by Kiwi


(Whakahapa ('Focka - har - par') means left behind or left bereft.)

Was it John Cleese who said, "And now for something completely different"?

Post-apocalyptic stories are always intriguing - to have the whole world and everything in it! Dream on. Here is an attempt at writing an empty-world story. While we're at it, we'll throw in some other interests - boys, of course, families, science-fiction, religion and control.

There is a religious commune not so far away from here. About 400 people live there, almost totally removed from the rest of the world - their lives are similar to how colonists would be establishing themselves on new planets.

They arrived from elsewhere, bought and moved on to a run-down dairy farm, about 20 years ago. They have developed the property, built-up a large herd of top quality dairy cattle and started other successful businesses, including their own airline. They're into oil exploration, sphagum moss exports and other ventures. They have their own sawmill, fire engine and a brass band. Everyone plays a musical instrument.

Much of their lifestyle is admirable, but there is a cost. They are impressive businessmen, they live in community, safe and separated from the world and they are self-sufficient. Their businesses pay minimal tax because they are a church, but they draw no benefits or pensions of any kind from the state.

Their children are 'home-birthed' and they educate them themselves, from pre-school to university level. And they have got a LOT of children. They do not believe in, or practice, any sort of birth-control and families of 12 to 15 children are not uncommon.

The two youngest children in a family sleep in their parents' bedroom, older children sleep in age-segregated dormitories.

Children are considered to be adults as soon as they are sexually mature. There is NO pre-marital sex and early marriages are encouraged and arranged so that they can be safe from temptation and can start breeding.

Over 250 babies have been born there since 1990. Many of them now are second and third generations and most are descended from the man who founded the community and still leads it. Born in 1926, he's now on his 3rd marriage with a wife 40+ years younger than him. (He was convicted of sexual assault on 3 teen girls and jailed in 1995. Released on parole after 12 months, he was accepted back, no questions asked). They live quiet and sheltered, safe and secure, hard-working and productive, but very tightly-controlled, lives. There is no access to television, movies, internet, newspapers or magazines, except for a selected and privileged few.

They call themselves 'true Christians', but it is a cult by any description and their Church has total control of their lives. For example, nuclear families take annual holidays of about one week. Their vacation is spent in private accomodation, separate but on the same farm property. Daily outings and business trips to the nearest town are always made in groups. No-one comes outside alone.

Anyone is free to join them. All they have to do is to be 'converted', to hand over all of their possesions, everything they own, and totally submit to the authority and teachings of their church. But the majority of the people there now were born there.

It is possible to leave the community and the few that do are given financial assistance to get started outside. However, it is not easy to leave. Before permission is given, those wanting to depart have to undergo long counselling sessions over several days and up to 15 hours per day, before a panel of Elders.

Those who leave are then considered to be dead. They are allowed absolutely no contact with family members left behind and they are not ever allowed to return.

Leaving would be hard for adults, it must be almost impossible for kids to do it. They've never known any other life and all they know of the outside world is what they have been told. Pity the queer kids - statistically, some of them would have to be gay - gay and repressed. Poor little buggers!

In this genre, it is common to preface a story with a disclaimer stating that it is totally fiction and not based on any real people or events. If you believe that, I know of a bridge that you might be interested in buying? As usual, this story began with a goal in mind, but it wandered off in its own direction!


Part 1

The pull of the earth took hold of his spine, his limbs spread over space. There was a fearful moment of falling, spiralling down with the air pressing hard, then it let go. Still falling but up not down.

Falling up??? Piercing light split his eyes open, brilliant painful, enormous light. Silence pulsed, expanded and shrank. All of the world shrunk into nothingness, and back again.

Amos woke and stretched. He rolled on to his back, yawned long and vigorously and flung his arms out wide in the big bed as he stretched and yawned again. He finished with a shake to clear his head, opened his eyes and looked up at the unfamiliar ceiling above him.

'Funny things, ceilings. They're always there, every room has one but no-one ever notices them. They'd soon notice if they weren't there! What's the time?'

He turned his head to look at the bedside clock. The screen was dark and blank. Not going then. Why? He reached out and shook it, but that didn't fix it, it made no difference at all. He switched the radio on. Nothing happened.

He tried again, pushed another button, and another. Still nothing. The radio was as dead as the clock.

Maybe there was a power cut? That happened. The light above the bed-head didn't work. He got out of bed and padded across to the door to turn the main room light on. That didn't go either, so there definitely was a power cut.

He found his phone and turned it on to check the time and that was no help either. The phone was working, of course, but according to the digital clock, the time was now '00:00'. Sure it was! So, he still didn't know.

The phone was working, as he watched the clock clicked over to '00:01'. It just needed resetting then. Strange that it failed at the same time that the main's power went off. What was that about? Were the two things connected, or just a co-incidence?

He tried calling HQ, but had no joy. Now the phone was telling him that there was no coverage for sending or receiving calls.

That was strange too. The motel that he was in was right in the town and it was a popular holiday resort/retreat area. Surely they'd have cellphone coverage here. It would be essential, wouldn't it? Whether it was or not, there was no coverage.

He opened the drapes to look outside and momentarily reeled back from the bright sunlight flooding into the dimly-lit room.

Whoah! Way too bright. He felt like he should be wearing sunglasses even though he was still indoors. The sun was low in the sky, so it was still early in the day and he hadn't overslept by much, if at all.

It didn't matter anyway, he had all day and nothing to do, he'd just like to know what the time was. That was what he was used to and, although his life was on hold for the next few days, he'd still like to have his routines, as much as possible.

He looked outside again. His eyes had adjusted to the bright light now. It was a beautiful day out there, clear blue sky and flat blue water in the bay over the road, with just the smallest of waves slapping on the sandy shore.

The fronds on the tall trees along the foreshore were hardly moving at all. It was a clear, sunny and almost windless day in the attractive little lakeside town. It wasn't hard to see why it was such a popular area for people's annual holidays and retreats.

It was very quiet out there - no traffic passing and no-one in sight anywhere. Good! Everyday life was lived in community, of course, but he did get tired of always being surrounded by hordes of people. It was nice, kind of a relief, to be on his own for a while.

Usually the only time that he was completely alone was when he was in the shower - being totally nude only happened in total privacy, of course. Anything else would definitely not be allowed.

He couldn't remember ever seeing anyone completely naked, certainly not! But, he'd kind of like to - he was curious about what they looked like under their clothes. Sometimes it was a good thing that they were covered up, but not always. Some people he'd really like to see more of!

And that was the main reason that he was there now. It was not just a holiday that he was having. He was meant to be making a prayerful retreat, seeking repentance and forgiveness for the sinful thoughts that he was struggling more and more with lately, but could he be bothered even trying?

Controlling his thoughts and avoiding lust was all-but impossible to do. Why him? He didn't know. He didn't seek to be like this, he just was. The Elders were concerned about him, he'd come to their notice and they knew that he was different. If they found out just how different, he'd be gone.

The best that he could hope for would be to be excommunicated and cast out, into exile in the mainland jungle, and he wouldn't last long out there. He knew that he wasn't, or thought that he wasn't, but he also knew that they'd think he was a 'Spawn of Satan'.

He knew how the system worked, he'd seen it all before. He just never thought that it'd be him in the firing-line one day. He wasn't there yet but he was well on the way and there was nothing he could do about it.

Almost nothing. That was why he was here this week, it was his last chance to get his act together. That wasn't actually said out loud, but he knew that that was what it amounted to.

"A plague on them anyway!"

He went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. That worked fine - hot water and plenty of it, so the shower wasn't dependent on the power supply then. Which was good.

He shut the door, stripped naked and got in under the water. It was dark in there with the door shut. The one small and high-up window was nowhere near enough to light the bathroom. It didn't really matter much, he didn't need to see just to wash himself, but he'd nearly finished and was rinsing off when he realised that he could have left the door open.

He could have, couldn't he? There was no-one around, he was there on his own. But, no. It was better not to expose himself like that. Suppose a cleaner was to come in and see him naked? They'd both be in huge trouble!

So, it was better with the door shut, even if it was nearly dark in there. He finished, dried himself and cleaned his teeth. Then, with one towel around his waist and another draped around his shoulders, he went back to the bedroom to get dressed.

His clothes for the day, dark blue trousers, long-sleeved light blue shirt, black belt and a dark blue tie, were exactly the same as the clothes he'd worn yesterday and almost every day for his entire life.

The only times the regimented uniform varied were when, occasionally, he wore long sleeved overalls when doing dirty manual work and, sometimes, rarely, he got to wear a white shirt and black trousers and tie on special occasions, like at weddings or celebrating someone's having gone to Glory.

He'd often thought that he'd like to wear different clothes sometimes, but there weren't any. Everyone, from the youngest kids to the oldest Elders, wore the same colour and style of clothes that he did. Except for the girls, of course. Girls and women wore long-sleeved, high-necked and ankle-length, blue dresses everyday and, occasionally, pale pink ones for celebrations.

The regimented clothes, and identical, short back and sides haircuts, were just some of the many things that made him want to scream, but they were all that he had. There were no other clothes and no other hair styles.

He dressed, put on his black leather shoes and went out, hopefully, to get some breakfast. It was early in the day but he was hungry.

The Sister who had welcomed him and signed him in the night before had shown him where the dining-room was but she didn't say what times meals were served at. At home, breakfast was from 6am to 7am, and no later. But surely they'd be a bit more relaxed here, wouldn't they? This was a holiday area after all.

He walked out into the sunshine, stopped and stood looking around. Something was not right. What? He didn't know, but something. How would he know anyway? He'd only arrived there the night before and it was dark then. But still, he felt that something was not right.

There was no-one in sight, maybe that was it. He was all-too used to being with people all of the time, that was all he was used to. Here, he couldn't see anyone at all and there was no passing traffic either - nothing.

It was not a city, that was the whole point in coming here, but surely there should be someone around? It wasn't that early in the day.

He couldn't see or hear any animals either. No animals and no birds or anything. It was the lakeside and not a farm, but there should've been birds, there should've been hundreds of them, but there weren't. There were none.

It was quiet; it was very quiet. His ears strained but all he could hear was the waves slapping and his own heart pounding.

Okay, enough! He was letting his imagination run wild. Besides, he didn't have time for all of this, he was hungry.

He went to the dining-room. The doors were closed but not locked. He opened one, looked in and went in. The long tables, covered with gleaming-clean, snow-white cloths, were set up for dozens to eat at. The shining plasteel cutlery and plaspaper cups, plates and bowls sat empty and waiting.

Bowls of native flowers made bright splashes of colour on the tables, but there was no-one there. Not a soul, except him. Was he too early for breakfast, or was he too late? He didn't have a clue. Where was everybody?

He went through to the big kitchen at the back and there was no-one there either. Nobody!

Okay, this was definitely not right. The kitchen should have been full of busy people, of helpers either preparing breakfasts or cleaning up after the last ones and getting ready for the next meal, but it wasn't. What was going on?

He went to the office to find out. There'd be someone there, there always was, 24 hours a day. But, there was not! There was no-one there either and there should have been. There was no power in there either, the lights wouldn't go and the wall-clock was dead.

He grabbed the telephone from the desk, and that wasn't working either. Okay, things were getting weirder and weirder and he was starting to get worried.

He stood, he sat down and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself down. There was nothing to panic about, there had to be an explanation. Had there been an emergency while he was sleeping? No, not likely. No explosions or noises had woke him up and there was no sign of any fires or floods or anything.

Could it be an exercise, a Civil Defence practice for an emergency evacuation? No, that couldn't be it either. There'd still be sirens and everything, wouldn't there? No-one had said anything when he arrived last night.

Oh! Oh, wow. Oh, wow, wow wow! Was it the Rapture? Had it happened at last? Had all of the True Believers been snatched away to rise and meet the Lord in the air?

The Elders all said that it was going to happen and soon. Just because they weren't living on Earth was no reason why they should be forgotten about. He knew His Own and He was the Lord of all Creation, wasn't he?

Bugs! Amos staggered to the door and looked out at the empty scene again. He felt almost ill now. Could it be? Were they right and had it happened?

It really wouldn't surprise him if everyone except him was Raptured. After all, it was a Church commune colony. He was born here, like everyone was but they were all believers and he was not, not really. He was not really a true believer, he knew that. He was different.

Amos was made the same way as everyone was, as far as he could tell. He had two eyes, arms and legs like everyone did. He imagined that what was under his clothes was the same too - not identical, but similar.

It was none of his business what anyone had under their clothes, he knew that too. He'd been told it often enough, probably hundreds of times in his short life. For something that was sinful to even think about, the Elders sure spent a lot of time talking about sex!

Right there was his major problem. He did want to think about sex, he thought about it, wondered about it, dreamed about it, all of the time. What made it worse was that it was not girls he thought about, it was boys. That was just plain wrong. Wasn't it?

It was wrong. Of course it was, all of the Elders said that it was. Was it even possible for a boy to have sex with another boy? Yes it was, the Bible said it was - it said don't do it, so it must be possible to do it.

But, it talked about men not boys. Was he a man yet? Yes. Physically, he was a man, he was capable of fathering children, so he was a man already. The Elders also said that it was better for a man to marry than to burn with lust. Obviously, he needed to get married to stop the evil thoughts. But!!! He didn't want to marry a girl. Ever. Eww!

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