Writing the Long Journey Home

I’ll be finishing up 2016 by wrapping up a chapter of my life. Well, actually, a trilogy. I’ve spent the last five years on a journey, writing a story that I needed to tell. In the end, it came in the form of a trilogy. If you haven’t read my Cult Trilogy, here are links to Amazon where you can purchase the books in paperback, kindle, or audio format.

  1. A Train Called Forgiveness
  2. At The Crossing Of Justice And Mercy
  3. The Track To Redemption

A little later in this post, I’ll be sharing the second chapter from my third book, The Track To Redemption. But first, a little about writing, the past, and the future.

Writing Is Both the Journey and the Destination

I’ve heard people say that life, like writing, is not about the destination, but the journey. I agree and disagree. As I wrote The Cult Trilogy, I was definitely on a journey. On this journey, I relived my past. I fantasized about what might have been in my future. I philosophized about love, God, religion, power, and much more. Yes, it was a journey.

But I had a goal: to complete the story. That is a destination. Nobody sets out on a writing journey without the hope of completing the story. There is a thrill in completion. It provides the writer with a sense of accomplishment. It fills us with a sense of pride. But there comes a time that we must move on and start the next chapter, or story.

Let the Past Be Gone and Push On

I was a kid in a cult. That will always remain part of who I am. I’ll continue to use tidbits of wisdom from my cult experience, but I’ll also be moving on to continue life’s journey. I’ve spent the last five years writing, editing, publishing, and promoting The Cult Trilogy. I’ve sold a modest amount of books. I hope to continue to sell books from this series for years to come. Someday, I may even rewrite the series and publish a second edition. But right now, it’s time to move on, to explore my writing further.

Where will writing take me next? I can’t say for sure. I’m leaving my previous destination and setting out on another journey. Beginning in 2017, I’ll be limiting my posts to once or twice a month. I’ll be focusing less on how-to posts and more on creativity itself. Perhaps, I’ll start writing a new story on the blog. Maybe, I’ll practice writing some short stories. Or I might just post a few poems and songs. Likely, it will remain a combination of these things. I hope you’ll continue to come along on the journey.

Now for chapter two. If you missed chapter one, you can find it here.

 Chapter 2

“Have you got everyone moved out of the old compound yet? I want that place cleared out and the property sold.”

“Yes, Peter.”

“We should get at least ten million for the property. You know what to do with the money, right?”

“Yes, Peter. We’re working on it. Most of the community is already out there.”

“Good. Promise me something, Russell?”

“Anything, Peter.”

“Don’t screw this up!”

“Don’t worry, Peter. I’ve got things covered until you get out.”

“I’m depending on you. I’ve got to go. Boss man says it’s time. I’ll expect an update next week.”

One has a lot of time on his hands when he’s confined to a wheelchair in prison. So I decided to fulfill one of my lifelong goals. I started writing my life story, from the very beginning. I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone want to read the story of a so-called cult leader and an alleged rapist?

First, I’m a prophet, not a cult leader. But even if I were a cult leader, why wouldn’t you want to read my story? Perhaps, understanding the mind of what you call a cult leader could provide you with incredible spiritual insight and wisdom.

Second, although I was declared guilty, in a Court of Law, of statutory rape and indecent liberties, that doesn’t prove I was guilty of rape before the eyes of God. I never raped a soul. It’s only fair that you give me the chance to tell my side of this story. Andy Burden had his chance. I demand you to give me the same attention that you’ve given him.

My story starts in the small town of Rolando, New York. And although I have no personal recollection of my earliest years on this earth, the stories of my infancy and toddler years were passed down to me by my grandmother. That’s where I’ll begin.


It was a rainy night. Annabelle and Charlie were already asleep. I sat in my reclining chair, listening. I listened to the pattering of the raindrops on the roof and the blacktop. I heard the plops of the larger drops striking the puddles that run beneath the gutters of our small, three-bedroom house on D Street in Port Angeles. The wind howled lightly, adding to the hypnotic white-noise effect. I was dead tired after another challenging day of teaching. Students are less prepared than they used to be. They try my patience. They chatter during class. They have less respect. My mind was numb. That’s when I heard the voice again. It seemed to seep through all the other sounds. It sounded so real.

“Andy! Peter Smith is going to get you. He’ll find you and kill you.”

I knew better. No one was coming for me. I’d been through this before. It was always in my head. But this time something was different. The fear was not as intense as usual. In my mid-twenties, when my paranoia was most intense, I’d worry about things. The worry would turn into fear and anxiety. Voices grew out of the fear, creating a more intense fear, which, in turn, fed the voices. It was a vicious cycle. I became so afraid that I’d run for miles or drive to another town trying to escape. I’d hide in the woods. It didn’t feel the same this time. I didn’t feel like I needed to run or hide.

I listened closely. I thought I heard footsteps outside my bedroom window in the grass. I crept to the backdoor and looked out. Charlie followed with a limp. Outside, there was nothing but rain and wind. I stepped outside and looked around. Charlie limped down the back stairs and sniffed about the typical suburban back yard. The trees were dripping with rain. The sky was a solid gray-black haze. I let Charlie do his business. When we went back inside, I gave Charlie a snack, and went to bed. I stayed awake for awhile, listening. The voices didn’t return, just wind, rain, water. I slowly drifted to sleep.

Suddenly, I woke to a shrill scream. It was Annabelle. “Daddy, there’s someone outside my window! Come here, daddy!”

“What?” I shouted back. “Who?” I got up and dashed to Annabelle’s room. I found her sitting up in bed against the wall, curled up with her blanket wrapped tightly around her. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“I heard a voice. It sounded like it was just outside my window,” Annabelle said.

“It was probably just a dream, honey,” I replied. “Try to go back to sleep.”

“But it sounded so real, dad. It sounded like there was a man whispering right outside my window.”


My name is Peter B. Smith. I was born Peter Rinaldi in upstate New York, in 1945. My parents, Joseph and Edina Rinaldi were staunch Catholics, like their parents  before them. My father was a second-generation Italian immigrant. He was short, but a strong and muscular man. He worked at the Johnston lumber mill. My mother was of German descent, beautiful, with long, dark curly hair that made other women jealous.  Mother stayed at home with me and eventually my brother James. They called me Pepe.

Things were less than perfect in the Rinaldi home. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother struggled with mental illness. That combination created an explosive mix. My childhood was extremely difficult and filled with a series of hellish experiences. My father would come home in the middle of the night, drunk of his ass. Father and mother would fight. Mother would take it out on me.

According to my grandmother, Margaret Rinaldi, my infancy and toddler years were especially traumatic. Shortly after I was born, my mother began to act strangely. She became severely depressed, and eventually psychotic. My mother suffered from what is now commonly known as postpartum psychosis. But in 1945, the symptoms were not as clearly and universally accepted and recognized. People thought she was crazy. Of course, in more recent years, we’ve witnessed mothers killing their own children due to this affliction.

Instead, Nana Marge, as I lovingly referred to my grandmother, had to keep constant watch over my mother to make sure she wouldn’t harm me. Nana lived next door.  She was a sweet lady, but she liked to control things. She was constantly telling my mother how to live her life properly. Although Nana tried to keep an eye on me, there were times when my mother would lock all the doors and Nana wasn’t able to get in the house.

Nana said that I was often neglected, that my mother would leave me unattended for hours at a time because she feared her own demons. My mother often told Nana that she was afraid she might harm, or even kill me, because voices in her head told her to. Mother admitted that, at times, she’d let me go for days without food or diaper changes. She even created a makeshift nursery for me in the cold, damp, dusty basement. She left me there while she went through the heaviest throes of her psychosis. Eventually, the basement became my bedroom, so there must be some truth to Nana’s story. But honestly, I always thought Nana Marge exaggerated a little. She liked to be the center of attention.


One evening, Annabelle and I were busy working on a class presentation. She was up later than usual. Each kid in her class was assigned a country to research. Annabelle was assigned Iceland. It was perfect. We’d already taken a keen interest in Iceland after I’d discovered the band Sigur Ros years earlier. We even went as far as learning a bit of Icelandic, an interesting and challenging feat. We were watching a video about Icelandic horses on the computer when it happened:

I heard the voice again. But there was no fear. I’d been enjoying a pleasant evening with Annabelle without stress or anxiety. I wasn’t worried about anything. It was unusual. In the past, the voices were nearly always accompanied by an intense state of anxiety. At first, I thought it was coming through the computer. I know. That’s crazy. This was my first thought because I’d thought I’d heard voices through the TV and the radio years earlier. So why not through a video on the computer? But I wasn’t the only one who heard the voice.

“What was that?” Annabelle asked.

“What was what?”

“I thought I heard somebody talking,” Annabelle said.

I wondered if we were both crazy. “It must have been on the video,” I replied, but I didn’t believe my own words. Hearing voices was an intense and scary experience earlier in my life. Dealing with audio hallucinations had made me extremely sensitive to sound. I’m also a musician with a good ear. Unlike many musicians, rather than turning up the volume, I had learned to play more and more quietly. I’d learned to listen to every single tone, buzz, and nuance within a single pluck of a string or touch of a key. I had practiced playing hand-crafted cymbals with soft mallets. I made them talk at low volumes, which in turn made me even more sensitive to the plethora of sounds around me. I was beginning to realize, this time, that the voices were not in my head.  Suddenly, Charlie started barking from the back yard.

Charlie rarely barked. The only time Charlie barked was when he saw a stranger cross the line into our territory.

“Is somebody here?” I asked Annabelle.

She jumped up and peeked out the window.

“Dad! Some guy just took off running down the street. I think he was in our yard.”

I jumped up, but by the time I reached the door and went down the front steps, the mysterious guest had disappeared into the fog.

* * *

Thanks for reading the second chapter of The Track To Redemption. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you’re interested in reading more of my work, please check out my Books & Music page.