By Zane Stephens
The band on stage harmonizes out the final tune, and Ward grins widely. He looks out at the crowd; he loves seeing so many people singing together. Ward loves the Church, loves God, always loves meeting, and he’s never forsaken it. One of the pastors steps up and tells everyone that they may be seated. He rattles off the announcements for the week, as quick as he can be (everyone wanted to hear the elder pastor speak; it had been forever since he had).
Did I ever make it to any of those events? Ward asks himself. He thinks not. The pastor jokes about the upcoming Wednesday event, and the crowd laughs. He would make that joke every time, and every time, they would laugh, Ward thinks as they quiet.
The elder pastor steps up on stage. Talking in depth on Revelation and the significance of what was happening in the world—the correlations and such. He makes point after good point, and Ward thinks, He never knew how right he was. I wish he had known.
He finishes out his sermon, and the band comes back on stage to sing out one last song. It was never like a concert to the band; they were always just praising God. One man among the crowd even goes up to the elder pastor and gets saved. Did that man stay true? Or did he lose faith and fall like so many others? Ward thinks. He remembers seeing so many of his friends go up and ask in the same way. Ward has always been a Christian, ever since he was old enough to know what it means.
After that, the service is complete. A friend sitting near turns towards him and smiles. “So, trash yeah?” They had been taking out the trash together after service for over five years at that point, and he never failed to ask him if that’s what they were going to do despite never making plans otherwise. The cumulative trash of around 500 people built up quickly. Now there was never any trash to do. Ward smiles back and reaches up to his glasses. His smile collapses with them.
The grinning face of Ward’s friend fades away into darkness. The surroundings follow, shimmering away. The induced hologram pumps out of his system. He had found the glasses sitting in a wooden box in the woods with chemicals and instructions. Suddenly, he could be where his thoughts always were. He found that once a week it can take memories and bring them back to life, so long as it has the right thing to project onto. Ward has the original and large sanctuary of the church for the bones of the hologram.
The real sanctuary is dim, except for the few cardboardless windows. Dusty beams of light play from the uncovered windows, giving not enough light to color things, but just enough to see. The sanctuary is in nearly perfect condition, the only thing missing being the screen that showed the music lyrics (someone had salvaged it for whatever they could get out of it) and all of the instruments. The collapse hadn’t been instant, so many of the members of the church had tried to continue meeting together, taking the musical equipment with them.
He slides out of the row he always sits in, two rows back from the front on the right side (always pretending that people fill each seat, excusing himself to each empty chair). The sections of chairs sit vacant from wall to wall. Only his seat would show any recent use, except he dusts every month, taking special care of the seats his closest friends always sat in. Leaving the church, he heads back home.
“See you next week,” he says to the silent building as he walks down the empty street.