He had stared his own mortality in the face and had to acknowledge that something otherworldly -- yes, supernatural, something directly from God almighty -- had been thrust upon those dusty hills in the form of a fire in the sky.
That's when it all fell apart. That day when the bombs failed to fall. Surely it was the Hand of God that reached out to spare the Holy Land. Nothing had been right since then, but something so big, so enormous wasn't something that Buck was ready to accept at the time. None of the world was really. Buck had sidled up to the realization of God, catching glimpses out of the corner of his eye -- waking up from terrible dreams of fire falling on dusty hills, feeling his breath falter when he heard an unfamiliar noise, looking up into the sky more than he had before that terrible day.
Sometimes, when forced to endure the quiet of his apartment, he would find himself trying to explain it all away. Every time, his explanations range hollow -- false words from a false man who just wanted things to stay the same. Each time, it too a little more convincing to deny the miracle.
When the faithful vanished, Buck sought refuge in the same flimsy excuses and rationalizations. A strange electro-magnetic event. Sunspots. Aliens seeking conquest. Each time he sought answers, his mind circled back to that day -- the day he stood in the presence of God.
For days now, he had avoided even thinking about it. He was too busy, he told himself. He was going to get the big story, find out the truth. No matter that he knew his career was all built on bluff and misdirection. This time, this time, he'd get it right. Hell, maybe he'd even get the girl for once. So he asked for the interview with Raymond. He'd make this story personal -- an interview with the pilot of his plane when the Event happened. Surely he could write that.
Then Raymond had spent the entire interview talking about his theories of God and the Rapture. At first, Buck has been irritated. What Steele had said wasn't going to make good copy. Readers didn't want to read about yet another theory, and Buck didn't really want to write about it anyway.
As Raymond was drawing to a close, the universe shifted. Buck's soul was torn open and left quivering in a unrelenting spotlight of harsh truth. It wasn't Raymond speaking anymore, but God. God, through some unfathomable mystery, had put Buck on that flight. For some explicable reason, Buck -- horrible sinner that he was -- mattered. In that instant of horrific clarity, Buck saw himself. All his faults were laid bare; his self-denial, his disloyalties, his jealous fantasies - all burned themselves into his awareness as Raymond, poor clumsy Raymond, spoke with God's voice of salvation.
Buck managed to pull himself together long enough to whisper his thanks to Raymond -- though he realized even then that his was truly thanking God -- before fleeing to his apartment.
He'd planned to get drunk.
Instead, he found himself remembering that day in Israel when the bombs failed to fall. Buck fell to his knees, unheeded tears streaming down his face as he confronted the truth. This was God's plan. God was bringing mankind to account at long last for all the horrors that he had done, and He had graciously taken His children out of the fray. Not only had the Lord spared those who had seen the truth, He had also done so in the most astonishing way possible. Even now, Jesus was reaching out a hand to those who had forsaken Him. In agony, Buck looked upon his soul and recoiled from what he saw. "Please," he whispered to God as he curled in upon himself, "Please forgive me."
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