The Salvation of Evil Twins


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Scene Title The Salvation of Evil Twins
Synopsis Intruding upon Joseph's practice time in the church, April draws him into a discussion regarding souls, evil twins (she really is one), eternal damnation, and the power of prayer. New York is not like Tennessee.
Date May 12, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

There is no mistaking this building as anything but a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to a set of black double doors, often kept closed during the colder weather, but unlocked during the allocated hours written on a blue sign fix to the brick wall. In white, formal letting, it reads GUIDING LIGHT BAPTIST CHURCH and lists its hours of worship.

Through the doors, you first step into an open, nondescript foyer, with access to an unobtrusive staircase headed upwards, and a second hallway leading off somewhere less public also. Mainly, this room opens straight out to the much more spacious worship hall, with immovable rows and rows of pews. A small church, it only seats an absolute maximum of around one hundred and fifty people at a time. It has a high ceiling and is warmly lit, simple and reverent in design, colours light and earthy. The stage before the pews is wide open, with seats off to the side for other pastors and guest speakers, and there is a podium placed off center. On the other side, there is a small organ with music sheets kept nearby.

Joan was right. There are good acoustics in here.

The twang of acoustic guitar strings bounce off the high walls. No music, yet, the tune-up going quietly but inevitably filling up the space thanks to the vacuum of silence. It might seem disrespectful in a different church, the kinds with stone, banners, tapestries of saints, statues and monuments and steeped with such reverence it forces all talk to a whisper. However, the plainness of the Guiding Light, as brightly lit as a classroom and simple in its decor, lends itself to such activities.

It's the kind of place you might do your homework as well as sing praise to the Lord. The acoustics, also, are better than the confines of his office. Dressed in a button down with the sleeves rolled back, pale slacks and polished shoes braced against the ground, Joseph is perched against the edge of the pulpit, and is currently twisting strings tighter. It's been a little while.

Maybe it's the familiarity of the church — the only one she's visited in NYC, the only one she's entered in at least seven years… maybe that's why April found herself on this block. Two days. Two and a half. Three. It all depends on how you do the counting — but no matter which number is used, it's still not enough time to salve her doubts and self-recriminations.

Even those who don't frequent them know that churches are supposed to be peaceful, soothing, contemplative places. The plucking of guitar strings isn't what she expected to hear, the woman pausing uncertainly on the entry threshold, neither in nor quite outside. She's gone back to her denim coat and worn-in blue jeans, a spring-green shirt completing the set. Her hands are unadorned.

Joseph's head is down, and reading glasses for no real reason other than the assumption it would help him in this case are perched on his nose. His adjustment on the strings comes to a close around the time April's silhouette graces the doorframe, unnoticed for now as he picks out a couple of notes, one of which remains a little sharp despite his fidgeting.

No chance to fix it, though, head inevitably tilting back up and April inevitably becoming noticed. Whatever music was about to be played is paused, flattening his fingers on the strings. Caught. Because Joseph frequents churches more often than the next person and knows for a fact they're supposed to be peaceful and soothing, and his attempts at guitar are hardly that.

Offering her a smile across the wide open space, Joseph hefts the guitar up off his knees and goes to stand. "Don't mind me," he says, apologetically, with a gesture across the pews.

The woman at the door smiles weakly, apologetically; it doesn't reach her eyes. Not at all the kind of smile that crosses spaces with any flair. "No, I — I think I'm the one that should say that," she replies. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude." April takes a half-step back, though her hand lingers on the doorpost; she doesn't turn away, doesn't quite look at Joseph either.

"No, no." Let's see who can out-apologise the other. Joseph has good practice, however, cradling the guitar underneath one arm and stepping away from his perch, other hand out in an extended gesture, as if he could somehow coax her back inside with a beckon. The hand with the wedding band, not such a surprising addition for this kind of clergy. "You're not intrudin' at all, this ain't my personal studio. Gosh knows I got enough time for that otherwise." Gosh knows.

More practice than April, especially… well. He interacts with many more people than she does. "If you're sure." There's a brief pause, and then the woman moves inward, steps halting — as if she might well need the coaxing. Coming here is a different matter now that someone's present to complicate her impulse.

Her eyes flick around the church interior, a sweep that doesn't really catalog much meaningful about the room; it was brighter outside. April stuffs her hands in her coat pockets for lack of anything better to do with them. When she looks back at Joseph, her gaze settles on the guitar. "How long have you played for?" It's a nice, neutral question.

The smile should communicate his certainty, though he doesn't verbally press the issue, especially as she steps inside from the harsher sunlight, as hesitant as she may be. Here, it's all filtered through the stain glass windows on high, and attempted angling through the wide open door. The lights that would fill the room with artificial yellow luminescence are all switched off, allowing shadows to fall where they may. No dust, though, this place is as clean as the last time April visited.

Speaking of which, Joseph's attempts to recognise her seem to be failing. He sees a lot of faces, every week, and when they're hidden behind sunglasses and hovering around the back, it makes it a little difficult. "Too long for me to be this rusty," Joseph says, coming to a halt a few feet away. "Got this thing somethin' like a decade ago. More, even. Have you come this way before?" His tone is as neutral as her question, with a helping of friendliness. Pointedness and prying can only be found in the words themselves.

They are present in the words — but it's a perfectly reasonable prying. She pauses as he does, nodding slowly in response to his answer. It's not like April needed to know, or anything like that. Just — polite conversation. The nod is followed with a shake of her head. "No — well, once," she admits. "It was a while ago." Her smile reappears, a little stronger, no less apologetic. "You wouldn't remember me." Guessing at the reason for his asking.

"Lot of people come by here. Different people," Joseph says, more in agreement than excusing himself. The rounded bottom of the guitar is set against the ground absently, his hands coming to rest on the head, and letting the instrument rock subtly. "I get to know the regulars a little bit better but those that come by just once are just as welcome. They stop by for as many reasons as there are— well, people, I guess. You can call me Joseph, by the way," he adds, and extends a hand out for a handshake.

"I'm sure they do." Her tone is musing rather than inane agreement; how many people come with the same reasons as she? More than the woman might guess, as it happens. She looks down at the proffered hand, and accepts it without a second thought. "April. So this is your church?" She hadn't been quite sure what to conclude.

A firm and professional shake later, before Joseph is resting his hands back down onto the guitar, and twisting around enough to look back at the church interior. 'Yes' is on the tip of his tongue, and could— perhaps— account for using it so casually for his own purposes. "I'm a pastor here," he confirms, instead. "Along with Senior Pastor Ashby." And he thinks again, adding, "So yeah, you could say it is. Nice to meet you, April."

April nods slowly. She doesn't return the pleasantry in any other fashion, gaze drifting as her thoughts do the same. Considering, perhaps, weighing; there's a tension that has yet to leave her expression, although she's relaxed from her earlier nervous hesitance; Joseph's congeniality supports that she isn't an intruder. Of course, he doesn't know anything yet…

It isn't an awkward silence; doesn't extend for long enough to become that. April looks back to her companion. "What does a pastor do?" she asks. "I mean—" A crooked, rueful smile. "I admit I don't know anything about any churches, really."

There's a mild hesitation over the question, before Joseph is simply stepping back enough to rest his hip against a high backed pew. "A pastor tends the flock," he answers, shortly, with a mild smile to mirror her rueful one. "Here, I do what I can to bring people closer to God, if they're willing. I preach His word, every Wednesday and Sunday— " Sundee— "and offer counsel if it's sought for. Amongst other things." Normally this would be his line about what he, specifically, can do to help— but he holds his tongue.

And as is his habit, Joseph gently takes the spotlight and steers it back around onto the woman, eyebrows lifting as he asks, in turn, "Were you after somethin' like that or just lookin' for a quiet place to think?"

Closer to God. April looks up at the stained glass windows, her gaze idly tracking from one to the next, a hand running back through her hair. Scenes from the Bible, some of them identifiable even by one without religion, some of them purest mystery to the woman. "I don't know," she says; quiet, absent tone, but it's sincerest truth.

"Closer to God," April echoes, aloud this time. "I don't think I can be," she adds, gaze returning once more to the pastor. Her expression is weighted by her misgivings; not a case of can't because I'm already there self-centered pride, but the response of someone who's pretty sure that, if she's going anywhere after death, it won't be Heaven.

Joseph head tilts to the side, smile faded insofar as it's not polite to be cheerful in the midst of honesty. Through frameless glasses, his dark eyes narrow a little and study her in a short amount of contemplative silence. The look of a man choosing his words wisely.

Finally, he says, "In the end, our closeness to the Lord will be out of our hands. It's what we do in life that makes the difference." The glasses are drawn off his face, one-handedly managing to clean them on the hem of his shirt, strategically focused on that as he continues. "If you're willing to open your heart to salvation, April, and I'll tell you— many people don't. It's not easy shakin' hands with people I know deep down won't be saved, but that's their choice."

She listens; that much can be said. Gives the pastor a study not unlike that she received just a moment before, weighing both the man and his words. April turns away, walks away down the aisle — not departing, but pacing, motion of the body reflecting motion of the mind. Even unto the turning around and coming back. She regards him for a moment longer, draws in a deep breath. "And does your 'salvation' encompass someone who shouldn't be, Joseph?" the woman asks, her voice soft, weary. "An interloper who — who doesn't belong where they are at all?"

It seems like she means something a lot more substantial than intruding upon his church.

Which is why Joseph hesitates before speaking, the general friendliness of his demeanor moments ago replaced by something more studious. Which in some ways could be more genuine, or at least, less default. "Don't think I follow you," he eventually settles on, apology filtering back into his voice. "But I know a bit about not belonging. As for salvation— there's no one who shouldn't be saved, for as long as they were put on this earth. That's the— the power of free will and the gift that Jesus Christ gave us when he died on that cross."

He folds up his glasses, pockets them, and takes his weight off the pew, although like April's pacing, it's not necessarily to leave. "For someone who's— not a church-goer such as yourself, this might all come across as a little strange. It's not my place to ask why you feel quite as lost as you seem to think you are, but I will ask — are you a believer?"

A quiet puff of air meets the comment about having been put on this earth. It — it's complicated, really. The last part isn't so much. "I'm not sure what I believe anymore. I —" April looks around the room again, the warm colors of wood illuminated by jewel-toned light. "I didn't give it a lot of thought when I was younger." She was young. "I… had a lot of time to think, recently, but I'm… not sure."

It isn't really much of an answer, and as her gaze resettles upon Joseph, April offers him a crooked, apologetic smile. It's an ephemeral expression, replaced by something both haunted and measuring. He's a complete stranger. Somehow that makes it seem right — she can walk away and never see him again. It's not easy, but she finds her voice again. "Do you know what a doppleganger is, Pastor Joseph?"

She mostly gets mild sympathy and understanding in return, sensing she has more to say and not chasing down the notion just yet. Of misplaced faith. The question is not exactly one he expects, however — and Joseph gets asked a lot of surreal things. About destiny, fate, whether the future is predetermined and whether there are ponies in Heaven, to name a few.

Not about the nature of a doppelganger, certainly. Joseph opens his mouth to answer, voice sticking for a moment in vague uncertainty before nodding once, a shrug of his shoulders. "Like an— evil twin?" His voice kicks up with question at the end, eyebrows raising.

Surreal, existential; where better to have such a discussion? An evil twin. The question brings a smile to April's face, a chuckle to her lips; there's amusement in it, but with a self-deprecating edge. She finds it all too dreadfully apt, that description. "Oh — something like that," the woman finally replies. "Something very like that." She folds her hands, brushing her right-hand fingers over the now-empty space where someone else's wedding ring once rested in echo of the ring April never had a chance to wear. "What happens then? To something like that?" Something.

Something like that? one raise an eyebrow seems to ask. "So what you're askin'— if I'm gettin' at this correctly— is about where a soul goes when it shouldn't be in the place it is?" he asks, then shakes his head. "I believe all souls'll be worthy of evaluation when the End comes. As long as you— have your own actions to make up for, your own life lead, it's the sum've your actions that'll be judged, in the end, won't it be? I don't know if God would— let what you're describin' come to be if it was any different. Such a division— "

He doesn't so much seem suspicious as he does wary, although not enough so that he can't ask. "And how would you suggest somethin'— like— that come to be?"

"Did He let it?" she asks Joseph. A sweep of an arm gestures at the church around them, or something beyond it, or — simply a gesture. "You yourself said we have free will. Choice." Hazel eyes level on him, serious and intent. "I don't follow the Bible, but I've picked up some of the stories — He isn't always benevolent, is He?"

April shakes her head slowly, draws in a breath; the motion is that of dismissal, or perhaps a change in thought. Slight, but a change. "I — don't even know if I'll continue to exist after… after everything. Never mind if I have a soul. Or… if it should be saved." She sidesteps the question of how. The woman closes her eyes for a moment, lips drawing into a small line. "If that's the cost of my choice, if I can keep her from ever having to do what I've done— " April looks over at Joseph, solemn, her expression no less haunted than it was earlier. 'What I've done' rests no more lightly, despite the conviction expressed. "Then so be it." A deep breath.

"So be it."

Gosh knows the Bible speaks more in symbols, figuratives, ideas than a literal interpretation, even if Joseph's reading of it is slightly more so than that of other Christians. Which might be why it occurs to him that April isn't. Being symbolic, especially when she refers to her. He believes in demons as readily as he might Evolved, and he puts them far apart on the spectrum of definition.

Except when it's blurry. Glowing blue eyes. Evil twins. He tries not to ask what are you but it's implied a little in his silence. Then, finally, "You feel you have to sacrifice yourself to eternal damnation— " Stops, mouth going into a line. He guitar is still set against the ground, forgotten and held upright with an absent hand.

"I did call it a choice," Joseph settles on, with a nod. "I hope you're makin' the right one." He doesn't even know her, but he certainly means it.

She weathers his silence with the same resolution that keeps her chin up and her hands from shaking. "Maybe I was damned before ever coming here. There's others that would have said so." In a time she's determined to make never exist. "Maybe there's nothing to save." Doppleganger. Double. Copy. "Maybe it is all His plan anyway and it doesn't matter what I do." So much for the idea of free will.

In the end, April smiles sadly. "So do I, Pastor." She looks around the church one more time, turns away from its keeper. Walks down the aisle; stops halfway. "Can't hurt to pray, though, can it? Would you do that for me?" She doesn't turn around, doesn't look back. Remains silent for a moment more. Her lips twist, the expression unseen.

"Maybe I'll have to learn, myself."

He's willing to let her go, even if Joseph perceived arguments unresolved and answers unspoken. His mouth even opens to counter something, but in the end— she's turning to leave and he's unsure if stopping her is a good idea. Can't save everyone; one of those harder lessons he had to learn, back in Tennessee. He's not sure if it applies more or less to New York City.

"I'll pray for you, April," Joseph confirms, voice echoing readily after her. And with that, he's turning away also, back towards his station at the pulpit. "And He will always listen to your words too. When you're ready." Of course, by the time he's pointed out as such, he's already alone, as one fleeting glance back over his shoulder confirms.

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