My brother dutifully lived in fear as each day slowly but surely they stripped away more and more of any shred of human that he may have had in him. At this rate, he might not even get to his eighth birthday before being robotized. Still he appeared to become more and more like a normal child than he ever was the more this went on. So normal in fact people stopped feeling sorry for him. This, my evil Satanist parents, I mean my good God fearing Christian caretakers, took as success. That a perfect human could indeed be molded by brute force.
The worst part is that like most fanatics, they claimed everything they did was in God’s name. Keeping my brother pure. Keeping him holy in God’s eyes. Making sure that his entry into the Kingdom of Heaven was not only secure but beyond destruction. My brother spent his days praying that heaven would come soon. That he would wake up one day and it would all be over. He accidentally said this prayer out loud once before bed.
“So you want to see what heaven is like do you,” cold, calculating, and icy with a smooth, captivating menace was the voice Ezekiel heard come from his mother. He dare not turn to look at her. Couldn’t look into a face that claimed to love him yet held no warmth accept for when other people were looking. He stubbornly tried to keep on praying. Maybe it was a test. Maybe she wasn’t as upset as he was envisioning her. She couldn’t be.
He prayed out loud. Prayed for all the things he knew would appease her. He did it exactly the way she had taught him. Used his words exactly the way his father had thought him. He followed their rules to the letter. This was a textbook prayer, and when he finally got to the end of a prayer that team J.A.R. should’ve recorded, it was just that good, he said, “Amen.”
He went to get into bed and he heard, “what is it that you think you are doing?”
Innocently my brother said, and quickly as trained, “I’m getting into bed after prayer like you told me too.”
“Yes. But why?”
Ezekiel didn’t know what to do. What to say. Something had gone terribly wrong here. His mother was in her punishing stance. What could’ve gone wrong? He had, after such an impassionate prayer, completely forgotten why he had gotten so into it in the first place. Panic started to ensue again and he froze into a silent state of complete loss. He had no idea what it was that he did wrong.
He looked at those cold blue eyes staring at him. Eyes that knew what was to come if he gave the wrong answer. Eyes that knew he did not know the answer, so punishment was inevitable. Eyes that challenged him to answer because no answer could be worse than an actual answer depending on its level of wrongness. But then again, that also depended on if the answer was indeed wrong.
Maybe Ezekiel could get the answer correct. Could it be possible that this was just a test and nothing serious. There had to be an answer. There just had to be. The hopelessness sank in as he realized he only had one response. He knew beyond certainty it was incorrect. But he had forgotten something very important. He sighed resigned to his fate and said, “I do not know why?” Sometimes the truth actually worked in his favor. So he used it in the direst of situations.
“Really. I thought you wanted to see heaven. Now why would you bother with getting ready for sleep if you goal is to go to heaven?”
“Well not immediately I—“ Ezekiel stopped as he saw the glare from his mother. He knew now that he was definitely praying for immediate release from the life he was in. He wondered what he had done to deserve this. He wasn’t even in double digits, and yet his life was already a hot mess of things that he didn’t wish to live anymore. How could life be so cruel?
“If you want to know so badly, I will show you what it’s like to almost go to heaven, and then maybe you will not wish to go all the way.”
Ezekiel did cry this time. How could he have been so stupid as to say his silent prayer out loud? After his mom turned him into a sobbing mess, she set up a camera in the room.
“Since you are in love with the idea of heaven so much, you shall pray until midnight about all the wonders of heaven, why you like it, and why you think it would be so amazing to go there.” Ezekiel wasn’t stupid. He knew this wasn’t as much a punishment as it was a way to learn more about him and better their efforts to mold him into the child that they felt he should be: the type of child who wouldn’t be secretly dreaming of heaven. Little did they know that he would always dream of heaven. Because the only life he knew was this. There had to be something else.
He didn’t believe it though. His parents loved him. They only wanted what was best for him. They were just trying to keep him from failing at life. This treatment was the only type of love that he knew. And if this was what the rest of the world was going through, maybe heaven was just a trade off from one type of love to another type of love.