Statement of Barbara Mullen-Jones, regarding her nine months with the Divine Chain cult.
Barbara Mullen-Jones was a stand-up comedian who suffered a midlife crisis after her 41st birthday, after realising she had spent years pursuing a dream that had not come to fruition. Her friend introduced her to a seemingly-normal meditation class headed by a woman named Joyce, where she found a sense of belonging and affection from the people around her that she had been missing. At each meeting, members were required to give each other positive affirmations. In hindsight, Barbara recognizes this practice as "love-bombing", a method cults use to attract and convert members.
Three months after joining, Joyce invited the meditation members to a spiritual retreat in Arkansas, no fare required. Barbara and the others were indoctrinated to a group called the Divine Chain who believed that, throughout history, there were ten great links who were the manifested will of humanity to understand and better itself. Their charismatic leader, Claude Vilakazi, claimed the Eleventh chain was to be born soon, and that he was the chain’s herald and guardian. Despite not entirely believing in the Chain's religious values, Barbara stayed because she felt she belonged in the community and they cared for her financial and emotional needs. The cult's main money-making source was producing rice wine, which Barbara contributed to.
One day, Joyce and some other members encountered a malnourished, sickly dog in the fields that they “couldn’t help but love.” They brought it back to Claude, who christened it Agape and took it back to his private room to be cared for. A few days later, he announced that the Eleventh was going to be born soon, and that they would need to achieve a state of 'pure love' to prepare for them. He instructed that whenever Chain members passed each other in the field, they were to tell each other that they loved them, and they needed to mean it. Barbara did not initially see anything malicious in this before an encounter with a fellow cult member, Mary, who snapped at Barbara after an apparently insincere declaration of love and forced her to say it again. Mary’s eyes were yellow and sickly as if she had bad jaundice.
At that point, the rice wine began to grow cloudy and undrinkable. Claude claimed this was of no importance due to the Eleventh's arrival being close; no one got rid of the wine and the smell permeated the compound. Despite Barbara's uneasiness, she was too afraid of negative judgement to speak out. Claude's followers began acting more strangely, constantly touching each other even in socially inappropriate situations. Barbara describes their skin as dry and sticky, and yielding if pressed down on as if they were not solid, along with their eyes becoming yellowed like Mary's.
One day, Claude announced the Eleventh had arrived. Joyce was the first chosen to meet them, and the members linked hands to form a line to Claude's private rooms. Barbara did not see where Joyce went, but felt a nauseating, 'warm and slick' feeling flow through the line and her. Joyce disappeared after this, as well as every Chain member chosen by Claude every evening meal. Barbara's companions only seemed to fear the prospect of not being chosen and missing out on a chance at divine love, leading her to investigate what was happening on her own.
At night, Barbara snuck away, describing a smell 'sweet like overripe fruit', and approached the wooden door where the others had disappeared into. Behind it she could hear dozens of people moving, weeping and laughing discordantly, and from under the door a greasy and colourless residue that smelled of fruit began to pool. Backing away, she encountered Claude, who seemed to judge her then said: "You do not belong here. You are not worthy of its love. Leave." Despite her horror, Barbara was distraught and fled the compound before being found, then put in contact with law enforcement interested in investigating the Divine Chain. The news later reported that the Divine Chain members were found mutilated and entwined together in a mass grave in Claude's chambers, but Barbara states she is sure that the thing they found must have been alive when the authorities arrived. The compound was destroyed in "an accidental generator explosion," destroying any remaining trace of what was on the site.
John speculates that the cult could be a result of The Corruption, though there are also some elements of "fleshliness". He is cut off from his musing by Julia Montauk and Trevor Herbert breaking in and holding him hostage, demanding to know where Gerard Keay is. John tells them he burned the page at Gerard's request. They are about to kill him before Daisy interrupts, threatening to kill both of them. Trevor recognises Daisy as a member of The Hunt and remarks that she is malnourished, Daisy retorts by pinpointing their weaknesses - Trevor does not guard his neck and Julia will become sloppy and predictable if he is hurt first. After some back-and-forth, Trevor gets Julia to back down, claiming "this place is just full of monsters" and that Daisy cannot guard them forever.
John tries to thank Daisy after the Hunters leave, but realises that Trevor was correct about Daisy being malnourished and questions her on her well-being. Daisy refuses to entertain the idea of going back to the Hunt even if it kills her, expressing her regret at letting her bloodlust control her in her police force days. She states that being trapped in the coffin gave her time to reflect on what she had become, and that she had made the choice not to go back. After some hesitance John agrees and goes with Daisy to tell Basira what happened.
- Agape is a Greek word meaning spiritual or metaphysical love as opposed to sexual, romantic, or platonic love.
- Related Entity: The Corruption and The Flesh with The Hunt in the post-statement