The gem is the ultimate distillation of faith.
It sits on its pedestal in the caverns deep under Amish country. It glitters. It’s green.
Samuel is staring at it.
Clyde bursts into the room. The doors slam open and Clyde rolls in, his suit jacket smoldering. He lands hard.
Slowly, he stands up, brushing out his jacket.
“That’s it?” Clyde asks.
“Figure so,” Samuel says.
The chamber echoes oddly. It’s like their words are coming out a bit before their mouths move.
“It’s totally separate from worldly affairs,” breathes Clyde.
“The jewel of the Anabaptists,” sighs Samuel.
Samuel starts forward towards the pedestal.
Clyde flings up a hand.
“Only hands firmly grounded in traditional values,” Clyde says, “can touch the Anabaptist jewel!”
Samuel turns towards him. “You implying something, Clyde?”
Samuel’s eyes narrow.
“Maybe I am,” Clyde says. He juts his chin forward. Then he begins walking towards the jewel.
Samuel shoves himself past Clyde. There’s an ominous click and rumble deep below. Samuel steps onto an ornate design on the floor, which sinks, ever so slightly, under his foot.
“Now, Samuel,” says Clyde.
There are little popping noises of bone, like someone cracking their fingers. A moment later, Clyde shakes out his neck and his arms.
“You know the Lord don’t approve of violence,” Clyde threatens.
Samuel turns. “Darn it, Clyde, that’s what you said right before you locked me in with the bees!”
“You earned those bees,” hisses Clyde.
Samuel takes off his jacket. He sets it aside.
“We oughtn’t better make a habit of this, Clyde,” he says.
There’s the terrible sound effect of a fist hitting someone’s chin. Both of them freeze. They don’t have very long to make the calculation: am I going to hit him, or is he going to hit me?
“Darn it!” says Samuel.
It’s Clyde. He’s the reckless one. His arm twitches into motion almost like it’s not his own. He punches Samuel.
Even before it connects, there’s another sound of pow!
Samuel’s head is knocked back. He sways. Then he comes around, eyes burning, and his fist connects squarely with the side of Clyde’s head.
“Stop it!” says Clyde. He takes a step back.
Then, curtly, he nods.
“There’s ominous music playing,” says Clyde.
“That there is,” says Samuel.
“Sin music,” says Clyde.
They are angry, sullen, and shamed. Their eyes lock.
“I can’t come all this way and not bring the jewel back,” says Clyde. “I can’t, Samuel.”
“It’s not meant to be brought out there in conformance with the world,” says Samuel. “It’s meant to be here, in God’s secret bunker.”
And Samuel breathes out his tension and his shoulders sink and he lowers his eyes.
“Then why’d you come here, Samuel?”
“I wanted it too,” Samuel says. There’s longing in his voice. “Want it still. With it, I could learn such adherence to traditional ways as to shake the pillars of Heaven. But …”
“But there’s the price,” Clyde says. He rubs his jaw.
“Wasn’t our fault,” says Samuel. “We’re just in the habit of following the sound effects. Moving our mouth once the words come out. Milking the cows when we hear the spurt. Entering scenes when the prompter tells us to. Stuff like that.”
“It’s a bad habit,” says Clyde.
His mouth doesn’t move at all, even though he’s said stuff. Samuel stares at him. Samuel waits. Then Samuel gets all twitchy.
“Darn it, Clyde, that’s just unnatural,” he says.
Clyde, reluctantly, moves his mouth. Samuel does the same.
After a moment, Samuel says, “You’re right, though. We can’t blame the teleprompter for our sins.”
“Sometimes,” proposes Clyde, as if looking for an exception, “when I look at Katie, and there’s that music . . .”
“Not even those sins,” says Samuel.
Clyde lowers his head.
“Come on,” he says. “I think all the zombies are on fire. Let’s go home.”
Samuel nods. He gives one last longing look at the jewel, and then he steps off of the design.
There’s a horrible noise, like the gateway to Hell itself opening. There’s the rising shriek of devils and the damned.
Samuel and Clyde freeze.
Then, slowly, they relax.
“Just a buggy backfiring,” says Samuel.
“Zombie popping,” says Clyde.
“Might’ve been that spinny door,” says Samuel. “You know, the hundred-ton one that flips end over end. They probably don’t oil that much down here.”
“Hey,” says Clyde. “I know the jewel of the teaching is fabulously valuable, but still—this seems a bit weird.”
“I mean,” says Clyde, “Why does God have a bunker filled with traps and zombies, anyway?”