It didn’t call itself a church, but for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what it was pretending to be. “The Following” was led by its charismatic “teacher” Jake Massey; aka Jake Daniels, aka Jake Mitchell, as well as dozens of other aliases he’s used since the age of sixteen.
Now Jake was in his early 40s, still quite handsome, even though his dark hair had begun graying at the temples. He had a warm smile that drew people in; and it didn’t hurt that his tight jeans highlighted the wonderful gifts God had given him.
I was off my meds, but not too out of it to see that this so called church was a fucking clown show. I walked in and people were screaming, raising their arms towards the sky, and talking gibberish; some were even ripping their clothes off —In the name of Jesus? Hardly. Jesus was a mere after thought, the real savior to this group of sycophants, was Jake Massey himself.
A few days before, some of the flock handed out literature at the shelter where I was staying. Just two years ago, I was a student at the university, but the voices…they made sure I never got my degree. The medication helped, but it also left me quite depressed on most days.
This makeshift church claimed that Jake could heal the sick, and save the lost. Well I was sick alright, and pretty lost too; maybe he could help me. And in my desperation, I was willing to try anything.
Jake raised his hands, and the congregation slowly quieted down. “Welcome brothers and sisters, and thank you for coming.” He put his arm out in front of him and said, “Newcomers, please make your way to the front.” It seemed like he was talking directly to me, and I was swept up in the moment, with all of the other hopeless creatures who were also looking for someone to save them.
He touched me, and said some shit I couldn’t understand, then invited us to the potluck they held after each “sermon.” Jake invited me to sit at his table, and I could feel the long knives coming out from the other women who wanted to sit by his side.
“What’s your name sister?” He asked.
“Sloane.” I said, avoiding his steady gaze. But in that moment, I felt as if I truly belonged somewhere for the first time in years. That was Jake’s specialty, he made everyone feel welcomed.
“Stay with us Sloane, we can help you find what you’re looking for.”
Those pale blue eyes, oh my word. I didn’t even know what I was looking for, but I wanted Jake to help me find it.
But he had a dark side as well. I had been with the church for a few months, and saw that Jake wasn’t as easygoing as he professed to be. He ran a tight ship, and if you deviated from his plan even slightly, his eyes would narrow, and a darkness would flash across them that could be frightening. But like that, Jake could turn it off, and the mask that hid the monster beneath, would once again appear.
Still, I was hooked. The voices weren’t gone, but Jake said he had a way to make them leave. He told me to stick around after one of the services, and he would outline a plan to help me with my illness. It was just the two of us, and he spoke to me so sweetly, but his hands…they were touching me, and as I became more afraid, the voices grew louder.
I asked him to stop, but he just laughed, his eyes turned dark again, as he pushed me down and got on top of me. “Relax Sloane, you will learn to love this.”
I don’t remember much after that. When Dana came in the next morning, I woke to her screams. She was pointing at the stage where the giant cross hung —where Jake now hung from. His arms and feet nailed in the position of the crucifixion; only dark holes remained where his beautiful pale blue eyes once were.
Now Jake has joined the chorus of voices taking up space in my head; but his rings out above all the rest —still promising to help me.