Dark Light

The Last Day of Mrs. Jim Jones

by Annie Dawid

— for Christine, who refused to submit

Note: all quotes indented to the right are taken verbatim from Jim Jones’ transcripts of the final recording, known as the “Death Tape.”

I can’t stand how they’re talking to him. Why won’t they leave him alone? I hate this. I hate them. 

“Doesn’t it bother you that people want to leave?” asks the skinny reporter.

“People play games, friend,” Jim says. We’re all standing outside the pavilion in the afternoon heat. Jim’s sunglasses cover his red eyes, despite the lack of sun.

“Last night, someone passed me this note, asking us to take them away with us.” 

Jim’s right hand gestures him away, as if his note were irrelevant news. “They come and go all the time.”

I can see where this is going. They want to crucify him; they do. Do they think it’s easy running a community of a thousand people, some of them so damaged by the time they find us that they can barely function? What can I do to shift the direction? 

“Well, if that were the case, why would I get this note?”

“They lie, they lie, they lie. What can I do about liars?” Jim is entrenched behind his dark sunglasses, as always.

“Why do you think they’d lie about something like this?

“Some people like publicity. I don’t.”

I’m in the second row of Jim defenders, my usual perch. I’m so grateful the boys are in Georgetown. How I wish Lew was with them, and Agnes, but of course they don’t play basketball. The boys will see the interview on TV eventually. 

Just end it, Jim! Just tell these guys to go away.  Everyone watching is probably thinking what I’m thinking: Jim is in pain. Deep pain. They criticize and criticize and never see the value of the work he’s done in its best, truest light.

At last. It’s over. They’re leaving.

Thank you, God or whomever, any and all powers that be.

“Sweetheart, drink some water.”

He’s frowning, shaking his head from side to side. Jocelyn’s trying too, but he won’t listen to her either. 

Thank goodness: now the entourage is heading toward the waiting flatbed. 

“If there’s anyone else who wants to join us, to go back to the United States, you are welcome to,” says Congressman Ryan. “Get your things and climb on the flatbed. We have two planes waiting for us in Port Kaituma.”

So far, only a few are going: the Parks and the Knickerbockers. No big surprises there. A nearly all-white crew. Amazing. The whites keep leaving while the blacks stay because they know he loves them. I love them. They know it’s no better back in Oakland, or L.A. or wherever. Only Diane, just one of them, is black.

“I’m taking the kids with me, and we’re leaving,” says Al Simon, standing beside Ryan, wrenching his daughter from his wife’s grasp.

“You bring my kids back here!” Bonnie’s screaming as loud as she can. “Don’t you touch my kids!” She pulls her younger daughter back, while the older one looks confused, and the boy stands off to the side as if to say, please leave me out of this.

The girls are crying. They don’t want to go. Or do they? The girls want to stay with their mother, and the boy… Maybe he does want to go home. Back to the States, I mean.

“Now, I think we can work this out without rancor,” says Ryan.

“There’s at least two lawyers within ten feet,” says Charles, our attorney. “We ought to be able to figure out a solution. Congressman, can they wait? You need to get to the plane before dark, so we’ll work this out tonight, and send whoever wants to leave on a plane in the morning. How’s that?”

“Absolutely. Great idea, Charles.”

The Simons are walking away, all together. Our only Native American family. How unfortunate. I guess they’ll figure something out with Charles. I couldn’t bear watching that family break up right here, in front of everyone. Jim looks better too, now that the Simons are staying.

“Well, we better get going before that runway becomes inoperable,” Ryan says. “Remember that wrecked plane we flew over?”

Some of the reporters nod.

Here comes someone else. Kenny Stein? What’s he doing? 

“I want to come too,” says Kenny. “Let me on.” He throws a knapsack onto the flatbed, and climbs up. Everyone looks as confused as I am. Kenny loves it here. He loves Jim. Jim saved his life. Something’s going on. 

Jim and Kenny exchange a subtle nod. 

“Is that everybody, then?” asks Ryan.

One of the Parks is whispering something to Ryan.

“Well, I can’t discriminate among you. I said anybody can come with us, and I meant it. We’ll do a security check before we get on the planes.”

Ujara suddenly appears from behind the pavilion. What’s he doing? What’s in his hand? A knife? He’s going to stab the congressman!

I can’t see! Oh, thank god, Charles grabbed him. But I see blood.

“Let me through! I’m a nurse! Let me get by please!” I insist.

It’s nothing, thank God. Not even a scratch. But Ujara nicked himself pretty good – it’s all his blood on Ryan’s shirt.

“This man needs to be arrested,” says Charles.

“I’ll call the police in Port Kaituma,” says Mac, Jim’s right-hand man since the early days in Indiana, one of the Black families who followed us to California.

“You hold him,” Jim says to Mac. “Hold onto Ujara until we figure out what’s going on here. Congressman, are you all right?”

Ryan glances down at the red streaking his white shirt, then shakes his head. “I believe I am, in fact.”

“Does this change everything?” Jim looks strange. The various drugs others have given him, in addition to my prescriptions, have transformed his once beautiful face in cruel ways. I can’t tell if he’s going to laugh or cry. Did he put Ujara up to this? Is he upset that the Congressman didn’t get hurt? I hope not.

“It doesn’t change everything,” says Ryan. “But it changes things. Now, let’s get going before anything else happens.”

I count sixteen defectors, half of them from Indiana. Plus Kenny. I just don’t understand why he’s on that truck.  Does he have a knife too? Or worse? Is he backup for Ujara? Please no. Please, please, let us get through this day. The Concerned Relatives, the Congressman, the media – all will leave and we can go back to who we were before. 

They’re gone. I nearly faint, having held my breath without realizing.

My husband’s mistress, mother of his other son, is unfailingly polite, rushing over when she sees me. “Thank you, Jocelyn. That water tastes good.” 

Dazed, Jim watches the crowd on the flatbed struggle up the hill and out of sight. I can’t tell what he’s thinking.

He points at me, knowing I can be of use. I ascend the stairs to the stage of the Pavillion. Almost all our thousand people have assembled. 

“Hello, is the mike on? This is Mother. Can everybody hear me?”

Grunts. Yeses. Yes Ma’ams.

“Okay people, everything is going to be all right. Let’s all go back to our dorms and cabins and rest. That’s what I’m going to do.”

More Yeses. Jim nods his approval.

When I come down the stairs, I see Zipporah heading through the crowd toward me, crying. This old, old woman with the sweetest soul – she’s shaking, all over.

 “Sweetheart, Zippy. Don’t cry.” I hug her, hard. “It’s going to be alright. The Congressman wasn’t hurt. No one was hurt.”

“Oh Mother Marceline. I have a bad feeling inside me. A very bad feeling.” 

“Shhhh. It will all be okay. I promise.” Poor Zippy. Such a faithful soul. Her and Hyacinth, with us since 1959 in Indiana. The loveliest sisters in the world. I can’t bear to see her so sad. “Just go on and take a nap. Where’s Hyacinth? Go to her. We’re all exhausted from this. Every one of us. Let’s take it easy, and we’ll talk about what to do next after we’ve got some rest.”

I make my way through the crowd, touching hands and children’s faces. Here’s Lew and the baby, looking for me, both their faces pasty. 

“Lew, honey. Everything’s gonna be okay. Let me hold the baby for a minute, please?” She feels so good in my arms. If only I could hang onto her and make everything else vanish.  I cannot cry. “Okay honey, go to your Papa. I’ll see you later.” I hand her back.  

“See you later, Mom.” 

Lew and most everyone head back to the dorms.

I turn back to find Jim and whisper, “Jim, what was that all about? Why did Ujara do that? The visit was going so well. Only sixteen people left! Out of a thousand. That’s practically no one. I’m sure Ryan’s going to speak against all those lies the press have told about us. None of the people the Concerned Relatives were so concerned about even went with him! Ryan liked it here; he said so. Or at least until Ujara went after him.”

Jim shakes his head. “They just won’t leave me in peace, Marceline. They won’t. Well, if they want fireworks, we’ll give them fireworks.”

“What do you mean? What do you mean by fireworks?”

Jim points to the sky. “Look up there, Marceline. In not too long, you’ll see a plane go down, and no more Congressman. No more media. No more trouble.”

“What? What are you saying? Did you send Kenny to …?”

“It was his idea, Marceline. He wanted to. He wants to give his life to me. To Peoples Temple. He’s going to take them down.”

I take a step back. “What? Does he have a bomb? Jim, please, we’ve got to stop him!”

“You can’t stop this, Marceline. Once in motion, a body will remain in motion. That’s physics, isn’t it?” He smirks.

You can stop him. He’d listen to you. Send someone to get him on a dirtbike. Send Mac.” I look around for Mac but can’t see him anywhere. 

Jim shakes his head. “We’re out of gasoline, Marceline. The bike won’t work.”

“Send one of the kids on a bicycle, then. One of the strong ones. Send Deondré!”

“I’m not sending anyone.” Jim’s words bite.  

I am looking at this man, the man I married, who stood for peace and love and brotherhood; he is no longer that man. Someone else entirely. Someone I don’t want to know.

“Jim. Did you send Kenny with a bomb?”

“A gun. If he takes out the pilot, they’ll all go down. Bye Bye.”

I have to find Mac. He can stop this from happening. 

“Marceline, go back to your cabin.” Jim speaks softly.


“Go back to your cabin. I’m your husband, and I want you to lie down. Nothing’s going to happen for a while. Let’s just sit this out and stay calm.”

Is he kidding? He’s never been calm a day in his life. Yet, he looks calm right now.  As calm as if he planned it all, and it’s going perfectly. Don’t let that be true. I didn’t marry a murderer. A murderer did not father Marcus with me. Did not raise our beautiful rainbow family.

“Marcie? Why are you still here?” Jocelyn appears from behind the throne.  

What does she know? I could never read her face. She’s always been one giant step ahead of me.

“I’m fine.”

“Jim wants you to lie down.” She’s talking to me like I’m a child. “Just for a few minutes. Like you told everyone else to do. It was a great idea. You saved the moment for us. That’s what we need right now: rest. Some calm. We will figure this out.”

I need to think. To figure out my next step, and be very, very canny about it.

“All right, Jocelyn. I’ll go lie down.”

The ceiling is telling me to remain alert. Not to give up one second of consciousness. Not voluntarily. Why? Oh please, God that I deserted, Jesus whom I forsook, please guide me. What is the right thing to do at this moment in my life, in the lives of all our people?

No answer. Of course there’s no answer. 

Jim will call a White Night. Obviously. The police will come for Ujara, and Jim won’t accept that, even though Ujara should be arrested for stabbing Ryan. We can’t go around stabbing people we disagree with. Jim’s always been nonviolent.  Well, mostly nonviolent.  Admires Ghandi and Martin Luther King. And Jesus. What would they do? They’d go to the police and give themselves up in lieu of their follower who’d done the wrong thing, the violent thing. I’ll ask Jim to give himself up.

Would he? 

I saw the look on his face when Ryan thought he’d been stabbed. Jim was glad, his lips quivering, quashing the incipient smile. Don’t let it be true. If it is true, I don’t think I can handle it. 

Maybe if I turn myself in, it will stop the White Night from happening. How can I get myself into Port Kaituma? There’s no gasoline, and it’s too far to walk in this heat. By the time I get there, Jim would already have declared a White Night. No. I must stay and make him see reason.

Please, God, help me get up. Help me to do what I need to do. 

I survey all the family photos beside my bed, our Rainbow children and grandchildren. For them, I must try.

Do I have to kill my husband to stop the White Night? 

No. I cannot kill. I’m a healer, not a killer. If only I could talk to someone. If I told anyone what I was thinking, Doctor Schacht would inject me with Thorazine in a blink. 

No. I can’t talk to anyone. I have to do it. I could inject him with a sedative telling him it was a B12 shot and he’d go to sleep. Tomorrow, the panic would have passed. 

Yes, that’s what I’ll do. That’s the answer.  

Feet rise and walk!

I make my way the 300 feet on a path from my cabin behind the Pavillion toward what we call the Bond instead of the pharmacy, having adapted English terms the Guyanese inherited from the Brits. A small locked shed beside the clinic. 

No one’s here. Good. Of course it’s locked. I pat down my pockets, but no key. Must have left it back in the cabin. Idiot! I don’t know if I have it in me to go get it. 

I hear footsteps and glance up to see Mac. Beautiful, bespectacled Mac. Tall and now graying, his jeans always pressed, even here. The handsomest Black man I’d ever met back in the 1950s. 

“What are you doing, Marcie?” 

“Just walking.”

“Did you want something from the Bond?”

“No. Yes, well, I have an awful, awful headache, and I thought I’d get some Midol, but I forgot my key.”

His eyebrows rise. 

“Don’t you have a key, Mac?”

“Marcie, you know only the doc and the nurses have keys. They don’t let us lay people run around with access to drugs. And that’s a good thing, huh?” He smiles, trying to make a joke of it. 

I play along. “Of course you’re right.” Did Mac ever have drug problems? I don’t remember.

“Let me walk you back to your cabin. You probably just need rest. You’ll feel better by dinner.”

Dinner. Are we going to have dinner? That sounds so odd, so normal.

“Yes, Mac. You’re right. But you don’t need to walk me back. I can walk myself.”

“It’s my pleasure, Marcie. I always enjoy my time with you,” Mac says. A handgun pokes from his waistband. All the guards are armed today.

“Here we are.”

“Thanks Mac.”

“Have a good nap, Marcie,” he says, but doesn’t move, watching until I push my door open. Like Jim’s other lieutenants, he surveils me. I am always under someone’s eye.

Now I have to figure out something else. Mac probably has somebody guarding the Bond to prevent me getting any medication. What next? 

Around me are photographs of all my children, the one I gave birth to, the five we adopted, and so many other Temple children, from Indiana and California and the ones we picked up all across the country on our bus trips. I don’t want it to end, our family – our beautiful multicolored family. But Jim does. He wants to end it now. 

He won’t listen to me, won’t let me reason with him. It’s been like this since we came to Guyana. Is he beyond reason? His near smile when it looked like Ryan had been knifed. That part of Jim now rules; it’s conquered the good Jim, the kind man I married, the non-violent lover of humanity. He’s gone.

“Alert. Alert. Everyone to the Pavilion immediately.”

Whose voice is that? Harriet’s? Awake, I run to the door, gathering my strength and smarts and cunning to stop this White Night. He’ll do it this time. Of course Mac has a key; that’s why he didn’t let me in the Bond. Schact must be mixing the poison.

“Marcie! Come sit with us,” Jocelyn says.

Her calm face looks like Jim’s now, that resigned-to-the-end face. I knew she would join the death march with Jim, and Theresa, and Harriet and Dick and Mac and all those who want their legacy to be History instead of flesh, ideas instead of children. Help me save the children, Jesus. Help me now, though I forsook You so long ago I do not deserve You but ask anyway for Your mercy, to save the children.

“How very much I’ve tried my best to give you the good life.”

I can hear it in his voice; this isn’t the ’let’s fight’ voice. 

But in spite of all of my trying, a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our life impossible. There’s no way to detach ourselves from what’s happened today. Not only are we in a compound situation, not only are there those who have left and committed the betrayal of the century. And we are sitting here waiting on a powder keg. I don’t think it is what we want to do with our babies. I don’t think that’s what we had in mind to do with our babies. It is said by the greatest of prophets from time immemorial: “No man may take my life from me; I lay my life down.” 

Please Jim, you can lay your life down, but not the lives of others, not the lives of babies. He has been telling all of us what to do for so many years, up there on the podium, seated at his throne. And we’ve been doing it.

So to — to sit here and wait for the catastrophe that’s going to happen on that airplane — it’s going to be a catastrophe, it almost happened here. Almost happened — the congressman was nearly killed here. But you can’t steal people’s children. You can’t take off with people’s children without expecting a violent reaction. And that’s not so unfamiliar to us either, if we — even if we were Judeo-Christian — if we weren’t Communists. The world is fueled by selfish violence, and the violence will take it by force. If we can’t live in peace, then let’s die in peace. 

Jim, why is death the only answer? Why are we all sitting here as if you’re talking sense? Look at them nodding: black and white and young and old. Why are they agreeing? I don’t want to die. I will if I have to, but we can’t take babies with us.  Marceline, get a hold of yourself. If you cry, he’ll denounce you, like he did on the radio during the siege. 

“We’ve been so betrayed. We have been so terribly betrayed.” 

No we haven’t! Sixteen people out of a thousand is not betrayal! And Susan and Hope and all the others who left before – we survived. We survived just fine, so what is he doing? Why is he saying this? He wants death. He just wants to stop fighting. I can’t let him. The people are clapping. Why are they clapping?

But we’ve tried and as Jack Beam often said — I don’t know why he said it — I just know — he said if this only works one day, it was worthwhile.

They’re clapping, every one of them. We’ve had so much more than one day. We’ve had hundreds of days, years of days, even decades where we’ve done just what we’ve wanted to do. This kind of talk doesn’t make sense. We can have so many more days. 

If I try to seize the microphone, they’ll take it away from me, Mac and Jocelyn and Jim. They’re all on his wavelength, and I’m not. Have I ever been? 

Thank you. Now what’s going to happen here in a matter of a few minutes is that one of those people on that plane is gonna — gonna shoot the pilot. I know that. I didn’t plan it, but I know it’s going to happen. They’re gonna shoot that pilot, and down comes that plane into the jungle. And we had better not have any of our children left when it’s over, because they’ll parachute in here on us.
I’m going to be just as plain as I know how to tell you. I’ve never lied to you. I never have lied to you. I know that’s what’s gonna happen. That’s what he intends to do, and he will do it. Seeing all these people behave so treasonous — there was too much for me to put together, but I now know what he was telling me. And it’ll happen. If the plane gets in the air even.
So my opinion is that we be kind to children and be kind to seniors and take the potion like they used to take in ancient Greece, and step over quietly, because we are not committing suicide. It’s a revolutionary act. We can’t go back. They won’t leave us alone. They’re going back to tell more lies, which means more congressmen. And there’s no way, no way we can survive.

Jesus Jesus Jesus. Am I defeated before I even try anything? I am Mother Marceline and they expect me to back him, as I have done for thirty years. If I oppose him now, would they turn on me? They love him, these people. They’ll do what he says. They’ll even kill their children; I know they will. Maybe the only ones who wouldn’t are the ones who left. 

Anybody. Anyone who has any dissenting opinion, please speak. Yes. You can have an opportunity, but if our children are left, we’re going to have them butchered. We can make a strike, but we’ll be striking against people that we — we don’t want to strike against Guyanese soldiers. 

Thank you Jesus. Christine is making a stand. How can I let her know I’m behind her without Jim’s people carting me away like some hysterical wife?

She wants to know why we can’t go to Russia. Good Christine, good for you. Of course. We can go to Russia. We can go anywhere. Just not back to the States.

Here’s why it’s too late for Russia. They killed. They started to kill. That’s why it makes it too late for Russia. Otherwise I’d say, Russia, you bet your life. But it’s too late. I can’t control these people. They’ve gone with guns. It’s too late.
And once we kill anybody…. I’ve always put my lot with you. If one of my people do something, it’s me. I don’t have to take the blame for this, but I don’t live that way. They said deliver up Ujara, who tried to get the man back here. Ujara, whose mother’s been lying on him and trying to break up this family. You think I’m going to deliver them Ujara? Not on your life. 

Ujara? Are we going to die for Ujara, all of us? Ujara’s a pig, a white thug, always has been, but Jim’s on his side.. And now all of us, all the children, are supposed to die to save Ujara? 

Listen to the crowd. They’re shouting No! No we can’t give up Ujara. They’ve all gone crazy; Ujara won’t die if we give him to the police. He’ll go to prison for a while. So what?! He’s been there before and survived. Why doesn’t anyone else see what’s so very obvious?

Ujara offers himself up. Good for you, Ujara. Thank you. I’m sorry I thought nasty things about you. You do know the right thing to do. Jim was right about you after all. Now this madness can stop. 

You’re not going. I can’t live that way. I cannot live that way. I’ve lived for all, and I’ll die for all. 

Is Jim going to offer himself up then? Will he die like Jesus? I don’t want that either. But if it must be, it must be. I’ll give myself up if I have to. I will. Gladly.

I’ve been living on hope for a long time, Christine, and I appreciate … You’ve always been a very good agitator. I like agitation, because you have to see two sides of one issue, two sides of a question. But what those people are gonna get done, once they get through, will make our lives worse than hell. We are done-in as far as any other alternative. 

Now she says let’s make an airlift. Yes, Christine. You can say it. If I said the same, he wouldn’t listen.

“How are we going to do that? How are you going to airlift to Russia?” 

Christine reminds everyone about the code! There was a code we could give the Russians, and they would help us.

No. The Russians said if they saw Guyana coming down they agreed they’d give us a code. We can check with Russia to see if they’ll take us in immediately; otherwise we die.. But to me, death is not — death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that cuts ya. 

No Jim. It’s not living that cuts you; you cut you. It’s you who’s taken all these good people down this path they’ll follow to that end you want so much, the one you’ve wanted all along, though I never wanted to believe it was true; I thought all that death talk was just drama, just theater.

More applause.

I have never, never, never, never seen anything like this before in my life. I’ve never seen people take the law in their own hands and provoke us and try to purposely agitate murder of children. Christine, it’s just not worth living like this.  

They’re cheering again, all of them. Except Christine. Christine, you’re so brave I want to cry. Why are you stronger than the others? She’s saying not enough people left for this to make sense.

But what’s gonna happen when they don’t leave? I hoped that they could leave. But what’s gonna happen when they — when they don’t leave? 

I don’t understand. Neither does Christine.

What’s going to happen to us when they get on the plane and the plane goes down? 

She’s confused.  She’s asking why that would happen. I see now. She’s thinking he’s talking about the plane full of us going to Russia.

You don’t think they’ll go down? 

She says they wouldn’t kill us all, not even if we were going to Russia. She’s saying the Americans wouldn’t do that.

You think Russia’s gonna want us with all this stigma? We had some value, but now we don’t have any value. 

My god. No value? A thousand souls, all of us beloved, how can he say that? How dare he say that?

Christine says, “As long as there’s life, there’s hope. That’s my faith.” Go Christine. Why isn’t every person in this crowd agreeing with her?

Someday everybody dies. Some place that hope runs out, because everybody dies. I haven’t seen anybody yet didn’t die. And I’d like to choose my own kind of death for a change. I’m tired of being tormented to hell, that’s what I’m tired of. Tired of it. 

I mustn’t cry, mustn’t. Am I the only person who’s not tired of it?

Twelve hundred people’s lives in my hands. I’m going to tell you, Christine, without me, life has no meaning.

How dare he? How dare he believe that?

They’re cheering, cheering like he’d announced the Second Coming. Oh please, Jesus, the Jesus I prayed to until I met Jim Jones, please save us. Tell me how to save us. Save us from Jim.

I’m the best thing you’ll ever have. I’m standing with Ujara. I never detach myself from any of your troubles. I’ve always taken your troubles right on my shoulders. And I’m not going to change that now. It’s too late. I’ve been running too long. Not going to change now. 

Cheering and cheering, as if he were saving them.

Maybe the next time you’ll get to go to Russia. The next time round. This is a revolutionary suicide council. I’m not talking about self-destruction. We have no other road. We will put it to the Russians. And I can tell you the answer now, because I’m a prophet. 
Call the Russians and tell them, and see if they’ll take us. 

He’s talking to her as she could get on the phone and do that. Of course she can’t.  A council of revolutionary suicide. What does that even mean? Like every thing he’s ever done, the “council” means he decides and the inner circle says amen. But Christine is saying she’s not ready to die.

“I don’t think you are. I don’t think you are.”

Christine says, “I look about at the babies and I think they deserve to live, you know?”

I agree. But don’t they also deserve much more? They deserve peace. 

What does he know of peace? He’s never known peace for a day in his life, never wanted peace. He wanted drama, fame, but not peace. He thinks death is peace. That’s all he can imagine. There’s no quiet in him, not one cell of quiet.

Christine is saying we came here for peace, all of us.

“And we’ve — have we had it?”

Everyone’s shaking their heads, including Christine.

I tried to give it to you. I’ve laid down my life, practically. I’ve practically died every day to give you peace. And you still don’t have any peace. You look better than I’ve seen you in a long while, but it’s still not the kind of peace that I wanted to give you. A person’s a fool who continues to say that they’re winning when you’re losing. Win one, lose two. 
No plane is taking off. It’s suicide. 

Christine is talking back. She won’t quit. She’s saying, when we destroy ourselves, we’re defeated. We let them, the enemies, defeat us. 

Why aren’t I brave like her? But I can’t say what she’s saying because I’m Mother Marceline.

“Did you see I Will Fight No More Forever?” 

Everyone’s nodding, including Christine.

Did you not have some sense of pride and victory in that man? Yet he would not subject himself to the will or the whim of people who’re gonna come in whenever they please and push into our house. Come when they please, take who they want, talk to who they want to — is this living? That’s not living to me. That’s not freedom. That’s not the kind of freedom I sought. 

Not what you sought? What about the rest of us? Does it matter what we sought? Me? Your children, all of them? All our people, what they sought? 

He won’t let Christine  keep talking. Now Mac is jumping in, Mac the Enforcer. “Just hold on, Sister, just hold on. We have made that day. We made a beautiful day, and let’s make it a beautiful day. That’s what I say.”

They’re all cheering again, cheering and cheering for death.

We will win. I wouldn’t have sat in this seat and talked so serious if I didn’t know what I was talking about. The immense amount of damage that’s going to be done … I cannot separate myself from the pain of my people. You can’t either, Christine, if you stop to think about it. You can’t separate yourself. We’ve walked too long together. 

He’s still trying to bring her over to his side. He doesn’t understand she can’t be conquered. She’s saying, “I know that. But I still think, as an individual, I have a right to say what I think, what I feel. And I think we all have a right to our own destiny as individuals.” Christine stands in front of the crowd, now with Mac beside her, ready to use force. Everyone else beside her is yelling at her to stop talking.

Where did she find such courage? Lew isn’t talking back. Agnes isn’t talking back. I’m not. Only Christine. Jim is agreeing. Yes, she has a right to say what she thinks. But he doesn’t agree with what she’s saying, and he won’t let her prevail. Someone, Mac or somebody else, will make her shut up.

She’s saying, “And I think I have a right to choose mine, and everybody else has a right to choose theirs.” 

Now Jim won’t say “Right.” He’s making that mmmm noise, like he’s pretending you have something reasonable to say but he knows better. How often in my life have I been in that place?

“I’m not criticizing.”

She’s still going. “Well, I think I still have a right to my own opinion.”

You do, Christine, Christine named-after-Christ. You do. And you’re exercising that right in a way I never dared to. And still can’t. Don’t.

Here comes Mac to silence her. “Christine, you’re only standing here because he was here in the first place. So I don’t know what you’re talking about, having an individual life. Your life has been extended to the day that you’re standing there, because of him.” 

That’s one of our songs, on my favorite record. I can hear Shirley singing it….

Because of Him.
Because of Him, this world has hope again,
Because of Him, this world has got a good Friend,
A Friend that will dedicate
His whole life to humanity,
Helping each race and creed
To meet their need
So that all may see
That it’s so wonderful to care,
To love, to give, to share,
Oh let us start today
To live the same way…

Someone else is talking now, another woman. “You’ve saved so many people.”

I’ve saved them. I saved them, but I made my example. I made my expression. I made my manifestation, and the world was not ready for me. Paul said, “I was a man born out of due season.” I’ve been born out of due season, just like all we are, and the best testimony we can make is to leave this goddamn world. 

They’re cheering, everyone but Christine and me. Jocelyn is smiling. How can she, with her baby in her arms?

Now that woman – who is it? Cora? – she’s saying we must prepare to die. And still Christine won’t let go. She’s shouting: “I’m not talking to her. Would you let her or let me talk?”

Jim is gesturing at her to continue. He hates to let a potential convert go, can’t stand to let her keep her contrary opinion. He’ll smash it out of her or make someone else do it while he looks on like the benevolent father.

Christine is saying, “Would you make her sit down and let me talk while I’m on the floor?” 

Uh-oh. He won’t like that. He doesn’t like demands.

“How can you tell the leader what to do?” 

That did it. Everyone’s stirring, getting angry with her. 

Lay down your burden. I’m gonna lay down my burden. Down by the riverside. Shall we lay them down here in Guyana? What’s the difference? No man took our lives. They haven’t taken them. But when they start parachuting out of the air, they’ll shoot some of our innocent babies. I’m not lying, Christine. But they gotta shoot me to get through. I’m not letting them take your child. Can you let them take your child? 

Now everyone’s yelling and it’s hard to understand anything. Jim is watching, calculating his next rhetorical move. He’s got them now. Christine can’t stand against him, not alone.

Someone’s saying something about Sean.

Do you think I’d put Sean’s life above others? If I put Sean’s life above others, I wouldn’t be standing with Ujara. Sean’s no different to me than any of these children here. He’s just one of my children. I don’t prefer one above another. I don’t prefer him above Ujara. I can’t do that. I can’t separate myself from your actions or his actions. If you’d done something wrong, I’d stand with you. If they wanted to come and get you, they’d have to take me. 

Now Cora’s shouting, “We’re all ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready — at least the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.”

No. I’m not. Oh Christine; don’t give up, Christine. 

Some months I’ve tried to keep this thing from happening. But I now see it’s the will of the Sovereign Being that this happen to us. That we lay down our lives in protest. That we lay down our lives to protest what’s being done. The criminality of people. The cruelty of people. Who walked out of here today? Did you notice who walked out? Mostly white people. 

It’s true; it was whites. But now he’s invoking the Sovereign Being. The Sky God. Jim Jones the hypocrite. Me too. I want Jesus. What I have is Christine, and I’m too timid to follow her lead.

Mostly white people walked. I’m so grateful for the ones that didn’t. I just know there’s no point to this. We are born before our time. They won’t accept us. And I don’t think we should sit here and take any more time for our children to be endangered. Because if they come after our children, and we give them our children, then our children will suffer forever. 

Now he looks directly at Christine: 

I have no quarrel with you coming up. I like you. I personally like you very much. You had to be honest, but you’ve stayed, and if you wanted to run, you’d have run with them ’cause anybody could’ve run today. I know you’re not a runner. Your life is precious to me. It’s as precious as Sean’s. What I do I do with weight and justice and judgment.

She’s defeated. She’s saying, “That’s all I’ve got to say.” 

Oh Christine. You tried, and you failed. Now there’s no one but me. To try and stop it. To try and fail to stop it. My plan to sedate him tried and failed. If I put myself in front of the vat, Mac and the guards would just drag me away. 

“What comes now, folks? What comes now?” 

They’re all talking again. Is now my chance? To grab the mike? Grab the children? Mac is telling everyone to be quiet and listen. Do I have a chance? 

Ain’t nobody gonna take Ujara. I’m not lettin’ ’em take Ujara. Gather in, folks. It’s easy, it’s easy…

Someone else is talking, another woman I can’t see. “At one time, I felt just like Christine felt. But after today I don’t feel anything…. It broke my heart, to think that all of this year the white people had been with us, and they’re not a part of us. We might as well end it now because I don’t see ….”

Someone’s running in from the road, Amos whispering to Jim. 

It’s all over. The congressman has been murdered,” Jim says.

All over. Ryan is dead. Did Kenny do it? Oh my Christ, Oh my Jesus. It really is the end of us, the end of all we tried to do. Because of Kenny, or whoever pulled the trigger. Was it Amos? All the best shooters on security are trooping in now. I hadn’t even noticed they were gone.  Did Jim send them as a backup to Kenny’s backup of Ujara?  Marceline, if you cry, they’ll cart you away. What is my plan? In the crowd, everyone looks like they’ve decided to die for Ujara, for Sean, for Jim.

Well, it’s all over, all over. What a legacy, what a legacy. They invaded our privacy. They came into our home. They followed us six thousand miles away. Red Brigade showed them justice. The congressman’s dead. 

Someone is shouting from the crowd, “Do it now! Do it now!”  A woman. A woman is wanting to die, to kill. What can I possibly do in the face of this will?

Please get us some medication. It’s simple. It’s simple. There’s no convulsions with it. Please get it. Before it’s too late. The GDF will be here soon. Get movin’, get movin’, get movin’. 

The medication. The poison. The medication is the poison.

Don’t be afraid to die. They’ll torture some of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this. Are you going to separate yourself from whoever shot the congressman? I don’t know who shot him. 

No, no, no. People are shouting no, but they mean that Jim shouldn’t separate himself from the shooter. Not no to death. Not no to killing. Jesus, You are not there after all. You are nowhere. 

Those who had a right to go, and they had a right to …. How many are dead? Aw, God Almighty, God Almighty

How many? What? Did they kill everyone on the airstrip? They killed Patty Parks? Did they kill all the deserters? All the reporters? He’s saying God Almighty as if that being isn’t him. No, it isn’t. 

Someone’s shouting, “Some of the others who endure long enough in a safe place should write about the goodness of Jim Jones.”

What goodness? She thinks the Peoples Temple members back in San Francisco will write glowingly of my husband, my soon-to-be-late husband? Hah. He’ll be the antichrist.

I don’t know how in the world they’re ever going to write about us. It’s just too late. It’s too late. The congressman’s dead. The congressman lays dead. Many of our traitors are dead. They’re all layin’ out there dead.
I didn’t kill him, but my people did. They’re my people, and they’ve been provoked too much. What’s happened here has been an act of provocation. 

Acceptance is written all over their faces. They love him. They’ve given him their power. They’ll give him their lives. Another woman is calling, “I appreciate you for everything. You are the only — You are the only — You are the only. And I appreciate you…” They’re clapping, drowning her out, drowning her out with agreement. No one agreed with Christine but me. Or if they did, they were silent. Like me.

“Please, can we hasten? Can we hasten with that medication?” 

He sent them out after the defectors to kill them in case Kenny didn’t. The antichrist. My husband, the antichrist. What does that make me?

You have to move, and the people in the aisles, go stand in the radio room yard. Everybody get behind the table and back this way, okay? There’s nothing to worry about. Everybody keep calm and try and keep your children calm. And all those children that help, let the little children in and reassure them. It’s just a little bitter tasting. They’re not crying out of any pain. 

Doc and the other nurses mixed the poison, and I’m supposed to hand it out because I’m a nurse too. If I don’t, what will happen to me? Some of my kids will survive this, Marcus and Tim and Jimmy Junior playing basketball in Georgetown, maybe this minute in the midst of their game. And their father is in the midst of his game too. And their mother? 

Here comes Mac the Enforcer: “Sit down and be quiet, please. I used to be a therapist. And the kind of therapy that I did had to do with reincarnation in past life situations. And every time anybody had the experience of going into a past life, I was fortunate enough through Father to be able to let them experience it all the way through their death, so to speak. And everybody was so happy when they made that step to the other side.”

It’s the only way to step. But that choice is not ours now. It’s out of our hands.
It’s hard but only at first. When you’re looking at death, living is much, much more difficult. Rising up every morning and not knowing what the night will bring. It’s much more difficult. 

No Jim. Though I sit here mute, I know you are wrong, even if it seems to make sense right here right now this minute to so many. 

Phylicia, one of the first black disciples’ children who was born in the church in Ukiah, is saying, “This is nothing to cry about. This is something we could all rejoice about. We could be happy about this. They always told us that we cry when we’re coming into this world… I’m looking at so many people crying. I wish you would not cry. And just thank Father.” 

They’re clapping and clapping, ready to give up. They don’t want to be here anymore, and I don’t blame them. I don’t want to be here anymore either.

Phylicia says, “I’ve been here one year and nine months. And I never felt better in my life. Not in San Francisco, but until I came to Jonestown. I had a very good life. I had a beautiful life. And I don’t see nothing that I could be sorry about. We should be happy. At least I am. That’s all I’m gonna say.” 

So why must you stop living that beautiful life? Why deny it to your children and everyone else’s children? She doesn’t have children; that’s why she’s saying that. That’s why she’s denouncing all the mothers who are crying. But the mothers aren’t resisting either. They’re crying, but they’re going up to the table for the poison.

A man says, “Good to be alive today. I just like to thank Dad, ’cause he was the only one that stood up for me when I needed him. And thank you, Dad.”

Another man: “I’m glad you’re my brothers and sisters, and I’m glad to be here.” 

Please. For God’s sake, let’s get on with it. We’ve lived — we’ve lived as no other people have lived and loved. We’ve had as much of this world as you’re gonna get. Let’s just be done with it. Let’s be done with the agony of it. 

When will I get out of my chair? When will I do something? Will I do something? Or will I watch, as I’ve watched since 1949 and said nothing, or said something he ignored and then stayed in my chair and watched him act from my seat of passivity? If I’d left him when he started up with Jocelyn, like any normal woman would have, none of this would have happened. Maybe there would be no Jonestown. No murdered Congressman. No suicides.

It’s far, far harder to have to walk through every day, die slowly — and from the time you’re a child ’til the time you get gray, you’re dying…. This is a revolutionary suicide. This is not a self-destructive suicide. They’ll pay for this. They brought this upon us. And they’ll pay for it. I leave that destiny to them. 

I see: it’s everyone else’s fault this is happening. Not his. The Reverend Jim Jones has nothing to do with it.

Who wants to go with their child has a right to go with their child. I think it’s humane. I want to go — I want to see you go, though. I — They can take me and do what they want — whatever they want to do. I want to see you go. I don’t want to see you go through this hell no more. No more, no more, no more.. The best thing is to relax. You’ll have no problem with this thing, if you just relax. 

Okay Marceline. If you’re going to sit here while everyone dies, then go drink the poison and get it over with. If you are going to act, even if, like Christine, it won’t make one bit of goddamned difference, then act now. 

Twenty men and women with guns and cutlasses standing by, waiting to enforce Jim’s word. I am stone. I do nothing.

A man says, “and the way the children are laying there now, I’d rather see them lay like that than to see them have to die like the Jews did, which was pitiful anyhow. And I’d just like to — to thank Dad for giving us life and also death. And I appreciate the fact of the way our children are going. Because, like Dad said, when they come in, what they’re gonna do to our children — they’re gonna massacre our children. And also the ones that they capture, they’re gonna just let them grow up and be dummies like they want them to be. And not grow up to be a socialist like the one and only Jim Jones. So I’d like — I’d like to thank Dad for the opportunity for letting Jonestown be, not what it could be, but what Jonestown is. Thank you, Dad.” 

The children lie dead, and I do nothing. I watch. I remain true to the character Marceline Baldwin was born with, watching and helping or watching and doing nothing while those with big wills, the people I always  admire, do the acting. Can I still act in this life? God, will you give me the power to act? Give me the power to act.

It’s not to be afeared. It is not to be feared. It’s a friend. It’s a friend. Sitting there, show your love for one another. Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone. Let’s get gone. 
They took us and put us in chains. They’ve robbed us of our land, and they’ve taken us and driven us and we tried to find ourselves. We tried to find a new beginning. But it’s too late. You can’t separate yourself from your brother and your sister. No way I’m going to do it. I refuse. I don’t know who fired the shot. I don’t know who killed the congressman. But as far as I am concerned, I killed him. You understand what I’m saying? I killed him. He had no business coming. I told him not to come. 

Of course Jim blames Ryan, he who lies murdered on the airstrip, his fault that around us our people, our black women and men and children and the whites that are left, the harem and the eunuchs, they’re swallowing poison like they’ve swallowed Jim’s bullshit all these years.  Like I swallowed it.

With respect, die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don’t lay down with tears and agony. There’s nothing to death. It’s like Mac said, it’s just stepping over into another plane. Don’t be this way. Stop these hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity. We had no choice. Now we have some choice. Do you think they’re gonna allow us to get by? You must be insane. Look children: it’s just something to put you to rest. Oh, God.
Photo Courtesy of Kid Cairo
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