Fall From Grace

WARNING: This EXTREME HORROR short story features graphic and explicit content. Reader discretion is advised.

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1.

A million things were going on in his life, but as Bill walked up the airstair onto his prize, there was only one thing that occupied his mind.

She shouldn’t have talked to me that way. She doesn’t get to give me directives, especially in front of that oaf Calvin Jeffries. I bet she wanted to fuck him. Hell, I know she did by her whorish display of pandering. That made me sick. It fucking makes me sick now.

Fuming, but somehow still outwardly polite, Dr. Rev. Bill Hilton slipped into the cabin and walked to the center of the plane. Giddy from the decadent interior, he picked a spot and sank down into one of the jet’s fourteen pristine leather chairs. His fat ass filled the seat up like a drunk taking a shit in a urinal, but it was able to hold all the goods. In his fifty-five years on Earth, he’d never wanted anything more than the Gulfsault Eagle 77X jet that he now owned. And now he had it. Well technically the church “owned” it, but that was a distinction without a difference. The manifestation of his achievement was almost enough to make him forget about his assistant’s behavior in front of Calvin Jeffries, a peer, and much younger (and attractive), televangelist they’d met for breakfast that morning.

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Bill turned his head around, faced the rear of the plane and smiled at the queen-sized bed, past the jet’s second lavatory, where he’d sleep that night. It looked like it had been airlifted right out of a Ritz Carlton suite. Flat screen TVs lined the walls while a roast beef sandwich and a glass of his favorite merlot were front of him.

Aww, hell. Maybe life isn’t so bad.

It was the Eagle’s inaugural flight. Bill couldn’t wait to take off and watch Atlanta shrink away. They were headed to Oahu, Hawaii for a conference: the Evangelical Assembly. The Assembly was the Super Bowl of Jesus conferences. Bill was going to woo the crowd with a message on why Christ wanted them all to be rich. That was a sermon everyone could get on board with. It wasn’t the first time he’d been a keynote speaker. But it was the first time he’d arrive in the world’s premier private jet. God is good.

Bill peered towards the cockpit. Flipping her blonde locks and, once again, chuckling just a little too much for his taste, Hope Richardson, his assistant, was gabbing with the pilots. She’d been throwing back more pre-flight cocktails than usual. They were ex-Navy brothers and hadn’t let their fitness go in civilian life. Scruffy and buff, the duo looked like Liam and Chris Hemsworth, age forty. Twenty years Bill’s junior, Hope was proficient at her job and easy on the eyes. The latter quality is what got her the job. Fortunately for Bill, her business acumen rivaled her beauty. Her attributes earned her some grace, but he never liked watching her flirt around him. He felt disrespected and the older he got, the more his insecurity seemed to grow. Sure, he wasn’t fucking her. Even Bill Hilton knew that wouldn’t turn out well; too many evangelical heavyweights went down that way. He told himself the reason they’d never had sexual relationship was pragmatic concerns like that. He didn’t like admitting the real reason. Besides, he had other ways to get his needs met. It was the principle of the matter that pissed him off. He was a man of God and her boss. She needed to give him the respect he deserved.

After letting the annoyance fester again for a couple minutes, Bill let it go. These bouts of jealousy had been flaring up more, so Bill had formulated a de-escalation argument that he played in his head when he got testy. He told himself that she was probably the biggest reason for his Globe Changers Ministry’s massive explosion; an explosion he’d never thought possible in a billion years. He’d done it against all the cynical, snobby mainstays of American Christianity. John Piper, Rick Warren and even Jerry Falwell, Jr. threw shade at him. They said he gave “authentic” Christians a bad name. They called him a heretic and said he was distorting the Gospel. The Gospels were made to be interpreted, he thought. One man’s distortion is another man’s truth. Bill knew he wouldn’t have survived without Hope. One also couldn’t forget the hate that the media pummeled him with from the beginning for his lavish lifestyle. But that didn’t bother his followers one bit. Nothing got them more fired up than the secular mainstream media’s picking on one of the Lord’s servants. Hope was the marketing genius behind the whole thing. She could have gone into politics; she probably should have. She knew how to work the mob and create a narrative of persecution better than Kellyanne Conway.

Yeah, Bill. You wouldn’t be here without her. Try to practice that seldom used virtue in your tool chest: humility. No one gets a jet by being humble, but there’s a time and a place for everything. Focus on the plane and not on Hope’s relatively minor flaws.

The Eagle could take him anywhere in the world to spread God’s message of Prosperity (Theology), non-stop. Oh yes, Dr. Hilton didn’t have to deal with those pesky connection stops. Those were for folks who didn’t have the faith to bleed God for sixty million dollars and, thanks to those lax IRS standards, all donations to his ministry were tax free. Bill Hilton didn’t settle for mediocrity. He had a vision; a vision Hope had helped to create.

Twenty years since Bill transitioned from used car salesman to man of God, the Eagle started to taxi off the runway. He had only eaten a few bites of his sandwich. The surreal euphoria of the flight coupled with his minor jealousy had suppressed his appetite. Bill sat back in his chair and put his hand over the custom engraving on his $2K leather flight jacket, which had his whole title: “Dr.” then “Rev.” and “William” instead of “Bill.” He always loved the “Dr.” label. Bill loved when men called him by it, but when women called him “Dr.,” it made him hard.

With no pilots to banter with anymore, the social butterfly Hope spent a few minutes gabbing with the lone flight attendant. Bill didn’t find deem him attractive enough to get jealous over, so he wasn’t bothered, which allowed him to relax. After some mundane conversation with the peanut distributor, Hope poured herself a jack and coke from the bar then made her way back to her seat, across the aisle from Bill. She plopped down and unwrapped her roast beef sandwich.

“Hey boss. You’re looking a little sedated. Are you going to pass out before take off?” She chuckled and then dug into her sandwich.

“I thought about it, but it’s a twelve hour flight. I wanted to stay up for a little bit before I passed out. Experience this holy vessel in the air.” Bill raised his eyebrows a couple times.

“You’re feeling confident about the keynote sermon? It’s been a month since you’ve preached. That’s the longest gap you’ve had in ten years. I don’t know why you had to take a month off before the Evangelical Assembly.”

“I’ve given this sermon a hundred times. I’ll go over my outline a few times today. I still have today and tomorrow. Plus it’s not until Sunday afternoon, so really I have three days. And I had to take the time because my travels are hard on Jill. She’s felt, well…lonely for a while.” Bill put on his solemn face that he gave to grieving widows and vulnerable divorcees.

“Can she talk to someone about the flying phobia? Like a therapist? She could practically be on permanent vacation if she got over that. I’d go crazy staying home alone all the time. Even in a mansion like yours.”

“We’ve tried everything. Nothing will convince her. I’ve made my peace with it. Sometimes you just have to love someone for who they are.” Hope appeared to buy the lie with a shrug of surrender. Having Jill accompany him during his missionary travels would put a major cramp in his ministerial style. He had needs that Jill couldn’t satisfy and the rarity of sexual episodes between the aging couple made them less boring than if the couple were never apart.

Hope put her sandwich down and stared at her boss with the expression of a parent who is about to tell their needle-phobic child that it’s time to get shots again. Hope wore many hats as Bill’s second in command. Media consultant and publicist were among them. Fortunately the cocktails had given her a dose of liquid courage.

“Bill, we need to prep for the press.”

Bill rolled his eyes and let out a sigh of frustration.

“Don’t start.” she said while holding up her palm to him.

“Hope. I don’t have time to worry about the bullshit press. I’ll wing it. I’m good at shooting from the hip. I promise I won’t even talk to them.”

“You’re good at many things. Winging it with the press is not one of them. You make Donald Trump look diplomatic.”

“Dammit, Hope, what do you want me to do? Why is this any different than any other church conference?”

“Seriously? How is this different? Well, during your vacation the Globe Changers acquired a sixty million dollar private jet, which, I remind you, I thought was a really bad idea. The optics are shit. Anyone even slightly outside of our circle of pals is going to crucify us. You’re going to get questions at some point this weekend and I don’t want another sound bite of you shouting at reporters running on a loop on CNN and MSNBC. You need to have some simple responses that you won’t deviate from. Ignoring them makes us look guilty of something.”

Bill both loved and hated Hope for her proactivity. The plane took off, which put the conversation on hold, and the passengers enjoyed a turbulent-free ascent. Bill swiveled his sinfully comfortable chair over towards the window. Viewing the Georgia green juxtaposed with a deep blue sky from his window was a perfect moment.

This is wonderful. There is a God after all. Still though. Why does that brawd curse in front of me? It’s not ladylike.  

The agency flight attendant came over and cleared Bill’s plate and glass away. Bill was quite sour that the staffing pool gave him a male flight attendant.

Where did they think we were flying to? Sodom and Gomorrah? A male flight attendant is practically a tranny. It’s that kind of perverse shit in our society that creates a climate where Hope thinks she can swear at me. What man in his right mind would want to be a flight attendant? I guess it’s probably a good gig to hook up with other faggot sodomites. Modern day lepers.

“Oh my God. These seats are too comfortable. I’m not going to be able to stay up much longer. I need to get the blood flowing again.” Hope stood up, took off her blazer and threw it onto one of the open seats behind her.

She let out a massive yawn, then stretched her arms above her head. Her blouse became untucked from her dress pants, revealing a hint of a belly button. Bill admired it along with her now bare shoulders. He liked when she showed her arms; toned and tanned. With her around most of the time, he felt less old. And more vital. The fantasy of fucking Hope would never leave his mind; a forbidden fruit that he would envision whenever he needed to get his rocks off. He knew that it couldn’t happen, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t willing to pursue it. He wanted it more than the Eagle. It was because he believed she would reject him if he tried; she’d never displayed even a conciliatory iota of sexual interest towards him. It was too traumatic to admit this. Bill wasn’t a man that responded well to limits or the word ‘no,’ even if it wasn’t explicitly uttered. That’s why his ego couldn’t handle the flirting. If he couldn’t have her, he didn’t want anyone to.  

“Take a nap then.” he suggested.

“No I’m going to formulate some talking points if you are asked a question. Why don’t you go over your sermon outline.”

“Do they even have reporters in Hawaii?”

“Sometimes people say things that don’t warrant a response. What you just said is a good example. Read your outline. We have a lot of sky to cover.”

“You realize that I’m your boss, right?” Bill half-chuckled, which was how he felt: part light-hearted, part disrespected.

“I do.”

“Sometimes it seems like you think you’re my boss.”

“Well, Mr. Boss, you hired me to act in your best interest. Sometimes that means telling you what to do. Basically, you pay me to rein you in and stop you from acting like a dumbass. ” Hope chuckled and gave a playful smile. The alcohol made her sarcasm a tad more biting than normal.

Hope was not devout and did not come from religion. She was a political operative and a shrewd businesswoman. Saving souls was no different than any other industry to her. Bill knew these things when he hired her. What he didn’t foresee was her lack of respect for patriarchy. Her ambition made her effective but it emboldened her to be borderline blasphemous. God gave men the power. That’s one thing that Bill and his mainstream Christian critics agreed on. She’d overstepped the threshold of disrespect that he could tolerate.

Hope continued. “There have been quite a few times that I have saved–.” Bill cut her off and stood up.

He took in a big breath before he showed his wrath.

“Do not speak that way to me!  I am your boss and I am a pastor of the Lord! Remember your position if you’d like to keep it!” Bill stood fuming for a few seconds and then sat back down.

Unsure of how to respond, Hope was completely taken aback. She was shaking; not a lot, but enough. Her blue eyes were wide open. The expression on her face was equal parts horror and confusion. The flight attendant stared at them. He’d obviously never encountered a spat like this on a non-commercial flight.

“My God, Bill. What are you talking about? What is wrong with you? What did I say that was so terrible?”

“What didn’t you say?! This morning you were showboating in front of Calvin Jeffries – telling me what I should and shouldn’t talk about at the next broadcast summit. And all the while giggling at his idiotic innuendos like you wanted to blow the jackass. Then you come on the plane, cursing at me and calling ME – your BOSS – a dumbass. Enough!”

Hope just shook her head and motioned to the mortified flight attendant that everything was okay. She looked back at Bill and paused, choosing her next words carefully.

“I apologize for offending you with my language, which I believed to be playful at worst. We’ve worked together for a long time and I’ve heard you use much more colorful language, so I thought that gave me license to joke around a little with you. At this moment, I truly don’t understand why you just said what you said and I’m frankly offended beyond comprehension. So, I’m going to reflect on it for a while before I say anything more. Except for this. If you want me to continue to work for you, do not EVER address me like that again.”

Hope got up from her seat and moved toward the front of the plane, with Bill at her back. He was incensed but he stayed seated.

That whore has the nerve to accusing me of talking to her inappropriately. This is what happens when women don’t have husbands. They don’t know their fucking place in this world. There’s a food chain. Minnows don’t get to be sharks. God gave men the power. When women try to get a piece of it, it only ends badly for them.

The next few hours of the flight ended in silence. There were two lavatories so Hope and Bill could each relieve themselves without crossing paths with each other. He popped a Xanax and his blood pressure went down, along with his anger. He felt remorse, but lacked the courage to voice it.

Bill’s goal was to wait to go to bed until it was dark, but their eastern flight path made that impossible. He managed to stay up until the plane made it to the edge of the Pacific. He had to call it quits. Both Hope and the penis-wielding flight attendant were passed out.

Bill walked up to the pilots to get a status update. They said a large storm was in the middle of their flight path, so they’d have to go around, which would add about thirty minutes to the flight time. Bill shrugged, walked to the back of the cabin and crawled into bed.

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