Hey Everyone!! :-)
With Halloween coming up in less than a week, I thought I'd share an excerpt with you that touches on something that I consider to be one of the scariest things in the world: religion run amok. Don't misunderstand, there are a lot of truly wonderful people who identify as belonging to one religion or another. And the vast majority of religious people are just normal, lovely people who would never harm anyone or even want to. But, as I'm sure you're all aware, there are also fundamentalist fanatics in every religion who do want to hurt those who disagree with them, and that's what I'm referring to by saying religion run amok. In this excerpt, Petri encounters the Upworld version of this phenomenon.
Excerpt from Rainbow Dreams, book one of the Petri Dish Chronicles:
Sitting up, Petri looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. She immediately realized where they were. A Janus wasp hive!
The hives were something of a curiosity. Those that had been abandoned were often used as tourist attractions by enterprising underworlders to entertain adventurous Upworld citizens who enjoyed the strange and macabre. But all sane individuals avoided hives that were active until the houses could organize a hive-burning.
The Janus wasps, also known as JWs, were a doomsday cult. The adherents of the cult were required to separate themselves from any non-believing family members and dedicate themselves to Janus. They marked themselves with unfashionably conservative grooming and clothing, but sometimes they still managed to blend into crowds long enough to ensnare the unwary.
The beliefs of the cult centered around Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings and endings, who they believed was on the cusp of bringing an end to human suffering and lifting his wasps up to paradise. But in order to motivate their God to action, the JWs believed they needed to convince him that the world was sufficiently bad to require a new beginning. In order to prove that there was too much pain in the world for the faithful to endure, they placed human sacrifices on the altar of Janus and cut out their still-beating hearts. They hoped that the pain of their victims would attract the God's attention. Some of those who were sacrificed were volunteers from among the faithful, but many were people who blundered into the clutches of the cult.
The houses were pretty ruthless in their suppression of the wasps because their indiscriminate selection of victims was bad for business. But somehow, they never quite managed to eradicate the cult entirely. Petri believed that might have something to do with the fact that JWs were happy to take commissions for who they should sacrifice and, as paid assassins went, they were relatively inexpensive. Something the houses were not above taking advantage of when it suited their purposes. However, the containment efforts by the houses did force cult members to be somewhat circumspect in their activities.
Normally, once a hive became large enough to be noticed, the houses would organize a hive-burning. The purpose of these was to kill the cult members without damaging the structure that housed the hive or the furnishings within. The more authentic a hive was, the more the rubes would pay to tour it. Therefore, the "burning" of a hive was figurative. House enforcers and, sometimes, freelance mercenaries were sent into the hive to kill or capture all the members of the cult. This was always done with as much secrecy as the houses could manage because the JWs had the tendency to set off explosives if given the opportunity. Even when the burning party was successful in preventing the wasps from obliterating their hive, they still defended themselves ferociously.
Any victims who had yet to be murdered would be sacrificed by the high priest on-the-spot, and the rest of the JWs would fight to their dying breath to protect the ritual from the burning party. Once all of the sacrifices were complete, the remaining wasps would commit suicide. There were rumors that the JWs even practiced for such eventualities, running drills among themselves on a regular basis.
Wasps who the burning party managed to take alive, and bodies that weren't too old or damaged, were generally turned over to the grinders for processing. However, occasionally the houses would take a particularly attractive or distinctive individual to be used for other purposes. No one who had ever been a JW, or at least none who had ever been identified as a JW, would ever be allowed to assimilate back into society. They were considered too dangerous. Janus wasp hives only occurred in Under City. The surveillance in Upworld was sufficient to detect any hint of the cult before they could establish themselves, and the Upworld government was much more thorough in their suppression of the wasps. In spite of this, sometimes an Upworld citizen would be seduced into joining the cult. If they weren't killed in the raid, and if they didn't commit suicide, the houses turned them over to the Upworld government to be dealt with. In such rare cases, unless the person's family was extraordinarily influential, they were just disposed of quietly.
Hmmm...religion run amok meets corporately owned government ruthlessness. Enough scary to go around, don't you think? Both lack humanity and mercy. Great for Halloween story-telling, but I hope I never meet either in person.
If you haven't read Rainbow Dreams and you want to find out what happens next, you can get a copy here:
Thank you all for stopping by today, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for the next edition of Mistral Dawn's Musings! :-)