They call him Praying Mantis. He's the man who runs the mom-and-pop at the corner of Katydid and Odd Beetle, three doors down from the dead end warehouse where I do business. As I approach his place, I get a bad case of jitters.
My scalp begins to itch and my ears to buzz. I pluck a tick from my hair, which is actually a miniature radio. I press a tiny, gray button. It connects me with a familiar, crackling voice.
"Did the drop-off go as planned?" asks the "Queen Bee" (QB). She's the one who owns me - I mean, my office.
"Like clockwork," I reply.
"Were you seen?"
"Not a chance," I lie, trying to sound confident. I hate the way she monitors my every move, but I guess I should be grateful.
After all, I nearly froze to death the night she scraped me off the shoulder of I-28. But once she tucked me in her van, I knew I'd survive - well, sort of. Soon I was seated in her den, bundled in quilts and sipping steaming tea. Her "Comfort Team" supplied snug hugs to "boost" my self esteem.
As sweet as their acceptance felt, I had a niggling inkling I'd been lured into a trap. My eyes fished for an exit while my mind fumbled for an excuse to bolt.
An idea popped in my brain, but before I could nab it, the QB intervened.
"Settle down, folks. As your spiritual mother, I command you not to smother, but to love this little one into joining our Acts 4:32 community." She ogled me with eager eyes. "Unlike mainstream churches, we're very witty. We share a common kitty, and hold nothing back from each other. It's super scriptural."
Her fervent zeal incinerated my red flags and silenced my warning bells. Without realizing it, I began to absorb their doctrine of "transparent security," a "no masks" life-style that required "total honesty." Members of our group were encouraged to shared intimate, often shocking details of their lives, in order to confess and purge any hidden sins.
Oh, and did I mention the unspoken contract forbidding us to share those secrets outside the Community? If we do, then ours are fair game.
"Such accountability is super scriptural," they claimed.
Scriptural or not, I wish I hadn't told them about those lewd pictures or that sleazy magazine I worked for, because it's shrunk my personal space to almost nothing. I'm caught in a blackmail trap and I have no privacy because her spies are everywhere. Strolling the sidewalks. Stalking the streets. Pretending to examine oranges in the produce section of the grocery store. Making sure this "go-fer" keeps their darkest secrets safe.
I dare not make a peep about the corpse that's buried in the copse or the barrels of poisoned wine she's stashed in her cellar, because the QB's watching.
She's constantly developing new bugs for keeping tabs on me: broaches shaped like roaches for my blouses (pretty scary), a chain of daddy longlegs for my pants, and holographic moths she likes to plant beneath my pillow. Their super-sensitive sensors beep the second I wake up, to deter me from sneaking out at night. I did that once, just so I could use the outhouse without a spotter, and got a royal chew-out. Then, when I dared to disagree with her, the QB made it "crystal-ball" clear whose views I'm supposed to mirror.
I want to live my own life, but her scrutiny won't let me be. It's maddening - absolutely maddening! Did you know she's even rigged my watch with a listening device? What's next - a computer chip under my skin?
"You don't have to spread her messages, you know."
I don't recognize the voice, but I recognize the man. Startled, I look up and realize I'm standing in front of his store, conversing with the Christian Books sign dangling in the window. I usually rush by his place without a second glance, but not this time.
"Whose messages?" I ask.
"Jezebel," replies the Mantis. "The one who has you in that goldfish bowl. To throw down her control is super scriptural."
That's what I was thinking too. That's why I broke my vow of silence and became an informant. I may end up in prison, but I don't care. To be free in Christ means everything to me.
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