As with all pandemics, there exists the unfortunate patient zero. Jack Hornsby, 44, drunkard. Awoken in the sleepy town of Cliffton; forgotten by its neighbouring counties, and well past the opportunities of restoration. A long way from Nazareth.
Saddled at the crest of the hill on main street you will find St Joseph’s Church, held together by a small but loyal congregation of the town’s misfits, souls unhappy with the drudgery of modern life, craving another shot in a higher realm beyond middle America. The sermon of the day reminded the sparse drooped old timers of the importance of spreading the word of god and returning the quaint red brick house to its former glory.
Jack Hornsby’s booming kick through the front door at the conclusion of said sermon certainly stirred the crowd better than preacher Gregory Abrams had managed this day. “I am the one and only Jesus,” Jack bellowed, “Where are your whores?”
Preacher Abrams, threatened by such demonstration and keen to protect his flock, rushed down the aisle to dispel the drunken intruder. That is when Jack gripped the preacher by the shoulders and violently coughed blood into his face.
“Drink this my blood, my son! Follow me into the light!”
“We assumed he was sick from the drink, typical Jack being what he was. Didn’t seem like the kind of christ-like behaviour we’d seen in the movies,” said Melinda Wheeler, 63, retired school teacher, now Jesus Christ of 4 Braxley Street, Cliffton.
The service ended abruptly after the assault on Preacher Abrams, the town sheriff and his deputies arriving to take Jack away, who had planted himself on the mount and retold his exploits in the Gospel of Matthew.
“It was difficult to concentrate, what with tending to Preacher Abrams slumped against the pew, but credit where it’s due, Jack really put on a show,” says Gordon, 64, husband of Melinda, retired plumber.
Preacher Abrams was taken to the hospital as a precaution, while the sheriff carted Jack to the psychiatric facility over in Polk County.
It is reported that the Preacher, while awaiting the results of his tests in the waiting room, stood upright on his chair, spoke in tongues for a good minute or two, before collapsing on the floor in seizure. Three days later, he awoke from his induced coma, and advised his nurse to bathe in the power of Christ before attempting to pee on her. Hospital staff restraining him were met with his scowling disapproval. If they didn’t mind, he was late for his admonishment of tax collectors.
Off to Polk County he went.
News of the Preacher’s turn for the worse shook the congregation. Thoughts, prayers and a vigil outside the facility was organised to wish him a speedy recovery. Upon arriving at the Polk County Psychiatric facility, the group were turned away. An incident with an orderly had placed the staff on high alert.
Before too long, the facility sought assistance from the media. The Polk Gazette ran the headline. “Jesus is back, and he’s spreading!”
Melinda admits she was not a true believer in those early days. “Brushed it off, sensationalist rubbish. They were saying it was some kind of affliction. Not just Preacher Abrams or Mr Hornsby was sick with it, but three orderlies, a security guard and two other patients too!” Melinda said she’d await an investigation from higher authorities, the state’s Preacher Association, to determine the true origin of this madness.
“Demons,” says Gordon. “Definitely. What you’ve got there is a classic case of Demons. All evidence points to evil.”
The Preacher’s Association, along with the State’s #2 rated WNBC news crew, entered the Polk County Psychiatric Institute full of bravado, ready to bring the fire and fury of the Lord in extinguishing yet another christian offshoot. Their exit proved less than victorious.
Cameras revealed a disturbing environment. Seventeen patients, reminding one another to turn the other cheek and offering tips on fishing, to which they all nodded away in agreement.
When asked individually who their leader was, their answers remained uniform. Their Father, of course.
Tests revealed an innate understanding of the scripture, and fondness for addressing people as brother or sister. Aside from a recurrence of the blood sharing habit for which these individuals were becoming notorious, the Preacher’s association were at a loss whether to declare them insane or a bona fide miracle. That’s how Preacher Abrams ended up on the national TV with 60 minutes. “Hello, it’s me, Jesus. Sorry I’m late!”
Discovery of the Jesus Virus, officially coined JeVus, proved a thorn in the secular and theological worlds. On the one hand, having more than one Saviour complicated their brand and didn’t really fit in with the current backstory. But here was a sure-fire way to convert more people to Christianity and arrest a dip in Sunday attendance, from mass in Rome to the little Cliffton House of Prayer. What better way to make oneself their own Saviour.
In the secular world, the Carpenter’s Guild Society anxiously weighed up the benefits of having more hands on deck against the heavy investment required in upskilling such a particular influx. Things have changed a lot since the biblical times, they noted. They may be too set in His ways, being the main concern.
The peculiar residents of Polk County Psychiatric facility came to the fore in debates for the Presidential Election for the United States of America. The incumbent president, Mr Deluth, 74, was not against Jesus, per say. But he was adamant that until a cure was found, the choice to become Jesus should be left up to individuals and not forced on the population. The young challenger, Mr Tafferty, 71, pulled Mr Deluth up on his use of the word “cure” and its insinuations. Was the President implying we needed a cure from Jesus?
“I don’t usually consider myself a single issue voter, and my heart breaks for Preacher Abrams, but he really seemed happy on Sixty Minutes,” Mrs Wheeler reflected.
All the while, a newly formed fundamentalist group, believing in the power of many Christs, stormed the treatment facility and released the prisoners. It was God’s will, they argued, just ask the Jesuses. Condemnation of the jailbreak was resolute from the authorities, though it was not without its supporters, those lost sheep looking to finally be their own shepherd.
And so the Army was called in to deal with the Jesus freaks. While the odd soldier executed containment orders with religious zeal, the overwhelming majority felt uncomfortable blasting away these misunderstood folk. Such complacency led to more infections, which led to more claims of walking on water, which led to drownings and occasional contamination of local water supplies…
And so on, and so on.
With no immediate cure ready, the government’s of the world enacted public health measures to combat the spread. This, Gordon and Melinda agree, is the point in which they decided to seek out the disease. “We took a look at the way the world was heading, and figured the Rapture wasn’t far off. Best to hedge our bets and play it safe.”
At the time of writing an estimated two billion people have become Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. It is expected that such widespread abstinence will decimate the global population and affect birth rates for decades to come.