Vera pushed her great-aunt Mary's wheelchair outside where they could see the big blue pond with the ducks. But the elderly woman didn't look up to see the beautiful blues, nor the whites of the clouds nor did she notice the quacks. Great-aunt Mary was reading aloud a little daily devotional book written by the founder of Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm.
Vera tried to listen, but she was watching the gardner replace some dried flowers with plastic ones. The village laws required that only blooming flowers were to line the
walking paths. So the gardner would sneak in some fake ones, in order to keep the rules. No one else seemed to mind but Vera.
"Good afternoon Mary," the voice of a starched-white nurse walking briskly toward them interrupted Vera's thoughts. The elderly Mary didn't notice but Vera smiled broadly.
"Hello Miss Tahz," the nurse nodded with admiration at Vera, the seventeen-year-old, who was spending time with her wheelchair ridden relative. Then the nurse busily continued on.
Vera loved the staff at the village, they didn't seem as defensive and stressed like those who lived there.
Mary put down the book with a little shake in her thin, frail hands and sighed. "You're a lucky girl to be born into this special place. You know that?"
"Yes, Auntie." Vera had grown up feeling blessed to be a part of the Village and Fruit Farm. The fruit trees were plentiful, the people were nice and oh so sincere. But most of all, they were God's special chosen people.
Mary repeated to Vera and whoever was around—for the thousandth time, "The cities are so evil. I know, I used to live in them. I escaped the deception of Universal City."
"Yes ma'am, I know," Vera Tahz responded with less enthusiasm than when she was younger. But she tried to sound interested.
"Wish that everyone could immigrate to Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm." Aunt Mary grinned broadly and proudly.
"Yes, ma'am." Vera whispered. She knew that her aunt was talking more to herself than anyone else. But she felt funny responding "yes" when lately she had been so unsure. Something was wrong, almost illogical about this place. She felt different from the rest, like she was viewing the village life instead of being a part of it.
The doctors and nurses, with their stiff white professional coats, continually walked in and out of the buildings' doors. Most of them didn't reside in the village but came
from the surrounding cities. Every morning, after reading her daily devotionals, Aunt Mary would pray that the non-villagers would move to the safety of Moonstruck. Vera had been brought up to believe that those outside were not quite as smart and sincere as the Villagers were.
Lately, though, Vera felt panicked and guilty when she secretly wished she could be more like the nurses than the villagers. After all, who wouldn't be a little embarrassed by some of them.
There was the eccentric old German, Assey, who sat on the church steps and warned everyone who passed by to stay away from the cities. Once a year, he advertised to everyone, even in Universal City, a series of apocalyptic sermons. Crowds were drawn by topics peppered with dramatic conspiracies theories all based upon the village's ancient prophesy.
Vera didn't like the German very much because a few weeks ago she was passing by the church when he shouted out in his thick accent, "There is great poison in the Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil outside of the village in the cities of our enemies! Our tree is the only one that is the true Tree of Life, but it bears poisonous fruit once a week, teaching us to rest each seventh day.”
Vera asked him innocently and timidly, "But Herr Assey, how do you know? Have you been outside the village to prove this?”
He seemed shocked by the question but replied, “The star of the ancients of David tell us of this.”
“Yes, I was taught the prophecy since a babe and understand it well." Vera continued in order to understand, "But I have heard from one of the nurses that the enemy eats the fruit on the seventh day and they do not die. The nurse wouldn't lie, she is our friend."
Several people walking by stopped to hear the discussion. No one had ever asked questions like this before. This was a curious situation.
"The people from outside the village mean well, but they are deceived. God has brought them here to learn the great truths." The German looked deeply at Vera and continued, “You are rebellious like the dragon of old. You are tempting us to eat of the tree that is forbidden since the creation of the world.”
“But sir, I am not trying to be rebellious. I know the story of the garden and the two trees." Vera Taz was determined to know the truth. "Are you certain that our trees are poisonous every seventh day? Has anyone ever tried it?”
Herr Assey laughed to the girls mockingly, “Well, you are free to try!”
As she strolled her aunt, Vera remembered the people listening gasped in shock that the old man would even suggest the girl go to her death, even in jest.
That was just one of the many characters of the village. At the moment, though, Vera wanted to ask her aunt a question.
"Mary, why do all the nurses from Universal City wear Fleur-de-lys on their white jackets…"
Mary interrupted with irritation, "I'm Auntie Mary and don't you forget it." Then she softened a bit, "Vera, why should we care what they wear. It means nothing to us."
"Oh yes, I am sorry. I didn't mean to be disrespectful Auntie Mary. It is just that…well, I know it all has some type of meaning. What about those necklaces they wear with Jesus on the cross?"
"Don't wear the cross. Bear the cross!" Auntie Mary commanded harshly.
Vera didn't really understand that answer. But they were interrupted by Vera's friends, Ann and Kay, who ran over when they saw her. Vera felt the stress rising in her body. There was a new harshness to their voices lately and they were pushing Vera to do and say things that made her uncomfortable.
"Did you see that nurse, Vera?" Ann Arkie snickered. "Like, she told me that God loves everyone. Like, we at Moonstruck Village are not special, but that everyone is, like
you know, special." Ann looked back at the nurse and sneered.
"She rejects the Seventh-day law. You cannot listen to her," the old woman patted Vera's friend assuredly. "She is our enemy, even if she is nice. She is very blessed to work here. Perhaps one day she will learn the truth."
"But one of the nurses told me they work here for free. Shouldn't we be thankful for them?" Vera wondered.
Kay Oss grabbed Vera's arm and whispered with agitation, "They're all deceived. They are all crazy and worship a false god. Don't listen to them. The world is wrong, not us."
"Hello," Doctor Ron winked at Vera. Instantly, Ann Arkie and Kay Oss were all over the Doctor Ron, who embraced them awkwardly. This embarrassed Vera Tahz.
"Time for your Thorazine, Mary." Ron took the handles of the wheelchair as he started to wheel Mary back to the building.
"Vera wants to leave the village and live in Universal City with all the other nurses!"
"She's going to eat of the fruit on the seventh-day!"Ann and Kay prattled. When Vera looked alarmed, the doctor interrupted, "You two have already had your Xanax, be off and play."
Vera stayed with the doctor and
accompanied her aunt back to the building, tap-dancing around the pit bull who was snarling at her.
Doctor Ron talked baby talk to the dog as he pet her head gingerly, “Don’t be afraid of Vera Taz my little doggie-woggie." The puppy showed its sharp teeth and growled. He looked up at Vera, " He's really sooo sweet, my dog Muz, Sweet…. sweet little dog Muz. Don't be afraid."
Vera gave a tense smile. Aunt Mary nodded off too soon, for she would have loved to hear the conversation that followed.
Vera swallowed and replied, “But Doctor Ron, we are not of the ancient star of David. Are we not in a new time, on a different continent, with different trees? Has anyone ever tasted the fruit of the tree on the seventh-day to know that it is poison?”
"Vera, the signs are being fulfilled everyday, can't you see that? The ancient prophesy tells us that the sign that we are on the verge of a great persecution is that more and more villagers reject the truth and leave the village. Those people will return, but not to do good, but to deceive us."
Vera looked skeptical, so Doctor Ron continued. "I cannot believe you are not seeing this! Why the other day, a patient of mine who had left the village visited me and told me that they had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life on the seventh-day and nothing happened. But you could see that the person was of the Devil. He even tried to convince me… ME! I who graduated from psychiatry school outside the village! Like I could ever believe such a terrible and ignorant thing. Many from the Universal City have come into the village because the Lord allowed me to go to school there and witness for the truth.
"Vera, please do not give up the truth. If you give up the Village truth, you will be proving the truth of the prophesy by fulfilling it." The doctor warned with squinting eyes, nodding knowingly, "The very sign of the end of our village is people leaving it!"
"Oh!," Vera cried out to the doctor, "Don't worry! I don't think I could ever leave Moonstruck Village! I love everyone here. I guess I just need to study the prophecies more."
The doctor seemed very satisfied that he had rescued his friend and rolled the snoring Aunt Mary inside.
When she dropped her aunt off, Vera strolled on the path breathing in the fresh air and gazing at the real and plastic bloomingflowers. Then she looked at the perfect orchard. There was something she didn't notice before. The green of the trees looked…. uniform, perfect? She squinted. Were some of the fruit trees fake too?
Her heart raced. She wasn't sure she wanted to know. But yes, she summoned her courage. She did. Vera Tahz was no coward. She would find out…. Someday, just not now. It was too pleasant a day to ruin it with truth.
Then she wondered if any of the villagers were fake too? Then she smiled at the ridiculousness of the though. People can't be plastic, can they?
Herr Assey and Doctor Ron? No… they were strange, but not…. And she began to look around at the residents of Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm.
“Miss Carrie, Auntie Mary,” Vera would sigh, exasperated, “are diamonds allowed this game or not? For last time you said we couldn’t play with the diamonds.”
“You misunderstood Doctor Ron,” they blamed it on him. “We never banned diamonds!” (Although Miss Carrie would always play with diamonds… in defiance… She had a very liberal reputation.) Vera would play along, even though her diamonds had been confiscated on several occasions.
If all the people at Moonstruck Village were…. odd… what about their teachings?
Were the village teachings true? She began to feel all this confusion… with Doctor Ron. Kay Oss told her that their wonderful Doctor Ron was nothing like Herr Assey. Vera thought they were more alike than Kay believed. Her supposed best friend, Ann Arkie, warned Vera never to give up her doubts about the Village to Miss Carrie. That might make her lose her faith in Auntie Mary, Doctor Run and all she had been taught at Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm.
She threw up her hands. It all was plain crazy. The craziest of all was the seventh-day law. Many villagers would venture into the cities that so frightened them and leave leaflets or rent halls to give sermons on the seventh-day law. This obsession just felt wrong to Vera.
On the brink of insanity, Vera Tahz fell to her knees and then onto her face in tears. All she wanted, with her heart and soul, was to know the truth. She prayed as she had never prayed before. Then, she made a brave decision, to act in faith.
On several seventh-days, Vera sneaked out and watched people in all the surrounding areas eating from the trees in their orchards and nothing was happening. Their trees were not poisoned.
One of those occasions, a very handsome chap with an elegant British accent saw her peaking out from behind a tree. "Ehy, wat? Who's this?"
"Sir Prize! What have we here?" the non-
villagers addressed the British Lord, Christien A. Prize. Within minutes the group was rather cozy.
"Why don't you keep the seventh-day law about eating fruit?" Vera inquired and everyone's eyes widened and they glanced around at each other like she was crazy.
"Are you from Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm?" Sir Prize asked. When she nodded, they admitted that they never had until the people of Moonstruck gave them a sermon about that law.
“Not true, not true,” Sir Prize insisted. “We have laws of loving God and loving our neighbor. It is the New Law for all people living in our land. Your village must not have learned about the New law.”
When Vera sneaked back into her village late that seventh-day afternoon, she saw the sun sinking lower in the sky. It would soon be sunset and the seventh-day would be over.
With a deep breath and her knees knocking together, she lifted her arm up into the Tree of Life and felt like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Was she about to disobey God? Was she about to die of poisoned fruit?
She bowed her head in prayer and then with faith in God, grasped the fruit and plunged it into her mouth. It was delicious. She looked down expecting something horrible to happen, to become naked or to feel the weight of original sin weigh her down.
Nothing. In fact, she felt God’s presence in a marvelous way. She hadn’t sinned! What she had heard all growing up from the Village was wrong. What a grand group, what a grand Sir Prize. Now she knew. The Tree of Life wasn’t poisoned on the seventh-day.
Delirious with joy she began picking the fruit from the Tree of Life and filling her skirt. She wobbled to where the people were and started telling everyone what happened. She picked up the fruit and offered it to others and showed them it wasn’t poisoned by eating one. The villagers were horrified. Many of them ran away. Some screamed at her, others treated her like she was insane.
Not deterred, she repeated this scene week after week.
When Vera didn’t die, the villagers watched with great suspicion convinced that at any moment she would fall dead from a delayed reaction to the poison. It would happen all right, the devil was just sustaining her to deceive them all.
At first she tried with all her might to help them see that they were safe, explaining how illogical and even dangerous their culture was. For this prophecy was keeping parents from feeding babies and elderly and the sick once a week. Many underfed children binged on food the sixth day. Some had even died.
Vera Taz was labelled rebellious, deceived and even damned. All at Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farms told her that she had left the truth.
The saddest moment of all, for Vera, was when some of those who had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life with her, told her that it was hopeless to try and reason with the residents of Moonstruck. That they actually would rather starve and allow their children to starve on that day than acknowledge reality. Their whole existence was believing that they were special in their little village. And for those who were consumed with pride, they were simply so terrified of being deceived by those who lived in Universal City, that they would rather have died than think about the prophesy being wrong.
"Irreversible damage," some told Vera. "Give up trying to help them. The doctors and nurses from Universal City have. Haven't you noticed that they all just patronize us? They keep the us calm with medication, pat us on us heads. Before we escaped… anyway. Come on Vera, you know the villagers want to be delusional. They have chosen it."
Yet, Vera didn't choose it. She was so happy to have figured it out. Surely there were more among them like her.
"They're happier being delusional, really." Another bit into the delicious fruit.
Vera was not convinced. She wondered if the villagers really were happier living a lie? She couldn't imagine it. And was being happy the most important thing? If they were made unhappy for a while when they first were told the truth, they would survive it.
What was best? Would God want her to abandon who she was and just allow all these innocent and wonderful people to seclude themselves from the world and the truth?
As she spent time with those in Universal City, Sir Prize began to court her. He found Vera sweet and refreshing. Yet the most impressive thing about Vera was her courage to find truth. Anyone in Universal City who knew of the Village and heard her story were shocked that anyone could escape such a place.
The day came when Sir Prize invited Vera Taz to be united with him forever. She would forever be the Bride of the Lord of Universal City.
Vera said goodbye to Moonstruck Village and Fruit Farm. She said good by to Ann Arkie, Kay Oss and her beloved Doctor Run. As she drove past the church for the last time, Vera Taz realized she had finally rejected all the strange teachings of Herr Assey, even that of Auntie Mary.
Many years later, after putting all their little children to bed, the Lord and His Bride sat together in Universal City in front of the fire in their large home pondered their life together and Vera knew without a doubt that God gave her the best Sir Prize of all.