Ophelia shifted her weight awkwardly from her left foot to her right, listening to the crinkle of her stiff white dress.

". . . and God drew a ring in the sand, encircling First Prophet Elijah and his flock. 'Ye shall live,' He spoke unto the congregation, and First Prophet Elijah took the hands of his Marys and they knelt and prayed as the world came crashing down. His eternal eye blazed in the sky to burn away the sin, then set and rise again to purify in milky white. . ."

The voice of Preacher Diana filled the room, her exclamations and the thick, hot summer air choking the female congregation. Ophelia felt the blood rushing from her face, growing pale. The girl standing next to her, Molly Stewart, grasped her hand and whispered, "Don't lock your knees."

She and the eighteen other girls surrounding her had been standing for an hour and a half now, listening to Preacher Diana recount the revelation they'd all been raised on. Behind this group sat the weathered skins of two heavily aged men. They were also dressed in white shifts, wearing crowns of thorns, slumped into the high wooden chairs that allowed them to observe their flock.

". . . our First Prophet Elijah proceeded to lie with each of his thirty-seven women, as the stars screamed and fell into the earth, as the tides pulled in from the ocean and washed away the heathen cities, as the ground split and swallowed up the unclean. . ."

Twenty young women sat on a neat row of white cushions before the pews containing the congregation, facing the pulpit, the girls, and the profits. While the standing girls were barely on the cusp of adolescence, these were pushing through to ripe womanhood. As evidence, six of these women were sporting bulging bellies, one in particular was radiant in what was assumed to be her final term. Her black hair was braided and slung over her shoulder, her brown eyes fixed on Ophelia's figure.

". . . they took with child as the sands turned to fertile soil, and First Prophet Elijah took to his work. When the souls of the scorned took their demon form, they howled and circled His boundary, hoping to draw out one of the Marys and devour her child from her womb. First Prophet Elijah prayed for further protections, and God provided, giving him a forest. First Prophet Elijah warned that those who strayed would be caught in Satan's jaws. . ."

Molly released Ophelia's hand to wipe sweat from her own brow. Ophelia watched this movement with heavy eyelids, then returned her vaguely directed gaze to the pews. She spotted her mothers, staring intently at Preacher Diana, hanging on her every word. Behind them, Evelyn and Lilith whispered to each other, gesturing slyly towards the Prophets. Ophelia washed over the community with her gaze, noting every curling lock and braid, every show of cleavage and feminine curve. Her eyes passed over the swollen stomachs of the women before her.

". . . and our wise First Prophet Elijah paired his Marys when they came to birthing, and remembering the great falling of goodness, cast the males from the circle. . ."

Ophelia's eyes had been snared by the most obviously pregnant woman. She shrugged her braid from her shoulders, smiling. Neither of them looked away.

". . . humble First Prophet Elijah recognized his mistakes as God addressed him. Knowing that it would be a great sin to leave his flock without a Shepard, he saved the last seven boys, and kissed them each upon the brow, naming them. . ."

Molly's hand found Ophelia's again, startling her. She turned her head, broke the gaze.

". . . and Gabriel. We hold this as the Truth that He and Elijah have written," there was a pause, the air ringing with her last words.

"Sisters," Prophet Diana gestured toward the women before her. "A new child is nearly born, be it Mary or Uriel, we pray for the bearer."

Ophelia observed the black haired woman as she struggled to rise, relieved when the women on either side of her stood to aid her.

"May we each show her love and kindness as she enters her full womanhood."

The braid had swung back onto her shoulder, her eyes lowered to her stomach.

"We pray the Prophets' seeds have taken well."

Ophelia felt her knees buckle, and she would have hit the floor if Molly hadn't caught her.

"Didn't I tell you not to lock your knees?" she hissed.

Ophelia didn't reply, instead starred at her own belly, buried under the bulk of her harem dress, and wondered what would become of her.

AN: whooo summer vacation!