The Voice of Reason
By Timothy W. Tron
It was two weeks before Christmas, and Moon Jargon had yet to finish his Christmas shopping. As usual, he had put it off until nearly the last minute. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as last year when he was literally out on Christmas Eve trying to find stores still open, frantically searching for something to satisfy the people on his shopping list. But this year, he had more time and wanted to find that unique gift for his sister. So, he headed to the old downtown area of Maplewood. Like most small towns, Maplewood’s historic district was once a thriving business community that slowly died but now had become a restoration success story. The only store that remained as it once was in the old days was the Maplewood Hardware Store. Mr. Cary, the store’s proprietor, was himself a relic of the past. He had declined multiple offers to buy him out over the years. His survival was partly due to his one-of-a-kind customer service – the ability to know precisely where customer’s needs existed in the store. As such, Maplewood Hardware had become an attraction in and of itself.
Walking up the street toward the store, Moon noticed the warmth of the late afternoon sun, quite pleasant for mid-December. The cloudless sky overhead was a brilliant blue. Inside, Moon felt wonderful. “This was going to be a special day,” he mused. The display window of Maplewood Hardware was painted to reflect the holiday cheer, reading, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” complete with fake snow in the corners. Behind the decorations ran Mr. Cary’s toy train, surrounded by a tiny village with cars and pedestrians carrying on as if in real life. As Moon entered the store, he pulled off his sunglasses and headed past the bins of nails still sold by the pound. Moon couldn’t help chuckling as he thought of a potential pun, “A pound of nails, to be pound into wood.” He smiled, but the thoughts continued, “Yet, they remain as metal, never becoming transformed into which they are nailed.” On this latter, he would have to ponder later, for its existence as thought seemed untimely but somehow prophetic.
He was headed to the back corner of the store where Mr. Cary had a unique section called, “Old Dead People’s Stuff.” Its popularity had made it a ‘must see’ attraction of the old town area. There, stashed in the dimly lit corner, were dusty wooden crates, boxes, and all manner of antique items Mr. Carey had collected over the years, up for sale – a grab-bag of potentially hidden gems. Moon found himself staring at the treasure trove of newly stocked ancient wares when his eye quickly centered upon the faded pink, pasty jewelry box. Curious, he picked it up, hesitating momentarily before opening it, thinking, “I’m betting the little ballerina is going to pop up and start dancing to some old children’s melody.” Slowly and with a slight dramatic hesitancy, he raised the lid. Just as he suspected, the worn little dancer emerged, slightly askew to one side, having been touched one too many times by little hands, and began to dance to the music from an ancient time. Behind the dancer, on the now tilted lid, the tiny mirror, once used to reflect a little girl’s image as she smiled watching the ballerina dance, now reflected Moon’s face. But something strange, something that didn’t make sense, played out before him. Instead of the image of the little pink dancer in the mirror, an eerie blue flame danced in her place. It was then, as he stood in mixed amazement and bewilderment, that the music seemed to overwhelm the entire store as if being played on a sound system throughout the building – he suddenly became one with the ephemeral image before him. Then a voice spoke, questioning, “What shall it be?” At that point, Moon almost dropped the antique jewelry box but held on. Before he could formulate a thought, his smartwatch replied, “X message for you?” The mysterious voice replied, “And so it shall be.”
“Blazes,” Moon murmured under his breath, turning his arm to reach for his watch to silence the device, closing the lid momentarily. When he opened the box again, the flame was gone, and the music had stopped. He shook it and opened and closed it a couple of times to try to trigger the flame or music, but nothing happened. Looking around to see if anyone else had witnessed what he had just seen, he only found empty aisles in either direction.
Confused and somewhat unsettled, Moon hesitantly sat the box back down and started for the front door. Physically, he felt fine, but something inside him seemed troubled – a pressure upon his spirit that was perceptible – a foreboding, as when the weather changes. As he was about to reach for the handle of the old wooden door to leave, it opened and pushed inward toward him, the welcoming bell tingling, and a man dressed in all black, with a black hat that covered most of his white hair that was pulled back into a tight ponytail, hurriedly entered. His face was shaven, but his eyes were covered by something that looked like sunglasses but was only the width of his eyes, with red LED lights that raced across the face of the man as if they followed his eyes, scanning the store from one side to the other. He rudely pushed past Moon. There was a sense of urgency, something uncharacteristic of most patrons of Mr. Cary’s store.
Emerging from the store, Moon stood looking out onto the street as a bus passed. The advertisement on its side read, “Maplewood Wishes You and Yours a Very Merry X-Mas and a HNY.” He scoffed to himself, “Sad,” and reached for his sunglasses but realized there was no need. Looking up, he saw the sky was now cloudy, and a slight chill in the air. Indeed, there was a change in the weather as dark clouds seemed to be approaching from the south. The Christmas lights from Mr. Cary’s display window now glowed amber upon the sidewalk, causing Moon to look back at the store and, with a shock, read the words on the picture window, “Merry X-Mas, and a HNY.”
“Wait, what,” Moon questioned himself. “Am I dreaming?”
A dark foreshadowing washed over him again. He paused, to collect himself but an inner voice said to leave, and leave now! So, he headed for home, hoping something familiar would shake him back to his senses. Locking the door behind him, he flipped on the lights and reached for the remote, flipping on the large screen TV opposite the couch. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and flopped down. The nightly news was starting, so he complacently watched, not listening at first, as his mind slipped back to what he had just encountered. However, his attention was quickly drawn back to the broadcast as the words the news anchor spoke seemed foreign.
“In today’s WPBU, the X-gender WPSS shut down portions of NYC, demanding their RTL to have uncontrolled ATG over all X-kind 2B OK’d. Members clashed with CTR X-testers who supported IVI who were remnants of the underground group known as UGW…” The words continued unabated.
Agitated at what he saw, Moon clicked the remote, changing channels, but again and again, the words people spoke were almost indiscernible – the acronyms appeared to have replaced everyday speech. His head now throbbed. “What was going on,” he asked out loud. Confused and irritated, he jumped to his computer and searched the internet for answers. This played out before him: what was known as Cancel Culture had somehow gone from a mild creep into society to an exponential leap in just the blink of an eye. Anything that was considered offensive was removed from speech and written words. It had become such a part of the Cancel Culture that the Thought Police, TP as they were generally known, were instituted so that if anyone found any reason for something that bothered them, the TP was called immediately. Then, the problem would be remediated as needed, calmly or with as much force as was necessary. All of these actions were done to protect humanity from the previous generations’ insensibilities to one another. This was bequeathed upon mankind, or X-kind, as the TP deemed it, regardless of whether they agreed or not. World Peace was their mantra, and they would stop at nothing to maintain ATG, the Authority To Govern over all humanity.
“But wait, one last thing,” Moon thought to himself as he pulled up his Bible App on his smartwatch. Quickly turning to a verse known by almost everyone, his heart sank as he read, “For X so loved the world it gave its only begotten non-binary person…” The TP had even edited the online Bible to reflect the rules of their authority. Frantic for truth, he turned from the computer and raced to his bedroom. There on his nightstand was his old friend, his well-worn Bible. Moon picked it up and quickly turned to the same passage as the online version he had just read. A peace washed over him, like the loving arms of a father, as he read the scripture – complete, whole, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…” “Thanks be to God,” he breathed with a sigh of relief. Weary, Moon looked at the time on his watch – nine pm. He had enough for one day. “Rest will surely do me good.” Turning in for bed a little early, in the back of his mind, he hoped that he would awake in the morning, and it would all have been a bad dream.
The next day, things had not changed. All the online sources reconfirmed his worst fears. Feeling a need to escape, Moon decided to go for a walk. Maybe things weren’t really that bad in Maplewood. But he soon discovered they were. Every church he passed had the crosses on their steeples replaced with an “X.” The license plates on all the cars read, “In X We Trust.” And the TP seemed to be everywhere, even in his little town. Exasperated to no end, he found a seat on a park bench near the college campus next to a dark-haired student with a thin goatee. He sat down without speaking to the young man, who seemed busy with the device in his hand.
There, watching people pass by, he realized something he had never noticed before. Some people carried backpacks and water bottles while talking through hidden voice communications to invisible companions. Others pulled their scarves around their necks as if cloaking their identity and appeared rapt in discussions with someone through their handheld devices – nobody spoke to another human being in person. Moon had read on the internet the night before about the advancement of communications and how some people had chosen to receive communicator implants. Although he didn’t keep up with technology, it was apparent there had been a significant advancement in science overnight as well. It explained those who talked to the air without any evidence of earbuds or devices. If one didn’t know better, it was as if talking to someone in person was against the law. About that time, another man in black passed by with the same LED sunglasses as the man at the hardware store. Moon thought of the jewelry box and the blue flame. “Was that when it all changed?”
A moment later, an elderly lady in sunglasses sat beside Moon, opposite the goateed man. She and Moon both sat silently, watching the world pass by. Moon felt suddenly compelled to talk to someone – anyone. He turned to the goatee student, nearly the same age as Moon, and asked, “So what is up with all this crazy acronym and “X” business? The man seemed frightened by the question, looking up from his device, his eyebrows raised in horror at Moon’s sudden outburst. “You know, the X-gender, the UGW, ATG, and so on. Doesn’t anybody talk normally anymore, or at all? And I’ve been doing some reading. Did you know that it’s not X-ianity? It’s Christianity! What the heck is wrong with saying God? I can’t find a reference to him anywhere! What’s up with that?”
The man’s face was now white with terror. He leaned as far away from Moon as possible until the park bench wasn’t big enough. He replied to Moon as he quickly stood to leave, with an almost nonexistent voice, “I don’t know what you are talking about, dude.” At this, the stranger hurriedly walked away, repeatedly looking back over his shoulder at Moon and then to the park’s periphery as if he was being followed. At that moment, the little old woman to his right leaned over and softly whispered, “But there are some who do.” She pulled down the edge of her shades and gave him a wink. She then handed him a slip of folded yellow paper and got up and left. As she disappeared into a passing crowd, he opened the note and read, “Join us next Sunday for worship at the church on the corner of Dogwood and Locust. Your friend in Christ, not X – Doris, Underground God Worshippers (UGW).”
As the days leading up to Sunday slowly passed, Moon became more and more aware of the changes around him. Each new revelation seemed to grow more regretful. The only thing he could think of that led to this change in reality was the music box. Returning to Maplewood Hardware, Mr. Cary informed him that the TP had purchased the child’s jewelry box a few days ago. Moon remembered the rude stranger in the LED sunglasses. It was then his hopes were dashed at ever finding the box and trying to reverse this curse or whatever it was.
Sunday, Moon found his way to the little church at Dogwood and Locust. Unlike all the other churches he passed, this church had no X on its steeple. Entering the double wooden plank front doors, he found his way into a sanctuary. Likewise, it too was void of any decorations. The only thing of color was a purple cloth draped over the wooden pulpit. On it was the symbol of a single candle positioned underneath seven stars. Other than that, there was nothing else, not even a cross. Through a life-changing sermon, Moon soon learned that he was not alone. Here, amid the Underground God Worshippers, he was hearing the Word of God preached in its purest, original form. The Truth was being shared without compromise. Moon quickly realized he had found a home.
Later that day, Moon decided to have dinner at the X-factory, formerly known as the Cheesecake Factory. After all, it was the holidays, or at least as close to it as one might conceive, and he felt like he was on cloud nine after the morning’s service. His hope had been restored.
There, while seated on a cushioned couch that ran the length of the wall with small tables positioned in front of it, Moon read over the menu on his smartwatch. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Maître d’ escorting two men in black in his direction and then sat them down at the table next to his. One of the TP removed his black hat, revealing a white ponytail pulled behind. Mr. Ponytail was carrying a shopping bag, which he handed to his comrade, who sat it between Moon and himself on the floor. Moon’s heart raced. Could it be? Looking, but not trying to be caught looking, Moon glanced as far as his vision would allow into the contents of the bag, but to no avail. Whatever was inside was too small to be seen from the top without leaning in that direction. It wasn’t long before Mr. Ponytail left, leaving the younger officer alone. As the waiter came and took their orders, the young TP left his napkin on his seat as he seemed to head towards the X-rooms.
His heart now pounding in his temples, Moon knew this was his chance as he scooted over and peered beyond the rim of the brown paper shopping bag. There, at the bottom, all alone, was the pink, pasty jewelry box.
Time was of the essence. Moon could barely breathe. He knew his life could be in jeopardy, but he did the unthinkable. Reaching down into the bag, he retrieved the box and slid back to his own table. Remembering the previous encounter, Moon quickly silenced his smartwatch before continuing. He then slowly tilted back the lid. The tiny bells within the ancient child’s keepsake began to play, and the blue flame appeared as before. At that moment, Moon looked up, and the TP officer now stood a few paces before him with his X-phaser pulled. The little angry lights pulsated along the length of its smooth black barrel of death. “You are in violation of the bureau’s X realm. Drop the box at once, or I will have to kill you,” he shouted.
Once again, the little blue flame danced as the voice from the box said, “What shall it be?”
As the beam of energy surged from the TP’s weapon, Moon had no time to respond other than the last few words, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” The laser shot into Moon’s chest, causing him to convulse and shake until the life left his body, and he fell asleep for the last time.
Before the lid of the box closed as it fell from Moon’s hand, it replied, “And so it shall be.”
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE