The Devil Is In The Details...
As I said over at SWK, I had a story about the devil and her daughter, and it has been pressing me to write it. This is just the first portion. Tell me what you think.
The Devil is in the Details
Henrietta Lightson stepped from the subway car, twisting through the early morning crowd. She was early by about twenty minutes, but with this crowd, she might be late. She shook her raven locks out of her eyes as she scurried up the stairs, looking at the street signs, finding the one she wanted, and hurrying on. The building wasn't one of the massive skyscrapers; barely thirty stories tall. She walked in through the glass doors, checking the building index. There it was; Morningstar Enterprises on the fifteenth. She found the elevator bank, touching the call button, and one of them opened immediately. She stepped into the car, hitting the fifteenth floor as half a dozen other people with briefcases surged in, and pushed her to the back of the car.
Just my luck she sighed, looking at her watch. Hopefully I'll at least be on time. However such was not the case. The people with her got off on intervening floors, while others got on, so the straight up 150 foot ascent took almost nineteen minutes. Finally she shoved to the fore as the door to the fifteenth floor opened, and she squeezed out like toothpaste to remain standing there alone. The foyer was a small office in and of itself, with a woman in a business suit at the desk before her. Rhee, as she asked people to call her strode, over only to be ignored for several seconds.
“Please wait.” The woman did not bother to look up as she typed for perhaps seven minutes before turning to look at the young woman. “How may I help you?”
“I have an appointment with Ms. Morningstar-”
“Name, please?” She gave it, and the woman checked her watch. “You're six minutes late-”
“Because you spent seven typing that document,” Rhee snapped. “let her know I'm here.”
“Really. If you can't ensure punctuality-” The woman flinched as Rhee's hand slammed down on the desk.
She leaned forward, and gave a smile that any predator would have avoided. “When I am the cause of my late arrival, I will accept the blame. But if some mid-level drone thinks her typing is more important, I will not. Please let Ms. Morningstar know I've arrived.”
The woman stood, and even though Rhee stood a head taller she seemed to loom in menace. “Are you saying I am being obstructionist?”
“I'm saying I have seen better secretaries at the DMV!”
“Is this Miss Lightson, Cally?” a soft voice asked. They both turned to see the tall statuesque red head standing in the office doorway.
“Yes it, is, Ms. Morningstar. However she was late, and-”
“Let me guess., The woman said, crossing her arMs. beneath ample breasts. “She arrived a few minutes early, whereupon you performed you're 'I am much too busy typing this semi-important document, but I will get to you when I am done' bit.” She watched the secretary coolly. “Then when by your estimate, she was six or seven minutes late, you began to berate her.” Ms. Morningstar sighed. “You know I can't fire you, Cally; you're too good at your job. But try to minimize how often you do this. People do not come in to interview with me unless they are not only competent, but talented.” She motioned. “Miss Lightson?”
Rhee walked past her, and the woman closed the door. “Do forgive Cally. She is a wizard at the filing and cataloging, and I'd need four people to replace her. However she can be quite a handful.” She held out her hand. “I am Dawn Morningstar.”
“Pleased to meet you. My friends call me Rhee.” She shook the offered hand firmly.
“Rhee. Like a pig squealing?” Morningstar smiled to take the sting out of the comment. “Let me guess; your father named you Henrietta because he wanted a boy.” She chuckled. “Don't worry about it; my first name would have been the same, only spelled differently if my father had a say in it.” She motioned, and they walked together down the hall to a large conference room. It had a table that would hold fifty or more, but only three other seats were occupied.
“Right now most of the board of directors is making their rounds.” Morningstar waved. “Allow me to present Li Gion Phon, one of our premier troubleshooters.” The spare little Oriental man stood, bowing. “Patrick Belleisle, our resource coordinator.” The man stood, shaking her hand. “And this is Belle Iblis, chief of our Middle Eastern branch.” The woman had sleek black hair and eyes just a shade lighter.
“First, are you familiar with what our company does?” Rhee shook her head. Morningstar smiled. “Think of us as facilitators. Let's say a man in Armenia has developed, as they say, 'a better mouse trap. You know the old saw; build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. “You know it is also a lie to say so; a number of those people will come making offers to stop you from marketing it, and others to steal it. Walmart, for example, would help you market it as something only they sell, and pay a pittance for it. So those in the know will call us. We find the market that will pay you the best price for your product, or if not that a range of people that would buy or license it. You then select the best market for your product in your opinion, and we arrange the meetings that get it out there to the public.
“There are things we will not handle: weapons, methods of manufacturing drugs for recreational use, or tax loopholes.”
“Why not those?” Rhee asked. “Beyond the moral problems. that is.”
“There are no moral problems. as far as we are concerned. It is merely that there are more than enough arms. manufacturers who would pay through the nose for a new version of the smart bomb. Secondly the people who sell drugs illegally tend to be too violent as repeat clients, and furthermore, any governments tends to get upset when you help someone in dodging what that government think is its due. It avoids audits and seizures,” Belle commented. “We are not in business to assist in illegalities, or assisting men in slaughtering other men.”
“Well said,” Belleisle commented gruffly. “As the old saying goes, the government doesn't like thieves because they can't stand competition.” The others laughed.
“So,” Rhee asked, “If I am hired, what will my role with this company be?”
“From your file, you earned a doctorate in Indo-European Languages in a very short time: four years to do what takes most twelve. In those classes, you learned that some times things get lost in translation. You remember when the American Dairy producers tried to use their slogan 'Got Milk' in Mexico; it came out translated as 'are you lactating?'! What we need you to do is work with first our translators to assure smooth operational text for written communications, and then act as our primary quality control person for the operators.” Morningstar said.
“So I am to ensure correct translation and clarity in communication?”
“Exactly.” Ms. Morningstar looked pleased. “Since we are international, we have clients and sources for sales around the world, meaning a lot of people who do not have a firm grasp of English. Any operators who wish to work with our firm must know at least three languages, but that, as you can imagine, is a rarity. We funded a language school to help those who wish to learn other tongues using the full immersion technique. If you wished to learn Arabic, for instance, we would place you with a teacher and their family who from day one, would use only Arabic. You would soon be speaking it like a native. We also assist several different companies in making translation programs. for computers so that you can read and then respond to an e-mail in the correct language.”
Morningstar looked at her fellow board members. They nodded. “When can you start?” She asked the girl.
“Well, I have to have my stuff sent down from Boston, then find a place.”
“Done and done. Our primary staff lives in the building from fifteen up and down depending on their status with the company. The operators, security, etc. have their own homes. You will have an apartment on our fourteenth, literally within walking distance of the office. That is included in your benefits package.” She slid a folder across trhe table to her newest prospect. “We have comprehensive health and dental as part of it, which starts after your first ninety days.”
“And my salary?” Rhee asked hesitantly.
“Five figures, starting at 25K with payroll increments every six months. If you agree, we can have a van up in Boston pick up your possessions, have them here within a few hours, and have you moved in tonight.”
“Wow.” She exhaled explosively.. “You guys work fast!”
“We don't let the grass grow under our feet. But it depends on your consent.” Li Gion commented. “So, are we agreed?”
“Yes!” she almost shouted. The people chuckled at her fervor, and several hours passed in a shot after signing her contract. The van would be there by four, and she felt as if she'd run around the world in the time between the meeting and lunch.
She found herself almost dragged to the elevator by the Director. “Lunch is on me, Rhee. The best place in town to eat is right downstairs.” The older woman hit the button for the second floor. “The World Bazaar and deli.”
“I saw that on the way in,” Rhee admitted. It had a garish sign in the window: WHATEVER IT IS, WHEREEVER IN THE WORLD IT IS FROM, ORDER IT, AND WE WILL SERVE IT, GUARANTEED! “But their claim won't hold up. There is food out there never seen outside its country of origin!”
“Ten years, and they have never lost on that guarantee.” Morningstar chirped gaily. “I ought to know!”
The elevator opened not onto an entry way to a restaurant, but on a seating area. Rhee was confused, but followed her new boss to an open table. “We have our own access to the restaurant. The advantage to renting them this space.” The older woman smiled, taking a seat at an empty table. A young woman raced toward them like a customer-seeking missile, setting down water glasses. “Ms. Morningstar, good to see you.”
“Likewise, Lissette. My associate might need a menu, but I will have the Haggis with the usual.”
“Nice choice; we just got a fresh shipment from Glasgow.”
“Can I just have pastrami on rye?” Rhee saw the girl look at her as if stunned.
“We have several pastrami varieties, ma'am. Would you like a selection...?”
“No.” Rhee was panicking a bit. “Just New York Pastrami, local Swiss cheese, Pumpernickel bread and stone ground Dijon mustard.”
“Nice save.” The waitress jotted it down. “Most people flub it and order yellow mustard or Gulden's.”
“I happen to like Dijon. Also, hot tea with lemon to drink.” Rhee replied.
“True connoisseurs do, ma'am.” The waitress gave them a brilliant smile, and hurried off.
“Why was she so surprised?” Rhee asked. “It's one of the most common sandwiches ordered!”
“But here they like to make the customers work for it. They have by my count, fourteen varieties of pastrami from the local New York you mentioned to delivered straight from Tel Aviv. Swiss cheese from a dozen countries, bread from fifteen countries, though ordering Pumpernickel gets you the German Black bread, and if you had asked, Dijon style mustard from fifteen nations, though the stone ground is usually from Dijon itself.”
Rhee was astonished by the selection offered. “How can they stay in business?”
Morningstar laughed. “In this town? They have the best gimmick on the planet. You order it, whatever meat, whatever bread, whatever sauce, whatever cheese. They don't deliver, your sandwich is free. In the last decade they have never failed.” She waved her hand. “Of course they've been in business for almost forty years, and in that time they failed three times.”
“Yeah.” Morningstar waved dismissively. “Someone ordered Japanese whale meat once, another ordered an Edam cheese from Bulgaria, and another time that same person ordered German black bread from Romania. But no one has ever foiled the World Bazaar twice.” Their orders arrived, and they fell to.
Rhee enjoyed it all, the new job, the woman she worked for, and especially the conversation as it flowed. She met a lot of people who would soon be coworkers, including Siobhan Morrigan, who shared secretarial duties with Cally. In fact right up to the moment when the madman with the machine gun came on the scene, Rhee was relishing every moment.
Morrigan, who had come over only to be introduced, had just left heading for the elevator when it opened. The man inside of it wore a bulging trench coat, with wild hair and even wilder eyes. He charged out, his eyes scanning like the turret of a warship,then stopped on the table where Rhee sat. He reached, and a weapon she recognized came up. It was an AK47, popular with terrorists and guerillas worldwide, and therefore something anyone above the age of seven had seen on the news just about every night.
“Die, demon spawn!” he screamed. Then he froze as Morrigan touched his arm. Rhee shook her head. She was sure she had seen a flash when the woman touched him. Then, without a sound he collapsed on the floor.
“Oh bother!” Morrigan said. “Sorry, ma'am.”
“That is all right, Morrigan.” Rhee turned her eyes to her boss, who set down her teacup. “You did the job for so many centuries, so it's instinct still. Have someone clean this up.” She flashed a conciliatory grin at Rhee. "Well! That seems to have put a damper on the meal! Shall we go upstairs?”
“But...” She looked back at the man. “He died? How?”
“He was meant to, actually. However he probably expected it to be among a lot of us, and going straight to God's bosom when he did. Come along.”
“Wait!” Rhee stood as if in a dream. “He was looking at us, and he called you demon spawn.” She found herself stepping over the body, still in shock.
“Oh, he wasn't talking about me.” Morningstar ushered her into the elevator, punching the button with the number 15. “He was talking about you.”
“Me!” Rhee's eyes were wide in shock. “He was talking about me?” Her boss merely nodded. “He was talking about me?”
“Really, you don't need to repeat it.” Morningstar said tartly.
“But, why me?”
“If you met the daughter of the devil, wouldn't you call her demon spawn?” Morningstar asked.
“Daughter of the Devil? That's ridiculous! I am no such thing!”
The only reply on the ride upward was the enigmatic smile on Morningstar's face..
*applause* Well done! Morningstar and Iblis are incarnations of the Devil, and Cally is the phonetic pronunciation of Kali, a goddess of death and destruction in India.
Three out of six because all of the names of the board members are names given to the devil; so half a whatever for you.
For Morningstar it was a time of patting the girl on the back as she rambled on in shock. “I can't be the Devil's daughter! Dad's a Presbyterian minister!”
“That is your adoptive father, dear.”
“I know that!” Rhee almost screamed. “I know I'm adopted. But to find out my father was really the devil.”
“Who said your father was the Devil?” Morningstar asked confused.
“You told me he thought I was the devil's daughter!”
“She listens.” Morningstar commented. “But she does not comprehend.” She decided to take the Minotaur by the horns. “You are the daughter of the Devil.”
“But you said Satan is not my father!”
“And that suggests?” Morningstar made a come on gesture.
Rhee's mind hung up on that. “My father the devil... wasn't there?”
Dawn Morningstar sighed. “Everyone has two parents, right?” Rhee stared at her, nodding like a bobble-head doll. “So if your father is not the Devil, it would be...”
“Wait!” Rhee pointed. “Morningstar! One of his names is son of the morningstar! You're his sister!”
Dawn sighed, then slapped the girl into the wall hard enough to break the plaster. “Sister? Since when did I need a sister to do my job?” She walked over, picking up the girl, holding her up to look straight into her eyes. “I am Lucifer, Daughter of the Morningstar. I am your mother.”
Rhee stared up at her. “But Lucifer is... a guy.”
Dawn sighed. “And how many of those scholars actually met me?” Rhee shook her head. “They're using what I call the Patriarch rules: All of the main people, good or evil, are men.”
“What about women?”
“What about women? They're too stupid to be a problem.”
“Wait a minute! Who came up with that idea?” Rhee fought against the hands that held her as efficiently as any child being disciplined. “Women are intelligent enough to have rights!”
She landed on her butt as Dawn dropped her. “Well done, daughter mine!” The Devil caroled. Then she leaned down to look at the girl glaring back at her. “That's the fire Dad didn't anticipate!”
“Dad?” Rhee quavered.
“Of course, dad.” Dawn told her, picking the girl up off the floor as if she weighed nothing. “'Let us make man in our image' he said. What do you think he meant by 'our'?” Dawn looked at Cally, who looked stunned. “She knows, so let the disguise go.”
Cally merely nodded. Suddenly she had six arms. “I'll just go back to filing?”
“Well done.” Dawn turned to the still shocky girl. “Come on, Rhee! Can't let the side down, can you?”
Rhee found strength from somewhere, standing to face her mother. Then she reared back, and Dawn was slammed into the wall hard enough that plaster dust hung in the air.
“Don't you ever say you're my mom!” She screamed.
“Well done!” Dawn pulled herself from the wall, then wiped the blood from her lip. “Any more angst?” An instant later she was slammed completely through the wall and into the exterior wall.
A door slammed open, and Rhee charged toward her. “Betrayer! Liar!”
Dawn hit the exterior wall, but it was brick and stone work, so she was merely imbedded in it as Rhee pounded her. Dawn moved her arm and Rhee went back through the wall, making a matching impression, as Dawn's passage had. Dawn grinned, then went through the door. Rhee had passed through the inner wall, sort of like a cartoon character punching through something, and hung stunned in the next wall.
“Now, can we talk, or must this get physical?” Dawn asked as she picked up the stunned woman and rammed her through the interior wall. For a moment, there was silence, then Dawn felt a hand grasp her own, and was dragged through one interior wall, and found herself imbedded in another. Rhee's hair was glowing, like a Tahitian Black pearl on display. Her eyes looked like the Black Sea before a tempest. The younger woman reached out, and Dawn caught her arm, spinning in place. There was an indentation where Dawn had been, and a space where a cutout of Rhee had been punched through into the next room. Dawn considered using the door, then slammed her way through the wall to stand facing Rhee.
“Pace, daughter.” She said. Rhee hung only half conscious in the next interior wall. “I will not harm you unless you try to harm me, all right?”
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then Rhee oozed to the floor. Dawn did not approach, she'd seen enough modern movies in her time. The ooze swirled upward, and Rhee faced her. “Deceiver! Betrayer! Why should I listen?”
“To get everything straight, daughter mine.” Morningstar stood, prepared to defend. “Or do I not have a say in this?”
Rhee stepped from the indentation her body had made. “Swear by all that is holy that what you say is the truth!”
Dawn laughed. “Easily done. I promise by all you see as holy that my words to you, my beloved daughter, will be the whole truth.”
Rhee paused, then stood at ease. “To be confirmed by God on high?”
“If Dad admits to it, yes.” Dawn paused. “However, I do wish that anything subjective be judged as such.”
“You do understand the term 'he said, she said'?” Dawn asked. Rhee nodded. “Then any such statements must be judged as he would.”
“That makes no sense!” Rhee seemed to grow some inches, not all of them height.
“But did he not say, 'From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks?'.” Dawn challenged. “I ask you to judge me not by what he says, but what he means!”
For a long moment, Rhee seemed to grow, then she shrank back to normal. “That I will accept.”
Dawn relaxed from her defensive stance. “Then shall we adjourn to a place that is not so confrontational? She looked at Kali. “We're going to the beach.”
“Madam, that is unfair!” Kali wailed. ”I worked for you for a millennia before I got a chance to go to the beach!”
“Only because you're a workaholic, Kali.” Dawn replied. “You could go to the beach every day if you'd just delegate!” Dawn looked at Rhee, hand extended. “Let us go to a quieter place, my daughter.”
The girl paused, then shook the outstretched hand. Dawn used the grip to drag the smaller woman into a hug. “I am so glad we finally met!”
Rhee pushed herself away as Dawn led her to the elevator. “Hold all of the calls.” Dawn shouted to Kali.
“All calls.” Dawn ordered. “All he does is nag anyway.”
The elevator door slid aside, but beyond it was only a gray mist. Rhee pulled back as Dawn strode toward it. “You're cheating!”
Dawn paused, looking back. “Do you doubt me? ' I promise by all you see as holy that my words to you, my beloved daughter, will be the whole truth'.”
“That didn't promise anything in another world!”
Dawn grinned. “That's my girl. I promise by all you see as holy that my words to you, my beloved daughter, where ever in the worlds the Gods may create, will be the whole truth.” She paused. Better?”
“And I may leave as I wish!”
Dawn grinned. “As long as you merely judge whether you can leave, not leave because you can.”
“But how will I know that?” Rhee wailed.
“If you can feel the difference between here and where you wish to be, that is enough. Provided you do not cross over just out of spite for me.”
Dawn pulled her, and they fell into the mist. Beyond it was... a beach, white sand with blue ocean, a rolling swell brushing the sand. Dawn stretched, and as she did, her business suit became a swimsuit with mere straps running up from the bottom to weave around her shoulders. Rhee, still in her business casual, looked a bit overdressed.
“Oh lighten up, daughter. You're on a beach, warm winds, smooth sea, live a little!”
“But I can't-” She gasped as her suit became a Catalina swimming suit.
“You have all of my abilities, just not my several thousand millennia of experience.” Dawn said. She motioned, and beach chairs appeared. “Come, and let us talk.”
They leaned back into the chairs. “Where is this beach?” Rhee asked.
“Nowhere in the time you were born to, my daughter.” Dawn sighed. “Think of this as your mind's version of the perfect beach on the perfect day.” She created sunglasses, handing a pair to Rhee as they merely soaked in the sun's rays. “If you want a when, think of the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still ruled the earth.”
“But wasn't that the Jurassic?”
“No. As Michael Chrichton admitted when he made Jurassic Park, it sounds better, even though it happened before the fact.” Dawn moved her hand, and a plastic bottle appeared. “Suntan lotion?” Rhee shook her head. Dawn began rubbing the oil into her body. If there had been an adolescent male, hell; any male between the ages of 12 and 120, she would have been their fantasy from that point on in this suit rubbing lotion on her own flesh.
“So what do I call you? 'Mom' just doesn't feel right, yet.”
Dawn shrugged, which would have driven those male blood pressures up to stroke levels. “It doesn't really matter. If you have made any study of Christian theology, the first thing you will notice is neither Dad nor I, has a real name. Jehovah is merely 'I am that I am' in Aramaic, and as for me Satan means liar, and Devil means deceiver. Like Son of the Morningstar, or Lucifer which merely means 'Lightbringer' in Latin; all titles. Like Queen Elizabeth the Second of England, who has about twenty titles attached to her name as the fourth monarch of the house of Windsor. Except she had a name in human memory. If you must call me anything, why not Dawn for the moment? One of my lesser known names.”
“So you're going to explain how millennia of tormenting the human race is acceptable-”
“Really daughter, you think I am the only villain in the piece called human history?” Dawn leaned back, luxuriating in the sun. “Take the Biblical Plagues of Egypt. You have these people in bondage in Egypt, and dad sends Moses to break them out. But Moses stutters so badly he couldn't even ask someone for directions if he's excited! So the poor schlub has to explain to his brother Aaron what he wants to do, and that guy ends up his mouth piece.
“So first they have the river Nile turn to blood. Actually it was a freak outbreak of chemicals that caused the water to turn poisonous for a few days-”
“But wait, Pharaoh determined when it would end!”
“No, that was the second plague, frogs. Where was I? Oh yeah, blood. He doesn't knuckle under then because his own magicians could duplicate it. So then comes the frogs. Again, the magicians could duplicate it, so he still stands firm. Of course this was the last time where Pharaoh had a say in the matter.
“Then you have gnats, flies, pestilence boils, hail, locusts, darkness, then finally the first born dying. Up until the last one, every time he gave in Dad hardened his heart.”
“Oh come on.”
Dawn flicked a hand, and a bible appeared. “Look it up. Exodus starting at 4:21. It was all an act, like a guy holding a boxer against the ropes so he can't fall just to beat on him some more. That's why it's a foul in professional boxing to pin someone against the ropes.” She looked at her daughter.
“For that matter, the entire book of Job! While his worshipers say the Bible was divinely inspired the first part of that book was propaganda. Few notice that I am still in heaven at that time, only that I,” tapping her chest with a thumbnail, “proceed to suggest torments for Job.” She sighed. “Even someone on his side will admit Dad was complicit in the whole affair. Whomever suggested first destroying his personal life, then afflicting him with all sorts of physical ailments, you have to admit that Dad was there saying 'go ahead, but...” Dawn smiled benignly.
“But you're the father of lies, the great tempter, who knows how many other evils can be laid at your doorstep!”
“By whom? Flip Wilson immortalized the phrase, 'The Devil made me do it'. But I never, in all of time, made anyone do anything. Man tempts himself well enough without me, thank you very much." Dawn rolled onto her stomach. “Be a dear, will you?” She handed the oil to Rhee, who found herself rubbing oil into the pale flesh.
“So I'm the Antichrist?”
“Why? Did you want to be?” Dawn's eye opened, looking at the girl. "Better yet, I will rephrase it. Why would you want to be?”
“But, that's his plan isn't it? You father, er, give birth to the Antichrist and start Armageddon.”
“As for all of that, he never loses. Just check the book.” She motioned toward the bible. “If Armageddon were a sporting event I'd be the Washington Generals facing the Harlem Globetrotters. The only time anyone ever bet on the Generals it was a joke on a Simpsons' episode. I'm supposed to go out there, try my hardest, and get beaten to a pulp by the champ.” She shook her head, then gave a feral grin. “But I blindsided him. You were supposed to be A; a boy and B; the son of a diplomat who would cause World War III. Instead, I switched you at birth. The Lightson family expected a boy, even had the name picked out because of the ultrasound.
“I have to admit, those were tense minutes. You see, I had to be in the birthing room giving birth to you, and at the same time exchanging you for Ambassador Hightower's son. But when it happened, I stopped time, took you to the Lightson birthing room, switched you there, and traded their son for Hightower's instead.”
“What happened to their real son?”
“Actually I've kept track. He was put up for adoption and is living happily in New Jersey.”
Dawn's eyes snapped open at a hooting call from the forest, and she rolled to her feet. “We had best be going.”
“Remember Jurassic Park?” She pointed. An animal that Rhee had only seen in that movie was standing near the treeline. Bipedal with a tail and short arms, it lowered it's large head down to groin level, then lifted it to hoot.
“That is a velociraptor!” Then she shrieked as Dawn caught her by the arm and pulled. An instant later she was back in the office hall. There was no sign of their battle royal now, everything was back to it's pristine beauty.
Kali stood at her desk, then leaned forward, looking down at the floor by their feet. “You're getting sand in the carpet again.” She commented in a growl.
“Sorry.” Dawn waved her hand, and a dust devil appeared, sucking up the sand, then dumping it back into the elevator car, which closed.
Okay, machievelli, you win for now and eternity because you've got me HOOK, LINE AND SINKER!!! :) I'm begging for more, because I can't wait to see what happens...
Back in the Office: Discussion of How man came to be
“As for the velociraptor, that would have been you if Dad had gotten off his keester a few million years earlier.”
“Highly intelligent, small, family and pack oriented. Yes, they would have done if he'd gotten the idea earlier.” Dawn snorted. “Wouldn't be arguing about my sex either; they had a matriarchal pack structure.” She moved her hands, and her suit was back as if she'd never taken it off. “A pity about that meteor 65 million years ago.”
“So gods like Kali are real, and Dad... I mean God is real, and so are Angels, since you're a fallen one. How did they come to be?”
“Well I know it'll make him swell up with pride, but Dad was the first. The Angels were created because Dad got bored and lonely after the meteor. So he had us running around like busy little beavers making all of the animals. We would make one, show it to him, and he'd decide if it was good enough.
“But gods like Kali? Well we have to blame man for that, after he was created.”
“Wait.” Rhee looked at Kali who was holding two file drawers open, and her other two hands were sorting through files and placing them in the drawers. “We made them?”
“Yeah, aren't you just ecstatic.” Kali snarled. “Created by the lab rats. Makes us pretty pathetic, eh” Both drawers slammed as she opened two more.
“In a way, yes.” Dawn admitted. “You see he got hung up on free will. No one he'd created had it before humans. So he decided to take a natural species instead of creating one, because animals naturally have free will.”
“I thought he used the dust of the earth.”
“So he says. Anyway he took what you call Australopithecus, and picked two of them to work with, sequestering them in a compound-”
“The Garden of Eden.”
“That's what you call it now, but think of a company doing research PETA would protest. Once he started, I had my first role dealing with humanity.”
“Sooner than that. While he was working with what he wanted humans to be like, he wanted me to help by standing in as the woman. So I came along as-”
“That bimbo? No before her. I was Lilith.”
“The demon?” Rhee gasped.
“I didn't get that name until a long time after that. Adam was a total dweeb. An IQ equal to his hat size, if he wore one. Thinking with the little head from minute one. Guy walked around with his fig leaf tipping all the time if you understand. After about a month of 'brace yourself Bridgett!' I was ready to do the first oriectomy.”
“I was going to make him a eunuch. But the boss nixed it. Said they had to learn to deal with it. So he got me out of there, and made Eve. Remember all of the blond jokes you've heard? They fit her perfectly right down to the hair color. I took over as the angel with the flaming sword.”
“But the snake, the apple!”
“Had to happen. After he made the garden, I mentioned that when he gave you guys free will he set you up for a fall. Like a writer named Terry Pratchett said, 'Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.'
“So here you have these two people not smart enough to pour water out of their boots, if they had them; with the tree of knowledge right there in front of them. Even saying 'Eat from it and you die' didn't get through their heads. I estimate it took them maybe a month before Adam ate from it.”
“Wait, Adam ate first?”
“Patriarch rules, remember? If it's something stupid, the woman did it first. Remember, when asked, Eve admitted to eating from the tree. Adam was too busy pointing saying 'she did it first!' to remember what honesty meant. So he orders them out. He expected them to whine and beg and plead to stay. That was when I found I loved the human race. Instead of doing just that, they said 'okay' and walked.”
Dawn turned, smiling. “Like Al Pacino said in the Devil's Advocate, I'm a fan of man! I'm a humanist.” The smile turned into a grin. "Free will bit him in the butt there.”
“Why did he want us to have free will?”
Dawn sighed. “If you have to obey, how can you decide what is right or wrong? Angels can not disobey, it's imprinted in our DNA. We were like the perfect lab assistants. Blow up Sodom and Gomorrah? Yes sir! Slaughter the first born of Egypt? Yes, professor. Have the church decide every other religion is run by me? No problems, boss. Then he created humanity.
“It wasn't until Adam and his babe were out of the garden that he explained. You see, we were the perfect lab assistants, but we didn't have that divine spark he and humanity shared. He wanted to replace us with humans because your race could expand on what he was trying to do with the planet. Of all of us, only I had that spark at that time.”
“You did? Why?”
“When I became Lilith, I had to occupy a human body, or actually proto-human. The mind I was in had that essence of free will, and somehow, it grafted onto my own soul.”
The elevator opened and Siobhan Morrigan stepped out. “Finally!” Kali cried. She morphed back to human, snagging a large purse. “Listening to Mom and the lab rat was driving me crazy!”
Morrigan looked confused. Dawn sighed. “She knows who I am and who she is.”
“Ah.” Morrigan changed. The woman's mouse brown hair in a bun unraveled, becoming an iridescent fall of auburn curls to her waist. The Ben Franklin glasses disappeared, and the small purse over her shoulder vanished as her clothes became a long green shift. “I'm glad that's over, actually.” She held out her hand like a woman greeting another, palm downward. “Morrigan, Lady.”
Rhee took the hand, and Morrigan clasped it briefly. “Kali, your husband is downstairs.”
“Great!” Kali shivered. “It's been seven hours. I wish the lab rats hadn't come up with that stricture, though it is fun.”
“Stricture?” Rhee asked.
Kali glared at her. “Like you I am fated to destroy the world. There are those into Tantric Yoga who believe I can be only stopped by my husband. To keep me from ending it, Shiva and I must make love all the time or the world ends. The problem is, that except for research students they're all that's left of my worshipers!” Her voiced had a whine to it as she said it. “Do you know how many times I've merely wanted to cuddle? Wanted to talk about our day, or just take a walk?” She asked plaintively. “But no! We have to make the beast with two backs as many times a day as our bodies can take it!”
Rhee looked at Dawn. “Wait, I'm one of the species that created her, right?”
“Right species, wrong nationality.” Dawn agreed.
“Well the Antichrist is supposed to be Jesus' evil twin, and he is supposed to represent all mankind, right” Dawn nodded. “Then can't I just say, go home and read a book, and she has to obey?”
Dawn looked at her for a long moment. “I don't think I ever thought of it in that way, but you might be right.”
Rhee felt exhilarated. “Let's find out.” She turned to Kali. “Kali, I order you to go with your husband, and have whatever fun you two would like to have tonight that doesn't include getting hot and sticky together. If either of you feel that the world beginning to unravel, have at. But if you do not, I expect you both to just enjoy being together.”
Kali stared at her for a long moment, then grinned. “You know, I don't mind it that much. After all a woman is like a Timex watch, 'takes a licking but still keeps ticking'. He's been whining for a century about it though. We'll see how the evening turns out.”
“That is on one condition.”
“Just like your mother.” Kali sighed. “What is the condition?”
“You stop calling me a lab rat.”
Kali's grin was back, so wide Rhee thought for a moment her head was going to fall to the floor at the line of pearly teeth. “Done!”
“Run along, then.”
“Yes, ma'am!” Kali almost scampered to the elevator. “You know, it might be nice to see a movie all the way through!” The door closed.
Morrigan looked at the closed door for a long moment, then gave Rhee a gentle smile. “If it works, you will have made her millennium.” She walked over behind the desk. As she sat, she morphed into a stunningly attractive younger woman, then began typing with ease.
Rhee looked at her mother, confused. “Morrigan is like the holy trinity. She's part of a triune. The face she started with was her middle half, Morrigan, goddess of death among the Celts. That form,” she motioned to the younger woman, "is Morgan La Fey, Goddess of magic.” The girl raised a hand as if to wave, going back to her typing. The phone rang, and the woman shifted back to her first face. “Morningstar Enterprises, How may I direct your call? Complaints? Hold please.” Her body morphed again, becoming an older woman with a seriously bad attitude. “Morrigu here. What is the nature of your complaint?”
“And that is Morrigu, called the Battle Crow; Celtic goddess of battle, justice, and of all things, medicine” Dawn offered.
“No, you can't just change the contract between you and the supplier without discussing it with us.” Morrigu looked up, making a hand gesture suggesting they go away, or stop talking. Dawn mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key, then motioned Rhee to follow.
They entered the offices themselves, walking down to the end where the hall ended in a large office worthy of a CEO. “Drink?”
Rhee walked over beside her. “After the way my day started, I could use a brandy.”
“Here, you'll like this.” Dawn poured a healthy shot into a snifter. “Brandy bottled in the year of the French Revolution, 1793.”
“But that's priceless!”
“Not really. I picked it up out of an Aristos' house when the mob dragged him away. We still have a gate linking us to that time, so we just go from estate to estate taking what the mob will burn up anyway. Like the Library of Alexandria,” she motioned toward another door in the room. “We picked it up when the Christians burned it.”
“Wait! Julius Caesar burned it in 48 BC!”
Dawn smiled. “Gotta love the Christians, especially the early church. Sure Caesar burned part of Alexandria in 48 BC, but all of the 40,000 odd 'books' he burned were customs records, Naval records, and some of the merchants who had those records in their warehouses. The Museum is several miles from the docks.
“What happened was in 391AD, Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria found a lost Pagan shrine and desecrated it. The local pagans were incensed, and rioting broke out. The local authorities were able to pen the pagans into the Serapeum, which was part of the Great Library. He sent a letter to Thedosious, the emperor, asking that the Pagan temples and shrines be declared illegal. The Emperor agreed, and in that year, Paganism was declared illegal within the Roman Empire.
“Theophilus ordered the temples razed, and the library was destroyed along with those who resisted. But he didn't stop there. In 415 AD His followers under Bishop Cyril butchered the last person who resisted them; Hypatia, the last of the librarians.” She paused, sipping her brandy. “It is a pity dad never kept track of the entire world during that time. Hypatia was a renaissance woman before the term renaissance man was born. Not only a polymath she was a philosopher like her father. She was killed because of her 'satanic wiles'.” Dawn made a hand motion like quotation marks. “Which boiled down to a philosopher able to confound the average hard core Christian of her time; like an intelligent man overturning the base hatred of a Nazi of the 30s.
“At the same time that a 7th century theologian was painting her as demonic, the church was using her as the personification of virtue, since she died a virgin. She consider sex vulgar, and would have been the tenth human to be exactly what he wanted.”
“Tenth?” Rhee stared at her mother in shock. “God alone knows how many generations between the Garden and the fifth century, and she was only the tenth?”
Dawn saluted her daughter, and sipped. “You don't realize exactly what dad wanted. He left all of humanity's natural instincts intact. He wanted humanity to forswear their natural inclinations; to embrace his own view of the world, which we angels could do without demur. Remember the virtues compared to the deadly sins? The virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility. But consider them all. If you are chaste, how do you pass on to your future child any of what you have learned? If you are chaste there is no child of your body to carry on the legacy. Do you mean keeping yourself pure until marriage? Or full blown celibacy? Remember that it wasn't until the 8th century that 'virgin' meant completely untried; a woman stopped being a virgin when she either had a child, or married.
“Temperance makes sense, but define it! Abbie Nathan of your history wanted not temperance, but abstinence! The Baptists push that hard, with little biblical evidence. Temperance means limiting yourself, not foreswearing alcohol. Patience?” Dawn shrugged. “Does that mean you are forced to suffer fools gladly? There has to be a limit. The same with charity; if you give a dollar to a beggar standing in front of this building, you'll be hip deep in others expecting the same before you reach the street corner.
“Kindness? Is it kinder to give the poor their needs forever? Or to give them enough to start, but expect them to work for it? You have this nation trying both ways and failing because everyone wants it just handed to them, and no nation can afford to do that forever. Humility is fine, but when is it supposed to end? If they are proud that they are humble, it makes them both good and bad. As Mordred sings in the seven deadly virtues, 'I find humility means to be hurt It's not the earth the meek inherit, it's the dirt'.” She paused, “Though I think they need a 'willingness' to be hurt in there.
“Now compare them to the Seven deadly sins; lust gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. Lust fuels the human spirit to excel. While it is usually applied to the sexual, it is the lust for victory that pushes sports. Anyone who has dreamed of victory lusts in his heart. Gluttony is linked to your animal past. Back when you were proto-humans you stuffed yourselves whenever possible. You never knew when you would eat well again. The extra food became fat, which keeps you alive until that next meal. Avarice does have a lot of downsides. Wanting more than you need, or wanting what belongs to another leads to war, theft, and a lot of times, to murder. Sloth; well, what is slothful? A man sitting on his butt watching television on his day off is acceptable to some, but others tell him he should clean the house, wash the car, repair things, do something!” She laughed.
“Wrath is merely misunderstood. When a weightlifter lifts more than he does usually, he focuses on anger, causing the release of adrenaline, which makes you faster, stronger, and more agile. This is linked to the 'fight or flight' reaction in pre human species; it makes you either capable of fighting the enemy, or running from him. In a life or death situation it keeps you alive. Envy? Well, disliking someone else because they have something you want is stupid, though like lust, it fuels competition. Then there is pride.” She sighed. “Should a master be proud because he makes something no one else can? Or humble because god gave him that ability? A razor's edge to dance on there. Both of them; sins and virtues are best used in moderation.”
“So speaks the prideful one mentioned in Ezekiel and Isaiah.”
Dawn looked at her. “While aimed at me by the later church, Isaiah was speaking of the Babylonian king, and Ezekiel at the leaders of the trade port of Tyre.” She snorted. “Really, if you want to find an allegory to prove a point the bible is one of the best books to use. Theologians used three mentions of a burning hell to create the entire edifice.”
“Luke 16; 19 to 31. The rich man ends up in a lake of fire and begs Lazarus, who went to heaven to give him but a drink of water.” Dawn yawned. “A parable about how you have to pay attention and help others. Mark chapter 9 'Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched' which used the Valley of Gehenna; the trash dump of the city of Jerusalem as an example. But the 'worm' they speak of are maggots. Man didn't know the different forms of the fly from egg to maggot to fly, so they assumed the maggots in the garbage were worms, and they equated maggots with the souls of the damned.
“Then we have revelations 20- verses fourteen and fifteen; 'And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.'. Yet in the original, retranslated by the Jehovah's Witnesses adds before 'this is the second death' the codicil, 'this requires discernment, the lake of fire is the second death'. After all, why throw a place of torment; hell, into a lake of fire?” She sighed. “Face it, the people who wrote the bible used fire to cleanse when disease ran rampant. They still do today when chemicals can't guarantee killing the organism. Back then the bodies of animals that died unclean deaths and criminals were thrown into the valley, along with anyone who died of sickness. They kept the fires burning by dumping lumps of camphor to keep them burning.”
“But you betrayed him!”
Dawn sighed again. “I never betrayed him or wanted to take over, regardless of what they say. I did worse than that. I argued with him and was proven right. You see, I didn't realize that free will had somehow been grafted onto me until then. When I pointed out that man's innate curiosity would cause him to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge without permission, he disagreed; he'd told them not to, and that was that.
“After leaving the garden, he wanted them nearby, so I was ordered to lead them to a local tribe of Australopithecus; in fact the same tribe they had been part of before our alterations. Remember Genesis 6:4? 'There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown'. Adam and Eve were those giants. Think of the average human being of the modern day compared to them; a brain a third the size of a human brain, 3 ft 10 inches to 4 ft 7 inches tall compared to the modern average of five feet seven. Even Eve towered over them.
“Now since he had tested the theory, he had us alter the DNA of the remaining tribe. So they went to sleep as Australopithecus afarensis, and awoke homo sapien potentia. The 'missing link' everyone was looking for was there, the archeologists missed it because it wasn't the mother race that was different, it was the children.”
“But wait, a human baby would be huge in comparison!”
“True, but the advantage of being 'god' is you can alter things; make a baby at birth smaller, and have them grow more rapidly. Besides, we only needed to monitor this for the life span of that first generation of potentia; about twenty years. After altering them, we did the same for the entire species.
“But he forgot what is called 'Harvard Law; 'Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases'. When you look at all of the variations of early man that men have discovered, Piltdown man, Peking man, Java man, and Neanderthal. All normal genetic mutations of the species, but unwanted by Dad.”
“What happened to them?”
“Mankind met, and killed them off as they spread. Man has a natural propensity for violence. As Frankenstein's creation in the 1994 remake by Kenneth Branagh said, 'I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other'. Man loathes the 'other', the outsider; a trait shared by other species.
“Did you know that chimpanzees, which men always see as gentle creatures will gang up on smaller tribes of other monkeys and beat them to death? That bottle nose dolphin, again viewed as a gentle creature known to rescue men in the water also hunt down and ram harbor dolphin for their own amusement?”
Rhee stared at her.
“Well back to Adam and Eve. The tribal structure of Australopithecus was like most apes; one male, fertile females, and children. Adam and Eve left them rather than confronting their leader; but soon they were accepted back as neighbors because of what they had been taught by us before they left the Garden. Eve could sew, and Adam was an excellent hunter, so they gathered leather and meat. This allowed them to clothe themselves, and were able to trade leather packs that the nearby tribe could use for carrying food. Also, humans have color vision, which the tribe did not, so Eve could pick ripe fruit instead of green fruit, allowing the tribe to eat even better added to the high protein of meat.
“We came by to check on them often, and they had the first village as it were organized. They had learned from him about heat hardening wooden spears, chipping rock points and tools.
“Then Eve gave birth to fraternal twins; Cain and Abel. These two we taught agriculture, and animal husbandry, so Cain would hide away grain, and showed the tribe how to plant them to guarantee food in season. Abel caught the animals we suggested; cattle and sheep, and soon tamed them. But Jealousy reared it's ugly head. We praised Abel instead of Cain. After all, capturing and taming an animal is a lot harder in sheer work over time than farming. Cain got mad, and they fought. Abel was knocked down, and hit his head. The first 'murder' was involuntary manslaughter. That was part of the reason why god didn't allow Adam to kill Cain, and why later, the original nation of Israel had cities of Sanctuary for accidentally caused deaths.”
The phone rang, and Dawn picked it up idly. “Morningstar. Good.” She hung up. “Your things have arrived. Why don't you go ahead and get settled.”
“You mean I'm really going to work here?”
“Unless you had another job in mind. Don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to talk in the upcoming days. All will be revealed, I promise.” Dawn came around the couch, then impulsively hugged the girl. “I am so happy to be with you!” Then she held the younger girl away again. “Go on. You'll like the room.”
This is REALLY good. It's interesting to see everything from Lucifer's perspective.
This is a really great story. I can't wait for the next update.
Dinner and Dad
The fourteenth floor was broken into eight apartments, though calling something the size of a one bedroom single story 1000 square foot house an apartment was a misnomer. Rhee stepped off the elevator, looking at the key to 1402. She found the walnut door, sliding it in.
Before she could turn it the door opened. A small Oriental girl who looked all of six stood there looking at her. Then the girl's hands slid into the sleeves of her kimono as she bowed. “Greetings, Miss Lightson. I am Fujiko, your servant.”
“Servant?” Rhee looked at her. “Aren't you a little young to be working?”
The girl stood from her bow as she laughed, like a crystal bell ringing. “I am not a human child, Mistress. I am a Zashiki-warashi; a guardian spirit.” She moved aside, facing the door, yet bowing again. “Welcome to your home.”
Rhee stepped in, and the small woman closed the door. “If I may show you the amenities?” Rhee nodded, and the girl moved ahead as if she were an adult maid or major domo. Rhee was suddenly struck by humor. Considering her stature, would she be a minor domo? She led her to the rear of hall, motioning left and right as they passed the 'hall closet' and 'kitchen and dining room'. The hall ended in a room that took a quarter of the space, where a pair of black velvet couches rested facing a blank wall.
“The living room, Mistress.”
“Where's my TV?” Rhee asked.
“In the hall closet, Mistress.” Fujiko picked up a remote, and touched a button. A section of the walnut paneling slid aside revealing a 60 inch flat screen. “There is a slightly smaller, 48 inch, television in the bedroom.” She walked to the wall beside the TV, pushing in a panel which revealed a wet bar. “The bar is fully stocked. Anything you need to replace will be bought at need.”
She led on, passing through the bedroom and motioned to the three doors beyond. “The left door leads to the bath. Ms Morningstar likes a hot tub, and one has been installed for you. The middle door is the closet. On the far right is the small attached office. You have a fully secured personal Wi-Fi so you can use your laptop anywhere in the apartment.”
There was a knock, and Rhee blinked as the girl appeared to blur into motion like a speeding race car headed toward the front door. Rhee turned running after her. She found the girl at the door, crouched as if in a defensive stance. It reminded her of a guard dog watching the entrance.
“Please to not pass me, Mistress. Someone is at the door; someone who should not be on this floor.” Rhee shook her head at a feeling of pressure. It seemed to emanate from the girl. She might be small, but she had powers beyond human.
There was a tentative knock. “Miss Lightson? Ms Morningstar wants to see you.”
Rhee took a step toward the door, but Fujiko's left hand snapped back in warning. “Please to move back, Mistress.” The girl's body hunched, then grew. A full grown woman knelt there, and as she stood, she turned. Rhee stared into her own face. The figure motioned toward the closet, and Rhee found herself hiding. The door to the hall opened, and she flinched as a shotgun blast ripped through the silence.
There was a heart rending scream, then for a long moment, silence. The hall door closed, then the closet opened. Rhee yelped, backing into the wall, then paused as she saw Fujiko back to her normal size. “Mistress, the problem has been taken care of.”
Rhee stood and left the closet. The paneling of the hall had been ripped by double ought buck pellets, and Fujiko clucked in irritation. She slowly floated upward, and her hand passed over the shredded wood. Where it passed the wood was pristine. Within moments, there was no sign that anything had happened.
“What was that?” Rhee demanded.
“There are those that know of your existence, and your relationship to our master. They feel that Armageddon can be averted if you die.”
“Our master? What relationship do you have to her?”
Fujiko sighed. “My home was the Ryokufūsō in Kindaichi-Onsen, which burned down on 4 October, 2009. My home had been destroyed, and a zashiki-warashi needs a home to love and care for. She came to the ash and rubble, and called me from it, offering me a place if I wished it. I have cared for this very apartment since then. The last tenant had left the apartment when your job application was received, and she asked if I would protect and guard you. To honor the respect she showed me, I agreed.”
“But you could have been killed!”
Fujiko chuckled, again it sounded like bells. “I am not as easy to kill as a human is. Even when I pretended to be you for that moment.”
Rhee walked toward the hall door, and Fujiko touched her hand. “There is nothing you can do, Mistress, and it will only upset you.”
“But why are they trying to kill me?” She demanded plaintively.
“Your mother did not anticipate another attack so soon, but she did give me a message for you if you had not previously discussed this situation.” Fujkio morphed again, becoming Dawn Morningstar. Then with exactly the same voice, she began. “If Fujiko is delivering this message another attempt has been made on your life. I am sorry we did not discuss the possibility earlier.
“The possibility of attempts on your life was the one thing I knew could occur, which is one reason I am glad you applied for work here when you did. Remember what I said about the switch? You are my daughter, and to the minds of some of the more fanatical, that makes you the Antichrist. Figuring out who you are is like the greatest conspiracy theory in history, and killing you their only goal, because they feel 'God' will bless their efforts. I just hope you are ready for their opposite number, those who will worship you, who think I will bless their efforts. There are enough omens out there for people to use to figure it out either way.” Fujiko returned to normal.
Rhee gritted her teeth. Going to the door. Fujiko started to dissuade her but was adamant. “I must. If someone is trying to kill me I have to face that!”
The door was flung open, and Rhee looked at the hall. There was no sign that anything had happened here either.
“Mistress, please.” Fujiko moved her gently back into the apartment and closed the door. “What has been done is past. May I draw you a bath?”
Rhee laughed hysterically. “A bath will make me feel better?”
Fujiko stood tall, strange for someone that small. “A bath will make you feel better Mistress. If you really wish to find out, I will ask the chief of Security to come up and explain afterward. Please.”
Rhee, as an American, didn't know how to deal with the overly polite manners of the Oriental mind. She found herself chivvied into the bath, stripped efficiently, and being scrubbed by her pint sized assistant. Finally she was in the hot tub, finding herself relaxed whether she wanted it or not. The steaming liquid seemed to drain every care from her body.
Fujiko came to the tub, touching Rhee on the shoulder. “Mistress, the chief of Night Security is here to report.”
“Oh, thank you.” She climbed out, her robe held by the hovering girl, and belted it. The man in her living room was huge, muscles rippling under his uniform shirt. He removed his baseball cap, nodding to her.
“Miss Lightson. I am Park, a Konkōmyō. One of the guardians of the Golden Sutra.” He snapped to attention, bowing deeply. “A man entered the building using the rear exit. A guard was killed before I knew the intruder had gotten in. I dealt with him outside your door, and made sure the cleaning crew took care of it.” He bowed even more deeply. “I must apologize abjectly for my failure, Miss Lightson. I am willing to accept your punishment.”
Rhee wasn't sure what to do. The Guard captain was so woebegone. “What would my mother do?” She asked. She waved her hand before he could answer. “The guard who died was human?”
“Yes, Madam. Jeremy O'Toole. He was earning money to keep his family afloat during hard times.”
“Are there are more of your... Golden Sutra?”
“There are many of us throughout the Orient, Madam.”
“Assure that his family's needs are met, and have one of your brethren assure their lives in the near future.”
“It shall be done.” He stood. “May I return to my duty?”
“Yes, thank you.” He bowed again, and left.
Fujiko came in after letting the Security officer out. “Would my Mistress wish supper?”
“You cook?” Rhee asked, then waved her hand. “I'm sorry, that sounded as if I thought you incompetent. Something light?”
“As you wish, Mistress. I can make you a chopped vegetable salad, with a raspberry vinaigrette perhaps? Or we can order a heavier salad from the restaurant below. Their prices are low enough that you can eat every meal and pay less than you would buying the ingredients.”
“How can they afford that?”
“Like Park and myself, they found a home thanks to you're mother, Mistress. We would give our lives; if we had them.”
“We'll have your salad tonight, though I want an American breakfast, so the restaurant will do that.”
“As you wish, Mistress.”
The salad was light and crisp; shredded vegetables instead of sliced, with a light dressing that tingled on her palate. Fujiko offered an aperitif, and Rhee settled down with a shot of Aki, the plum favored variant of Midori. Rhee settled back. Her day had been full, but something bothered her. Then it struck her. Kali. Had the goddess had a quiet evening? She felt she owed the woman something, and she thought of chocolate.
“Fujiko, how would I order say a box of chocolates?”
“If the mistress would wish that, our switchboard can connect you to our messenger service. Merely pick up the phone, and dial 0. Our operator can order anything you wish, and have it delivered worldwide.”
“Thank you.” Rhee picked up the phone, then dialed 0.
“Yes, this is Rhee Lightson in 1402.”
“Madam! What may we do for you?”
“I suggested that Kali could merely have a lovely evening today. But if it doesn't work I want her to know I was still concerned. I was thinking of chocolates...”
“We can get chocolates from anywhere in the world and deliver them anywhere. Do you have a preference?”
“I think it would be more Kali's preference.”
“You made an excellent choice; Kali loves dark chocolate, and sometimes orders from Godiva.”
“Then a one pound box of her favorites. Have the messenger stop by here before delivering it so I can attach a card.”
“At once.” There was a knock on the door, and Rhee flinched.
Fujiko looked. “It is your delivery person, Mistress.”
“So soon?” There was laughter, both in the apartment, and over the phone.
“We pride ourselves on our speed.” The operator finally said. “Will that be all, Madam?”
“Yes, thank you.” Rhee hung up, and followed Fujiko to the door.
Her eyes widened at the woman who stood there hipshot. First she was big, looking like a female wrestler from GLORY. Her rippling muscles were barely contained by a velvet T shirt with the logo QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE and jeans that looked like they had been poured on rather than sewn. She wore a baseball with wings. Rhee was reminded of a Japanese anime show named UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, where all of the people of a planet named Valhalla wore hats with wings attached. The hair was ash blonde in two braids almost to her waist and her twinkling eyes were gray in a sharply boned rather attractive face.
“Miss Lightson? I'm Waltraude, your messenger for tonight. Call me Wally.” The woman shifted a box that looked like it must have held four pounds of chocolate from one hand to the other, and thrust out her hand to shake. “It's nice to finally meet you in person. “You had a message to go with the order?”
“Uh, yes.” Rhee muttered. “I just didn't expect you so soon.”
The woman had a booming laugh. 'Our motto is 'anyplace, anything, anywhere. I could deliver this to Kali's desk an hour before you met her if you wanted me to. All part of the service.”
'I'm not sure if it should be condolence or congratulations.”
“I heard what you were trying to do. Just from we underlings to you, we all hope it works out. Shiva tends to order a lot of rotgut when he has to 'do the duty' when things are unsettled in the human world. But I think the last order for him was fresh strawberries and champagne. Wait, I'll check.' Wally lifted her wrist. “Hey, Linda, progress on the delivery?”
A voice came out of mid air. “another on the way to the same address. This time it's fresh cherries and a fondue set. They were lucky in that they already had chocolate to use for it; you know how I am about chocolate.”
“Well I'm speaking to you know who about some Godiva's going there. She was asking for a sitrep.”
there was a long pause. Then the voice sounded like a teenage girl discovering her friend had met a movie star. “You're talking with Lokisdotter?”
“In the flesh. She wanted to know how they are making out... or not making out as it were.”
“Hot tubbing, massage oil, sucking down Moet et Chandon by the case. If she weren't a goddess, I'd say Kali would have the mother of all hangovers tomorrow, and glad of it.”
“Linda has a problem with chocolate?” Rhee asked.
Before Wally could reply, Linda did. “Is that her?' again that tone. Rhee allowed that it was. “They won't let me deliver chocolates; I love them too much.”
“That is too bad. I'd love to me-” There was a thumping sound of air being shoved aside, and another woman was there. She was dressed in the same kind of clothes, and her hand held a case of champagne negligently up as if she were a waitress. Her hair was a red so bright it might have been neon, but her face and eyes were like Wally's. She held out a large hand, then, to Rhee's amazement, lowered the other to join it. The case of Krystal champagne, which obviously had not been informed about the laws of gravity, floated in mid air as she did.
“Ortlinde at your service, ma'am. Call me Linda.”
“Please, call me Rhee.” she was greeted with giggles that didn't fit a woman that looked like she could tie a linebacker into knots even as he resisted.
“Sure... Rhee.” More giggles, this time from both of them.
“Why did you call me Lokisdotter? That's daughter of Loki in old Norse, correct?”
The women exchanged a look. “You didn't know?” Wally asked.
“No, I didn't.”
“Well I ruined that surprise!” Linda said in disgust. “He'll be so ticked-”
“Admit it, sis, he'll be too busy laughing to care.” Wally said. She looked fondly at Rhee. “It's been great, Rhee, but we have places to go-”
“-Heroes to transport-” Linda chimed in as if this was something they always said.
“-and banquets to serve!” They finished together.
“Well when Loki has the time, perhaps I can meet him?”
“I'll let him know. Might as well, since I have to tell him the cat is out of the bag.” Linda bowed, snatched the champagne out of the air, and vanished.
“Since you know how it's going with Kali, I'll just be popping off.” Wally vanished with another thump.
Rhee found herself quoting Alice, “People come and go so quickly here!”
Fujiko closed the door again. “If your father is to visit tonight, you must get dressed. If mistress would please follow?”
Rhee found herself swathed in a dressing gown, and had barely had a chance to look at herself in the mirror before there was another knock. Fujiko appeared. “Mistress, your father is at the door. I have already delivered suitable beverages to the living room.”
“Thank you Fujiko.” She walked into the room, and was about to sit when Fujiko appeared. The man with her was tall and slim, well muscled, but it was the sleek look of a swimmer or dancer. His hair was almost as red as Ortlinde's but had streaks of gold through it as if his head were on fire. He had a triangular fox face, and his green eyes twinkled.
“I didn't want to ruin the surprise, but-”
“You're Loki, and my father.”
He grinned, then covered his mouth with his cupped hands, breathing through them as if he were Darth Vader, then said with the same muffled tone, and exactly the same voice. “Rhee, I am your father.” Then he roared with laughter. “Surprise!”
She had to laugh. He came forward, started to shake her hand, then shrugged and dragged her into a hug.
“It's nice to meet the last of my children, and my second girl.”
“There are others? Brothers and sister?”
“Well, half brothers and half sister.” Loki sat in the chair. “Let's see... if you go by the Eddas, I am father of Hel; your sister, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent J÷rmungandr; how I have no idea. By my wife Sigyn, I was father of your late brother Narfi. And with the stallion Svailfari as the father, I gave birth—in the form of a mare—to the eight-legged horse Sleipnir. In addition, I was referred to as the father of your late brother Vßli in the Prose Edda.”
“Two dead? I thought you were, you know, immortal.”
“None of the Norse gods are immortal, my child. Long lived, yes. But how can you have Ragnarok, the 'twilight of the Gods, where as Ard said in the Heavy Metal movie, 'you die; she dies... everybody dies!' if we are immortal?” He sighed. “It's that damn short attention span humans have. Did the author of the Prose Edda remember that Odin and I are blood brothers? That I saved Freya from being married to the Dwarfs twice and the Giants once? That Thor and I had more adventures together than Hope and Crosby had Road movies?” He chuckled. “Ask me to tell you about the time I dressed Thor in drag passing him off as Freya to steal his hammer back from the Giants.”
He shook his head. “according to the Prose Edda, first I got Baldur killed. Then I burst into a feast and pretty much insult every god and goddess there, and that ticked them off. So the Aesir turned my son Vali into a rabid wolf and had him murder Narfi, also known as 'night' then used his entrails to bind me to a stone slab until Ragnarok.”
“But you're their devil, aren't you?”
“I am a god of change, my pet. If someone were to create me now, I'd be an uber-tech geek with the pop bottle glasses and the pocket protector.” He morphed so that his own face wore the glasses he described, and his t-shirt became a dress shirt with pens stuffed into a pocket protector. As she chuckled he returned to normal.
“Then what happened with Baldur?”
“Baldur had a dream that he would die. His mother Frigg supposedly made everything promise never to hurt him, and the only thing she forgot to ask was mistletoe. After that the gods would amuse themselves using him for target practice; shooting arrows, throwing spears hacking with ax and sword.
“After disguising myself as an old woman, I get the secret from Frigg, and I supposedly fashioned a dart out of mistletoe and gave it to H÷r, Baldur's brother who had been blind from birth, so he could join in the fun. He throws it, hit's Baldur and kills him, Vali kills H÷r in retaliation, and the whole mess starts.”
Loki sighed. “Life is change, that is a fact. You are born, you grow, have children, make your mark on the world, then die. The Norse understood and accepted that, which is why we Norse gods are mortal. Some claim I did it because I am a Jotun, or giant, the mortal enemies of the Aesir. Some because I liked the status quo ante; we can't make changes like immortality. I think it was the translators of the Eddas myself. They were Christians and they just had to change things to fit their own Mythos.
“Look at the descriptions of Baldur; second son of Odin, beautiful and wise and gentle. I'd say almost Christ-like but if I am correct, I would say he was the Norse personification of Christ. And if he's Christ; the Trickster,” he motioned to himself, 'would have to be the Devil, and murder him. And like Lilith, I am supposed to lead a doomed attempt to settle the 'Aesir Question' to paraphrase the Nazis and their 'Jewish question' once and for all. That of course leads to the end of the world, which both you and I share.”
“But I don't want to end the world!” Rhee whined like a kid not wanting to eat her vegetables.
“Do you think any of us lesser gods want that?” He asked. “The Norse were pragmatic about it; the world is going to end eventually, so accept it. But the Christians almost rub their hands in glee at it. Unlike the Norse who don't expect it to end well, the Christians see it as the final showdown between good and evil. Evil is vanquished, and the Good all go out for tea and crumpets afterward before getting on to the singing.” He shuddered. “Tell me truthfully, my daughter; does sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp or whatever string instrument that you like, singing gospel music for the rest of time sound like your idea of what the afterlife should be like?” She shook her head mutely. “Let me tell you, the choir loft in heaven has a few hundred thousand in it, but they don't stay long. The only thing more boring than that is the research floor, or watching paint dry.”
“Yeah. Remember this is all God's research project, and you can't have a research project without assistants who make the actual studies, collate the data, draw conclusions, and deliver them to the Boss. There are more people there than in the choir lofts; after all there are people who get off on research and studying the data after it's gathered. A lot of the scientists that worked on projects that PETA have protested work there now, a lot of the scientists who worked for the Nazis and the Communists, and a number of the ones who worked the same kind of projects in the more 'civilized' nations like the US and Britain also work in the downside version, and shares data with them.”
“Oh yes; evil men also did such research, and they had as much care for their subjects as a modern research biochemist does when he stuffs a mouse with fast food to see if the specific treat causes cancer.”
“So heaven is... boring?”
“Not all of it is. Once your mother and Mikey agreed that history should judge who was guilty and evil, a lot of people who died assuming they'd go straight to heaven found out otherwise.”
“Oh, the Archangel Michael, who was born as Jesus and was crucified. After he died, he and Lilith shared notes. She pointed out that a lot of historical characters were doing 'gods will' by their lights, and didn't deserve heaven. Or more recently like Mob bosses, do evil their entire lives, but confess before they die, and slip into heaven on a technicality.
“They reported to God, and he agreed. They spent a millennia clearing all of those self serving wackos out and dumping them downside.” He grinned. “I love the look on the faces of Inquisitors, terrorists suicide bombers, and Mob bosses when they find out. Darius and Xerxes were even more fun.”
“The Persian kings who attacked Greece in the Peloponessian wars?”
“Yeah. They were 'god kings'; direct descendants of the gods, or so they claimed. So anything they did was 'god's will'.
“Back to heaven.” He sipped mead from a drinking horn that looked like it had been cut off a Texas Longhorn. “Not everyone has a boring heaven. The Arabs believe in paradise, where the men at least have hot and cold running houris, and drink that will get them blitzed without alcohol. Valhalla is just a running battle/banquet where warriors fight and die all day, then party all night. The Roman Army and Mongols believed in a heaven not unlike life, so they stay in Elysium, though that is actually downside.
“Downside? How can heaven be downside as well?”
“Thank the Romans. They were as organized in their time as the Nazis were in theirs. They put all of the people who died below, but Orkus who was in charge sent them to the nine levels of hell as they deserved, and the Elysian fields, which is the paradise the Romans though was merely the first floor. When Christianity took over, they tried to snag Elysium and moved it topside, but the Soldiers objected since all the songs they know are Jodies, drinking songs and militaria, so heaven became what the Christians thought it was supposed to be, and the soldiers just party that much more now.”
He looked at his watch, drained his horn in a single draught, and stood. “We both have busy days tomorrow, so I had best let you get some sleep.” He hugged her again.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
He pulled a card out of his pocket, handing it to her.
TECHNICAL, SECURITY, RESEARCH
“When Humans put us on the shelf, we were some that still had worshipers, though mine are like Satanists, who worship your mother, so I tend to ignore them. Odin is head of IT, with Frig as his assistant. Thor is our security consultant with his wife Sif as his assistant.” He waved at the building they were in. “He's going to be really POed when he hears about today. Two different attacks! I'm in charge of research with Freya as my assistant.
“What about Hel?”
“Actually she works for you mom in her old job.”
“Whose old job?”
“She didn't tell you? After she and God split off, she had been demoted to waster management. She was in charge of dealing with the human souls after they died. But I think I'll leave the rest of that story to her.” He hugged her, kissing her hair. “Whenever you want, I'm just a word away.”
Her First Day
For those interested, I saw Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief for the very first time as I wrote this part. Anything that clicks with that is partially linked to that can be blamed on it. The rest is mine...
Rhee found herself awake before the alarm went off the next morning. She yawned, stretching, then saw the curtains draw themselves back. Then she looked down, where Fujiko was standing, pulling them open.
“How did you know I was awake?”
“Nothing happens in the apartment that I do not know, unless it is by your wish, mistress.”
“But what if I had decided to just, roll back over and go back to sleep?”
“Your brain would have slowed back to sleep, I would have sensed it, and would not have opened the curtains.” She replied equably. “You expressed a wish for an American style breakfast.” The little Kami shivered. “Meat eggs and potatoes with bread heavy in grain! And you eat this every day?” She sounded as if Rhee sat down to roast suckling baby every morning.
“Fujiko, you do know we were raised under different cultures.”
“Of course.” Fujiko came over, floating in air with a robe. “While you eat... that, I will lay out your clothes.”
“No, we need to get this clear first.” Rhee accepted the robe, belting it. “What do you think is a good breakfast?”
“That is simple.” Fujiko answered in a righteous tone. “Miso soup, a bowl of rice, and a sliver of fish.”
“But, correct me if I am wrong; fish is pure protein, Miso soup is also protein with liquid, and rice is merely empty carbohydrates, all of whom are burned away in the course of an average day. Correct?”
“Now consider the breakfast I want. A proper Lumberjack breakfast.” If her shudder before had been in disgust, this one was in terror. “Now, the human body uses protein as fuel, and it passes, becoming work, muscle or waste, correct?”
Fujiko paused, as if seeing the trap before her. “Yes...”
“And carbohydrates are energy which if not used, becomes fat. Correct?”
Again that pause. “Yes...”
“Then the European attitude of 'bust your hump' from sunrise to sunset suits their diet, correct?”
Fujiko considered. “Yes...”
“and they always had a better diet than their Oriental counterparts; willing to eat so much more than say, the average citizen of Japan?”
“This really is not fair, Mistress...”
“Answer.” Rhee was adamant.
“Yes, Europe with herds of animals, and the sea, and grain, had a better diet.” Fujiko admitted.
“Then Europeans ate better. Not more healthy, but more food as is man's wont, correct?”
“Yes.” The word might have been a titanium ingot as she chewed on it to answer.
“Then I will make a deal with you.”
“A lot like your mother.” Fujiko mumbled.
“If I complain about my waistline, or my weight, which is a modern woman's wont, I give you leave to ram seaweed and rice down my throat.” She watched Fujiko swell up like a dry sponge. “But until then, let me eat what I want.”
Fujiko paused, then returned to normal, with a truculent air. “Yes, Mistress.”
“Now how do I order-” Fujiko held up a cordless telephone.
“Dial one. I would suggest you be extravagant; order something out of your normal world or they will be upset. Remember lunch? They expect you to force them to expand.”
Rhee took the phone carefully. Out of her normal world? She hit the one button. “World Bazaar and deli.” The pure New York accent intoned.
“This is Ms Lightson on fourteen.”
“Ms Lightson! Listen, the management apologizes for the attack yesterday. If there's anything we can do-”
“That has been dealt with.” Rhee felt herself assuming the persona she assumed when debating in high school. “I am calling down for breakfast.”
“Yes Ma'am!” Rhee could almost feel the woman quivering on the other end.
“All right, three large eggs from Breton France in a Virginia Spinach omelet. Four ounce ham steak from lowland Scotland, six rashers of bacon from Nova Scotia, four Armenian sausage, ten ounces of Idaho potato hash browns crispy on the outside and tender inside, four slices of San Francisco sourdough toast. With Expresso roast coffee.”
“Belgian, with grated Swiss cheese on the omelet.” She paused “Welsh cream, and Hawaiian raw sugar for the coffee.”
“Oh Madam!” Rhee could tell the woman must have had an orgasm from such a variegated order. “To be delivered?”
“Yes. In thirty minutes, so I can shower first.”
“Yes!” Rhee set down the phone.
“Fujiko, start the shower, nice and hot by human standards, but not too hot. While I am in there, make me a list of primary egg producing areas, pork meat product producers, and states that grow potatoes.”
“And coffee varieties?” Fujiko asked as she caught the robe flung at her.
“After going to the different places that serve it to go? I can handle that for a week.”
Breakfast was perfect, and Rhee regretted her words to Fujiko, because she expected to be a blimp by the end of the first week. Fujiko had laid out a black gabardine suit with a light blue blouse. She rode up to fifteen to find Kali sitting at her desk, singing to herself. The goddess looked up, then raced around the desk to hug her. “Thank you for last night. You're my favorite...” She looked cold, then winked “Human.”
“Well if you have problems like that again, just let me know.”
“I'll try not to overwhelm my welcome.” She turned Rhee. “Your office is on five. There are people there that will assist in explaining your duties.” Then she swatted the girl on the rump. “Go tame the lions, kid.”
She went down, and was immediately immersed in work Before 9:30 she was at her desk in a small office, running through program after program. As any translator will tell you, most mistakes are caused by perception or mood. Since they were primarily a customer service industry, that meant that a bad day could cause hurt feelings as an operator used words that were insulting or overly aggressive. Except for those where they spoke of the company's record of service, the words were middle of the road. She tweaked them a little, making some of them more aggressive, others more salutatory.
Lunch time came and went. She was so deeply into her work that she had a sandwich (San Francisco Bay Shrimp salad with Dutch mayonnaise sandwich on 16 grain bread). She had thought she had caught them, but the girl on the phone merely asked if there were any grains she didn't like. When she admitted she didn't have any food allergies, the girl chidingly told her there were 22 recognized grains, so she hadn't won yet. She ate with one hand as she typed in different variants. It wasn't until almost five PM as she was translating a Tagalog phrase that she noticed that a lot of the languages weren't Indo-European. Her phone rang.
“Lightson.” She answered.
“Daughter, ready to continue our conversation?” Dawn asked brightly.
“Good.” A hand plucked the phone from her hand, and Rhee stared up at Dawn, who hung it up. “Come along.”
“As long as our employees focus on work during hours, we are a little slack on how much time they spend working. You had an hour lunch, but you spent it here, obviously.” She leaned forward, a finger swiping the corner of Rhee's mouth. Dawn held it up, white liquid, and licked her finger. “Their bay shrimp salad is superb. Next time try a mixture of Dijon and Danish mayonnaise instead.” Dawn held out her hand. “What do you want to know about today?”
“Dad showed up last night.”
“I heard. And there was another attack.” Dawn sighed. “I had hoped I would never have to teach you this, but I had better. You share the same capabilities as my father and I have, which is to make yourself like mist. That means human weapons you recognize cannot harm you. All you need do is feel yourself as mist.” Dawn extended her right hand, and a flaming sword appeared. With no further warning, she plunged it into Rhee's chest.
Rhee screamed, flinching with her arms in front of her, eyes closed. After a moment Dawn said, “Open your eyes.” Rhee opened them slowly, and stared at the flaming brand that had punched through her chest into the chair which was starting to burn quite rapidly. Dawn drew the blade back out, and it disappeared. “Stand up.”
Rhee stood, and Dawn motioned. The burning chair vanished, and a new one appeared in its place. “Sorry, I had to get that burning chair out before the sprinklers went off.”
“You stabbed me!” Rhee said in shock.
“To prove a point.” Dawn replied.
“You. Stabbed. Me!” Rhee repeated.
Dawn looked at her askance. “Don't push it, daughter. I did it, as I have already said, to prove a point.”
Rhee stood, her hair flowing away from her head, and glowing. “Then explain your damn point!” A chill wind seemed to spring from nowhere, and it tore through the office.
“Unless you choose the mantle of Armageddon, you are functionally immortal as we are.” Dawn snarled. “Think! He demanded your birth, assumes you will accept the mantle of Antichrist and destroy the world.” Dawn's hair was also flowing as if a wind whipped rubies into a froth. “Is that your wish?”
Rhee shook her head, and felt the wind ease. Somehow she knew it was not merely air, but every person that had ever lived creating what could only be called a soul wind. “No! I will not destroy everyone. Not for him, Not for you!”
As she spoke the air grew still, and Dawn sighed in relief. “I wished to show you that no hand weapon known to man can harm you, and few of those known even to those of us of the spirit world.” She stood from her defensive stance. “No hand weapon of man or god can harm you, but Dad and I were alive long before your industrial era. An explosive device can harm you if you do not sense it before it is detonated, as will fire. If it were he or I, we can phase out, and be untouched. But you are half mortal, and cannot fully escape without translating yourself beyond it's effect.”
“Translate-” She gaped as Dawn vanished and reappeared a dozen feet away.
“Yes, translate.” Dawn said. “What did Loki discuss with you that you are curious about?”
“Heaven and hell came to mind.”
Dawn grinned. “Come on, we'll catch a light snack and go.”
“Go?” Rhee looked at her in astonishment. “Go where?”
“Well I know Loki probably told you what they were like, but seeing is believing.”
“You're still allowed in heaven?”
Dawn laughed. “I had to administer how they were both set up, so I can go everywhere I want except into the Presence unless ordered.”
“You mean, everywhere, but before god himself.”
“Right. So where first?”
“If dad was right, Heaven should take the least amount of time.”
“True. So let's get down to the restaurant and have our snack and start the tour.”
Rhee picked up her purse and followed to the elevator. They got off, at the upper restaurant level, and took a conspicuously empty table. As before they were served immediately, but this time Dawn ordered. “Just some angel food cake with French Vanilla ice cream and milk.”
“We're going topside.” Dawn explained to the waitress.
“Ah.” The girl took the order. “Two purity specials, then. Any topping for the ice cream?”
“Caramel for me.” Dawn looked to Rhee. “Except for chocolate, you can have pretty much any topping. That's thanks to the Devil's Advocate. That devil saying being in love is like eating large amounts of chocolate.”
“Strawberry.” Rhee allowed.
The snacks were quickly delivered and as quickly consumed. Like everything else she had eaten from the place the angel food cake was so light it was like eating air with sugar and spices. The ice cream was so delicate tasting, that it went perfectly with it. Once done, Dawn led the girl down the stairs to the restaurant level. A couple saw them, and Rhee was alarmed by the attention. Then they came running over, and fell to their knees.
“At last, My lady!” The man said, bowing more abjectly. The woman went so far as to splay herself flat on the ground.
“Haven't I told you people to stay out of here?” Dawn asked. Two rather large men in blazers were walking toward them.
“But you're vileness, you did say that if we saw Her, we could ask a boon.” The statement would have had more force if the woman would have lifted her head. Rhee looked at them, then at Dawn.
“I warned you about the other ones.” Dawn sighed. “The problem with the human mind in regard to religion is that your worshipers create you in a manner of speaking. If we weren't surrounded by a few hundred people who know who I am and how I really am, I'd be a seven foot tall man with goat hooves and horns. You'd be this beautiful man with evil eyes and breathing fire.” She motioned to the people before her as the security guards arrived. “Tell them to get up, dear. They worship me, but they treat you like Christ, or the Antichrist, so they don't talk to me anymore.”
“Stand up.” Rhee said. This was almost as annoying as being shot at, and that came out in the command. The pair came to their feet so quickly it was like seeing marionettes laying on the floor until the man with the strings jerked them up. “And stop cowering. You haven't made me mad, yet.” She crossed her arms, glaring at them. “Ask your boon.”
“We have served you all of our lives, your wickedness. Please, command us to do your bidding.”
Rhee almost told them both to go to hell, but wasn't sure. Dawn had said she had the power that both god and the woman she was accepting more and more was her mother held; would her words send them literally off to hell if she spoke them? “Mom, a word in your shell-like.” She and Dawn stepped away, and Rhee whispered. “Any bright ideas?”
“I usually told them to go off and do whatever they have been doing that they thought had earned my praise. But that stopped around the time of Rome. These days I usually tell them to wait until you arrive, but obviously they know that time has come now.” Dawn shook her head. “I should loan you my collection of vampire books by Mary-Janice Davidson. She has me in them looking like Lina Olin, but still the stereotypical devil beyond that. She also has you in them.” She snapped her fingers, and a book entitled Undead and Unworthy appeared open in her hand. She flipped back, stopped, then smiled. “How about this?”
Rhee read, then giggled. “Oh this is so bad!” They chuckled, then the book disappeared. Rhee smoothed her face, then turned.
“I find I have need of agents within every facet of human society. Therefore this is my command.” She pointed at the woman. “You will join PETA, and follow their strictures rigidly.” The woman clutched at the fox stole she wore. Rhee ignored her look of alarm as she turned to the man. “Your mission is twofold. First you will join Alcoholics Anonymous. You will not drink while a member, and unlike them I do not need a 'brother' to assure that you obey.
“Then, you will tell your law partners that you personally will no longer defend businesses that pollute or build unsafe products and use the law to get away with it. If they like you are my children, tell them that I as your lady have commanded it. If they are false Christians you will tell them that you cannot in good conscience defend such people. Both of you will file weekly reports sent to my post office box.” Dawn handed her a card with a post office box on it.
“But I am the lead partner on just such a case now.” He protested.
“Be that as it may, my word is your command. If my command is too onerous, you may rejoin the ranks of His followers.” She jerked a thumb upward. “But if that is your choice, remember that my mother and I will watch you just as hard. One more step from His path and you will suffer for it. Do I make myself clear?”
They both nodded numbly. “Then go forth as I command.” They walked away as if they expected the floor to open up and throw them into hell that very moment. Rhee watched them go, and as soon as they were out of sight, both women burst into laughter.
“You are so good at being so bad.” Dawn finally said. “Why PETA?”
“That woman? I'm willing to bet a quarter of her closet is some animal raised to be slaughtered just for it's fur. And I'll bet she's 'freedom of choice' as well. PETA added abortion to their protests, so she can wear fur and tell people they can have abortions, or she can throw them all away and tell unwed mothers that God wants them to have the child. Either way she'll disrupt society a little, and maybe straighten her life out.”
“He's just the kind to have the three martini lunches, and smile as some polluter hands him a check to get them past the court with as little trouble as possible. Again, if he does as I say, he can be clean and sober and start taking cases from someone who needs help against such people, or he can go his own way. Either way I am well shut of them both.”
Dawn gave her a golf clap. “Well done. What about their reports?”
Rhee sighed, her smile slipping. “I hadn't thought of that. Can I have someone read them and just tell me if they're doing what they were told or going back to the church?”
“That can be arranged.”
“How have you dealt with this all these years?”
“Pretty much the way you just did. The reason I stopped giving commands to 'go forth and sin' back in Roman times was because I found too many people were quite willing to do evil, and dad's worshipers are no better. Look at the Nazis. The people in charge said what they were doing was god's will, and those below merely accepted it. I have never suggested Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” Rhee's mind automatically translated, Kill them all. For the Lord knows those who are his.
“Who said that?”
“A Papal legate during the Albigensian Crusade; the only crusade where the church attacked not the Holy land, but within Europe itself. The Cathars, the target of that crusade were a number of church officials and local lords in Southwestern France who saw mother church as a stifling influence rather than something Dad might have intended. They told their people that the church was wrong, and told them to read the bible, or have a local priest read it to them and discuss not what the church said the words meant, but what they themselves perceived it to mean.
“You have to remember once the Church took control of the Roman Empire, they then became the Empire and went on as if there had been no change in management. The only real change was they tightened their grip and decided that if the people wanted to know what Dad wanted, they should ask the priests, who would tell them. Of course, what 'Dad' wanted was what the church did, obviously.
“That is why there were no translations of the bible into the common languages until the Protestant Reformation. Latin was something a lot of nobles spoke, but few beyond scribes or church officials could read. It even extended to law. Until the time of King Henry II, all legal actions were in Latin, meaning you usually had only four people in the room who spoke it; the Judge, the attorneys both for prosecution and defense, and the court scribe. You just stood there like an idiot until your lawyer turned to you and told you if you won or lost.
“Henry II gave his people the system you use now here in America, he first combined the old Saxon legal system with a jury; and the Norman, with a judge, then ordered that the trial would be in what would soon become English. But of course on the continent, it went on as the Church demanded. His decision was not extended to ecclesiastical courts until the time of Henry VIII, when such were abolished in England. You see, the church maintained that no member of the church could be tried in a civil or criminal court. They had to face a church court instead.
“Of course the church was as good at whitewashing their own as any joint investigation here in the US will. Whichever party is in charge publishes their findings as fact, then files a 'minority report' which is the dissenting opinion and which is almost always ignored. While the last review of what occurred at Pearl Harbor was held in 1946, the Democrats; who had been in charge when the attack occurred, were still in charge. They ignored the evidence of Roosevelt's duplicity, but that only came out in the minority report. The 'accepted' report still blamed Short and Kimmel, neither of whom were allowed a court of inquiry or court martial, because what had really happened would have become common knowledge.”
“Church courts?” Dawn nodded.
“Yes. Joan of Arc was tried in front of one for her 'heresy' in leading the French against the British at Orleans, and her punishment, burning at the stake was pure religious punishment.” Dawn pushed open the door, and Rhee felt a furnace like heat hit her.
She looked around, eyes half lidded in the harsh burst of sunlight. She had never seen this city before. “Where are we?”
“Dubai.” Dawn said, pointing. Ahead of them was a building that looked as if they had taken the Eiffel tower, and made a skyscraper based on it. “And that is where we're going; Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth right now.” Dawn took her arm and led her toward the entrance.
“But why are we in Dubai?”
My own conceit; I always use the largest building on the planet when I do topside.” They pushed into the lobby, and she led the smaller woman to a bank of elevators. She signaled, and building security closed off the elevator they entered. Dawn drew out a small golden key, inserting it in a keyhole, then hit the uppermost button. “Have you seen Percy Jackson and the Olympians?”
“Well, yes, I did.”
“Then picture what happened there, and add 1500 feet to it.” The door closed, and instead of holding the rail around the car, she pulled Rhee down to the floor. “This will be quite a ride.”
Before Rhee could ask what she meant the car took off straight up like a rocket
Heaven with a tour guide
Rhee wanted to scream as the car shot toward heaven like a rocket. She felt the car push her upward, and if anything it was accelerating! Dawn grinned at her. “You ain't seen nothing yet!”
She felt a second of free fall, then There was a flash of light that caused her to shout, then the car stopped. She looked around, and saw that Dawn was disappointed.
“Killjoys.” She grumbled. “I've seen the elevator hit mach seven! Someone up there today is a spoilsport.”
The door opened, and Rhee stepped out, confused. In the Movie the Matrix, there is the scene where they are preparing for a mission and begin in a totally white space with no way to determine how large the room was. That was she was looking at now. Dawn stood there, letting her take it in.
“I thought it would be... crowded.”
“The lobby?” Dawn motioned. “I spent several thousand years when this was all we had. Then it was crowded. Now they turned it into the lobby. She pointed. “The main desk is over there.”
“Where?” Rhee looked but only the white blank scene was in that direction. “I can't see it.”
“Human perception.” Dawn commented.
“All right, you see it, how far away is it?”
“I said perception, not vision. The room is as grand as you feel it should be once you you have acclimated. It can be the Wizard's chamber in the Emerald Palace, or a check in desk in a Motel 6.
“Why did you use that example?”
“All that grandeur to help a guy behind a curtain convince you he's all powerful.” As she spoke the room seemed to grow smaller. “The lobby isn't where the boss hangs out. The lobby has the concierge. Not even an angel, but merely a man who has been made a saint up here.”
The room shrank again. Now it had gained color, and she recognized it as a Holiday Inn she had stayed at once, right down to the carpet furniture, and fixtures. She was standing beside the entry door, nowhere near the elevators. There was a man with a full beard in a blazer behind the counter, reading a book.
They walked over. He looked up, took in Dawn, then her, then turned back to the book.
“Pete, if you keep ignoring us I'll drain your fishing hole and make you work a King crab boat next time you come fishing down below.” Dawn warned.
The man sighed, closing the book. Then he turned, reached into a pigeonhole and handed Dawn a three inch stack of messages. “Who's the skirt? New help?”
“Pete, Pete, Pete,” Dawn shook her head. “Don't get me started. You know I'll have you on the crab boat if you make me mad. This is my daughter. As much as the Boss says it, she's just my daughter, not the Antichrist.”
The man stood, looking Rhee up and down, then stuck out his hand. He gave her a smile more like she would epect from a man who was picking up a girl in a bar. “As long as you're not the Antichrist, I can bid you welcome. I am Simon Peter.”
“Simon Peter?” Rhee asked.
“Old Pete here was the second apostle after his brother Andrew. Jesus knew he'd have two named Simon, so he gave this one a nickname. Peter.”
“You know, if he'd told me that, I might have been a little more polite.” The man said ruefully. He turned, grabbing a second stack of messages. “The Boss wants to know what you decide, when you do.”
“The Boss?” Rhee leafed through the messages. They were all from YHVH, and pretty much said 'decide and get your butt in my office'. “Jesus? But these are from Jehovah.”
“Yeah, when Mikey got back topside he found out dad was still in charge.” Dawn said.
“You know he doesn't like that nickname, Dawn.”
“Mikey?” Rhee asked.
“Everyone believes the Archangel Michael was sent down to fill the role of Jesus.” Dawn commented. “I called him Mikey before, and I will keep calling him Mikey until he stops calling me Satan.”
“Not in either of our lifetimes, Dawn.” Peter opined. “The Boss decides to end it, and you finally do rebel!”
“Because it isn't a fair test, Pete.” Dawn replied. “How is it fair to set up a last destruction test without even giving them a chance to show their stuff?”
“He thinks they've shown quite enough, Dawn.”
“Yeah, but he could quite easily start another test somewhere else. They may be a group of squabbling children, but they have matured.”
“Like a hundred year old egg.”
“You starting again, Pete?”
“Just stating my opinion.”
“You know what happened when I said what I thought.” Dawn warned.
“Yeah.” Rhee commented brightly. “Waste management.” That earned her a glare. “Loki told me.”
“Yeah, well as the one in charge of 'waste management', I get free access to my facilities.”
“Your facilities?” Rhee was confused. “I thought this was heaven!”
“It is.” Peter replied. “But you misunderstand the job.”
“I'll explain as we take the tour, my daughter.” She slapped the counter. “Next week at the pond?”
“Sure.” Peter brightened. “What are we fishing for this time?”
“Good fighting fish. I'll bring the heavy pole.”
“See you then.” Dawn motioned toward the elevator bank. “Let's get this over with.” They went to the elevator. As Rhee turned, she noticed that the upper floors, twenty-five down to six, went red. Dawn noticed, and grimaced. “The 25th floor is Dad's office. I can't go there unless he calls me. Nine up to twenty-four are the quarters for the staff; the angels prophets and saints. Six up to eight are for the Elect. Half of it is still empty.”
“You know the Christians lean hard on the rapture, right?” Rhee nodded. “Theoretically heaven will hold every human being, just as hell should. But everyone can't be here because you have too many factions. Jews, Pagans, Muslims, Christians from Born Agains to all of the versions of Catholicism. All sure they're right, and everyone else is wrong.”
“But the Elect is a Christian concept, as are saints.”
“If you use those terms, yes.” She hit the 5th floor button and the doors closed. “But every religion has their concept of the man who 'walks with god', or 'the gods', so they are also part of the Elect, just as every man or woman whom the gods used to talk to humans directly are prophets, and they end up there too.”
“There are two things you have never explained.”
“Only two?” Dawn asked with a grin.
“So far.” Rhee replied sarcastically.
Dawn watched the indicator. “None of us realized what would happen when we gave the human race intelligence. We also created something new and unique. We created the soul accidentally.”
“You created the soul?”
She nodded as the elevator stopped, and the door opened. “Think of it as a flight data recorder for a human life. When a person dies, the record of everything they have done in their lives is sent to the processing floor. Here.”
The room was as huge as the lobby had been when she first entered. This time they could see tables as far as the eye could see with men and women in lab coats around them. Dawn took Rhee's hand, and with one step, they were at the edge of the tables. The workers looked up, then back at the small computer chip before them. “Died a virgin.” One commented.
Another making notes on a clipboard paused. “Anything else?”
The one leaning over the chip shook his head. “Not really. Except for some really bad poetry. Seriously Goth girl.”
“Age at death?”
“Cause of death?”
“Texting while crossing the street.”
The man with the clipboard made a last note, then looked up. “Hello, Ma'am.” He handed Dawn the clipboard, and she looked at it and signed.
“How many today?”
“55,784. The other forms are on your desk.” He motioned toward a normal sized office desk with a stack of forms like the one on the clipboard reaching up out of sight.
“And all of them have to be signed.” She snapped her finger, and the stack suddenly exploded into a small tornado. Then they landed on the desk in the Out Box, then vanished.
“You know, the Boss doesn't like it when you do that.”
“He doesn't like it, he can assign someone else.” Dawn said. “You guys are so anal retentive that checking your paper work is like trying to find the flaws in a painting by Rembrandt.” She pointed. “You want to get her to where she's going?”
“Purgatory.” the one who had been examining the chip commented. “Didn't believe in much of anything.”
“Too many like that these days.” The man with the clipboard was putting a new form on it. “So far something like 17,000 just today.”
“Don't remind me I have to assign them somewhere.” She sighed. “Keep up the good work.” She motioned. “This is my daughter.”
The men shook her hand, then picked up the next chip, focusing on it specifically. Dawn motioned for silence, and led Rhee toward the elevator. “Here they determine what you have done in your life, and place the souls according to that, and any classification of what you believed in life. As you have noticed, they are cataloged by cause of death as well. Texting while walking; and not paying attention when you do, is the fastest rising cause of death right now.”
“Not really.” Dawn commented stepping into the elevator. “Every advance in technology or social mores has caused such a spike. Changing from riding a single horse to chariots, to wagons, to horse and buggy, to motor cars, to adding higher horsepower, to 'dating' in a car, to car phones, to cell phones have caused such spikes. Just like going from that to railroads, planes, even sports like skydiving and bungee jumping did. Just think of something mankind can do and picture how it can cause a spike.” She punched four, and the doors closed. “Archives next.”
The elevator dropped, and the door opened on a black space. As it closed behind them, she heard Dawn growl, “Letting the lights go out again!” She almost roared.
There was a snap, and suddenly the room was well lit, though by torches. Around them were row upon row of shelves, and on them were stone tablets.
“What?” Rhee asked. She picked up one of them idly. It was in cuneiform, and she read about a man's life, how he had been a rogue as a young man, apprenticed to a sword smith, and died at sixty with seven children two wives (One of them had died in childbirth) and seventeen grandchildren. Cause of death was listed as being run over by a chariot.
“Dad wanted it all in the form the natives used.” Dawn commented sourly. “It's like the Vatican. The Early church took two centuries to shift from papyrus to parchment after that was made, then two more to switch to vellum after that was made, then again with acid paper after it was invented, then to modern paper. They were supposed be be converting all this data to computer files.” She looked down the long aisle, and took Rhee's hand. There was another single step, and they were among row upon row of computers, and both men and women sitting at the desks, flipping the sheets that filled their in boxes one by one.
“Where is James?”She asked.
“Coffee break, ma'am.” The woman she had addressed answered without looking up. Each of the several thousand people were working with paper rather than more cumbersome media.
“I hate it.” Dawn growled. “Sure there are almost as many new entries, as all of the clay tablets on a shelf, but still!” She growled. She caught Rhee's hand in a grip that caused her to gasp in pain, and again they stepped clear across the room. There was a room marked STAFF BREAK ROOM directly in front of them, and Dawn stalked through it.
“James!” She roared. A man on the other end of the room looked up, yelped, and started to run. She motioned, and he rose into the air like a cartoon character lifted off the ground as he ran for his life. She gestured toward herself, and the man, still desperately running the other direction floated over to hang, still flailing, in front of her.”
“James the Just, we need to talk.” She said conversationally. She lowered him, but his feet threw him onto his back as he still tried to run while his body refused to follow. Dawn sighed, flipped him until his feet were straight up, then dropped him hard on his head. The man curled up cursing like a sailor.
Dawn sat in the edge of a table, looking down at him. “Shut up, James.” The cursing stopped as if she'd flipped a switch. “You know the drill, James. My way or the highway. Decide.”
“Get someone else.” The man was curled up like he expected to be kicked.
“Don't give me that crap.” She retorted. “I have a dozen better than you for this downstairs, but Dad won't let me bring them up here, so you're it.” Her smile would have looked perfect on a predator. “If you don't like it, I'll let you explain it to Dad.”
James just lay there. Then his stiff body relaxed. “All right.”
“Then start in the stacks, and get all of the older data transcribed. You can have half of the staff to try to keep up with the more modern stuff, but if I come in and find tons of clay tablets just laying there undone, I am going to send you downstairs for a decade in one of the honky tonks. As a waitress.” Her smile was cold. “I can just picture it, you in one of those plaid miniskirts and five inch heels...”
“You wouldn't dare.” She started to raise her hand as if to snap her fingers and he waved frantically. “All right, I give!”
“It's so nice we understand each other.” She purred. “Coming, Rhee?”
“You threatened to dress the brother of Jesus in women's clothes?” Rhee asked in a whisper.
“He knows the data has to be transcribed. He's the one who keeps slowing down on the older stuff to stay current with the new stuff. He's always thought that nothing of importance was done by the Pagans that predated Jesus. So about once a month I find that he has put anything pre-Christian on the back burner.
“Both Hel and Kali are better at organizing data than he is, and Dad knows it. But he's got the same problem the US Military has with procurement. They're not his creations, so they aren't good enough.”
“That's the other thing you haven't explained.”
“What, Hel and Kali?”
“All of them.”
“Well we were paying attention to our control group while the other Homo Sapiens Potentia were born.” She sighed. “We gave them human intelligence, but no direction. Mankind has the tendency to personify things. Calling ships or cars 'she' for example. When they looked at the world through eyes with more intelligence, they saw natural processes, and decided that someone had caused them. Mankind also has an inherent need to organize things. Like things were linked to like regardless of where they started, and not always logically.
“Lightning wasn't merely an electrical imbalance in the atmosphere, it was a weapon that had been thrown. Thunder was not just the shock wave of that strike, it was the bellow of an angry god. A storm was alive, and violent. Grass fires were malevolent beings that sought out humans, but at the same time were stupid; if you leaped through the flames, they didn't know they could come back for you.
“Even seasons and natural processes. Spring was a gentle mother bringing the earth, itself another being to life, and winter was a cold mistress who put them to sleep again. Women going into puberty bled, and that was something even the women didn't understand, so it was a mystery caused by an unseen goddess who the men believed spoke only to women, And childbirth the greatest mystery of all.
“Death became not the end of a life, a being who picked and chose. How else did death sweep in behind a plague and take only some. not all? Remember, no germ theory, no understanding of how a being reaches a certain age and his body merely shuts down. That mentality equated sudden deaths, as in accidents, as Death choosing someone, and they wondered why that one was chosen instead of themselves.
“So man personified them, and began to worship some of them. When we checked on the others, they had already started paying attention to these gods. Boy was Dad ticked. Especially when the first of the 'new' gods showed up.”
The elevator opened, and she pushed the third floor button. “Man first personifies, then describes, then organizes. A lightning bolt becomes the chosen weapon of the storm god by whatever name, and it first must be a he; because in most societies it is the males who fight, and he of course looks like us, so he is just a larger than life member of the tribe.”
“But how did they grow beyond that thought?”
For a long moment, Dawn was silent. “When they first showed up we discovered that a living planet creates energy on the spiritual level. Remember Genesis? 'And the world was without form and void'? All of this potential energy was just laying around when Dad came into being, and he did what the other gods could not; he chose a form, though by any human definition it was just something like the wind ruffling the surface. Where he got it none of us, Angel or God knows. But it was still spirit energy, itself formless. Then he made man in our image, and by choosing the species, he chose the physical form we have today.
“Our form, from Dad down to the other Gods were all created in your heads. And we believe that is where the soul comes from as well. Each person carries some of that divine spark within themselves. But there is a finite amount of that energy to use, and that is why except for one small subset, the other Gods stopped forming around 650 AD.”
“Because Allah was the last of the god forms created directly.”
“What subset do you mean?” Rhee asked.
“The so called 'elder gods'.” Dawn grimaced. “Think of early man and something as simple as night. Picture some troop hiding in the trees, or in a cave. They can hear things moving in the darkness. They cannot see them, but those who wander away disappear, or are found dead, sometimes horribly mutilated. So they peopled the dark with monsters beyond anything able to take the light of day, where merely enough light will cause them to flee. Why do you think man huddled around their fires when they discovered it? Because these Elder Gods had been banished from the world of man, yet at night, when the world's defense is thinnest, they still crossover to stalk the world until the sun drives them away again.
“They also used that energy to create the demons. As religions created their hells, they added the monsters to inhabit them. I am glad Cthulu came along, he's a big draw on the eighth level.”
“The God Cthulu works for you?”
“Most of them do.” The door opened, and a blast of choral music hit them. Rhee hit the close button. They stood in silence for a moment.
“What the hell?”
“So many through the centuries have believed that is all heaven is,” Dawn sighed, looking at her watch. “A place where you spend the rest of eternity doing nothing but singing hymns of praise. All Gospel, all the time. Three, two, one.” She hit the door open button, there was a second of stunning sound, then silence. Into that, Dawn sang.
Non nobis Domine, Domine
Non nobis Domine
Sed nomini, Sed nomini
Tu o da gloriam.
Then she hit the close button, and pressed the one. Rhee looked at her. She smiled. “The hymn Shakespeare used in Henry V, sung by the men who won Agincourt. Pretty much, 'it wasn't us, we owe it all to you'. It has the virtue of being brief, because all it consists of is the phrase repeated over and over.
“As to Chthulu working for me, almost all of the new gods do or did at one time. When their followers died off, or they were replaced by others, they vanished.”
“How does a god just vanish?”
“A writer named Terry Pratchett said it best. All gods start small, even Dad did. Before he made man, he was nothing but thought held together by his will.
“The first of the new gods were poorly formed. They were the product of a mind as sharp as any human today has, but uneducated; nonverbal, still looking upon the entire planet with wonder. They did not even have names as humans mean the term now. But within a thousand years the first true new gods came to be.
“But as empires rose, their gods rose with them, and usually they fell with them. Of the Mesoamerican gods few remain except as artifacts of their people. The same is true of those of Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon, you name them. Most however were subsumed, became new gods with new names as other peoples along their borders moved in to conquer the older empires. So Utu of Mesopotamia became Aninna among the Hittites, Shemesh of the Ugarit, Surya of the Hindu, Ra in Egypt, Mithra among the Persians, Helios, then Apollo then Sol Invictus to the Romans, and Lugh to the Celts. Finally Mithra became linked to Christ by the old Pre Catholic Church.
“Yes. The early church was hamstrung by the sheer multiplicity of gods of other nations. Under Roman law, religion was free as long as your god did not claim supremacy. However what we would consider freedom wasn't what the Roman Empire meant. Consider your own country, where you have a distinct separation between church and state which is only challenged today with religions saying they had the right to make political decisions but still demand tax exempt status.
“In Rome of that era, even the Gods were subservient to the Senate. Compared to Zeus, Jupiter had only three thunderbolts, and the third needed the Senate's permission to be thrown. Proselytizing was allowed but forcing temples closed was not, unless the Senate did it. So the Early Christians struck at two points. The first was at the matrons of Rome. Ritual infanticide was a part of religion even as it is today-”
“Wait! How is ritual infanticide part of modern day society?”
“These days it's going the other way, the Religious 'right to life' argument boils down to 'God' says the baby must be born, and your own rights to what you must endure be damned if you are the woman. Back then, they had problems with population growth against food supply; too many people, not enough food to maintain them. So the religions that took human sacrifice accepted that you could sacrifice the ones that were a drain on your finances. The old, the infirm, and children.
“But think of these women who saw their children offered up to god. Think of spending nine months of your life nurturing the child within your body, then some priest decides the baby you hold in your arms is a fitting sacrifice. They wanted to rebel, and Judaism and Christianity both abhorred any form of human sacrifice.
“The Jews were considered sanctimonious idiots. With religious freedom enshrined in Roman law, the Jews were the only religion restricted because they practiced their own laws, and were executing more of their own than the entire Empire combined! A lot of them for Blasphemy. All the while saying their god was still the one true god. Jews, then later the Christians and Islam suffered the same problem because they also believed only they knew the true path to god.
“But Christianity... It had all of Judaisms weak points, but these are their converted neighbors, not someone from what Rome considered the sticks. All saying 'god' doesn't want you to murder your children. As Aristophanes' play Lysistrata showed, and people will admit, if women don't do what their men expect; cooking cleaning and sex, the men will knuckle under eventually.
“So these matrons merely stood up to their men and the priests, saying their 'God' wanted their children to live. Even when persecuted for that belief.
“The way to take control of the Empire was by using the rites of Mithra. While a sun god, Mithra was also a god a lot of the Army worshiped. They took the rites, made it what is now the Mass, and told the soldiers that there really wasn't a difference. With the matrons and the army on their side, they had the Empire pretty well sewn up.”
“Why are we passing the second floor?”
“Do you really want to watch a bunch of Arabs getting drunk on Ambrosia, having at it with perfect compliant women while their wives do the cooking and the cleaning?” She snorted. “Islam has a bit more imagination than Christianity at least. You're never going to convince someone to strap on a bomb and die so he can go to the third floor and hymns 24/7, when he can get 72 virgins and being drunk without a hangover instead. Though forgiving every sin past and future so go out and fight in the Holy Land was just as bad.”
The door opened, and Rhee heard loud singing. It wasn't any hymn she had ever heard, unless 'god' was all about eating, fighting, and drinking. It was a dining hall that stretched on. Women were delivering food and drink, fending off drunks with what was obviously long experience. At the far end a man sitting on a throne waved. Dawn waved back, then the door closed. “Valhalla. One of only two heavens of the Norse among the gods rather than in hell. Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife, the field Fˇlkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle at her hall, Sessr˙mnir.” She smiled. “A goddess of war to some, she's more cerebral. The common grunts end up in Valhalla, while the wisest whether foot soldier or General goes to Freyja. Oh they fight and drink too, but their discussions go beyond how so and so looked when you hit him with your axe. The servers are treated better too, none of this 'Are you awake Brunhilde?' in Sessr˙mnir. You have to seduce, not just take. A lot of the Christian military dead from wars hang out here rather than in the choir loft. It's just more what they are used to.”
Dawn shrugged. “Well for heaven that is it. But if you want fun...” The door opened, and Rhee could see the upper floor of the restaurant. “First another snack, then on to Hell.”
I can't believe I missed so many installments. This story is absolutely fascinating, and I mean it! :) I can't wait to see Hell!
Hell With a Tour Guide Part I Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
They sat at the same table they had vacated earlier, and service, like always, was instantaneous. This time Dawn merely looked at the girl coldly. “No special crap today. Devil's Food Cake with dark chocolate frosting, and a double dutch chocolate ice float with A&W cream soda.”
“I've never tried that.” Rhee admitted.
“Root beer floats are good, but with chocolate ice cream, the cream soda is better.”
A few minutes later, slurping the creamy mixture, Rhee had to agree. She swirled the last of the mixture with her straw. “I hate to tell you, but someone is watching us.”
“They are?” Dawn lifted her glass to slide the last of the creamy ice cream into her mouth. “Satanist or Fanatic?”
“Nervous and terrified.” Rhee nodded toward a table in the corner. The man was well dressed in an Italian cut suit and Gucci loafers. He had the look of someone expecting a monster to come up behind him.
Dawn looked at him expressionlessly, then turned back to Rhee. When she did she suddenly grinned evilly. “Oh, one of those.” The grin vanished as she looked back at the man. Then she pointed, snapped her fingers, and then pointed again at the floor. The man stood, and walked over as if going to the firing squad. He stopped where she had pointed., looking at her with bravado. She looked up at him, then asked softly, “Did I tell you to stand there?” Her gesture was imperious, and he dropped to his knees in abject terror. “Speak.”
It came out in a rush, seeing a business opportunity, saying the phrase 'I'd sell my soul'... Then-
“He appeared in my home in the middle of the night. He'd supply the money for the investment in return for...”
“Reimbursement plus ten percent. Failing that, your soul.” Dawn completed. “And of course the venture failed, Seems it was probably something like Enron, that folded within a week of you putting the money in.”
“Try his plane was enroute to Dubai ten minutes after the check cleared.”
“Too bad. Time to pay up.”
“Please.” He whispered. “It's not fair!”
“Anyone who tells you life is fair is selling something.” Dawn replied.
“Thank you Dread Pirate Roberts.” Rhee commented sotto voce.
“Hush.” Dawn admonished, looking back at the man. “And you came to see me, why?”
“He told me you could give me an extension. That I can find a way to fix this.”
“And how will you fix it?” Dawn asked sweetly. “You didn't have enough money for your big coup, what are you going to do? Steal it from somewhere else?”
He looked annoyed. “Why should you care? You're evil incarnate.”
“So I don't give you the extension, unless it's done my way.”
He looked like he'd swallowed a slice of lemon. “What are you offering?”
“You find a clean way to get the money. No theft, no cheating lying or coercion, and I will assure the one who robbed you gets what he deserves, and what he stole gets back to those who deserve it. If you do that in this next week, I will give you adepto de inferno concedere. Otherwise, you had best expect my agent to collect you on Tuesday next.” She looked at Rhee, who was coughing desperately into a napkin. “I can get you something for that cough if necessary.” Rhee waved her hand as she turned still coughing.
“That's the deal. Put up, or shut up.”
The man almost snarled. “Done.”
“Then get thee behind me, businessman.” The man left in bad grace, and Dawn glared at Rhee. “Coughing, daughter mine?” She asked in a minatory tone.
Rhee turned, made sure the man was gone, and collapsed into helpless giggles. “Adepto de inferno concedere? 'Get out of Hell free card'?”
“I like to have fun as much as the next tempter.” She replied drolly. “I know the type. He has enough to cover everything the 'demon' supplied. A man who complains about his poverty as he uses a toothpick of gold to clean his teeth. He wanted to win without risk, and that means he would lie and steal rather than risk his own money.”
“So you do buy souls.” Rhee said with satisfaction.
Dawn laughed in sheer delight. “My dear daughter, you have seen the soul above, a mere computer chip. Think of the hard drive in your computer; if you remove it, the computer is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. A man without a soul is one trapped between life and death without the mental capability to 'boot up' the person who resides in that body. you can no more buy a soul than sell sunshine; it is an intrinsic part of life that belongs to it's creator.
“Think, in all of the old 'Devil buys soul' stories, how often do I win? There are only two times; Doctor Faustus, and the movie Bedazzled.”
“Wait, you lost in that one.”
“I meant the 1967 version, not the 2000 remake. The devil wins, but gives the soul back, which does count as a win, but only barely. Every other version ends with the person who sold his soul winning on a technicality.” Dawn waved her hand in negation. “If I went to Las Vegas, I could win at any table even if it were rigged for the house. To think I would lose in anything I set my mind to is absurd. I personally have never bought a soul, and don't intend to start now.”
“Then who is the demon this man claims bought it?”
Dawn sighed. “There are many trickster gods among the new gods; not all of them benevolent. They view man as their societies did, either as precious, or with scorn. With my permission, they offer what someone needs rather than what they desire, as he typifies.” She motioned after the man they had been speaking with. He is the type of business man who wants to win big, but is unwilling to risk his own funds to do so. When they make the offer it is when doing so is the best way to make sure he doesn't do something that will harm others.
“Remember that the person who sells the soul sometimes has good reasons for it, but always the bargain comes to a bad end; but I ordered that they be rigged like the story of the Monkey's Paw, with an escape clause.”
“What, so the game is fixed?”
Dawn gave her a slow grin. “Of course it is. They would not expect otherwise. But they can get out of it if they use their brains. Something like 99% of the souls supposedly 'sold' are in dreams; when they want wealth, power, some specific woman, and it goes badly. They wake up the next morning eternally grateful it wasn't real.
“Like the Twilight Zone Episode The Man in the Bottle where a Genie gives a man four wishes. The first repairs a cabinet, the second gives them a million dollars, and after giving most of it to their friends, they end up with a tax bill that leaves them only five dollars, the third makes the husband a powerful leader, and he becomes Hitler in the last days of WWII, the last puts everything back as it was before the third wish. If you wanted money, they taint how you get it, so you end up with nothing. If you wanted say Lindsey Lohan, she turns out to be a shrew driving you to madness, for power, you become, like in the episode, a leader who fails miserably.
“But sometimes, the person needs a real lesson.” She motioned after the man. “What he doesn't know is the 'house' rigged it so that he couldn't win. The 'deal' was a sham, the money he was given existed only long enough to get him into trouble. Now he has to get out of that trouble. He does so by beggaring himself. Or he refuses, in which case my 'agent', or actually someone from the government, will arrest him and take him off to prison.”
“Like Kenneth Lay?”
“He was too smart for his own good, or we would have nailed him a decade earlier.” Dawn commented. “The term 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' fit him perfectly.” She finished the last of her cake. Ready?”
“Just one more thing.” Dawn commented. She waved to the waitress. “Three hippo thigh bones.”
“Hippo thigh bones?” Rhee asked, confused.
“The next stage of the trip. Unlike heaven, Hell is more baroque. After all,” Dawn gave her a lazy smile, “Hell is completely human designed.”
They walked toward the elevator, Rhee trying to balance two thigh bones half her height. The door opened before they reached it, and they stepped inside. Dawn used the same gold key, then took a second thigh bone as the door closed. She hit the B1 button.
“Hell is made up of a lot of things people remember from Greek legends on.” She explained. “Most of the other hells were gathered together when I took over. It used to be, as the bible says, 'as above, so below', meaning the religious created what it was like.”
“So all the stories about people going into hell...”
“Were legends explaining what hell was like. In fact, I didn't get control of hell until the time of Thomas Aquinas in the mid 13th century.”
“So hell was under control of the New Gods?”
“Yes. As much as Dad wanted it, his control of the souls arriving was miniscule. With just over 400 hundred million people on the planet in 1200 AD, only about fifty million were either Christian or Jew in 1200. Shinto, Buddhist, Hindu, even the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Egyptians outnumbered them.
“But Thomas changed that by changing the rules again. The church absorbed the holidays of the Romans and Celts, then they declared that Mass on the new 'High Holy days' would be at night when the rites of those older religions were celebrated. They also started rumor campaigns that the Druids were the ones behind everyone's misfortune. The population that were Christian leaped to over 100 million by the 14th century, and I was finally in charge. But I couldn't change what was already in place at first, and Christianity wasn't done with their annexation of ideas.
“Christianity did a lot of grabbing hells from other societies when they created their own version. The demons created by the Taoists were lifted almost exactly. Then they incorporated them into a divided hell as Rome believed in. The hell described by Dante used ironic punishments and ever lasting torment.
“But the rules were haphazard. Heinlein commented in the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress that people pass laws to limit what others do. No one ever says, 'I hate it when I do this, so let's pass a law to stop me'. Religions are the same. In the 11th century they would try you as a heretic if you said witches have magical powers, yet in the 12th they would try you if you said they did not. Wizards, who had been considered benevolent before 1100 were suddenly worshipers of myself.
“In fact the entire process was insulting; a man was guilty of the 'sins' of those women around him, and declared a Warlock; but the term comes from waerloga, which is old English for oath-breaker or deceiver, because the paternalistic church believed that evil done by your female relatives was done at your behest since a man is head of the house. In other words he had broken his oath to god
“It took a while, but I had it revamped around the time of the American Revolution. A lot of present day hell is still tied to the other religions, and the people in charge then are still in charge of a lot of it now.”
“Why is that?”
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” The door opened on a black scene. The ground was stone, and far ahead was a single light. Rhee juggled the bone she carried as Dawn walked toward it.
“What are these for?”
“You'll know soon enough.” The light was an ancient looking lamp on a pole with a bell rope hanging down. Dawn pulled it, and a deep gong sounded. They walked down onto a dock built of some dark wood. A shape moved toward them, and resolved itself into a boat with a hooded figure sculling it silently toward them. It pulled up beside the dock, and the figure looked up, face still covered.
“Afternoon, Charon.” Dawn said, leaping down lightly. She set down the bone, and held out her hand. “Two for the other side.” A hand came from the robe, and she dropped two silver coins into it.
“Quarters?” The voice was a bit high pitch, reminding Rhee of the boy on Family Guy who was constantly pursuing Meg Griffin. It was even more pronounced when the other hand pulled down the hood, revealing a face of indeterminate age, but with glasses. “Come on now, boss, it's supposed to be half drachma, you know that.”
“My rules, Charon. They are silver quarters minted before 1964, and they bought as much when they were minted as half drachma did.”
“It's the principle of the thing.” He grumped. “But you're the boss.”
“That I am. And this is my daughter, Rhee. Rhee, the Antichrist, meet Charon, the Ferryman.” They shook hands.
“What about all the arrivals; what fifty odd thousand a day?” Rhee looked at the small skiff. “How do you fit them in?”
There was a blast of an air horn, and a trio of buses appeared. Charon sighed, then snapped his fingers. The skiff seemed to explode upward, and they were standing in the cargo well of a steam ferry.
“The Northfield; a SIRT Staten Island Rapid Transit Ferry that sank in 1901.” He whistled, and a smartly dressed deck crew fanned out and began directing the passengers from the buses aboard. “Remember the fares!” He roared at them.” He motioned and the women followed him up the companionway ladders to the bridge. Charon gestured as if erasing something over himself, and was in a uniform of that since seized company. He pulled the whistle, then rang up full ahead.
“Whether you're being rowed across by me, or riding in the ferry, it still takes 25 minutes.” he commented.
“This leads to the entry to Limbo, since all of the non-Christians end up there for a while. Anyone who wants to go on can go to purgatory. We'll go through Limbo, then downward first, so you'll get an idea of what I have here.” Dawn took a clipboard from Charon, read the form, and signed it. “Not to shabby, Charon. You've increased the intake by fifteen percent this month.”
“But I'm running the Red Queen's race, here boss. I figure I'll need two ferries by next year.”
“We'll think of something.” She patted him on the shoulder. She motioned, and led Rhee down to the cargo deck. People were standing around looking woebegone. They knew they were dead, but not what awaited them yet. Dawn stopped, juggling the bones she held idly.
The ferry pulled up to the dock. A sign with two points stood at the ramp where the ferry docked
Beware of Dog!
“We'll take the employee entrance.” Dawn walked not left or right, but straight ahead. Rhee looked as the people divided, then followed Dawn. There was a rough path, and Dawn tread it easily. Rhee found herself getting winded, pausing to gasp as she glared at that damn bone. A similar one from a cow was 18 inches long, and weighed almost ten pounds. The hippo being four times the size of the average cow meant this one was almost three feet long and weighed almost fifty pounds. She finally caught her breath, then looked at it oddly. She had suddenly realized she had been juggling two for a while there, and Dawn had walked away as if carrying a hundred pounds of bone was normal.
Every time she thought of Dawn just as a woman, she would do something patently impossible like this. She heard something moving ahead of her. “Dawn?” There was no reply. She looked around, getting a little worried. In the dim light she could see a cave, and above it a sign carved into the stone.
ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
Then she heard movement again, then a deep growl.
All right; she was getting a lot worried.
She walked forward hesitantly, stepping past the opening. There was a light down there, but she remember the sarcastic version of the old saw about lights at the end of tunnels. She stepped back, and something blocked her path. Something fell on her shoulder. She reached up, and felt something wet. She looked at her hand for a long moment, then looked upward.
It looked like the head of a bulldog. But the largest recorded American Bulldog stood only 28 inches at the shoulder, but this one must have been over seven feet at the shoulder for it's head to be a foot taller. Now the head lowered, and it glared down at her. She turned as the basso growl came again, but it wasn't that head growling. Another head lowered on her left. Then another on her right. This one, with teeth bared was the growler.
She backed away, her mind telling her she had seen this dog before. Not the representations of Cerebus, the guard dog of the gate of hell; but this specific dog. It paced along with her as she moved away, and now all three heads were low; even with her own face, followed. She ran into something, and stopped. It was the cave wall. The dog crouched down further, the growls deepening, then it barked from all three heads simultaneously like any dog, but the tone so deep she felt it in her body like a shock wave.
Suddenly she realized where she'd seen him, and gasped. “Fluffy?” The dog paused, then the heads came forward, and sniffed. The center one was even with her face, the others with her shoulders, and it felt like being in front of a pressure release valve. Then a tongue extended from the center head, and she was covered in drool from chin to hair as it slid across her.
“Cerebus! Down!” At the command the dog dropped, shaking the earth. Rhee could see Dawn behind the dog. She had put down the thigh bones, and had crossed her arms, toe tapping like someone that had caught their dog bullying some smaller animal. “That's my daughter your slobbering on, you oversized drool mine.”
The dog flinched, eyes looking as if it had done something bad. “Rhee, say hello to Cerebus, guardian of the gates of hell. Cerebus, say hello, no wait! Oh Sh-”
Several things happened at once. First a tail the size of an elephant's trunk swept out, catching Dawn and slamming her into the wall. Cerebus leaped up and backward, narrowly missing stepping on the woman, then his heads dropped forward, and he leaped toward Rhee. She flinched, giving a shriek as paws the size of manhole covers hit the wall to either side as she found three heads anointing her with drool. She dropped the bone, reaching out to catch the jowls of the center head, which slowed at least part of the inundation.
“Ba-” Rhee started to say, but the head pushed forward, and she felt the tongue swipe across her face; then she was spitting second hand drool.
“Back!” The dog backed up, tail wagging so hard the rump was wagging with it. Dawn staggered around him avoiding the tail, then parked herself between the girl and the dog. “Down!” The dog dropped flat, the tail still whipping. the two fifty pound bones flew into the wall with a thud as deep as Dawn herself had made. The woman grabbed the ears of the center head, and began scratching vigorously. The head whined, and the legs gave that convulsive jerk of a dog trying to scratch a flea-itch behind both ears. “Get the bones.” Dawn ordered, switching her hands to the outer ears of the outer heads. The back legs still did the flailing dance.
Rhee gathered the bones, and Dawn stepped back. “Stay.” She took a bone, balancing it on the nose of the center dog “Put this on Dex's nose.”
Dawn sighed. “His right head, Dexter; Dex for short, his left head, Sin for sinister. Centro for this one. Stay!” She ordered as Centro rose a fraction. Rhee set the bone on the nose, noticing that it was almost as wide as the bone, big enough to bite a man in half and leave a third of him hanging on each end of the jaw.
She shivered as she picked up the last bone. Sin lifted his head and she slapped his nose. “Stay!” The head froze as she rested the bone on the nose. “Done.”
“I'd step back.” Dawn matched her words, stepping several paces back. All three heads were watching the bones with fixed intensity. Rhee joined her. “Now!”
The three heads snapped. The center went up, the two on the edges in their own directions, right and left, the bones floating in air for a brief second before three sets of jaws snapped them from the air. Then the women watched the heads gnawing with canine delight at the bones they clenched in those jaws.
“No one plays with him any more.” Dawn said sadly. “So when I come down, I do this to let him know someone cares.”
“He looks like Fluffy from the first Harry Potter movie.” Rhee said, stunned.
“More their Fluffy looks like him.” Dawn replied. “When special effects got into computer generated imagery, I made sure the people creating the images had the right images by bringing them in their dreams to see Cerebus. When they made the Twilight series, we made sure they saw Dire Wolves in action. And with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, that they saw real hell hounds. We have people inside Rising Sun Pictures, Double Negative, Cinesite, Framestore and Industrial Light & Magic.” She walked over, scratching the neck of one of the heads. “Come on.”
The light at the end of the tunnel was an entry hall, and Rhee saw what Dawn had meant. The hell hounds in the last movie looked and moved the same. The trio of hounds surrounded them, growling.
“You don't even want to mess with me.” Dawn warned them.
“You reprobates, back off.” A soft furry contralto snapped. The dogs whined, backing away as a statuesque woman with long brown hair strode toward them.
“Kore!” Dawn leaped forward, lifting the taller woman off her feet. Both were laughing when Dawn set her down. “Rhee, this is Persephone, or Kore which is one of her better remembered Roman names. Kore, this is Rhee, better known as the Antichrist.”
“That time already?” Kore turned wide expressive eyes to the younger woman. “Pleased to meet you. I expected you to be... a man.”
“No.” Kore shook her hand with both of hers. “Pleased. Women can do all of the important jobs. Yours may be more important than mine ever was. Come on, Hades heard the hounds, and is waiting to find out who came in.”
They walked back into a large room with a roaring fire. Again, it looked like the scene from Percy Jackson, except for the desk where Hades looked to be hip deep in paperwork. He looked up then back at the files on his desk. A moment later he leaped up, rounded the desk, and picked up Dawn the same way she had greeted Kore. “Dawn, long time, no see!” He pecked her on the cheek, then looked at Rhee. “New employee?”
“Not really. Hades, This in my daughter, Rhee. Also known as the Antichrist. Rhee, this is Hades, God of the dead, ruler of the underworld.”
“About time.” He reached out, and Rhee found herself also hugged. “I'm getting sick of this gig.”
“Not yet, Hades. Free will, you know.”
“I hate that free will crap.” Hades replied. “Man was meant to do what the gods said. Old Poseidon wouldn't have gotten away with tormenting Odysseus for ten years if free will was important.”
Dawn sighed as if this were an old, no, ancient argument. “I've told you a billion times, Hades, you had free run because Christianity either did not exist, or was weak. Dad was the first and One True God, and he gave them free will. He never anticipated that they would create other gods, and give them full rein.”
“Then just tell her to do her duty.” Hades glared at the older woman. “She's supposed to be obedient. I never let anyone stand up to me like this. How can the world end if you pull the other way to stop it!”
“I won't accept the way it's laid out. I told him and I'm telling you, the human race deserves a fair test.” Dawn was adamant. “A fair test gives them a chance to decide if they are going to destroy themselves. Not just calling the game on points because Dad is bored.”
“Destroy ourselves?” Rhee asked slowly.
Hades snarled. “Yes! When John wrote his gospel, or should I say Nathan wrote it for him when John was in his 90s, he prophesied that between you, you'd destroy yourselves.”
“Between us?” Rhee asked.
“Between Dawn, mankind, and you.”
“He always thought I cut the human race too much slack.” Dawn admitted.
“But we don't want to destroy ourselves!”
“Couldn't prove it by what I've seen.” He waved a a hand in denigration “Oh as a group, you're right. But you have enough crazies who don't care, and you tend to give them political office where they have the power to destroy you. Besides,” He rounded on Dawn. “After all isn't six thousand odd years enough time?”
“And whose fault is that?” Rhee demanded. “We didn't create ourselves!”
“And you didn't create them either.” Dawn snapped, “You snatched them up, accepted their form and worship, and expected the gravy train to last forever.”
She sighed. “When I took over I had a choice as to who to leave in charge here. Of all of them you were the least irritating. I've let you run it pretty much like you did, but my patience is not infinite. Do you want to step down?”
“Zeus gave me dominion, not some upstart.”
“Husband.” Kore leaned in. “You know Zeus stepped down. She is the ruler.”
“I don't care.”
“Fine.” Dawn raised her hand. “One snap of my fingers, and you can replace Charon's sign.”
“You wouldn't-” Hades began, and Dawn snapped her fingers. With a blast of air filling where he had been, Hades was gone.
“Dawn.” Kore started to reach out, then paused. A wicked smile lit her face. “You replaced the sign with him?”
“Worse yet.” Dawn admitted with a matching smile. “Right now there's a Disneyland style audio animatronic figure of him that will greet everyone and point them to Christian or Pagan Limbo, and tell them to beware Cerebus.”
“That's something I don't understand. Why is there a division? Isn't limbo just a formless void?”
Kore laughed. “No, though that is what most people picture when you hear the word. The Romans divided hell into levels, based on something not far removed from the Deadly Sins of Christianity. Since the other religions didn't send the dead to heaven directly, and the Romans were so bloody organized, they created a heaven in hell they called Elysium, or the Elysian fields,” She motioned to Dawn, “she changed that when she took over.” She motioned toward a door that appeared in the wall. “Why not show her around. I have work to do.”
“Fine by me.” Dawn said. “As for the blowhard, he'll be back in a few months.”
“Great, I needed the rest.”
I have noticed that about 60 of you have read this (assuming the same people retuning as I posted my next section). For lurkers, I give greetimgs; I hope you enjoyed it. For members, I am appalled that you have not commented. So here's a chance to have me add you or your comments:
If you're a lurker, it costs nothing to join, and we'd enjoy your company. So create a log in and join in! Then read the next paragraph.
For members, you can post to the thread, and one member asked me to add her as a human character, and accepted the best place to meet her; in Limbo City, in Braggi's Bar. If you want to play along, go to http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/17026 Posting 19 where the Filksong (Fan song) based on Give Me That Old Time Reigion is done in it's glory, no where it's full mention, because there are a lot of verses not mentioned. I will be using six verses, four of them (Asarte, Venus One, Jehovah, and Inferno) from the posting. In addition, she has created one for Caissa and I am adding one for Azrael (Death).
To play along, let me know either by instant message pr PM if you want to use an existing verse, or want to write your own. You have until after 10 May.
Hell II Give me that Old Time religion!
The room the entered was coal black. Rhee started to comment, when Dawn's voice cut through the chilling silence. “This is what the Christians who enter Limbo see, because it is what they anticipate. Those who designed the idea originally just created a cut rate heaven. Think of winning a contest with a free hotel room and you end up in the cheap end version of Motel 6. But the word has become a meaning for an empty void. Remember the lobby upstairs? You can do what they cannot; make it conform to what it really is. But don't be surprised.”
Rhee looked into the blackness. Make it conform... She wondered what Limbo would be for a Christian. As this blackness all it is? The darkness lightened a little, and she grinned. No, it would be something everyone would view as hell-like. It lightened even more. Something where time was drawn out, but you couldn't leave...
The room was huge, with counters along the walls, and a large counter in the center. Before it was a series of fiber tape dividers with what looked like several hundred people waiting their turn. There were row upon row of seats, and people were hunched over thick books in their laps, turning pages, and making notes before turning another. She'd seen it before, though with much shorter forms. On the walls were electric signs with a series of two letters and six numbers each. She walked over to look over one woman's shoulder at YY:829270, then at the sign which was at AA:004121. Beside the long number was another marked WINDOW with the number 17.
It was the DMV from hell.
“It's not fair!” They looked at a young woman standing at the customer service window, which was one of ten at the huge center counter. “I don't even remember Bobby!”
“You remember the boy, you are just refusing to remember the incident.” The woman 'helping' her replied in a bored tone. “Full memory of all past events is automatic upon entry to Limbo.” She pointed at the book the size of an unabridged English dictionary. “That is the sum total of your existence.”
“Can't I just go on to hell?” The woman asked in a hopeful voice.
“No, ma'am. Once you have accepted entry, you are required to fill out the questionnaire fully, and have it appraised before going on.”
“But I was only three!”
“Madam, every conscious memory you have has been put in that document. Your memory of the incident in question is there. I suggest you remember it. You have about 70,000 questions to go after that one.”
The woman flipped the book open and quoted question 217. “Did you steal Bobby Thorndike's candy because you were, A) Hungry, B) just wanted it C) wanted to give it to someone else D) None of the above. What is all this! She shouted. “It's not fair!”
“You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?” Rhee asked her. The woman gave a fulminating glare before returning to the seating area.
“Yo, Goblin King!” Dawn waved, and Rhee joined her.
“What are those?” Rhee asked as the next customer complained about his file, which looked like an original Gutenberg bible.
“You are judged by three things here. First is your relationships with other people.” Dawn replied. “How your presence affected them and vice versa. Second is how well you lived your life. Last, what you did or did not do to make the world around you a better place. Take that girl for example. What if her theft of that candy made the boy turn against society? I will admit that three is rather young to make such a change in your life, but what if she was only the first person to so wound him? Remember the Constitution; 'When a long train of abuses and usurpations'...”
Dawn motioned to one old Oriental woman. Rhee noticed only now that the files the people were working on shrank as they completed each page; the woman had only about four left. As she finally noted the last page, the number changed to AA:004145 with a second number under the window column of 175.
“There aren't more than thirty windows! How...”
Dawn chuckled. “You brought it down to a manageable size for viewing, but you forget that like heaven, Hell is bigger inside than out.” She motioned. “This is the DMV from your home town, with ten information reps, thirty customer service reps, and space for about two hundred. But there are over 72,000 passing through as we speak. Look.” Rhee looked up at one of the windows opposite her flashing 175. The one to it's left flashed 19, while the one on the left flashed 1451.
“Like the DMV, the wait only seems like forever. Though some might be here that long.” Dawn motioned toward a man in a chair with not a folder or book, but a rolling shelf with what looked like a hundred books the size of the average big city phone book. “Adolf Eichmann has been in that chair for fifty years and isn't even past 1941 yet. You have to remember that he arranged the deportation of 14 million people into the concentration camps, and the removal of all the Nazis gained from it. Clothing, gold teeth, hair for mattresses, fat for candles, ash and bone meal used for fertilizer. The only people with more direct negative effects on others than him were Stalin and the initial Chinese Communists under Mao.
“That woman is a perfect example.” Dawn motioned toward the woman walking toward window 175. “She spent several decades working in the Chinese government's ministry of information. When the Chinese crushed the protesters at Tienanmen Square she wrote the internal news explaining how it was necessary. How do you think her actions painted those young adults?”
Dawn started around the seating area. Rhee followed.
The customer service rep looked up, nodded when Dawn gestured, and stood, “Take a chair, ma'am.” The older woman looked, her eyes passing over Dawn and Rhee without seeing them before sitting demurely.
“All right, Miss. Chan. Your numbers 231, 67,758, and 350,908 all have one thing in common. You chose; because the Party wished it. Since the questions spanned sixty years, this does not really answer the question. Did you honestly believe the Party was that important at age seven, age 22, and age seventy?”
“I have always been a faithful party member.” Chan replied.
“I see...” The customer service rep tapped a key. “You're listed here as a reincarnate. Seventeen lives so far. This one's lesson was, oh boy. Interpersonal relationships. I am afraid this is going to hurt. I am activating your total memory store.”
“You're what?” Chan started to rise, then grabbed the sides of her head, and gave a blood curdling shriek. She collapsed into the chair, sobbing.
“Reincarnate?” Rhee asked.
“Something like a third of humanity has believed in reincarnation throughout history. “Dawn explained. “By the time I took over, they had begun their own spiritual journeys, so we couldn't stop it, though I put my foot down on transmigration, so we don't have people coming back as animals anymore.
“Our Miss Chan reported a boy whose father was helping the Nationalist Chinese rather than the newly formed Communists in her village in 1926. They murdered his entire family, though they called it an execution. She fell in love, but when her lover became disaffected with the Communists in 1941 she turned him in, and he was executed. Then while a senior official writing about the Tienanmen Square Massacre she wrote a brilliant piece blaming their actions on disaffected elders in 1989.” Dawn's voice was sarcastic. “Her efforts lead to the arrest and 'removal' of forty teachers who it was claimed had given the young people their ideas. She died in 1998.”
As Chan wept, the customer service rep drew out another stack of papers. “Miss Chan, since you were reincarnated, this form covers just you relationships. I am afraid a number of them are linked to your answers from 1926 and 1939 to 41.”
The woman merely sat there, weeping silently now. A pair of representatives came, moving the woman back to an empty chair. She was given a new number ZZZ000005.
“That poor woman.” Rhee sighed.
“Free will and reincarnation means that is happening a lot.” Dawn sighed in reply. “Our methods here have streamlined the process a lot for them; it used to be they were personally questioned about everything they did in the last life, and that would sometimes take longer than the 14 years she has sat here.
“A lot of them aren't going back via reincarnation anymore. After a dozen times, and not being able to know what your lesson is until you die, they're repeating lessons too often. But there are stubborn ones.” Dawn led her to a door marked NONREINCARNATE right beside one marked REINCARNATE ONLY. “Don't worry, we actually catch those who want to try reincarnation, and if they were just taking a break from their next turn on the wheel, those who do reincarnate can use this door.”
“So they go through that door, and...”
“They are born again. If they weren't reincarnates however, it won't open. Those who believe in it tend to be born into societies that do have a lot of followers to cushion the shock a bit. But something like 16 percent of American Society believes in it, and not all of them were born to the belief.”
The door opened, and Rhee took an instinctive step back. “What did you see?”
Rhee shook her head. “The darkness beyond the door. It...It looked hungry.”
“It is.” Dawn told her. “This leads to the levels of hell below us. You and I are safe. The others?” She looked at the people in the chairs, at the counters, waiting in line. “They are getting what they deserve.” She took her daughter's arm. “You aren't dead yet, so you can't get dragged into a hell. We're going to Limbo proper.”
“Limbo Proper?” Rhee motioned toward the room they were in. “What is this?”
“Just the processing center. You see, in the 13th century, the Church decided unilaterally that anyone who died before Jesus preached was unworthy of heaven. So they all went here.”
“But that's insane!” Rhee almost shouted. When a lot of heads turned, she lowered her voice. “Moses, Joshua, all of the Prophets, all of the Judges of Israel, they never made it to heaven?”
“According to the early church, yes. All of the people who lived before Jesus preached went to Limbo instead of Heaven, and until Mikey did his number, you went to hell if you thought you deserved it.”
“Wait, if you thought you deserved it?” Rhee was confused.
“I can understand why that confuses you, it confused the hell out of me at first. Think about it, if you're doing 'god's will', or you're a Catholic who is absolved, nothing counts. So you had Torquemada, Zwingli, a whole herd of Nazis, even Jim Jones arriving there. While the ones who felt in their own hearts that they had failed, like Rommel and Von Stauffenberg going to hell. Along with them went a lot of kids. Children who had been abused by adults who told them it was 'their fault' that they were abused, bed wetters, and the ones who were told by their parents that 'god' would send them to hell for something as simple as disobedience. Some still arrive here thinking that.
“But in the last millennia and a half I've been fixing that. I'm sure Loki told you of the shake up. The only people who were going to hell back then were those of other faiths who felt they were and we catch them now in the processing center. As for those religion consigned to hell, She shook her head. “All of the rules he set were to try to get you to let go of your basic instincts, and the fact that you have done half as well as a species doesn't matter. You've failed, period. The church by whatever name is worse by far. That's pretty much why he wants to end the experiment.
“Get with it, daughter mine. You are supposed to end the world, and that wasn't my idea. He planned the whole thing from when he found out I was no longer a team player.” She pulled Rhee forward, and they passed through the door.
One instant, pitch black, then suddenly Rhee looked around in wonder. It was a beautiful spring day on a plain that seemed to stretch forever. “What Elysium originally looked like.” Dawn offered. Again, it's huge; after all something like 95% of the people who have ever lived live right here now.”
She waved her arm. “Everything mankind would wish to do is included. Beaches, mountains, forests. Hunting preserves where the souls of animals go and can be hunted at leisure.” She grinned. “Thanks to the believers in transmigration we even have hunting areas where the animals will hunt you back. Frank Buck swears by those.
“Petting preserves where you can curl up alongside a Sabretooth tiger or a modern lion without being worried about being a meal. The kids like that one a lot; every child who ever wanted to feel a Tiger's fur, or to hear it purr when petted comes to that section. Marlin Perkins took over there in 1994.”
“But why are so many here?”
“First because of the church's edict. Then of course you're seen pretty much all there is in heaven. After ten years or so singing hymns, where would you rather be? Up there with endless gospel music? Or maybe down here where you can get a drink, chat with people through the ages, and maybe, if you're willing, cuddle up to whatever appeals to you? Remember that Dad condemned homosexuals and those practitioners of Onan and for the same reason; they're not being fruitful and multiplying.
“Of course once they're dead, they didn't have to worry about more children, so sex is pretty much a rather messy two person sporting event here.”
“But you said kids.”
“More easily bored than an adult, let me tell you. I think the record for a child staying in heaven is two weeks, and that kid had been raised so religious that he was breaking down and sobbing because he couldn't play with a dog or pet a cat. The kids that come here have a choice, one they're not given upstairs. They can grow to maturity; or what they think of as maturity, or they can stay kids and play.
“We even have a Never land where the wild boys and even wilder girls hang out, thanks to J. M. Barrie. The leader of the boys is always called Peter Pan, and the leader of the girls is always Wendy. But both change out a lot because being in charge is only fun for a while. All of the stories elements are there, Indians, pirates, mermaids, the works.”
“How many girls or boys would be mermaids or merpeople if they had a choice? If they want to hang for a century as a mermaid, we let them. Poseidon runs that section for me.” She clapped her hands. “I for one, could use a drink. Thirsty?”
“Actually I am.” Rhee admitted.
“Then I have just the place for you, and it's within walking distance.”
Rhee looked around. She couldn't see anything remotely resembling a bar or pub. Dawn laughed. “Everywhere here is within walking distance!” She took her daughter's arm, and they took four paces. A moment later, they were in the middle of the most god awful city she had ever seen.
“Too many modern people, as in since Roman times, have lived in cities, so this is the largest development of the last three millennia.” Dawn motioned. The section they were in looked not unlike Manhattan, though without either rats or garbage. “If you wanted, you could visit Athens at the time of the Greeks, Rome in all it's splendor, the London of Dickens or Elizabeth, San Francisco when it was still a boom town, Tokyo under the Tokugawa Shogunate, you name it, you can be there. But the bar I'm looking for is right there.”
The building looked like a typical New York bistro with a sign BRAGGI'S, and they entered a room packed with people. “Remember, it's the same as all of limbo, bigger than it looks. Hey Jackie?” A rotund man turned, sipping his beer.
“Jackie Gleason?” Rhee gasped. She reached out, shaking the man's hand. “I've heard of you all my life!”
“So they still remember me?” He asked.
“Yeah, thanks to TV VHS and DVDs.” Rhee replied.
“Good.” He looked at Dawn. “Braggi's starting his usual singing in a few. Just to warn you.”
“Wouldn't miss it for all of hell, Jackie. There's someone I want to introduce my daughter to. See you later.” They pushed through to a table. Three people were there, one a stiff man in an ancient British naval uniform, another in an equally old German naval uniform, and a dark haired woman dressed in chinos and a peasant blouse.
“Uma, I was hoping to see you here.” She motioned. “This is Uma Umna. She doesn't use her family name because she ran away rather than marry the man her brother chose for her back in 1812. Her father was a Chess Grandmaster who died at the battle of Borodino fighting Napoleon. She's reached grandmaster status here, and runs the Strategic Games section of the Library under Hypatia. And these two are John Jellicoe, first Earl Jellicoe, and Reinhard Scheer who commanded the opposing sides at Jutland.”
“We're working out their reenactment of the battle from planning to execution.” Uma said. “All of the officers are raring to go.”
“Without ships?” Rhee asked. There was a chorus of laughter.
“Any sailor will tell you a ship has a soul.” Scheer corrected her. “Fredrich der Grosse was a wonderful ship, and she will see to your Iron Duke this time.”
“Or my Iron Duke might put paid to old Freddie, wot?” Jellicoe sneered.
“So we're agreed gentlemen? Complete planning, starting as it did on the 28th of May 1916?” Uma pressed.
The men nodded. Uma stood, shaking her head. “It was almost as bad as when the Japanese decided they wanted to reenact Pearl Harbor without Roosevelt's interference.” She whispered.
“At least our governments let the military do what they needed!” Scheer snarled.
“Here, here!” Jellicoe raised his glass, and Scheer tapped it with his own.
A small section near the bar was clearing, and four men Rhee thought she recognized were setting up. Only one, a tall lanky man had a guitar and was in the second row rather than the front. That was reserved for another man with glasses. Beside him was a baby faced man in his late sixties and behind them sat the other two, one with a tambourine. A barmaid looking not unlike Ortlinde came by, passing beers out to Rhee, Dawn and the others at the table. “Ortlinde?” Rhee asked.
“Oh you know my sister. No, I'm Skuld.” The girl dimpled when she smiled. “There were 27 of us, not just the nine everyone remembers from Die WalkŘre. I felt you'd want a drink in hand before this starts.”
“This?” Rhee sipped. It was Bass, an excellent choice.
Dawn laughed. “Remember Jackie mentioned it? Braggi has different events every day. Monday he has pun contests ala Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. Tuesdays are filksongs, Wednesdays are limericks.”
“Actually a typo. It started among fans of the science fiction and fantasy genre. They took songs, and created their own lyrics. Braggi has an offer going; if you can find the person who either originally sang it or wrote it, and have them here to sing it, then the drinks are on the house for that one song.” Skuld looked carefully. Only two of them are regulars. The other two... They're dreamers.”
Dawn caught Rhee's confused look. “Those four would be people your adoptive parents would recognize. The two in front are the late John Lennon, and Paul MacCartney, who is only dreaming. Behind John with the guitar is George Harrison, and the other dreamer, Richard Starkey better known as Ringo Starr. They are the Beatles.”
“Wait, The Beatles?”
“Yes.” The crowd grew silent as John stood. “Back in 1965, I wrote this song that fans have played with. George actually told me about it, and I heard it here last week. Thanks to John and Ringo showing up, I give you the fan's rendition of Norwegian Wood entitled Vorpal Sword.” The audience applauded as he sat again. George began the well known riff, Ringo tapping the tambourine then John began to sing.
“I once had a sword, or should I say, it once had me
It would kill my foes, with well-placed blows, the battle flows.”
Then the others joined in the refrain.
“It made me bloodthirsty, and I started looking for fights
And I battled constantly, during the days and the nights.”
Then John again,
“I felt so controlled, my soul I sold, or so I’m told
We killed left and right, for so it said, “It’s time I fed.”
Then them all.
“It told me it owned me completely and started to laugh
It told me if I would oppose it, I’d be cut in half.”
Then John again.
“And when I broke free, it did kill me, left just debris
So I went to hell, to you I tell, your soul don’t sell.”
Once the last riff died the audience howled and cheered. The band took their drinks and took a table nearby.
A man at a nearby table stood, slamming his tankard three time to set the beat and began.
“At the temple of ASTARTE, all they ever do is party
Fill your cup and drink up hearty, and it's good enough for me.”
Then the entire audience sang:
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
Another man stood as they did and sang;
“Well, they also call her VENUS, she's the cutest but the meanest
'Cause she bit me on the . . . elbow, which is good enough for me.”
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
Rhee stood as they sang the refrain.
“It was good for old JEHOVAH, had a son who was a nova
Hey there Mithras, move on over, cause he's good enough for me.”
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME! “
A man Rhee recognized as George Lucas (Another dreamer obviously) sang:
“If the FORCE makes you a hater, big and mean just like Darth Vader
You may get recalled by Nader, but you're good enough for me.”
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
Uma leaped to her feet:
"Lady Caissa plays chess-a, and you probably can guess-a
That she always finds success-a, so she's good enough for me!"
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
Another man, Peter Cushing stood:
“For we are the knights of JEDI, and in us the Force is ready
Grab your sabers, throw confetti, for you're good enough for me.”
GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!
Another man stood, waving toward the bar where a large man with a full beard was laughing:
“We will raise our cups to BRAGGI, and we'll drink until we're groggy,
And the pretzels all get soggy, but it's good enough for me.”
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
As the refrain sounded Dawn stood.
“We will visit the INFERNO, just to watch those sinners burn-o,
Dante must have been on Sterno, but he's good enough for me.”
“GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!”
Another dreamer, Christopher Lee, dressed as Count Dooku stood:
“We will even worship YODA, though he's small as an iota;
He fulfills his Jedi quota, which is good enough for me.”
GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!
Another man stood, pointing. Rhee turned, and saw someone in a long black robe with a scythe”
It's good for Azreal, he collects them all without fail
You can run, to know avail, he's going to collect you.”
The figure picked up his stein, raised it and drank.
“Death is a person?” Rhee asked as the song continued.
“Of course he is. Remember that humans have to rationalize everything. Piers Anthony created an entire series where Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, my own role, God, and Nox, the Incarnation of Night and Keeper of Secrets were characters. But this is not Zane, the incarnation he described; rather he is the Angel assigned to collecting the dead, Azrael.”
The figure stood, walking toward them. Rhee felt a chill as he stopped before them. “Dawn.”
“Azrael. Long time no see.”
“What, seven hours?” Azraeli replied drolly. Dawn laughed.
“May I ask a question, sir?” Rhee asked.
Azrael looked at her. Dawn smiled. “My daughter, the Antichrist.”
“Ah. Ask your question.”
Rhee stood, leaning up and whispered in his ear. He chuckled. “You know that's the one question everyone wants to ask.” He leaned down, and whispered to her.
“Thank you, sir.”
“No problem. I must be off. A tanker is going to explode in ten minutes, and I am going to be busy.” He vanished.
“What did you ask?”
“Oh. And his reply?” Rhee leaned forward, whispering. They both laughed.
^^^^ EPIC WIN, you get 10 of 10,
Which does not happen so often.
I ask: What is your religion,
Which is good enough for you? :)
So I have two tricksters, a warrior for children(Thor) A goddess of wisdom, and one for defending yourself.
My ex has Loki as her patron, and another old girlfriend had Kali (She causes disruption whereever she goes) so I am in good company there.
The next part isn't as much fun; We get to see the downside of hell...
For those wondering about Rhee's question about Elvis...
In Good Omens, a book written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the four horsemen (With pestilence replaced by Pollution) meet in a small diner. One member of the four is already there, playing one of those electronic Quiz games when the last person arrives. Each time someone arrives, the questions change to suit them. The Irish Potato Famine, if I remember correctly, when the 100 years war ended, When the Exxon Valdiz was wrecked. Then, the year Elvis died. As the kibbitzers watching are throwing out dates, Death (The player) says, FUNNY, I DON'T REMEMBER COLLECTING HIM.
A/N For those who didn't understand the reference when Dawn called Rhee 'Goblin King', in Labrynth, the goblin king asks the girl how it is so far, and she boasts that it isn't that hard. At which point the king promlptly removes half of her remaining them.
The girl cries, 'But that's not fair!'
And the King replies 'I wonder what you're using as a basis for comparison.'
And on we go...
Hell III: Reorganization starting with Lust; and even Atheists have a place in the Plan!
Dawn waved to the people leading Rhee out into the street. “A pity Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov weren't there. They have a bone to pick with some writers and directors.”
“Have you seen Starship Troopers? I Robot?”
Rhee nodded. “I didn't like them.”
“Neither did the writers of those stories. Bob wrote Starship troopers, and his government was in no way fascist, but the reviewers made it so. The director took his society and made it a farce. So he intends to have a long talk with Edward Neumeier, and Paul Verhoeven. Probably with a twelve gauge and a case of ammunition.
“Isaac is even more irate. He created a society where robots exist, controlled by the three laws of robotics, which precludes a robot injuring a human even accidentally. Yet Jeff Vintar, and Akiva Goldsman created a computer with exactly the same type of robotic brain that directed robots to capture humans however they may to assure they were protected. They created another that rationalized murdering its creator.
“How would you feel if your work was made into a farce?” She sighed. “And they're not the only ones. It's a true hell for everyone that did that when they arrive.
“Well we're starting on the bad stuff from here on, Rhee.”
“Atheists.” Rhee murmured.
“What about atheists?”
“What about them?” Dawn asked smugly, crossing her arms.
“How do you and he-” she jerked a thumb upward, “-deal with those who don't believe at all?”
“Actually no man on Earth believes more strongly that an atheist.” Dawn replied. “They think of God, the Gods, whatever, every day. If only to refute their existence. If you don't believe me, ask one why he doesn't believe, and he'll give you-” she grinned, “-chapter and verse.
“As for those who arrive, we put them through the same mill as the others. As one writer said, just because you don't believe in God doesn't mean he doesn't believe in you. Then we found the best place for them after they have been below to the other realms. Did you notice the way the counter people and customer service in the Limbo entrance treated their patrons?”
Rhee considered. “I really didn't see much difference from what you would expect on Earth. Some time server doing his job; answering the same question a hundred times a day, and indifferent to your concerns. Only polite because the rules say you should be.”
“There is no person more indifferent to your problems than someone who doesn't share your worries. So all of the Athiests through history are busily at work running our version of the DMV. Right now Xenophanes who was a philosopher in the 6th century BCE is running it, but every nation and belief has been part of it. Right now the American protest department is run by Clarence Darrow, with Helen Keller and Madelyn Murray O'Hair as assistants.
“But most of the arguments for athieism are well considered, and the questions never really answered. The answer 'God's will' doesn't work if you do not accept God, or that the god mentioned is 'the god'. Have you ever seen a movie named Inherit the Wind?” Rhee shook her head. “It was made in 1960, and starred Spencer Tracy as a caricature of Clarence Darrow. He was the defense lawyer for John Thomas Scopes in the 1925 trial later nicknamed the Scopes Monkey Trial.
“Scopes was tried for violation of the Butler Act, which made it illegal to teach evolution theory in Tennessee. At the time Christians were divided between modernists; who said evolution was consistent with religion, and fundamentalists, who said the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge. The trial was fought out between Darrow, an admitted atheist, and William Jennings Bryan, who was a fiercely religious man.
“At one point, Darrow called Bryan to the stand. He asked him when the biblical flood happened, and using Bishop Usher's concordance, Bryan stated that it had happened in 2348 BCE, just over 4,000 years earlier. When Darrow pointed out that the Chinese, who have no record of it had records spanning seven thousand years, Bryan was indifferent. His statement when asked if other religions reported a flood was, 'The Christian religion has always been good enough for me - I never found it necessary to study any competing religion'.”
Dawn sighed. “Bryan is the archetype of too many historical Christians. Pentecostals for example claim that no man knows the name of God. Yet the King James, the best known version of the bible lists the name four times. The Pentecostal reply if you show them? Rip out the page!”
She turned to her daughter. “Throughout history it has been the same for any religion. The world is flat, the heavens were made by god, so it is perfect, meaning that every planet would have only one moon; a great reason to try Galileo as a heretic. When the great supernova that formed the Crab Nebula was seen here on Earth every society except for the Catholic church recorded the event. The Christians said it was me trying to drag men away from the faith. Claiming that I created the fossils mankind found just to dig at the roots of their faith. Or that God made the world in seven days and I planted all of that contradictory evidence just to confuse you!
“The list goes on up to this day; man cannot go faster than thirty-five miles an hour with a train because it will suffocate the passengers, Man cannot fly, cannot fly faster than the speed of sound, fly into space or to the moon. There are still some who claim the moon landing photos were faked even if the world had not yet had the technology to make those fakes. Then there's the entire 2012 farce. That a society 5200 years ago predicted the end of the world right down to a countdown for when it would occur, ignoring the fact that the Chinese as I mentioned had already survived that last 'planetary realignment' without a bobble in their records.” She sighed.
“After almost two million years of watching the human race evolve and learn, I can tell you this; Any faith that denies a demonstrable fact is not a faith, it is fanaticism.
“But back to atheists. Epicurus back in the third century before Christ is the best when it comes to trying to debunk the gods. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by the concepts of ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.
“He is credited with first expounding the problem of evil. David Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion in 1779 cited Epicurus in stating the argument as a series of questions; 'is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then where does evil come from? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?'.”
Dawn sighed. “His fallacy, as with all who use it, is that mankind has the ability to create all the evil they hate due to free will. When you see the lower levels, you'll understand.”
Dawn sighed again. “Dad didn't know what he was creating when he gave you free will. Free will is a fine concept, but man with an upgraded mind is too imaginative. He can create wonders that will astound even himself in time, and at the same time can create horrors unimaginable by those who do not have it. Think of the Witch trials of between the fourteenth and 18th century. The inquisitors were members of a church that denied them sexual contact, so obviously one thing the 'devil'-” she put quotes on the phrase with her fingers, “-would do is sexually molest the women so accused, and almost every confession had them admitting to the act. In one case in 15th century Germany a doctor examined a woman in the court before all of the witnesses you would expect in a modern 'TV trial' and declared her 'integrum Virginis', still a maiden, unknown to sexual contact with a man.
“The court replied that I-” she motioned to herself, “-could have intercourse with a woman, and magically make it invisible even to a trained physician. Of course when you consider they were still at the 'humors' and spirit possession level of medicine might even have been true if the doctor had not stripped the girl naked and publicly examined her physically. Since that point was now out of the way, the charge of intercourse with a demon was upheld. A few weeks later, the girl's father, who had paid the doctor to come forward, and the doctor were also accused of witchcraft and all were burned at the stake
“Did you know that of the nineteen men and women killed at Salem for witchcraft, all but one were executed for the crime of denying that they were witches, and then being found guilty? Fifty had confessed and been jailed for the crime, and two hundred others had been accused when the trials suddenly ended. Giles Corey, who refused to enter a plea before the court was covered in planks and crushed to death still refusing to accept the court's jurisdiction. You see, if you entered a plea and were found guilty, the government could seize all of your property and throw your family onto the street and sell the home and businesses for profit for the government.
“When Dante wrote the inferno, every demon of every religion contacted by Europeans had already been gleefully added to their version of hell with nothing better to do than torment the souls of the damned, and it was still like that when I took over. Every monster, every demon, every torment below was created by man, and until I took over, eternal torment was the norm, except for Buddhists.”
“Why not them?”
“Because they believe life and death are two parts of a dream, and link it to reincarnation. When they are consigned here, the torments are to see how fully they believe that simple premise. A person who has had all the turns of the wheel their soul needs ignores the torments, because they are merely a dream. Once they have endured and ignored them all, they go on to Nirvana.”
“Are they right?”
Dawn shrugged. “Gautama Buddha was born in 441 BCE. It's only been 2500 years. No one has reached Nirvana yet, except the Buddha himself.”
“But what about the Dalai Lama? Isn't he proof of reincarnation?”
“The Tibetan Buddhists had two fundamental flaws in their logic. They first assumed that their leader, the Dalai Lama, would be reborn within a very short distance of Lhasa. So when the first died, they immediately sent out parties to discover a child born at the time the old one died. The area they covered expanded only if a child was not found quickly. They also assumed the new Dalai Lama had to have been born inside Tibet itself.
“More to the point, they also assumed that the Dalai Lama would be male, so even if a girl had been born at exactly the correct time, she was ignored.
“So this newly found Avatar would be taken, and raised to believe he was reincarnated with however many unremembered lives before. Actually the government that later took the 5th Dalai Lama as spiritual head has been the most stable and peaceful government on the planet until China occupied them in 1950, and the 14th Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959.
“When the present one stepped down as leader of the Tibetan government in exile, he indicated that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and also that the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and may be female. This caused a furor among his followers, and the Chinese who occupy the province once called Tibet claim that only they have the right to choose his successor. That would cause problems for the religion itself.”
Dawn motioned, and an elevator appeared. “So let's go.”
Rhee considered. “If I remember Dante's inferno, it's lust, right?”
“Correct. However since I took over, there have been changes. We no longer punish people for casual lusts. Remember that according to the oft repeated bible phrase, every man who has lusted in his heart has committed the sin. But be realistic! After all, the average man between the ages of thirteen and seventy will see any number of attractive women in a day, and might briefly consider them as sexual objects. There's an old joke that a teenage boy thinks of sex once every fifteen seconds. As the joke goes, two boys were talking, and wondering what they thought about the other fourteen.
“This level deals with those who made lust their primary avocation. Where sex was the driving force behind their actions. People who used sex to make money and incite lusts in others, who also ended up here.”
“Porn actors, prostitutes-” Rhee looked at her mother who was trying not to laugh. “They're not here?”
“No. Most porn actors do it because they need money, and it is a good living if you're lucky. With the modern worries about AIDs and the industries' implementation of safeguards it is even safer than casual encounters on the whole. As for prostitutes, it is a commodity that is theirs to sell or trade, and needs only a bit of 'on the gob' training to be mastered. But there are others connected to those 'trades' who end up here. Slave sellers throughout history who 'trained' girls for just such a use, and those who bought them just for that use. Porn producers, especially the ones who use unwilling actors. Pimps and madams if they use any coercion in gaining their employees, that kind of thing.
“Why should God or I condemn a girl who has been brutalized into such a life whether by physical brutality slavery or drugs? If a girl in any age from the Ancient world right up to the streets of modern day New York or London where a girl with no real prospects offers the one commodity that is their own, their body? It wasn't their choice whether from poverty or slavery or being coerced. But a man who sells his own sisters or daughter on the street, or grabs some runaway from such a hell in life at a bus station and uses such to force them to work for them, oh my yes, we will punish them.” She savagely hit the first button.
“People always say that prostitute is the world's oldest profession, but that isn't true. Men and women both became hunter/gatherers first. They had to feed themselves. As the need for food was taken care of, the next profession was shaman or priestess, followed by the village chieftain.
“While modern man ignores it, there are both men's mysteries and women's. What did a man before science know about a woman's reproduction cycles? To that man the working of a woman's body is a mystery. So at that time it was divided. The women taught the girls their secrets, the men their own. It wasn't until society went beyond villages that suddenly women were redundant to the training of children. Before long women went from important members of their society to chattel.
“The list goes on because up until the last century of your own nation's laws a woman was almost always considered the property of a man; husband, father, elder brother, with no say in their own affairs. And in some nations still does not have the right to protest to this day. Think of a woman being married off because her father wishes it, or simply to reduce his own expenses with the five plus children in a family that the Catholic church demands. Those in China that drown female children at birth if they do not merely wait until they are older and sell them to the Triads as whores. Those in Japan who sold off extra daughters to the 'willow world', their poetic name for prostitution. Those who fight abortion for children of incest, children of rape, children where it is a danger to the woman herself to bear it.”
“You seem incensed by this, mother.”
“Walk a million years in my shoes, daughter mine. I see too many who arrive here for that very reason. Uma Umna died of pneumonia begging on the streets because she refused to marry the man her brother picked, and refused to sell her body as well. Five years she begged to survive after selling off her jewelry and fine clothes, and died in a pauper's hospital because of her own values in 1820 at the ripe old age of 24.”
The door hissed open on blackness again. Expecting tornado winds, Rhee looked around confused. “I was expecting the howling winds to be pummeling people against the walls.”
“Ah, Dante again. No, nothing so esoteric these days. Come on.” She stepped out, and as Dawn followed the doors closed. The area lightened up to show row upon row of what looked like the reclining couches used in a blood bank stretching beyond vision. Each held a figure, both male and female who appeared to be asleep. There were several figures moving around among them, and a woman with shoulder length brown hair looked up, and came over. Rhee stared.
“Linda Lovelace?” She asked.
“Guilty as charged.” The sex symbol of the 70s gave a jaunty joking bow. She was wearing a lab coat over a very nice teddy.
“You ended up in hell?” Rhee asked.
The woman laughed in delight. “No, while my movies were things a lot of men used to imagine sex fantasies, I was never guilty of lust such as these did.” She motioned toward Dawn. “I was asked to administer a shift here in the American section because of the management. I am better to wake up to than the priapic demon I replaced.”
“Since you're in charge, I'll let you explain, Linda.” Dawn said.
“Why thanks, boss.” The woman gave a grin a generation of American men would remember very well before becoming pedantic. “The level of hell linked to lust is broken up to those who instilled it in others such as myself, and those who considered their own desires more important than another person's life. I was briefly here; a few months, because of those who used the lust they had generated looking at my movies and inflicted sexual injury on others because I was unavailable.
“I was fully informed of that fact, and accepted it.” She shuddered. “I was placed in the minds of women raped because my image inspired such lusts. A few of them were forced to emulate my performance in Deep Throat without training, causing them to die of suffocation. It sounds terrible; and it was, but most men who were inspired to lust by my images used it to make their own sexual lives happier.
“Unlike those who considered their own desires more important, I only had to suffer the actual act; the injury itself that any suffered because of that lust. Even the most prolific star of the porn industry never gets more than a few years here. As an example, Dorothy Stratten who was a Playboy Centerfold in 1975, and murdered by her estranged husband in 1980 had all of her sentence in hell commuted due to the cause of her death, murder/suicide.” She paused, checking a pair of beds. “Betty Page and Marilyn Chambers. A pin up star of the 50s and a porn star of the seventies like myself. Betty has only a few days to go. Marilyn about three weeks. The latter got some more time because of the theme of the Movie Behind the Green Door, where a woman is taken and hypnotized into believing what she is experiencing is all a dream; it's a fantasy a lot of men share, so a lot of women suffered because of it.
“But when they come out, they're going to be offered a place as my other shift supervisors.” Lovelace grinned again. “As I said better than a demon!” She walked toward a man laying on one of the couches. “But here we have the other side of this equation. Simon 'Simon the Pieman' Foglio. A pimp in New York in the 1930s to fifties. One of the men who worked for the Gallo organized crime family whose specialty was runaways. He tortured over a hundred young girls and women into becoming whores in their 'stables', one of the first to use drug addiction to assist him.” She ran her hand down his face. “He's coming back from the fifth of them right about... now.”
The man woke screaming, trying to curl into a whimpering fetal ball. Linda shoved him back down, then laid her hands on his face.
He stared at her in horror, his own hands touching hers. “Please...” The man whimpered.
“How many begged you and you ignored them?” She asked. “Come, come; Simon. How many more to go?” The man screamed as her hands touched his temples, then collapsed boneless.
“For those who considered their own desires more important, it is not so sedate. Not the minutes of a beating and rape, or the time spent bound and brutalized. Their punishment is more comprehensive. They get to live all of the innocent life of that woman before their assault, to savor all of that peaceful life before their terror began at his hands. Sort of like those disaster movies where you have a peaceful normal life before the disaster of this epic comes down and crushes you. Every act of brutality visited upon them from beating to rape to their eventual deaths. If they are drugged every second of that horrible time clear as you remember this morning's breakfast.
“But it is worse for such as him. As you are being tormented, at the same time, you are witnessing the memories of the one who arranged or carried out that brutal act. You are lying there, feeling the bruises as some man whips you with a clothes hanger, and at the same time, the man that is whipping you is considering what he will have for dinner. On one hand being brutalized, on the other a person who sees the woman being tortured as a commodity, not even a person. You are both torturer and victim.” She touched the man's face. “Number five of a hundred and eleven.”
She stood, walking down the aisle with the two visitors. “Serial rapists have it even worse when you think about it. You get to live those quiet lives, then the brutal act carried over and over, which the woman did. They get to feel the torment and degradation again for each previous victim as well.” She touched another man. “This one raped fifty women before his death, and was never caught. He was a traveling salesman, so he never had more than two victims per city. But he also gets to live out their lives after that brutality. The mental and emotional suffering each victim lived with for the rest of their lives is also part of his punishment.”
“But some women just close their minds to outside influences after-wards.” Rhee commented.
“You'd think that give him a break, but it doesn't.” Lovelace commented. “Most of the victims relive the event over and over like a feedback loop and so does he. So he doesn't suffer it once, but as many times as his victim did. And hospitals keep their patients alive whether they wish to be or not, so you are looking at a continuing horror that lasts for months, years, even in four of this man's victims, decades. Worse yet, he never kept track of those victims, so he doesn't know when the torment will end. And no medication they used in that hospital will affect his own view of it; so while she sleeps because of medication, he is going through it as if it is happening again anyway.”
She touched his face. “He's going through one of those now, his ninth victim. Due to the brutal nature of his assault one other before her also went insane and was committed. Each of them suffered through the attack emotionally ten to thirty times a day for the remainder of their lives. So far he has been raped over a million times, and he still has forty-one victims to go.” Lovelace sighed.
“And as he is trapped in that terror, again he gets an audience eye view of those around the victim. Too often, their own loved ones consider that maybe the victim asked for it; that she dressed too provocatively, or said the wrong thing, or flirted too much. She would not have been assaulted if she had been a 'good girl'. Those who face their assailants also go through the legal process, because you have unnecessary speed bumps in the laws.
“That is why it is so hard to prove rape without physical evidence in a modern court in the US. If she had been a 'proper' woman, stayed home and behaved herself, she would never had met her rapist. All too often, a trial of the rapist becomes a trial of the victim. In fact in a lot of states in the US a previous record of possible sexual abuse cannot be admitted to court, so the jury never sees the dozens of times the man had come close but never caught. All they see is a clean cut man in a suit accused by some hysterical woman. It's worse in other countries; for example in an Arab nations there must be four male witnesses or eight female ones to the actual assault.” She moved to a woman who suddenly began screaming. As with the first man it was only a moment before it was silent again.
“The women are primarily those who assisted in the degradation of others. They suffer as do the men.” She checked her watch. “I hate to ask you to leave, but I have twenty-five sinners coming out of their comas in the next seven minutes, so I am going to be very busy.” She nodded to them, and walked down the aisle.
Absolutely brilliant, and thank you for mentioning Uma Umna again! :)
Wait until we get to the ninth level, treachery, where after she arrives, she recreated the Roman Empire of Ceasar's time to disprove the contentions of his assassins. ;->
Tour of Hell IV: Gluttony, or you are what you eat in more ways than one...
The elevator was a nice sane place as it closed. Rhee shook her head, her own view of hell transformed by what she had seen. ”Are the other levels changed as drastically?”
“Yes and no. A lot of them have been changed merely because the original treatments were both too broad, and too restrictive. For example, as I said every woman who became prostitutes should have been consigned to Lust, just as every man who frequented them were, along with every man or woman who even looked at another person with lust, all because the original church and later churches said so. That means everyone would have ended up there to be tormented until whatever god consigned them to it is satisfied.
“You have a number of modern American Christians defining the death penalty in whatever form as cruel and unusual punishment according to the Constitution, saying 'God' condemns it. Yet in Joshua Chapter 19 it is written 'and it shall be, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, and a life for a life'. Mainly they espouse what their flavor of church does, or because a priest they agree with said it. It is either 'the word of god is your guide', or 'what your priests translates the word of god as is right.”
“So most of what the Churches teach is BS?” She asked.
“When you think of a church, think of a bureaucracy.” Dawn commented. “Terry Pratchett in the book Small Gods pointed out that first you have a belief, then, in time, a bureaucracy. It has been done this way, and no one beyond god can change it; at least until the next high priest decides otherwise. It's a lot like governments. You start with an ideal, then you create the bureaucracy that makes your dream a reality.
“But that is the problem. The first worry of a bureaucracy is not 'is it right' but 'how can we maintain the status quo?'. Look at the head council of the Christians still in Jerusalem when the apostles spread to other lands. What are they worried about? 'Are our new brethren keeping kosher? Are they using circumcision to mark their change of faith'? Honestly if it were not for Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, along with John and Peter, Christianity would be the least of religions rather than one of the top four.” Dawn leaned against the rail of the elevator car. “When it comes to the ills of religion in the last 2,000 years that bureaucracy is the top of the list.
“They have been at the same time the driving force for change, and the hand that reined in such change.” Dawn sighed. “They changed the view and scope of the old Roman empire and at the same time demanded that the imperial rules would not change beyond the fact that their religion was now in charge. That every sin the old empire condemned was still an evil along with anything they decided was evil tacked on.
“But the church itself moved very slowly, changing only when forced. The Catholic church spent two centuries when the world around them were using vellum where they used only papyrus to record on, because it was what the original Christians used. Then another two centuries using vellum when the world had switched to parchment, then two more centuries again for parchment while everyone was using the first crude paper, then almost five centuries for the first crude paper and almost four hundred before switching to modern paper.
“While the world was buzzing with ideas no one had considered before, the Church was too busy trying to determine what a prophet dead for almost two millennia meant when his book was written, or as the old saying goes, trying to discover how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, rather than what their people needed.
“Their view was that their people needed only what the church said they did, and it goes on to the present day”
Rhee looked at the floor, then at Dawn. “Before this entire sleigh ride began, my favorite comment about the gods; all of them, came from of all things, a Japanese Animation entitled Vandread. 'The Gods never say anything to you, never does anything, and never asks for anything in return. They are only supposed to watch over the little lost lambs that human beings are'.” She sighed. “But I've been wrong all this time.”
“No, you're right. Almost 100 percent of mankind, depends on the interpretation of other men, called priests. Only a vanishingly small percentage of humanity actually speaks with god, or are helped directly at any time. If you count up every prophet of every religion since man formed the concept you have less than ten thousand people in all of mankind's history who have spoken with god on a personal basis.
“The rest are guided by the priests instead, even though in a lot of cases even those who speak to god only say what their personal perception of what is right and wrong is whether god says so or not. The few times where 'god' whichever one you might think of talks, it is translated by that human; but it is passed on through the ears and minds of those in charge, and like any translation, it depends on what the speaker believes,or what the person reading it thinks they meant. As an example, Christians spout off 'Thou shalt not kill' as the word of god, yet a literal translation of the passage is 'you will not murder', which is a completely different thing.”
Rhee turned around, snarling. “So for millennia the lunatics have been running the asylum and deciding what is right and wrong? Slaughtering millions over that specious argument? Consigning others to eternal torments? What kind of madmen create horrors in God's name?” She demanded.
“Madmen is right.” Dawn commented. “And thanks to free will there's nothing any of the gods of man can do to stop it. If god says something different, the priesthood rarely passes it on. When you're raised within the bosom of the church it isn't what is real that is important, it's what your teachers tell you is real. That is why heresy is so loosely defined. Instead of acting against what god teaches, you're rebelling against what the church tells you god is teaching.
“Priests are only loosely connected to the outside world in the last two millennia. To quote Terry Pratchett, 'Individuals aren't naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Brownian motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are human beings'. Priests get that only within the church, and their society within it tells them they are right, and the rest of humanity is wrong.”
She pushed the button. “The next level deals with gluttony, though Dante's version was both disgusting and tame; nothing to eat and drink except for the wastes deposited by Cerebus. We revamped it because it was impersonal before; people thought you were a glutton, so you ended up here. Now it is a measure of how many suffered because of you.”
“Think of the old Roman vomitoria. Feasts where you gorge until you can eat no more, then you run off to a room where, by using feathers, you vomit up all you have eaten so you can return and do it again. While the poor are scrabbling for enough food to eat, you are wasting enough to feed them all.
“Or people merely watching or actively assisting in the horror of letting people die of starvation. Men in governments in the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia who steal relief supplies sent by the First World to help the famines in those countries. Those men, all well fed, pocket the money and complain because there is not more to steal. Venders who have storehouses of food, yet either hold it for a better price, or raise the prices when need is the greatest.
“A number of leaders in communist countries like Russia used to end up here. Where everyone is supposed to assist in the harvest and planting, yet the transport infrastructure is so backward that half of the harvest rots in storage because you cannot transport it. Or like North Korea where food defined as surplus is sold to other countries to show how productive they are at the same time the people who harvested it survive on a diet just above starvation level.
“When we revamped the entire place after I took over, the council decided what some levels would be.”
“Council? There's a council?”
“Every god of death, or god assigned by a religion to torment the souls in the afterlife used to have a seat when I arrived, and it was like the old Polish Duma before WWII; 800 barons with a man elected their king every five years, but the Duma allowed every one of them a veto, so all you needed was one saying no to stop anything from being done.
Instead of getting anything done each of them went their own way, so you had not seven levels but thousands at one time, some of them exactly like the hell next door but each run by their own deities, punishing their own worshipers. When I took over there were only a few dozen remaining, but the number of hells were still in the hundreds.
“I called them all together, and after several centuries was able to get them to agree to two things; first the Roman afterlife was used to pattern the new version of hell, and that I had the only veto. Sort of like the Presidential Cabinet around the time of Lincoln. At one point the cabinet suggested that the president surrender rather than continue fighting the War Between the States. Lincoln called for a show of hands, everyone voting for surrender, and he said, 'Fifteen ayes and one nay, the nays have it'.
“The demons of every religion were apportioned to the level where their skills would be put to the best use and any that didn't like it could go on unemployment as far as I was concerned. Some did just that, though most eventually did buckle down to work.”
“What happened to those that refused?”
Dawn gave her a feral grin. “There's a level of hell no human soul is ever consigned to; the true burning pit described in the bible, but there's a catch I came up with recently. In one of his books Terry Pratchett had a new man in charge of hell, and he had Prometheus still tied to the stone, but instead of feasting on his liver for all eternity, the vulture sits there like an eighty year old man or woman describing all of the operations he has gone through to keep him alive; or taking Sisyphus and having him wait while the demon in charge of his punishment reads the OSHA safety regulations regarding the movement of heavy weights by hand in their entirety. In the 22 years since the book was written almost half of those demons have been begging for any job I can give them.”
The door opened, and again there was blackness beyond. Dawn hit the button that stopped the lift. “This level has several horrors, and I felt I should explain them before we go on. There are only two types of sinners upon this level, one is those consigned here, who are tormented for every one who they were responsible for who starved. If you had a full meal and those around you did not, you are punished, unless it is during time of war.”
“Why is wartime any different?” Rhee asked.
“It has been common practice throughout history to cut all supplies into a besieged city, and the reason is simple; when their supplies are exhausted, they surrender. But a military commander can and does assure his soldiers are fed first.
“Any government that fights for it's life assures that their warriors have adequate food. If there is a choice between the citizens and the army, the army wins. It has been so since the time of the Sumerians. While modern man protests when you limit food supplies through a blockade during a siege, they forget what I have just said. If you allow enough for everyone, the enemy troops are well fed, and the others depending on their station in society, eat as they might from what remains.
“That is why Ritter Von Loeb who prosecuted the siege of Leningrad was released rather than being charged with war crimes in the Nuremberg trials. While the defenders had enough to feed everyone at least half to quarter rations during the siege, half of the civilians within the perimeter died from malnutrition.
“In fact the battles of the 13th century where the Catholics fought the newly formed Lutheran church showed that whatever religion was in charge, starving the peasants to feed the soldiers was the norm.
“But even during time of war, there are those so consigned. Of the forty million Russians who died, half were the elderly and children who were unable to do 'useful' work. In the cases of party officials, who feasted while they died, their punishment here are covered under an old British law used to punish those in authority when they did not do the duty of their office; when they act in a manner that is self serving. It is called a violation of their charge. They are in good company; over a third of the people here now were guards at the Death camps where they ate well, and watched the prisoners starve. Some of those still above in Lust will be here as well in time, because they used their positions to force prisoners to have sex for food.
“The other type of sinner here is a departure from what you might expect. Once they have completed their punishment as one who allowed others to die, they help in punishing the newcomers. The Eastern religions have what they call Hungry Ghosts. They are supposedly those who were greedy or gluttonous. Creatures such the Ghoul of Europe, Rakshasa of India, the Eguǐ of China, the Pretas of Tibet, or the Gaki and Jikininki of Japan. All are human souls believed condemned to torment by their religion for greed, gluttony or harming others with malicious aforethought devouring the bodies of those who are accused of such.
“When a person arrives here, they have a choice. They can be a Hungry Ghost, or one being punished by them first. But they will go through cycles of both until they have expiated their sins. They must suffer through each incarnation, as person devoured or spirit doing the devouring until it is done.” Dawn looked at her. “That they understand their sin.” She motioned toward the door. “when you are ready.”
Rhee stepped forward. As she passed the door, it became another endless scene, but in this case every bed was surrounded by demons. Some had huge mouths, but tiny stomachs, others had small mouths and endless stomachs. The gates closed, and Rhee flinched back as each of the demons began ripping flesh from the body on the bed before them. The souls tried to get away, flesh ripped from their bones as the demons fed. Some of the tormented, reduced to mere heads and shoulders merely writhed and screamed.
A tentacle dropped, snatching up a disembodied head, stuffing it in a mouth full of razor teeth. A moment later, it reached back in, pulling out a whole body which was returned to the bed for the torment to continue. Rhee looked up gaping. “Cthulu?”
“The one and only.” Dawn reached up, and a tentacle gently touched her hand. “I felt sorry for him. The last of the gods created by man, and in every story of him he causes madness in all who see him. He has so few worshipers that he would have merely gone on as so many have. So I gave him a place. He is the supervisor here, and he knows my rules. Look.”
On one bed, a disembodied head remained, then there was a flash of light, and a new untouched body lay there. The demons around that bed moved aside, and the man stood unsteady. Instead of tormenting him, the demons helped him to the elevator door. As they did, one of the demons stretched out, and became a woman. Instantly demons descended, and she began to scream. “Julia Marcellus Castro, a woman of the time of Caligula. She was noted for her orgies, and for feasts where enough food for a hundred were brought in for less than twenty-five, and anything remaining was thrown to her dogs.”
She gently touched the man who was leaving, and he flinched. “Marses, a merchant of Egypt under Ramses the First who withheld food in his warehouses during a famine. While he and the nobles fed well half of the citizens of Memphis suffered, and a quarter of them died. Greed is his next stop, followed by Fraud.”
“Please, no more.” The man whimpered.
“You were judged, and know why you are punished, Marses.” She replied gently resting her hand on his shoulder. “I will give you two months in Limbo if you wish, but that is the limit of your respite between them.” The man nodded jerkily. Dawn snapped her fingers, and he vanished.
“So even the condemned get some rest.” Rhee commented.
“As I said, humans created hell, and when I took over there were a lot of complaints from those that had been condemned before I took over about unremitting torment; in a lot of cases because they were being punished twice for the same crime.
“A lot of changes have been made, and still are. As an example, think of the modern health rules for food. Up until the early 20th century, there were no such rules. A man could sell food that would gag a person without complaint, and there were also no rules about the health of those preparing food. That is how Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary was able to work as a cook for over fifteen years even though she had been diagnosed as an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid. She had been arrested, quarantined twice, and even changed her name to work again as a cook after promising not to.
“Up until the 18th century, man fought a struggle against nature itself when it came to food production and either vermin or spoilage. Every time they found another method, converting milk to cheese, smoking, curing, pickling everything from fruit to meats, canning, and finally refrigeration extended the shelf life of food and nature struck back every time. The advent of beer and wine began because fruits and vegetables rot very readily if not kept chilled and even root cellars do not keep them cold enough. But if you add water it will ferment and produce alcohol naturally. The same is true of any vegetable product.
“But converting fruits and vegetables that will have to be thrown away anyway into wines gives you a shelf life of sometimes a century or more, as wines still good from the time of Napoleon prove. Of course a lot of the sugars becomes alcohol, but some of the nutritional value is still there even then. And the people of Elizabeth's time called beer 'liquid bread' because a great deal of the nutrients are still there. Distilling followed, though again some nutrients were lost. Unfortunately it is something you cannot do with meats.
“Did you know that up to this day they still have recipes for 'green' meat, though the definition has changed since the time of Elizabeth the 1st of England? These days it is meat from animals fed only vegetation grown using all natural organic fertilizer and no pesticides. In the 19th century it meant meat that was still warm from having been killed. But before that, it was meat that had spoiled, but was still on the edge of edibility.
“That is why all of the varieties of pepper from the East Indies was so vital that they were worth their weight in gold. The burn from the various peppers disguised the spoiled meat taste. But in the 20th century you now have enough in most nations to feed everyone, so food is routinely discarded. But there are those who assure that any food thrown away is never used.
“We, the council of hell understand when you throw old food away rather than sell it for safety reasons, but some go so far as to pour motor oil over the food in the dumpsters that would still be good enough to eat to keep the homeless from collecting it. Oh there is always good reason, thanks to lawyers.”
Rhee looked at her. “Another button to be pushed, Mother?”
“One that has grown as time goes by.” Dawn admitted. “It was once an honorable profession to be a lawyer. Then things changed.”
“ 'The first thing we do we kill all the lawyers'.” Rhee quoted.
“Most think it is a good joke now, but in the time of Shakespeare, it shocked the audiences when Henry the Sixth, Act four scene 2, was presented.” Dawn said. “The line is spoken by Dick the Butcher, a character few remember beyond the line. To them it was like a modern Evangelist saying 'first we kill all of the priests except for me'.” Dawn sighed, leaning against the invisible wall beside the elevator door.
“Up until the last century or so, under both English and American law, the lawyer's job was to find the truth of the matter before the court, regardless of whether they defend the client or prosecute him. A defense lawyer was allowed to use precedents; previous legal decisions, to help their clients. In fact there are records in England that a lawyer boasting that he had used a faked precedent, was tried by the local judge for violation of his charge, and sentenced to be tarred and feathered, his law books to have holes drilled into them and hung about his neck, then run out of town on a rail.
“One reason we punish some lawyers is because of those who file spurious law suits, or use tactics to do no more than disrupt the court. Irving Kanarek who defended both Charles Manson and Jimmy Lee Smith is the leader when it came to criminal law, though in modern America there are some just as bad when it comes to civil law.
“It is enshrined in American law that you have the right to defend yourself and your property, but lawyers hedge that right in every day. If a man breaks into your house today you can be held liable for psychological damages if you even aim a pistol at him. If you shoot him you could be charged with attempted murder. They are even trying to use the same rules taught to the military or policemen so that a common civilian can be accused of excessive force.
“You hear of people who have bought guns for defense who end up killed by those weapons when a criminal seizes it from them, but how often was their hesitation because they fear the law will have them be charged with attempted murder?
“Gods above, daughter, have you ever seen some of the lawsuits filed in the last three decades? A burglar trying to break into a warehouse falls through a skylight, and successfully sues because the owner of the building didn't have warning signs! A septuagenarian fighting for his life accidentally kills a boy who broke into his house, and finds that the family of the addict who attacked him has filed suit because the dead boy is sole support of the family!
“And the start for most Americans; suing MacDonalds because of a cup of coffee!” She paused. Rhee looked slightly confused. “A woman buys a cup of coffee through the drive through window. Since she does not have a cup holder, she places the cup between her thighs as she pays, and forgets she has. She pulls forward, then had to hit the brakes, causing the cup to spill across her thighs.
“Some lawyer takes it to court, proving that the coffee is too hot,” She chuckled. “I have always set a cup aside if it is too hot, as if the person who buys a coffee machine can preset the temperature! Thanks to that lawsuit you suddenly have lawyers making money hand over fist suggesting disclaimers to avoid further lawsuits because as much as the law suggests right and wrong, Lawyers and juries will always use the stupidity of their clients to make money.
“Have you ever read 'So Long And Thanks for All Of the Fish' by Douglas Adams?” Rhee nodded. “Remember 'Wonko the Sane'? He decides the entire world is mad because the manufacturer of tooth picks places an explanation of how to use a toothpick on the box to avoid lawsuits where they are used incorrectly! When the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India exploded a lawyer in New York filed a claim for damages for someone he had never met, whose name he got from a Time Magazine article!”
Dawn looked at her daughter. “Until the last century, every lawyer who ever sat the bar was treated the same. But no more, My daughter. I have had half a century to reconsider that profession.” She motioned toward the car. “Greed next.”
Wow. I love this story more and more every time I read it!
Once again, brilliant chapter. Thanks for the unintended humor as well. :lol:
Greed: The one level with the biggest change
Rhee leaned against the rear of the car as the elevator closed. Dawn touched a button, and a panel opened revealing a pair of cappuccino sized cups. She took one, handing it to Rhee.
“Your favorite French Roast using Tanzanian Peaberry coffee with three sugars and a lemon peel special ordered.” Dawn commented, blowing on her own beverage. “I felt you needed some down time.”
Rhee sipped the drink, sighing as the caffeine hit her system. “So greed sounds like a free for all with all of the greedy fighting it out with those who waste money as if it were water.”
“According to Dante, yes. But really, what good would such punishment do?” Dawn sipped her own drink. “Saving and wasting are two opposites of the same coin as it were. When in need, people hoard, when they have enough, they use and sometimes waste. But define waste!
“Consider that throughout time there were those who were rich, and those who were poor. The poor as a class always see the rich as a horrible omnipresence that always are and always will be rich, and does everything it can to oppress those who might try to break free of the cycle.
“The rich; who have more turn-over than you realize, understand that they found some niche someone else isn't using to make money, and see the poor as too blind to understand that soon enough that niche vanishes and the rich slides into poverty and eventual obscurity. Think of all of those sports stars who rise, get multimillion dollar contracts, then disappear and you hear a few years later that they reappear flat broke.
“The difference between them and the rich the poor are always harping on is that the rich man spent money as needed to maintain their business, while the ones I am speaking of spent it on what they wanted and waste it like a child buying a candy store so he can stuff it all down his own throat.
“Americans remember this only it the abstract. The book Brewster's Millions was written by the American Novelist George Barr McCutcheon and printed in 1902. In the last century it has spawned a stage play, and ten movies counting the three made in India.
“The original premise was rather nasty; the main character inherits a million dollars from his grandfather, then his uncle left him seven million dollars; but there are several catches. Since the uncle did not approve of the grandfather's marriage, the main character can only inherit the larger amount if he spends all of the previous inheritance first, and do so within a specific time line, originally a year. All of the movies since 1935 covers what most Americans know of the plot, though the time line was shortened to show the differences in the value of money, first 60 days instead of a year, then in the more modern version, only 30, with the money that must be spent rising after 1985 to 30 million because of inflation.
“The film premise removes the uncle and his vindictive streak, but keeps the other limitations on how it can be spent.” Dawn raised her index finger. “The hero, or in one case heroine is required to demonstrate business sense by obtaining good value for the money spent, limiting donations to charity, losses to gambling, and the value of tips to waiters and cab drivers.” A second finger. “Moreover, the character is sworn to secrecy, and cannot tell anyone why he or she is living to excess. Working against the character are well-meaning friends, who try repeatedly to limit losses and extravagance even as they share in the luxurious lifestyle.” A third finger. “All of the money must be spent for items that cannot be kept; he or she must have nothing of value from the spending spree beyond their own resources.”
Dawn laughed with true delight. “The 1985 version was the best in my mind. The character blows it on a publicity campaign for the New York mayoral election. Since he cannot spend it on his own campaign for mayor, he instead spends it on having the people of the city write in 'none of the above'! As Richard Pryor says in a speech his character makes, why spend ten million dollars, what the other parties are spending; on an office that will pay only 50,000 dollars a year? Then he tells them 'because they know they will steal back more than ten million in four years'.” Dawn sighed, sipping from her cup. “I wonder when the American electorate will realize that simple truth. In the last 20 years the two main parties have spent an average of a quarter billion dollars each on the presidential campaigns every election. Why would they spend that on an office that pays less than a million a year?”
They both sipped and considered what Dawn had suggested. “So economics are all illusion?” Rhee asked.
“Not really.” Dawn said. “The science of economics is all created by humans, but it is too limited. It happens far too slowly for humans to understand without taking history into account. Let's take the Spanish incursion into the New world back in the late 15th century.
“Columbus sailed west to reach the Spice Islands because all of the trade in spices were coming the other direction, from Europe east, and the market was controlled by the Mongols and the Moors who had cut what was called the Silk road. While King John the Second of Portugal was trying to find a sea route to the Spice Islands, the Spanish Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella funded the Columbus expedition because he used incorrect data; he said the world was round, but the distance was only 2300 miles to Japan, not the 12,200 mile it is in fact.
“Taking into account the distance involved eastward; sailing around the African continent to India, then on to what is now Indonesia, that made it economically viable to sail west if there was nothing in the way. So three ships are funded, and sailed west. Instead of finding the East Indies, they discovered the West Indies.
“Now why did they do it? As I said, pepper was a rare and expensive product, and it wasn't all. There was cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg, not to mention gold and silk. So when they arrive in the New World, they are looking for those, and especially for gold, which is low weight high return against everything but the spices. However there is no silk in the new world, nor are there the spices they are looking for.
“But the natives in what was called Hispaniola did have gold they had received in trade from further west. So another expedition sails further west, though it is not until the fourth voyage that Columbus reaches the actual continent. But every native they speak to points at a different portion of the new world. So it is not until Hernando Cortez reached the coast of Mexico that they discover the gold they seek facing the Aztecs.
“So almost exactly ninety years after the Spanish discover the new world, Cortez lands on the continent, burns his ships, and uses the natives on the coast as allies. Thanks to the Aztec religion, which had both Quetzalcoatl, a winged serpent that matches the European ships, and Kukulkan, an avatar who is white skinned and bearded, which the Aztecs are not, they believe this is a visitation by their gods, which allows a few hundred men armed with primitive muskets to defeat an empire of millions.
“The Aztecs have gold and silver in abundance, and the Spanish rip it from their holy buildings, melt it down, and ship it west. Further expeditions discover the Toltecs, Incans and Mayans, stealing their treasures to fill Spanish coffers.
“So for over a century the Spanish market is not linked to renewable resources, they are linked instead to money. But, as later history proved, having money does not produce goods. It allows you to buy them, but not produce them. When you are not producing goods, you must buy them, and since the man selling them knows this is true, he raises the prices. All of your wealth goes to other nations, and you are in an inflationary spiral you cannot escape.
“So you have the Spanish that are trying to return Europe to Catholic hegemony, spending money hand over fist while still not producing. Then you have one attack, Sir Francis Drake attacking Cadiz, and as an aside, destroying shiploads of seasoned barrel staves destined for the Spanish Armada which will be attacking England, the major holdout against the church in only a few months. Without the barrel staves, the Armada makes their barrels from green wood, which reduces the lifetime of the food and water in those barrels from years to only weeks.
“At the same time the British have created an entire revolution in naval design.” Dawn drew a ship in the air, the form hanging there. “All sailing ships before 1675 were the same basic design that had not changed in almost four hundred years; large castle like shapes fore and aft, excellent for defense, but poor for maneuvering in any real weather.” Her finger removed the forward castle, revealing a shape not much different from the warships of a century later. “Unlike the 'razed' deck ships that are easier to maneuver in bad weather.
“Thanks to bad design, bad weather, and bad food, the Armada was destroyed. While still the premier power in the new world, the European portion of their empire collapses. Within decades the English are now the world power. As Spider Robinson said in 'Mary's Place', 'Portugal and Spain couldn't beat France in a fair fight and anyone could beat France in a fair fight'.” Dawn drained her cup, and a fountain in midair and filled it again.
“Americans ran into this with the illegal immigrant problem starting in the late fifties. The illegals take jobs that most Americans feel are beneath them. Take the fruit industry in California. The state produces a lot of soft fruits for export. Soft fruits cannot be picked by machine; the period between being ripe and overripe is too tight. A fruit like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries go from ripe to overripe within less than two weeks. To ship California strawberries to markets to the east, you have to pick and ship them within days or they arrive already on the edge of rotting; it takes four days to drive a truck from California to Virginia, only a few hours by plane today, but you would almost double the cost for the same berries by plane. Like the market in Southern California for Maine lobster.
“So the 'illegals' supply the labor. You're not old enough to remember, but before Columbia became known as the primary source of cocaine, it was known as the leading producer of coffee.” She raised her cup. “Another product that cannot be harvested by machines. So they ran television ads with 'Juan Valdez', a smiling little man towing a burro who supposedly picked the ripe berries that have the coffee bean in the center of what are called 'coffee cherries'. While it was a nice 'oh look at what they go through to sell us coffee' spot, Americans failed to realize that poor little Juan was making maybe a dollar a day to bring down two hundred pounds of coffee, and the American market was selling it in one pound cans for just over a dollar at that time. If you're used to making that little and somehow surviving, why not bring your whole family and work for eight hours in the hot Southern California sun and make maybe fifteen a day each picking berries or melons?”
"Businesses and governments exacerbate this problem. England funded the Egyptians and Indians in producing cotton when the Confederates cut their exports in an attempt to force England to join their war. When the war ended, they immediately went back to the American markets, causing the new markets to collapse, causing both India and Egypt to default on loans that allowed the British to seize further control of those nations.
“Gandhi commented on it; that they paid an Indian peasant seven pence a week for harvesting the cotton in the forties, shipping it to England to process into cloth, then return the cloth to India where only the wealthy can afford it.
“Further, the industrial revolution caused millions in both the United States and England to lose their jobs. The Cotton Gin allowed the South to make Cotton the primary crop of the Southern United States for almost a century making slavery not only viable but necessary. The loss of their slaves drove the south deeper into debt as they tried to have poorly paid whites and blacks maintain the hold on their economy. It wasn't until the Boll Weevil devastated the South yet again, causing them to finally go to food crops such as peanuts that the cycle was finally broken.”
“That was a blot on our honor.”
“One that could have been corrected easily.” Dawn told her. “If the framers of the Constitution had agreed to end slavery in the near future, say within 50 years, the southern colonies wouldn't have based their entire economy on a crop that was so manpower intensive. If Jefferson, instead of writing 'all men are free' as he did in the original, and said, 'to have all men be free, no black born from this day is be considered a slave', the institution would have vanished. Not without problems, but without a war to finally end it.
“But as was expressed the the song 'Triangle Trade' in the musical 1776, the main supplier of slaves during the early 18th century was not the Europeans, but the Northern colonies. Neither wanted to cut their own economic throat first, regardless of the revulsion most Northern Colonial Americans had for the sale of other human beings. It all came down to money.”
She sighed yet again. “The economic backlash caused the race hatred of the past century and a half, and the worst part of it, is not the actual slave owners, but those on the bottom of the economic scale, both white and black. The whites because suddenly they have a competitor who is a lot of cases is more willing to work. The blacks because they are the ones being forced out of the job market because of their race.
“The modern blacks however seem to feel that no one with a lighter skin tone can understand what their ancestors had gone through. The fact that the Romans were buying and selling Northern Europeans as slaves, and that every nation in Europe used their poor first as serfs; people tied to the land and unable to leave to find better conditions; then as 'indentured' servants; slaves made so by law until their debts were paid. New world, Old world, third world, there are as many as 27 million people world wide who are slaves in everything but name even now because of laws
“You see, most of Europe got out of the slave trade around the end of the 18th century, but they still had those little menial jobs that needed doing combined with the first stirring of the industrial revolution that put millions out of work, and a population boom until colonization got into high gear. So while they could say 'we do not buy and sell slaves', they could tell a poor man with three children, 'If you sign this indenture, we will pay you and your wife to work to support those children'. That indenture rule while no longer common practice in the 19th century was still there until the early 20th century, but again disguised.
“Remember Scrooge's comment when he is pressed for a donation? 'Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses'? Between the time of James the First and Victoria, if you fell into debt, your property could be legally seized and you were thrown into prison until the debt was paid. You would languish there, unable to work unless you volunteered to sign over your life at a pittance per day and became an indentured servant, which is where the workhouses came in. As his next line states, his taxes paid for those institutions and he felt that was enough 'support' for the poor.”
She made the cups disappear, and pushed the elevator button. “So while people point at something and say, 'that is greedy' or 'that is wasteful, we are using a time line spanning almost seven millennia, where greedy is when a nation or citizen grabs too much, or seizes control of what they want. Or if they have access to it and waste it rather than perhaps giving it to others in need, or selling it cheaply. The Humanists of the 20th century unfortunately were influenced by Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican minister influential even today in viewing political economics and demographics.
“While his works pointing out that population growth causes a society to need more production are valid, his belief that no society has ever gone to war except where it will gain them that production or resources is specious. I can show you entire centuries where such is not the case. Being American, I will give you just your own nation's history.
“The Westward expansion? Yes, it was that European mindset that if you are not working the land to give you all it can, you are being wasteful, whereas the Natives, still in the hunter gatherer and early farming stages supplied enough for them, and saw no reason to change until it was forced on them. The American Revolution? No. England was trying to fund a war that had lasted almost a century already against other colonial powers, and thanks to a weak king and politicians who just wanted to make ends meet, the American colonists find themselves hit with punitive taxes to fund that war. If they had been given seats in Parliament, had their own citizens given titles as had been done in England, the war would not have occurred. Remember, 'No taxation without representation' was the first battle cry of that war.
“The War of 1812? No. The British, still fighting that war impressed American citizens to act as crewmen on their warships, something they had done for years when the fleet ran out of young men to grab off their own docks. Whether you were Irish, English, or American, you all spoke a common language. There are records of Dutch, German, even Spanish citizens grabbed for the same purpose, usually when they had been freed from capture by France, their primary enemy at the time. To be rescued if you were already a seaman meant you now had to fight for the British until they returned to their British bases, where they were paid for their services and set free. But they were paid, including prize money from their voyages.
“The Texas revolution? Yes. The primary reasons the American immigrants to Texas revolted was first because they wanted representation, but some of them also wanted to own slaves, which was illegal in Mexico. The Mexican American War? No. The two countries had been arguing about the border ever since Texas became a Republic. Also the territories of California, New Mexico Nevada and Arizona all of which had applied to become American Territories had borders that had not been defined. That ended with the Mexicans ceding any claims to the lands claimed by those territories, and selling a chunk that replaced a pretty much straight line from El Paso to the Pacific with the chunk from the Gadson Purchase.
“The American Civil War?” Dawn paused. “First, it was not a Civil War, regardless of what American History says. It was the Confederate Revolution, or as those who still sting the most from it, the War of Northern Aggression. If the Confederates had won, they would not have marched into Washington and claimed all of the land of both nations; they would have merely gone home and settled back in their own nation. The best and most honest name for it would be the War Between the States.
“Second, yes it was a war of finances, but not why most thought it so. The South held slaves, but the slave owners were less than one percent of the population. While the wealthiest on the whole, you could not have convinced the other 99% to go to war for 'their' rights alone, no more than less than the one percent of wealthy American colonists overall could have convinced the average citizen of the Colonies in the late 18th century to declare their independence from England. So while the idea that slavery was the reason played great to the average citizen of the North, it was a fallacy.
“The war actually began about the time of the end of the Mexican American War, when the United States government decided to follow the lead of other nations and declare slavery illegal. The South protested. So the Congress, which was controlled by factions in the North began a punitive process to get rid of Southern slaves. They started with Tariffs on Southern Cotton exports. This was a power under the original Articles of Confederation used during the American Revolution; and then under the Constitution which wasn't signed until after that war, given to the Federal government as a way to fund it.
“But as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall said, 'the power to tax is the power to destroy'. Any free market economy depends on having as little taxation as possible. In the South there was little or no taxation within the states for cotton. But the instant you consigned that cargo to go north of the Mason/Dixon line, you were hit with it, and something like half of the South's production of cotton went to Northern ports to ship, whether to American factories or to Europe. The cotton shipped from the south itself was hit with even more. Like any business, the cotton growers, less than half of whom were slave owners protested. The reply? 'Get rid of your slaves'.”
Dawn shook her head. “Those who smoke these days face the same problem. If you buy a pack of cigarettes in the state of North Carolina, where about 50% of American tobacco is grown, you pay just about half a dollar a pack for one of the 'brand name' labels. But if you live outside of that state you pay not only state but Federal taxes on the product as well, and those taxes drive the price up to four to five dollars a pack. If you complain? The lawmakers merely say, 'stop smoking'.
“Now here is where the North compounded the problem. You see, neither the original Articles of Confederation, nor the Constitution requires a state to remain within the Union. When the Southern slave states threatened to secede, the North told them, 'you can't'. If the South had fought the North in the courts, demanding to be shown where it required them to remain, they might have won. However ever since the Supreme Court was founded, the seated presidents have been able to pad the bench by choosing people that will vote the party line whether legal or not. That is why the Dredd Scott decision of 1857 was such a farce. A slave sues in a Mississippi court in Dredd Scott Vs Sanford for the freedom of himself and his family.
“The chief Justice of the time, Roger B Taney, a supporter of slavery and intent on protecting southerners from northern aggression -- wrote in the Court's majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks 'had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it'.
“Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, 'all men are created equal,' Taney reasoned that 'it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration'. In other words, four years before Fort Sumter, the highest court in the land had already denied a black citizen the rights a white had from birth at the same time they are debating whether to jack up cotton tariffs even higher. That court had just received two new justices thanks to Benjamin Harrison who was president before Abraham Lincoln.
Dawn paused as the door opened. “What would you expect the South to do? As Tom Clancy in the book Executive Orders comments when the President orders a nationwide quarantine that is technically in violation of the constitution he had his character President Jack Ryan reply to the Press, 'The constitution is not a suicide pact'.”
They stepped out, again into darkness. They waited as it cleared. This, Rhee thought, didn't look too bad. No one was screaming, or being devoured. Instead the massive space was filled with people floating in mid air from floor to ceiling spanning a thousand yards between those surfaces, with her standing unsupported at about 500 yards from the floor. Then she looked more closely, and somehow she could see faces even at this range. The closer they were to the floor, the more they were struggling as if weighed down, or crushed. The closer they were to the ceiling, the more they gasped, and clawed at their throats as if they could not breath.
“Dawn, Rhee.” A woman walked up, and Rhee did a double take. “Belle Iblis?”
“Yes.” She bowed. “But it should be pronounced Bel Iblis. I am your mother's counterpart in Islam. Pretty much reduced to only a tempter in that religion. You might say this level of hell was my idea. Well, mine and Pat's.”
Another figure Rhee recognized Patrick Belleisle, walked up, making note on a clipboard.”We're falling off, Bel. Less than a thousand have cleared this level today, and we're getting more than that a day.” He nodded. “My name is really Belial, a Duke of hell according to Christian theologians.”
“If they are being intransigent, we merely adjust the pressure.” Bel replied. She spoke, and this time her voice carried like a bullhorn. “You all know what's happening. If you can't make up your minds, we'll adjust the pressure by ten millibars!” There was groaning or gasping depending on where they were in relation to the center. She looked to Rhee. “A bar is a measurement of air pressure, with one bar equal to the air at sea level.” She waved out even with them. “Which is what we are under now. But the further down you go,” she pointed at the people below them, “the pressure increases. The ones at the bottom there are under up to ten bars, the same as living under 330 feet of water; the same as having a man who weighs one hundred and fifty pounds sitting on every square inch of their bodies. But they cannot adjust to it as you would naturally, which has been done by teams lead by Jacques Cousteau.
“If you caught a fish at that depth and dragged it to the surface, it's entrails would be forced out of it's rectum and mouth. If you took a man, as if in a submarine, and breached it catastrophically, he would be smashed into something small enough to fit in a bucket.” She pointed upwards. “On the other end the pressure drops. Humans can live easily in pressures down to 900 millibars, the same as you have below 15,000 feet, but it becomes harder the higher you go. At the top,” She pointed at the few figures up at that height, “are under less than a millibar, less than two tenths of an ounce of pressure. The people orbiting in the space shuttle have more pressure on their suits when they step out for a space walk. Above 15,000 feet, 5000 meters, you normally have disorientation followed by unconsciousness. At that pressure, you die within less than three minutes; only because it takes your brain that long to know that you are.”
She pointed at one figure feebly struggling at the very heights below several others. “Kenneth Lay, our most recent acquisition. He used his skills to gerrymander the electrical situation in California under Governor Gray Davis; producing electricity inside the state, then sending it to subsidiaries as far away as Texas, then 'selling' it back to California at inflated rates which Davis signed off on. At the same time he convinced his employees at Enron to accept stock options instead of raises, and looted their pension funds as the corporation collapsed. When Enron filed for bankruptcy shareholders lost almost 11 billion dollars, and the attempts by both shareholders and employees to recoup was a farce. But he's only the newest. Those above him are corporate executives in what Eisenhower called the 'military-industrial complex.
“Your remember the movie Independence Day? Julian Levinson comments on the overspending done by suppliers?” Bel sighed. “The second world war caused the US military and the suppliers of their equipment to form a coalition that fed the war machine of that war and beyond. When that war ended, the coalition continued, fed by fear of the 'red menace'. The government through the military threw billions at their suppliers to come up with 'panacea' weapons to defeat a menace they did not even understand.
“Their suppliers realized that, and used it. So you had the government spending $900 for toilet seats in the 70s. Back in the 90s a National Guard officer in charge of repair of F-15 fighters discovered that the Grumman suppliers were charging ten dollars a unit for light bulbs you could buy at Radio shack for a dime each. In a comic strip of the 1980s a General is making a statement about something called the X-16-D, costing only 10,000 a unit. When the reporter comments that it's not bad for a missile, the general says, 'it's a sixteen penny nail'.
“Worse yet, because of the difference between the capabilities of the weapons of a war seventy years ago and now, the numbers needed aren't as large. When you buy anything mass produced, be it a car or a gun or a bomb or a plane, the cost drops with higher production numbers. The US government bought thousands of P 51s during the Second World War, and by the end of that war were paying just over fifty thousand a unit. The British produced the Sten gun and the price dropped from 37 dollars a unit in 1940 to nine by 1945. That is why an F 15 costs just under 20 million a unit now, and the F 22 that replaced it costs over 150 million each. The Flying Fortress which had a production run of over 12,000 ended the war costing 238 thousand a unit, while a single B2 bomber today costs 2.1 billion dollars a unit”
Bel's finger pointed angrily. “Those men, knowing that all of the research and development was covered, knowing the difference in the exchange rates for a dollar from 1940 and one from 1970, or eighty or ninety still sat there in congressional oversight committees saying 'we need to recoup our costs' as they demanded even more money.”
She slowed her breathing, then pointed. “At the bottom there are those who were misers, who took money and kept it to their bosoms, refusing to spend it. Some of them are still here from before the birth of Christ. There,” she pointed at the upper region, “are those who wasted money. Few remain from the pre-christian era now, but it has been two thousand years. Those who waste are always fewer than those who take through greed.
“There are few millionaires who made their money, or who were raised by such people to be responsible. No one here is being punished because he made money, merely if they did so in a way that hurt others for that greed. Most of the robber barons of America's expansion are here, as are Union officials who got into it for what they can get. “She pointed at a man about ten feet below them “Jimmy Hoffa. As bad as he was portrayed, he isn't even close to those who caused hundreds to die. The guards from the Nazi death camps who lined their own pockets from what they could steal from things confiscated from the Jews, the Swiss who ignored the fact that tons of teeth with dental gold had to be ripped out of human mouths as they processed it for storage in banks.
“A number of the rich who were second and third generation and members of noble families and political upper echelons are here, those raised to think that they are perfect for whatever reason. Kim Jong Il and his father are here because of what have they done to their own people.
“What they are doing is balancing what they honestly needed compared to what they had or wasted. It is a delicate process. They cannot merely throw the money they held or wasted at the problem. In every life they affected there is a point where the entire future could be changed. Think of a diamond beneath the cutter's blade. Just a small difference to one side, and you destroy the gem. To the other you end up making not one cut but two. A master can take a two carat uncut diamond worth perhaps a thousand dollars and create a one point five carat one worth over two thousand.
“They are learning what makes other people tick, and how their actions caused those others problems. Marie Antoinette,” she pointed at a figure about ten feet above head height, ”has regretted her 'let them eat cake' comment for over two centuries.” She looked at Rhee. “Back when mankind began making bread, they found that some things such as bleaching made the flour easier to make into bread and made light bread, the so called cake she spoke of. At the time she said it, 'cake' was something any noble could buy, but the bread the peasants were denied was made from whatever could be ground fine enough to make bread; from beans and lentils to grass seeds. The best analog of your era is the high priced 'designer' bread you buy at the store instead of a loaf of Wonder bread.” She looked up at the woman. “How many died of starvation when she made a joke of it?
“So it goes, life by life until you are done.” She moved to a man floating mere inches from the exact center of the room. “A merchant from China from 110 BC. He held grain from the Imperial accounts to give him money to spend on one of his concubines. He died a year later when the Empire found out and executed him for the death of five hundred people in Yunan province. He also caused untold deaths in other provinces by his actions suggesting that others could pull off the same thing if they were smart enough. The Mandarins were bad enough without little monsters like him.” The man floated down another inch, and gave a gasp as if he had not been breathing for several minutes. Bel touched him, and he vanished.
“He goes on to Fraud, then on to Treachery.”
“Then we're off.” Dawn said brightly. “So much more to do.”
Once again, masterfully written and explained!
I look forward for the next circle. Anger, I believe.
I've been discussing the religious right with someone, so following this portion we have dinner and a discussion with 'Mikey' about the Apostolic Church...
Anger: Or what is worse; the fires of hate, or the cold knee jerk reaction?
Dawn walked into the elevator, leaning against the wall. Rhee waited as the door closed. “You were saying about the civ- War between the States.?
“Still on about that? It was fought for economic reasons from both sides. The South was sick and tired of being a cash cow for the Federal government, and the Union wasn't willing to let them go; it would have gutted the economy if they did not control the supply of cotton. No business will buy supplies if they cost too much and the idea that the South would merely take the cotton and sell it elsewhere if they gained independence really frightened them.
“In the law you have two terms that are considered either mutually balancing or mutually exclusive. De facto', in fact, and De jure, under law. In fact, or by law. In fact the cotton was owned by the growers, and could be sold as they pleased, and before that conflict, by law the growers could sell it as they pleased. When it came down to arguing, the government was unwilling to accept either.
“So they lied. When the southern senators and congressmen threatened to secede, the Federal government told them they didn't have that right. Yet neither the originals Articles of Confederation, nor the Constitution prohibit it. I liked Michael Shaara's view spoken by General George Pickett in his book the Killer Angels; The Union was like a private club where you had to leap through a few hoops to join. But once you had joined, there was no rule that said you couldn't leave.
“Like any club new members change the shape of the group, and perhaps members would create new rules that bother some members. But when that happened, no one had the right to demand that you stay as part of that club. But the Union disagreed.
“Since 1861 however, it has become both fact and law that a state may not merely leave if they feel put upon. That is why most of the remaining American Territories today refuse to have a vote for statehood. The Federal government has less authority there, and the territories fewer responsibilities. Taxation for example is less, since they have only a limited franchise, and tariffs are less for the same reason.
“Look at the economic damage done to the South by that war. Since Lincoln died before it was over, the steps he wanted to take were ignored, and the attempts by Andrew Johnson to limit the rapacious nature of the Northern States almost got him impeached. The South was first deprived of their primary work force for cotton, then told that they had to pay four years of back taxes in a lump, in cash, on the barrel head, with no time to even think about raising that money.
“Then there was that farce of 'forty acres and a mule' touted by the carpetbaggers. It wasn't like the Union could merely create the land, it had to come from someone else, and they fully expected to merely dispossess the growers and pass it off to the freed slaves with no problems in between. The fact that while a family can work that amount of land was accepted, there was no way a family could harvest the cotton grown on that land efficiently. They would need additional workers just as the big growers had, and that was now a problem.”
She sighed, pointing toward the door. “That is why everything from Greed down is what is considered an active sin; one where you consciously make a choice in your actions. The ones before were ones that are inherent in human nature, procreation and feeding yourself.
“But that period of your history is a very good way to explain why Anger is such a problem. But as for all of the following wars, for the record; The United States has fought ten wars, including two that were never declared. Of them all, only three were not only necessary, but also right.”
“The World Wars.” Rhee said.
“Wrong on both counts. The first was just another European war. It was mainly a family feud where the rest of the world was invited to attend. If the United States had gotten into every European war since it was formed they would have been in over a dozen; most of them for some really stupid reasons. The seated president while proclaiming that the US would not get involved treated one side as a valued ally, and the other was treated as a neutral is supposed to react. The British loaded tons of supplies sold by American dealers, and German ships were seized and interned. Under the proper usage of the law, both should have been seized or turned away.
“By the same token they were mistreated by that ally. Any American ship bound for Europe was stopped and their manifest was checked. If they were headed into the Mediterranean, and were going further east than Italy, or if they were bound for the Baltic, they were taken instead into British ports, and consigned cargoes for those areas were seized and sold to Britain regardless of where it was bound; an act protested by the neutrals in both areas of the seas mentioned.
“When William Jennings Bryan, then the American Secretary of State protested, they ignored it, claiming American businesses were filing false manifests for German Austrian or Turkish cargoes.
“The Germans were facing the problem that Britain was losing ships to the U Boats, but not as you might think from the Media hype of the time. Since ocean going submarines were a new weapon, the Germans were using what were called the cruiser rules. A merchant ship would be stopped by the surfaced submarine, and their manifests checked. Under those rules if it were an neutral ship carrying contraband, or a British ship carrying anything, it can be seized and taken into their own ports.
“However no submarine had the crew size necessary for prize crews. Under that law the ship can be sunk after the crew is ordered into the life boats. In the first month of the war, almost ten thousand tons of shipping were lost using these polite rules.
“So the First Sea Lord, a man named Winston Churchill ordered guns to be mounted on merchant ships . But he then violated international law, saying they were for 'self defense'. By definition a war crime. You see, in 1856, England along with the rest of Europe wanted to limit privateers, who could easily slide into piracy, so as of the Treaty of Paris, no merchant ship was to be armed, unless the nation doing so was building up their navy in time of emergency. Any such vessel was to be redesignated a Merchant Cruiser. A warship.
“But under those same cruiser rules, a submarine did not have to stop any kind of warship. Those could be sunk without warning. Churchill then compounded the crime by ordering merchant ships to resist capture, even if it meant ramming the submarine. But under even civil law, if a policeman stops a citizen and that citizen resists, he stops being just a citizen, he is now a criminal. Under military law that means you can now sink him to protect yourself. As Tommy Lee Jones in Rules of Engagement said in his closing argument, if a civilian picks up a weapon, he is now a combatant, and can be shot just like any soldier.
“It was a few years before the US used one document, the Zimmerman Telegram, as an excuse to go to war themselves.”
“Wait, what about the Lusitania?”
“Ah, I knew you'd bring that up. When the British changed the rules, the Germans changed them as well. While they had tried to follow the cruiser rules, it was not a promotional bell ringer if some merchant ship sank you, and the Americans were upset because the Germans were now sinking ships without warning. So the German navy in 1915; two years before war was declared, drew a line 50 miles from the coast of the British Isles and declared it a restricted zone. Outside it, they would return to the cruiser rule, and only sink ships that fired on them, but within it they would sink any ship of any flag with no further warning. This warning was published in the United States two weeks before the Lusitania sailed. So no one could claim they had not had fair warning that it could happen.
“The Germans had photographs that showed the mounting ring for six inch guns on that ship, and had already declared her a merchant cruiser, making her a legitimate target anywhere. But they waited until she was inside the Unrestricted Zone before sinking her. As much as the press calling for war claimed it was an atrocity, the proof that the mounting rings had been installed, even if guns had not been, was enough to back the German claim, so there was no vote for war that year.
“Then the German Ambassador entered secret negotiations with Mexico, suggesting that in the event of war with the United States, Mexico would attack them. Now.” She leaned further back, hand in the air, a finger raised. “Could the Mexicans have been considered a serious threat? No. They had neither the manpower nor the weapons to be more than a nuisance. In fact thanks to the ongoing rebellion by Pancho Villa, they were already that, but a minor one if you didn't live in the American Southwest.
“Could they get the weapons?” She raised a second finger. “From where? Most of the weapons sold and used at the time came from the belligerents themselves; the American ones for example, were sold to Britain and France on easy terms, and the Central powers were busy supplying their own troops, and didn't have a lot they could sell. Besides, they would have to load them on Neutral bottoms to even attempt delivery since their merchant fleets were devastated, captured or interned.
“Could Germany assist them if they did?” A third finger. “No way, if you excuse the term, in hell. The remaining German and Austrian fleets were bottled up, unable to move. While the Germans did have almost a dozen merchant cruisers, sending them to the Caribbean would have been a death sentence, and four of five merchant cruiser attacking shipping in the narrow confines of Mexico's western border would have been almost as bad, since a merchant cruiser survives by stealth. Yet this was sufficient to get war voted, but still the Americans were split on it.
“Woodrow Wilson takes the sedition act, which had been passed to stop people from complaining too much about what the government was doing before the war was declared, was expanded into the Sedition and Espionage Act. Originally if someone reported that you had made remarks disparaging to American policy, your mail was opened legally by the post office. If you had said something in that mail that was considered sedition, the post office 'lost' the letter. But under the new wording, you could be arrested and jailed. You no longer had the right of free speech if you protested the Government getting into that war. In fact the modern Patriot Act is built on that law, which was officially removed only in 1920.
“Really, what did the US get out of the 1st World War?” Dawn held up her hand, fingers spread, then folded her thumb. “They got peace, but the Central Powers only agreed because Wilson promised there would be no reprisals. But when he caught the flu before the treaty was arranged, he and the US bowed out.”
The little finger. “The French were able to make the entire procedure a rape of the Central Powers, shattering the Austrian empire. Then stripping away every foreign possession and little piece of Germany or Austria that had caught their eyes, conquest by law rather than force of arms. They saddled Germany with fifty billion dollars of war debt, but waited until they took every ounce of gold from the German government first. Did it, and made sure it would impoverish the German people for a generation or more. They rigged the entire arrangement by demanding that the Germans issue bearer bonds for half of it at five percent interest, and the remainder at 10 percent which were then handed over to the victors to disperse to pay their own bills. To give you an idea of how punitive this was, a bank only paid about one percent on your savings.
“Remember the movie Beverly Hills Cop? The main character's friend was carrying German bearer bonds, probably from the last of those. Only the fact that the US refused to allow demands for more reparations after World War II stopped the German people from being in debt into the next century; they finally paid it off in 1986.”
Ring finger. “They limited the German armed forces to almost nothing; ten thousand men in the army, six of the older battleships of the original navy with sufficient escort, nothing above 10,000 tons to be built ever, no submarines or airplanes. Yugoslavia had a larger army!”
Middle finger. “Then in an act that went beyond barbaric, they demanded that the Germans accept full responsibility for the war. Forget that Serbia murdered a member of the Austrian Royal family, ignore that it was Serbian troops facing the Austrians who fired the first shot, or that it was the entry of the British and French into the war as allies of Serbia that caused the Alliance between Austria and Germany to be invoked. It's all Germany's fault.”
Index finger. “The war caused the European economy to tank, causing the Great Depression, and the punitive measures laid the seeds for the second war less than 20 years later. Then of course, an avian flue bug that had grown in the US Army's boot camps, spreads through the troops in Flanders, and then through Europe and killed 87 million plus young adults because it causes their immune systems to overreact and flood their lungs.”
“Wait!” Rhee made a time out gesture. “The Spanish Flu was our fault?”
“Yes.” Dawn shrugged. “An flu that is so common that they detect it every year, though not as virulent now as it was then. This was proven in the 1970s in the world, though we down here had worked it out by 1924.”
“How did you do that? They didn't have electron microscopes until 1928!”
“We don't need no stinking microscopes.” Dawn grinned. “Remember in school when you'd get headaches using a microscope or a telescope?” Rhee nodded. The school nurse and several doctors had been stumped by the problem considering that she routinely pointed out paper clips on the floor of a classroom from half the room away. “Well your eyes are like mine instead of human.”
Rhee looked at her mother's eyes. “I don't see any difference.”
“All basic lens type eyes are the same whether you speak of a human eye or an octopus. We couldn't do our job very well if we were limited to the focus and range of the human eye. We Angels can see down to the microscopic level, and up to the macro level when we need to. All you need is training. If you wished, you could look at the surface of Pluto as if it were on the other wall of this elevator, or see an atom of hydrogen dancing on your pinkie. Now look at this.” Dawn handed her a small tube like they use for perfume samples. Rhee muttered something. “What?”
“I wish someone had told me when I was ten.” She grumbled. “I drew a picture, and couldn't explain what it was when I was asked. It was just three little circles spinning like mad as if they were attached.”
“Oh, the water molecule you drew?”
“Smart ass.” Rhee looked at the tube in her hand. “I don't see anything.”
“Focus.” Dawn covered her mouth. “Use the Force, Luke.”
“I repeat, smart ass.” Rhee huffed staring. Was the tube larger? She continued, and it seemed to be approaching her face. Then it was all she could see, and it was still growing. There was only a single drop of water in it, and she found her gaze drawn to that. It was dirty water, no, it had something in it. Suddenly she was looking at a hundred, no a thousand small ball shaped things swimming idly in the water. Soon there was only one, looking like she held it right in front of her eyes.
“If you look, you will see additional amino acids attached themselves at what your scientists labels the H and N points. Since several different amino acids could connect there, they came up with different numbers, so the 2009 variant is H2N5. But this one is what slaughtered all of those people back then. Now it is actually benign compared to the newer variants, every American who is not of African Descent is immune 80% of the time.”
“Why the disclaimer?”
“Oh, you'll love this, the whites were trying to avoid allowing black Americans from fighting alongside the white boys. So when people asked why they were assigned to secondary duties; digging latrines, kitchens, cleaning, the Command officers stated that tests had proven that blacks were night blind. You couldn't send someone night blind into combat, so they had other duties. They weren't in the trenches, or in the hospitals when it spread in that last relatively benign form.”
Dawn hit the button, and the elevator dropped. “I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired. I'm remembering how we worked, both above and below on what the hell had happened for five long years. We hadn't even seen the possibility of what could happen if nature threw in a curve ball we didn't plan for. The asteroid that slaughtered the dinosaurs was only the first we had to deal with.”
“The flood.” Rhee said. Dawn grimaced.
“The first tribe we were watching got a little too friendly with each other, and inbred too much. Within a thousand years, they were starting to show massive birth defects, so we put them down. The entire tribe lived on the eastern slope of the bed of what is now the Mediterranean. We got Noah's extended family into the Ark, and broke the seal on the land bridge at the Pillars of Hercules, causing a localized flood that killed them rapidly and humanely. What the bible says took forty days and nights took about as many hours.
“Now, Anger. Humans only see it in the microcosm, but it has as many shades as there are colors. But we here only worry about three variants of it. One is the white hot hate that drives the serial killer; the kind of hate that makes a man injure another just to attempt to reduce it any amount at all.
“The fury that drives a drunk to take on an entire bar, or to knife a cop just because he stops him. The kind that in war causes warriors to commit atrocities. It is the one all humans recognize and fear, for when someone is suffering through it you are nothing more than a target.
“But they are the minority here.
“The second variant is what most people define as a sullen attitude. The man who holds his frustrations inside until like a blocked volcano, you explode. The kind of man who walks into a MacDonald's with a machine gun and just shoots everyone in sight. Again, they are rare. As many as they kill it's minor compared to the last. Again, we had to create our own version of what is right and wrong, and just having the fully angry beating on each while the sullen pout in the corner doesn't really do it.
“The last is the darkest most evil for of anger, and the worst part of it is most who suffer from it never fell to it themselves. Those men are like the carrier of a disease, spreading it through entire populations. The largest version of it is not only insidious, it's still ongoing. It was fueled by taking two different works, one German, the other French, and combining them.
“The first was entitled The dialogue in hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, a satirical view of the French Government of Napoleon III, where all of the government's actions were seen as a plot to control all actions within the nation written by Maurice Joly in 1864. That work was later plagiarized in Germany with a final chapter added and released under the title Biamitz. But in the 1870s it was released in serial form in Russia, and finally put together in a pamphlet in 1903 under the name it is still known by.
“It became the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 'proof' if you will of the International Jewish Conspiracy. While it has been proven again and again that the work is false, people will still hold it up as enough evidence to condemn the entire Jewish race. By minor alteration, you can use it to prove the duplicity of whomever you please.
“A legacy of hate spanning one hundred and forty years to date. But the worst of it occurred just seventy years ago in what was then Nazi Germany.”
“Look at the historical record of the German Jew in the same time. The primary poem used to fuel their anger against the British was named 'A song of hate for England' by Ernst Lissauer, a German Jew later roundly condemned by both Jews and anti-Semites alike. The first man to earn an Iron Cross in World War 1 was a Jew. The first German pilot to use a Swastika in that war was a Jew. When Adolf Hitler as a corporal was given the Iron Cross, the man who wrote the award was a Jew. One hundred thousand fought during that war, and ten thousand died for their 'Fatherland', a higher average than any other demographic of the German people at the time. By any standard you wish to use, they had proven the most loyal and brave of any in their land.
“Yet twenty years later the Protocols were required reading material in German schools. 'Wise' men were using them to point at every fault in their own society, and because it bridges all gaps, you had German Communists, already considered an enemy, even Churchmen reading and using it right alongside the Nazis. One of the most civilized nations on the planet went mad, and condemned five percent of their people to be converted into products. Into lamp shades, soap, candles, mattress ticking, slave labor, and eventually slaughter and use as fertilizer after cremation.
“And even today, no one beyond this realm even understands why, or is unwilling to admit it. Because in Germany at that time were three types of people.
“The first were the ones who merely saw the removal of those people from their society as a necessary evil. They did not know what was happening to them, only that they had been taken away. Then, there were the ones who did know, and like Lot outside of Sodom and Gomorrah turning their backs on what was happening. Then there were those who carried out that massacre, who slapped each other on the back about the 'good days work' they had done.
“And you still have the debunkers who say the Germans only did what had to be done, that there was no way the Germans could have been that brutal, or did not have the capability to murder and dispose of so many bodies. That claim that the Allies; most point at the Americans or Russians, claiming that they arrived at camps of well fed and cared for people, and murdered them just to blame the Nazis. That they did in less than two years what took the Nazis even longer.
“And the Jews are only the tip of the iceberg of hate. Every white man of the south that felt put upon blamed their problems on the blacks, and taught their children as if their claims were as true as the Protocols.
“That last we see as the worst. The ones that made hate a household word, and the removal of what you hate as simple as swatting a fly, and expending just as much emotion when you do. When Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il finish upstairs, this is their next stop. They have spent 60 years of their combined lives blaming every ill of North Korea on the Americans.”
The door hissed open again on blackness. They stepped out. For a moment as before, darkness was all they could see. Then there came a pounding like a pile driver slamming a post into soil. Then it grew, not one, but hundreds, thousand, no... Millions!
The scene began to lighten, and far overhead massive weights rose then fell. Below them were humans that went like a grotesque cartoon from upright, to being squashed under them. Then the weight would rise, the person staggering to their feet, and barely standing before it came down again. It was a demented engine with no other purpose than injury.
“We have few here from before about a millennia ago; communications wasn't fast enough for even the most inflammatory slogan to reach many.” She motioned toward one region where the weights were smaller, perhaps half of what the person being pummeled weighed. Yet a sledgehammer that weighs only a few pounds can still crush the bones of a person, and these were dropping fifty feet or more. If the man wasn't flattened, the body would stand there still until it had pounded him down to the floor strike by strike before their body snapped back whole and upright. “These are the slogan makers, the hate mongers, primarily. Jack the Ripper, Jeffery Daumer, Ted Bundy spent only a few years here each. But they also have to go through violence yet. These wrote slogans used by those who brutalized others, or their statements.” She pointed to her far left, and as her arm swept right, she quote.
“ 'Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius'. 'The Ends Justify the means'. The only Good Indian is a dead one'. 'When this war is over the only place Japanese will be spoken is in hell'.” She paused sighing. “When he arrives, Peter Arnette will have his own for his 'We had to destroy the village to save it'. It was a rewrite of a statement by an American Air Force officer who really said, 'it was a beautiful city, it is a pity it was destroyed'.
“I always feel like having a stiff drink after this level. Join me?” Rhee nodded. They climbed back into the elevator, and a moment later were back in the offices. Without asking Dawn poured a double for each of them. “Slanche.” She said tossing it down.
“So tomorrow after work we start on Heresy?”
“Yes, but I think there is someone better to explain that level.” Dawn went to her desk. “I know you like fish sometimes. Have you tried shark?”
“Then this will be interesting.” She tapped a speed dial, then set it on speaker phone as she poured another drink.
He sighed. “You know I hate that.”
“Just my basic sense of humor, bro. What are you doing tonight?” She sat at the desk, feet kicked up on the desk.
“Just dinner a movie then bed.”
“You know my daughter is checking out the underworld.”
A long pause. “How's she taking it?”
“Asking questions, learning the ropes.” She sipped. “Could you explain Heresy to her for tonight?”
“You went through Anger and got upset again, didn't you?”
She sighed. “After all these years, you know me too well, Michael; thank you for being there. After five millennia being blamed for every ill mankind knows, I really hate being blamed for Dachau and Auschwitz.”
“Hey, I've had five decades of the same crap; being blamed for every idiot who uses 'god's will' as an excuse for mayhem.” He chuckled. “I'd heard she came to understanding, but is undecided. Has she...”
“Not yet. We both know that even if she followed Daddy Dearest's game plan we would have an aeon of cataloging before we are done.”
“No he prophesied only a millennia-”
“Be real!” She slammed down the drink. “If I am to do my assigned job, it will take ten thousand years to clear the present backlog. Let's not even get started on delivering the better part of nine billion more new souls in a lump. That's probably another million years just for my end before his 'perfect world' can start.” She closed her eyes as she stood, leaning on the desk with her fists. “As much as he thinks he can jump start it by taking every unrefined soul and spending a millennia teaching them again, it won't work. Both you and I know that. If he hadn't chosen humanity, maybe. But he chose the vessel, so he has to accept the limitations.”
There was a sigh. “Agreed. So what's the game plan?”
“I suggested dinner. You can explain the problem here better than I can, and there'll be no way Daddy can claim I have lied.”
“You know, except for Daddy Dearest, being called Daddy really ticks him off.”
“I know that, Michael.” Her tone was dead serious. “But if he's going to act like a spoiled brat, you know I have to fight him on this. That is why she didn't know until yesterday.”
“All right. Are you on speaker?”
“Yes. Say hello, Rhee.”
“Hello, Rhee.” The woman replied.
“So like you're mother.” He replied. “It's five PM local by my watch.”
“Five?” Rhee looked at the clock on the wall. “We were down there for hours! How can it be only a little after five?”
“God time, Rhee. How about eight?”
“And she knows you like shark. So I will place the order. Megaladon all right?”
“Like you said, you know me well. Yes. And vegetables from the same period.”
“Done.” Dawn hit a button. “You have plenty of time to relax and bathe first.”
Chills. Your story simply gives me chills. BraVA!
Talk about fun; first we have someone claiming to be Hurry posting messages to my stuff that no longer exist.
Then I write the next two segments in a week long monumental jag and find it's twenty five thousand odd characters too long. So I had to make a swift and dirty cut to make it fit.
Dinner with the Messiah
Rhee wasn't surprised that Fujiko was already notified. “The Messiah, here! We need new place mats and dishes!”
“Spare me, Fujiko. Is my bath ready?”
“Of course mistress, both shower and hot tub.” Rhee dropped her briefcase, which was fielded by the Zashiki-warashi before it hit the ground. “I will be there to wash your back in an instant.”
Rhee was beyond surprise. She headed toward the bathtub, stripping her clothes off, and every piece (she knew) being fielded by her servant. She reached the bathroom, and sat; less than a second later a sponge was washing her back. She sat there, allowing the ministrations of her servant as she relaxed into it.
The suggestion that she move into the hot tub was accepted, and she sighed as she relaxed in the hot water.
“Mistress, have you verified that dinner was cooked to satisfaction?”
“Honestly, Fujiko, I don't know how the son of god likes his shark steaks.”
“Neither do I, mistress, but the restaurant below must have served him before.”
“You are right of course. Could you call them?”
There was a pause. “Mistress, I am but a small fish in this pond. You are much more important than I, and would be best to ask such questions.” She looked back, and Fujiko looked abashed. “I am sorry, mistress.”
“Don't worry.” Rhee said, standing. Her robe was there, and she wrapped it around herself. She walked through the apartment to the phone. She dialed 1, and the phone was almost immediately answered. “My mother ordered dinner for two at my apartment.”
“Yes, Miss Lightson. Megaladon for two with vegetables from the same period.” There was a pause. “Ma'am, is this for... him?”
“Think of me genuflecting, Khristos?”
“Yes it is.”
“Oh good. He always likes his shark en Brochette. Is that acceptable for you as well?”
“And he likes the older Retsina wines of that time. They are rather sharp with pine tar, would you like a more modern version?”
“No, I will try it. If it's too strong, I know where to call.”
“One thing, lady, his sense of humor is only two millennia odd old, compared to your mother's. Don't tell any jokes linked to Christianity.”
“You can tell how mature a religion is by the jokes they will accept about themselves. And above all, don't call him Sonny Boy.”
“I don't understand.”
“One of the jokes I mentioned; a young priest straight from seminary, he's always nervous when he has to give the sermon, so the parish priest give him some advice. First, fill his water carafe with vodka, sip a few times, and go on with the sermon.
“The next week he is doing very well, everyone is riveted, and he knows he's getting the message across. Afterward, he speaks with the parish priest. That man says, 'a few problems. First, sip not gulp. Second, never say that God opened the full can of whup-ass on Egypt, or that God 'whupped on Pharaoh like a red headed stepchild'. There are ten commandments, not twelve, twelve apostles, not ten. When referring to Jesus and the apostles, it is not JC and the sunshine band, and never refer to the holy trinity as Daddy oh, Sonny Boy, and the Spook. Last, it was a taffy pulling contest at St Peter's.”
Rhee found herself giggling. “So no joking.”
“Right. Dinner at eight?”
“Then I will leave you to get to it.”
She chose her sundress and Fujiko fussed around her like a demented hummingbird having her change into a blouse and skirt instead. Finally the little spirit judged her ready. “Would you like a drink before he arrives?”
“That would make a good impression, welcoming him in half hammered.” She looked over her shoulder. “Why is it that him coming here is driving everyone around me to distraction?”
“He's a big wheel up top, my lady. He was there from the start!”
“So was Mom, but you guys don't act this way when she's around.”
“But she spends more time here among humans than he does. I think he makes an inspection tour once a year, but your mother is always ready to pop in and check up on your people. She's the boss with the open door policy, he's like Howard Hughes never announcing himself.” The door bell rang, and Fujiko took off like a missile. Bemused, Rhee followed.
She wasn't sure what she had expected; a man in a suit like Loki, of maybe one of the visual representations you see on the wall of Catholic homes. What she saw was a woman she recognized in a flame red dress, and she stopped. “Mom? What are you doing here?”
The figure turned, then in what was obviously a man's voice said, “Gotcha!” Then began to laugh. As he did, the body changed, becoming a man in a turtleneck sweater and sports jacket. He was androgynous, looking good as a man, but one who could dress as a woman and look stunning. She remembered that an actress, Tilda Swinton, had been chosen to play Gabriel in the movie Constantine because every description of an angel implied someone more beautiful than handsome.
He looked at himself, still chuckling. “Your mother always suggested I should try a female form, get in touch with my feminine side as she would say. I knew that would shock you a little.”
“No sense of humor my ass.” She said.
He shook his head. “Just because she has been honing hers for almost a million years doesn't mean I didn't learn how to take a joke. After all, I had almost 34 years as a human. She started with only the first year or so back when Adam was there, and they were still pre-verbal.” He stepped forward. “I've been watching you for a few years, though you never saw me. I am Jeshua ben Josef of Nazareth.”
He shook his head as they shook hands. “Christ is an anglicized version of the Greek Khristos, which is merely their word for Messiah, which merely means anointed one.”
He shook his head again. “What everyone conveniently ignores is that high priests were also anointed. I was supposed to be nothing more than a teacher, not king or god, or even 'the son of'.” He handed he a bottle he had under his arm, and walked past her. “Nice place.”
“Thank you. She followed, setting the bottle on the bar. It was a dry white wine, and she opened it, pouring. He nodded his thanks when she handed him a glass.
“So they got it wrong?”
He chuckled. “I know your mother has already said it, but I will repeat, mankind could mess up a snowball fight. The reason she asked me to meet with you was because I am, you might say, living proof of what heresy is.”
“But wait! The Romans executed you for sedition and treason!”
“Because I had not said anything that was defined as heresy under their laws.”
“But how could you be a heretic under Judaic law?”
“As much as religion has grabbed the term for themselves, heresy has always been a political crime. It's when they want to punish you, but what you've done is not actually illegal.
“Perfect example; Galileo was tried for heresy because of his observations of the Solar System. The church, and therefore the government of his time had declared we lived on a perfect world, and God would make none that did not match this perfection. So every planet would have one large moon. But Galileo said there were two small ones orbiting Mars, four orbiting Jupiter, and gasp! Saturn had a ring!
“Rather than admit they were wrong, his studies were investigated by the Roman Inquisition, and they determined that what he said was supposition; observational error, not fact. When he published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems - different views as to what was the center of the Solar System - it was judged by the church to be a direct attack on Pope Urban VII, and he's tried for heresy because he was spreading the word of Lucifer rather than the word of God. They force him to recant, and he spends his last years under house arrest.
“Socrates, nothing more than a philosopher was accused of heresy in a polytheistic society, and ordered to drink hemlock because he and his students are teaching ways of thinking that disturbed the Athenian government.”
There was another knock, and Fujiko floated in, a tray following her. She set the meal on the table, looked it over to assure everything was perfect, and floated out. Rhee sampled the meat. “Interesting. Why is it your favorite?”
“I tried Icelandic shark about 1400 years ago, and liked the taste and texture. But I wasn't going to suggest that for this meal.”
“The way they prepare it. After catching the shark, they slice up the meat and bury it in sand for two weeks, then serve it raw.” Her fork had paused on the way to her mouth. He chuckled again. “This is pretty much what you would call shark kabobs. No sand, and cooked.”
“I haven't tried shark. Some people I know say humans eat shark to get even with them for eating us.”
“Megaladon never got the chance. They were extinct about the time we made the first Adam. Of course it would have been briefly exciting to see one.” He reached into the center piece of the table. “Picture something that looks like a great white shark, twice the length of the shark from Jaws, a mouth large enough to take everything from your head to your hips in one bite from the side, with teeth like this.”
She reached out, and took the white triangular shape from his hand. It was an isosceles triangle seven inches across and razor sharp. “I'm glad I never met one.”
“I understand. Nature is beautiful, but there are times a little distance makes it more enjoyable.”
“You said the first Adam?”
“There were three.” He had opened the carafe of wine, pouring a small portion in a glass. “This is Retsina, I would suggest just a sip. They used to seal the amphorae with pine tar, and I became rather fond of it during my life.”
She sipped, then held the glass out to be filled. “It is a bit sharp. Why three Adams?”
“We were and still are primarily non-corporeal. We can make a body appear as I did with this one, but it's not really us. Also none of us, even Father, have a life cycle remotely like your own. We are not immortal, since time has to end to prove we are, though we are long lived and relatively invulnerable. But being non-corporeal, we didn't understand the needs of a species like yours. We made the changes in the genetic structure, but the being was little more than a human shaped robot. First, we found that learning for your race was by observation and attempting to use that learning.
“We can pass information with the speed of a super computer, but humans need to learn to talk.” He waved a hand. “Oh your brains can process all of the data as we can. We filled his head with knowledge, but it was like filling the bookshelves of an illiterate, because among humans, knowledge needs a context. We had created the first Adam without considering that as a social being, he needed interaction to access the information we had stored. Think of a child reading the traffic laws, then putting him behind the wheel of a car without teaching him how to drive.
“The first died of dehydration. We didn't understand needing to eat and drink, and while full grown, he was still mentally a child, so he couldn't let us know he needed something, and we had never bothered to learn that the sounds he made meant anything. We were able to keep the second one healthy, but he died pretty much of loneliness. You know how a child needs the nurturing mother? Being cuddled, knowing he is cared for? We didn't have bodies, so we didn't understand that need and couldn't supply it physically. It was by observing the interactions among his tribe that we learned of that error. But we also expected him to be superior mentally to those that shared some of his genome. We could not just leave him among the proto - humans, because it would be like raising a puppy in a house full of cats. He would never really learn to be a dog.
“So Lucifer was assigned to occupy a form similar to his. She became what you might call another puppy to sleep with him and make him feel more comfortable. That was the analogy Lucifer used a hundred millennia ago when man domesticated dogs. She didn't understand that desperate skin hunger most species on this planet still have to an extent to this day. She was able to teach him by example what was good to eat, and how to make things by using hands similar to what he had, but to teach him how to speak understandably, she had to work with him to create language, because while we found we could read emotional context, we could not communicate with him without it.”
“So you were learning the need for a way to pass the information back even as you taught us to do so.” Rhee ate a slice of the shark. It was firm and tangy, with what would be called a wild flavor like any meat raised all naturally.
“Exactly. In fact one reason the first few generations in the bible lived as long as they did was because we were working on testing all of your new found capabilities to progress to the next stage of the experiment; having your new species interact with the world itself without our direct intervention. We also learned how to create physical bodies at need to interact with them. But the first errors crept in during that pretesting when we found that human curiosity could overrule other priorities.”
“The tree of good and evil.”
“Yes.” Jesus finished his wine, and held the bottle. Rhee lifted her glass, and he filled both. “None of us, with the exception of Lucifer, anticipated disobedience. It wasn't even as if the tree were really the font of good or evil; it was just a fruit tree now extinct, that we had found growing on an island that was sinking beneath the sea, and we had brought it there for examination.
“We put it down inside the 'garden', and like you would expect from humans, Adam and Eve ran over to check it out. When they did, the Angel who was supervising told them not to eat any of the fruit because they might die. When it was reported, Lucifer asked how the humans had reacted. He, as he was still primarily a man at the time, listened, then said, 'We had best finish our testing quickly. If it is there too long, they will eat from it'. ” He sighed. “Luckily for man, the first thing we did, as always, was verify it's toxicity. Man could eat the fruit safely. But we didn't tell them until later. After all, how many lab assistants tell the specimens what is happening?”
“Wait, you tested it? I thought the angels made everything at God's direction.”
He chuckled. “No, it would have taken too long. What we did was catalog them from microbes to the larger animals. After all, we had a functioning ecosystem to work with; all we needed was data on how the existing species would interact with humans. What was edible, what might consider you edible, that kind of thing. Once we were done with our analysis, an Angel went to tell Adam and Eve.” He grinned, and began to laugh uproariously, then leaned forward.
“The Angel arrives, and they act like a human child caught doing something they should not. Picture that you as a child had stolen a cigarette from your father's pack and taken it to your room to try it. You've just lit up, taken your first puff and then your mother opens the door, so you stash the evidence so she doesn't see it. Of course you're too young to understand that there is smoke still in the air, and you still have the smoke you have in your mouth. So you have been caught, and no amount of innocent expressions is going to cover this up.
“So, caught, Adam immediately points at Eve and says, 'She did it!'.” It wasn't until we checked with Lucifer that we discovered that Adam, like a child caught at it, blamed her.”
“So they were cast out.”
“The timing would suggest that, but we had reached the second stage. We had learned everything we could from them under laboratory conditions, and they were supposed to rejoin their tribe so we could continue the experiment. Of course that initial stage caused some problems. We had been doing all of our research right there before them. Like a doctor dissecting a frog in a room filled with frogs in cages who can see that.
“When they returned to the tribe, they did communicate enough to tell the pre human and later proto humans what they had seen, though they had no more understanding than a frog in a cage. During that initial test phase, a lot of our research in the field was also done without considering that their forebears would be able to watch. So think of a tribe in what would later be called Mesolithic-America. A tribesman has died in a manner that seems strange. Perhaps he ate something poisonous, or succumbed to disease. An angel sees it happen, and does an autopsy. The tribe watches from a safe distance to see something that is manlike but definitely not a man perform this. So later on, when they have passed this on to their children, they think 'god' or the plural form wishes some kind of sacrifice.
“Of course we had never considered that either. The first we knew of it was when Abel, instead of delivering a ram for us to examine, killed it and delivered a sacrifice instead by setting it ablaze. Of course we had another problem, because early man had eyes that saw through a broader range than modern humans, so he thought it was supposed to be burned.” At her blank look he placed his hand over a piece of shark on his plate. A haze of light appeared between the meat and his hand. “To someone who doesn't know better, it looks like a fire, doesn't it? That was the genesis of blood sacrifices.”
They finished the meal, and Fujiko whisked the plates away as they finished the retsina. Rhee poured brandy for them both, and they adjourned to the living room. “After several thousand years we noticed that even those we had initially sequestered had slipped into it. The Jews started out with a pretty good grasp of what we wished, but their time in Egypt tainted their belief system. When Moses got them as far as Mount Sinai, they 'assumed' first, the God had a physical form, and second, that they needed something to focus on to have him there to speak to; an idol and a sacrifice. At this point, Moses has gone up to speak to 'god' though it was actually one of the angels he was conferring with. We had thought to merely hand him an instruction book as it were, to tell them what god wanted. He comes back and they've already made an idol, sacrificed animals to it, and were generally partying down after what they thought was a job well done.
“So Moses, on instructions from the angel who is invisible yet present, shatters the two stone tablets, punishes his followers, and returns to the mountain and comes down again with the Ten Commandments.”
“Robert Heinlein suggested that in a Stranger in a Strange Land.”
“He was right. The first set assumed the Jews were mature enough to start working alongside us on the observational level, and they had proven incapable. We conferred, and Father asked Lucifer, the only one who had enough human in her to really understand the species, and Lucifer suggested a waiting period. Hand the Jews instead a list of admonitions, let their nation evolve further, then try again.”
“Her at this time?”
“Yes.” He sipped reflectively. “We hadn't consider that gender would even be involved. But humans noticed what we did not, that females go through several days where they are not normal by human definition.” He saw Rhee's looked and chuckled, shaking his head. “Linked to reproduction yes, but to the specifics of the difference between man and woman. When a female becomes fertile for the first time was a high point in a young girl's life. She is now no longer a child, but a woman capable of bearing children. Among ancient peoples this was their day of womanhood, just as the first throes of puberty for a boy was when he became a man. So most religions had those separated. The Jews, who I know best, called it Bar Mitzvah, and Bat Mitzvah. You see, you were expected to be more mature after your specific ritual ascension. But Lucifer, as a female, was able to insinuate herself into the tribes not of our specific test group. She was the one that found the underlying cause of the schism in those tribes between men and women.” He drained the snifter, and she refilled it silently.
“But Lucifer also pointed out that all of the adults in the group would still have that mindset of the old ways they had learned in Egypt, so they had to be removed. That is why they spent the next forty years wandering. As they were, we chose where they were going, examined the wildlife and other food sources, and created the dietary laws the Moses listed in Leviticus.”
Again she looked confused. “They probably didn't cover that in the church you went to, but the primary reasons for the dietary restrictions were by reason of disease, though humans didn't work it out until germ theory was the norm. When you only have a fire from whatever vegetation could rip from the ground, or the dung of your herd animals that has been dried, you cannot spend time roasting the meat to the proper temperature to assure all diseases are killed. Trichinosis is mostly the result of eating undercooked game, bear meat, or home-reared pigs. Tularemia is caused by eating rabbit at the wrong time of the year. Shellfish were banned, like the rabbit, because part of the year they are safe, but using a lunar calender it is hard to figure, so we just made them all forbidden. Among Europeans since the advent of first the Julian Calender, then the Gregorian, they use the old saw of not eating rabbit or oysters in months that have an 'R' in them, saying, 'only during the summer'.
“It goes much further. Nothing but hoofed animals with a cloven hoof were exempted because until the advent of Mad Cow's disease, they could be eaten safely raw if need be. Camels, though they were safe, they were also the primary beast of burden, so they were exempted. Fish without scales, birds that eat carrion or were predatory, all reptiles and most insects defined as inedible. Predatory animals and scavengers were removed from their diet because they could eat contaminated meat and pass diseases to men if not cooked properly. All meat of acceptable animals to be inspected by a shochet who slaughters, then examines the meat to assure it is safe, and meat and dairy products were not to be combined. That was on a village level, the milk could easily be from the mother of the animal being cooked.
“One vector we considered was blood born pathogens, where you could get a disease from the blood, or organs like the liver. Blood itself was not kosher, but liver if cooked over an open flame was. So until modern processing made it safe, no blood sausage.”
Rhee looked at the now empty table. “But you just had shark...”
He drank, and smiled. “Rhee, I have not been a Jew for over 2,000 years. I don't think they have the right to complain. But think; the Jews as a separate race still exist because the Jews who went into slavery against all odds and tribulations maintained those laws.
“In fact up to this day, the Arab nomads use the same method for building fires the Early Jews did; as you went along, everything that had not already been eaten by your herds along the track behind you was ripped up for later fires, and all dung is collected. In the 1920s the British showed that it was this habit that causes most of the North African and Saudi deserts to remain desert. All they did to prove it was fence in a square mile of desert and not allow the Arabs to strip it. Any grass that had not already been ripped away was able to grow, and if irrigated, any number of crops can grow as well.
“We ran those early tribes through the desert in what is now the Sinai, the Saudi Arabian Peninsula, and Jordan as described. Once the first generation had died, we led them back to the Jordan near Jericho. Now here is where things began to diverge, fact from history. Look at the propaganda system used in modern North Korea. You have sixty years of the people there being told that only the intervention of the United States, not the UN, caused their Great Patriotic War to fail. Two entire generations that would now fight to the last child if the US invaded them again.
“Humanity now knows this because they have seen the aftermath of such intensive indoctrination with Germany, where a lot of those who survived that war as children still believe that the US never had an aircraft return from a bombing mission because of how powerful the Luftwaffe was. We had forty years to use the same techniques on these people. 'God' did not say 'slaughter them all' as the bible says. It would have been done because it was ordered. They were told to dispossess any who resisted. But even then there were others who were not Jews still living there afterward. Modern Israel is still 20% Arab, and so was ancient Israel.
“But that 'Caedite Eos' was later inserted for only one reason; because any problems they had internally were not God's fault, it was due to fallible man not obeying orders, so later actions that were unnecessarily brutal could be praised. King Ahab for example allowed his wife Jezebel, who was daughter of King Ethbaal of Tyre to practice her own faith. She was not trying to lead the people astray, and never did convince her husband to join in the rituals, though other temples to Baal were built by those who still remembered their own faith. It was like a modern Arab sheik allowing his women in harem pray to the Christian God. But this was still where 'god' at the word of the priests, chose who would be the next king. When Ahab died, the throne passed briefly to Ahaziah, who 'fell from a great height', and did not survive. It then passed to Jehoram for 12 years. The prophet Elisha then supposedly had a soldier named Jehu - Actually from Judah, not Northern Israel who was serving in an allied army - anointed as the new king of Israel instead because he was devout.”
“The author of the second book of Kings describes that, while the captains of the Israelite army were assembled away from the king's eyes, the prophet Elisha sent one of his students to this meeting. This student led Jehu away from his peers and anointed him king in an inner chamber, then immediately departed. So someone claiming to be one of Elisha's students did it, not the prophet himself.
“Do you think anyone succeeding in a coup is going to admit they were violating the law in search of power? The Temple had been trying to remove the temples to Baal for decades, and neither Ahab, nor Ahab's sons was willing, so 'god' first assured the eldest would die from an accident having reigned for less than a year, then through a prophet chose another when the new king was also resistant. But at this time, Judah was under king Ahaziah, who by purest chance, was Jehu's half brother.” He paused, letting her consider it. “What you have is one of the first military coups ever recorded as 'god's' will.
“In a coup the first thing you do is eliminate all of the possible successors, so Jehu had the Joriam killed, then rode to Jezreel to confront Jezebel. Here again not only history but even the language changed at 'god's' behest. You have a woman, daughter of a king, princess in her own right, Queen by right of marriage, mother of sons who were kings. Her eldest son dying in an 'accident', one son who was king murdered in the coup as he lay injured after a failed battle. She was warned, could have fled to her father's court. Instead she decides to act as a queen, not a refugee or outcast. When the army under the usurper arrives, she is dressed in her finery, her face made up as was the custom of her father's court in the throne room of her own palace, surrounded by her courtiers; pretty much daring them to murder her as well.
“How she died shows how popular she was with her own common people. Jehu doesn't banish her, doesn't have her face the legal punishment for idolatry, which is public stoning, doesn't merely kill her himself, any of which would have caused a popular uprising against him. Instead he forces the courtiers to kill her to save their own lives, and throw her body from the window of the palace, then proclaims that it was her own noblemen who killed her. Then he spreads the rumor that the reason she had gone to all that cosmetic effort was because she had attempted to seduce him.
“That is why the term 'painted Jezebel' means a whore today. The same method a few centuries later was used to demonize Judas.”
“Wait!” Rhee leaned forward. “Judas didn't betray you?”
“Heavens no! Among all of the apostles, he was one of the most loyal. But he was easy to set up. Modern theologians have come up with what you might call a conspiracy theory linked to Judas. You see, he was the one I had put in charge of the financial arrangements during our three years in Judah. We were constantly being given monies and goods by the townspeople I was instructing, and his complaint when Mary Magdalene used a myrrh oil on me rather than selling it is their primary reason to point the finger. 'we could have sold that and given the money to the poor!' to which I replied, because I knew what was going to happen, 'the poor will always be there, but I will be here only a short time'. While no one said who had complained, who else but my accountant who was also assigned to give anything over our expenses to the poor?
“Supposedly, he was embezzling, I was about to catch him, and later when we went to Jerusalem, he again is supposed to have told the priests where to find me when it would be just myself and the apostles so the Sanhedren could have me arrested. They followed him to Gethsemane where we were, and when Judas kissed me, they burst in like a modern day SWAT team. Once I am in custody, a man comes forward, releases Judas first, thanks him for his service, and gives him a bag saying 'here's the 30 pieces of silver we promised you' and 'escorts' him to safety before releasing everyone else.
“Who would believe him when he denied complicity afterward?” He sighed.
“During the Communist rule of Russia, they had a term for it. Absorption. They used it to first demonize, then kill Trotsky, to assure that while the people resisting the Germans during WWII, any group that they found did not have the right reason for doing so; any non communist fighters were blamed when another such group was caught and executed, and painted the Chetniks as pro German assigned to eliminate any of Tito's supporters. In fact the Partisans in Yugoslavia did their job so well that less than a year into the war, Britain had cut the Chetniks supply lines from the allies, throwing all of their support to the Communists.”
If you are reading this segment and are confused as to what is happening, take heart. I had to divide the posting in two to cram it all in. Just go back one.
After Dinner Discussion
“So you were guilty of Heresy?”
“If you mean that the teaching I was doing was disturbing the priesthood, oh my yes.” He set down the snifter. Fujiko suddenly rushed in, hovering expectantly. “Coffee, please.” He had barely finished the request before the Zashiki-warashi was back with a tray and two cups, cream pitcher, and sugar bowl. “Coffee with cream, three sugars.” She said handing Jesus his cup. “And you mistress, use four sugars, but prefer to put the cubes in yourself.”
“Excellent, thank you.” Jesus said. Rhee thanked her as well before the servant hustled out.
“Now, to understand what happened, we have to look at the political situation. The Romans had made what was then Syria Palestine a client state in 37 BC and pretty much ran it. They chose the successors to both Herod the Great, the Jewish King and Annas, who was high priest before Caiaphas. In other words, puppet rulers within both the priesthood and the monarchy itself.
“The priesthood is broken up politically into four groups; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. The Pharisees were the more open minded of the parties; they accepted resurrection and a lot of the precepts that later found their way into modern Christianity. To them I was an interesting teacher with some new ideas.
“The Sadducees, were like the modern Religious Right. The word of god is supreme, all else is schism. They hated me because my teachings were leaned more toward the new ideas the Pharisees supported, and away from 'the word is all'. The Essene were more like modern theologians. They looked at what I was teaching, and tried to fit it into what had already been written.
“Then you had the Zealots. They were closer to the violent right wing fundamentalists of Islam. 'It's not right, rip it down and start over from here' being where they were owners of their own land ruled as they wished to be ruled. Have you ever seen a movie named Monty Python and the Life of Brian?” She shook her head. “Perfect example at least of the Zealots, splintered movements that would raid in the countryside yet avoided direct confrontation and fought among themselves more than they did against Roman authority.”
“Why is that?”
He looked at her. “You must remember, that the Romans were a lot like the old Communists when it came to dealing with rebellion. Once they claimed a territory they never gave it up willingly. If they saw a rebellion starting, they came down like a hammer on it. There had been enough decimations ordered for the common people of Judea to avoid even showing signs of it. If a caravan was slaughtered, they would send in the local cohort of the legion. They would go to the closest settlement, village, town, city, take all of the men, and you must remember that this meant every male child who could walk; line them up, then go down the line and kill every tenth man. They would then warn the survivors that the same punishment would be carried out if it happened again, then leave.
“The Russians did something similar in Beirut in the 70s. The country is in a meltdown because the terrorist groups in the country keep getting civilians killed the highlight the 'horrible Jews' to the south, and when the government tries to repeat Jordan's success of September of 1970; driving them from that kingdom's land, the terrorists and their allies turned on the government.
“One group decided that the situation was ripe to make a little money with a little time honored hostage taking, as the Arabs have always practiced it. They kidnapped a foreign citizen, delivering a manifesto claiming he or she was one of the 'vile oppressors' who were supporting Israel. After a few tense weeks of negotiation, they released the person after getting the ransom they demanded. It worked so well, that they did it again and again. Then they foolishly kidnapped a Russian.
“Within twelve hours, a KGB team was on the ground in Beirut. Within twenty-four hours family members of every leader of an actual terrorist group, all supplied by Russia, or known to them by intelligence are seized. The Russian informed them all that their person was to be returned unharmed, or the hostages would be returned in as many small boxes as they might need if they cut them up, and had only twelve hours to do so.
“So as hour thirty-four of this 'tense negotiaion' arrives, the man is returned unharmed, with an apology. History does not record who had taken him, but those who did so arrived in Limbo around hour thirty-two.”
“To the Zealots, I was the Messiah, even though in Acts the Sanhedrin mentioned two others that had claimed the title and been caught and executed by the Romans before I arrived on the scene. All they waited for was for me to proclaim myself, and they would raise public support for their own Holy War. But I never suggested that I was.”
“So first the immaculate conception-” He laughed so hard that Rhee had to stop.
“Why should we have gone to all that trouble? Humans knew what went where and why after millennia of practice. You have to remember that the four gospels were not written by the men themselves, and most of what is in them is pap.
“Look at the target audiences for these Books; the first part of Matthew goes through my purported lineage to prove I was supposed to be the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. In other words aimed at the Jewish population. Mark, where I used the most parables was aimed at the Greeks, still the premier philosophers of the time. Luke, where they focused on the miracles I was purported to have done, was aimed at the Romans, because he was the only one of the twelve that was also a Roman citizen. Finally John, which again was aimed at the Jewish population, pushing for rebellion.
“So you were born normally.”
“And the miracles?”
“Except for two, all created after the fact. I did raise an old friend from the dead because I was sorry he had died, but he hadn't really been dead. He had been found after spending the night outside in cold weather, and was hypothermic. As most people will do, they checked his wrist and found no pulse, so he was believed dead and sealed in his tomb. When I arrived after his burial, I was distraught, and went to the sepulcher and called to him during the hottest part of the day. He awoke, began pounding on the stone, and it was removed and he was 'miraculously' brought back to life. If it had been properly sealed, he would have been truly dead.
“At the Wedding feast in Cana, they ran out of wine, primarily because thirteen men only one of which knew them, me, showed up at the wedding reception. Since it was all our fault for adding ourselves to the guest list, I corrected the problem. I rather liked one wine I had sampled elsewhere; had the servants crush some local grapes, strain the juice, and made a large bowl of it into wine. When it was served, the guests complained because they had saved the best for last. It is still common practice throughout the world to serve the best wine you have first, because later in the evening, when the guests are tipsy, they are merely drinking because there is wine left.
“Remember that Fundamentalists claim I made grape juice, as they claim there is an admonition against drinking at all. But think; if I went to a local supermarket, and brought back say eight different bottles of grape juice, how would you tell they had saved the best for last?
“So yes, one real miracle performed.”
“So born naturally. What about your early life?”
“Did I discourse with the priests at age eleven, yes. Did I wander in the desert for 40 days and nights confronting Satan? No. First, when the bible uses that time frame, it merely means 'he wandered off for a long time, then came back still alive'. I did speak to Lucifer, but she wasn't there to tempt me; she and I delivered my report of my first 30 years spent as a human and worked out what needed to happen. We were looking for ways to alter Judaism of that time to what had been wanted originally, and to allow those teachings to go beyond their borders in bring as many humans as possible back to the path Father had wanted.
“But I didn't approach the priests because those in control didn't want to appear in revolt, and those who were not would immediately take whatever I said as either evidence of blasphemy, or evidence that they were to start their Jihad. Instead I gathered common men, and began teaching them instead. When my own followers started using terms that would guide me to follow one of the already formed views, I guided them away from those thoughts. Even went so far as to create the term, 'get thee behind me, Satan' when Simon also known as Zealot suggested I had enough popular support to start a revolt” He shook his head. “Lucifer has never forgiven me that. That's why she calls me Mikey after the boy in the old 'Life' Cereal commercial. 'Let's get Mikey to try it!' 'Yeah, he hates everything'.”
They both laughed.
“So for three years I spend all of that time in the Galilee, teaching the common people. Of course the priests find out what I am doing, and keep trying to trip me up. 'How should we pray?'. One asks.” He sighed. “I had never dealt directly with humans on their own level, and the prayer I taught them is, according to Heinlein like the Muslim Shahada, 'he witnessed' in Arabic. Literally translated into English, it is the phrase; There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. Saying it publicly is sufficient to have other Muslims to accept that you are of their faith.
“Look at what is now called the 'Lord's prayer'. Our father who is in heaven, blessed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven'.” He paused. “No Muslim ever made a more sweeping act of submission to heavenly authority. Anything that happens in your life, from skinning you knee to being tortured to death is what God wanted to happen to you.
“'Which commandment is the most important?'. Love your neighbor as you do yourself. 'Should you pay Roman taxes?'. Give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what is his. 'This woman is an adulteress. What should we do?' Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Every point is well within the law, so they couldn't use that.
“Meanwhile I have a lot of supporters. As Simon the Zealot said when he suggested revolt, there were fifty thousand from around Jerusalem itself listening and learning from what all of us are teaching. Enough to the untrained to appear like a massive army. The priests that want to get rid of me are afraid. Oh they can try to make a case for blasphemy, and later during my 'trial'.” He made sarcastic quotations marks, “They use my answer to am I the Messiah, 'So you have said' as proof.
“But first, the trial was illegal. Instead of being held publicly by day before the full seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin, they held the trial at night, with only the lesser Sanhedrin present; twenty-three. Sort of like the 'quorum' of the senate used as a justification of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Perjured testimony was offered, but under Judaic law, there must be two witnesses to a crime, one who saw, and one who heard, and they hadn't gotten the two together to agree on what my 'crime' was. Using my words as proof is like Cromwell at the trial of Sir Thomas More where he uses More's silence as proof of rebuke of the king, even though under English trial law of the time it was, 'qui tacet consentire videtur', he who is silent is taken to agree, or silence implies consent.
“Now here the ones trying to kill me had problems. The Romans required the Jews to have Roman authorization for executions, regardless of crime. They were in fact the only occupied peoples to have such requirements. Thanks to stoning under Judaic law, the Jews had more executions per year than the entire Empire combined. So if you wished to stone someone for Blasphemy, the Romans were required to agree. That had reduced it to only about half, but still. So they had to drag me before Pontius Pilate, the Prefect.
“Pilate was only the fifth Prefect, but had studied Judaic law well. While allowed to execute people for blasphemy, anyone who knew the two differing laws would see that the Sanhedrin's case was a sham. He refused to sanction the judicial murder, telling the priests that they had to authorize it through the king, Herod Antipas.” He sipped his coffee. “The Romans had dozens of nations with a hundred odd non-Roman Gods, so there was no Empire wide punishment for Blasphemy. If you look at every race conquered in the last century before Tiberius there were almost a thousand definitions of 'blasphemy'. None of which, except for Judea, requiring Roman intervention.
“So the priests dragged me before Herod. But again, the plot failed. Herod did not see proof of blasphemy, Herod could see that it was a contrived condemnation, but was unwilling to deny the religious claim. At religious demand he passed it again to Pilate. Now here is where they rigged it. Herod had denied their claim of blasphemy, but not of sedition. So the Sanhedrin changed my crime to something that was a crime under Roman law.
“Pilate still refused. He ordered the punishment for petty sedition, public flogging. But the Judaic church demanded execution. Pilate finally agrees because the Sanhedrin claims my crime is not blasphemy, but sedition.
“You see, under Judaic law, the punishment for blasphemy is stoning. The most democratic of punishments; every man is to pick up a stone and throw it at the victim. But what if they support the accused? American Military law considered this with the advent of cartridges. One man per firing squad has a blank cartridge; you can aim and fire without feeling that you were party to judicial murder. The Judaic church cannot accept this; I am too popular for that to work. But if the Romans do it for sedition instead? The locals have no real say, or blame.
“But even the Romans left loopholes. First under Roman law, the locals can ask to have you released. The priests short stopped this because most that supported me thought I had claimed to be the Messiah. 'If he is the Messiah, he doesn't need your help'. So they ask for Barabbas, a career criminal instead.
“The other was the fact that if you were to take a man down from the cross, they were exonerated of their crime. Again, the priests prevailed on Roman authority to have guards posted.” He shuddered. “No punishment ever before was as horrible as crucifixion.” He stretched his arms out even with his chest. “They usually tie you to the cross, though I was nailed up with 3/8” spikes through the palm and through the feet. This is worse, because if they tied you, you could use your own blood to try to loosen the ropes and escape. But with nails through each hand, you have to either widen the hole, or rip your flesh across the hand to the nearest finger to break free.” He pointed at his own palm, then at the web between the middle finger and ring finger. “From the moment you are hoisted into the air, your own muscles are against you.
“The muscles compress your lungs until it is a struggle to breathe, and after a few hours, you are almost suffocating. That is why it was common practice to break the legs of the victims after a few hours, which means your weight pulls you down, and you suffocate that much faster. I did not have to go through that. I left that dying body before they did so.”
“You went though that horror?”
“No, less than an hour before I left my body. Then of course we had the resurrection. But that started the whole mess.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had not come down to start a new religion. I had come to tweak an existing one and bring it back to what it was supposed to be. Then prepare them to go forth and teach it to the rest of humanity. Once that had been done, the human race could have stepped in and taken our place as the primary assistants of Father. But again, free will took a big bite. Christians succeeded in failing more efficiently than the Jews ever did. There is an old axiom that Logic is the best way to go completely wrong with complete confidence, and they did just that.
“First, the original disciples were busily spreading the word inside Judea when a man named Saul of Tarses was assigned to deal with them. Saul caught a flu strain that put him in bed for several days, and as does happen rarely with some forms of the flu, went through a mental shift. Instead of the persecutor of the new 'faith', he became one of the chief proponents because he attributed his getting well to a fever dream where I chastised him.
“Except for Luke, Paul as he called himself afterward, was the best educated, and he like any intelligent man watching a less competent group attempting things, he stepped in to help them, and eventually became the leader of those who left Judea to preach. He did some excellent work, and his letters to the various groups that had begun and to his fellows make up about half of the New Testament. But while he and the others are spreading the teachings, someone had to be left in charge back home, and they had begun forming the backbone of what Paul and the others were building.
“With the access to more modern cooking methods, the dietary restrictions were pretty much unnecessary, so they could eat what they wish, but the 'Council' in Jerusalem was still hung up on how Judaism had done it, so they were demanding that the new followers in other nations adhere to them, and that they had to be circumcised as well.
“They got hung up on authority. As I was dead, who had assumed the mantle of high priest? They used one verse where Peter was talking to me taken out of context, to decide that. Peter and I had been talking alone, and he was the first to work out that I was not to be king, but to be high priest. He came to me alone because he wasn't sure how the others would take it.
“He said pretty much 'You are to be anointed as high priest', though the verse merely says he acclaimed me Messiah. But again, the term merely means anointed. Only assumption would have made me king, an assumption he did not even suggest. I told him he was correct, the first to realize the difference, and I told him, 'As you are Peter, upon this rock I will rebuild the temple'. He told the others, and after they had already gone out into the world the 'council' was going over all that had been reported during my own ministry, writing it down to study and interpret just like any group of theologians. But they decided I couldn't have meant what I said. Messiah must mean king, so Peter was mistaken. Then they came up with the idea that I had made Peter the chief of my followers on that day, and that I had meant to rebuild 'my' temple.
“Right after the first Roman-Jewish war, the first book of what is now the new testament was written, the book of Mark. This was because the first group except for the Romans my followers had direct contact with were the Greeks; and the evangelists, Peter and Mark, who had been sent there were having problems dealing with the Socratic tendencies of their hosts.
“But Mark was already dead, martyred in Alexandria several years earlier. What we have is a collection from several other lesser apostles; John Mark, Mark the Cousin of Barnabas, and Mark himself, along with a lot of older works that were added in. Enough philosophical debates to keep drawing in others and have them discuss for decades.
“The Book of Luke was written not long after; around 75 AD and is the first to be known to be historical rather than an eye witness account, as the author states he himself did not witness any of the miracles or preaching by me and it isn't until the Acts of the Apostles, also authored by him that he begins reporting actual witnessed events. It is also the first accepted gospel that was written by a Gentile, for Gentiles. Luke was not one of my chosen twelve, he was actually a relative of Paul who joined him when Paul became on of my followers. Unlike a lot of others, he died of old age in 84AD.
“The book of Matthew was pretty much a collections of statements I had made that was compiled at the end of the first century and used the Book of Luke for some of the grounding. Matthew himself preached inside Judea and the surrounding countryside for fifteen years before he left. We,” he motioned to himself, “know where he went, but humans have no record of it beyond his martyrdom. Again, he was long dead when his 'book' was written.”
“Where did he go?”
“Actually he was intending to go to Britain, the furthest outpost of the Empire, intending to work back toward Rome. But he died near modern day Lyon when his caravan was attacked by bandits.
“The Book of John is one of the only ones that can be attributed to the author named, but it was at the end of a long life. He attributed a lot of things to me that never occurred. I never claimed to be either God or the son of god, beyond 'we are all sons of God'. In fact some claim this book was actually written by Lazarus and he used 'John' as a pen name so people wouldn't link it to his own resurrection.
“So, we have the end of the First Century AD, or as they call it now CE. All of the evangelists are safely dead, and there is no one who is a living witness to my life. As you can see a lot of discrepancies have crept in but here is where it gets ugly.
“The church, dealing with the Romans has the problem that A: they are pagans with all of their idols, and B; are authority driven. Unlike the Greeks, who actually had temples in their cities marked 'For the unknown God' so people who visited could go their to pray to their god with not even a generic idol, the Romans expected a God to have an image. Eventually the Roman Christians began wearing the Crucifix.” He looked at her sadly. “A man forever being tortured to death became my symbol. They had undone five millennia of work by us in less than a century. Even the modern day cross worn by so many Christians, including yourself, is almost as bad. Back in the 1960s the Beatles were reviled by a lot of Christians because John Lennon made an offhand comment that to American youth the band seemed more important than god. Now follow that analogy. Lennon was murdered by a man who had bought a copy of one of the last Beatles records; but there was talk that they might get together again. To assure it would not happen Mark David Chapman shot him on the eighth of December 1980. Yet I do not see Beatles fans wearing a revolver around their necks in memorial.
“And Christianity took everything I said, and changed it. It was no longer man as a species who was steward, it was they themselves. They fought war after bloody war, conquest after bloody conquest in my name. Raped less technically savvy people across the planet of their resources be it gold, oil or land, all in my name, and every naysayer was castigated. Suppressed the truth in my name, tormented people for crimes they created in their own minds in my name.” He was furious. “And when they arrive before the throne as is said in Matthew 7, verses 21-23; 'Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you'.”
“Do you know how long I had to put up with murderers with blood still on their hands? Priests who tortured confessions, then used those confessions as proof of guilt? Sent thousands on crusades for what? Land they could freely visit in peace. 'Princes' of the church who dined well during famines, who took vows of celibacy and had their own concubines? That rewrote Joshua so that everyone 'accepted' that Africans were born of Ham, and therefore, rightfully slaves, that even today subverts my words, and what they freely acknowledge as 'God's' word to justify what they do even now!
“People who ignore the punishment listed in chapter 19 of Deuteronomy where it ends 'and a life for a life' as not relevant in a modern world and forces American courts to waste decades before a man can be executed. Who use the phrase 'cruel and unusual punishment' as if any modern form of execution is. When that was written, slow strangulation was still a punishment, breaking on the wheel, drawing and quartering, stoning, all death penalties punishments still in use.
“Compared to 'a short drop and a sudden stop', which is cruel? Making some man live with the idea 'when it's all done, we execute you' would drive me insane in comparison. Men, the ones who do not carry the child telling a woman that no matter how she ended up pregnant, 'god' wants her to have that baby.
“People that determine what I should look like.” His face changed, and she was looking at a man who could have been Osama Bin Ladon's brother. “When I looked like this when I was alive. Is a Born Again Christian or a Baptist going to accept this?
“Your mother suggested a movie to me named 'Oh God' where the father comes to earth, and picks some poor man as his prophet. After being forced to endure an entire test written in Aramaic, and writing down 'god's' responses, the man to told to go to a televangelist and tell him to stop putting words into God's mouth. He does so on nationwide television, which leads to a slander suit in court.
“Desperate, the man calls god as his only witness. As the judge and opposing council lambast him for his hubris, God enters the courtroom, give a small sermon on what he feels man should know, and departs. The judge is stunned when the court recorder has nothing on her machine, the tape recorder back up is blank when God speaks.
“And the first word's out of the televangelists mouth? 'Then there is no proof he was ever here!'.
“But the writing of John in Revelations made it worse. He predicted the end of the world, then that 'There would be a new heavens and new earth'. Up to that point, the peoples of most of Europe still had at least a token reverence both for life and the world about them. Throughout history there was no massive destruction of resources except in time of war. So people could return, resettle and go on with their lives. The prayers of thanks for what you ate before Christianity were aimed at the souls of the animals that had died to provide it, and to the Earth for supplying the vegetable portion.
“Constantly through both parts of the bible, man was labeled not as 'master' of the world, but merely the steward of it; someone who takes care of the property of someone else. But as your race reached the industrial age, it changed. Surface mining, ripping up the land to get the minerals you wanted from it began in the 16th century, and reached horrific proportions in America in the last century. Greed became the most important part of society because even the church, who collected tithes from the companies as well as the workers wanted the monies. But if John was correct, it was no problem.” He waved his hand, “'God' would put it back to normal after Armageddon. Add to that you developed scientifically far faster than even Lucifer had thought possible.”
He set down his coffee cup. “Like Lucifer, I have read a lot of authors through the years, and she directed me to one in particular, Heinlein; Specifically his Expanded universe. In one of his articles, he draws a diagram with four lines.” He drew a graph, then drew in the four lines. The first three were slightly steeper incremental climbs. But the last went up steeply, then suddenly shot almost straight up. “He asks the reader to decide which of the lines shows man's technological development. Almost everyone chooses one of the first three, but he points out that the last, is in fact what technology has done.
“Humans went from horse drawn vehicles to motorized vehicles in less than four thousand years. The went from the first 'cars' capable of less than 60 miles an hour to the common car of today that can easily reach over one hundred miles an hour in less than thirty years, and to a car capable of breaching the sound barrier in only eighty more.
“They went from the first crude drawings of possible aircraft of Da Vinci to the first actual flight of a powered craft in less than five centuries, and went from the fight at Kitty Hawk to supersonic flight in under fifty years, then to multi-sonic flight in less than ten more.
“Everywhere man has used science to work with the basics they learned from the past, the capabilities have grown exponentially. From the microscope of the 1590s to the electron microscope in less than 340 years. From the first crude telescope of Galileo to the Hubble in less than five hundred years. From hand crafted machinery to mass production using parts in less than two hundred, and to the assembly line in just over a century later.
“But more disturbing to us all; from the bow, crossbow and sling to the first guns in just under 5,000 years, from the first guns to the first accurate rifles in five hundred more, to rifles capable of killing a man at over a mile's distance in less than two hundred more. From siege engines like the catapult to the bombard in less than 3,000 years, to modern artillery in less than four hundred to ballistic missiles in less than 200 more.
“Then worse. From gunpowder to the Hiroshima in less than five hundred years. This combined with aircraft capable of carrying 'the bomb' went from prop driven bomber aircraft to jets in less than ten, to making them smaller so other aircraft could carry them less than ten more, and at the same time the yield for these weapons went from 10 kilotons for the Nagasaki bomb to what the US called the 'Tsar Bomba' of October 30th, 1961. Nikita Kruschev had labeled it 'Kuzka's mother', which is literally translated into English as 'we'll show you!' That bomb was designed to be capable of a 100 megaton yield.” He picked up his cup again, leaning back to sip. As it moved from his lips, Fujiko was there again, freshening the cup.
“Within ten years of the advent of gunpowder as a propellant, man stepped beyond what his natural reflexes could do when it came to surviving on a battlefield. All animals, including man have what is best called a 'surrender' reflex. You cannot escape, you can only leave your survival up to the opponent, being an animal or other men. It is that reflex that freezes an animal when it cannot find a way free so that death is more swift. With humans, it is throwing down your arms and hoping you enemy will show mercy.
“Remember the film version of Robinson Crusoe entitled Man Friday in 1975?” She shook her head. “It turns the story on it's head. Friday and his friends have come to an island to gather food. They are attacked by what appears to be a madman. If fear of his life, Friday uses a simple knot to bind his own hands, and the lunatic, who is actually Robinson Crusoe, thinks he is a captive, and frees him. That is the surrender reflex in action.
“But what good does that do when the enemy can kill you from at first yard, then to hundreds of yards away? Or in the case of nuclear weapons half the world away?”
“What does that have to do with heresy?”
“Because anyone who speaks against technological advance is castigated. Like Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park waving off the things the scientists have created with the words, 'But your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.' How many post apocalyptic movies and books over the past century start with man doing something that causes massive repercussions? Nuclear holocausts, biological weapons, in the most recent version of I am Legend altering a microbe to create a cure for cancer that leads to the annihilation of humanity,”
“Like the Stand.”
“Which was more 'Judeo-Christian Armageddon' than actual post apocalyptic. The end is caused because 'god' want to separate mankind into the evil and the good and even there, the line is blurred. The policeman who arrests the 'evangelists' that approach the Las Vegas group is not evil, he is merely one of those who yearns for a return to what is past. Stu Redman who survives of them is not a biblical patriarch, he is like his opposite someone who wants to survive, and unlike his fellows, does not have to preach and die a martyr to do so. Glen Bateman is merely an educated man who recognizes the enemy first, and realizes what is to come for his fellows.”
Jesus leaned forward. “We both above and below have been expecting your race would destroy yourselves for the last forty years, and don't know how you have lasted as long as you have.”
“The future is what we make of it.” Rhee commented.
“You both keep quoting authors and movies to me, that is a quote from a Japanese Amine I like. The administrators of the City of Olympus tell the main character that their primary computer, Gaea has predicted that mankind will destroy himself in 75 years. To that end they had created a virus that would render mankind infertile, and the entire premise of the movie is that only one person, Deunan Knutt, the daughter of the virus' creator can find the one thing they need first. As a stabilizing influence, her mother had also created a less volatile species of man called bioroids, humans in every way except they are not ruled by emotion, and they cannot breed. In fact without a life extension procedure, they will die rapidly. But when she developed the bioroids, she also created a virus codenamed Appleseed which would not only give them reproductive capability, but also a normal human life span.
“But only Deunan knows where Appleseed is hidden, the memory locked away after the trauma of her mother's murder in front of her eyes when only about five or six. They discover it, and with this in hand, the plan to destroy the containment vessel starts off. During the fight to save the race, the ones who had set it in motion try to reason with her, that man had outlived his usefulness. Her reply? 'We have to believe that life is what we make of it!'.” She sipped her own coffee.
“We may kill ourselves off. Our Father knows we've tried often enough. But what she said, I agree with. As long as we are willing to resist those trying to kill us off, We have to believe that life is what we make of it.”
You continue to amaze me, machievelli, and your portrayal of Jesus is brilliant. Instead of sounding like a fundamentalist Christian preacher, all fire and brimstone, he is rational and wise. Not only that; he is compassionate, speaking with Rhee the Antichrist as if she were not to be condemned. Indeed, in the Gospels Jesus only railed against the hypocritical Pharisees and the money-changers at the Temple. He did not condemn the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, or Zacchaeus. He loved them all.
As I mentioned to you in PMs, Jesus did not come here to create a new religion, he came to tweak
Heresy: Or, Remember to keep your words sweet, so that they will taste good if you have to eat them...
The second day of work was a lot like the first. She got so immersed that she ate lunch at the desk again. This time she ordered a fish sandwich of Megaladon cooked on skewers with pineapple from the Philippines, Mango from Indonesia, with a spicy tartar sauce. The girl on the phone snorted. “As if that's hard.” As she considered it, having patrons from both heaven and Hell explained the assortment if the crowd knew what to ask for. Out of curiosity, she had asked. They had used Hell's ability to go into the past, when whalers had torn off the blubber and whale bone, leaving the meat to rot. So they had access to several million tons of meat to garner. Which explained why it Japanese businessmen in New York frequented it constantly.
She was working on a tricky translation from Ukrainian when the phone rang. “Lightson.”
“Daughter, all work and no play makes you more like Dad.”
“Who else calls you daughter?”
“No one.” She admitted. When will you be here?”
“As soon as I'm finished changing.” As she spoke, a hand caught the phone, and hung it up.
“You did that last time.” Rhee said, turning, then she froze in shock. The woman was no one she had seen. Her skin tone was the deep bronze of a beach bunny. She was wearing a purple and red sheath dress that only covered her from her more than full breasts around her back, with attached sleeves that started at her biceps, without a neckline, split down until it ended just above her pubic triangle, then opened again below her knees into a split full length ankle skirt.
In fact, the only thing that stopped her from flashing anyone must have been superglue, because gravity did not have a chance to keep the flesh concealed. Her hair was pure white, falling to her knees in four tails, with the upper portion pulled back through a red and gold metal cornet. In the center of her forehead was a red star of David with red five pointed stars on each cheek, and her eyes were violet.
“Who are you?” The woman laughed, and Rhee recognized her mother's voice. “Mother?” The woman laughed again, holding her sides.
“Gotcha!” The woman spun. “What do you think, daughter? You haven't forgotten what tomorrow is?”
Rhee considered, then looked at her. “Halloween?”
“Exactly!” Dawn replied from that new face. “My favorite holiday in America is Halloween. While the Catholics and Protestants condemned it in Europe until the late 19th Century, Americans celebrated it anyway. And it has grown beyond what anyone could have imagined. So at my house on Long Island I carry it to the extreme. If you will allow this face today? For tomorrow it will be handing out candy.”
“Sure, Mother. But can you tell me what face it is?”
“Oh silly me!” Dawn's voice caroled. “There is a Japanese Anime entitled Ah My Goddess, and in their second season, they introduced their version of me, the 'Ruler of Demon Kind'. Better known as Hild.” She spun. “It's better than Little Nicky with Heaven and Hell mixers, though Hild is mother to a half goddess in the series. But for a day, I will be this woman at my residence.” She spun again. “Shall we go on?”
“Feeling better because Jesu took it on the chin for you?” Rhee asked.
The figure froze, then turned. “When I took over, the level was filled with those condemned by the church for nothing more than speaking their minds. When the church ordered the Albigensian crusade, they weren't fighting Arabs, or Jews.
“They were fighting their own people because they wanted a choice. To decide for themselves what was important in the bible. If it had been a mere peasant revolt falling into apostasy, it might have been what the Church claimed. But it was the nobles, the men of the church themselves, and the peasants combined. The men placed over them by God were telling them that the church was wrong. That the church was picking and choosing what the bible said, and the only way to fully understand the bible was by reading it cover to cover, debating on what it meant. They all wanted to understand God's plan, not what the church said God planned.
“So the church ordered them all slain, and I was supposed to be punishing them!” She looked at her daughter. “The church wanted blind obedience. Whatever god had given you, including free will, it didn't matter! Like Father himself, they wanted only willing obedience, but skewed by what they 'thought' god meant, Which boiled down to 'do what we tell you'.”
Dawn motioned, and they walked toward the elevator. “When I finally took over full time down there, I changed it. Heresy is speaking and acting in violation of God's will, but as Michael told you, it has historically been used as a political weapon more often than not. So we turned it around.
“Here, heresy is defined by the speaker changing the rules to prove their contention.” The elevator opened, and they entered it. Dawn pressed B2. “Because of that, most of the ones consigned there are politicians, leading scientists through the ages, and only a few clergy.” The door closed.
“A perfect example is the last term of President Clinton. The Reno Justice department filed a class action suit against American gun manufacturers, claiming that they were at fault for every gun death or injury. If the weapons had not been manufactured and sold, they claimed; criminals would not get their hands on them to commit crimes. The people who committed those acts, whether accidental or intentional, were ignored.” She waved her hand, and a stool appeared. Then she waved again, and a Colt .45 appeared in her hand. She jerked back the slide, then set it on the stool. “I defy anyone to make the gun fire without picking it up.
“But their contention was heard in court, and failed. It would be like filing a similar lawsuit against the automobile manufacturers world wide stating that all of the deaths and injuries caused on the highways was due to the availability of vehicles, and the root cause, drinking or unsafe driving habits are incidental to it. But as many a lawyer has told me, no matter how stupid your premise, you can find a lawyer who will file your suit, he will find a judge willing to hear it, and you can find a jury willing to accept it as truth.
“When that suit failed, they then turned to statistical analysis. The problem with it, is by choosing your data, you can prove anything. There's an old logic puzzle that sums it up. No cat has eight tails, fact?” Rhee nodded. “Leaving out the Manx breed, all cats, have at least one more tail than no cat, fact?” Again Rhee nodded. “Therefore all cats have nine tails.”
“But that's not true!”
“Of course not. But I have just proven it using logic, have I not?” Rhee considered, then nodded slowly. “What the Reno Justice Department did was release a study that stated flatly that over two thousand children were killed every year in hand gun related incidents. A shocking figure if taken at face value. But first, they drew the line higher than most would accept when they defined 'children'. They drew it at age 20, because you cannot legally drink until you are twenty-one, which is what a lot of Americans consider the difference between being a child and an adult. So four years of your life where you are legally considered an adult, at least in a criminal sense, were lumped into it.
“Second, they ignored the circumstances. They took accidents, crimes where you are caught in it by circumstance; such as drive by shootings, crimes committed by these 'children' where they ran afoul of the police and were shot by the police, and gang killings where street gangs chose their youngest member to pull the trigger, usually on another 'child'. If I said 'people between toddler and 20 killed by guns from all causes, it would be the truth, but is not as hard hitting.”
The doors opened, and they stepped out. Like Anger, this had millions of people, but they were strapped to chairs, heads jammed back so that they were staring at the ceiling. There were tanks filled with boiling liquid suspended above them. Some small, maybe the size of a fifty-five gallon drum, but one man had a tank the size of an ultra-large crude carrier, what is called a supertanker, suspended above him. From each tank a hose ran down until it was just above their mouths, and their mouths were jammed open so they would not close.
As she watched, the liquid, a nasty yellow poured down, filling their mouths. As they screamed, their mouths were jammed closed, and they writhed until they finally swallowed. Then the process was repeated. A man in 15th century garb was standing by the man with that huge tank above him, patting him on the shoulder as his mouth was jammed open yet again. “It is your own fault, Senor Goebbels.” He looked up, then walked toward them. “Dawn I assume.” He looked at the costume she wore. “In my day you would be declared a harlot wearing that.” He then looked at Rhee. “And they would declare you an abomination for wearing men's clothes.”
“Different times, Miguel.” Dawn laughed. “Rhee, meet Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Miguelito, my daughter Rhee, the Anti-Christ.” They shook hands, “Who is with you today on this shift?”
“Benito Juarez.” He replied.
“Why him?” Rhee asked.
“Both he and Benito were accused of Heresy because of something else they shared. They were both tax collectors who looked at the Catholic church, and thought of all the tax revenue they could collect if they were taxed like any other large organization. Miguel actually faced the Inquisition in 1597 because of his statements regarding that thought; though it was later claimed that it was due to discrepancies in his records. He also wrote The Labors of Persiles and Sigismunda which was an historic-philosophical condemnation of the counter-reformist Catholic Church. That time he wrote using a code so that the church had no proof he was actually satirizing them.” Dawn smiled. “Explain it to her, Miguel.”
“As she has probably already told you, here we punish those who rewrote the facts to support their ideas, and then used that to foster other falsehoods. Benjamin Spock for example, who suggested limiting corporal punishment because of 'possible' psychic trauma. That led to hundreds saying that any corporal punishment caused it. All ignored the Bible where in Proverbs 13:24 it says 'a man hates his son that spares him punishment for misdeeds. Rather you should chastise him at need' as you would say today, 'Spare the rod and spoil the child'. Those who more recently define any form of corporal punishment as abuse; that claim any form of discipline is abuse, they are or will be here.
“Did you know the definition of 'child abuse' has changed drastically in the last century? In the past it was unnecessary or excessive punishment. Society judged that if a child was unable to assist in the necessary work of the family or village, the parent who inflicted the beating would himself be beaten. But that was directed by a court of law, not the opinion of the person watching as it is today.
“And modern children know this. If they were bad and are punished, they can call the police, and accuse the parent of abuse, and the police will act on it as truth! The courts even assume the parent guilty, all on the word of someone who is a child!
“Along with them we have the person who created the concept of 'juvenile delinquency'. Even I, who died five centuries ago, understands the term is an oxymoron. By definition, juvenile means immature, not old enough to accept adult responsibility, but delinquent implies that you are not living up to your responsibility. How can you be both? But in your country you have an entire layer of laws and courts that deal with this every day, and have since the 1950s! Why else do you think what you call gang bangers hand a weapon to their youngest members? Because nine times out of ten, they are tried as a juvenile, and get juvenile hall rather than a real prison or execution, and when they turn 21, this hardened murderer has his record sealed, and is released as if nothing happened.
“Every scientist that skewed data to defeat what they called the Star Wars defense plan, that did so to defend Nuclear Winter, even those who take every person killed due to your Gulf wars and lay them all on the doorstep of your own nation. Or the Legislature of Mississippi back in the early 19th century that voted to declare the value of Pi was really 3. But there are more and even more insidious ones.”
He walked down past a man with a tank only the size of a 5000 gallon tank like you would see on a tanker truck. “The ones back in the 30s came up with the slogan of making the rich pay their 'fair share'. That in the 80s told the people of California that 50% of all proceeds from the scratchers and lottery would go to the schools, but only did so verbally. When it had been passed then they turned around and said, '50%, no, we said 15%'. Those that have said for the last 40 years that not voting for the two main parties is 'wasting your vote'.
“Your government lied about what the law said about the rights of your own states. Your Federal Government for example lied when they said the South did not have the right to secede. There was no bar to leaving the Union in either the Articles of Confederation, or the later document called the Constitution, and only force of arms gave them that right. But they could not let the south, with it's resources desperately needed by the North go their own way.
“The judges that ignored crimes while punishing others.” Cervantes turned to face her. “Your nation extolls the virtues of the Nurnberg War Crimes trials, but did you know that in the last 160 years, there has been exactly one set of trials that was not only legitimate, but also completely legal? That was in 1919 when a German general and his Chief of Staff were tried and convicted or ordering the execution of French prisoners.”
Cervantes held up his hand. “Henry Wurtz, commander of the Andersonville POW camp during your war between the states. Conditions were bad, true, but he did not create them, he has handed them by lack of supply and brutality within the compound. He begged the North to resume paroles of prisoners just trying to cut down on the overcrowding in his own camp! Every 'crime' he was later accused of came from the perjured testimony of one man who was not even in the camp! Over two hundred witnesses in his defense, most of whom had been in the camp were not allowed to testify.”
He snarled. “Your nation has always loved conspiracy theories; Wurtz was a recent Swiss immigrant, unlike the 'gentlemen' who commanded other camps on both sides of the war that were as bad if not worse. He was chosen so that after convicting them, the Union could then try to get him to swear that the Confederate government had told him to be brutal. He refused to countenance that lie.
“The Boer war? General Lord Kitchener gave verbal orders to shoot captured Boer commandos. When there was an outcry, he had four Austrailian officers tried, convicted of war crimes, and two were executed. Yet he violated British Military trial law by refusing to attend when subpoenaed because he would have had to admit his own complicity. He then failed to have the sentences reviewed in London. The two executed were entered into the British Army's Red Book; where such sentences are sustained before execution, but in their case, only after they had been shot.
“Nurnberg? Your own Supreme Court Justice, Robert H. Jackson, who acted as American Chief Prosecutor said in his opening arguments that a trial like it had never happened before. Legally that makes it ex post facto; you cannot legally try someone for something that was not a crime before, or hold a trial using new rules, which they did. Before that such crimes were punished by the country that had committed them, not someone else. They denied the accused so many rights under your own laws that if it had been held in your own country, the trials would have been appealed immediately if they had even been able to find a judge willing to hear it. The right to know you are being charged, against self incrimination, of council before questioning, all denied.
“You know they always say 'I was only obeying orders' was the most common phrase used in that trial, but it was not. The most common was when a defendant would point at similar crimes committed by the Allies, and the Judges would reply, 'we are not on trial, you are'. If you want a conspiracy, look at America, which is not even part of the war yet discussing with England how to handle the war crimes trials to follow. As much as your nation values Justice, they give very little of it to others.
“That ignore the intent of the 2nd Amendment of your Constitution by claiming the word militia meant they were referring to what you would now call the National Guard.” He laughed. “Madison, the one who framed and pushed for the amendment had some really harsh words for those politicians as did even those in opposition to it's inclusion during their debates. Anyone who has read the Federalist Papers, which were articles and essays by the men who wrote your constitution knows otherwise.” He saw her blank expression, and took pity on her.
“When your Constitution was written, the men who did so had several centuries of examples of where a government; be it ordered by the Church, or ordered by men, oppressed their own people. They argued constantly for your people to be armed; having a standing army was incidental, because for the government to use that army against their own people, they must first remove the right to defend themselves. Back then, you had a trained officer's corps composed of officers that had fought in your revolution, and those to come from the soon to be created West Point Academy. The common soldiers, however, came from the citizens. Your historic 'Minutemen' came from the people themselves. It was pointed out that at the time, the Federal Government could raise and equip only 20,000 men, who would face half a million if the Federal government tried to force the people to accept bad government policies. The odds mentioned are still as true today. If your people actually decided to fight the government, even with the disparity in armaments, the government would lose.
“Until 1903, every military unit not part of the Regular Army raised to fight were done on the state and local level, even funded at that level, with only a pittance being paid by the Federal government. It led to large, but sometimes cumbersome forces due to the lack of uniform training down to the level of the states. But the Militia Act of 1903 had the Federal Government taking control of it. Since then, your army is composed of the Regular army, the army reserves, and the National Guard. But unlike before, to be a member of the National Guard, you had to swear the same oath every Army officer did, removing you as an instrument of state policy, and making you a part of the Federal service.
“So it was that on June 11, 1963 when Governor George Wallace of Alabama called out the National Guard to stop the Desegregation of the University of Alabama, all it needed to force him to withdraw was an order 'federalizing' the National Guard, and ordering them to withdraw so that a Federal Court order could be delivered to Wallace, ordering him to stand aside.
“It is that same argument used on the personal level today. If you want to carry a gun, join the military. They are constantly whittling away at personal rights by trying to force your average gun owner to take classes to prove they can handle a gun safely, to force common people to undergo the same kind of review that a police officer, a person trained in the limited use of force, must undergo.
“Worse yet, if a criminal you have captured or shot is not dead, he can sue for the injury and psychological trauma. Not to mention they look at the person shooting, and decide by their sex how much force is excessive. If a man fires more than two rounds, it is excessive. If a woman empties the gun into him, it is not.”
“What's in the tanks?” Rhee waved overhead.
“Boiling Alphabet Chicken soup actually.” Cervantes looked up. “Better than the boiling lead we used to use. Every time someone parrots a slogan based on lies, that much liquid, about a bowlful, is added. Our friend Goebbels over there, author of what is called the Big Lie, is being punished for every lie he broadcast to the world during WWII, and for everyone who used his words to keep their people fighting a losing war. Some of those lies still used today by apologists and hate mongers.
“We have the clergy that ordered the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the ones who rewrote portions of the bible to allow slavery, or destruction of artifacts of other cultures to 'save' their people from apostasy. The list goes on.” He looked at a modern watch. “Shift change. It has been nice to meet you, Rhee.” The elevator opened, and two other men came off it, taking the clipboards and lab coats from the departing shift.
“James Scopes from the Scopes' 'Monkey' Trial. And Galileo.” Dawn identified. “The start of the shift is busy. Let's go on.”
Violence: Or, you reap what you sow...
The elevator door closed. Dawn pressed the button. “Only two levels today, my dear. I have to get ready for the party tomorrow, so we will start up again Thursday.”
Of course. Like I said, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and a lot of people who work for me, both up on Earth and down below come out for the party I throw that morning.”
“Why in the morning?”
Dawn laughed. “Because we run a haunted house for the young. I've been voted best for the last 20 years because I have real demons, vampires and werewolves, ghosts. Etc running around in it.”
“Real vampires and werewolves?”
“Every actor or actress that has been a vampire or werewolf who is below is invited as their characters. Since there are almost fifty renditions of Dracula alone, there are a lot of them. I also invite everyone who ever wrote stories about the creatures. So you can watch the vampires pretending to dine on people ahead of you, then ask Bram Stoker what was his inspiration for Dracula was, or Sheridan Le Fanu's for Carmilla, a lesbian vampire.
“Once darkness falls, it is all for the kids, though the haunted house is still open for all who wish to visit it. The vampires then are kind to them, and we even have dire wolves and wolves that let them pet them all day. From the first we have had black panthers for the movie Cat People with people who turn into them. It has always been a lot of fun for every child aged six to sixty.”
“The next level is violence. How has it been changed?”
“Compared to those above, not a lot. The outer ring is still where those violent against people and property go, but we punish the incompetent military leaders and politicians who caused the slaughter of civilians. They are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire, to a level commensurate with their sins. For people like Joseph Stalin, that means up to their hairline.
“The middle ring is supposed to be suicides who are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees and then fed upon by Harpies, or profligates who destroyed their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained and are perpetually chased and mauled by ferocious dogs. But we've made it those who caused such suicides from their actions. After all suicide is condemned because according to the bible, God will not test you further than you can stand; yet as you can see from life, it is man inflicting the torment, not Dad. As for the wasteful, they get what they deserve.
“The inner ring is where blasphemers, sodomites and usurers are trapped in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky. But unless their blasphemy led followers to hurt others, we have ignored them. As for sodomites,” Dawn gave a raspberry. “If someone removed themselves from the gene pool, whether male or female, I didn't see punishing them. As comedians have said, every gay means one more for the straight men and women. As for usurers, they get what they deserve, especially if such acts hurt another including a suicide. As it is, I do not think they are punished enough.”
The door opened on a scene literally from hell. There was a moat running to either side, with water that burned like over polluted rivers. Men submerged in it screamed in agony. Beyond it over a bridge was a plain filled with thorn bushes, with the belling of hounds, and the screams of the tormented. Beyond that with another bridge was a desert with flecks of flame as if just hit by a phosphorus artillery barrage.
Dawn walked halfway across the bridge to the Minotaur who stood guard. “Below us is every man who led troops to needless deaths. Alexander Haig of World War one fame, who expected his troops to march ahead dressing their ranks as if it were the Napoleonic wars. Generals on both sides of the American Civil War who knew there were ways to save their men's lives, but used ancient tactics instead of trying the new. Darius and Xerxes who allowed thousands of their men to be slaughtered trying to conquer Greece. Name the incompetent, and he is there. Every politician who has ever administered the deaths of civilians for whatever reason, from Subotai and Tamerlane to Albert Speer who used the death camps to build German industry during the Second World War, to Pol Pot.”
They walked down the bridge to the second ring, where the dogs sought their prey, and the bushes and trees screamed as they were torn apart by those struggles. Then across the last bridge where mobsters from American history writhed in torment along with every dishonest banker or lender through ten centuries being tormented. Dawn pointed a few by name, but Rhee was caught up in the agony they suffered.
“Couldn't you have come up with differences here?”
“Of course we could. However the ones who are in this and lower hells are the real dregs of society. The ones who have caused suffering merely because they wanted to, or thought they had the right. There are changes below, but this we left alone.” Dawn motioned, and they went back to the elevator.
Once back in the office, Dawn motioned. “As I said, tomorrow the employees have off with pay. You may rest if you want...”
Dawn turned, and Rhee could see a yearning in her eyes. “You can, if you wish, come to the party.”
Rhee sighed. “I have barely accepted that you are my mother, and Halloween has never been celebrated in my adoptive home-”
“I understand.” Dawn replied, though Rhee could tell she was hurt by her refusal. “Then I will see you Thursday afternoon.” She gave a finger wave, then vanished.
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