I started a cult by accident. It’s easier than you might think, but I don’t recommend it – it’s pretty stressful. I was drunk at the time, on holiday in a caravan park, four miles outside Weymouth. I was recovering from my divorce, both emotionally and financially – this was the only holiday I could afford after I got screwed over in the settlement. I had no idea that the other campers were all recovering addicts, sent here for some group bonding and getting back to nature. I also had no idea that, being the only person at that desolate caravan park who wasn’t of their number, and not taking the trouble to be particularly friendly – I wanted to be on my own – they saw me as an aloof, almost mystical character wandering barefoot each morning off into the woods, they assumed, to swim naked in the lake.
My one attempt at friendliness came four days in, just as I was heading to bed. I ran into a hippyish couple out looking at the stars. I stopped to say hello and they were delighted at what they saw as being singled out and we exchanged pleasantries. I’d seen them moping about on the step of their caravan the previous day and they seemed so much jollier strolling about in the open so I said, “It’s so good for you two to get away from your caravan”. As the words left my mouth, there was a huge rumble of thunder overhead and their caravan was struck by lightning, bursting into quite spectacularly coloured flames (God knows what the thing was made out of).
There was a big fuss, evacuations, fire brigade, the whole nine yards. When it was all set to rights, I invited the couple to share my carvan that night. When I woke the next day, they were gone. And here’s what they were doing – they were spreading the word. Making out that I was some kind of psychic saint.And it didn’t matter what I said – the more self-deprecating I was, the more I tried to shrug it off, the more plaudits they all kept heaping on me. It got worse when the lady hippy told them what I do. I make bespoke furniture which I sell through a tiny shop with a high rent and make next to nothing. I do a few repairs too. “He’s a carpenter!” she cried as they all practically genuflected with joy. Apparently carpenters have a track record for this sort of thing.
Over the next few days things got really weird. They followed me all the time, trying to turn my words into wisdom, hanging on everything I said or did. It didn’t matter what I said to them, what evidence I presented for my atheism, stupidity, moral bankruptcy….nothing I said put them off, they only seemed to adore me more. So I stopped speaking and they treated it as some kind of monklike reverie, sitting round my caravan in a circle, lighting candles and keeping a Silence of Empathy.
So basically I’m stuck with them and I have no idea what to do. If I leave, they say they’ll follow me home – they’d follow me to the ends of the earth, let alone Crouch End. It’s a nightmare. Of course, the obvious option is to go down the old suicide cult route – I’m starting to wonder if this is how all those famous tragedies came about – but that is the last option. Absolutely the last.