Salvation Through Speed
The city had once been described as beautiful, then as industrious, and finally, with the increasing pollution, as filthy. But this was true of the world. Nobody now doubted that the nearsightedness and overconsumption of humanity had robbed the planet of its clean oceans, its forests and imminently, its breathable air. Like overconsumption addicts, people seemed incapable of stopping their destruction. But one social movement sought a solution, as the posters plastered around the city proclaimed. The Return to Eden Church understood the harm humanity had caused to their home and to their flora and fauna neighbors. It was a movement with answers, and it was the reason the 3 men found themselves in the middle of the city on that day.
If anyone had noticed them, they’d surely have been puzzled. They certainly looked odd: Job in his pink medical scrubs, his therapist, Doctor Abraham, in a suit despite the ever-present scorching heat, and, finally, the hulking Chromo, their hospital appointed security, crammed into camouflage fatigues.
Of course, nobody was paying attention to them. Their waiter did give Job a quick, quizzical, look when asked if there was a recycling bin and simply pointed distractedly at the café’s incinerator. His attention was clearly on the crowd gathered across the street.
The crowd members were clad in white robes and were excitedly chatting amongst themselves. Many blessed each other with their group’s standard symbol. This involved folding their pinky, ring and thumb fingers, followed by a vigorous movement of their outstretched middle and pointer fingers. The symbol was also on their banners, alongside the church’s name and mantra:
“The Return to Eden Church! Salvation through Speed!”
At the head of the crowd, Pastor Evans was calling for order.
“My blessed children! I’m happy to see so many people here today!”
Pastor Evans had lived quite a career, although not under that name. The inspiration for this current movement, which was rapidly sweeping the world, actually arose from his past project, the time-honored Obituary Gambit. He’d search the obituaries for recently deceased individuals who were survived by widows. He’d then show up with a bible, engraved with the widow’s name.
“He must’ve ordered it before he passed,” He would say, sadly, “Unfortunately, he only made a down payment on it…” Almost invariably, the widows would pay the “remaining balance” for the wonderful keepsake. However, as time went on, people were more reluctant to pay. One widow’s comments stuck with him: “Why would my husband buy me this thing? With all its talk of the future and how to be moral to improve the world! It’s a little late for that. If only it were possible to get back to the better days.” He quickly caught on to this trend of nostalgic yearning and, thus, the church was formed.
“All right, everyone, please take your places!” Pastor Evans proclaimed. His followers dutifully arranged themselves in rows, each grabbing on to the long horizontal poles erected for them.
“Do you see that giant clock?” Doctor Abraham asked Job.
“I’m sorry?” Job said hurriedly. He had been busy moving his foot back and forth on the ground, slowly forming a small depression. He had, through daily effort at the mental institution, changed the shape of his shoe, making it a better implement.
“What is with you today, Job? The clock, keep an eye on it.”
The clock was immense and flanked by even more impressive gas-powered engines, essentially massive rockets placed horizontally to the ground and firmly fixed into place. They were placed so their flames would fire opposite to Earth’s rotation, of course. Tending to them were several Chromos, the Pastor’s personal security team. Chromos, originally billed as “marvels of the modern world,” were genetically engineered to have an extra Y chromosome, to make them more aggressive and thus a good stock for soldiers and security personnel. When it became evident extra Y chromosomes did not lead to greater aggressivity, the government fell back on tried-and-true methods of creating grunts, which involved a lot of hitting at an early age. The name Chromo had stuck, however. Unfortunately, they tended to unnerve people. It was yet another thing that made modern life bleak.
Dutifully, the Chromos filled the engines with thousands of gallons of fuel, which would be burned in the span of a few minutes. At the asylum, Job had wondered whether that would just add to the smog problem. The Doctor assured him the church had a more expansive goal.
Pastor Evans began his short sermon. “We have ruined this world! With our thoughtlessness, overconsumption and greed! But there is a better world waiting for us! I guarantee it. It is waiting for us in the past! Today, we will return to it!”
The crowd cheered and tightened their grips on the horizontal poles. A countdown began. All members joined in.
“Three, two, one, now!”
With a yell, all church members began to run in place, as fast as possible. The gas-powered engines were also activated, steady plumes of fire and smoke pouring horizontally from them.
It was all quite a shock, which Job used as an excuse to drop some seeds on the ground. He thought the Doctor may have noticed, but he was transfixed by the show.
Above the racket, Pastor Evans could still be heard. “I want you to run with all your strength and to believe with all your heart! We can spin the Earth backwards! We can change its rotation! With these massive engines and our running feet, we will succeed! We’ll travel back in time! We’ll Return to Eden! Salvation through Speed!”
The runners screamed their slogan.
Within a few moments, however, the engines had guzzled all the available fuel. The church members stopped running shortly after.
Pastor Evans was more excited now than before. “Look at the clock! We had an impact, my children! Time went backwards! Only for a moment, but it did! I certainly felt it! Did you feel it?”
The crowd yelled in agreement.
“You know what this means, don’t you? We must meet again next month. But we need more people and more fuel! That means more members and more help from you. I’ll be passing around the collection buckets now.” Pastor Evans wiped some sweat off his face. Despite not running in place, he tended to sweat at these events. It used to happen when he sold bibles, too. He thought of it as his mind working overtime on his next project. As lucrative as this church was, it wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, they’d run into recruitment issues.
Doctor Abraham turned to Job, smiling broadly. “This is why I brought you here. You talk in our therapy sessions about the deplorable state of the planet. You asked me what I think society needs. This is what people need: Hope. To feel they can unmake their mistakes and return to a simpler, safer past, before they’d ruined this world.”
Job gave him a stunned look. “Do you really think they can turn back time like this? By reversing the Earth’s rotation? I mean, that just sounds…”
“Ludicrous? Idiotic? Of course it is! The very idea is nonsensical. But it gives them hope. They can therefore live their lives with less dread.”
“But it’s false hope!” Job said loudly, rising partly from his seat. He took that opportunity to turn his water glass slightly, dropping some water to the ground.
The Chromo reacted with an aggressive growl.
“It’s ok, big guy, relax.” The Doctor turned back to Job. “False hope is better than no hope in my book. The point is what perspective you take, Job. People don’t want to feel they’ll have to be responsible for fixing their mistakes. They feel better if they can just reset things.”
Job looked at him with confusion. The Doctor sighed. “I thought our outing would teach you something, but perhaps I was wrong. We can discuss this further in our sessions.”
As they stood up, Job surreptitiously moving his sneaker to fill in the hole he’d made.
The crowd had begun to disperse, offering pamphlets to bystanders. Their white robes were by now filthy with soot and would be incinerated. Cleaning them would’ve been more ecological, but certainly less efficient. It would also display a fast disappearing mindset in this world. Making efforts to improve the future seemed too little too late. Not to mention depressing. Besides, as the church explained, why fix the future when we can return to the past? Truthfully, such nostalgic yearning was so strong in most people now, that, mentally, most people already resided there.
As the trio walked, the Chromo turned to the Doctor. “Doc, why’s this guy in the loony bin in the first place? Seems stable enough.”
“He’s one of those tree planters. Aren’t you, Job? You know, those fools who think planting trees can solve this whole mess. Totally the wrong view, of course, temporally speaking.”