"I've got a friend in Jesus," said the man striding across the platform. "Do you?" He pointed his microphone towards the crowd assembled before him.
"Yes!!" They intoned enthusiastically. The man smiled.
"Do you?!" he yelled.
"Yes!!!" They screamed back. There was laughter and scattered applause. There were many clots of people dancing in place, hands waving above their heads and eyes closed shut.
"I thought so," said the man. He paced back and forth like a tiger, eyeing the crowd. It was a sea of white. Everyone wore a white shirt or dress. They dressed that way after taking their purity vows at the gates of the field, but it wasn't just symbolic. It was a sweltering July day after a rainstorm. The field was muddy and mosquito ridden. The humidity hung thick in the air and everyone was sweat soaked after hours and hours in the thrall of the service, and yet there was nothing but adoring faces looking towards the platform and the man in white upon it.
The man himself was of medium height and a slight build. His hair was thinning, but he combed it to the front to hide it. He had a beard and wore a white silk caftan over a pair of khaki shorts. He was barefoot. At the end of each pace he gripped the stage with his toes, curling them down, almost clawing at the wood.
The microphone he held was cordless. He wanted one of the headset microphones but none could be purchased locally. He held the mic like he was throttling someone by the neck, often wringing his hands around it. He would hold it close to his mouth to whisper, and the crowd would hush. Then he would hold it away in a flourish, eyes narrowed to crinkled slits, and yell at the crowd, usually with some well-worn slice of scripture. He didn't carry a Bible onstage, but rather kept all the choicest verses in memory.
He paced and paced and paced all afternoon. The middle of the platform held a small table with a pitcher of water, which he drank directly from. It also held a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, and every few minutes he would light up a new cigarette. Under the table was a box. While he smoked, he paced calmly, and when he was finished, he would put on a show.
By five in the evening, when the sun was still strong in the sky, his voice was hoarse and low.
"Are you ready?" he asked the crowd quietly.
"Yes," they said, matching his tone.
"Are you ready?" he said louder.
"Yes," they said.
"Are you ready?!" he screamed.
"Yes!!!!!" they screamed.
"Are you ready to be with Jesus?!" he screamed.
"Yes!!!!" they replied. A roar of applause ripped through the audience. They were screaming and hooting and cheering. The man admired his handiwork. He let the cheers ripple back and forth through the crowd for a full minute.
"Then bow your heads," he whispered into the microphone. The crowd went quiet. They looked towards the mud at their feet. There was some pockets of excited tittering; they couldn't believe it was really time.
The man strode to the table, and pulled out the box. He opened the lid and extracted a gas mask and a remote. He turned towards the crowd. Not a face looked at him. He grinned. He clicked the button on the remote. A greenish yellow fog started to expand out from under the platform. He put on the gas mask.
The people nearest the platform started writhing. They didn't even have time to scream. Their eyes went red and they foamed pink at the mouth. The people behind them looked up, and saw what happened. Some of them looked pleased, happy, joyful. Some were confused. Some tried to waft the gas towards them with their arms.
The man reached into the box and pulled out a handgun. He scanned the crowd for runners. There were one or two, for whom their survival instincts overtook their desire to be one with the Savior of man. He aimed and shot at them. No one left.
He stood on stage until the sun set and the gas settled low to the ground. I fingered up in the breeze occasionally, but most of it just crept outward towards the gates. He took off the mask, and picked up the pack of cigarettes. He shook one out, put it in his mouth, and lit it, looking into the sunset. He smoked the cigarette, looking out over the field, littered with pink stained white. He never saw people.