"Welcome to my home, brother Hubbard, welcome to Kolob" said the silhouetted figure.
"Is that where I am? Really? I took this for Target 2" Hubbard muttered sarcastically as he walked past his host. They entered a two story entryway with a wide, sweeping staircase that wound up to a balcony above. The place was surprisingly plain for such a large home, hardly any paintings or objects d'art, minimal millwork. All the oversized furniture seemed new. And then there was his host. The man didn't look the part of a Prophet. He was wearing chino slacks and a white polo shirt with a tiny angel logo in gold on the breast. Smith looked him over as though examining a relic from a lost age, "I've been waiting for you to come around. You took 28 years . . . It's always different for everyone."
"Okay now, so I'm supposed to believe that you're Joseph Smith and that I'm . . . well, where exactly am I? And don't try to spin some yarn, as I figure it, we're both in the same business, and we can't both be right." Smith smiled knowingly. He was strikingly handsome and so young looking. When he'd read about the Mormons while figuring out Scientology, Hubbard always imagined an old man heading that particular outfit.
"Mr. Hubbard . . . Lafayette, if I may, I do honestly wish I could tell you what this is all about, what the purpose of this place is. All I really know is that we're here, and perhaps I can help you get the lay of the land and some perspective on your endeavors back home."
Actually, in the moment Ron didn't give a shit where he was, he wanted a cigarette so badly he was starting to simultaneously shiver and sweat, even though it was perfectly pleasant as they moved further into the house.
"But what has become of my manners? Would you care for a beverage? A glass of water? Something sweet? I'm sure you know I shan't offer you anything stronger." His host began to rummage around in the largest refrigerator Hubbard had ever seen outside of a restaurant. There were three of them side by side, built into the cabinetry of the expansive kitchen. "I never know what I'll find in here. After all this time, I still don't really know exactly how all this food gets here, but they're always full. I used to think that maybe it was God, himself, but one night I found one of the missionaries that pass through here, filling this very cooler in the middle of the night."
"Are there many of them, these missionaries of yours?" asked Hubbard.
"Oh, They come and go. It seems like Orbel and LaForrest have been here for years. Time is rather . . . elastic, here. Oh, look! Here's something called 'Sunny D.'" Smith turned back to him, looking quite pleased with his discovery, a big, plastic jug. "It's very orange."
"I'll pass" said Hubbard. The longing for the sear of menthol in his lungs was growing unbearable.
"I know this is all rather strange Lafayette, but when we arrive here, or at least when we become aware, it's as though we are as babes, fixated, mute, and dreamy. Time means nothing. Months fly past. Minutes are as eternities. When I first became aware of my surroundings, I was in a simple wooden house in Nauvoo, or at least it looked that way. Everything was familiar to me as if taken from my very thoughts. I was certain it was God's way of easing my passing into his glory." Smith was now pulling packaged food from the steel icebox and laying it on the shining granite island at which Hubbard sat.
"You look unwell, Lafayette, can I make you a sandwich?"
"Look, Smith, or whoever you are, I'm a smoker. I smoke dammit! I need a goddam cigarette!"
"Old habbits, Lafayette, old habbits. But, if you must indulge, feel free to do so outside. It can't harm you now. That way, out the sliding door" he said pointing to the wall of glass across the room.
Ron fumbled for his smokes and girly matches in his breast pocket, and he was barely outside before he was taking his first, deliciously minty, drag of nicotine in hours. He felt as though he were filling with an amber calm, a glow of clarity. He walked out into the, manicured yard and let out a satisfying plume of smoke. Over the receding, identical rooftops, the blazing white spires of the temple looked as though they rose a thousand feet high. They seemed to cast a glow on the wall of mountains in the distance. He made his way across the perfect lawn to an elaborate, colorful castle that seemed to be part wood and part plastic. It had a slide coming down from a stout, crenelated tower. He sat on one of the three swings that made up the rest of the play structure. Next to him was a large sandbox, and beyond that there were more than a dozen bicycles and toys arranged neatly on shelves in an open shed. He imagined the the dozens of spoiled brats that used these were asleep somewhere in the darkened upper story.
With his lungs and nerves temporarily sated, he moved back toward the houseglow. From the night-cloaked yard, the warmly lit house looked oddly like a movie, Smith was making two very long sandwiches and pouring the orange drink into goblets. It was all very homey and pleasant, yet this place gave him the heebie-jeebies, it was so quiet and its scale, so vast. He almost missed the sweltering confines of his shabby room in the Bulgravia Arms. Smith was setting the sandwiches on a dining table near the fireplace as Ron closed the slider behind him, smoke still coming out his nose like some ridiculous dragon.
"Come, sit and eat with me and I'll tell you more." Hubbard was hungry. He couldn't remember the last time he ate anything. Damn the persistent mental cobwebs and damn this weird place.
"Well, I don't mind if I do. I see you have a large family here. I saw all the toys out in the yard there." Smiths face fell ever so slightly. He held his bugling sandwich in front of his face for a moment, then put it down on the plate before he could take a bite. He looked devastated.
"It tortures me," he said haltingly. "I only ever wanted to be with my family, my followers, forever. I wanted only that. What I did was only to that end, and now, this . . . place. Things haven't turned out as I expected, but I get by."
"You mean to tell me you're here alone? What about all these huge houses and all those toys?"
Tears were pooling in the corners of Smith's eyes. He stared straight ahead, then down at his plate, drops slowly accumulating on the gay flowers festooning the edge of the white Corelle. "Oh, I do I miss them, you know. All of them. My little ones. My family. My delightsome, dear, celestial family."
It was an awkward moment. He made a mental note of it. "Well, you have the boys, your missionaries."
"They mean well, but they're mostly idiots. Sycophants. They can't carry on a conversation to save their . . . well, I would say lives, but I'm fairly certain we're dead, now aren't we?" He smiled bitterly and dried his eyes with a piece of paper towel he was using for a napkin.
"Well, who in blazes is in charge here!" Hubbard bellowed theatrically, a sort of protective camaraderie overwhelming him. "This man's in pain!" he yelled at some unseen tyrant in the ceiling. "I'm in pain, dammit! What the hell is all this?"
"It's no use, there's never an answer. Not a direct one, anyway. Believe me, I prayed at first. There were times I begged. I have railed and roared. Nothing. But one adapts. One makes due. I am comfortable, and I am sustained, and yet, in that bland comfort and sustenance there is still torment."
Hubbard had been getting his mind back more and more and suddenly, this wasn't adding up entirely. "You say there are no answers. Who told you I was here. How did you find me?"
"You were on the news." The prophet pointed to a huge, shining black rectangle built into the bookcase that made up the far wall. "That's the television, it appeared in the house one morning some years back. Of course, they were in boxes back then, and somewhat smaller. Before that there was the radio and The Newspaper. And now there's this . . . I don't know, maybe it's a big phone, it just showed up this morning." What Smith handed Hubbard didn't look at all like a phone. This looked like a miniature version of the strange, gigantic screen on the wall. One side was sleek, black glass, the other an odd, satin-smooth metal with what looked like a piece of fruit with a bite taken from it emblazoned on it. Maybe it was religious?
"Things just show up Lafayette. Every morning here brings more than daylight. But beware the night, sir, that's when things change. You probably haven't really noticed yet. But you'll see. It's not always a big shift. Sometimes it's insignificant. A favored shirt will be missing, replaced with a different one, in a different style. New food appears. An updated cooking appliance. The pace of change ebbs and flows. Years pass with incremental changes and then suddenly the world shifts in dramatic fashion. Your home is no more, and you find yourself in new surroundings. You'll have to find everything all over again. I started out what I thought was Nauvoo and now I'm in this endless desert. I never really get used to it. I also never stop hoping that my family might be there some morning when I wake up. Someone I love. Anyone." Smith and Hubbard ate in silence and after a while, upon finishing, Ron got up to light a smoke and Smith followed him to the sliding door leading into the night.
The end of Ron's cigarette bloomed bright red in the dark. "So, Smith, how long did it take before you figured out how things work around here?"
"A long, long time, and I'm still learning. I began to decipher clues in the stories I would read. After a while I discovered that I could bend their content to my desires, as it were. If I thought about The Church, for instance, I might get news of home from the new Tabernacle in the west. Often, they're oblique stories, but occasionally, very direct. Tales of home in my growing absence. Of my church. Of my flock. Oh, the changes I have seen, Lafayette, the changes."
"So, we're the only one's here? What about the missionaries and my cherub and the little girl I've seen. And the woman sitting in my room? And you said endless desert. I came from a big city, it's all pretty damned confusing."
"I'll be direct with you, I don't really know if this is Kolob, or the Target Two you spoke of. After the first hundred years or so, it doesn't really matter. But, as you've observed, we aren't entirely alone. There are others like us. Others associated with us in various ways. And there are those who've been here much longer. We get along . . . mostly. It's not always pleasant. Things happen. It's not always safe." And with that, a strange chirping sound caused both of them to jump.
"What the hell was that?"
"The telephone. Oh, they're marvelous things, and now they're made of glass." Smith stood and pulled a small reflective lozenge the size of a playing card from his pants pocket. The lozenge chirruped again and now Hubbard could see that writing glowed on the face of the thing. It said "Brigham" in neat white lettering on an azure background. Smith drew a forefinger across the words and held the thing to his head. "Impeccable timing as usual, brother Young. Where are you? Uh huh. Yes. We have a visitor. Yes. I'm here at the house with Mr. Hubbard. Yes. Oh, he does, he does now . . . I shall. No. No, thank you, we just ate and are fit to burst. Very good. See you in a minute. Goodbye."
"I gather that was your protegé, Brigham Young?" Hubbard picked Smith's phone off the table and flipped the phone around in his hand. It was an even tinier version of the television for all he could tell.
"Oh, old Brigham is my senior by three years. He just had the good fortune to outlive me by fifty."
"Is that why you're so young looking?"
"I was a mere thirty eight, when I was murdered, sir. Thirty eight."
"Makes me wish I hadn't lived so goddamn long. Look at me!"
"That will change Lafayette, you never really know how things are going to manifest. Like I said, I used to think it was God Almighty making things do what they do here. Now, let's just say, I'm not so sure."
There was the rattle of a key in the door, and two unfamiliar missionaries escorted a stout, bearded man as he strode into the grand foyer. He carried a silver book under his arm and was wearing some kind of powder blue track suit. Over the breast was the double M logo Hubbard had seen on the gates earlier that night, and he was covered in blood.