The Gathering | Invulnerable pt 1 ch 7

What happened at the Meeting


Part I - Safe

Chapter 7 - The Gathering


At the first Annual Meeting -- and there was a big debate about whether you could call the first anything "annual" -- but we did, because it sounded right -- we were supposed to plan our evangelical and social strategies, vote on some proposals for businessey stuff and so on.

Most everybody saw it as a chance to have a grand get-together of the whole community. We saw ourselves doing this, here at headquarters, forever to come.

We could never have imagined our first meeting would be our last!

The food was lavish.

The company was grand.

The mood was festive, joyous.

Adults talked about Important Matters, sociological, theological, while the children played, and occasionally someone would bust out in a song.


Old Ben (formerly pretending-to-be-blind beggar):

I really am technically almost functionally blind, you know. I have the asp... hasp... Aw, I have to wear sunglasses in bright places, too.

So I have my glasses on, and I'm walking along, tapping my cane -- old habits, you know -- no, really! -- and I'm late for the Meeting. I'd been sitting, enjoying the sunset in the park, just thinking about how different my life had become, everybody's life. I was wondering, how did it work? Could we all really be so sure we were free from harm, just because we thought we were?

And on my way to the Meeting, I run into Zach and Ike at a sidewalk Gyros stand.

Former television news reporter Dana Murowski,
author of Days We Spent in Heaven:

I'm ... an anachronism. I believe in old-fashioned, unbiased reporting, as much as one can. Let the facts tell the story. Which, by the way, did not sell at my station as well as flashy, cutsie stories.

But I lost all my journalistic integrity when I met Paul.

My reporter side wanted to know everything about him, the community, the phenomenon.

About the phenomenon, well, nobody seems to know much about how it worked.

The community, my life's work is now recording what was happening then, and what happened afterward -- and today, continuing... you know...

About Paul, he just answered all my questions, before I could ask him, with a smile. I know nothing.

What I observed at the Meeting was this.

A discussion about religion, basically, was going on among the people who talked about those things, which was many of us.

A rather strained debate, courteous, but as close to an argument as anybody'd had since transformation -- came down to whether Paul was a divine being, a minority view, or had some divine spirit or power, the majority view if you included all the varying interpretations. Or, some few who held that Paul was an earth-spirit, or a mutant like a comic-book supercharacter, or other colorful, odd, but tolerated suppositions.

Of all this, Paul was oblivious.

Then someone thought to ask Paul himself about it.


Before, when anyone had asked Paul, how does it work, he'd say, well, what any of us would say. You're safe. It's okay. It just works.

Never before had anyone, in all the months we'd swirled around him, asked him if he thought he was divine, or had some kind of divine power.

As it turned out, nobody had the slightest idea what, if any, was Paul's belief about matters religious! The Peacebringer, the Lightbringer, the Source of Peace, had not a clue of his fame, his glory, his devoted devotees.

He was perfectly innocent. Safe.

Dana Murowski:

When suddenly, at the Meeting, a young Paul the Man groupie girl turned to him and asked, "Are you divine, Master? Is your power from God?" Paul was speechless.

Everyone was absolutely silent.

The moment lingered forever and ever.

Some people say the spell was broken in the next moment, but that simply isn't true. Those are just the bitter distortions of those who Fell Away.

There was The Breaking Away. It did come hard upon that moment, but it wasn't the moment, that moment which we all recall as seeming to last, hypnotically, dreamlike, forever. And not the next moment, either, when the doors burst open.

In the peace of our state, Ben's haste panicked no one. The sudden appearances of our former enemies/friends/enemies Zach and Ike, right behind Ben, did no more than cause surprise -- and delight at their return to the fold. Ben looked around at us all, confused, then as if we had all been partying and chatting instead of gaping at them, he yelled into the silence, "HEY!"

Ben, and Zach and Ike, quickly blurted out the...
It was such an odd situation.
Surrounded by a small army intent on levelling the building and murdering us all, knowing nothing can harm us.


Could our collective invulnerability outweigh their evil army of arms and malicious intent?

Some of us thought along those lines, some aloud when we recovered our voices. A burst of noisy discussion suddenly subsided.

Paul, smiling, had tears rolling down his face, just as the same Paul the Man groupie turned, not noticing his tears, and asked him, "What do we do about them?"

Again, a tremendous hush.

A lone siren rose somewhere in the vicinity, police rushing from somewhere to somewhere, but not to our rescue.

If we needed rescue.

Did we need rescue?

As the siren shifted tone, and faded away, Paul spoke.

His voice shook.

He still smiled, but tears streamed down.

"I don't know.

"I'm not God or a god or...

"I don't know why.

"You're okay.

"You're safe.

"I don't know... what to do about big gangs. I'm...."

He stammered and mumbled.

He turned, walked into his never-used office, and shut the door.

First, it felt like a breeze on the back of the neck.

Hairs standing up.

Then, stronger, prickling on all our skin.

Sparks started flashing on metal everywhere.

A low growl that seemed to come from everywhere shifted quickly to a high-pitched whine. Everyone turned, who hadn't already, to stare at Paul's office door.

An incredible rush.

A flash as bright as sunlight, under and all around the door, followed by a peculiar, reverberating thump.

For the blink of an eye, nobody moved.

Suddenly, Andy and Tom, almost comically, each try to be first through the door.

From a room with no exit, he had vanished.

End, Part I - Safe
Part II - A Believer's Visitation