Any regular person might have walked out of the theater still laughing at their favorite line, or contemplating the over all theme of the movie. Not Bruce Barnes, he left contemplating if you really could find a divine loop hole, a way to pull one over on God and Satan at the same time. Also rather unfortunate for Bruce Barnes was that he spent four years at Bible College, which filled his mind with various conflicting passages from the Bible. Within this morass of contradiction Bruce found the loop hole he was looking for.
Finding the solution didn't come right away, Bruce spent several weekends pouring over Premillenial Dispensation Literature, (maybe Bruce's problem wasn't that he went to the movies too often, but not often enough), and found God's blind spot. The plan was simple, through an archaic "point" system, Bruce Barnes assigned a value to both sins and the atonement of those sins. He reasoned that if at the end of the week if his total number of points equaled zero, and he kept his score at zero until the Rapture occurred, he wouldn't be raptured into heaven, but neither would he doomed to hell during the Tribulation. In effect, he could just stay on earth for those seven years, indulge in worldly pleasures, then go straight to heaven at the end, no harm, no foul.
Then, finally he would be able to have some peace. For once in his life people would stop pestering him, and he would be able to watch his movies. Bruce liked movies, and he wanted to be an accountant, he was good at math, he had to be to come up with the point system.
"You can't be an accountant Bruce, all those intellectuals with their proud ways will be left behind in the Rapture. You're going to Bible College like I always wanted to, but never got the chance," the argument with his father would go for the first month after Bruce graduated from High School, "My dad wasn't like me, he never took an interest in anything I did, you should be grateful."
Bruce would have been grateful if his father was more like his grandfather, the fact was Bruce's father took too much interest in what he did. His dad was forever trying to make Bruce into what he could have been. He watched over Bruce unceasingly, or when he was at work, his mother took over the watch, they never stopped molding him into a pastor.
"Seriously what kind of freak dreams of becoming a pastor, and how much worse is it to pass that dream on to your son," Bruce would mutter to himself while doing his weekly book keeping. At first it was hard to get used to sinning, Bruce's chosen poison was pornography; he reasoned it was the same as his weekly trips to the movies, except at a different theater. He was a bit squeamish at first, and never got fully comfortable with the whole ordeal, which worked out for Bruce, because if he was going to avoid hell he couldn't actually enjoy watching it. He did get used to it is a certain sense, after all the women were far better looking than his wife.
Bruce always did regret getting married, his wife was just a replacement pair of eyes for his mother and father. At the time it made sense, better to be bothered by just one person than by both his mother and father. Unfortunately the wife, (Bruce had long ago stopped referring to her by name), turned out to be twice as annoying, and she expected him to... well, no point in thinking about it right now. What's worse she was even more against his watching movies than his father was, which is saying something. Dinners at the Barnes house were awkward affairs.
To offset his sins, Bruce Barnes was the best visiting pastor New Hope Village had to offer, two weeks out of the month. The other two weeks he got the easy schedule, the elderly and the chronically depressed. In the case of the elderly, he'd show up, leave a prayer card, call his own beeper and never come back. Then just chock them not remembering up to Alzheimer's, and point to the prayer card as proof he was there. With the depressed he'd offer them some false comfort, and hope they were in a good enough mood for him to leave, if not he'd feed into their depression and dump them off on the suicide hotline people. After a while he got rid of several repeat customers. He would have loved to help them, but he had sinning to do if he was ever going to get left behind.
Bruce Barnes was diligent in his pursuits, and finally zero hour came, the Rapture. Billings was throwing a hissy fit after the "bombing" of Jerusalem, and had the Rapture timed down to the second, (with Bruce's help mind you). On the eve of the Rapture Billings called all the pastors into his chambers for a vigil, which to Bruce Barnes seemed like a New Years Eve Party. Out of a cosmic sense of irony, Bruce was the one of the people holding Billings hand as the final minutes ticked down.
"This is it, from here we either go to heaven or hell," Billings said somberly.
"Maybe the rest of you will," sneered Bruce Barnes, knowing it was too late for them to do anything about it, "I'm staying right here, and I'll finally be rid of the lot of you. See you in seven years, I'll be the one with the big smile on my face."
"We will all serve our time in hell, one way or another..." rasped Billings, and then he faded away.
They all faded away, all except Bruce. Just clothes, and fillings, and one nipple ring Bruce didn't know Taylor had under his vestments. That was all that was left.
He then ran home, past the car wrecks, past the people crying out in desperation, past the sick and wounded, and smashed open his door. He searched the house high and low, but he couldn't find her. He'd done it. He was finally alone, his wife was gone, nobody answered the phone at his parents house. No more eyes watching him, no one, he had won.
It took a few days for him to get loosen up. He couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching him, he'd lived with the paranoia all his life. But then he thought about it, Billings was gone, every other pastor was gone, his wife was gone, his parents were gone. It took him a while to figure out what to do with the remaining congregates, but he found Billings Rapture tape, and they seemed to eat it up. He just left that on loop in the meeting hall and nobody bothered him. He was alone.
Then, all of a sudden he was stricken with doubt. What if he really was in hell? What if, as soon as he lost his guard damnation would just come streaming through the walls and swallow him up? What if the curses of old fools held true?
No. He was fine, he was alone, he was happy. Or at least he was going to be happy. From now on he was going to do whatever he wanted to do. He was going to loosen up, have a beer for the first time in his life, and maybe actually start enjoying his movies, both his old cinematic ones, and his newer more adult ones. Then just settle in for the next seven years, and have a good time of it.
"First things first, lets lock that door," said Bruce Barnes, with the first real smile in his life, "There is no way this next seven years will be anything like hell, it's just Billings blowing smoke. 'Time in Hell' indeed."
But before Bruce could flip the lock, the door opened outward, and standing on the other side was Rayford Steele.