Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved
Synopsis: a cult blurs the lines between the real and imagined, between what is good and what is evil
My name is Steve Roland. I'm a special agent with the FBI's black ops division. Black ops deal with investigations below the public surface. In other words, Congress is kept in the dark. These have been around sinceHoover, although most officials are unaware that they still operate. Being integral to our national security, the President and NSA turn a blind eye... at least the smart ones do. Critics seem to have a statistically high number of accidents. Not that I or anyone I know has ever been involved in one of these 'accidents'. I suspect the agency does justify the ends to the means when it suits their purpose.
I was recently assigned to Cult investigation. I never realized just how big a problem it was, but there are hundreds of them. Mostly innocuous knock-offs onCrystals, Mysticism or Christian new age. Some of the pagan and satanic cults are more worrisome, but still manageable. UNO is another story. It's founder and charismatic leader is a lady who goes by the name, 'Almighte', Dr. Maria Almighte. Not a very original name if you ask me, but it seems to work for her. She started harmlessly enough inSouthern California, but now is spreading rapidly to adjoining states and beyond. States likeOregon,WashingtonandNevadaalready have significant followers. They just bagged another political figure with a recent win in a close senate race. Needless to say, the State Department is not pleased. She has volunteers, kinda like the Hare Krishnas, that fan out whenever she visits a city. The typical mantra to recruit visitors to her seminars is universal love and peace with heightened self awareness through total body immersion... whatever the hell that means. The problem is that the visitors go into the seminars, but they don't come out. I mean, her close rate is something like 50%. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that she is adding new recruits at an alarming rate.
I was assigned to infiltrate the organization and glean more information. A federal indictment would follow, were I to discover illegal weapons, terrorists ideology or other mayhem planned by the group. I loved this part of my job. As a covert operative with the FBI black ops division, infiltrating an organization was always exciting. The danger of discovery lended itself well to my daredevil approach to life. I also wanted to bring this lady down. Her bio was alarming. She was a disenfranchised medical doctor who had developed an affinity for the macabre. She used her considerable looks and charm to brain wash middle age men and handily separate them from their wealth. Material things were no longer relevant once you joined UNO. She was good. The group now numbered in the thousands and included members from all walks of life including CEOs of major corporations, lawyers, police officials, even other doctors. UNO was a finely tuned machine and very well funded. The agency listed this as a black op. With some concern about police agency and political compromise at the hands of UNO, there was a plausible need to maintain maximum secrecy. The clandestine nature of the mission warranted that no files be maintained on the computer and only my boss, Dr. Bob Haney, and my wife, of course, were aware of my involvement.
I thought back to my meeting the prior week. Bob's tone of voice was strained, even worried. "The State Department believes this lady is placing her followers in positions of power. Normally we would laugh this off as preposterous, but she seems to be succeeding. She controls two senate seats and five Congressman. Minor political leaders from Union bosses to mayoral candidates are also flocking to her camp. It's weird Steve.... it's more than weird, it's fucking creepy."
My flight forSan Diegoand UNO left tomorrow morning on the9:50Amflight out of La Guardia. As I poured myself a cup of coffee, I decided this would be a good time to re-familiarize myself with her profile. I poured the contents of the manila file on the coffee table. Several photographs revealed her life story. There was a picture of her graduating from high school. I had to admit she was stunning, and a straight A student to boot. A picture from medical school showed her dissecting a cadaver for the first time with some other students. She had a twisted grin, while the other students looked somewhat green. Then there was the graduation picture. All smiles and no hint as to her true character. Finally, there were pictures of her in the early days of UNO. She was in a white robe as if some kind of self ordained minister. She had a bright crystal pendant around her neck and was touching a young girl on the forehead who had just started to fall back in a dead faint. Healed from some imaginary illness, no doubt. The last picture showed her with her flock. There must have been ten thousand people gathered before her... like lambs to the slaughter. How could this young woman exert such control? Well, history was replete with charismatic leaders that had controlled millions of people.... even ordered them to certain death in battle. Wasn't Alexander the Great only eighteen when he commanded an empire that spanned the entire known world of the time?
Dr. Maria Almighte. Strange name. Dual boarded neurology and psychiatry. Combined MD/PhD program from Harvard. Interesting thesis subject. Post traumatic stress reaction treated with hypnotic age regression therapy. Mumbo-jumbo to be sure. Yes, this assignment would be fun. Let her bring it on. I had been inculcated in 'MKULTRA', the clandestine CIA Mind Control project which studied hypnotic interrogation of uncooperative subjects. With a priori knowledge of Dr. Almighte's goal of subjugation, I would easily be able to fool her into thinking I was hypnotized and indoctrinated in her pseudo-religion. Then I could get into the inner circle and find out what was really going on. My training had prepared me to resist torture, sleep deprivation, hypnosis, drugs and any other mind control technique an enemy state might throw at me. Her shit might work on the spineless sheep that worshipped her, but it would take more than a slap on the forehead and 'HEAL!' to affect me. I gathered the photographs and dossier and placed them back in the folder. This I tossed in the fireplace and burned unceremoniously. I reached for my coffee and managed to knock it over. "Fuck", it spilled on my wife's bible. I grabbed a towel and blotted the coffee up the best I could. What is she reading now I wondered, as I glanced at the open book.
23rd PsalmThe Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:He leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul:He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil: For thou art with me...
Another form of brainwashing as far as I was concerned. I never could get a handle on a central paradox in Christian teachings. If god was completely good and all powerful, why was there evil in the world? The only explanation was that either he wasn't all powerful or that he wasn't all good. Becky had an explanation for these things. "We don't understand the ways of the world, but God has a reason for all things and a plan for each of us." That was her pat answer for anything she didn't have an answer for. She wasn't a religious zealot really, but she did have a faith that I lacked. It was easy for her. I sometimes found myself jealous of her relationship with God. Funny, but you would think her job at the agency precluded such things. She had been a spook and had done some things in her past that she wouldn't talk about even now, even to me.
I had an early flight, so I decided to retire. My wife was already in bed asleep or so I thought.
Becky prayed silently, "God, please shield and protect Steve as he infiltrates this cult. Give him the strength to discover the evil and expose it to the world. I know he is not strong in his faith now, but he is a good man and will come to know you in time."
My flight arrived on time at1 pmpacific time. I gathered my carry-ons and stretched. It had been a long flight and I had had plenty of time to rehearse my agency invented bio. My modus operandi was a reporter for the New York Times doing a piece on Dr. Almighte and her rapid ascent to fame. It would be relatively easy to feign sincere interest and request a demonstration of her power. Highly desirous of positive press coverage, I would be a tempting target for her powers of persuasion. A representative was waiting for me at baggage.
"Mr. Jordan, Dr. Almighte is expecting you. I have a car waiting." His voice was flat... absolutely monotone. I was tempted to check him for a pulse.
We arrived at a small compound outside the city less than an hour later. As I stepped out, I surveyed my surroundings. A temple in the form of a pyramid shimmered in themiddaysun. Well it wasCalifornia, what did I expect? Sprawled on either side were dozens of identical structures extending for, perhaps half a mile. For want of a better description, they resembled military barracks.
"Is this where you keep the troops?", I asked amused.
"These are for the chosen ones."
"... the chosen ones, huh?.... lucky devils..."
"Please follow me, Dr. Almighte is expecting you", he droned on. His gait was stiff and mechanical. What is this dude's deal, I wondered.
The doors to the temple opened and washed in a pool of brilliant light stood the good doctor.
Her long blonde hair, white skin and white robe illuminated by the bright light created the impression that she was holier than thou. And ungodly beautiful. I put my on sunglasses to cut the glare that she seemed to exude... almost independent of the reflected light.
"Mr. Roland. I am so happy that you were able to make such a long trip to come visit me here at Nirvana," she extended her hands, smiling warmly, taking mine in hers.
I felt a sudden, cold chill rush down my spine. It was almost as if evil had entered my body. As she withdrew her hands, my lungs exhaled involuntarily. Her presence departed my body, taking with it a piece of me. I could feel it... part of my will, a sliver of my soul, the essence of my life force.... somehow I felt as though my aura had just dimmed ever so slightly. She closed her eyes momentarily as if enjoying a sensation and briefly seemed to glow brighter. This was very unsettling.... no ordinary op. Something dark and nefarious was operating here. This explained Bob Haney's unreasonable fear. My throat was suddenly dry and I swallowed uneasily. Ungodly beautiful I repeated to myself. Dr. Almighte nodded at a young woman standing next to me. "I shall see you later this evening", she smiled.
A follower of Maria Almighte, took my hand and gestured toward a long hall. "I will escort you to your room." Very touchy-feely around here, I thought. Like the doctor, she wore a similar, though less ornate robe. Equally as good a conversationalist as the last 'chosen one', she explained the itinerary. Like a pre-recorded tape, the inflection in her voice never changed. "You will rest here until dinner. After dinner we will introduce you to the council of five and the hall of virgins. Tomorrow you may interview Dr. Almighte. I shall call back for you at 6. Good evening."
"Hey, what gives with this place? Who is the council of five?", I enquired as she closed the double doors behind her. No answer. "Zombie", I thought out loud.
I pulled out my cell phone and called my boss, Bob Haney, on a scrambled line. "Checking in. Not much to report. Everyone walks and talks like robots around here. I met the doctor, shook her hand. She seems quite normal actually, sincere, even warm and friendly. I'll let you know more tomorrow after I interview her in depth."
"Be careful Steve. A wire came in last night. It seems another agency sent a man in and he reported back that everything was fine. The next day he walked into his office, pulled out his service revolver and methodically proceeded to execute his boss and co-workers before delivering the last round to his temple. He had no record of any emotional or personal problems. He was a good man, Steve."
"Thanks for the heads-up", as I closed the phone. "Shit. I'd better keep my guard up."
Ever since I had been introduced to the doctor, I had felt unusually tired. It was as if I hadn't slept in days. I'll lie down and catch a quick nap, I decided.
As I recall, I started to dream almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I felt myself falling... my mind spinning into a vortex, almost like a drug induced sleep. Before the last remnants of consciousness escaped me, I considered the possibility of a secret gas line in the room emitting an odorless, colorless gas. Streaming colors passing me, my mind began a long descent into the abyss. As my conscious mind surrendered to the imagined (or real) chemical cloud, I found myself in a long, dark tunnel leading to a massive cavern. I felt hands lifting me, carrying me down, deep into the bowels of the earth. Fire boiled around me and two massive iron gates opened slowly. Guarding the entrance were two hell hounds. A beautiful woman in a flowing white robe smiled and motioned for me to enter. I remember glancing up and seeing two angelic cherubs looking down. I sensed a profound sadness in them and one of the cherubs appeared to be..... crying?
I awoke to find myself lying on an enormous table or was it an altar? My arms and legs were stretched apart and bound by some sort of invisible restraint. I was completely naked and exposed. My head throbbed and my vision was blurry. I lifted my head and tried to look around. Faintly, vaguely I could make out figures standing around the table. They stood in the same white robes I had encountered on my arrival. Hoods shrouded their faces from my eyes. The walls were dark save for evenly spaced torches that provided a dull illumination. Music echoed in the hall... some sort of Gregorian chant. Given my predicament, I should have been freaking out, but some how it was alright.
"Hello Steven. You are my guest and I want you to feel comfortable and relaxed. You are in the hall of virgins and standing before you are my loyal and obedient servants. They are here to satisfy your every desire, but first... I am a bit concerned. I don't think you are being completely honest with me." Her voice was soft, almost musical and lilting. "Steve, why have you come here? Are you a reporter as you say or are you here for some other reason?" I became aware of a powerful female presence. The lady in white stood before me and lowered her hood. Her long blonde hair flowed out. Her skin was flawless, white as pearls, and as she smiled down at me, she tenderly placed her hand on my chest. I vaguely remembered her. This was Dr. Maria Almighte. I began to become alarmed, which she sensed. She took her other hand and laid it on my forehead, affectionately rubbing my face and temple in a soft, circular manner. A wonderful sensation of warmth descended over me and I began to feel a deep sense of comfort... of... allegiance. She leaned over me, tilting her head and a beautiful lock of golden hair fell across her eyes. She smiled at me warmly and I realized she was truly the most beautiful vision I had ever beheld. It was at that moment I realized that I was responding to her. My penis was standing fully at attention. She glanced back and smiled even more broadly as she moved her hand from my chest to tenderly cup my penis and testicles.
"You are tense Steven. Take a deep breath and slowly let it out." I obeyed without questioning. "Good, you are relaxing. Now, once again, why are you here?"
"I'm a reporter for the New York Times on assignment." My training allowed me to say this without reservation. I actually believed it myself.
"Good. Then you should know that my message is one of universal love and understanding."
While looking into my eyes, into my soul, Dr. Almighte motioned for the girl nearest her to come to the altar. The young girl lifted her robe over her shoulders and head. Now she was standing completely naked, looking up at the lady in white as if awaiting instructions. Her jaw was slack and her gaze was empty. Dr. Almighte said something to her which I was unable to hear and the young girl dutifully climbed onto the altar and began to straddle me.
"Please, this isn't right... I'm... I'm married."
"It's OK Steven. Just let it happen." I felt her hand guide me into the young girl's womb. I closed my eyes, this was wrong, but the feeling was oh so right. I felt her dilate to accept the girth of my blood engorged penis. She lowered herself fully onto me. An audible shutter gripped her body and she clenched down with her virginal muscles. A wave of heat washed over my body. My penis had a mind of it's own and I began to lift my hips to meet the virgin's thrusts. I turned my head to the side and tried to imagine my wife, Becky. I imagined I was making love to Becky and the sense of guilt was replaced with a sense of peace. Dr. Almighte was speaking, but I could not make out the words. I remembered answering some question she asked, but it all seemed like a dream. I felt myself building to a powerful climax and then a tremendous release. The next thing I realized, the virgin was gone and it was deathly still.
I turned to open my eyes. The doctor was gone. Before me stood a demonic entity with hideous blood red eyes and outstretched wings. It smiled at me, a wicked smile. Sharp teeth populated a cavernous mouth and it's breath was rancid and hot. I tried to move, to scream, but found myself paralyzed. It lifted it's wings above me casting a deep shadow, then bent over my neck, opening it's palate wide. The pain was sudden and intense. The teeth sunk into my neck and I felt my cervical spine snap from the bone crushing grip. My body was lifted into the air and shaken savagely like a hapless cat snared in the jaws of a pit bull. This was all surreal. Outside my body, I floated nearby observing the life being brutally ripped from my body, limb by limb. The terror was real, yet I was but an observer. A shimmering light appeared and I found myself drifting towards it. The light seemed to be streaming upwards, into the ceiling, into the heavens. As I neared it grew brighter until it was blinding.
The sun shown thru the window directly into my eyes. I blinked and raised my hand to block the early morning insult. As I sat up, I recalled the images and shuttered. What a nightmare. I must have slept thru dinner and the planned visit to the hall of virgins... or had I been there? The dream seemed almost real, yet there were gaps in my memory I couldn't account for. I looked for the imagined secret gas line, but found no evidence. My shorts smelled of sex though.
I dialed home. Becky answered, her voice somewhat shaky, distant, "Hell.... hello."
"Honey?... anything the matter... just calling to check on you."
She started to cry, "Bob Haney is dead... murdered."
"Oh no, God no.... what... what happened?"
"They found him this morning. A crucifix was embedded in his skull and a note was attached to it." It said, 'Let this be a warning. You are dealing with forces you cannot possibly comprehend. We will not be stopped.'
"The agency is freaked out. I guess this a black op and the file is dark. No one else knows of your involvement with UNO except me. You're still alive.... do you think they know why you are there?"
"No. I told them I'm a reporter. I'm supposed to spend some time interviewing Dr. Maria Almighte today. Outwardly, at least, she seems very nice."
"I think you should find some way to leave."
"I know how to take care of myself. I'll call for the cavalry if anything looks amiss. It is possible Becky, that Bob's murder was related to one of the other investigations he is overseeing"
There was a long silence on the other end. "Pray with me," Becky implored with a desperate tone.
Becky led the drill, "Dear heavenly father please surround Steve with your grace and love. Protect him from the evil that lurks all around him. Let the holy spirit guard him and guide him. We are your humble servants and ask this in Jesus name. Amen."
"I'll wrap this up and head home as soon as I can. Now, you keep the door locked and don't talk to anyone until I get back. Right now, I'm not sure who I trust in the agency. I love you Becky, and.... I will turn to god for guidance," I hung up, my heart heavy. Bob had been a good friend. He had introduced Becky and I, had been the best man at our wedding and now he was gone. For the first time in my life, I knew I needed help to accomplish my mission. God, if you can hear me, be the light to show me the way. And keep Becky safe. I felt tears welling up in my eyes when my thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. I wiped my eyes and opened the door wide enough to see the young lady who had come for me.
"Mr. Roland. We decided not to disturb you last night. Your snoring was audible thru the door. If you are ready, the doctor will see you now."
"Be just a few minutes. I need to shower... can you wait?"
I took a quick shower and was preparing to lather up to shave when I noticed what appeared to be extremely faint, small, red marks on my neck. The skin wasn't broken, but they almost appeared in the pattern of tooth marks. I remembered the previous evening. This coincided with the area where I had experienced the pain from the hellish, imagined bite. I rubbed my neck, then shook my head, speaking under my breath, "don't get weird on me Steve."
I was escorted to massive side doors off the main hall. Dr. Maria Almighte sat in a large wooden, intricately carved chair. It was befitting of a throne.... I guess that's what it was.
"Steven. You have not been completely truthful with me have you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Does the name Bob Haney mean anything to you?"
"You fucking bitch. You killed him. I'll see you get the fucking elec."
"SILENCE" she commanded.
I was compelled to freeze mid-word, my mouth open.
"Steven... calm down. Bob Haney's death was on the news. Did you consider that I may just have put two and two together."
She paused, looking at me as if thinking how she would word the next thought. "Steven, you made a mistake last night. You are married and you gave yourself to another. I believe that is called adultery and some.... shall we say... authorities frown on this. This makes my job easier, and I do appreciate your sinfulness."
"So my dream was not a dream, but real", I shuttered at the thought.
"Or maybe my staff informed me of your wet dream. Adultery whether actual or committed in the mind is the same."
I was frozen in place. She got up and walked around me, studying me, then looked down at my crotch.
"I didn't get to have any fun last night", she pouted, brushing her hand across the bulge in my pants. "We believe in free and open love here. By the look of the tent in your pants, you are thinking the same thing... no?"
I couldn't believe what was happening. I despised her, yet my penis was growing in my pants, trying to snake it's way free.
"You know the story about Adam and Eve", she smiled. "Well, the snake continues to be your undoing even today. If you men could think with something other than your worm, maybe your lot would be better."
I found my voice. "Who are you?"
"I am your deepest desire, your darkest fear and the mother of all mankind."
You're a psycho-bitch, I decided silently.
"Ever hear of the anti-Christ Stevie.... Lucifer?... Satan? Well, think about this. God and I used to be a thing. He got tired of me and cast me out. What?...., the dark angel can't be a woman? Well, I've had enough. He is going to pay for dumping me. And let me tell you... I have a shit load of lawyers to choose from.... God, he'll be lucky to find a handful of decent ones."
"Just kidding Stevie. I don't use lawyers to do my dirty work. They're really not good for anything. Heck... oops, sorry I meant Hell,... I'd just as soon throw them out.... but where would they go?"
She was ranting like a true psychopath.
"I'm having fun with you. Controlling men is a such a turn on... you know? Now how bout a fuck before you go home to the little woman?"
Before heading home, I would land inBostonto debrief the agency. They were pretty anxious after the death of Bob Haney. I typed my report on the computer during the uneventful 5 hour flight.
Investigation regarding UNO
The cult is firmly established under the charismatic leadership of Dr. Maria Almighte. They have a compound which spans approximately 3 square miles. A pyramid is the central theatre of their operations and worship. The members do appear somewhat mechanical in their behavior and mannerisms. The cult leader delegates authority to a council of five who help oversee operations. While my initial impressions of the cult and Dr. Almighte were highly negative and critical, I now believe she is no more dangerous than any other cult, and perhaps less so.
Specifically, there were no weapons identified during the investigation. There was no attempt at subterfuge. There was no attempt at mind control or other hypnotic induction. I observed no evidence of coercion. The doctor appears very genuine in expressing a message of universal love and understanding. Her success seems to be attributable to a very charismatic personality. She has personality quirks that are clearly delusional in nature. For instance, she believes that she has some god-like powers and authority. She believes that she and god are, for lack of a better word, lovers, or perhaps more accurately, ex-lovers. These appear to be harmless delusions and I see no threat to the populace or government at this time. I also could not uncover any evidence that she was directly or indirectly involved in Bob Haney's death.
I recommend closing the file on UNO.SignedSteven Roland, FBI, special agent black ops division
Satisfied, I closed the file and turned off the computer.
I spent a day and a half inBostonwith the higher ups. They were surprised that I had not uncovered anything more substantive than another run of the mill cult. "My report says it all gentleman. Now if you don't mind, I have a gal waiting for me inNew York."
I arrived home. "Becky, I'm home."
No answer. "Come out, come out, wherever you are..." Now, why did I say that... seems inappropriate given the recent events. I pulled off my coat and tie, and then removed my service revolver from it's holster. Strange, I didn't recall affixing a silencer to it. I held it, finger resting on the trigger, trying to remember.
Then I noticed a note on the table.
I have been re-activated for a dark op inSan Diego. You guessed it. UNO. Things are getting out of hand since Bob's death. The agency asked me and I volunteered. She has to be stopped, and that happens to be my specialty. I should be back by Friday.
I love you and will see you soon,Becky
Today is Friday. She must have been inSan Diegowhile I was inBostondebriefing the field office. I looked in the closet. The case containing the 308 sniper rifle was gone. My heart sank. This doctor was not evil. She thought she was, but she was just another delusional cult leader caught up in her own propaganda and delusions.
I heard the door open and clinched my revolver out of habit. Becky was standing there, her service revolver drawn and pointing at my head.
"Steve. Please put you revolver down on the table slowly. You are not yourself. She got to you honey. Trust me and everything will be OK."
I thought about my options. We were both expert marksmen, but she had the drop on me. What the hell was I thinking, this was my wife... my wonderful wife, who I loved deeply. I would show her I could be trusted. I placed the gun on the table and raised my hands.
I didn't hear anything, but I felt a trickle of blood roll down my brow and blur my vision. The last thing I recalled was reaching up and feeling a neat hole above my left eye. Then I found myself looking at a body... my body, splayed on the carpet. A light appeared and I found myself being drawn into it... and everything became crystal clear. Becky had been right all along. While we lived on earth, God had a plan for each of us. And now the reason for all things was revealed. Becky would go on, a warrior in god's army. She was lost, if only for the moment. She would find her way and face the final battle bravely, triumphant in her faith, for the glory of god.
Becky placed her index finger over Steve's carotid artery. No pulse. Death had been quick and painless. She loved Steve and had not wanted him to suffer. Sadly, like Bob Haney, Steve had been turned by the dark side... just as god had said. And to think that God was a woman all along. Becky closed her eyes and prayed. "God Almighte, to thee I pray..."