Scene 2 - 1708, Germantown, Pennsylvania
Johannes Kelpius was dying and he knew it, but still couldn't believe it.
"I am the regenerated Adam," he thought to himself, "Free from the curse, taint and corruption of the Old World. I left that sordid place for this new, fresh, blooming garden, a true New World, where I could wait for my beloved Bridegroom to fill me. I have waited many years.
"My disciples and I were sarcastically called The Woman of the Wilderness, but that was really who we were, fleeing the dragon to live in the desert, waiting every night, always watching, listening, praying, so that we would not be caught sleeping when He returned.
"Oh, so patient have we been, so firm in the knowledge of our purity, knowing He would come and redeem us. Knowing we would not die but, like Enoch and Elijah, would rise bodily to that heavenly paradise and be transformed into pure spirit without death. We knew that. I knew it in my heart. And now I am dying.
"My disciples look at me and I know they think betrayal, hypocrisy. But what could I have done differently? I followed the spirit as it moved me. I left the university, friends, career, all was left behind and joyfully, willingly, as I crossed that dark sea to this spot, this Pennsylvania, and this cave in the rock on a ledge above a stream.
"And here I have waited with those around me who felt the vision I felt. We waited together, wrote hymns, treatises, waited still longer, all in the promised optimism of divine grace, and of that inner grace that comes from being in the spirit. And now I lay dying. So human, such frail flesh. And I shall die without my holy lover with me, near me, in me. I shall die . . . shall die . . . shall die . . ."
There was a knock on the door.
"Come," said Kelpius weakly.
In came Christopher Witt, Kelpius' favorite and his best pupil. Of all his students, Kelpius hoped and thought that Christopher at least would be true to the vision they had shared.
Witt was young, barely into manhood, yet Kelpius himself was less than forty. So much had happened so quickly.
Kelpius saw Witt had been crying, for he smiled but his eyes were still red and gleaming. From his bed, Kelpius held out his hand. Witt came and took it in one hand and felt Kelpius' forehead with the other. After a moment, he looked at Kelpius then glanced away before speaking.
"Your fever has gone down. It won't be long before you recover."
Now Kelpius smiled.
"Christopher," he said, "You cannot lie well to me."
Witt glanced at him once more, then, again, looked away.
"Christopher, listen to me. I am dying."
"No!" cried Witt, and got up from the bed to pace the room. He put his hands over his ears and shouted, "I will not lis- ten! I will not listen!"
Then he stopped, looked once more at his master, then knelt beside the bed and laid his head and hands on Kelpius' chest.
"You cannot die," said Witt. "You said so yourself. You are the renewed Adam."
"I am a foolish man who doesn't know what he is," replied Kelpius. "I know nothing."
Witt started crying. Kelpius coughed once, then laid a hand on Witt's head.
"Promise me, Christopher," he said. "Promise you will tell the story of what we did here, of what we tried to do. Promise!"
"I will," said Witt. "I promise. But don't leave me here. Please don't leave me!"
"I must go," said Kelpius. "I do not understand why, but I do know my time here is up. Perhaps we will meet in Paradise."
"But you said this is Paradise. You said this is the Garden. That's why we came here."
"And so I believed, and so I still believe, really. But if it's so, then, like Moses, I must only look across to the Promised Land but never reach it."
"But we are here," urged Witt. "You have indeed reached it."
Kelpius smiled again. "So you say that Paradise is a cold monk's cell carved into stone on a hillside above a stream? I don't see that in Revelations."
"But you had your own revelations," replied Witt, "Revealing visions beyond the Bible. The spirit speaks through you. You cannot deny that."
"No," admitted Kelpius. "I don't deny that. My pen moved across the page speaking divine messages. But perhaps the spirit needs more than me to make those visions real."
"That's why I am here," said Witt passionately. "That's why all of us are here with you."
"Then honor me by letting the spirit move you to write and act still more," said Kelpius. "There's so much to do, so much that is left undone."
"I promise, my master, I promise, but please do not die."
"My death," replied Kelpius, "does not negate the truth of the vision. It just means I misinterpreted my own role here. Many will use my death to criticize and destroy our achievement." He grasped Witt's hand. "Do not let that happen."
"I will not, master," said Witt, "I promise."
Kelpius held Witt's hand tighter, then let go with a gasp. "Ah!" he cried as his back tensed and bowed up in an arc. He grasped Witt's hand and pressed it hard. Then he collapsed back onto the bed, apparently unconscious. Witt rushed to the door to get help when he heard Kelpius speak again but not, he realized, to him.
"My Bridegroom! My Bridegroom! Why do you forsake me? I have waited so long for you to come and still you are not here. Why do you persecute me so? Why do you reject me? Is my love not enough? I offered my life to you, and now I offer my death. My lover, my Bridegroom, come to me, come to me," said Kelpius in a hoarse, gasping whisper. "Do not forsake me. Don't let me die without your touch."
Kelpius held out his hand, but not towards Witt, still standing at the door of the cave. Kelpius, looking up, reached his hand toward the ceiling, fingers open in supplication.
"Do you hear me?" asked Kelpius. "Do you hear me?"
But there was silence, just silence, until Witt could not bear seeing that hand wavering in the air any longer. So in a voice deeper than his natural voice, he said, "I hear you, Johannes, I hear you."
"My lover! My savior!" cried Kelpius. He tried to struggle up but fell back against his bed. "I hear you. Come to me! Come to me!"
"I am coming for you at last," said Witt. "I always told you I would."
"Yes, yes, you did," said Kelpius, his head moving from side to side, his breath coming in jagged gasps. "But I waited so long. I was so patient. But you never came."
"I am here now," said Witt. "I am with you."
"Yes, yes, I see you!" said Kelpius, his eyes now closed. "I see you so clearly. Come, my lover, touch me. Touch me!" Kelpius again raised a hand. Witt took it in his own. Kelpius gasped with a deep inhalation of breath as his fingers held tightly to Witt's hand. Then the breath was slowly let out as Kelpius said, "Kiss me, my lover, kiss me."
And Witt leaned over and kissed his master's mouth, then again and again. Kelpius' fingers slowly loosened from Witt's hand. Witt heard the last wisps of breath leave his master's body, then opened his eyes to find Kelpius' own eyes were now open but sightless. Witt gently closed them with a pass of his fingers, then kissed Kelpius one last time. He folded Kelpius' arms on his chest, then stepped to the door to tell those outside of their master's death.