Testimony 105

So there’s a cult.

Except they didn’t call themselves that. I mean you wouldn’t, and we didn’t, because we didn’t know. Until we did, and by then it was either too later, or we’d got out.

I got out.

It started kind of harmlessly. I mean, I think. I walked in there kind of clueless. I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and I had that combination of cynicism and optimism so present in the young. You know that quality? That despises the current ways, sees them for what they are, and knows they can do better. They just don’t know that us oldies have seen the same cycle, we know the roadblocks they’re going to meet. Not to say you shouldn’t rail against the prevailing current, but you seriously think you’re the only one who ever thought that way? Sweetheart, read a book.

But I’d been travelling round, stopped off in the middle of nowhere in the dark. There were no street-lights – it was a proper village. Proper deserted, insulated. Wary of strangers. The type with the pub where their eyes would all swivel round to meet yours when you came in – proper horror movie shit. Made it clear you’re an outsider and you weren’t welcome.

But anyway I landed in this place that was so different than what I’d grown up with – noise, people, crowds, bustling, hustling, dirt, high-rises, concrete and lights. Here it was darkness and both a fear and an openness and a skyful of stars. I’d barely seen stars before.

And I only saw the openness to start.

Because that little commune welcomed me. And to be truthful, I went looking for them. I was trying to find another way, trying to do it better than people before me, than people alongside me.

So, I joined.

You were slowly introduced, to make you feel like you were being given a choice. I mean you were, the choice to go further into the labyrinth or to run the other way. The thing is they only gave you so much information, that would keep you to stay a little longer, go a little further down the winding and weaving path. By the time you look up – which you don’t – you’re lost in the maze.

It takes forever to get out.

There’s no thread.

They break you. They take away the things you felt were important about yourself. The stuff that matters. And the people you thought mattered – you learn they’re against you. Turns out there are so many that are against you. They make it all about serving the leader and fearing anyone who goes against his ways. Like the labyrinth there are layers to the leadership, and you can’t be certain who to trust, and that itself is a strategy, because you’re always on your toes.

You’re always sleep-deprived and worried. Tiptoeing round the unspoken and hiding from reality. Prepared for the worst.

Even now, years later – I’ll find myself looking up and wondering how I got here, and I’ll lose sleep and worry to that man and those people, and my own complicity. My mind’s ability to deaden its own thoughts, my ability to tell myself I wasn’t drowning when my body could tell I was.

That’s the terrifying thought – not that others can do that to you – but that you can willingly let them. And you won’t even question it.

Not till years later.