Chapter Sixty-Four: The Plague of History

Editor’s Note: it is harder every day to know exactly what is happening. I have my notebook with me, everything that I’ve written so far, and that’s what matters. No matter what happens, now that I’m so deep into working on this book, no matter what happens, I’m convinced of its importance more and more. I have to record what happened here, in this land of miracles. The people of Vine—not the Elders, not the Preachers—the people of Vine, and the witches, and the Hermits, and even the demons and malicious spirits, and even the shapeshifters, and even the poisoned fish and even the blighted crops, even these need a voice. That’s what matters.

Nearly 300 pages—fragments of history, hastily scribbled notes in need of organization, stories found and questionably sourced—yet in my bones I feel I’m writing something akin to sacred text. Well. Hardly could this be called holy. Is it unholy if it’s history?

Why am I writing this? 

Am I to be sitted at the right hand of God? 

To live in history is to observe it. To record events as they were is important to human understanding. I gather what I can. Put it together the only way I know how. This is valuable work, I know it, I know it has to matter.

To whom? 

Anyone with ears to hear and eyes to read, like Jesus said.

No one in Vine will care about this. No one in Vine will read this. 

Outsiders. Outsiders need to know. 

Cut the shit, what am I doing here?

They sold Vine—not even to the highest bidder—they sold Vine off piecemeal and no one will ever understand what happened here. This place is cursed and will continue to be haunted and anyone setting foot on this land will not know what ails them without first understanding what happened in the two centuries Vine existed.

This room was not always windowless. Post-it notes and primary sources scattered over the walls. In the summer a desk fan whirred. Smell of ham sandwich remnant on the aluminum foil in the trash can, syrup-sweet smell of canned lemon tea.

There is no way to know if writing—compiling?—this book would mean anything. There is no way to be assured anyone in the outside world who didn’t know about Vine would care. There is no material reason for anyone who thus far had been otherwise happily sand-headed to do the reading. There is nothing else I can figure to do, though. 

On a quiet Wednesday night I meet Jonah for drinks. He’s an ex-Seminarian like me, but a few years older. Now he plays guitar on the streets, in the trees, beside the river. He told me he quit studying to be a preacher because God actually spoke to him. 

“Guy’s a violent dork, I’m not preaching for his ass,” Jonah told me. 

We order whiskies and a pitcher of ale. The ones who leave Seminary tend to be like this. Well. Maybe Vine is like this. 

“Where was the farthest you went? When you were on the outside?” Jonah asks me. 

“I did not leave campus,” I say. I’m not lying: I was a dork in Seminary. A True Believer.

“Every Seminarian left campus. I’ll go first if it makes you feel better: in North Carolina there is a coast with sandy dunes and the wind blows and the sand sticks to your leg hair and when you swim in the sea it is not like the lake it is salty and your eyes burn.”

“I did not leave campus.”

“Come on. In South Carolina you can eat barbeque made from one whole entire hog. Pulled pork sandwich you don’t know what parts are in that bite. Every Seminarian left campus.” 

“I did not leave campus. I was immersed in my studies.”

“Every Seminarian left campus. In Atlanta there is a museum where you can sample every Coca-Cola product ever produced anywhere in the entire world. Come on.”

Too much whiskey always makes my eyes water. Jonah doesn’t mind, though—the night’s never over with Jonah until we’re back at the shack he built by the lake singing hymns but with swear words substituted in for the holy ones. 

What is the breakfast you wake up to after a coma? The revelation of the falseness of the revelation? But come on now: is there no magic here? Are we simply afraid it is not our magic? 

In a small dark room there is a candle. Outside rain assaults the roof over my head, my matchbook has been left on a waterlogged porch. I write holding flashlights.

If God does not destroy the world, as Jonah predicts, someone will read this. If God does not destroy the world, as Jonah predicts, maybe another Seminarian from another hermetically sealed mountain town will come across this text in History of American Religious Sects 101. If God does not destroy the world, as Jonah predicts, well, maybe a lot of people have been wrong about a lot of things. 

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