The Rapture comes at you slant, gets you when you aren’t looking. But I know it’s coming. The whole town is emptying out one family at a time.
“Why, John, they’re not being raptured.” That’s what my wife tells me. “You just watched the Johnsons move last weekend. The Rapture doesn’t come in a U-Haul truck.”
I know how I sound. But how else do you explain all the white people leaving town? It’s the Rapture, and it’s taking the white people first because all those posters with a blue-eyed, straight-haired Jesus were actually true.
Leena went a little pale herself the first time I told her that part. I knew she wasn’t ready to hear it. But we can’t keep ignoring it. The Johnsons were the last white family in town. What we don’t know is whether the rest of us are next.
The Rapture comes at you oblique, like it isn’t paying attention until it is. That said, it’s not like it catches you off guard—nobody’s disappeared from inside their homes or left empty chairs swiveling at work. No cars have careened off the highway, suddenly devoid of their drivers. Like Leena says, they’ve all moved away.
They tell us it’s for a new job or sick mother, but when we hear them talking amongst themselves:
They act like it’s their own idea, but actually, it’s the Rapture.
It’s like that fungus, the one that infects insects and takes over their brains. I saw it on a nature show: this fungus needs to be up high to spread its spores, so it gets an ant, say, to think it wants to be up high too, and makes it crawl from the forest floor, where it’s relatively safe, to the highest tip of the highest leaf of the biggest plant it can reach. Now, no bug in its right mind should want to be up there, sitting out in the open for any bird flying by to come and snatch, but that’s where the fungus makes the ant think it wants to be.
Then, when the ant is as high as it can go, the fungus kills it and keeps growing like a tower, bursting out its head or its back, right through its exoskeleton. That spindle of fungus reaches up and up, and when it’s as tall as it can get, it pops, sending its spores out everywhere. And each little spore lands and infects another insect and makes it do this suicidal thing, against all its instincts, climbing up to dangerous heights and then… well, then the whole thing happens all over again.
So, all these people who move away from here, telling themselves it’s for something better—is it really? Who actually knows what happens to them when they leave.
“I see them on Facebook,” says Leena, and she thinks that settles it. But I’m not so sure. That fungus takes time to grow, they just speed up the footage for the nature shows. That’s how it is with the Rapture too.
They’ll go where we can’t follow, and we’ll watch them climb. In real time, the long, slow time you don’t see on TV, we’ll see updates about promotions, prep schools and clean streets, photos of BMWs and Caribbean vacations, kids graduating Harvard, tow-headed grandchildren. Maybe a boat for the weekends.
But eventually they’ll stop and look back, and then, one chink at a time—because remember, it won’t be sudden—they’ll crack wide open, and then they’ll finally find out that the Rapture is nothing like what they thought it would be.
It’s not hard to imagine. It probably starts like a headache, a little bit of pressure behind your eyes. Then it spreads, thickening, tendriling itself into your muscles, your organs, your bones, muffling you from the inside. You keep telling yourself you’re fine, even though you can’t move, think, breathe. Eventually your skin swells and fissures. Splits.
Now, when Leena starts to look desperate at hearing this, I’ll admit it: I know it’s not really the Rapture. And I know we’re not next. But looking up at them, looking down at me, I can feel what it would be like, that pressure building inside, pushing, squeezing, suffocating, until there’s nothing left to do but burst wide open.
I know what it is to explode in slow motion.