Here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote a few years ago about supernatural visions and the fanaticism they may cause:
“It’s time,” Richard said, rubbing his wife’s shoulder.
Dozens of candles lit Joanne’s sacred space, the room she’d since turned into a shrine for her daily visions of the Virgin Mary. It was 5:55 p.m. – five minutes before she was thrust into an ecstatic state.
She knelt on a pillow before the altar with her husband by her side. Lilies, roses, violets and marigolds filled the room, along with the picture of the Virgin above the table of scented candles.
When Joanne first began having the visions, Richard thought his wife was going insane. He became lukewarm to the idea after a while; he simply wanted to support her, as best as he could, despite his quiet doubts.
The clock struck 6 p.m., and Joanne opened her eyes.
Richard prayed during the visions, but mostly, he observed his wife. She described it as a flash of three blue lights that exploded in the room, and then an apparition of Mary floating before her.
Her husband saw her gaze become fixed before her. She moaned almost inaudibly, her breathing became short and abrupt.
She recited the Hail Mary under her breath when the apparition was apparently before her. But as she mouthed the words, her husband could not hear any sounds.
Tonight was different.
Her face became tense, and she moaned again, louder.
The visions lasted six minutes. Joanne would say her contact with the Virgin Mary felt like it lasted for an hour. She was transported into another world, where the Madonna appeared before her glowing in a blue and white robe.
She clasped her hands together tightly in prayer in the candle-lit room. Richard, like always, watched with a mix of curiosity and bewilderment.
Finally, she closed her eyes and opened them again. The vision was over.
Joanne’s face was pale and terror-stricken.
“What is it?” Richard asked.
“A grave message,” she replied. “Mary has revealed the last of the Seven Secrets.”
Joanne had begun posting the messages on a website she created about two years ago. At first, it was an outpost in the farthest reaches of the internet.
But the messages began to go viral among the Catholic world. Newspaper reporters visited and wrote articles. Faithful from all over the country began to visit their home in the Boston suburbs to talk to the woman who sees the Virgin Mary.
She was a religious phenomenon – and a dangerous one in the view of the Catholic Church. The local archdiocese warned their faithful to refrain from believing this false prophet.
People believed her anyway.
“What is the secret?” Richard asked.
Joanne smoothed her plain red sweater and took a deep breath. “Mary is urging the world to repent and convert as quickly as possible. The Final Judgment is coming.”
She was a deadly serious woman, even before the visions. Her pale face was always tight with stress, and her brown hair perfectly combed.
Richard wondered if telling the world about this message was the right thing to do. He looked into her fiery brown eyes and their depths of conviction.
“Maybe we shouldn’t share this,” he said. “It may really drive some people crazy.”
Her faced showed dismay. “What? But this is serious. People have to know.”
Richard tugged on the collar of his shirt. He didn’t want to be a part of this, even if he would disappoint his wife.
“I just don’t agree with this.” He turned away from her gaze. “I’m going to take a walk to think about it.”
“Richard,” she said. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I think this is going too far.” He grabbed his heavy coat and a hat. “I need some time alone to think. We can talk about it later.”
The first signs of winter had descended upon the suburban neighborhood. The leaves crackled under his feet as he walked down his driveway.
He peeked around the block to see if anyone was coming. He was so tired of the fanatics flocking to this house at all hours of the day. Just last week, a group of Christian college students flooded their lawn to take pictures like their house was some pilgrimage site.
More than anything, he wanted peace and quiet.
Tonight, thankfully, the streets were empty. As he walked past the garages and houses, he thought about Joanne’s vision. When she shared the message online, who else would fall under this spell of coming death and destruction?
This is not Catholicism, Richard thought. People have to believe in something. But they shouldn’t believe in this.