Peter Schuster 2022
Peter Schuster San Francisco
Peter Schuster New York City
Drusilla and Petey had never been close. One was the bad seed, the rogue child, the boy unwilling or incapable of doing the right thing — or that’s what everyone told her. Drusilla, by contrast, was the golden child, the sweet girl. That virtue, the lack of sin in her heart, needed to be virtuously guarded after Peter had left.
And then Benjamin. Bartholomew went with him.
So now all she could do was search for her lost siblings on the web. There was a grainy photo of Benny in some social media profile for a coffee shop social that had taken her hours of dedicated searching to find. Susanna was on the staff page for some restaurant. That was it.
There used to be traces of Petey, too. Nothing recent, nothing that showed where he was, but a birth certificate. Childhood records.
One day, those all vanished, and Drusilla couldn’t tell why.
It wasn’t like she didn’t have family. There was still Paul, who had taken up the trial of watching over her. There were still a few Schusters left, even if the rest were sinners who had been scattered to the wind.
Drusilla’s name was meant to be a reminder of that sin. Drusilla was a tempestuous woman in the Bible who had lied and cheated. It was in her nature, and that why she had seduced men and brought ruin wherever she went.
It was in Drew’s nature too.
Paul was watching the TV downstairs, and so Drew took the risk of poring over that grainy photo, that restaurant staff page, and her Google searches.
It was all she had left of something that had once meant the world to her.
There was a crash. Drew jumped to her feet, wondering if she should explore or stay put. If it was Paul, she didn’t want to be anywhere near him. Not when he was like this.
“Drusilla!” Paul’s voice rang with that note of command, the one he’d inherited from their father.
She closed out of the browser, opened a text file about schoolwork, and slammed the laptop lid shut. “Coming!” she shouted back, scrambling to her feet and down the stairs.
“Good,” Paul’s voice had a dangerous edge to it. He was angry. Not at Drew, but he was angry.
She turned the corner into the living room, trying to smile and look pleasant. And then she saw the TV. It was hewn in half, as cleanly as if a laser had cut through it. “Oh my God -” Drew clasped both hands to her mouth, eyes wide.
Paul lifted one hand and stared at it, not turning to face her. “Speak not the Lord’s name in vain, Drusilla.”
“Yes, Paul. Sorry, Paul.” She squeaked. Something was definitely wrong. “Did you… E-emerge? Should I call… 911? The Legion?”
“No,” he growled. “The Legion has betrayed us. The Oathkeeper embraces sin, endorses it. She’s my enemy now. Our enemy.”
“I… I don’t understand, what happened?” Drew’s hands were shaking. “I… you always liked her, liked the Legion, I –”
“The ‘Oathkeeper’,” Paul spat the name, “is a homosexual and bigamist. Admitted this on national television, with no apology. Said it wasn’t sin.”
“Oh.” Drew said, standing there with no idea of what to do, or say. First there was Petey, then Benjamin and Barthlomew, and Noah, and then Susanna… And now the Oathkeeper was out, as fringe as she was to Drew’s life. “And she’s wrong, right?”
“She is so wrong,” Paul clenched his hand into a fist. “Drusilla, for a moment I was filled with righteous anger, and the Lord gave unto me power and symbols of faith, a sure sign. Moments later, these symbols, the strength– they were gone. But my path is clear, my enemy has revealed itself. I need only find the Lord’s strength again.”
“…Let me see it.” Drew said, turning towards the stairs. “Let me see the conference. I’ll load it. Maybe you just need to watch it again? Maybe that’s your um, Emergence thing? You just have to watch that video?”
“No, that is not the way,” Paul muttered. “The power came from inside me and outside me, in response as it happened. But you should watch the video, Drusilla. See how false righteousness parades itself all over the highest echelons of our society. And see how far our prodigal brother has fallen. Peter was there.”
“Peter?!” Drew turned, unable to hide her excitement. “You saw Peter? He was there? Oh my God, Peter, thank God, I thought he was dead!”
Paul turned to face her, his eyes blazing with rage.
“Paul, this is a miracle.” Drew pleaded. “I’ve been looking for him for years, I just… isn’t this good? We’ve found him? Maybe if we… if we talk to him…”
“Watch the video, Drusilla. You will understand.” There was a hidden threat in that statement. You will understand… or else.
“…Okay. Okay.” Drew turned and scurried back up to her room. She pulled her laptop under her pink and white duvet and typed Oathkeeper controversy and then hit News.
There was a press conference. The crowd was silent as Oathkeeper stood on stage, talking.
“My name is Alice McGowan, and I’ve been married for twenty years, but I’m queer, and I’m in a polyamorous relationship with another woman.”
Drew’s heart skipped so violently and her world lurched from the shock. By the time she recovered, Oathkeeper was still talking. “There is no sin in being queer. There is no Hell, and if there was, being queer wouldn’t send you there. I encourage everyone to be open and honest with themselves, and I can’t do that unless I lead the charge.”
This was a sin. Right?
But she was the Oathkeeper, and she… she looked happy.
And then a small figure flew onto the stage.
The creature wrapping skinny arms around the Oathkeeper’s neck, hugging her like a family member, pride in their eyes. Looking at her like she’d seen other children look at their parents, with unreserved love and vicarious joy.
He’d grown up, certainly. He didn’t look quite the same as that spindly pre-teen that Drusilla remembered, but… it was him.
That was Petey. Hugging the Oathkeeper like he never once hugged his own mother.
She looked happy. Petey looked happy. This didn’t make sense. Drew began to type.
Peter Schuster Oathkeeper
Petey Schuster Infinity Legion
Nothing. She paused, typed again.
Oathkeeper stage companions
There! His face, attached to an interview. But the name was all wrong. ‘Nat Zygoptera’? There was a Legion codename, too. ‘Damselfly’. This was all wrong, but there was Petey’s face. Grinning, charming, covered in elaborate makeup. “I never would have expected to make friends with the Oathkeeper,” said the excerpt text.
Her heart was slamming against her rib cage. There were… weird typos on the text page. “Ey said”. It didn’t matter. She was so close.
Nat Zygoptera contact
Nat Zygoptera phone number
There. On his public Legion Profile page, just below a video of him contact juggling a clear plastic ball.
Drew swallowed hard. Paul would expect her to come down any second now and start talking about how terrible this all was.
She typed a subject line: DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR LITTLE SISTER?, addressed it to the Damselfly, and took a deep breath.
I miss you.
What else was there to write? She wanted to spill a novel of secrets.
“Drusilla!” Paul’s voice was closer. At the bottom of the stairs. “Did you watch the video!”
I want to talk to you, even if its just once. I don’t have a phone. But you can email me. I love you.
She hit send and shut the browser down. “Yeah!” she calls, moving to the stairs and trying to look angry. “It’s terrible.”
The reply arrived within the hour, but Drew didn’t see it until she’d made dinner for Paul and cleaned up.
Her heart leapt as she opened her e-mail and saw ‘Re: DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR LIT…’ waiting in her inbox. She opened it to find a curt reply:
I remember you.
Please don’t tell the others about me, especially mom & dad.
Love you too. Hope you get out soon.
P.S. – Especially don’t tell Paul.
She wasn’t allowed to be on the computer this late. Tears sprung into her eyes. Was that a rejection?
She typed back, trying to make the click of key pressing against finger as quiet as possible.
Paul saw you on the TV. He cut the TV in half. He said God helped him do it.
I don’t think you’re horrible. I miss you so much. I’m sorry I messaged you if you don’t want to talk to me.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get out.
She pressed send and listened for any movements in the house.
What she heard wasn’t movement, it was muttering. Paul was… chanting? Reciting bible verses. Old Testament ones, mean ones. He didn’t used to do that. Maybe he thought they’d give him the power he had before. Whatever the case, he was awake but it didn’t seem like he had noticed that Drusilla was up.
By the time she returned her attention to the computer, there was a reply.
Do you need me to rescue you
What? Sure, heroes rescued people when they were in distress, but she was fine.
I don’t think so, she typed. I just want to talk.
The reply came quickly.
I can’t. I’m sorry.
I can’t go back to Glenwood Springs and I can’t risk Paul or your parents finding out that we’re talking.
I love you and miss you, Drew. If you get out or need help getting out, please let me know.
P.S. I’ll get the Oathkeeper’s autograph for you.
This hurt, but it was better than the alternative – thinking that her brother was dead. She paused, sniffed, and then typed.
I’ll be 18 in four years. Can we talk then?
In less than a minute, the reply:
I’ll mark it on my calendar and circle it four times.
Petey had said that when mom and dad forgot Drew’s birthday. He promised to make a cake the next year no matter what. He did. It was an awful cake, but he did it.
She sniffled and the tears fell freely now.
Okay. I’ll see you then. Love you.
And for the first time since Petey left, she didn’t dream.
TWO MONTHS LATER:
Drew’s frantic search for her laptop was cut short by a command from downstairs.
“Drusilla Marie Schuster! Come downstairs. Now.”
Her heart froze. She couldn’t breathe. She had wiped everything, right? Her brain racked through everything that was on there. She couldn’t move. Maybe she could just run out, through the window…
“Five,” Paul began. “Four.”
She sprinted down the stairs, skipping them three at a time, and skidded to a stop in front of Paul. “I was just doing homework.” she lied. “I was doing homework, why, what’s wrong?”
Drew saw her laptop, then, open on the table. In front of Paul. He was glaring down at her. He knew something. He’d seen something.
“Do you have something you need to tell me, Drusilla?” He asked.
“That’s mine.” the words burst out of her mouth, defiant and completely unexpected. “That’s my laptop, mom got it for me, you can’t look at it.”
Paul stood up, shoving his chair backwards, and seemed to get taller, and bigger, and for a moment he was clad in shiny greyish armor, and there was a bright white halo around his head–
But then he was just Paul again, still scary but no taller or more armored than usual.
“Sit down,” he commanded.
She sat in a chair, eyes wide. “You… you… you had… armor –”
“This is your last chance to be honest in front of me and God, Drusilla,” Paul said. “Do you have something you need to confess?”
“I talked to Petey.” she whispered, staring at the grey tile floors.
“You did. Why did you do this?”
Her lip quivered, and then it all came rushing out. “BECAUSE I LOVE HIM! Because he’s nice to me. I don’t care if he thinks he’s a girl, or if he’s with ten million people, or if he doesn’t go to church! I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care! I don’t care because he’s nice to me and he isn’t a rancid dick like you!”
She knew it was a mistake as soon as the words left her lips.
She felt it before she saw it, something strong and forceful bunching the front of her shirt, lifting her up bodily so her feet dangled and her head swam. Then she looked down at the huge platinum gauntlet, her brother’s armored form, the shining white disc behind his head, the way his eyes glowed. He looked just like The Oathkeeper, but… but scary. But angry.
When he spoke, Paul’s voice was like an intoning, ominous bell that rattled the windows and vibrated in her ribcage. “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
“Paul,” she whispered. “Paul, please, please, I’m sorry, I’ll never talk to anyone again, I’ll just stay here, I’m sorry –”
“Yes,” Paul smiled, and the light in his eyes flared…
…and then he set her down and it was just Paul again. But there was something different about him, a kind of frightening energy, like his eyes were still glowing without really glowing. “Good. You will seek, little seeker, but you will do so for your family. For me. You can atone for your sins and mistakes, Drusilla. As you found salvation with the Lord in Jesus Christ, so too will you find your salvation with me by helping me lead the lambs of our town, our country, our world… back into righteousness.”
She sat on the floor, staring up at him in a mixture of awe and sheer terror. “I… okay. I’ll help. I’ll help. Of course I’ll help. I just… I don’t understand, I don’t understand what you’re doing, what you want me to do? I don’t…” She swallowed hard. “I need my laptop if you w-want me to research…”
“Fine,” Paul pushed the laptop to the other side of the table. “But I had better not find out that you’re hiding anything from me. Ever. Again. Do you understand?”
“Okay.” she whimpered. “I’m sorry. I won’t.”
And she wouldn’t. How could she? He was a demiGod, in their kitchen, holding her up like she was made of paper.
He had never hit her before, and he hadn’t then, but if he did…
There would be little Drew left, she was sure of that.
“Good,” Paul took his seat again. “Now. Find me more information about this… Damselfly.”