Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Rapture

He didn't want to be having this conversation again. He tried to ignore her. He had something more important to do anyway. In theory clearing the memory card was the easiest thing in the world, put it in the reader, hook the reader to the computer, and tell it to transfer the files, and forget about it. In practice the only part of the process that worked properly was the memory card. If he didn't hold the reader perfectly still, which was nearly impossible in a moving car, the connection would break, and he'd need to tell it to move the files all over again. That might not be so bad, if not for the fact that the laptop's battery was shot and telling him it only had 15 minutes of power left. Given that it would shut down automatically when it got to seven minutes left, which never seemed right to him, it was critically important that he hold the reader steady.

Which was hard when she was saying things that made him so angry his hands shook. Couldn't they spend a day without talking about religion? He was clearing space on the memory card so they could take a thousand pictures of them having fun climbing a mountain. Wasn't that enough? Why did theology have to come into things?

Finally he couldn't take it anymore. “You think I deserve to go to Hell?” He didn't mean to say it that loudly and harshly, and for a moment he felt bad. But not enough to stop focusing on the computer and card reader.

“No, but...”

And he was fully angry again. It was silly and self centered to think of it that way, and most of the time he would have recognized it as such, but at the moment it felt like a personal affront. She knew how much he hated people stopping mid thought like that. He had always said that if you didn't know what you were going to say you should take a moment to figure it out before you start talking. She knew that.

He gave her what he thought was a reasonable amount of time. And then more time. Nothing. “What?! But, what?” Nothing. He turned to her.

“Shit!” He didn't have time to think about how it was possible for her to be gone, how she got out, or why he didn't hear the door. He didn't have time to think about the way his computer went flying as his entire body lurched forward and his hand shot towards the wheel. Only one thing mattered: Getting control of the car.

When he turned his attention to the road he found there was no road. The car wasn't going down the interstate at seventy miles per hour. It was parked. In what appeared to be a Walmart parking lot. He didn't understand. Had be blacked out? He picked the computer up off the ground, 14 minutes of battery left, the clock had the same time, it was still on the same file.

No time had passed. Where was she? Where was the interstate?

Where was he?


Kelly was getting ready to lunge for the same hold that had made her fall of the wall twice before. This time it would work, this time she would grab it right and it'd be an easy climb the rest of the way to the top. This would be the day. She just had to go.

Which was a lot harder than it seemed. She knew the rope would hold her, she knew Jen was a great belayer. She'd been caught without problem a thousand times before. But the part of her that knew those things wasn't the part that was keeping her short of breath and making the chalk sweat off her hands.

She closed her eyes to collect her thought. Then everything changed. She wasn't holding onto the wall anymore. She was standing on solid ground. She opened her eyes. She would have been standing next to Jen, if not for the fact that Jen had disappeared.


Michael was looking out the window at the fields below. He loved watching the scenery go by and wondering what was happening down on the ground and today was perfect, not a cloud between him ad the view. Then suddenly everything changed. He said, “Jesus,” but it didn't seem like enough an explicative. The fields suddenly came up to the window and the engine had stopped.

The plane tilted to the left until the wingtip hit the ground. They were in a random cornfield. He later learned that the pilot, copilot, and nine of the passengers had disappeared.


The ambulance wasn't hers. The shift wasn't hers. The supplies laid out on the ground in front of her weren't hers. But the people on the ground were hurt, that made them patients. And she was the only one around who could help, that made them hers.

The explosion had apparently happened mere minutes before she was transported to the scene. No one remembered how they were pulled clear of the wreckage, nor could they explain where the ambulance came from.

It didn't matter. There was healing to be done, the tools were at hand, and the fact that they didn't actually belong to her wasn't going to stop her from using them.


He'd been watching Elizabeth Warren give a lecture, on tv, then suddenly he wasn't. His response was, he thought, understandable, “Where the hell am I?”

The only answer he got was warnings from the equipment monitoring the patient's vital signs. Explanations could wait, there was a surgery in progress. That he was qualified to complete the procedure couldn't have been a coincidence. Somehow, whatever made his predecessor, Doctor Mary Jacobs, disappear decided to replace her with him.

Perhaps she had been needed elsewhere, what little he had seen of her work indicated she was better than he was. Being magically transported wasn't what bothered him later. Nor was it the look in the eyes of woman who, shell shocked, told him that half an hour earlier she'd been 8 months pregnant, though he knew it should be, or if not that the sobbing he heard as he walked passed the maternity ward, infant care, and the children's wing.

What bothered him was that there hadn't been any time for learning on the job. The time it took him to find out what needed to be done the patient should have died. Instead all signs pointed to a full recovery. It was impossible. As if someone had hit the pause button until he got up to speed.

When he had lunch he found several others with similar impossible stories. One told of how he'd been so drunk he needed both hands on the wall to move, and then suddenly found himself sober in the place he was needed most. Another of being transported to the ideal place to catch and treat a man who had a heart attack after witnessing an entire school bus disappear.


She had to divide her attention between the road and the mirror. She wished she didn't have to spend so much on the mirror, but there was bullying going on and she was determined to stop it. Maybe she couldn't stop it everywhere, but she could make sure it didn't happen here. Not on her school bus.

Then, the children were gone. All of them. She didn't think about the fact that the bus had been in motion. She didn't think about what would happen if she let it choose its own way down the hill. She didn't think at all. She stood up and looked at the empty seats.

She called the names of the best students. Then the worst. Then she called every student whose name she knew. There was no response, and no sign of any of them, but it was impossible. Unthinkable. They couldn't simply be gone.

It would be much later that she realized that somehow the school bus had parked itself by the school, though she was nowhere near there when it happened.


Flying Pony wasn't a pony and she couldn't fly, but what she could do was jump and she was good at the steeplechase. Just as she was about to launch herself over a loon themed jump something changed on her back.

The weight of her rider was gone. She turned to look and then remembered the jump. She remembered it too late. She tensed, but never hit it.

She was alone in a field. Her rider, the jump, the course, the audience, the competition, everything was gone. All she could see was open field. She didn't ponder the question. She was a horse surrounded by tasty looking grass. She started to eat.


One moment there were six cheerleaders forming a pyramid. The next there were four cheerleaders all safely on the ground.


The tugboat didn't notice its entire crew disappear. It didn't notice that it was no longer in a crowded harbor, or that it's engine had been turned off.

A set of high definition cameras that a documentary crew had set up in hopes of seeing the Loch Ness monster recorded the tug's sudden appearance. The monster did not show up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What IS Nicolae?

Note: This is my first post, so if there's anything wrong with it that'll be my excuse. ;) After reading Pocket full of kryptonite on Slacktivist, I kind of became curious what the answer to Steele's question about Nicolae might be. I'm not sure if L&J tell the readers eventually (although I doubt it), or what the Bible says. My research for this pretty much consisted of the following: briefly checking Wikipedia, and asking a Christian I know about the Antichrist's nature as she understood it. It was also inspired partly by reading "Malevolent Father" during an earlier visit. I don't know a whole lot about theology, or about L&J's story. So basically, I'm an ill-informed guy who's just going to be making stuff up and hoping that it'll at least turn out to seem plausible. With that disclaimer out of the way, I'll start writing...

"I feel like I'm going to meet the devil," Rayford told Bruce. "I've never felt as scared as I am right now--and I hate to sound like I'm bragging, but I've never been easily frightened. I feel as if I'll fall apart in there! Buck may have gotten through a meeting with Carpathia, but he's younger and in better shape. I know that I can count on prayer support, but I still just want to turn around and run while I have the chance, and not look back."

On the other end of the line, Bruce listened sympathetically and instinctively nodded at Rayford's words, even though he knew Rayford couldn't see it. He didn't fault Rayford for being apprehensive--"apprehensive" nothing, the proper word would be "terrified". At any rate, it was a perfectly normal and human way to feel. But Rayford would need to keep his panic under control when meeting Carpathia. And even if Bruce were to forget all about the Trib Force's mission, hearing another human being in such distress made him want to ease that distress. It was simply his nature.

"Okay Rayford, try to stay calm. I believe you'll be able to get through this. We all do. And things aren't as bad as you think. First, you're not literally going to be meeting the devil; only if you were encountering the Antichrist in the second half of the Tribulation would you actually be dealing with the person who was possessed by Satan himself. Second, you don't need to be in excellent physical shape for something like this. As long as you're not prone to heart attack, you should be fine. And between you and me, I think you might actually have more stamina than Buck; he might have hit the weights on a regular basis, but the poor guy can't walk very far before he needs a rest."

When Rayford next spoke, Bruce was glad to hear that he did sound a little most composed.

"So what is Carpathia, then, if he's not actually the devil? Some second-rate demon?"

Certainly, Bruce thought, Rayford wouldn't have asked a question like that when he'd first called. When he had picked up, Rayford had indeed sounded like he was on the verge of falling apart. At that point, his focus wasn't on the nature of his enemy as much as it was on securing protection from his enemy. Primal flight instinct, Bruce thought. An animal confronted by a predator just wants to run away, get away as fast as it can. Only when it feels some measure of safety does its fear become replaced with some measure of curiosity, as seemed to be the case with Rayford now.

"Well, no," Bruce answered. "If he were a demon then I doubt he'd be a second-rate one, but that's moot because he isn't. Just the same as Jesus wasn't an angel. And, as I've already told you, Carpathia is not a manifestation of Satan, or even possessed by Satan. The simple answer is that Carpathia is a human being. He's a human being who has been given supernatural abilities by Satan, but human nonetheless. A human whom Satan has spoken to since the day of his birth. You almost have to feel sorry for him."

"WHAT?! How can you say that, Bruce?! I mean, this man is the Antichrist, and for the first time in my life I'm saying that about somebody without hyperbole! He's the embodiment of evil! He's the enemy, and you're saying that we should feel sorry for him for some reason?"

Me and my big mouth, Bruce thought. Sharing that particular opinion with Rayford had him back to near-hysterics.

"Rayford, I'm sorry that I've upset you. Please, let me explain. Imagine if you heard a voice in your head your entire life, a voice telling you to do this or that, a voice that praised you for some actions and berated you for others. A voice that drowned out the voices of your parents, teachers, people you looked up to, and a voice that you could never silence. That is what Satan has done with Carpathia. That's how Carpathia was groomed for the role Satan had planned for him. It's difficult to imagine any normal person not eventually succumbing to such mental conditioning. He had no choice in the kind of human he would grow up to be, and because of that he is doomed to burn for eternity. Jesus told us to be merciful, Rayford, to love our enemies, and a logical extension of that love is to pity them when they are in pain. Nicolae Carpathia may be evil, but I still wouldn't wish the fate that's in store for him on anybody."

Silence, but no dial tone. Bruce wondered if he ought to say something more, and then...

"I can't believe you're actually sympathizing with the son of Satan," Rayford's voice grated through the phone. Bruce's words had apparently fallen on deaf ears. Rayford sounded angry and disgusted with him. "He's EVIL. He DESERVES it."

It's not that simple, Rayford! Bruce wanted to shout into the phone. But he could tell that it would only make things worse.

"Look, Rayford, I have to go, all right?" Bruce lied. "We can talk more about this later. Just try to calm down. Meeting Carpathia while full of rage could be as bad as meeting him while full of fear. I'll make sure to pray for you and get the others to do the same, so you don't need to worry. Good luck."

"Yeah, goodbye."

Click and a dial tone.

Bruce hoped that he hadn't made things worse. Was he wrong, he wondered? Did pitying somebody condemned to suffer for eternity make him a bad person? Did God frown on that?

He hoped not. He couldn't help it. And he wondered, not for the first time, how a loving God could condemn even the likes of Nicolae Carpathia, even Satan himself, to such horrible and neverending punishment.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Courtship of Meta-Chloe, part duex

An ongoing effort to re-write the relationship between Cameron and Chloe; the original scene being re-written can be found here and here with Fred's commentary.

Cameron dragged himself to the airplane gate, glassy-eyed and near-mindless. Dinner with the Steeles was a strange but invigorating affair. On the one hand, he had to stop himself from mooning over the Captain's young daughter; he kept wanting to stare, to drink in the details of her face. On the other hand, if Steele's claims were true, then the internet-based attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities (the Gog botnet) and on the Russian Army (the elusive MaGog computer virus) were connected to The Event, and all of it was really just a warm-up for what was coming next. Cameron had researched conspiracies before, uncovered what powerful corporations and governments had wanted to cover up, and before dinner was done, he had already started identifying sources to contact, questions to ask, and information to research.

Which was why, less than 12 hours later, he was barely conscious as he boarded his flight to Chicago. He'd spent most of the night writing emails, making phone calls, and lining up interviews with trusted sources. What he hadn't done much of was sleep, and his memory of Coach seating at Pan-Con didn't offer much hope of rest. He'd bought a bible at the airport gift shop, and had notes on sections to read and cross-reference with other sections.

"Mr. Williams?" The preternaturally-chipper employee at the gate had keyed in his ticket information and seemed amused. "It looks like you've been upgraded to Business Class. We hope you enjoy your flight."

Cameron blinked groggily before remembering the Captain asking about his travel arrangements the night before. Was Rayford trying to butter him up, make him think better of the Captain and by extension make his Rapture theory more plausible? Cameron smirked at the thought: sure, he'd been offered huge bribes, threatened by third-world dictators, but hey, an upgrade to business class? That changes everything!

(more below the cut)