Excerpt from Cult Novel

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Ellen's picture

Copyright 2009, Ellen A. Wilkin Vladimir sat in front of the room filled with students. It swelled his heart to see so many devotees. He would bring them all into the fold and convince them to spend their money and to bring their friends and family. That is just how it was. He was good at it and he knew it. He had risen in the ranks of the organization. He saw the respectful glances the other senior people gave him at meetings of the organization. He also saw that he was getting more and more deference from the executive members. He was one of the few senior members who were allowed to teach the initial seminar on Fridays. He had to leave the office to do it, but it was worth it. He had executive pay and executive privilege at Interphase. He certainly had the vacation. And he had signed a non-competition clause with the company, but soon, he would reveal to them what he was doing at the Column Institute. And they would be pleased to find out about it and to have their employees participate in the seminars.
"Are there any questions before we take a break?” Vladimir asked the audience in front of him. He turned toward his left. “Anyone want to say anything? Remember, you can choose to stay for the rest of the seminar or not. It is totally up to you." He paused and then looked to his right. “But, this is your only opportunity to change your mind. After this, there is no turning back. You will have committed to the entire weekend at that point.” He turned to face center and waited.
At that moment, a woman stood up, and he gestured to one of his helpers to get her the microphone. Once she had the microphone, she spoke. "Why do you harass me? Why does your organization harass me?"
"We do not harass as a policy."
"Nevertheless, your organization has harassed me. You have called me several times a day ever since I said I would come to this seminar. Why do you do that?"
"That is not harassment. You may experience it as harassment, but it is not harassment."
"Yet you badger me about coming to this seminar. The seminar I said I was already coming to."
"You interpret that as harassment. OK. Were the phone calls all the same? They were not, were they?"
"Well, no. They were sometimes talking about this seminar. Others were encouraging me to bring a friend."
"Well, see, they were not all the same. They were not harassment, pushing the same thing all the time. If you would stop and consider, you will see that."
"But, I --"
"You just experienced it as harassment because you wanted it to be harassment. It comes from your fears of trying something new. It is a filter that must discard.”
"Will you let me speak? I --"
“You have not committed to being real. You are wasting our time and acting like an asshole to the rest of the people who really want to be here.”
“But-“
Vlad gestured to one of the helpers and she pulled the microphone out of the woman's hands.
"I have let you speak. You have spoken and we have dealt with your irrationalities."
The woman yelled something that Vlad did not quite catch.
Vlad turned back to the rest of the room. "Any other questions or comments?"
There was silence.
"See you after lunch, then."
A handful of people came up to Vladimir and congratulated him on a great first morning of the initial seminar -- these were graduates of the initial seminar from the previous week who were volunteering this weekend. They were such drippy clingy people. Vladimir smiled and shook a couple of hands. Then he turned, grabbed his suit coat and briefcase, nodded curtly to the crowd and headed for the hall outside the conference room. The sea of supporters parted and Vlad strolled casually through to the hall outside, his jacket draped over his shoulder.
Once he got out to the hotel lobby, he searched it for the face of the woman who seemed about ready to leave. His treatment of her had successfully kept other seminar participants from asking questions, but the downside of that is he might have lost her. Not if he could help it.
He walked toward the bar. Again, jostling bodies stepped out of his way as he walked. His lithe body held some menace that these people did not even register consciously. Yet they acted on it without missing a beat.
Ah! There she was, sitting at the bar. He walked up and sat on the stool next to her. He used his sweetest tone. "Miss -- I am sorry I do not know your name."
"Thorpe."
"Miss Thorpe, I hope that that little exchange in the seminar room did not dissuade you from staying through the entire weekend. I was just using you as an example of how we filter everything through our own preconceptions. Perhaps I shouldn’t have pushed you like that. But you see how it was a good example of filtering."
"Maybe," the woman said.
"I hope you really did not feel so harassed by us calling. We know how important this work is, and we want to make sure that you do what is in your best interest before you even know what that best interest is. We want to make sure you get to the seminar. If you do not take that first step, you will never see why it is so important. You will never have the opportunity to become your authentic self."
“But that felt really awful, what you did in there, putting me on the spot like that.” The woman had started to cry.
“I am very sorry about that. Can I let you in on a little secret?” Vladimir allowed his voice to become hushed, like he was sharing something he shouldn’t.
The woman nodded silently.
“That is what the first part of this whole seminar is about: getting you to a vulnerable place so that your authentic self must come out and attack. And that is what happened to you. You have achieved the initial stage of the Column education process. Already. You must see that now. Don’t throw that away. Please, come back and finish the initial training. Finish what you started.”
The woman thought for a moment.
"Do you see what I mean?" Vlad pressed.
“Yes, I think I do,” the woman said, hesitantly.
“So, please,” Vladimir said as sweetly as he could manage it. “Please come back.”
"Uh, OK." The woman smiled. “I hope I did not make too much of a fuss in there. I feel a little embarrassed now that I see where you are coming from. I did filter the whole thing through my own perceptions. I see that now. I do wish to continue with the seminar. I look forward to it."
"Excellent. Then I will see you after lunch." He did what he told himself not to do. He reached out and touched her shoulder. But she did not flinch. She just smiled at him and he smiled back. Then he left the bar as graciously as he had come in, feeling the power in him.
Copyright 2009, Ellen A. Wilkin
__________________________
Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting