bicycle, and today, the voices still ride with me.  Perhaps, they always will.