To Save The Plurality: (An Unfinished Novel, Part Four)

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VII.

When Mark arrived in Heaven he found it exactly the way he'd expected it to be. Well... that wasn't exactly so. There had been surprises. Truth was he hadn't known what to expect. He had never been a visually imaginative person on Earth.

In the beginning, when he'd first begun to ponder these things, he wondered why that thought always occurred to him -- that he'd never been a visually imaginative person on Earth, in "life," as the mortal coil had been laughably called. This was reality! This was living!

The state of being he was now was beyond compare to anything he had known, during the height of his considerable intellectual and intuitive, and frankly, sexual powers had had possessed as a flesh and blood man.

Mark had always been a history buff, and one of the first things he did upon arrival was to seek out the great men of history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Frederick Douglass, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan, among many, many others. There's so much he wanted to say to them, now that they had eternity, so much he wanted to ask them; and most of all, he wanted to thank them for all they had done to make America the greatest nation on Earth.

And of course, the heroes of the faith were here -- many he had known on Earth, and had been his dear friends. They were the great pastors, and Christian novelists; as well as famous actors and athletes, equally known for the public way they had accepted Christ as their lord and savior. They had used their fame and money to do much good work in spreading His message around the world, and in the darkest corners of the savage Third World.

These were his friends and colleagues whom the liberal-biased media had dubbed "fundamentalist," somewhat dismissively -- just because they believed that the word of the creator of all things, should be taken literally. Well, Mark say those smart-ass editors and reporters burning in Hell. Whenever he chose he saw them.

He reminded himself to take no pleasure in this. His heart was heavy with grief for them, he told himself; and he always raised the invocation, "May The Lord eventually have mercy on their souls. His will be done."

Mark had trouble bringing Ben Franklin and the others from centuries past into focus. Very much so. Was he only imagining their presence in Heaven? But surely they cannot be in that other place? All of them?

In this current state of being, Mark did not feel motion or activity, unless he wanted to. He experienced thought and the unity of thought and activity. He did not have to travel to a star. He could bring the star to him. In fact he could circulate the entire universe through himself by standing still.

He could reproduce the sensation of walking, running, jumping, and so forth, if he wanted to, through some light concentration. But he had had no preconception about what Heaven would look like, smell like, taste like, feel like, or sound like.

He had not known what to expect of Heaven, ceremonially, let's say. His expectations had been very basic: that Heaven was the reward of the faithful, the theologically correct, for those who had accepted Christ. He expected to gain admittance due to his pious behavior on Earth.

He'd thought that perhaps he would get some additional, individual recognition, in some way, for all that he had done, spirirtually, politically, and financially to spread His Word. But when he had been told to sit at the right hand of Jesus... Well, he hadn't expected such an honor. At least he had tried mightily to convince himself that he hadn't expected it.

The amazing thing was that everyone accepted it (though what choice did they have?) with enthusiasm. The evangelical greats, many of whom had been Mark's mentors and idols, accepted this as just and bowed down to him. Mark fell on his stomach, prostrated at the feet of the Lord, trembling and speaking in tongues (as he had learned to do in the Pentecostal church, that had been a converted lumber mill, in rural Kentucky) of thanksgiving. And all the Heavenly host praised Him in song and dance.

VIII.

Sandra said, "Nothing. Just like I expected." Sandra had been a hard woman on Earth, who had had a hard life growing up. She'd been an only child, orphaned when her parents had died in a car accident when she'd been ten and a half years old. She was bounced around from one miserable foster home to another, until she had sued for legal emancipation at sixteen.

Sandra had expected little from life and less from people, and therefore, she had seldom been disappointed. Most people thought her rather shrewish. But her employer had fancied her. He had thought she was striking in an 1850s, frontier mom, Little House on the Prairie sort of way. And she had possessed the most sublime ass he'd ever known.

Soon after she had come to work for him, he would call her into his office, ostensibly to take dictation or something, lock the door to his soundproof office, unzip his fly, hike up her skirt, and bend her over his desk, a couple of times a week.

"Wait," she said. "What the fuck? Who said that?"

"Shit, I did," she said. "What the fuck?"

"Sandra," she heard a voice call out. "Sandra, where are you?"

She started to call out but stopped herself. Who could she trust? But she was so alone, more alone, somehow, than she had ever been in her lowest moments on Earth. She wasn't sure she should draw attention to herself.

Despite that she yelled out, "I'm here. Help me."

A hand emerged from the darkness. "Take my hand, Sandra."

"Who are you?" she said.

She took the hand and was drawn into the presence of the man, whose personal assistant she had been for seventeen years. "Mark," she said.

"Hello, Sandra."

"Where am I?"

"You were where your lack of faith had taken you," Mark said. "But I have brought you into the light."

"Why?"

"Because, my dear, although you may not have believed in Him, He always believed in you."

VIV.

Firmly ensconced in Hell, in fact sitting on the dark throne, having defeated the previously reigning Devil (and if there's time, we may speak of this), Liam was... well... The thing was he was in a bit of disarray. He was where he deserved to be, no doubt about that. Leslie and his children where they deserved to be, which was equally beyond question.

He was still sorry about killing them. But that was better than allowing them to live to find out their daddy was a serial killer.

As master of Hell Liam had created the ambience of a corporate office. Everyone wore suits and drove Italian sports cars. They had computers in their offices and had their laptops and Blackberries. They held literally an infinitude of interminable meetings, planning sessions in which they discussed budgets, trends, forecasts, projections, profits, and debts, and the like, in exhaustive detail.

All of this was busyness for its own sake, of course. He didn't know what he should be doing now. He understood the whole light versus dark dynamic in the so-called struggle between God and the Devil. That had been Hollywood garbage.

Satan, or Lucifer, as he had once been known had been the chief angel of God. Liam also shrugged off the business about it being "better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven." He thought that Islamic mythology offered the most insight into their relationship.

The Muslim tradition had it that God had created man and ordered his angels to bow down to him, in other words, to admit the superiority of man to the angels. Most of the angels obeyed and submitted to man, but the one who would become Satan and a few others would not.

On Satan's part, his refusal had been rooted in what might even seem like extreme love of God. He would not bow down to anyone but God, and for this, Satan and his followers were expelled. This was suggestive. What was the Devil's mission with respect to humankind, then?

The Devil himself (his minions undoubtedly have other, cruder motives), therefore, does not want to wreck havoc and destruction for their own sake. He did not try to corrupt man for the sake of "evil," per se. He wanted to show God that humans were not as good as perhaps God thought. He wanted to get makind to damn themselves.

Fine. Okay. But where does that leave him? Humanity is dead and there don't seem to be any other sentient beings around in the galaxy to torment. Also, he wasn't sure how to dispose himself toward this Mark character, who seemed intent on ruling as the One God.

Mark had wanted to parlay, so he and Liam walked through the universe among the stars and planets, twinkling around them in the inky blackness. Shooting stars streaked past them to destinations unknown. They walked together, in silence for several moments, hands behind their backs, heads down, contemplative, companionable as if the two had been intimate friends of many years.

Out of sheer whimsy Mark had caused a yellow brick road to appear under their steps as they walked. Why not? Liam thought. Why not a yellow brick road? But he didn't say this.

Mark and Liam sat down on a couple of mid-size planets and faced each other. Mark explained his desire to consolidate the realms and become the One God. It turned out that there had been as many realms of the afterlife, as their had been human beings on Earth to dream them up. Included in Mark's plan was a strict One Devil policy.

Liam asked Mark why he had approached him.

"Because we, the two of us, seem to be more awake than everybody else," Mark said.

As far as Liam was concerned: What's was wrong with the status quo? But he knew that for someone as power-mad and megalomaniacal as Mark could not tolerate the fact of being one of biliions of poosible outcomes. Truth be told, the status quo wasn't entirely satisfactory for Liam either. He felt purposesless, restless, and drift.

As if in response to this, Mark said, "You have ambition yourself. Otherwise, why did you stage the coup?"

Liam listened hard and chose his words carefully. But in the end he was noncommittal.

Mark began the process of consolidating the Heavenly realms, building up his strength. Liam had felt obliged to do likewise, reluctantly, collapsing hundreds of Hells into his dominion, becoming the sole Devil of these, just to keep from being overrun by Mark.

"I'm too big to fail," Liam said to himself. Too big to fail. It disgusted Liam, the fact that capitalist thoughts persisted even now, here with all of humanity dead and the Earth destroyed.

It just goes to show the sinister power of capitalism. Surely capitalism had been one of the most sinister forms of social organization ever devised by God-forsaken mankind.

X.

The man was a dolphin. He couldn't believe it, but it was just like his pot smoking mate and yoga guru had said it would be. He had lived the last few years of his life righteous, and for his reward he had come back as a higher form of life, as far as he was concerned. Dolphins were the cleanest animals in the world.

He felt clean, cleaner than he had ever been, with his long, sleek, gray body, swimming in the aqua-blue waters. Was he in the Caribbean? It didn't matter.

The man was standing at the edge of the cliff and looking down into the water very intently, as if he was looking for something. Then he dived in, head first, like a missile. He crashed into the dolphin that had once been a man, and as they rolled around in the water, the man's laughter rippled through the ocean hollowly. He was having great sport, enjoying himself immensely.

They separated, faced each other, and the dolphin clamped his jaw around the man's forearm. The man punched him in the head and the mammalian fish went limp. The man hauled the dolphin out of the water and held him aloft on the beach. He shook him unti he resumed the form he had as a man on Earth.

Standing there, groggy, sore, and tired, and about to fall on his ass on the sand, he said, "Mark?"

"Butler," Mark said, running a hand through his wet, thick, blonde hair, and looking like he had just come from a photo shoot of a swim suit issue of GQ magazine, laughing, "Butler, Butler, Butler. People do get some funny ideas sometimes."

And now part five.

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