Sunday Archive: Death and Honor, part two
Why he started moving forward, he couldn’t say. It was an urge that wasn’t a part of him, a pulling. That’s not the right description; there was no sense of pulling, more of a sleep walk. Maybe he’d been sleeping all this time. Of course, that was an irrational thought. He wasn’t dreaming when he walked down the hall and peered down into the darkness. He wasn’t dreaming when he saw the candles ignite on and around the fully loaded banquet table. The man in the expensive, Italian suit was no dream, either. He stepped into the light and smiled warmly. Tall, thin, sharp in every way. His black hair was slicked back and his smile had all the warmth and kindness of a thousand pastors.
The man’s voice wasn’t nearly as warm. “Mr. Jacob Mariner,”
Jacob felt his chest clench. Something in the way the man said his name. As if this man knew everything.
“What are you doing in my house?”
The man in the suit, hands clasped loosely in front of him, laughed. “The man who woke you – Davisson. Bad ticker. He knows it, but it’ll still catch up with him.” The man leaned forward, craning his neck to look up the stairs. He spoke next in a conspiratorial whisper. “He loves junk food. Hides in his closet and eats in secret. Weird.”
Jacob felt like crying, screaming, anything to wake up. Anything to stop the feeling that all this was a dream.
“Come on down,” the man waved, “I’ve got food, drink, cigars.”
“Is this some sort of – “
“Dream? Delusion? Well, maybe. All the more reason to come down.”
Jacob felt drawn to the banquet table and was halfway down the steps before he realized he’d moved. The antique table looked like it belonged in a castle, certainly not in his dusty, unfinished basement. The man leaned back against the table and beckoned towards a high backed, oaken chair. Jacob sat down, only dimly aware of the door slamming at the top of the stairs.
Every food imaginable was on the table, some of it unfamiliar to Jacob. The dishes were china and silver, the glasses crystal. His mouth started to water and the man in the suit filled a crystal goblet with red wine. He pushed it towards Jacob.
“Start with this; you’ll need it.”
The man nodded, “I am Death.”
“You’re right,” Jacob drowned half the wine in one gulp. It was exquisite, powerful, graceful. “Wow, what is this?”
The man in the suit shrugged, “Oh, some old stuff. It depends more on the maker, though.” He stared off into space for a moment, “I don’t know. I’m not a wine man.”
“Have you come for me?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I deserve to die,”
The man laughed, “Oh, my dear Mr. Mariner – Jacob?”
“My dear Jacob, honestly. I hear that too often these days. I deserve death because of this or that. Nobody deserves to die, Jacob. You can’t earn it. Death is death.”
“You know, don’t you? Everything?”
“The current sin on your mind is Suzanne Phipps. Yes, I know. These are the sins of man. I do not judge and, to tell the truth, I could give a good goddamn.”
“What I did to her…I…”
“You don’t die because you raped some girl. You die because you get hit by a bus, or you choke on a quarter, or you fall out of a window. Look, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because, on Tuesday, your career is going to get a shot in the arm. You’re going to go from Mr. Entertainment Reporter to Mr. Super Reporter. Your interview with Bob Webb is going to be the talk of the nation. Webb’s bigger than you think, and so is this interview coming up. The man will win the election. , But you’re going to steal the show.” He paused. “I need you to do me a favor while those cameras are rolling.”
Jacob finished his wine. “A favor? How…?”
Death nodded, smiling.
“I want you to tell everyone that they must reject God.”
Jacob laughed. If this was a dream, it was hilarious. About time he shook those nightmares.
Death grew serious, leaning down so he was very close to Jacob, “This is no dream.” He leaned back again, “Try the lamb.”
Jacob speared a lamb chop and brought it to his plate.
“I am going to present you with evidence that proves Pope Gregory the 13th…let’s say, ‘manipulated’ portions of the Bible in the 1570’s in a desperate attempt to battle Protestantism. He ran into difficulty, but the framework for his plan was put into effect by James in 1607 and led to the creation of the King James Bible. The manipulation consisted of the alteration of the gospels. A different ending, shall we say.”
“So, I didn’t catch any of that. Sorry.”
“Bob Webb will ask you about this since, of course, you’ve made it a point to study such things.”
“I haven’t made a point of it!”
Death paused and looked sadly at Jacob, “You’re a bad spy. Anyway, you’ll discuss with Webb and he’ll agree with everything you say denouncing the current, modern Christian God.”
“Why will he agree?”
Death leaned forward again, “Because he doesn’t want to die.”
Death jumped down and walked around the table. He stopped next to an empty chair and leaned against it, dipping a finger in what looked like pudding and putting that finger in his mouth. “So your interview with Webb becomes a theological conversation coming from the mouths of two men who are respected across the nation. It’ll broadcast to half the homes in North America. You and Webb will call down doubt on God.” Death glanced upward, “I don’t mean to say such and such about God. The doubt you’ll be instilling will be in a God created by the Papacy and, namely, the Jesuits at the end of the 1500’s. Man’s God. Not the God. A God that has guided man’s history but, outside of politics and society, is nothing more than forged documents and clever lies.”
“And why would anyone care?”
Death raised his finger and grinned, “Two days before the interview, an archeologist will finally prove that a document recovered from near the Dead Sea is, in fact, an authentic contemporary gospel. That’ll be above the fold news until the interview. A double whammy, as they say. By the end of your interview, enough people will be questioning their faith.”
Jacob shook his head, “But why’s this matter?”
Death sat down and put immaculately shined shoes on the table. He steepled his hands in front of him and pursed his lips. “Let’s say I’m waging something of a protest.”
“You are familiar with the Christian apocalypse, right?”
“The end of everything.”
“It won’t be dramatic, though. It’ll happen in the blink of an eye.”
“Well, it’s going to happen 15 minutes into your interview.”