The first morning in the Temple of the Chosen was confusing. The initial friendliness of the members was replaced by a certain detachment as they attended to their assigned tasks. Since Trish was a new member, she was expected to pull her weight and do her share of the work. Standing there aside of the small cot, which looked less inviting in the harsh morning light, she was not as sure of her decision. Her promise of the wonderful fulfilled life seemed less imminent. She watched as her small suitcase was emptied into a common bin by Della, whose large bust stretched Trish’s favorite sweater into misshapen snow flakes, cutting into her armpits in protest.
The next order of business was to give the contents of her purse to Brother Michael as her contribution to the community to aid the work of the Lord. She watched as her personal things were spread across his desk. He threw one girl the rain bonnet, another, her nail file. Brother Michael pulled out a comb and handed it to her. The last of her money he pocketed and threw the pocketbook into the bin.
The Brother studied her. “We give each new member a name upon their arrival into the temple. Henceforth everyone will refer to you as that name. Your worldly name will be forgotten. He smiled at her. “You will be Magdala. It’s the only name you will ever need. Please answer to it.” He looked at her with squinty eyes. There was none of the warmth of last night. Instead of soothing, his words seemed harsh and cold.
She was not at all sure she wanted to stay. “When can I get my things if I decide to leave?”
His voice soothed again. “Magdala, you will soon find you are as much a part of us as we are of you. I, we, seem a little more impersonal this morning because we have much work to do, food to plan, keeping the order of the temple. Throughout the day you will most certainly see you have made no mistake about the perfection of this world and the preference you felt over the evil world you escaped.” He smiled again but the smile immediately left his face. “Your program of induction will begin with five other searching souls who have been welcomed into our sanctuary.”
And so, the program began. The old schoolhouse was once again a teaching facility. In one large classroom they were divided into pairs and sat on pieces of carpet in different corners. There, in repetitive monotone. they received Bible instruction and interpretation. On alternate hours they listened to recordingS of Brother Michael in a sing song voice telling them how the word was spread by Brother and Sister groups all over the world. The Chosen had grown in strength and number as the only salvation for those desiring to be saved from the devil.
In one of the smaller class room they were permitted to read and tell each other about that reading of extensive literature and scripture. They were shown pictures and colorful slides in recognition of the evils of the world. At the same time,they read, they were given background passages by Brother Michael and others and oriental music played over and over. If anyone dozed during the readings they were walked vigorously in the halls where other recordings preached them into dull apathy and acceptance.
Trish often felt sick and sleepy. She pitied another girl, who requested water to rinse her mouth after she vomited. She was denied water and her vomiT stayed in the room as a reminder to them all to take the opportunity to read and study.
Food was served with a fifteen-minute respite when some of them slept right through, regardless of their hunger. The meal consisted of sweet stale buns, covered in hard icing and coffee to which large amounts of sugar had been added. The sweetness produced more thirst and there was only the bathroom faucet when they were permitted a three-minute break.
The training session went on through the night. Magdala looked to the other five in the hopes of gathering a protest, but they were as tired and listless as she. The teachers who took turns came in fresh and enthusiastic. Brother Michael never appeared except on tape.
At one point during the night, Magdala became agitated and in her frenzy, rose to leave. She cried and kicked the teacher in her anger. Immediately she felt herself pinned against the wall and slapped across the face. The fact that Dorcas was her teacher didn’t matter.