Rev stood in the rain, with a bible in one hand and a handkerchief in the other. He was in his element, and had worked the crowd into a fine frenzy. The old people were the best, because they threw the most money and because they gave him credibility in the crowd. It was hard to wonder about someone when a roomful of grandparents were smiling and nodding their approval.
"Death is everywhere around us!" He was dancing now, bobbing and weaving on the grass, doing a shuck and jive that punctuated his sentences, and gave rhythm to his speech. "Just look, and try to tell me God hasn't sent his punishment! Tell me that the world is going to survive a plague never before seen on the skin of this planet, survive without the intervention of Jesus Christ!"
While he was moving around, he saw two people leave, slinking off like little cowards who couldn't handle the truth. As they faded out, they were replaced by a small family, dirty and scared. Their numbers were still growing, and the more people watched the news, the more they would come looking for answers. The more they would need him, want his comforting stories, and the more money and power they would give for what they wanted.
They were on the edge of town, in a gas station parking lot. Rev had stopped here to fill the Jeep he just bought. He'd cleaned up his car and disposed of it, and was giddy with relief when this outbreak had taken over the news. "Dead woman found in woods" had scrolled across the bottom of the television screen, and his heart had stopped. He couldn't have imagined that two women were dumped that day, but it appeared that is exactly what happened. He watched intently, and when it became clear it wasn't his girl they found, let loose a sigh of relief and passed out on the couch after his nerves unloaded all the tension of the last two days. He had slept so hard his body hurt upon waking, stiff from not moving.
These people were fleeing town as the sick started to appear everywhere. Where they thought they were running to, nobody was able to say. There were sick and dying appearing randomly, in a pattern so complicated it would be impossible to break down. Still, the instinct to flee was overpowering, and those who were not making a stand in their homes were on the move. Rev had found the perfect recruiting grounds, completely by accident.
"Come back to God's house with me," he said gently, making them lean in to hear him. "In His house, there is plenty of food. In His sanctuary, we can take time to thank Him for our blessings and ask for His direction. We will be safe, and we will be comfortable. Those who want to follow me, I'll give us ten minutes to get ready, and you can follow me two blocks north, and one block to the right, to the rock church on the corner." And just like that, he had another group, one with much more passion than the bored and stubborn regulars who had slogged through every Sunday out of habit. These people were fired up, they were ready to follow, and they were all won over by promise of creature comforts.
Maybe he had just found a reason to stick around town, after all.