All the Sickos

Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, she gazed peacefully at her surroundings. Tourists wandered in and out of stores, an old man was setting up his easel beside the ocean view, and a child’s balloon escaped into the breeze. A moment later, she looked up as shouts startled her and the baby. Everybody was running in her direction. . .

“That’s my baby!” a woman cried, her face contorted with tears.

Margo stood still, holding the warm infant against her chest as the people rushed forward.  She smiled, her conscience clear, feeling relieved that the mother had, apparently, found her lost child. 

“She was whimpering along the grass,” Margo said as the red-faced brunette snatched the child from her arms.  “I didn’t see the parents anywhere, so I became concerned and picked her up.  I’ve been looking for a police officer.  I’m just a tourist on vacation.  I don’t know my way around San Francisco very well.”

“Thank you so much,” the wet-eyed woman said.  “I just turned around for a minute, and she was gone!  With all the sickos in this world, I was freaking out of my wits!”

Margo smiled, sweating in her khaki skort.  “She should be fine.”  She reached out to stroke a soft brown curl sticking out from the pink blanket.

“You’ve definitely done your good deed for the day!  I can’t thank you enough,” the woman announced then walked away with her family.

Margo watched them fade into the distance then turned away, eyeing the museum to her right.  She wondered why the Temple of Set hadn’t been featured in the brochures she’d received at the hotel.  Egyptology had fascinated her since high school.  Surely other tourists would feel the same way.

She ascended the marble steps and entered the building.  Inside, it was cool, dark, and quiet. 

“Can I help you?”

Margo turned.  A man in a black robe was standing there. 

“I just wanted to come in a look around.”

“Would you like a tour?”

“If that wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“Come right this way.  I’m Father Lucious, head Satanist here at the Temple of Set.”

Margo stumbled after her guide, for a moment, his words not fully registering. 

“We are now entering the sanctuary,” the Satanist priest said, stoic beneath his bushy brows as he led her across the marble floor into the main worship area, if worship you could call it, the lofty room shadowed, the ceilings high, provoking echoes. 

     “I think you’ll find satanic philosophy fascinating,” he said in an objective tone as if he were certain of her interests and merely referencing Socrates or Aristotle. 

     Margo swallowed the lump, the import of her whereabouts crashing in upon her as she followed along behind the whooshing black robe like a lamb being led to slaughter.  She wondered how her vacation could have gotten so askew.  “I don’t know much about Satanic . . . philosophy,” she sheepishly replied.  Her eyes darted about, riveting momentarily upon the cryptic plaque of the horned hunter, hung upon the wall.  Her gaze then fell to a lone, male parishioner, sitting at a pew, seeming nondescript, like a boy next door, were it not for his crazed eyes. 

     The priest looked back and shrugged.  “Don’t let ignorance stand in your way.”

     What am I doing here? Margo wanted to scream.  “Actually, I think I must have taken an ill turn somewhere,” she said, trying to conceal her trepidation.  “I’m just a nerdy school librarian on vacation.  I wanted to see the California Redwoods.  We’ve nothing but stubby bristle cone pine back in Ely, Nevada.”  She laughed nervously, wringing her hands together.

     The Satanist priest laughed too, but grimly.  “Sometimes, we get more than we bargain for.”  He turned to face her as they neared the altar, but she avoided his gaze.  A blood-stained chalice rested upon a table.

     “Maybe you could just give me a pamphlet, and I’ll be on my way,” Margo said, wiping her sweaty palms against her khaki skort.  “I know you’ll find this so stupid of me, but I thought this place was a museum when I saw it from the street.  I took an elective class in Egyptology in college.  An innocent mistake . . .” she ended, her voice cracking.  “I’m sure I don’t have what it takes to be a Satanist.”

     “Being a Satanist is easy,” the priest said.  “‘Do what thou wilt’ is the sum of our philosophy, our law.  Under love, of course.”

     “Oh yes, of course,” Margo rushed to agree, clinging to the reassuring four-letter word, nodding vigorously as the walls closed in, everything a whirl. 

     Margo’s eyes reeled around the sanctuary.  A woman, dressed all in black, lurked in a dark corner.  Then another entered from an unlit corridor, holding a candle.  Margo’s heart raced.  She was just going to have to leave rudely.  She turned to rush toward the exit only to bump into a man she hadn’t even noticed, standing behind her.

     From the corner of her eyes, she caught the priest’s gaze, a scowl of hatred.  “Actually, we don’t always like nosey people poking into our business.” 

     Margo’s hands fisted, her eyes rolling.  “Look, that’s your problem.  I’ve got to run.  You guys can go to Hell, and I hope you take that as a compliment.”  Margo darted aside and hastened toward the exit at a jog.  That woman with the baby was right, she thought; this world is full of sickosThe baby!  Margo thought of it again as she left the building, finding the sunlight.  I’m glad that sweet baby is safe