I walk the streets of Sepira bored. Even the highest security post on loyal Thaeron oversees nothing but a steady stream of recruits for the citadels and tourists for the coastal cities. Cadets want their stars and bars. Tourists want peace and ease. Few even consider doing anything illegal. The only malcontents are the backward religious types who colonized the world to start with. And there aren’t many of those left, having mostly died off or ventured out into the Profusion to proselytize. But the Church of the Blood has stayed put, and there isn’t supposed to be anyone like them anywhere. So when I come to their building I walk over toward it, as much to get out of the rain as see something utterly archaic.
But their building brings me up short. It’s strange and square, as off-putting as the rumors. They believe, supposedly, that the Profusion is on the wrong damned track. Everyone should contemplate the inward path, rather than explore the outward one. The Profusion, constantly expanding, only serves to drive human beings apart. Technology dictates how and when we think instead of helping us to do so.
They should be glad no one takes them seriously. Dissent is the Rim Rebellions, out on the edge of the Galaxy. Eight hundred years and still going on. This little church wouldn’t stand a chance.
There is indeed a service going on when I walk into the dimness. They sit four to six to a table, arranged so that most face a stage, where an elderly woman stands with her eyes closed. She speaks an indecipherable language in solemn tones. I duck down and take a seat from the nearest table, far to the rear.
I don’t understand. I can’t tell the priests from the pastors or the deacons from the brothers. The service proceeds with everyone making a lot of flowing elaborate motions that must have been choreographed. Three times, the entire gathering stands and sings and dances. A long segment consists of people sitting and sharing personal anecdotes under the firm direction of a priest or brother. Everyone constantly eats bread and drinks wine, passing both around. I keep refusing.
After the service, a young man of very dark skin walks over. “This blood is for everyone,” he says, though I can’t see any blood anywhere. I lose no time in leaving.
I come back weeks later, not really knowing why. The morning service is entirely different from the evening one. Mostly, people read or chant from old books, presumably sacred texts. The only common element is the bread and wine and the time for common anecdotes. I leave again when an old priest heads my way. Never had much tolerance for holy writ. Either what’s said is true or it isn’t.