by Susan Anwin
As usual Rosie was immersed in prayer when it first happened: a
blinding glare of light in the middle of her meditations. It didn't
have a source, it came from everywhere and nowhere. The next thing she
knew she was in her bed slipping in and out of consciousness. People
leaned over her, their faces a uniform blur, their murmurs were waves
crashing on a distant shore. Of all the faces swimming in front of her
eyes she recognized only her mom, sitting at her bedside holding her
hand, her face pale with worry.
She squeezed her hand. "Rosie...?"
She tried to to speak, to put into words what she'd just experienced.
Her mom shooed the people out, then sat back, her palm cool on her
brow. "Shh, just relax."
But Rosie couldn't. Not after that. She closed her eyes and
waited for the dizziness to pass. "Mom, I... I think I had a vision."
Eileen watched her daughter for a long minute, then settled back in the
old, worn armchair. "Tell me."
And so she did. Afterwards Eileen called in her sisters and they all
Next Sunday after the Service they lined up after all the people
seeking advice from Pastor Addington. When it was finally their turn,
Eileen recounted what Rosie has told her. Pastor Addington looked from
daughter to mother and back.
"Come see me on Tuesday at 2pm."
They were waiting in the luxurious anteroom, listening to the
model-looking secretary knocking away on the keyboard. Rosie was
painfully aware how out of place they looked in this environment.
The phone on the secretary's desk beeped. "You can go in now," she
barked at the screen. There was no one else in the anteroom, so Rosie
and her mom guessed the order was directed at them. They opened the
tall, padded door.
The stocky, bearded pastor sat behind a wide, antique desk, watching
them above his tented fingers.
"Mrs Bates, uh..."
"Rosie," Eileen helped him out. "Pastor Addington let me just say it's
such an honor to be here, we never hoped to..."
The pastor came out from behind his desk and grabbed Eileen's
outstretched hands in his meaty palms. "Don't even mention it. Now
Rosie, if you don't mind, tell me again what you think you saw."
Not sure why, Rosie hesitated. This is Pastor Addington, God's
chosen servant, to communicate his will...
"Nothing. It was just this blinding light... I felt warm and all
this... great love enveloping me. It was real. I never felt so good, so
safe as I did in that moment."
The pastor's eyes were piercing above the fleshy cheeks. He turned to
her mother. "Does she have a history of epilepsy?"
Eileen was aghast. "You don't believe this was the real deal?"
"I don't close it out, yet you might want to have some tests done. Just
to be on the safe side. If her results come back negative we wait and
see what happens."
CT, MRI, EEG all came back negative as Rosie knew they would.
The next episode happened the following Sunday. A lot of the flock
tended to be temporarily possessed by the Holy Spirit and speak in
tongues during services. Rosie did neither. What she did was scream at
the top of her lungs, eyes rolled back in her head; "Stop! Stop the
The service got interrupted, drowned in a sea of startled murmurs and
"A9...! Stop...!" Rosie screamed, then collapsed.
She came to in a small office behind the main arena. The leaders of the
congregation and her family were gathering around her, their faces pale
They all looked at Pastor Addington.
"There was an accident," he started haltingly. "A bus collided with a
truck. On A9. Ten dead."
His words tumbled on each other in her ears. "What?"
The pastor shot a worried look at her mother. "It seems you were right."
Supplicants came from all over the world, wanting to talk to her, touch
her, asking for prophecy, as if she could bring it on by the push of a
button. She even got an invitation from the Vatican.
Sometimes she could trigger it after exhausting hours of prayer and
meditation, but those were rare occurrences. Rosie preferred to leave
it up to God to send her visions, should He will it. But on two of
those occasions when He did will it, she prevented a train wreck and
helped the police find a kidnapped girl.
When the light came, it was as cathartic as it had been the first time,
but there was something different about its quality. Shapes were
looming in it, unsure forms moving with a dreamy slowness in the glare,
things too terrible to behold, yet she couldn't look away, even if her
sanity was at stake. She held her breath unawares and quieted down her
mind, lest they became aware of her presence, the instinctive reaction
of prey in the presence of a predator. She began to dread the visions
and wanted to pray to God not to afflict her with them, except she
wasn't sure anymore who she'd be talking to, and whether she wanted to
draw Its attention on herself.
Days and weeks went by without Rosie praying or meditating, just lying
awake, motionless in the darkness, counting the minutes.
"Two weeks to go, and we'll be in the Vatican," Eileen was fidgety with
anticipation. It was not often they could afford to visit other
countries. "Are you excited?"
Rosie didn't know what to say to that. She'd been living on scraps of
sleep, dreading to dream, and the world washed together in a sore-eyed
Eileen took a closer look at her daughter. "Rosie...? Dear, what's
Where to begin? Rosie decided to cut to the chase. "I don't want to see
the visions anymore. They are... wrong."
"How can you say that? God is talking to you. To you,
personally, of all the people in the world."
Rosie felt her eyes well up. She knew her mother wouldn't understand
and she was just too tired to try to explain.
"What do you see?" Eileen asked when she saw that her words had no
effect on her daughter.
"I don't know... I don't like even thinking about them. I'm afraid I
might go insane."
Eileen squeezed her arm. "Maybe that's God's way of telling you
something, you just have to listen..."
"I don't want God to tell me anything."
"Rosie, that's blasphemy." Her mother snapped. "Go to your room and
"No! I will not talk to that... thing, lest it answers."
The very idea of a mass or service filled her with dread. She stopped
going to the Sunday services to the surprise and disappointment of her
friends and family. Even with all those precautions the visions came
unbidden from time to time, as if to remind Rosie that she was being
singled out, had tabs on her and could never get away, could not hide.
She was standing in the Pope's office in the glare of spotlights, in
the crossfire of countless flashes.
The Holy Father had blessed her, and they smiled for the cameras.
"So, child, tell me about God."
Rosie opened her mouth, but no sound came out. How could she tell the
whole world that the God that most major religions worshiped was this
nameless dread, and they'd all be better off trying not to draw Its
attention on themselves? The whole of mankind depended on knowing that
all this time they had been worshiping the very opposite of the loving,
caring, all forgiving Heavenly Father. How could she make this popular
knowledge without being labeled a lunatic or a heretic, to know she
took away the comfort and solace, perhaps the only hope of millions?
Blinded by the glare of spotlights and flashes, with the whole world
breathlessly watching, waiting for the words of this newfound prophet,
Rosie realized she couldn't. She had to bear this cross alone. In the
silence she heard herself say; "God has forsaken me."
© 2018 Susan Anwin
Bio: Susan was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, Her
flash-fiction Talk of Armadale trees was featured in the anthology My
Favourite Place, published by the Scottish Book Trust in 2012, and her
short stories Fog-People, Eddie's lousy Saturday, You'll die as fish,
People of the Green Cloud, Dragonfly-man, Daddy is Driving the Car,
Soul for Sale, Dark Sister and The Man Who Broke Time were published by
Aphelion in 2016 and 2017. She's been featured on the cover of Aphelion
in March and July 2017.
Website: Claire Fitzpatrick
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.