Don Winters gripped a pulled taut leather belt in both hands. He was standing in his austere dressing room sometime after his victory over Adam Ellis at ReVival 40. In front of him, seated on three folding chairs were Abigail, John, and Leah. Heads lolled and bodies slumped, The Revelator could tell they still hadn’t yet come down from whatever Daytona Diamonds had fed them.
With a flash, the belt split the air and landed against a table with a sharp crack. Those seated immediately found rigidity and lifted their heavy, heavy heads to meet the glare of their spiritual father and leader. The Revelator already had the smooth grain leather stretched tight in his hands again, and the air of menace was not lost on the inebriated.
“The three of you are going to sit here and listen.” Don’s words were measured, trying to hold the anger back. “You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed yourselves, and most importantly you have embarrassed his Word and Light.”
He pauses, and in turn, stares each of them in the eyes for a solid thirty seconds. A test. Nobody breaks their gaze and nobody wavers. They’ve passed. For now.
“Good,” Winters assures himself. “You must understand the kind of evil you are allowing into your hearts and minds from Daytona’s influence. Alcohol, drugs…”
The Revelator trails off and points directly at Leah. “And sex.” She blushes and her head drops. “You were asked to spread the influence of His Word and Light to Daytona, to bring him over to our side. Instead, you were easily led astray like moths to the flame, but the shepherd is here and he has come to collect his flock and straighten them into line.”
Don lets the belt slack in his hand momentarily and a slight smile turns into a deep frown. “You know how much I love the three of you. Up until now you have been dedicated members of His Word and Light and I would like you to remain, but He demands contrition for your actions. You know it pains me deep down, it hurts my heart, but I must carry out His will. We’ll all be stronger for this.”
The belt slaps once more against the table, bringing the trio to attention. Winters begins to say a low prayer under his breath as their heads bow with his, tears welling in the corners of all four of their eyes.
* * *
You have three new messages. First new message.
“Good afternoon Mr. Winters, this is Alexis Trendaco…”
Message deleted. Second new message.
“Good morning Mr. Winters, this is Dr. Greenb…”
Message deleted. Third new message.
“Hello again, Mr. Winters. This is Alexis Trendacosta reaching out about some disturbing repo…”
Message deleted. You have no new messages.
* * *
A susurrous breeze blew through the open window of the rectory at His Word and Light, catching the curtains as it went. A thin layer of frost covered the windows and sparkled like diamonds when caught in the light. Don Winters was hunched over his desk, scrawling into his well-worn journal, and shivering so slightly at the nature of the wind. He briefly lifted his head and swore he could hear murmurs of voices, but convinced himself it was merely Mother Nature and went back to writing.
December 5, 2023
Revival 40 was two separate stories. One joyous, deserved, and well-earned. The other was shameful, embarrassing, and a pox upon the house of His Word and Light. I truly believe that Adam Ellis is a good man who caught me at the wrong time. If it hadn’t been for Daytona Diamonds brainwashing Abigail, John, and Leah, my anger would not have been reflected in wrestling Adam Ellis. I can only apologize on behalf of my aggressiveness. It wasn’t his fault. He’s a good man who happened to find himself in the wrong place at the exact right time.
Daytona… that man makes my skin crawl. The way he wormed his way in with my congregation, my people. I can’t let that stand. He won’t let me. He demands Absolution for this one. This is not the first time I’ve struggled with the demand. Jiles didn’t deserve it either – I swear I would not have given him Absolution had I been given the chance to. The same goes for Diamonds. These are men who do not deserve to see His kingdom.
Colossus is our time to prove to the world that His Word and Light are to be taken seriously, but Absolution for a man like Diamonds? Sin is second nature to this man. Abusing alcohol, drugs, sex, power, anything he can think of. Life is one big party to Daytona. For far too long he has been living only within ecstasy. I will show him what it means to live in agony.
The others. John. Abigail. Leah. It hurts my heart and soul to have to reprimand them for their actions. Corrections are often necessary. Every loving father knows this. They will learn and they will be better for it. I could see true contrition in their eyes after we had finished. They are determined to be on the right path, and I thank Him for it because I know this was harder on me than it was on them.
We all must keep our heads high. He demands this of us as well. I can feel the pressure of the church, the wants and needs of 14 individuals slowly starting to clash with His Will. They will be brought into order and our vision for His Word and Light will align. There is no other choice. If they refuse to bend, I will break them.
Pressure creates diamonds.
A knock at the door startled The Revelator from his musings. He lifted his head and rubbed his eyes before clearing his throat. “Come in.” The door slowly slid open as Miriam and Mary appeared in the rectory. They smiled warmly at Don in stereo as they approached his seat.
“We’re so sorry to intrude, Father.” Miriam begins, but Don waves the notion away with a hand. “We just wanted to say that we think you handled the others and their transgressions very well. The punishment fits the crime and they have seen and agreed where they have erred. They will not let us down again.”
Mary, staring and smiling politely at Miriam the entire time, snaps her head to face Winters and continues, almost as if they were sharing the same thought patterns. “Not only that, they have recommitted themselves to His Word and Light and are ready to do anything and everything for the cause.”
Winters nods his head in satisfaction as Mary continues. “You’re showing great progress as a leader since Joseph and I first arrived. We were right to put our trust in you. We’re experiencing the teething pains of growth and we’ll get everything ironed out in due time. Do not doubt yourself or your abilities, Father Don. We believe in you. He believes in you. Take pride in that.”
Miriam, reciprocating the stare and smile approach with Mary, snaps her head to face The Revelator. “And please, Father Don, do not be afraid to show your anger to those who have done us wrong, even if they are within the church. Remember, pride in His Word and Light above all.”
With that, they curtsied to Don and left the rectory. The Revelator closed his journal and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes to think.
* * *
The old Greyhound bus that acted as His Word and Light’s Mobile Ministry trundled along I-65 in Alabama and pointed southward in the general direction of New Orleans. Joining The Revelator on the trip were all fourteen members of the church, and their names are as follows: Abigail, Delilah, Elizabeth, Gabriel, Jacob, John, Joseph, Leah, Luke, Mary, Matthew, Miriam, and Samuel. They’re paired together on the bus the way they’re always seen together on the church grounds, something not lost on Winters as he sits at the front and takes attendance.
These trips traveled from PRIME show to show, typically heading back to His Word and Light in Michigan after each ReVival. That was true here as well, though Don still had a fleeting regret for bringing everyone to Memphis. The incident with Daytona had soured what was supposed to be a triumphant night over Adam Ellis and was marred before it began. He knew in his head he was harping over what had happened too much. Replaying his time in the Diamond Mine again, and again until the events blurred together into a jumbled mess he couldn’t make sense of. They told him to leave it alone, eventually, he would.
Don had drifted off into a light nap when he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Father Don, could we speak for a moment?”
Winters righted himself in his seat and looked wearily to his right. “Of course, Gabriel. What can I do for you?”
Young Gabriel, typically reticent to speak with Father Don, grinned from ear to ear. “I had an idea. Something that will bring a lot of goodwill to the church, especially on an international stage. I got the idea from something we saw at ReVival 40, and with your permission, I think this could be very popular.”
Don perked up at this. “I’m all ears, Gabriel. What’s your idea?”
“Well,” Gabriel hesitated now, “do you know Max? Kael?”
“I do…” Winters’ voice trailed off. Kael? was one of PRIME’s more unholy beings, and he’d prefer to keep his distance as long as possible.
“Charity work, Father Don.” Gabriel grinned again. “Reach out to him. Trust me. He will be amenable.
Winters nodded, despite his reservations. “I’ll do that.”
“Oh! Thank you, Father Don!” Gabriel vigorously shook Don’s hand as he said this. “I promise you won’t regret it!” Gabriel stood and made his way back toward his seat, only to be replaced by Elizabeth.
“Hello, Father. May I have a word as well?” Elizabeth had the kindest voice in the group. It was almost impossible not to acquiesce once she had asked a question.
“Of course, Elizabeth.” Don sighed inwardly to himself. At least they knocked before coming into the rectory.
“I wanted to piggyback off of Gabriel,” she started. “The opportunity is greater than he explained. Not only is this charity work, it’s charity work for and with children. If we can show the world that His Word and Light is a great place for children to learn, well, we’ll be opening up all sorts of new avenues for the church!”
Winters stared out his window, watching trees speed past the separated four-lane highway. “I agree, Elizabeth. I’ll make the call. Try and make the arrangements. Thank you.” When he finally turned his head, he found he was sitting alone again. The hum of the Greyhound’s engine and wheels against pavement was enough to slowly lull him back into a light sleep as the miles rolled on.
* * *
The Mecca of PRIME for 2023, the Superdome looms large over its parking lot as the Mobile Ministry parks across several spots in the back. A week before the event and a busy Saturday night hosting a professional sporting event, the parking lot is not quite as full as it would be for Colossus. A small stage has been set up in front of the bus, including a lectern and microphone. A camera is focused there and there alone, to capture The Revelator doing what he does best, as Richard Parker would say: “The Revelator is revelating, baby!”
Don Winters is resplendent in his crisp white suit, crimson oxford shirt, and a perfectly starched Roman collar. He carries his journal in one hand and places it on the lectern in front of him, quickly moistening a finger and opening the journal to the desired page. His eyes are steely and piercing. A determined man of faith.
“Ladies and gentlemen of His Word and Light,” Winters began, “we are gathered here today not to discuss ourselves, or our church, but an interloper. I do not speak lightly when I say were are talking about not just a man, but a malignant force for evil. Some of you here today watching along have met this man face to face and have travailed and survived his evil. You are truly blessed folks.”
Don gripped both sides of the lectern while nodding. “We are here today to talk about a truly wayward soul, a man on the path to eternal damnation, the Cubic Zirconia Cowboy himself, Daytona Diamonds.”
Winters smiled ever so slightly. “And not just the man himself, but the Sins of Daytona. We will examine them in detail and decide whether he has any hope for Absolution. Are we ready?”
The call came from the congregation. “Yes, Father!”
He bowed his head momentarily and raised it back, looking solemn. “Let us begin.”
“By establishing the disgusting and wholly self-righteous ‘Cult of the Cowboy’, Daytona is attempting to put himself above others and there shalt be no other before Him. Some may say this is the ultimate sin. We of the Word and Light put no others before Him, and that we why we bask in His light.”
The Revelator was just getting warmed up. “Daytona has made use of alcohol, cocaine, and I fully believe worse. Look what his foul influence was able to do to three members of my congregation! These ungraven images that Daytona holds in such high regard are directly leading him down his path of ruin. They are in direct opposition to His Word and Light and all that sacred and holy.”
The color was rushing into his face, sweat beginning to bead on the ridge of his brow. “You’ve all heard this man talk! It’s gee-dee this! Gee-dee that! All he does is speak His name in vain! The unfathomable flippancy in which this man dares speak. Mankind has yet to find an industrial solvent strong enough to clean out this man’s mouth. Lessons are needed in respect and decency for they are sorely lacking with Mr. Diamonds.”
“Does this ‘Cult of the Cowboy’ respect the sabbath?” Winters questioned his congregation.
“That’s right!” He pounded the lectern with a fist. “The only thing Daytona and his coterie are about is drugs, partying, and sex. There is no day of rest for these degenerate derelicts. We take our day to rest and pay respect and duty to His Word and Light. We are blessed and sanctified in His Light thanks to our sacrifice for Him. Daytona Diamonds prays with his nose pressed close to a mirror as he snorts inward. There is no rest for a man who cannot find Him.”
The Revelator shakes his head in sorrow, the congregation following suit. “And it is tremendously disappointing to find that Daytona honors no one but himself. Following the ‘Cult of the Cowboy’ will only lead to personal ruin and the enrichment of a man so ersatz that he is only held together by a thin husk of humanity, a few strangely clicking brain cells, synapse only impulsing for that next hit. The only place the ‘Cult of the Cowboy’ leads is to an early grave.”
Winters looked grimly into the camera. “It is not fair to prejudge and assume a man’s guilt, but we can likely safely judge that at one point or time in his life The Cubic Zirconia Cowboy has been guilty of manslaughter, at the very least. There’s nothing this man won’t do to get a fix, to get a lay, why would another man’s life stop him?”
“Furthermore, a man with this many children that he won’t even acknowledge.” Winters slams his fist down. “It’s unconscionable. Diamonds is certainly a homewrecker, and he has been setting up his own Daytona Diamonds’ franchises across the country without the wherewithal to be a man and take responsibility for his actions. It is one thing to fornicate outside of wedlock, but to continuously procreate and abscond from his duties is an abomination in His face.”
Winters smiles broadly, his hands clasped together. “And now we come to Daytona’s third favorite activity. Stealing. He stole three members of my congregation. A sin that can never be forgiven in my eyes. Daytona, I took your offer at face value, as a humble and Godfearing man. You used that against me to abduct members of my church, and ply them with drugs, alcohol, and who knows what else. I’m supposed to just let that go? That dog will not hunt for this Monsignor.”
“And that ties in so nicely to the way Daytona lies, doesn’t it?”
“YES FATHER!” The congregation replied with enthusiasm.
“He lies so easily and so freely.” Winters asserted. “Like a ship sailing over calm seas, the lies come out of his mouth just rolling like the waves. As I just said, I trusted his offer to the Diamond Mine at ReVival, and you saw what happened. The forked tongue of a snake. The words slithering and slipping into the ears of the weak and willing. Not me Daytona. Not His Word and Light.”
“And finally, we come to the final sin for his greedy, jealous, petty soul,” Winters remarked, his voice strained from the monologue. “The ‘Cult of the Cowboy’ exists for only one reason. He covets His Word and Light. Daytona covets our relationship with Him. We allowed Daytona the chance to join us and he rejected us out of pocket. His inability to look inward has saddled him with jealousy and that has blinded him into believing we are a cult.”
Winters’ demeanor switched immediately. “We are not a cult. We are a religious organization seeking His Word and Light”
The Revelator immediately recomposed himself. “I wanted to speak here, in the parking lot of the Superdome, because I wanted to be somewhere familiar for you, Daytona. The King of UltraDiamonds himself. I watched you from across the parking lot that night. I saw your mummer’s farce. An appropriate level for a man of your ilk.”
“Remember that the first sin of Daytona is written with an iron pen, with the point of a diamond. And Daytona, after taking this long and winding path, exposing your sins to His Light for all to see, I must disobey Him. You are not worthy of Absolution. I will be Sanctified in my decision at Colossus where His Word and Light will ascend and leave The Cubic Zirconia Cowboy that much closer to rock bottom. Say your prayers Daytona, The Revelator is coming to spread the good word.”
* * *
Now in his hotel room, Don Winters stares into the bathroom mirror and sees a man he hasn’t seen since he was younger. A thinner, leaner man with long dyed black hair and pale white face paint. When he was angry and thought the world owed him something. Twenty-something years later, the man staring at his reflection understands that it is he that owes the world something, and everything to His Word and Light. He knows where Daytona Diamonds is and where he’s headed, to the bottom. He was there once, but they can never know that.
He smiles, attempting to reassure himself. Don Winters had always told himself the way out was through. He had found the other side, had found the Light, and embraced it fully. Now he was thriving. The Year of the Revelator was just around the corner and it was all going to start at the biggest event of 2023, Colossus.
Winters finished up in the bathroom and slipped under the sheets of an uncomfortably firm mattress. His mind continued to drift through thoughts of PRIME to date. Crash Jackson, Rob Williams, Alexei Ruslan, Bobby Dean, Cancer Jiles, Adam Ellis, and finally Daytona Diamonds. It all led to this one moment. Everything hinged on this for The Revelator. More than any of them could ever know.