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A Christmas Kernel Beginning



The following is a work of fiction. None of the events or conversations really happened, as written.

A Christmas Kernel:
An Interpretation of A Christmas Carol



The Gift Giving


“This is my first Christmas at Gold, I’m excited for this muster, why do people look nervous?” The room was filling up with people wearing the daily uniform including the standard issue dark circles under their eyes. Nervous glances were exchanged and the hum of whispers was a constant.

“You don’t get it, COB has never received gifts like these before. I’ve been here for years and I’m nervous as hell.” He nudged the excited young man next to him hard in the ribs to make him have a serious face. “Hey! That hurt! This is gonna be COB’s best Christmas ever. I’ve postulated for it.”

A sudden hush as the Master At Arms enters first, pleading with his eyes, to make things go right. Standing at attention he announces the Chairman of the Board who enters confidently with a broad smile. Cheering and applause, pleasing COB with their adulation. Basking in it for a few minutes, he shushes them and speaks.

“You’ve worked hard this year to make Scientology the fastest growing religion in the world. For your dedication, you’ve earned an hour of libs tomorrow for Christmas and a special meal for dinner.” More cheering, which he quickly stops. “You have something for me I heard? Every year I’m so touched by your generosity to me.”

The MAA was almost pea green in the face, hesitantly spoke, “Sir, this year we have not one but many gifts for you…” whoops from the crowd and COB is now beaming “...because the base has been without pay this whole year…” the MAA swayed in a little, one might say almost in fright “...so every department has made you a custom gift. Here’s the bindery custom leather…”

“WHAT?! You mother fuckers made me shit I can get by the truck load for free on MY time when you should have been working?! You don’t get paid because you don’t do shit and this is stealing from me! What kind of Scientologists are you? Make it go right! Get credit cards, borrow money, I told my assistant that I wanted four new pair of custom John Lobbs including their trip to me for the fitting. You counter intentioned cocksuckers can’t raise $100,000?”

Several Sea Org members began to cry, some maintained composure, others looked in shock. Only half of the group had been at Gold for more than two years. “S-s-sir if I may…” “If you may fucking talk! Look at this shit!” As he ripped off the blankets on each department’s handmade gift.

“Sir these were made after their duties.” “Bullshit! I work 22 hours a day, they should work longer, they had no time. Everyone on the base is being sent to the RPF.” For emphasis he smashed the woodworking department’s gift of a custom burlwood desk accessory set as he stomped out.

“You heard him, we will all report to the RPF immediately.” “Best Christmas ever for COB you said?” He who had said that could not reply as he had been shocked into silence.

The Christmas Card

A convoy of SUVs drive across Gold Base. In the back of COB’s, “Can you believe that shit?! Fucking making me gifts? You told them I wanted those John Lobbs right?” “As soon as you told me last month that that is what you wanted I immediately told everyone.” “They can’t raise $100,000 in 30 days and made me that garbage instead?! I was in charge of this place by most of their ages and I’d get that money. Get that douche Cardone on the phone and tell him about this, he’ll send John Lobb over to me he’s such a suck up.” “Right away, Sir.”

Pulling up to the RTC building, “Are the attorneys in the conference room?” “Yes Sir, they are waiting for you.” “Tell them I’ll be there in a few minutes, then call that douche and take Moxon around the base with you to round up everyone to make sure they get to the RPF.” “Yes Sir, even your secretaries?” “Did they make me a gift?” “No Sir, they had money set aside for the John Lobbs.” “Then they’re okay. For now.”

Avoiding the conference room for a few minutes, he alights the steps to try to burn off some of the anger that was boiling over at not receiving what he wanted as a gift. Entering his office, only one secretary was there. “Where’s Janet and Carol?” “Janet is getting coffee for the attorneys and Carol, well, Carol…” “Carol WHAT?” “Carol blew this morning Sir” “Did you know?!” “No Sir, not until I reported to duty and security was here.” “She’ll be back, you cannot blow once you work for me. But she’ll never work in this office again. Now I’m stuck with two newbies.” “I’m sorry Sir, here is your mail.”

Quickly glancing through the personally addressed cards to him, that were unopened yet had been vetted to ensure that only those on the approved list could reach him, he saw handwriting on a card that made him stop short. Ripping open the envelope, the front of the card showed a dove with the message ‘Peace on Earth’, inside the printed message was ‘Goodwill to men’. Handwritten was a short note:

David, no matter what, you are my son and I love you. I feel this is my fault
and I’m sorry. You know where I am and how to contact me, I hope you will
reach out someday. Love, Dad


Shaking with rage, throwing all the other cards at Mary, yet still clutching his dad’s, he screams “HOW DID THIS GET THROUGH?!” Terrified at being beaten; but having never seen him hit anyone, just having heard the rumors, Mary stammered out that she did not know, the mail came from Lou who said she had sorted it. “LOU?!” “Yes Sir, she’s my supervisor.” “I know who the fuck she is!!”

The name Lou reverberated through the RTC building. Lou did not answer as she was fulfilling her mission to round up everyone on Gold to send them to the RPF. When her cell phone rang, even holding it at arm’s length, the screaming was ear shattering. She had put the card in the pile, she had seen it was from his father and knew it should have been immediately shredded. It was her own way of passive aggressive revenge for the little digs and punishments she’d had to suffer through the years which had gotten worse this past year. “Sir, I would never do such a thing. You know that Sir. Everything I do is for your comfort and success.” Like trying to soothe a toddler having a tantrum, she eventually calmed him. He concurred she would never do anything to harm him. He demanded that Mary be sent to the RPF RPF for lying to him. Being next to him, Mary started to cry when she heard this, thinking to herself that she understood why Carol blew.

Due to anger, forgetfulness, or being in a hurry, he didn’t put his father’s Christmas Card down, he put it in his suit pocket and went to meet with the attorneys in the conference room.

Attorney Meeting

The attorneys were seated at an oval conference table, surrounding them on the walls were huge diagrams of all the current legal cases and one huge wall calendar, at least 12 feet high, that listed all the upcoming dates for what court case and where. More like a room that a general would use to plot his next battle than a church's conference room, the attorneys referred to it amongst themselves as the “war room”.

As a courtesy to their ‘general’, they stood when David entered the room. He waved them to sit and asked Janet to get him a double espresso and then take over Mary’s duties upstairs. There was silence until Janet left the room, knowing that he feared leaks, they were too frightened to discuss even non-consequential things with a secretary present.

Alone at last, and eager to leave to go home to their families, they begin to brief him case by case on where things stood, how things were moving, their attempts to delay justice, and any new information they had obtained from PIs. As they went through their information, he was pacing in front of each case’s diagram, like his was plotting his next battle move. Listening, with few interjections and when he did, he would tell them what he wanted. Only the newest attorneys would attempt to correct him on legal procedure and the veterans would get some schadenfreude in watching them learn the law from someone who had never gone to law school, or even graduated from high school. They’d learn soon enough to just do as he said, no matter how ridiculous or contrary to law it was. The money was excellent and once you set your principles aside, you could enjoy many perks.

Many of the lawsuits were not looking good and overall they have no good news to give him. One group reports on correspondence with the attorneys for his dad regarding the non-disclosures he had signed. They explain to David that legally they could sue for a violation of those non-disclosures but his father’s attorneys had told them that they would counter sue for them being signed under duress. He tells them to sue anyway and pursue the non-disclosure angle and also claim he was infringing on Scientology’s trademarks. Seeing how angry he looked over this case in particular, an attorney who had worked with him for a long time spoke up before one of the newer ones did and told him that that was a good plan. He looked at the newer attorney and gave him a look to stay quiet.

After strategizing for several hours, the attorneys are dismissed, all giving David well meant Christmas greetings, which he half heartedly returns. David asks Peter to stay, as he’s been one of the attorneys to work for him the longest. He loses his bravado, as a soldier drops their armor, and almost seems to Peter as ‘human’ when he quietly asks “Do we have any chance of winning any of these suits?”

Explaining that on the merits alone, no, they have no chance; but they could win on loopholes in the law, filing appeals to exhaust the other side emotionally and financially. He ends his explanation with a question, “doesn’t your scripture say it doesn’t matter if you win or lose?” “Yes, but we really need a win with all the entheta against us this year. So many people ask questions we can’t answer and if we could show a win, it would help.”

“Why not answer their questions and tell them the truth?” Bravado and rage returning as a shield, “we don’t do that in Scientology!” David saw the fear in Peter’s eyes and he regained his composure and did something rare, he apologized for his outburst. He explains that he’s been under a lot of stress and not sleeping well. Peter assures him he understood and took no offence at his outburst. Sitting in silence for a few moments, Peter asks David if he would take offense if he and his family prayed for him at church. “No, of course not. Thank you.” A look of defeat was in his eyes. “I hope Sir, your faith can comfort you during these difficult times.”

Absentmindedly reaching into his pocket he finds his father’s Christmas card and tosses it out on the table. “Look who sent me a card.” Viewing it and not knowing how to properly react, he hands it back safely observing, “certainly not an expected greeting.” “That took a lot of nerve, he’s taunting me.” Not saying what he wanted, which was that perhaps his dad still loved him as a son, Peter explains he has a plane to catch. “You won’t be here tonight or tomorrow?” “No Sir, it’s in our contracts that we have Christmas Eve and Christmas off; but you may always reach me on my cell. I will only turn it off while we are at church services.” “Christmas is tomorrow right?” “Yes, Sir.” “Don’t let me hold you up, have the guards drive you directly to the airport.” “Thank you Sir.”

Peter didn’t want to leave, something seemed off about David. Something he had never seen before. Him apologizing was rare, but to drop his guard even for a moment was rarer still. He hesitated before leaving; but it was David who insisted he leave and said he would try to catch up on some sleep the next couple days and he might be catching a cold.

Peter took one last look book at him. He was standing with his back towards the door, looking at the board with his dad’s PI information listed and the lawsuit plans. In his hand he clutched the Christmas card.

Christmas Eve at Gold

Returning upstairs to his office, he finds Janet working with Lou on mail procedures. He requests Lou join him in his private office and asks if everyone has been sent to the RPF. “Yes Sir, and Mary was put in the RPF RPF.” “What about her?” motioning towards the door. “I believe she is a very dedicated Scientologist and with training she will become indispensable.” “Watch her closely and keep security on her ass, what have we got to go over right now?”

Lou brings out a fax that had been received earlier, a request by the Interfaith Church Group to send out a message of peace and unity at this time of year. It would be a good PR move for them she feels. “FUCK THAT! FUCK THEM!” He snatches the fax out of her hand partially ripping it and tells her to take a press release. Juggling faxes and files in her arms, she adroitly pulls out a steno pad while he dictates to her.

“Scientology breaks for no holiday. Peace and unity can be easily obtained if people would just donate $18 for 12 Way to Happiness booklets to pass out to others. Sign it Karen Pouw. It’s been so long I can’t remember where I had her sent too, do you remember?” “I will double check but I believe you had her sent to the Creston Ranch to muck stables.” “Yeah, let the shitter, shovel shit. Her PR statements are shit aren’t they?” “Yes Sir”.

“Send that shit release to whatever group wanted us to participate and also make it a general media release. Have our dinner ready at 10pm.” “Sir, the chefs were sent to the RPF.” “Get those cocksuckers out and have dinner ready at 10pm then back to the RPF they go.” She starts to pour him a drink, “no I don’t want one.” “Sir you haven’t drank in a few days it might help you relax.” “I’m just tired or coming down with a cold. Go get the chefs and do everything else and I’ll see you at 10pm.” “Yes Sir.”

Alone in his private office knowing no one would disturb him, he pulled out his dad’s Christmas card again to look at it. The memories of his childhood started to come back as he traces the writing with his fingers. He tries to remember where he had his twin banished to and makes a note to ask Lou where she was sent. It was her own fault embarrassing him with her arrest, wherever she’s at she deserved it, they all deserved it. He suddenly tossed the card aside and turned to his computer.

Every day without fail there are websites he visits only when he knows he is entirely alone. Lou is the only individual who could interrupt him; but he told her he’d see her at 10pm. First stop is Mike Rinder’s, that pie faced cocksucker. He could have had it all, thought David, but he blew it, now look at him! Mike has a photo of himself and his family looking happy, smiling naturally with a Christmas greeting for all. “Loser,” he mutters as he goes to the next site in his SP site routine.

A similar smiling family Christmas greeting photo greeted him on Marty Rathbun’s page. Another betrayer, he thought to himself. He tries to burn through the screen with his eyes but despite years of practice he hasn’t yet been able to do that. Convincing himself that the happiness exuding from them was fake soothed his burgeoning anger.

The SPSite visits was a trilogy and the last stop was The Underground Bunker. No family photo there; but that Ortega had a Christmas greeting and even had the nerve to include one to him. That bastard! People in the comments were wishing each other Merry Christmas, posting messages for Scientologists under the radar trying to get them out, and some even say they wish him a Merry Christmas because he was a victim too. He reaches for his dad’s card and looks at what he wrote again.

Lou phones and says it’s 10:15pm and dinner has been ready. He says he’s not hungry and the chefs probably poisoned it anyway, but he’ll be over there in a few minutes and will just go straight to bed. She greets him in his private apartment hallway and asks if he’d like her tp prepare a snack for him or a drink. He refuses both and says he wants to sleep alone to try to catch up on sleep but she should remain on call for him after taking the chefs back to the RPF.

He enters his bedroom suite’s antechamber and it looks as if the small pix of L. Ron on a plaque was moving its’ eyes at him as he walks past. He hurried into his bedroom and shut the antechamber door firmly behind him. He’s just tired and coming down with a cold. Yet he was unnerved.

Fortunately the valets, before they had been sent to the RPF, had laid out his pajamas and robe for him. Big beings like him didn’t have the time to know where their clothes were. Sometimes he wondered where his closet was and how many clothes were in it. Last time he saw a closet and contents, was when he ordered the clothes removed from Shelly’s. There was clothes all over the place that day. Who knew someone could have that many clothes? She didn’t need that many now.

A custom leather wing back chair is next to a bay window, which has bullet proof glass. He likes to sit there some nights with some of the lights off looking over the hills, as coyotes could be seen. He felt with their predatory skills they were natural Scientologists. When he had put on his pajamas and robes, he subconsciously put his father’s card in the robe’s pocket.

L. Ron Warns

Starting to doze off while waiting to see the coyotes, out of the corner of his eye he sees movement on the other side of the room and hits the floor. He looks up and sees a shadowy figure, though the lights are all on in that part of the room. It’s coming closer and he can see it’s shaped just like L. Ron. He presses a panic button and there’s no answer. Then he thinks that they might be in the RPF too. Did everyone abandon him?

Shaking his head, closing his eyes then reopening them, the shadowy figure has fleshed out.. Dead L Ron, yet not dead. “Am I going mad?” “Aren’t we all mad?” Then that laugh that he knew and his blood ran cold. “How...why...are you here?” “Stuttering like the MAA you belittled today!” Another roar of laughter. Then, as in life, L. Ron’s mood made a 180 turn and he became quite serious.

“I’m here to warn you, you’re going to end up like me boy; but far worse. You’ve committed crimes, abandoned your wife, made money and luxury the items you worship.” Still not believing what he was seeing, “I followed your words.” “My words were wrong and you’ve changed my words and made them worse.”

Sitting up, thinking it was just a dream because it would be rational to dream of L Ron since his image was everywhere. “Does Target 2 exist?” “Of course not! You believed that?! There’s life after death but for those who’ve wrong with no remorse beforehand it’s non-stop torture.” “Like hell?” “You could call it that, but worse than any fire and brimstone preacher could dream up. Those you wrong follow you, attack you, burn you, kill you over and over. You die; but wake up and it starts again. You say you were wrong, you’re sorry; but it's too late. My soul was a putrid infected mess when I died.”

“So thetans exist?” “Of course not! You have one soul boy and it’s in you now rotting away. Only righting wrongs will heal it.” “Why are you here?” “To warn you that your soul is almost at the point of no return. If you don’t start to change and make amends your fate will be far worse than mine. I must go now but you will visited by others to show you the way.” “Wait!”

He was gone. Instantly vanished. Though he could have sworn he heard him plead immediately after he disappeared, ‘I’m sorry don’t skin me alive again’ then a scream.

Shaken and unsure what had just happened, but still attributing it to lack of sleep, he calls Lou and asks her to sleep in the antechamber in case he needs something. He refuses her offer to get the medical officer out of the RPF, a touch assist, or for her to sleep with him. He tells her to keep the lights on in the antechamber. She closes the door behind her and reports to Moxon where she’s at and why. She speaks of her concern for David, saying he didn’t sound well and both surmise it’s a lack of sleep.

David keeps the lights on in the bedroom, feeling foolish, as he gets into bed. He’s exhausted doing everything on the base and everywhere else. He reassures himself that seeing L Ron’s face everywhere is why what happened was just a dream. He just needs a good night’s sleep and a day of rest to shake this cold he might be getting. Let them see what it’s like when he’s not doing everything everywhere. He almost instantly went into a deep sleep.

Spirit Visitor One

Waking with a start, not knowing why, he sees only ninety minutes had passed since he had last looked at the time. Looking around the room everything was the same. He thinks of calling to Lou and having her get him a drink; but freezes when a blue mist comes through the bay window he had earlier been sitting at. The bullet proof windows can’t contain a mist.

Frozen, unable to even whisper for help or call Lou’s name, the mist manifests into a shape of a young looking man. His eyes were kind, his smile one that put people at ease but he was aware that his entrance was somewhat frightening. “Sorry for scaring you David, that was the only way in. I’m not here to harm you but to guide you through Christmases past.”

Still startled but gathering some of his swagger, “How dare you use my first name! Who are you? How dare you come in here, I could have you killed!” “I’m already dead, you can’t kill me and titles mean nothing in death nor does money. L Ron told you I was coming.”

“I don’t need this, I just need sleep, this isn’t real.” “If it’s not real then, why not play along? Take my sleeve and we’ll visit the past.” Hesitating between calling Lou and taking the sleeve, David grabs the sleeve thinking it’s just a strange dream.

Instantly they were outside his childhood home in New Jersey. David’s parents were inside putting up a tree and his younger self was outside playing in the snow with his sister and brother. Younger David started to have an asthma attack and his twin sister immediately pulled an inhaler from her coat pocket for him and his brother put his arm around him to help guide him inside.

Watching from a short distance away the spirit reflected, “They always looked out for you didn’t they?” “Yeah, then they did.” The kids joined their parents with the tree , except David sat in a chair resting, though he was directing where ornaments should go. It was a happy loving family scene, one that was picture perfect for a card image.

“Where are your siblings now?” “You’re a spirit you don’t know?” “Of course; but do you?” “Well my brother abandoned me and left the church and my sister…” trailing off into silence brow furrowed. “Where’s your sister?” “I can’t remember where I had her sent after her arrest flap, I’m having Lou look into it.” “What of your father?” “He left me too and is going to write a book about me.” “He still loves you.” “You saw that card?!” Absentmindedly he reached in his robe and withdrew it.

“Of course and I know his words are true.” “Writing a book about someone isn’t a way to show love.” “Hiring private investigators isn’t a way to show love either.” “You’ve got a lot of nerve!” “Look into the room again.”

Looking up from the card, it was Christmas day in the living room. The family had opened their gifts and looked so happy with the things they had received. His younger self was happily clutching a record album and sweater. “How simple I was then.” “Take my sleeve, we have another place see.”

Again, like a snap of the fingers they were instantly in another location. This time in an apartment very sparsely furnished. “Do you recognize this?” “This is Shelly and my first place after we got married and got our own berthing.” At that moment Shelly comes out from the little kitchen area with a plate of crackers and cheese. David comes in the door and she runs to greet him with a hug and kiss.

The spirit stops his reverie and asks, “Wasn’t this your first Christmas together?” “Yeah and our first wedding anniversary was just a few days away. We didn’t have much money so we celebrated them together.” They watched as the couple go to the futon and the coffee table in front with the simple crackers and cheese.

David pulls a bottle of champagne out of his pocket saying, “With the Commodore’s compliments.” Shelly gets glasses and she brings a small wrapped package with them. As she opens the champagne, he opens the gift box to find a pair of CMO cufflinks. “I know it’s not much…” “...but they’re everything as they’re from you, we don’t need much do we?” “No, as long as we’re together.” He hands her a small box from his other pocket. She opens it to find small diamond looking earrings. “Some day they’ll be real.” “They wouldn’t mean as much and I don’t need real diamonds.” They then toast each other.

Watching with an enrapted look, the spirit asks David if he remembers the scene. “Like yesterday,” he softly replies. “You’re still married and your anniversary is in a few days, how many years will it be.” “Jesus, I dunno, almost thirty-five years I guess.” “Where’s Shelly?”

Anger flashes. “Who are you to ask?! I’ll send her wherever I want for whatever reason I want!” “You were once so happy.” “Things happened, she fucked up.” “You’re faultless?” “I’m Chairman of the Board! Who are you?” The spirit turned to face the young couple again, as did David.

Watching wistfully at the young couple in love with sparse surroundings, completely content with crackers and cheese as long as they had other. Jesus, had he really once been so simple? “Take my sleeve we must go.” “Let me watch longer.” “We must go now” and a guiding hand suddenly transplanted David back to his bed.

“Another spirit will soon visit you. “Can’t we go back to watch my family and Shelly longer?” “No my time with you is done.” Once again a mist formed and travels a backward path out the window.

Lying awake he tried to determine if it was a dream or real. It has to have been a dream. Just lacking sleep and coming down with a cold. That’s all. Plus that secretary let that card from his dad slip through. He had to remember to tell Lou to send that secretary somewhere else, as the RPF RPF was too good for her. Anyone who did that to him deserved to be banished.

Sleep started to descend upon him heavily and he welcomed it as a release from his overactive mind on this restless night. As he closed his eyes the vision of Shelly and him was the last thing he saw and he fell asleep with a smile.

Spirit Visitor Two

A thud woke him. The room lights were off but he knew they had been on. The lights in the antechamber where Lou was suppose to be stationed were on, as he could see them glowing under the door. He calls to Lou but received no reply at all. That bitch was suppose to be on duty!!

Rushing out of bed he stops short of the door thinking it might be the next spirit visiting him. No! That’s just his lack of sleep and not feeling well playing havoc with his mind. There’s no such things as spirits like that!

Whipping open the antechamber door to scream at Lou for turning off his lights, he comes face to face with what he surmised was the spirit who was foretold to visit him next. “Where’s Lou!” A deep throaty laugh came forth from the spirit, who was sitting in one of the antechamber chairs. A heavy set middle aged man, his eyes sparkled and one could never imagine him in any other mood than jovial. “Why she’s still here but she can’t see or hear this.”

With a wave of the spirit’s arm, David looks in that direction and sees Lou sitting in a chair with a phone next her, a cup of coffee and a stack of papers she’s reading and making notes on. She frequently looks towards the bedroom door. “This is a dream.” “If that helps you, then we shall call it a dream.” Despite his nervousness, even David felt some comfort with the spirit’s soothing voice.

“Take my arm as I’m here to show you Christmases present.” “I don’t celebrate Christmas.” “Others do, let’s make haste and don’t dally.” Convinced it was an illness induced dream he took his arm.

They were in a very dark room and it takes a few moments for his eyes to adjust. He sees the people and realizes it was the RPF. “They best not be celebrating Christmas here! I’ll make Lou send them to the RPF RPF!” Everyone at Gold was in black boilersuits. There was some blankets on the floor and some straw. The room was a basement storage room and reeked of mold and decay. Some of them were in groups, with some comforting the crying; others still looked in shock; and others appeared defeated, resigned to their fate.

They approached two men sitting next to each other. The younger one kept saying, “I don’t understand why homemade gifts don’t count.” The older man tried to explain that COB didn’t appreciate homemade gifts and only gifts with high value mattered. They argue over L Ron quotes and the older man gave up with a sigh, “You’ll learn eventually, just accept we fucked up and we’ll be here for awhile.” “But Gold can’t run without us.” “Yes it can, COB says he does it all, let him see what it’s like with all of us not there a few days.” Others who overheard that laugh, even the MAA who was trying to maintain order abandoned that momentarily.

“I do do everything.” The spirit laughed, “Of course you do! Why you know where your own closest are don’t you?” “Hey, that’s grunt work. They can rot down here. Why are you showing me this?” “It’s what happening now, let’s go somewhere else.”

They were suddenly outside a house decorated for Christmas. Cars in the driveway. A neighborhood filled with Christmas lights. A black SUV sticks out like a sore thumb down the street with two men in it looking suspicious. “That’s the PIs an attorney hired.” “Hired for what?” “To follow my father and those cocksuckers don’t understand how to be undercover, I’m going to bust their nuts for this.” “Well, let’s get a closer view than they’ll ever be able to get first,” said the spirit with a twinkle in his voice that almost had David smile.

Inside all gathered in a living room with a tree in a corner was his father, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and he assumed his great-nieces and great-nephews. Presents were stacked under and all around the tree. The open dining room shows a table set for dinner with steaming hot dishes being brought out.

“You recognize everyone?” “No, not everyone, just my father, brother, sister-in-law, and their daughter Jenna. They all fucking left me and turned against the church. They’re out to destroy me and the church now.” “They are?” “My niece wrote a book about being a Scientologist after she left and bad mouths me and the church every chance she gets. My dad is writing a book right now and the counter intentioned cocksucking attorneys say I can’t stop it.” “What’s in your robe pocket?”

David reaches in and discovers the card from his father, it’s as if he can’t recall just having it out. “He sent me a card, can you believe that? The new secretary fucked up and gave it to me.” He stares at the card until the spirit rouses him, “Let’s watch inside.”

Talk of football teams while the older kids play video games and the younger ones quietly discuss Santa and what they could do to catch him in the act of visiting that night. A woman’s voice calls everyone to the dining room for dinner. David’s dad sits at the head of the table with the uncarved turkey in front of him. He raises a glass and proposes a toast. Everyone raises a glass of wine or eggnog. “On this Christmas Eve let us be thankful for all we have in our lives, most importantly each other.” “Hear hear!” “We know all too well the pain other families are going through this holiday due to disconnection and may they be reunited soon. Though he’s not here and many blame him for their pain and they may be right about that, let us send out a greeting to David. Let’s remember who he was before I made the mistake of joining Scientology….” “Dad….” “No Ronnie, I bear some responsibility. David wherever you are, I still love you and I’m sorry. Merry Christmas David.” And he took a larger than normal gulp of his drink before he could continue and the others repeat, “Merry Christmas David!” “And wherever you are Denise, I love you and hope you are doing well, Merry Christmas Denise!” “Merry Christmas Denise!”

Starting to carve the turkey, Jenna asks if they should take plates to the PIs down the street and the laughter that elicits lightens the tension that had just built at the mention of David. Someone suggests they just invite them in for dinner and more laughter when they figure they’d have to sweep the place for bugs afterwards. The spirit turns to David and sees he looks reflective. “They don’t appear out to get you.” “Shut up,” but his voice was cracking a bit. “Where’s your sister?” “I’ve got Lou looking into that, I’m too busy to keep track of that. Can we go, I don’t want to see anymore of this.”

The spirit tells David, “We’re taking a short detour here” as they’re abruptly outside what appears to be a small log cabin. David looks in the window and see what could be a monk’s cell it is so spartan. Perhaps even a prison cell without bars. There is a cot neatly made, a navy trunk at the foot of the bed and a desk with a book shelf by the window. David starts to look at the desk area and sees the shelves are filled with Hubbard books and on the desk are worksheets for the new Student Hat. He turns to the spirit to ask why they are there when he sees the two framed photos on the desk. In a room devoid of any personality, this was the one small sliver shown. Two photographs are in a double frame. One side there’s a signed photo of L. Ron and in the other frame is his own wedding photo.

“Shelly?” “Don’t look at me, look in the room.” The door opened and she enters. David gasped when he sees her, as she looks much older than he last remembered but her proud bearing still was shining through her small frame. Her clothes were just a simple pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt. He thought of all the clothes she had had in that closet of hers. She went straight from the door towards the desk to pick up a pen to continue to the Student Hat worksheet. She looks out the window.

“Can she see us?” “Of course not!” “It’s like she’s looking at me.” In a way she was looking at him, in her mind. She shook the thought off to get back to work but not before touching her ‘touchstones’. The CMO necklace had been tucked into her sweatshirt but she pulls it out to rub it, almost as if for luck. Then she twists her wedding band. Staring at L. Ron’s and David’s photos, she thought to herself she would make it go right, she worked with great men and deserved this for fucking up. She would make them proud again. She returns to doing the Student Hat for the fourth time.

“Can I talk to her?” “Only if you go to her in person. Do you want to talk to her?” “I…” He wasn’t sure how he wanted to answer. “Let’s go, this was just a detour.”

Suddenly they are outside a condo in what appeared to be Florida. A couple were seated at a table set for four. They were the only ones there, holding hands in silent prayer or in private grief. Both had tears streaming down their face. The man started to carve the small ham and offered her a piece but she got up and ran from the room sobbing.

Facing the spirit and David, yet not seeing them, staring out to the street. He joined her with a comforting arm trying to guide her back. “Some day they will come back, I know they will.” “You’ve been saying that for years! Our children were forced to disconnect from us! Every day I think of them standing in this room sobbing saying they loved us but they had to disconnect while that bitch from OSA stood there looking smug.”

“I should have punched her,” he said while turning to look at the spot where she had stood with her detached, almost predatory, smile as a family was torn apart. “But you ended up having a heart attack and almost died that night!” Hugging her tight, “only my love for you and not wanting to leave you totally abandoned kept me alive.” “I miss them so much my soul aches” “Mine does too.” “They will wake up some day, it took us a long time too.” They stood holding each other sobbing.

The spirit sees David staring at them with a look of almost shock, perhaps even a feeling of empathy or sympathy. Those feelings had long ago been suppressed within him to allow him to control the church. “It’s a shame their kids can’t come home for Christmas.” “It is...no, wait, they choose that! They weren’t forced!” “They weren’t?” “No, no one is forced,” yet it was said unconvincingly. The parents sobs seemed as if they were reverberating through his head, like the tolling of a bell.

He woke with a start and discovers he was in bed again. He saw the antechamber door closing as if Lou had just been there or perhaps….no, just lack of sleep, not feeling well. Maybe even alcohol withdrawal as he hadn’t had a drink of scotch in three days. He thought of calling to Lou but sleep descended before that thought was completed.

The Conclusion of ACK (Had to post to another LJ entry due to size)

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