TC15

Prophet Mark Langes very kind offer of a seat on the last remaining life-
boat on the doomed Reina Regenta is totally wasted on Rupert Keller. Re-
turning to New York he proceeds to give a newspaper account of the disaster
which includes the Prophet kicking little girls off a lifeboat to make room
for his gold bullion, resulting in the sinking of the lifeboat, the death
of Lange, and the death of everyone else with him. Indeed, Keller says the
presence of the gold must have been the reason the ship was torpedoed by
the Central Powers in the first place, lest it aid the cause of the Triple
Entente in the Great War, which is now in its third year.

Keller’s widely published lies do their intended damage to the popular
imagination of the American people. Many former supporters sour on the
religion, and the growth of the Green Dome Church slows to a crawl. Shortly
after that, by popular referendum, the state joins a dozen others in ban-
ning marriages between first cousins and the first serious persecutions of
Greendomites begin.

Upon the death of Mark Lange the Apostle Peter Twofeathers automatically
becomes the second Prophet of the Church. Peter in turn appoints a new
Apostle from among the elders of the White Wing of the End Dome Church, a
man named Klaus Hansen. Thus the lifetime office of Prophet alternates
smoothly between the White and Red wings of the Church, and assuming this
rule is never broken there can never be a succession crisis.

The sinking of Reina Regenta with the End Dome Churchs first prophet Mark
Lange aboard, along with seven hundred other men who could not take to
lifeboats, is one of the biggest factors that changes American public opin-
ion about the Great War from an attitude of cynical isolationism to moral-
istic idealism. Another big factor is an intercepted telegram from Germany
offering Mexico a share of the spoils if they come into the war against
America. A month later Congress approves a declaration of war against the
Central Powers, and a month after that forced conscription begins.

Despite Church of Green Dome roots in the pacifist German Brethren, and the
slight bias in favor of the Central Powers by many Americans of German de-
scent, very few Greendomites avail themselves of Conscientious Objector
status after receiving their draft notification. Erik Zinter accepts the
call to go Over There along with nearly five million other Americans. After
a brief period of the most rudimentary military training that seems to con-
sist mostly of standing for uniform inspections, Erik finds himself stuffed
aboard on a troop ship on the way to Bayonne, France.

From the point of view of the Triple Entente, America is late getting into
position for the First World War. General Black Jack Pershing trains the
American Expeditionary Forces to operate independently of the allies. The
US Marines make the first demonstration of American resolve at Belleau
Wood, a single square mile stand of trees that still takes from the 6th of
June until the 26th of June, 1918, before Major Maurice Shearer sends the
signal, Woods now entirely US Marine Corps. Belleau Wood is six hundred
acres of hell for three weeks.

The war drags on into its final two months before Erik Zinter even enters
his first combat as part of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. It is the third
and easiest operation to straighten out the remaining German salients in
the Western Front before the main Allied thrust to break the Hindenburg
Line can begin.

The Americans are tasked to attack the German left flank against static
positions they have held for more than three years while France, Britain
and Belgium bled themselves white. But now the allies are getting a fresh
shot in the arm from merry but homesick doughboys who go into battle sing-
ing and whooping with all the enthusiasm of a football team pouring out
onto the field just before kickoff. The Germans know the Americans are com-
ing and they began to pull out, but the Americans attack before the Germans
estimate they would with 600 aircraft and 144 tanks commanded by Colonel
George S. Patton Jr. The battle of St-Mihiel is Pattons first battle as
well.

Casualties are very light as battles go in the Earths First World War, but
the weather is miserable. Nearly three thousand pieces of field artillery
unleashed by the Allied side as well as bombs dropped from the air tears
the battlefield into a pock-marked pig sty filled with mud.

The Germans might have been withdrawing, but they are quite capable of
fighting a rear-guard action with a deadly bite. Erik takes two rounds from
a German Bergmann Maschinenpistole 18/1 that shatters the bone in his upper
left arm and he is sent by truck to a War Department field hospital in the
rear just beyond German counter-battery fire.

Due to the development of gas gangrene, which is part and parcel of the mud
and generally unsanitary conditions on the front, army doctors decide to
amputate Eriks arm, leaving only a two inch stump, which unfortunately
would be a little too short to be usefully fitted with a prosthetic
arm.Since the amputation is performed in non-ideal circumstances, Erik is
sent by a hospital train to Paris for follow-up care.

There he meets Clara Brannen, a Red Cross nurse. After Erik sees her name
tag they talk for a bit and Erik learns that Clara is from the branch of
Brannens who had stayed behind in Pennsylvania when Mark Lange led the pil-
grimage west, so she knows very little about the Green Dome Church. They
talk for a bit more and both discover they share the same great-grandmoth-
er. They are second cousins. That and her all-American girl-next-door good
looks interest Erik.

What interests Clara is Erik’s attitude in the face of his life-changing
injury. He doesnt feel sorry for himself even after losing an arm. There is
pain, but right on through it he keeps a wicked sense of humor. They cannot
talk for long, but Clara passes along to him the address of her parents in
Pennsylvania, because he says he wants to be pen pals after they both get
back home.

Their pen pal relationship gradually blossoms into love, and in 1922 Erik
drives nearly all the way across the country in his 1916 Model T. He uses
the Yellowstone Auto Trail and it takes nearly a month to get to Erie,
Pennsylvania, averaging five dollars a day, not counting the cost of two
major automobile repairs along the way. This money comes out of his twenty-
five dollar per month Veterans pension, which has been supplemented by a
job as a painter in Greendome. He could do his job with one arm, although
with some difficulty.

After arriving in Erie he sells his Tin Lizzie to defray the wedding ex-
penses. Although Pennsylvania is the original anti-cousin marriage state,
it only prohibits marriage between first cousins, not second cousins.
Still, it takes some doing by Erik and Clara to get her parents to sign off
on it. In the end, they obtain the blessing of both parents, and soon the
newlyweds are traveling west across the country by train to start their new
life in Greendome.

When it comes to Eriks parents, however, they are a much harder sell, and
he becomes more or less the black sheep of the family because he passed
over a perfectly good (if plain) first cousin who shared the same grandpar-
ents, and chose to fall in love with Clara who only shared the same great-
grandparents with him, never mind that she was stunningly beautiful. Appar-
ently love is very fickle. This thing with second cousins is now permitted
by Green Dome Church doctrine under the liberal Prophet Peter Twofeathers,
but some say it isnt a brave choice, because any heathen could do as much.

The ones who say that are the Bunners, a subset of the White Wing who are
not happy to have a Red Wing Prophet. They are called Bunners because both
men and women roll their obligatory pony tail up into a bun, a little White
power fist made of hair. The Apostle Klaus Hansen is Bunner Incarnate.His
particular hobby horse is that the possession of the Golden Gift should
transfer as well, to the White Apostle.Twofeathers insists the relic re-
mains under the control of the Red Wing.

Kimberly Zinter is born to Erik and Clara in 1925. She would be their only
child. Kim knows her two best friends Sofie Krause and Dory Fuchs from as
early she can remember, perhaps as far back as the summer of 1928 when they
share their days at the same nursery while their mothers also found work.
This is nearly the peak of the Roaring Twenties, when unemployment dips
below five percent. Then comes the stock market crash in 1929.

By 1930 the Great Depression is just getting started. Their mothers are
soon booted from their jobs, followed by Kims father, as employers suddenly
found many other men willing to paint who had two good arms. Still, Erik
does not despair, but retains the good spirits that had caused Clara to
fall in love with him at first sight in France. And it soon turns out that
Eriks optimism is justified.

Twofeathers has compassion upon Erik Zinter and gives him employment which
involves a deep and sacred trust. With his single arm, he is to wield the
Golden Gift to carve a network of tunnels under the Green Dome hill and the
surrounding area. For there are rich seams of coal under the townsite but
the geology of the area is so jumbled there has not been an economical way
to reach it by drilling a straight shaft. The coal would only be exposed
here and there. But with the Golden Gift, Erik Lokken easily creates
twisting passageways through this rock, and others follow in his wake to
reinforce the tunnels with timber and remove the coal.

While the rest of the country wallows in unemployment that reaches twenty-
five percent, the area around Greendome experiences a boom that hasnt been
seen since the brief gold rush days after the Civil War, when the town
swelled with the ranks of 69ers. The population sells to three thousand
souls. Great heaps of black gold from the mines pile up on docks as far
away as Chicago.

Financially, Erik Zinter does far better than he ever did as a one-armed
painter in the Twenties. Soon enough he has a nice new brick red Ford Model
48, his first car since selling his Model T, and he also pays off his mod-
est home. Thinking ahead, Erik sets some money aside in a rainy day fund.

There is enough left over even after all this to send Kim to the Green Dome
parochial school rather than the free public school, partially so she could
be with her friends Sofie and Dory, but especially because it was an excel-
lent school that gets students engaged in learning experiences outside of
the classroom as well as within.

In 1937 Kim, Sofie, and Dory are twelve, that wonderful last year of their
tweens when their bodies are gathering power for the changes soon to come.
They talk about boys in idealized, abstract terms that have little bearing
on the clumsy, stinky, stupid little barbarians that happen to be actual
boys. In slumber parties they practice necking with each other, so long as
it is perfectly understood that one of the neckers has to be a boy, at
least in theory. Sofie Krause, at great personal sacrifice, plays the role
of beau nine times out of ten, especially when it is Dory Fuchs turn.

Likewise, in class, the tight trinity of friends send flowery little love
letters to each other. The girl-love of tweens is love of a high order that
knows no jealousy. Share and share alike. But they dread having one of
their masterpieces of amorous soliloquy discovered by a classmate, or God
forbid, the teacher. So they create their own secret language called Relbi-
mian. And in that language, the word for group of three is boda.

This, then, is the state of the Boda in seventh grade:

Dory Fuchs: Blue eyes, long jet black hair tied in the obligatory pony tail
but with the cutest bangs ever. She is the skinniest member of the Boda but
the first one to begin to grow breasts. She likes to read books by English
authors about dragons and elves and wizards and unicorns. Already, at age
twelve, Dory has pinup model stems.

Academically, Dory deliberately aims at getting straight Bs to strike the
middle ground between pleasing her parents and not appearing to be a book-
ish girl. In the Boda Dory takes the middle ground, becoming all things to
all women and she becomes the glue that holds them all together. If the
Boda could be said to have a leader it is Dory, yet the character of her
role is persistently one of support. Instead of dragging them along she
pushes them from behind.

Sofie Krause: A tomboy who keeps her ash-blond hair cropped short in a crew
cut, with no pony tail, in defiance of the Church. Not even her father has
anything to say about that, for already Sofie has the physique of a wres-
tler. She is the only girl on the football team. One time a boy at school
says her football uniform ma=kes her look fat and she flips him to the
ground and pastes him good. Knocks out his front tooth. No one says that to
her again. She is, however, like all the girls at school, required to wear
skirts rather than pants in the classroom, and this annoys her to no end.

One Halloween morning Dory comes to school dressed as a pirates wench and
she has ripped her dress into long strips so that when she walked her slen-
der legs poke out now and again. Sofie sits there with her mouth wide open
and feels a shiver from her face to her toes. In that moment she knows what
she is. Sofie has graduated from her tomboy phase to a full-service tri-
bade. After that, Sofie loses all interest in sports, and everyone can
hardly believe it. But chasing Dory has become the ultimate sport to her.
Sofie is a scrub, but Dory eagerly helps her do her homework, which keeps
Sofie hovering in D territory rather than a hard fail.

Kim Zinter: Auburn hair about halfway between mahogany and carrot-top.
Light green eyes. She has a pretty face but she is a little chubby. Or per-
haps just Rubenesque. In temperament she is the most classically feminine
member of the Boda, for she takes after her mother the nurse. She is com-
pelled to wear her hair in a ponytail at all times, of course, like her
mother and father and elders and all the other good little Greendomites,
male or female.

Kim is an infidel. She doesnt really believe any of that stuff about Chief
Wanica and the Golden Gift written in the Buron, which is testimony to how
tightly her father Erik is capable of keeping Peter Twofeathers secret with
respect to his borrowing the divine weapon. But Kim isnt prepared to let
her folks down. So she grits her teeth, wears the damn ponytail, and when
she ventures out of the Greendome area she ignores the comments at the edge
of her hearing like Oh there goes another Pony. Look at her hair.

In eighth grade science class the teacher pairs everyone off for lab part-
ners. Kim ends up with Sofie, and Dory ends up with one Jerry Shybear, the
youngest grandson of Jashen Two Pricks Shybear who played a role in the
early days of the Green Dome Church.

No offense, Pally, Sofie mutters as she kicks Jerry out of his seat and
sends him shambling towards Kimberly. No one is going to separate Sofie and
Dory.

Jerry is one of the few Original Inhabitants who attend the Church school
in Greendome. He is a skinny boy, and shorter than Kimberly even, but the
other boys are afraid to pick on him because he has already demonstrated a
hidden wiry strength in a series of earlier fights, and all of them learned
why young men in the Red Wing are called braves. He becomes the fourth mem-
ber of the Boda, sort of, which is an oxymoron, like having a fourth novel
in the Galaxys Fall Trilogy.

Jerry can tell right away that Sofie and Dory are a unit, so he gravitates
towards Kim. At the ice skating rink they even hold hands, since Sofie and
Dory arent afraid to do so. He is not Kims first or even second cousin, and
therefore he can never be her husband someday, so it is fun to experiment,
but they both know it can never turn into anything serious. Then again,
thirteen year old kids never take anything serious.

There is absolutely no body modesty in the Boda, and if Jerry wanted to be
a part of it, they would have to break him in. The first time they went
skinny dipping at Lake 13 Jerry liked what he saw, and so did Kim. She be-
gan horsing around with him at every level short of the full jackpot. Natu-
rally she is required to keep Sofie and Dory appraised of every move.

So whats it like to kiss an actual, you know, boy? Dory asked.
Just like kissing Sofie. Same pressure. He smells different up close
though. Not bad, just different.

Did you pitch woo?

We did indeed pitch woo. He feels like a rubber wet suit stretched out over
a suit of armor. Soft on the surface but with a hard core underneath. I
like it.

They look like beer bottles instead of Coke bottles, Sofie complains.
There comes a time when you grow up and move from soda pop to beer, Kim
replied, but only Dory seems to agree.

The great common ground of the Boda is music. Their parents are sufficient-
ly well-off to provide their instruments, except that Kims only instrument
in the very beginning is her own voice. She is a member of the Green Dome
Temple Girl’s Choir, and an amazing soloist with a rich, breathy, lyric
mezzo-soprano voice that belies her youth and borders on being too sultry
and sensuous for spiritual music.

In band class Dory Fuchs plays double-bass standing on a shortened end-pin
so she is more comfortable. She especially likes to set down her French bow
and pluck the strings pizzicato, playing meandering bass lines that make
her imagine she is a cat slinking around at night. The bass remains mostly
in the background but provides harmony and structure to the songs, the same
role Dory performs in the Boda.

Sofie Krause pounds the skins with all the power that makes her a formida-
ble offensive guard. She can practically read Dory’s mind (and vice-versa)
so they became one of the all-time great rhythm sections. Sofie is inspired
to change her name to Hunky so people would refer to them as Hunky-Dory.
This is more than just a nickname. By dropping her ‘patriarchy slave name’
of Sofie Krause and replying only to her freely chosen name of Hunky, she
actually inaugurates the Name Ritual that becomes an important part of the
Boda when it expands and becomes the Bnei Elohim.

Jerry’s axe is a saxophone, and in the beginning he isn’t very good at it,
but he figures that is the reason he is taking band class, after all. He
gradually improves and by the close of 1938 the kids have the bare bones of
an actual jazz ensemble on their hands. They call themselves Hunky-Dory and
that never changes.

Their earliest performance as Hunky-Dory alone, apart from band class,
comes during the end-of-semester band class recital, during the encore,
when they perform It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) while
the rest of the kids set their instruments aside. It is a triumph, but
their first paid performance would come in the Forties, and their first
recording in the Fifties. Money was never the focus of Hunky-Dory at any
rate. They did it mostly just for fun.

When Kimberly Zinter is a sophomore she is picked up at school one mid-
morning by a deacon of the Green Dome Church and driven home but he won’t
tell her what is wrong. When Kim gets home she sees that her mother is cry-
ing and she starts to cry in sympathy before Clara can even say a word.
After a while Clara looks directly at her daughter, immersed in grief and
too horrified to face blurting it out to her, but finally she wails, “Kim,
your father is dead!”

Then Kim’s tears well up from her own pain and not merely from empathy with
her mother’s pain. They both cry until there is nothing more to give, and
even when Kim’s eyes are dry she is still wracked with dry sobs and whim-
pers that trail off at length to silence, only to start again. After an
hour of this she starts to speak. “Why?” she asks, over and over again un-
til her mother comes clean.

Peter Twofeathers has explained everything to her. For years he had lent
the Golden Gift to Erik to honeycomb the land under the mountain and the
surrounding area at night with tunnels to access isolated pockets of coal.
This had been the bread and butter of the whole town for almost ten years.
But last night there was a cave-in that smashed Erik’s helmet lantern,
plunging him into total darkness, and he couldn’t dig his way out, even
with the Golden Gift, because he got turned around somehow and bored deeper
into the mountain rather than back out the way he came. As Erik made a
greater volume of space to walk in, the air he had left to breathe was
stretched too thin, and there were also suction losses through the Golden
Gift itself. It wasn’t until well past dawn that miners with picks and
shovels broke through the cave-in and reached Erik’s body.

Peter assured Clara that he died without injury or pain. He simply fell
asleep never woke up again.

As for Peter, while he deeply mourns the death of Erik he is also troubled
that the men who retrieved Erik’s body are members of the Church and it is
impossible to hide the fact that Erik had been in possession of the Golden
Gift, which is the most sacred Green Dome Church relic. Although the Golden
Gift is returned to Peter, this revelation is already causing unquiet among
the faithful. He hears that Klaus Hansen, his chosen Apostle from the White
Wing, is preparing to unseat Peter before his time.

Children aren’t supposed to be confronted with death so early. Kim thinks
about her own death. She wonders what it is like for her father at that
moment, and if there really is an afterlife. If there is not a second life,
then her father doesn’t even know that he is dead. He doesn’t know that he
had ever lived and married Clara and fathered Kim. If so, then what is the
point of doing anything? The Green Dome Church is supposed to have the an-
swers to all these questions, but what if they are wrong? Added to her per-
sonal grief, all these thoughts are intolerable to Kim.

She doesn’t go to school for a week. Sofie and Dory came over after a cou-
ple days to see if their friend is well. She is not well, but their visit
lifts Kim from her grief a microscopic bit, and Clara notices that. When
Hunky’s mother comes to pick her daughter up, Clara asks her to stay until
Dory’s parents came as well, because she wants to ask all of them some-
thing.

“The funeral for Kim’s father will be this weekend,” she says after they
are all together. “I’d like to take Sofie and Dory to be with Kim when we
go.”

“I don’t think so,” Hunky’s mother demurs. “These are just school girls,
and a funeral is a pretty solemn thing.”

“Besides,” Dory’s father adds, “this should be a private family time for
you and Kim.”

“That’s precisely the thing,” Kim’s mother replies. “We have no family here
in Greendome. My parents are back East and my husband was a sort of a black
sheep in his own family. They’re Bunners. I’ve never been close to them.
Kim is taking the death of her father very hard, but when Sofie and Dory
came over to see us today I noticed a visible improvement in Kim. I could
see it come right out to light up her eyes again. That’s when I realized
that Sofie and Dory are Kim’s real family.”

“Clara, I still don’t think a Green Dome Church funeral is something these
girls should see,” Hunky’s mother insists.

“But they won’t see the actual Rites. Not even Kim will see that. Look, my
husband is dead. I have to go lay him to rest, and I have to bring Kim. And
I think she needs to be with her best friends right now.”

In the end they consent to let the girls remain together for the weekend.
For Clara this is her first time to see the Golden Gift in action, the cen-
tral mystery and devotion of the Green Dome Church. The children are not
allowed to attend the actual ceremony upstairs in the Temple Sanctuary, and
it would have been unseemly to run around and play while the body of Kim’s
father is sent to his long home, along with five other Church members from
across the globe. So they sit around in the Temple basement getting quite
bored as volunteers prepare the Sunday afternoon dinner for hundreds of
parishioners.

Jerry Shybear joins them after breaking away from a group of boys smoking
outside. The original Shy Bear is his grandfather and he seems to know a
lot of secrets about the Temple. Jerry leads the girls into a gigantic sup-
ply room which isn’t locked, and they go along with him because there is
nothing else to do.

There is no electric light within, only a window with blinds, and since it
is gloomy outside the Temple it is even more gloomier inside the storage
room. There’s an old piano which is probably broken, a map of the Tri-State
corner area, and heaps of the sort of things one typically finds in a
church: unused hymnals, stacks of old bulletins, empty mason jars, and doz-
ens of folding chairs. The children can hear organ music and the choir
bleeding through the ceiling from the main sanctuary upstairs.

There are Green Dome scrapbook albums, Green Dome cookbooks, Green Dome
paints and brushes, Green Dome wood carvings, Green Dome homespun, and bro-
ken Green Dome furniture. Hunky finds a Green Dome walking stick made from
a gnarled old piece of wood and shifts it from hand to hand to get the feel
of it.

One of the walls is unfinished, and Jerry moves aside a piece of plywood to
reveal another dark space beyond. It was so black inside it drinks their
vision like a sponge. “I’ve never been in here,” he says.

None of the girls want to go in there either but Jerry dares them to go, so
naturally Hunky is the first one through. Then Jerry follows her to show he
isn’t afraid. Dory and Kim are both afraid of the dark hole, and they are
not afraid to admit it, but they also don’t want to be left behind so they
squeeze in after them.

It is too dark to see, but Jerry lights a series of matches, which only
last a few seconds. This gives him time to find an ancient dusty candle,
and he lights that. After that the kids have a little bit of light and they
can see where they were.

There is no tile floor, just natural stone and dirt, and a sort of stone
igloo in the center of a circle of stones. This is the cairn of the avatar
of Chokhmah in its original state, resting on the very summit of Green
Dome. The structure is completely unmolested. Superstition overcame Prophet
Lange and the Apostle Wanica at the end, it seemed. They built the whole
Temple right over the top of the cairn as if to hide it.

There is even a little commemorative Green Dome mouse. Dory and Kim scream
together when they see it.

Without a word Hunky lets her cane fly in an arc over her head, and she
brings it down, hoping to scare the mouse away. But she ends up hitting the
mouse instead, with a lucky shot. “This is a church right? So there’s your
church mouse.”

“You crippled it,” Dory observed, shifting instantly from fear to maternal
concern. The animal is in obvious pain and tries to stagger away.

“I didn’t mean to actually hit it,” Sofie replies.

They all take a closer look at the creature. The head of the mouse is mis-
shapen. There is a huge white bump on the back that is nearly as large as
the mouse’s head itself. Dory said, “Look what you did, Sofie! Look at that
bump!”

“That isn’t from anything I did,” Sofie insists. She puts the end of her
cane directly over the head of the crippled creature and presses down hard
to finish it off. “And I don’t want it to suffer. This is better.”

“Now what do we do with it?” Kim asks, disgusted by the sight of the dead
creature with what looked to be a flat furry coin where its head had been.
The bump is still intact, but no one knows what it was.

Sofie scratches the bare ground with the cane and digs a little trench.
When it is deep enough Sofie slide the mouse into it with her foot, and
then both she and Jerry kick dirt over it and stamp it all down to finish
the job.

“Rest in pieces,” Sofie says.

“Now if you ladies will join me,” Jerry says, “I want to find out what’s in
that pile of rocks.” He goes to the cairn and begins trying to pull one of
the stones loose, not realizing his grandfather Jashen Two Pricks once did
the very same thing on his vision quest, but he had told nobody but his
father.

Jerry isn’t making much headway. Hunky offers what little help she can, and
one of the stones slowly gives way like a hinged door. They move it aside
just enough that they all could squeeze inside the stone igloo one at a
time.

This is it, the Holy of Holies, the very tippy-top of Green Dome hill where
the avatar of Chokhmah still lies in its original position. The white ex-
terior surface of the little dome is dotted with thousands of tiny holes.
Some of these holes have spines sticking out of them like the needles of a
cactus.

Kim puts an index finger close to a part of the dome that is needle-free,
and that is something that she ought not to have done. There is a sound
like a short squirt of steam and her fingertip is instantly skewered. She
pulls away involuntarily before the pain even registers. “Ahhh! Dammit!”
After that the white dome sports one more extruded spine from its surface.
Dory is a little smarter. She grabs a pencil out of her purse and leans
over the black sphere with the eraser tip prudently standing in for her
finger. She verifies the white dome is still active and just as nasty.

Jerry thought about kicking it, but a glance at his thin moccasins leads
him to change his mind. So the thing is a mystery. Best to leave it at
that.

Hunky is the only one who is not afraid. She allows her own finger to be
skewered by the white dome and says to Kim, “Whatever trouble you’re in for
getting stabbed by this thing, I’m in the same trouble.” And so she has her
final victory over Jerry in the test of courage.

After that Kim, Jerry and Dory all shake their heads and slide back out of
the stone cairn, followed last by Hunky. But when Dory and Kim are outside
they hear another sound and both of them freeze. One of the elders of the
Church is standing in the storage room cocking his ears to listen. All of
the kids hold their breath and try not to make a sound. The deacon looks
into the dark gap and could just make out two silhouettes.

“Get out of there!” he yells, exploding in anger. With red faces Jerry,
Kim, Hunky and Dory scramble out of the hole, then out of the supply room,
and they sit down in a corner of the basement lunchroom. The deacon locks
the supply room tight, and after that it always remained locked for so as
long as the Temple stands, which actually wasn’t to be for much longer.

When Kim sees her mother again during the meal after the ceremony she seems
somehow different. Kim can tell she wasn’t mourning my father anymore.

“It’s all true, Kim,” she says with her soft lisping voice. “Everything in
the Buron, it’s all true!”

Of course Clara has always believed what she was taught with the ears of
faith, but now she has seen the Golden Gift work with her own eyes and she
comes away with an unshakable bedrock foundation of belief that she would
carry with her until her own end. And that is precisely the intended effect
of the Last Rite.

A week after that, Kim and Sophie both come down with the same disease as
that little church mouse. They get matching little bumps at the base of
their necks.

Nanoengineering is inspired by the molecular machines of life, but it by-
passes the trial-and-error watery sloppiness and superseded functions that
are carried out by all cells and duplicates life’s useful functions with
more deliberate precision. In 1942 no human being is anywhere near actually
working on that scale. What the avatar of Chokhmah did to Kimberly Lokken,
Sophie Krouse, and that little church mouse they found under the altar was
infect living nerve and brain tissue. On a one-for-one basis this infection
gradually replaces each nerve cell with a nanotechnology facsimile after
“learning the ropes” and figuring out how to respond to hormones, nutri-
ents, and electrical signals from other cells.

Soon after their mothers discover the bump on the back of their respective
heads, Kim and Hunky are taken to a small hospital in town. The doctors
cannot diagnose them, so the girls are handed off to the government and
eventually flown to Washington State and placed in quarantine.