The hum of Magda’s motor chair drowned out the songbirds she longed to hear each morning.
“Aren’t you even going to thank me for treating you to this little sightseeing trip?” Mrs. Hoffman asked.
Magda didn’t respond. Since Mrs. Hoffman had become her caretaker at the Transitional Facility, she had learned it was best to remain silent when possible.
“We’re going to a special place today, Magda.”
Magda cringed. Mrs. Hoffman’s demeanor matched her slate gray caretaker’s garb. Anything she considered special would certainly be unpleasant to a warm-blooded creature.
As they turned onto a broad concrete courtyard, Mrs. Hoffman announced, “Here we are.”
An icy pang struck Magda deep in the chest. “No,” she breathed as a painfully familiar structure came into full view.
“What’s wrong, Magda? Not like you remember it?”
A statue of a man in modern clothing now stood where the tall marble cross had been and many of the external trappings were barely recognizable, but there was no doubt this was once Magda’s church.
“Since you and your superstitious friends were among the last hold-outs against the New Reformation, the Ministry Council decided to make it a monument to our victory.”
Despite her stoic efforts, a tear rolled down Magda’s wrinkled cheek. The graven image of Solomon Cain loomed over her as a smug, young tour guide spoke with the lack of humility she’d come to expect from Free Thinkers. “The man who pioneered the anti religious amendments to our constitution was the great Solomon Cain; legislator, philosopher, theologian and leader of the New Reformation.” He motioned toward the statue as Mrs. Hoffman joined the crowd of clapping onlookers.
“Aww.” The woman swiped Magda’s tear with a clammy thumb. “Reminiscing?”
Hot anger swelled in Magda’s craw as her motor chair was steered through the entryway. How could the woman know this had been her church? It was yet another invasion of all she held sacred.
The interior of the Living Word Worship Center had been transformed into a museum exhibit glorifying the last days of public worship. A weighty sadness replaced Magda’s fury when she surveyed the main worship hall. Walls once draped with hand-woven tapestries now showcased photos depicting the faithful as wild-eyed zealots. A kiosk featuring interactive video screens stood in the spot formerly occupied by the pulpit.
“Enjoying the sights?” Mrs. Hoffman seemed to savor Magda’s pain.
“I stopped living by sight a long time ago, Ma’am.”
“Is that so? Well, there’s one sight I haven’t shown you yet.”
Mrs. Hoffman guided Magda’s chair to the kiosk and pressed a few buttons. An excerpt from one of Solomon Cain’s famous speeches flickered to life on a video screen.
“You are either a committed believer,” he said with his signature slickness, “who blindly accepts the divinity of your god, or you’re a patchwork parishioner who mixes and matches the message to fit your personal perception of the truth. To those who fall into the first category, I say you are guilty of imposing an exclusionist doctrine upon your fellow man. To those who’ve chosen the second option I ask…what’s the point?”
Magda knew the words all too well. The fact that some of the justification for religious irrelevancy came from within the church itself had long been a source of shame for her.
Mrs. Hoffman touched something and the screen froze on the image of a young woman carrying a sign that read “Morality is absolute, NOT relative.”
“I wasn’t sure at first,” her caretaker said, “After all, it was fifty years ago. So I had the footage analyzed and checked against your records. Turns out, the Magdalena Rothwies who participated in the riots here is an identical match to a Magda Roth, who was committed to my care recently.”
Magda studied the younger incarnation of herself, transfixed by the fire in her eyes.
“I can either report this to the Ministry Council, or you can take the dignified way out.”
She shot Mrs. Hoffman a defiant glare.
“Oh, please! Relics like you are the reason the Quality of Life Act was introduced. You’re eligible for voluntary termination. Why not take the state funeral and end this misery for both of us?”
Magda forced a stiff smile. “I believe the Sanctity of Life Act was introduced first, Mrs. Hoffman.”
The caretaker shrugged. “Suit yourself. You’re a goner either way.”
“So are you, Mrs. Hoffman.” Magda ran a crooked old finger across her younger image, “The difference is where you’re going.”
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