A Piece of Heaven
A group of well-to-do missionaries chartered a flight from their hometown of St. George, Utah to the remote areas of Peru with the charitable intent of providing clothing, food, and shelter to those in need. They’d also be teaching and spreading the Word and Gospel of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, to those who had yet to hear His words.
Mission president Jacob Siles, the charismatic priest of the St. George Latter Day Saints Church, led and organized the upcoming missionary effort. He was a stout man, with a head of side-parted sandy blonde hair and had a wife named Mary who was his female doppelgänger. Together they, with two counselors, Steven Burns and Hector Guitierrez, plotted and planned the upcoming mission with meticulous care and consideration. They gathered supplies and donations and trained new young missionaries in doctrine, conduct, proselytizing methods, and foreign language acquisition.
Once all the resources had been pooled together and long term commitments were made, a group of fifty-five missionaries stepped on board the plane. Its destination was Cusco, a city located in the southeastern Urubamba region of the country. Liftoff in Utah occurred on a sunny and breezy day in July, appropriate considering the prevalent mood on board. The missionary crew consisted mostly of nineteen and twenty-year-old boys, a group of naïve and earnest young men. There were also a small number of girls, though they mostly kept to themselves, due to their strict upbringing.
Things were going as smooth as an ice cream sundae until the plane hit turbulence flying over a foggy portion of the Andes Mountains. Important telemetry gear short-circuited and the plane lost altitude. The passengers had little time to brace for impact when suddenly the tail of the plane clipped a snow-clotted peak of a mountain and began a dramatic descent.
The pilot was knocked unconscious and the plane went into a gliding freefall, spiraling slowly down into a recessed valley between ranges. The plane split open like a walnut and landed in two separate main pieces a few hundred yards away from one another. An avalanche triggered by the initial impact of the plane against the mountain created a divide between the severed sections and buried most of the fuselage under several tons of ice and snow.
Mary Siles, Hector Guitierrez, and forty other passengers were killed upon impact. Several of the surviving others were bruised, maimed, and injured. Jacob Siles lost an eyeball when shrapnel hit him in the face. The pilot suffered severe head trauma and could henceforth only mumble in tongues. Others sported sprained ankles, severe burns, broken ulnas, internal bleeding, and other maladies.
Those few who survived the crash with minimal to no external damage spent hours in the frigid darkness trying to scavenge for food and supplies scattered amongst the bodies and the wreckage. Splints were made from improvised materials, treatment was given, rations were divided. A few days later, at sunrise, those who could dig buried the dead. The more technologically savant missionaries tried in vain to make sense of the busted communication devices, attempting to contact the outside world for help. A near useless and half-blind mission president led the physically and psychically wounded in prayer.
Days and then a few weeks went by in this way. Eventually, Steven Burns and a crew of two brave young men set out to scale the imposing mountainside to seek help. They were never heard from again. The remaining missionaries and one drooling pilot took vigil and waited. Slowly but surely their supplies dwindled. Hunger and misery began to set in. Prayers went unheeded. Dreams of the future were dulled and bleached by ceaseless barrages of cold, wind, and snow.
Each night, mission president Jacob Siles did what he could to boost morale. They prayed for forgiveness and help. They sang sweet hymns of praise, faith, and grace. When they saw large birds circling overhead, words of hope bubbled on their chapped lips. The echoes of their weary voices were swallowed by the mouth of the great valley.
Siles kept a journal detailing their ordeal, making note of those who had perished and saying a few words about each of them. He took daily inventory of the amount of remaining supplies. Before long, his entries began tackling epistemological questions of faith, the philosophy of survival, and the psychology of mounting insanity.
In their stressed and extremely isolated state, members of the opposite sex took to ignoring the statutes and prohibitions given by the church and became sexually involved. Interestingly, Siles noted in his scribbles, the virtues of monogamy remained intact. In private moments, Jacob Siles would masturbate to the fresh memory of his dearly departed wife.
After more than a month living in this way, hunger gave way to starvation. Food was scarce now, almost nonexistent. Siles became concerned that someone was stealing from their reserves. Tensions rose. Conspiracies whispered under the blanket of night. Frostbite grew severe. The pain gradually gave way to numbness, and no one had the heart to look at blackened fingers and toes. The severely weak and injured died one by one without access to healthcare.
Without Jacob Siles’ knowledge or consent, a group of the young missionaries began drawing straws. Siles had begun to suffer from delusions and pranced around naked in the glacial snow, babbling incoherently. The next morning, a young missionary named Aaron found him lying dead on the outskirts of camp. Aaron’s sexual mate, Christina, a resourceful woman of Nordic size and strength, suggested the two of them drag his frozen corpse into the bowels of the plane, rather than burying him outside with the others. Soon, her intent became clear.
Nearly ravenous teenager’s eyes lit up, circled around the fire as they were. Mission president Siles’s body was left to defrost for a few hours, then Aaron and his Amazonian mate used shards of metal from the plane to dismember him limb from limb. His head was set atop a makeshift table in honor of his sacrifice. They drank his blood like it was a carton of chocolate milk. Then, using carved and chiseled bones as skewers, they ate Siles piecemeal from the feet on up.
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