11 September 1906
PORTIONS OF THE DAMAGED DIARY OF JOANNA WOZNIAK, AS RECOVERED BY THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF ERIE, PA, ON THE EVENING OF MAY 28, 1974.
Today I bore a son. I have named him Jeremiah Bazyli Matteson, he is strong and healthy and feeds well. I can see so much of his father in him, it almost hurts.
12 September, 1906
The reverend had his hands full ever since taking over for the late Rev. Liam Halzberg. With the people of Allegheny fighting against Pittsburgh's attempts to annex the city, the fall of the Wozniak estate and its associated drama, and the usual issues of taking over a church in the wake of a beloved leader's death, he felt like he was always in the middle of some mess or another. He didn't particularly want to add the birth of the Matteson boy to his plate, but with pressure from his congregation that had been building for the past three months he felt it was in his best interest to do something.
He was welcomed in by the doctor and led to Joanna's room, where he was warned that the child had recently fallen asleep and asked not to disturb him. The reverend agreed, then softly entered. He made his way to an armchair in the room and sat down.
"Good morning, Ms. Matteson," he said, just loud enough for her to hear, while removing his hat. "I don't believe we've formally met."
"I know who you are, Reverend, and a little of your opinion of me. The city does love to talk."
"My congregation has told me about the circumstances surrounding your marriage, yes."
"I can imagine how kind they were about it, seeing how they've treated my parents." He sighed, lowering his gaze and brushing some imaginary dust off his hat.
"I have tried, of course. But I don't yet have the respect to really stop them. I doubt it will be an issue much longer, I'm told they're leaving the city."
"And does that suit you, Reverend? To see them leave in disgrace and poor fortune, so long as you don't have to deal with it anymore?"
"That is not-"
"Why have you come?" He looked back at her and was met with a firm gaze. He swallowed hard, then attempted to meet her stare and brace himself against it.
"The child." She turned, smiling as she placed her hand on the edge of Jeremiah's basket.
"I'm sure it's not what you see, but he's beautiful, isn't he?"
"I think we both know, ma'am, that he isn't...human."
"He's human enough. I should know."
"Joanna, his father-" Her face snapped back to the reverend, and he flinched as her gaze borrowed into his skull.
"His father is gone, maybe forever, because of this mindset. This hatred for what you don't understand, this rejection of people who need your help but don't see the world how you do. Are you like them, Reverend? Are you here to condemn a lost man and his son whose only sin was being born? Is that all your collar is good for?" He glanced to Jeremiah, who stirred a bit at her tone.
"Look me in the eye and say what you've come to say." He turned his face to her, straightened his back and hardened his voice.
"There is no place in this community for that demon-spawn, and there never will be. Your desire to carry it to term is admirable, if misguided, but now you must choose whether to turn it aside and return to the people who care about your soul, or commit fully to this godless path you've been walking." They stared at each other for a long moment.
"I will raise my son, Reverend." Her voice was cold and steady. "With or without you, with or without his father. I will not abandon my own flesh and blood to appease those who have already rejected me. Good day, sir."
"Ms. Matteson, you must consider-"
"I said good day." She turned to soothe Jeremiah, who was beginning to fuss in his sleep. The reverend stood, put his hat back on, and straightened his shirt. His eyes narrowed at he looked at the child, then he turned and left the room.