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Jesus Todd

Out on the plains of Eastern North Dakota, halfway between Fargo and Grand Forks, there lived an old, quiet man named Jesus Todd. He lived very simply. He grew potatoes in a small garden, drank collected rain and snow water, and read the Bible. His only possession of any worth was a golden crucifix. Every day after tending to his garden, he went out onto the porch of his dilapidated farmhouse, held the crucifix against his chest, and prayed for humanity to rise above their sinful nature.

Jesus Todd was born to Aaron and Abigail Todd on August 13, 2195. He learned how to read by the age of 3, and two years later he memorized the entire Bible. His parents were amazed at his ability to recite entire chapters, but were perplexed by his inability to socialize and insistence on routine. He hated going to crowded places and made no attempt to talk to the people of Dunkle Height, the tiny town where they bought supplies. After repeatedly getting into fights with other children, they pulled him out of the public school system and homeschooled him the best they could. The United Earth Government banned homeschooling in 2124, but by the time Jesus Todd was 6, they had become so incompetent and corrupt that they could no longer enforce that law. At the age of 8, he began helping his father with farmwork. Plowing the fields and watching the plants grow felt like prayer to him. It brought him a sense of peace that almost nothing else could.

The United Earth Government slowly declined over many years, but it officially collapsed on February 22, 2222. Jesus Todd didn’t learn of it until a week after the fact, and he reacted to the news with apathy. He knew it involved some hacker named Benji destroying the global regime’s remaining complex systems, but as long as it didn’t interfere with his farming and Bible reading, he didn’t care. A few years later, Dunkle Height ran out of gasoline, so they could not drive there anymore. The family’s truck remained parked in their front yard, and as it rusted away, so did Jesus’ parents. He did not know it, but they had cancer. He watched with despair as they slowly died. His father went first, followed by his mother a year later. At the age of 45, he was all alone, but not truly, for he knew that God was always with him.

Many years passed, but Jesus Todd kept his routine of gardening, Bible reading, and praying. Then, on the morning of October 31, 2264, he heard muffled gunshots coming from Dunkle Height. He stared at the horizon like an anxious cat for several minutes. He took a deep breath, then put his mind at ease with prayer. Later that day, a tall, disheveled man and his piggish companion approached the house. They were both wearing body armor, had guns dangling from their sides, and sacks on their backs. Jesus glared at them. He never liked strangers, and he certainly didn’t like those two.

The gun-toting men stepped onto the porch and the tall one said, "Oh, hey. We’re travelers from a far away land and we’re really hungry, so I hope you don’t mind if we help ourselves to whatever food you got."

Todd gripped his crucifix and held it close to his chest. His distrustful glare remained intense.

"I’ll take your silence as consent." He turned to his short, fat companion. "Hey Piggy, search the house for food."

"Okay, Seth." The fat man snorted, then he waddled in and around the house. Only potatoes could be found, some fresh, others preserved. He shrugged, knowing it was better than nothing.

Seth turned his attention back to Todd. "Say, uh, whatcha got there?" He pointed at the golden crucifix. "Mind if I take a look at it?"

Todd scowled. He knew what that strange man was planning.

"Come on," Seth said. "I just wanna look at it."

Todd kept his mouth shut. Piggy returned to the porch with a sack full of potatoes and awaited new orders from his boss.

Seth furrowed his brow and gritted his teeth. "Hey retard, say something."

Todd offered no response.

The tall man pulled out a knife. "I’ll gut you if you don’t give up that crucifix!"

Todd remained silent.

Seth’s anger and frustration boiled over. He furiously stabbed Todd in the stomach. Blood leaked onto the chair, which then dripped onto the porch floor. Todd’s lack of a response only infuriated his attacker further. The old man’s scowl was frozen on his face, even as the color faded from his eyes. Seth grabbed the bloodstained crucifix and ran off with it. Piggy waddled after him.

Seth was the leader of the Rund Gang. He and twelve others formed it in 2259. Piggy was one of those original members, and was the only one who knew how to read and write. He offered his services in exchange for food. They robbed caravans for the next few years until they grew powerful enough to take over the town of Dunkle Height on January 31, 2264. They enjoyed exploiting and extorting the locals, but their sadistic fun came to an end nine months later when John Brown Jefferson showed up.

John believed he was chosen by God to reunite America and rule as its emperor. Starting from nothing, he conquered Kansas in 2262, forming the Kingdom of Kansas, then he conquered Oklahoma and Nebraska barely one year later. On May 1, 2264, he began his invasion of the Dakotas. Seth and his gang believed John would not make far through the dangerous Dakota wilderness, but their tune changed on that Halloween morning. A squad of Kansan soldiers surrounded the town. They were dressed in dark blue fatigues, and they had white crosses painted on their helmets and chestplates. The citizens of the town saw those men as liberators, so they attacked the Rund Gang with shovels, pitchforks, and every other farming tool they could get their hands on. The gang were run out of town, and as soon as the Kansan soldiers saw them, they attacked. Seth and Piggy were the only survivors. They now found themselves in a wooded area. They set up camp for the night. Coyotes howled in the distance.

Seth grinned at the golden crucifix. "I can sell this for a pretty penny. Then we can start a new life in Canada."

Piggy stuffed his face with potatoes. "You think those communists will take kindly to us?"

Seth snatched the sack of potatoes away from him. "Quit hogging all the taters. You eat too much anyway."

Piggy ignored that comment and repeated his question.

Seth scoffed. "If they don’t take kindly to us, we’ll make ’em."

The fat man was skeptical, but past experience told him it was easier to just nod along in agreement.

The two men filled their stomachs with spuds, then went to sleep. One hour later, Seth awoke to an unusual chill and strange howling winds. Straining his eyes, he noticed a light blue glow emanating behind him. He turned around and saw the ghost of Jesus Todd, who loomed over the two bandits like some translucent statue come to life. He was pointing at the stolen crucifix. His face had that same scowl he had when he died.

Seth let out a horrified scream. Piggy awoke in a fright, and when he saw the ghost, he screamed as well. They jumped to their feet, grabbed their gear, and started running. They stumbled through the dark woods and found their way to the open plains. They thought they were safe from danger, only to find a pack of coyotes waiting for them. They were nothing but skin and bones. Their mouths dripped with saliva. Their orange eyes were filled with desperation. The two men stopped and stared at the starving animals. Piggy reached for his gun, but the coyotes pounced on him before he could fire off a single shot. He screamed and squealed as he flailed his pudgy limbs. Seth ran off, leaving his fat cohort to be torn to shreds.

For several miles did Seth run through the open plains. He had no idea where he was going. All he knew was that he had to get away from that ghost. He ran and ran until his legs got worn out, then he fell asleep beneath a large oak tree. Not even five minutes passed before his slumber was disrupted by cold, howling winds. He woke up and saw Jesus Todd scowling at him.

"Leave me alone!" Seth screamed. "Leave me alone!"

He got back up and ran off again. He kept running until dawn broke. He was so exhausted he could hardly stand. He stared at the rising Sun while trying to catch his breath. He turned around. Jesus Todd was there.

Seth let out an agonized cry, then pulled out the crucifix. "Okay! Fine! Take your stupid crucifix back!" He threw the item at the ghost’s feet. "Just leave me alone!"

The bandit leader struggled to breathe. He looked down and put his hand on his chest. His eyes widened as he realized his heart stopped. He fell over backwards and gasped for air. In less than a minute, he was dead. Jesus Todd picked up his crucifix, then he and his treasure vanished into the ether.


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