Sunday Archive: Death and Honor, Conclusion
Death leapt up and grabbed the wine bottle. He refilled Jacob’s glass and watched worriedly as he drank. “You okay?”
Jacob coughed on his wine, “Jesus! No!”
Death squatted down beside Jacob’s chair, “You see, I don’t want to do it.”
Jacob rolled his eyes, “Oh, that’s nice. Thank you.”
“I think it kind of goes over the edge, you know? The word comes down that it’s time to do the big snuffaroo, right? Enough of this bullshit, Death, just knock them all down. Bam!” Death slapped his hands together. “Just like that. Six billion. Bam!”
Death stood up and refilled Jacob’s glass. Jacob hadn’t even realized that he’d drunk it all. “So I despise the plan. I don’t approve of it in the least.”
“But isn’t it your job?”
Death shrugged, “Well, yes. I’ve seen war, genocide, plague, everything horrible that you can imagine. That doesn’t bug me. I mean, you know, whatever. Like I said, death is death. But all those are sins of mortality, like you and that little girl you brutalized. You bring it on yourselves, or someone else does it to you. Despite what your various religious texts claim, an order from my superiors to wipe out a mass quantity of people for no reason has never happened before. The Flood has a perfectly natural explanation, you know? That wasn’t any god, that was about half a million years of erosion and unfortunate urban planning.”
“Wait, so that really happened? The world flooded?”
“Not the world, no. A small area flooded. Look, in super long ago BC you were in a different world if you walked 15 miles to the west. Anyway, my point is that this has never happened. It’s because of deviant rapists like you that the supreme powers that be have decided to end everything.”
Jacob put his face in his hands, “Oh my God, I have earned death.”
Death wagged a finger and refilled Jacob’s glass, “No, no, no. Listen, death is death. It’s a fact of life. It just happens on its own. There’s no God involved, no devils. Hell, I’m just a bureaucrat. I make sure that it does happen. I don’t make the bus hit you, but I make sure that you go away after you get creamed. See? Mr. X is going to get his head chopped off by an out of control toy helicopter, and I go and grab him when it happens. If it wasn’t for me you’d have a world full of decapitated heads complaining about the weather.”
“So what’s all this…” Jacob shook his head, then closed his eyes.
Death sat down on the table again and put his hand out, palm outwards. “Okay, I don’t approve of mass extermination.”
Death narrowed his eyes and sighed, “Why the not listening thing? Look, everyone always dies for a reason. But I don’t like being told that an entire species is about to get wiped out on a whim. That’s just vicious.”
“But you killed the dinosaurs.”
He gave Jacob a strange look, “Uh… They were animals, Jacob. Besides, it took them a hundred million years to die. That’s no problem. I’m saying that at 10:15pm on Tuesday night, Eastern Standard Time, everyone dies. Bang. No reason. From the hardest killer to the purest girl. Got it?”
“That’s a big job,”
“Is it? No, it’s actually quite easy. That’s not the point. The point is that I think it’s crude and reactionary.”
“So why don’t you say so?”
Death laughed – deep, cold, frightening. “I think you call him Lucifer. That poor bastard. That was the last one to disagree and just look. Oh man, I’m not gonna say squat.”
“So how can this plan possibly – “
“If people reject the notion of God, then the supreme powers that be will hesitate. They’ll call off Armageddon. It’ll scare them away, so to speak.”
“I would think the opposite would be true…”
Death raised his eyebrows and smiled, “You’d think!”
“But rejection works?”
Death shook his head. “It’s a mystery.”
“I certainly don’t get it.”
“You’re not God!”
“What about the Hindus? The Moslems? The Jews?”
“All gone. Everyone dies. That’s the order.”
“So those religions are wrong?”
“Why are they going to die, then? They reject the Christian God, yes?”
“They believe in a supreme power. It’s all the same, goo goo goo joob. If they believe, they die.”
“So how are we going to convince everyone to doubt God with a news story and my interview? Religion is life for most people…”
“We don’t have to convince everyone and they’ll only have to doubt for the tiniest fraction of a second. It’s strategy, Jacob. If a whole bunch of people are doubting the truth at the exact moment of the grand finale, then that derails the train. It’s not about convincing the world to reject God, it’s about making a group of people unexpectedly question their faith at the same instant the final moment hits. What they believe or don’t believe at 10:16 doesn’t matter. Subversion, Jacob! I’m going to throw off the polling. See? This is a rigid order. 10:15, don’t be late. But if there’s a spike in the fuck yous, then the powers that be will be inclined to hesitate. They can then look foolish and try again a few minutes later or they can pretend to be generous and forgiving and drop the whole idea.”
Jacob nodded. “Okay, so what do I do?”
Death touched Jacob’s forehead, “It’s all in there. Just start talking. Everything will fall into place. Try the lemon broccoli.”
He’s so beautiful. His hair. The way he talks. Dr. Webb is very pretty, too. She can understand why people would want to vote for him. She can’t vote, though. Not yet. If she could vote, it would be for Dr. Webb. He’s talking about Mr. Mariner’s passion – the Bible. They’re both very smart, but it’s Mr. Mariner who started the research. He’s so smart. She likes that so much – that he’s smart and stuff. Jacob, call him Jacob. That’s what he said when he leaned forward in the car and unbuttoned her shirt. He said she was pretty. He said she was nice. He said he liked her hair and her breasts. It was so nice to feel his mouth on her. It was cool, you know? It was amazing. He’s such a great guy.
She moved forward, out of the shadows. That stupid jerk with the headset wasn’t looking. He didn’t care. The scary men with the sunglasses that followed Dr. Webb around didn’t notice, either. They were watching the audience. Had been ever since Dr. Webb brought up the Bible. The audience was murmuring, talking. They weren’t supposed to do that. Not on TV. Nobody did that on TV. The audience was always well behaved. Now they were talking a lot and the people making the show seemed pissed.
She got up to the stage. Just run for it. What the hell? She charged and threw her arms around Jacob. He looked surprised to see her, but she saw the love. She said so:
“I love you, Mr. Mariner! I have your baby!”
There was a shocked silence. The place had been all about noise but, now, everyone had frozen. Webb looked terrified. Jacob knew what he was thinking: ‘Is this part of Death’s plan?’ Jesus, Webb, it’s not.
Suzanne Phipps was trying to kiss him, screaming about the goddamned baby and eternal love. God, she looked fucking 14. He pushed her away, hard. She fell down without any sort of grace and stared up at him, the hurt in her eyes probably crystal clear on camera three.
“I don’t know you!” Jacob screamed. His voice sounded shrill in his ears and Webb flinched.
Suzanne’s eyes teared up. She pushed herself up and ran off the stage. Everyone was still staring, all attention focused on Jacob. Then Suzanne came back to the edge of the stage and screamed, “You raped me! You raped me!”
Jacob closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he looked at Webb. Surely the message got through. It was all about doubt, and Dr. Ruiz Santiago was the man who had uncovered the lost gospel. That was the contingency plan. Everything was fine. Who believed in God, anyway? This was a modern, educated society. Come on.
He checked his watch. 10:14.
Come on… Come on! He didn’t believe. Half the country didn’t believe. Good enough, right?
When he looked up, everyone was gone. Even Webb. Just like that. Like they were removed from the film. The blink of an eye. The world was still alive, the cameras still filming. Jacob’s shocked face was still on the monitor, he was still alive. So was Suzanne Phipps. Her eyes opened and she turned towards Jacob, then she pulled herself up straight and put her face in her hands.
So it had failed. Just cause doubt for a moment in countless television viewers. That’s all he had to do. Maybe Death had had second thoughts. Maybe he’d been strong-armed at the last minute. Maybe the plan just didn’t hold water.
It seemed absurd, anyway. Maybe it was just a game. He looked at Suzanne, and it took several moments to realize that she had a gun pointed at him. That poor, pathetic girl.
“Where’d you get that?” He sneered.
She smiled, her tear stained face glowing in the lights.
“Oh my God,” he whispered, closing his eyes.
He wasn’t sure when the bullet hit. The noise from the gun shocked his body, tore through him, shut him down. It was a terrible noise. It brought back that horrible knocking, just like in a dream, just like when he listened to his heart before Death’s door opened, thought now it was beginning to fade.