A new fiction anthology from New Lit Salon Press entitled Southern Gothic has just been released, and it contains a short story of mine entitled "Instrument."
The genesis of the story is this. In the mid-to-late 1990s, a phenomenon began at a Toronto area Pentecostal church called the Toronto Airport Vineyard. (Much as this sounds like an airport hotel, it was simply a branch of the Vineyard Fellowship of Pentecostal churches with an unusually anodyne name.) The phenomenon was marked by an outbreak of seemingly out-of-control emotional outbursts. The phenomenon came to be known as "the laughing revival" because one of the behaviors on the part of church attendees was uncontrolled laughter or crying. It lasted for years and spread to many other Pentecostal and charismatic churches.
I developed a morbid fascination with the phenomenon, which also took root in Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. I was fascinated by the stories of wild behavior and the claims that the Holy Spirit was behind it all, when a distanced observer could clearly see it was nothing more than mass hysteria.
Despite my personal disdain for this brand of religion, I sensed that sincere people were flocking to such churches for a reason. They wanted not only experience, emotion, and entertainment, but also something genuine. They wanted what the revivalists were promising: not just an overflow of emotion, but to be truly changed.
With this in mind, I developed a story about someone who came to such a church out of curiosity. He's not a true believer, but a skeptic, a not-particularly-religious young man who looks at spirit-filled Christians not with envy but with pity. Nevertheless, he finds himself at one of these revivals, and is tempted by the offer of a truly changed life.
My character Roy is assistant manager of a Chevron station. But he has a secret wish: to become an EMT, an ambulance attendant. And when he attends the revival he is caught up in the experience and dares to think that despite his doubts his life might really change.
Southern Gothic, with my story and 14 others, is available now in many e-book formats, handsomely illustrated by Nathan Mark Philips.