Godshot by Chelsea Bieker Read Online (FREE)
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To have an assignment, Pastor Vern said, you had to be a woman of blood. You had to be a man of deep voice and Adam’s apple. And you should never reveal your assignment to another soul, for assignments were a holy bargaining between you and your pastor and God Himself. To speak of them directly would be to mar God’s voice, turn the supernatural human, and ruin it. So not even my own mother could tell me what her assignment was that unseasonably warm winter, wouldn’t tell me months into it when spring lifted up more dry heat around us, and everything twisted and changed forever.
I longed to know where she went when she left our apartment each morning, returning in the evening flushed, a bit more peeled back each time. I imagined her proselytizing to the vagrants sleeping on rags in the fields at the edge of town, combing the women’s mud-baked hair, holding their hands and exorcising evil from their hearts. I imagined her floating above our beloved town of Peaches, dropping God glitter over us like an angel, summoning the rain to cure our droughted fields. I imagined all these things with a burn of jealousy, for I had not received my woman’s blessing yet, the rush of blood between my legs that would signify me as useful. I’d just turned fourteen but was still a board-chested child in the eyes of God and Pastor Vern, and so I prayed day and night for the blood to come to me in a river, to flood the bed I shared with my mother. Then I would be ready. I could have an assignment too.
THAT SPRING PASTOR VERN decided we were due for a congregation-wide revival. We filled an abandoned bathtub behind the church with liters of Check Mate Cola and one by one he held us under just long enough for the lungs to burn, for fearful desperation to set in, and we came up gasping and sticky, his face the first face we saw, a God to us. Our tongues darted to catch the sugar drops falling from our brows. How we cheered as the sugar dried on our skin under the ruthless burn of the sun. There was no wasting water, and so the soda would do. It was such a small sacrifice, to use soda instead of water, that I almost mistook it for a thrill.
After the baptisms, he lined us up. He paced like a mad daddy. The valley floor had sunk thirteen inches over the last year alone, and where, Pastor Vern asked, did we think we were going?
Of course we already knew. Hell was always waiting.
He said in order to save the land we so loved we would need to step over the lines of our comfort. To open our arms, span them wide, and risk being shot down by God. He fell straight as a post onto his back to demonstrate. I spread my arms, my mother next to me, other mothers beyond her and their girls. The boys and the men were there too but it’s the girls I noticed most, girls like me, ready. I thought we looked tough lined up like that, like soldiers, the hay-dead field our battleground, that vast open plain of beige nothingness surrounding. I remembered what had once been here, a land so fertile you could throw the pit of a peach after eating the sweet flesh from it and underfoot would sprout up an orchard, how we had walked lightly over the dirt, electric with the possibility of small seeds creating bounty, lettuces and kales shimmering opulent, where before there had been only earth.