The Cathedral of the Immigrants
Dan McKee looked at the sparse array of food on his plate. It was hard enough to be this hungry himself. But the vacant stares of his children were the real reason for his barren spirit.
He could feel Marianne looking at him across the table. She said, “You children finish up now and get off to bed. Your father and I need to talk. Privately.”
When the kids were gone, Marianne said, “Dan, you can’t go there tonight. What if there’s some kind of violence?”
“Violence? Isn’t there already violence?” A vein stood out ropelike on his forehead. “Where are all the jobs, Mare? Since the slugs came – “
“Do not use that word in this house.” Marianne leveled her eyes at her husband. An index finger raised in warning.
“It’s my house too. The slugs – the green slime, the immigrants – whatever you want to call them, they need to go back where they came from. This planet isn’t big enough for all of us.”
“They’re living beings. They have rights, Dan.”
Through the open kitchen window, they heard angry shouts and breaking glass.
Dan got up, put on his jacket and said, “I need to go. The union says we gotta stick together on this. This is for our future, Mare. Can’t you see that?”
“If our future depends on burning that church down, then maybe we shouldn’t have one.”
The door closed and he was gone.
As Dan emerged onto the street, the surging crowd shoved him into the brick façade of his apartment building.
Faces contorted by rage stampeded by him. Children ran by carrying guns and hammers, screaming death to the slugs.
Dan was swept into the current and carried to the church.
He choked on thick smoke and stumbled to the front of the crowd. People were throwing rocks at the church; he saw shattered stained glass on the sidewalk.
Dan found Frank Silverman, a senior steward in the union.
“Frank, what’s the situation?”
Silverman said, “They’ve locked themselves in. They have nowhere to go now.”
Dan looked around. People held signs reading ‘Earth for humans!’ and ‘Kill All Slugs!’. There were guns, axes, baseball bats, and metal pipes.
Suddenly, the street in front of the church was bathed in a deep green luminescence. The crowd’s energy was suspended and Dan heard only a few dying murmurs.
The enormous door to the church opened. Dan saw the immigrant slide out. It was eight or nine feet long, green with black stripes running down either side. It had no arms or legs.
The thing rose up, supported by its coiled tail. It surveyed the crowd.
Then the creature shook its head violently from side to side and thumped the steps of the church with its thick tail. It breathed in and out with great, loud chuffs. And then it started to shriek. The wailing echoed off the buildings up and down the street. Dan pushed his hands against his ears along with everyone else.
Then it stopped. Silence again.
Frank Silverman came up behind Dan and pushed a Molotov cocktail into his hand. He whispered in Dan’s ear, “Light it and throw it on my signal.”
Dan looked at the immigrant. It was quaking. With hatred or fear, Dan couldn’t say.
The bottle felt cool and heavy in his hand.
For many years now, I have had a recurring dream. I’m on an airplane and we land on a deserted street in a large city. For some reason, it feels like Philadelphia, though why that is I can’t say. At any rate, I’m the only person on the flight. We land on this deserted street and keep rolling. We roll all the way to the ghetto. It’s dark. The plane stops in front of this enormous cathedral. I get off and go up to the steps leading to this ancient carved oaken door. I can see old newspapers blowing in the wind across the stone steps. The door opens and a hooded monk appears holding a lantern. I ask, “What is this place?”. The monk replies, “This is the Cathedral of the Immigrants. ” Then I awaken. I should point out the dream is not frightening to me at all.
Image above by Toshihiro Oimatsu