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1st Place: 'The Second Coming' 

Jesus came back last Sunday. Satellite photos show the initial break in the atmosphere around 11:00 a.m. I Googled the images. They're insane. Regular imaging just shows a big hole in the clouds, but on the infrared you can see a giant heat spot directly over the southeastern part of the United States. It's so crazy when you think about it. The first Second Coming of Jesus Christ sighting was here, in Charlotte, of all places.

There are theories all over the Internet. Everyone's asking, "Why Charlotte?" Some people say it's the whole Bible Belt thing, the high number of churches per capita, etc. Fox News claims it's because we're Billy Graham's hometown and Graham was some kind of prophet. There's a big group who believe that, actually. They're calling themselves Grahamists. Scientists aren't saying much. Only that the location isn't significant. It's just the way Earth was facing when Jesus came into contact with our gravitational pull. Whatever that means.

We're all finding our own answers these days. None of the news stations caught His descent on camera. People on the street captured the whole thing on smartphones and personal devices. After the initial shock, they posted, and of course all the videos went viral. They all show a different angle of the same thing: the rain clouds split over the city, moving unnaturally fast. It's thundering and lightning flashes a few times as the clouds shift into a big circle, showing blue sky over the city. People are yelling, "Oh my god!" and "Holy shit!" and stuff like that. Then the sky is gone. It dissolves into a big black hole filled with stars. Everyone starts screaming for real, then. An impossibly bright light floods the screen. It's Jesus, but as it falls it totally looks like that meteor that went over Russia a few months ago — except faster. A few seconds later, Jesus lands in Uptown at the intersection of 7th Street and Tryon. The pavement caves and cracks around Him. Dust flies up. People are screaming and falling over. Honestly, the first time I watched it, I thought: The Avengers. Jesus looks like Iron Man, dressed as Thor, if Thor's costume was all white.

Shortly after His landing, the videos cut out. The only other known footage of Jesus in Uptown is from a traffic spotter helicopter. Apparently, there was an accident on Independence when He came, so they were close by. Aerial footage shows a figure in white strolling through Sunday morning traffic. The cars are stopped and people are walking toward Him. Then they start disappearing. No puff of smoke, no shimmering lights. There's a person, then the person's gone, and all that's left is a pile of clothes on the ground. The people who don't disappear go down face-first with their arms outstretched. I'm talking flat out, noses to the pavement — and they stay that way. It's creepy, actually.

The chopper loses Him when He starts going in and out of buildings, but the same routine was reported throughout Charlotte and around the world. Everywhere Jesus walked, a few people disappeared and everybody else hit the ground.

But it wasn't like that when I saw Him. He came into my church. We didn't know what was going on outside. You can't hear anything from inside the auditorium and our sound system is state of the art. Plus, they cut the house lights during the service because we have this amazing multimedia/light set-up. Our worship experience is really incredible and totally absorbing. I didn't see Him come in.

The band was playing, I was worshiping, and the girl in front of me collapsed. That's what I thought, anyway, but when I leaned down to see if she was okay, it was just her clothes and purse on the seat. Obviously, I freaked out. I was looking around to see what was going on. The music was still going. People were still worshiping. It was surreal. Other people had disappeared. The keyboardist was gone and so was the bass player, but the other band members didn't notice. They were really into their worship. Then the song hit this part where the audience sings alone and the stage lights shone out into the crowd. That's when I saw Him.

He was medium build. Not that tall, actually. With dark brown skin. He had a thick beard and short black hair. He looked like an Arab guy in that white robe. Anyway, He didn't look anything like His pictures. Other people noticed Him, too, and they all looked like I felt: confused. I thought He might be a homeless person. He just stood there, looking around for a few minutes. Then He turned, walked up the aisle and out of the auditorium.

After Charlotte, Jesus was spotted in Hong Kong. Then St. Petersburg, Cairo, Toronto. After that we lost track. As far as we know, every person on Earth saw Him at least once. There's a picture of Him at the Eiffel Tower. There's video of Him at the Vatican. Everyone in the square lies down in waves as He walks past. Like Catholic dominoes. So creepy.

He's gone now and it sounds ridiculous, but we went back to work. What else are we supposed to do? Apparently there's a chance He comes back again. Honestly, I'm not sure what scares me more: the Second Coming came and I'm still here, or there may be a Third Coming. All I know is, driving in Uptown Charlotte is impossible now. The roads were already trashed from the stadium construction. Now they've got Tryon and 7th totally shut down for three blocks in every direction to repair Jesus' landing spot. God only knows how long it's going to take to fix that mess.

Emilia Fuentes Grant is a freelance writer in Charlotte. She received her MFA from Queens University, and this is her first time publishing fiction in print.

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