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Marlene and the Religiously Insane #religion #cults #mystery

Marlene Vincenza opened the glass door and gazed into the dusky storefront. The afternoon light cast a shadow on a middle-aged woman poised at an ornate, round table. Angels, religious symbols, crosses, saints with halos around their perfectly round heads, and a communion cup caught Marlene’s eye as she carefully surveyed the room.

Ah, there it is, she thought. It hung on the wall closest to the entrance.

A woman’s voice beckoned her, “So, beautiful lady, why do you come to Evangeline?”

Marlene lingered by the exit. She had rehearsed her answer. “This painting?”

“Yes.”

“It’s one of mine.” The red cut glass dangling from each of Sister Evangeline’s ears sparkled in the light—almost hypnotizing Marlene. Her speech slowed, “I was curious to see who bought it.”

But Marlene was more than just curious. This particularly haunting piece of Marlene’s heart had been sold by the proprietor of the West Village Art Gallery—by mistake. And she wanted it back.

The old woman stared at Marlene more intently.

“I was told by the art gallery that you were contacted several times about returning this piece, and you refused.”

The Indian woman almost smiled, but her lips couldn’t seem to make the upward curve. “Ah, so you are the one.”

Marlene now focused on the painting. She remembered how smoothly, almost prophetically, her brush had covered the canvas with gloomy shades of ochre and gray. Right of center, stiletto strokes, like blood-red cries, caged the heads of two beautiful women. One had sapphire eyes draped with fear, her face writhing in pain. Around her neck a black snake coiled its slithery body, then linked itself to the shafts of her confinement. Beneath her slept the head of an exotic, Mediterranean woman. In the background three shadow figures danced in fire, each possessing a golden key. One in its hands. One in its eyes. One in its heart.

Marlene wasn’t sure what she had tried to convey in this painting. Perhaps that’s why she needed to retain it. It seemed to hold the mystery to her life.

She allowed the door to shut behind her.

“Tell me what you see in the painting, beautiful lady?”

“Oh, but I’m not the fortune teller,” Marlene quickly replied.

Evangeline’s tightly wrapped bun of silver hair delicately balanced her small, round eyes. She spoke with clarity and ease, “Yes, my dear, I am psychic. But you are artist. Yes? Tell me what you see.”

With reticence, Marlene stammered, “I see two delicate women trapped in a world of fear.” She played with the large silver cross hanging around her neck, almost as if she prayed for protection. From what, she wasn’t sure. All those years of evangelical Christian dogma attacked her mind. Up to this point in her life, she assumed psychics were all frauds.

Evangeline opened a metal folding chair and set it by the table. “Like a mirror, do you see in the painting what is in your own heart, beautiful lady?” She beckoned Marlene with an arm draped in chiffon. “Perhaps you should sit.”

Marlene hesitantly took a seat at the table clutching her purse. She wondered just how much one small dalliance in the metaphysical would cost her.

Sister Evangeline placed her anointed hands on top of Marlene’s purse.

Marlene flinched.

“Do not be afraid. Evangeline does not want your money.”

Marlene didn’t reach for her purse, though she wished she had been more cautious.

“So, you are curious, yes? What does Sister Evangeline see in your painting?”

“I didn’t bring any cash. I really just wanted to persuade you to return—”

Evangeline interrupted her, “Today, it is I who invite you. I do not charge my guests.”

“That’s kind of you, but really, I must be going. I just want to retrieve my painting.” She pulled a prewritten check from her purse.

“You go now to see your lover, yes?” Evangeline searched Marlene’s eyes for some sign of verification. “Your married lover.”

“Actually… that really is none of your business,” Marlene said, quite dumbfounded.

A peculiar, almost ominous look drew Marlene farther into the psychic’s lair. “Perhaps you could find time to listen to Evangeline, yes? Then, maybe we talk about painting.” Evangeline turned her right palm toward heaven. “Give me your hand, beautiful lady.”

Now, charmed by her stare, Marlene extended her slender arm as if it were being drawn forward by a marionette string.

Evangeline cupped her feeble fingers over Marlene’s. “Close your eyes.”

Marlene did as the psychic told her.

“Follow me, beautiful lady… in your mind.” Evangeline groaned. After a moment she spoke again: “See my image in front of you as you take my hand. Yes, that’s it. Follow me… Follow me up the steps and into the light. There… there on the table. Do you see? The book? The large white book?”

Now entranced Marlene played the game by the psychic’s rules. “Yes,” she said, actually conjuring the vision in her mind.

“Now open the book.”

Evangeline jerked, then babbled a few indistinguishable sounds. She sat still for a long while.

Marlene began to see images before her—images she wished she hadn’t seen. Visions of her dead mother singing arias on the verandah. Visions of her brother trapped at New Life Christian Commune forever. Visions of her stepfather murdered. Visions of an exotic woman laughing at her, teasing her with a flaming sword. And there, written on the blade of that same sword in bold black letters: The Word of God.

Finally, Evangeline spoke. “Soon you find love—where before you find hate.”

Marlene’s body tensed. She tried to withdraw her arm from the table, but Evangeline’s grip strengthened.

“But with love, comes love’s adversary.” Evangeline moaned softly, pulling Marlene’s hand to her face. “She is named after a precious stone and is a vision of light.”

Evangeline jolted and gasped as if she were fighting a demonic presence struggling to take hold. Then she bellowed: “Beware her venom, for she stings with the Word of God.”

The psychic let out another groan, then retreated, sighing peacefully. She released Marlene’s hand.

They opened their eyes simultaneously.

Evangeline gazed into Marlene’s soul as she spoke: “Make peace with your own heart, beautiful lady, for night comes quickly.

“But when dawn awakes—love comes to stay.”

… Marlene’s adventure continues when she meets her soul-mate, Michael Littony. She falls in love before she realizes that Michael is involved in a cult, and Saphira, the cults assumed leader, has had a prophecy proclaiming she is to marry Michael. When religion and spirituality defy sense, Marlene’s famous NYC artist career and personal life get toppled over, along with her ideations of God and spirituality.

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