The congregation of Matthew's Prophet's stood at just over thirty members. The little town in Wales, named Llanilltud, didn’t offer too much in the way of potential recruits to the cause, although they often attempted to widen their circle when it came to searching out new members.
They met three times a week and the meeting took place in a building they had bought and renovated themselves. It was an old church in a state of disrepair, but they made the best of it and within a year of its purchase, they had created a modest meeting place they were proud of.
It stood tucked away in the old part of town and just a few yards away from the local police station. The congregation felt this was something of a bonus as a police presence near-by kept them safe. Not that they were ever on the end of any serious crime or harassment, but, believing themselves to be the one true chosen faith, they had built up a healthy persecution complex and were convinced in the collective belief that they would be harangued for their faith, before God brought about ‘the cleansing.’
The persecution they would suffer would be a final test before the end of all things, or so they believed.
The converted church was simply named Matthew’s Hall and was largely tolerated by the local community. Matthew's Prophet's met there three times a week and meetings would be hosted by congregation elders, sometimes one elder acting as speaker with meetings taking on an interactive angle with gathered members. Guest speakers from other congregations (when they could find one) were also invited onto the platform and local members of all ages would be given pre-arranged slots and material to present or teach on.
Denny used to shudder at the thought of receiving the infamous slip of paper with a briefing of the meeting date and material to present.
The teachings of the Bible, or at least their version of the Bible, would be digested and interpreted in open discussions with pre-approved self- published supporting literature also on hand. The meetings usually lasted for two hours with an unspoken rule that members would socialise after proceeding's to ensure a community spirit was harvested.
Denny hated the days the meetings fell on. The older he got the more the dread of meeting nights or mornings festered. When he was in school he would feel his stomach turn at the prospect of yet another meeting night.
He envied his school friends who had their freedom in the evenings to do whatever they chose to and when school was out for the holidays, he felt even worse when Nathaniel and Neil would plan their evening of activity, while he instead would be attending a meeting, dressed in a stuffy shirt and tie and feeling old before his years.
At aged twelve, an unrest Denny didn’t have the capacity to figure out yet, had taken root in his mind. The same materials were regurgitated each meeting and it started to become tiresome to Denny, and although he didn’t appreciate the fact at the time, he found that he was acting or pretending to be one of them but was no longer embracing much if any of the content.
The religion was no hobby, it was a lifestyle, a lifestyle Denny was beginning to dislike. Sadly, for Denny, choice at his age didn’t come into it and he didn’t have the ability, yet, to communicate his feelings or desires to live outside of the faith.
So, he went along, reluctantly, three times a week and found an uneasy routine and strategy to cope.
He became two people.
On one hand a fledgling Matthews Prophet and on the other, a normal every day twelve-year old kid who liked playing with his friends and getting in bother, he loved football and music and many other ‘worldly pursuits.’
The latter was the real Denny in many respects and the act he put on for his parents and the congregation was just that, a performance to avoid arousing suspicion or further infringement on his other ordinary little boy’s life. But Denny feared consequences, constantly.
The Prophet's taught of a time in the future, a near future, when God would cleanse the Earth of all its sins and the wrong doers, while only a chosen few would prosper and survive the cleansing process. Those chosen few of course were the Matthew's Prophet's so when a member forsook the righteous path and stepped out into ‘the world’, they were as good as dead at the hands of God.
In a sense that was the strength of the religion and its teachings, it ruled on fear.
Fear of God himself but also fear of the terminal repercussions should one leave. If members stayed true to the teachings they'd would survive the cleansing and live forever on a new Earth, a reward too precious to consider forsaking life for.
As a result of this steadfast belief, congregation members felt it their duty and responsibility to watch each other and ensure their brothers and sisters stayed on the righteous path. This approach was open to abuse of the petty or more notable kind.
It bred not only busy bodies and idle gossip but also delusions of grandeur from more senior congregation members, namely the elders, who took it upon themselves to visit congregation members should they appear to be falling by the way side and provide them with 'shepherding visits.'
The elders had a flock to manage and in the relatively new congregation of Llanilltud, they managed it extremely well.
Such strong beliefs and insistence on lifestyle and priorities led to a suffocating environment though none would admit it.
Paranoia was rife as they each feared they were being watched, studied , not only by an all seeing and powerful God and his nemesis the Devil, but also each other. Private thoughts of an alternative life were often suppressed by the fear that the big man upstairs was looking in at them. Such desires were also put down to the Devil, Satan himself, who was whispering in ears and coaxing Prophet members away from the path of righteousness.
In reality it was good healthy sense to question beliefs and think about alternatives, but such thoughts were not considered independent or naturally evolved, but rather those of Satan the Devil, Lucifer, who was cast down by God and now lived among mankind ruling the Earth.
Matthew’s Prophet's considered themselves the brave few who were beyond the Devil's rule and stood in lone defiance.
Denny though had other ideas. He didn’t totally believe, but more importantly, even if he did, he would rather die than live this way of life for all eternity.
He needed freedom of thought and he yearned to express the free will that God had allegedly given him and all humans.
He wanted to live life his way, but age and fear prevented him from doing so.
A nagging doubt remained that the God they had dedicated their lives to may just exist and was reading his every rebellious thought like a script.
Worse still, Denny had come to question the teachings of immortality after God’s cleansing of the Earth. By default, he figured if there was to be no cleansing and if there was no true God and the beliefs and teachings were not real, then he would die just like everyone else, non-believers or not, and for the first time in his young life Denny had to consider death as a reality.
He had to consider that there was no paradise on Earth, that there was no carrot of immortality and that just like everybody else he would grow old, frail, and waste away till death embraced him.
Denny didn’t want to live like this for the rest of his life, this he knew already, but he didn’t want to die either and the prospect of losing everyone he loved crushed his young heart.
If the Prophet's were right, he would leave and forsake everlasting life. If he remained, he would have to observe his best friends Nathaniel and Neil die at the hands of his cruel God despite the fact, to his mind at least, they were innocent.
The prospect of all these possibilities tortured his young vivid mind and it is in such dark places, that monsters are born.