I walked between the two columns of pews towards the altar, gingerly stepping over the bodies of those parishioners that had been thrown into the aisles from the force of the bullets ripping through their bowed heads during mass twenty minutes before. It had only been seconds since I had received the vision that paged me to this church and less than a second for the burly cherubs to whisk me half way around the globe. Eighty-two, eighty-three, I counted silently to myself as I held my beige duster tight against my body to avoid tarnishing the alcohol, puke and back alley road kill that had stained it from the previous night with blood; looking like a derelict didn’t draw too much attention, looking like a used tampon floating in a toilet bowl was a different matter. As I drew closer to the front left pew where the sandy closely cropped haired man sat I had counted ninety-six bodies; twenty three men, nineteen children and fifty four women – a good men to women ratio if I had been looking to get laid…the night before, that is. According to the vision the choir had just begun their second hymn, trying desperately to be heard over the un-tuned pipe organ when the man had burst in from the back and began firing from his silenced automatic rifles into the churchgoers, moving briskly to the front without taking his eyes from the linen draped altar. The man had issued no warning and had showed no mercy; if the first spray of bullets did not mortally wound someone, he concentrated his fire upon that person until there wasn’t enough of that person to make a decent hamburger with. I wondered what set him off this time.
A quick survey of the man revealed nothing; there weren’t the hunched shoulders of rage, there weren’t the sagged shoulders of pain – he looked peaceful sitting relaxed on the pew with two Austrian automatic AUG rifles laying flat beside him closest to the aisle where I stood. He didn’t look like he had planned to go commando, dressed in a white tee shirt and matching shorts, shoes and socks over his slim but athletic frame; he looked more up for a rousing game of tennis.
He watched me as I did a small hop over the preacher’s corpse, pushed the body of a woman over a bit and sat down opposite of the AUGs. I stretched out my legs, crossing them at the ankles, being dismayed that I had unknowingly had picked up a stray intestine on the tip of my black Alligator cowboy boots – and to think some people were embarrassed about a couple of sheets of toilet paper stuck to their heels. I rubbed it off onto the panty-hosed leg of the dead woman beside me as I flicked the front brim of my grey fedora, pushing it up slightly from my forehead. I then proceeded to do…nothing but sit there and look as if I was expecting the Sunday sermon to begin shortly, ignoring the man beside me. It seemed like minutes before the man broke the ice.
“Jared Club, I presume,” he said as he inspected the communion serving tray he had sitting in his lap. I told him that was who I was. “So I rate God’s human bounty hunter – He must be pissed.”
“Firstly, it’s the gods – no apostrophe –bounty hunter,” I corrected the man, “And no, Melvin wasn’t the one who dispatched me; he’s busy playing chess in some recess.” It didn’t seem right to further disappoint the man by telling him that I wouldn’t have been summoned if it hadn’t been a new trainee on dispatch and the supervisor had seen this as a learning opportunity when a real crisis happened.
There was no reaction to evoking the name of his creator on such a personal level; I didn’t expect one since the man was quite aware of the true nature of the cosmos and its relation to Melvin. Ever wonder why the Old Testament as written to make “God” seem like such a hard ass? Think about it this way: You hang around for eons on the cosmic playground with guys with names like “Odin”, “Zeus” and “Ra”, and there you are – Melvin – it’s gotta give a guy an inferiority complex. Damn right you’re going to be a touch anal when you get your own set of believers. Hell, Melvin went as far as to change his name to “YHWH” to pace himself from the remembered heckles of his playmates and give him that oh so desired “gansta” image that he had not had opportunity to express before.
“I pictured you much taller and not so…amply filled around the waistline,” the man told me.
“I take it no one’s ever told you it’s not the length but the girth that matters,” I shot back.
Silence fell once more.
“Wafer?” The man asked as he held the tray that had been sitting on his lap up.
I took a wafer from the alabaster linen covered serving tray that the man held out. I timidly took a nibble out of it – dry yet devoid of any flavour.
I took the gold chalice from his other hand, taking a long drink – fucking fruit juice! My scowl drew a wry smile from beside me.
“They couldn’t even remain true to the symbolism of the sacraments,” the man said. “Yet another example of why the world has gone to Hell in a hand basket – which I should be holding.” I didn’t respond, just forced myself to take another drink from the chalice.
His lips straightened. “You can’t kill me.”
He wasn’t pleading for his life; he was making a statement of fact. I took another nibble of the wafer to sabotage the lingering flavour of watered down cherry powder.
“I know,” I answered. It wasn’t a moral objection that prevented me from killing him; I had killed before and I saw no particular reason why I would not do so in the future. In this specific case, however, I could put the man through a meat grinder, burn the bones and flesh and scatter the ashes to the four winds only three weeks later he’d be back, looking a little worse for wear but only until he had fully regenerated. The newly re-assembled man wouldn’t remember at first, but slowly the pieces of his soul would fuse with his synaptic nerves over a century or two – placing the man right back at square one of when he was slain in the first place.
The man was Adam; the first man, well, the first European man; others had been created before him but in terms of global creationism standards (aka which religion had the highest body count of those who opposed their views), he was THE MAN. YHWH had created him from the ground of Eden, and though Adam had been ousted from YHWH’s little corner in the sandbox, YHWH could not rescind the properties of the base materials used in Adam’s construction. Just like hope, whatever was created in Eden also springs eternal. In celestial terms, Adam wasn’t much of an issue; he was immortal but other than his perchance to breed daemons, he was restricted to the same rules as other mortals – he had to eat, drink, shit, piss and sleep. He could get colds, STD’s, get depressed, angry, happy, the whole gamut. His strength, agility, mental capacities were that of the average person, dependent on what he did to maintain it. His edge, if you could call it that, was that he had the knowledge of the never-begin and millennium after millennium of experience he could call upon – once he had become fully whole again. Adam had a bit of a temper which had led to his ‘death’ on more than a couple of occasions.
Adam was the quintessential spoilt brat; all his life he had been handed everything on a platter – until that fateful day that he gave into temptation and daddy kicked him out on his ass. Nothing is crueler than children who come from good homes – know why? Children who have been given everything they have ever wanted have an artificial image of entitlement when they grow up. In Adam’s case, thanks to downing the fruit of knowledge, he was fully aware of not only the cosmos but the relationship YHWH had with a certain angel who had dared to stand up the celestial being. Being kicked out of Eden’s lap of luxury was bad enough, but to be placed on Earth where he was just the first of what would become many?
Over the millennia Adam stewed over his ‘crime’ in comparison to Lucifer’s ‘crime’ and had come to the conclusion that “God” had made the wrong choice; it was Adam who should be the Ruler of Hell. Lucifer’s goal to re-enter the Kingdom of Heaven; Adam had no desire to go to Heaven where there was a decidedly lack of free will. Lucifer could not understand the true depth of evil that lies within a human mind; Adam was the living embodiment of what some would consider the bottom of human failure. Adam had made several direct attempts to usurp Lucifer from the throne, all of which had failed, but like a real trooper, he never gave up on his goal as a lost cause. I assumed that this was another attempt to get Melvin’s attention though I could not figure out how this slaughter would attain it.
I handed back the chalice.
“By now there’s probably a special tactics unit setting up a parameter around the church,” I mentioned offhandedly as I finished off the wafer, waving away the offer of another.
Adam munched on another wafer, ignoring my question but nodded towards the stained glass portrait of a crucified Christ that adorned the back wall of the altar platform.
“What’s the fascination you mortals have with him, anyways? He asked without taking his eyes from the multicolored pieces of glass. “It’s not like he did anything that spectacular, really. Religion is full of men who are far more noteworthy….”
“…Such as yourself…”
“That is a given,” Adam snapped tersely, his eyes turning dark and his cheeks went flush. He was silent for a moment but then quickly recovered his composure and continued.
“Moses…Enoch…Muhammad…their stories remained essentially untouched through the centuries. His –“Adam paused again. “His started in mysticism and then was altered to where the mysticism became miraculous; bastardized, for lack of a far better politically correct view of things.” Adam looked at me. “He was like that in life, you know, sort of altering things in order to make them digestible for the masses. Christianity is nothing more than Judaism with Hinduism and Buddhism thrown into a mortar and crushed to the point where nothing identifiable exists.”
“Sorta like half the folks in here,” I observed as I looked at the red carpet in front of us attempting to discern whether it was the piece of the blue eyeball or the brown eyeball that belonged to the woman who’s partially erased face I had slumped over into the lap of the person who had been either a man or a very butch woman in trousers.
“So what’s your plan here, anyways?” I asked.
“The way I look at it, I just killed all these people, right? They’re going to arrest me and put me in jail for a very very long time. Yes, a very long time.” Adam’s eyes glistened as he related his idea, though the glint faded when I told him that I didn’t get.
“A very long time,” he said exasperated, “get it? I don’t age. A loooonnnnngg time…in a prison cell…not growing old….eventually someone’s going to call me some sort of wronged messenger of God – I mean I took out a church full of people who were munching on “Triscuits” and fruit juice for sacrament, for fucks sake. There will be someone who will put the non-aging me and the bastardized sacrament thingie as sort of an avenging angel thing, right? That should get His attention.”
I thought about what Adam had said.
“Or,” offering the man my opinion, “The government will put you in a hole so deep that you’ll never see the light of day where they will continually run experiments on you, killing you, letting you resurrect, then killing you again in hopes of finding the genetic code that will give the civil service unions eternal life.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Adam admitted.
He sighed. Something else occurred to me.
“Besides, have you seen how people remember horrendous random acts of violence? ‘Remember Columbine’ or ‘there’s the danger of another 911’ – the horror of the event is where the focus lays, not particularly the people who committed the event, perhaps as an interesting factoid by some geeky commentator will mention the perpetrators by name, but really, it is the event, not the people. Why? It’s sort of an act of impersonalism – it could have happened anywhere, anytime to anyone. Tomorrow the papers and the news services will scream your name but soon enough it will be summed up as maybe something like the ‘St. Catherine’s Massacre’, not Adam what-ever-you-are-using-as-your-last-name went on a rampage,” I further explained.
Adam didn’t look angry, he looked dejected. His shoulders had lost their squareness, drooping to mere windblown dunes. He hung his head low, overshadowing the front of his neck – I guess he had lost the urge to stick it out. His chin rested between his hands as his elbows stabbed into his legs hard enough to create a faint red circumference around them. Melvin help me, I felt sorry for the guy.
“Well, fuck, now what?” he asked.
Now what indeed. Outside I could hear the shouts of commands, a megaphone being used to attempt to get the attention of the person inside the church, assuring them that nothing would happen if they came out with their hands in the air. It wouldn’t belong until tear gas was thrown through that pretty picture of Christ, I reckoned.
“I think you did this all ass-backwards,” I said.
Adam’s eyes, moved to look at me though he made no attempt to turn his head.
“Well, if I were to be in a situation like this, it would have been my flock,” I told him. He asked me to go on.
“Think about it, when you think of psychopaths, who do you think of – serial killers. There’s a graph of evil that’s used to assign just how psychopathic these killers are. Which serial killers often are assigned the highest grades? Ones with followers, that’s who. Jim Jones, David Koresh…”
“You think Koresh was psychopathic?” Adam interjected, “I thought he was just greatly misunderstood who just happened to be unlucky enough to have a power hungry ninny calling the shots.”
“he was powerful enough to keep those people faithful to him,” I explained, “When after a few days the average person would have looked out at the firepower sitting on their doorstep and said, ‘fuck this, I’m outta here’. Koresh managed to convince those people to believe in him enough to be murdered. Psychopath or sociopath, Koresh, was brilliant at it.” Adam lifted his head from his hands, listening intently.
“What I would have done,” I said continuing, gaining a sort of excitement which probably was mentally unhealthy. “I would have gathered a group of people and over a decade or two convinced them of my connection with ‘God’.”
“So start my own congregation,” Adam muttered. “Then what?”
“Then one day I would lead them into the center of town, rant and rave about the value of sinners being taught a lesson and then executed every single last one,” I finished with a smile.
“What’s the point?” Adam insisted, “So you trick a bunch of people to believe in you then betray them – it’s been done before.”
“And it’s the person first who is remembered.”
Adam fell back into his hands once more, this time though there was alertness to his eyes.
Adam suddenly stood up.
“Thank you Club, you’ve been extremely helpful,” he said as he stuck out his hand, “And might I add that you don’t smell half as bad as I had been led to believe.” I thanked him as I shook his hand, wishing him luck on his new endeavor. Adam picked up his two AUGs and skipped over the bodies of the congregation as he made his way to the front of the church.
Adam put his hands on the church doors. He turned his head and gave me a wink.
“You’re a good fuck, Club. I’ll keep you in mind when I get what I deserve,” he promised.
“Yeah, do that,” I replied.
Adam threw the doors wide open, quickly swinging his arms back, grabbing the two AUGs by their stocks and brought them to bear on the barricade of police vehicles encircling the front of the church.
“The power of Christ compels me! The power of Christ compels me!” He screamed then began spraying the vehicular barrier with his ammunition.
The response was almost instantaneous; small chunks of Adam’s flesh and bone flew into the aisle and the back three pews. His body fell back, his fingers still firmly pressing down upon the twin AUG’s triggers ripping holes into the plaster roof.
I chanted the incantation that would teleport me from the church back to the dumpster that I had been sleeping beside an hour before with a smile on my face; I had completed the job that had been asked. My instructions were simple – stop Adam from continuing on his murder spree now; the instructions hadn’t said stop Adam from killing. It would take a few years for his body to return to pristine shape, perhaps fifty years to a century for his memory to return and for his plan to begin. What did I care? I’d be long dead by then, it wouldn’t be my problem. It’s a shitty thing to do to the future of humanity, if I thought about it beforehand, planting that seed into Adam that I had no intention of ever being to taste its bitter fruit. Then again, when I see how Adam turned out after he tasted the fruit, I can’t be to broken up about it….