Welcome to week 11.
My Challenger: Barb Black
My Challenge: It was bound to happen sooner or later...
Who I am Challenging: Binary Footprint
What I Challenged Them With: It was a bright and sunny day after a dark and stormy night, and the scent of murder was in the air...
and Lazarus Under a Pear Tree...
String theory is a developing theory in particle physics that attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is a contender for the theory of everything (TOE), a manner of describing the known fundamental forces and matter in a mathematically complete system. The theory has yet to make testable experimental predictions, leading some to claim that it cannot be considered a part of science. --Wikipedia
“Lazarus?” Jesus asked with an incredulous expression on his face. “Is it—is it really you?”
Lazarus walked up and gave him a big hug, then stepped back--and smacked Jesus across the cheek.
“What the-- What was that for?” He rubbed his cheek, the sting staying long after the hand had left.
“Do you have any idea what I’ve been through? Any clue as to what kind of fucked up existence you left me in once you ‘raised me from the dead’? Why I oughta--”
“Wait! Wait, hold on there big guy!” Jesus placed his hand against Lazarus’s approaching body. “Is that any way to greet the guy who brought you back from the dead to the loving arms of your two sisters? Who’s feet were washed by one of those same sisters? What is the matter with you? I’m Jesus Fucking Christ, for Christ’s sake!”
“Yeah, you brought me back alright. And I haven’t died since!” And then he punched Jesus senseless...
* * *
Death walked through the swinging double doors and plopped down on the nearest stool, which, unfortunately for him, happened to be right next to War.
“What took you so long, Bones?” War asked right before shooting back his lemon-drop.
“ ‘What took you so long, Bones?’” Death mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “You know very well what took so long. That god damned horse! I swear he’s on his last leg!”
War guffawed, spraying Death’s robe with spittle. Death’s face took on a disgusted look as he swiped at the small beads of liquid that peppered his garments.
“You know, you could just ask him for another one,” Famine said, looking up from the wine list.
“Yeah, if I could find that charlatan, I’d--”
“You’d what?” War practically shouted. “You’d crumble down into a tiny pile of bone dust before you even found the nerve.” He laughed again and signaled to the bartender for another shot while Death shot him an evil glare.
“Excuse me, bartender, you wouldn’t happen to have--how do I ask this?--a better wine list?” Famine asked, gesturing toward the brochure in front of him.
“What does this look like, the Pearly Gates Restaurant?” he sneered while pouring War’s next tumbler. “What you see is what you got.” He semi-slammed the bottle down on the bar and walked toward the other end of the bar where some demons chatted quietly.
“I hate coming to this place,” Famine sighed. “You know, it wouldn’t hurt either of you to go out for some fine dining every now and then.” He placed his elbows up on the bar and plopped his chin into his hands. “My horse for a fine bottle of Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.”
“Really?” Death looked up from his grumblings, an expression of delight.
Famine rolled his eyes and sighed again. Death went back to sipping his martini.
“What you boys need is a night on the town!” War declared, thumping back another shot. “Some raping, pillaging, perhaps a scream or two from some pretty young lass--” he stopped, glanced quickly at Famine, then added, “or lad, as the case may be...” fading off.
“Hey, where is Pestilence anyway?” Death queried as he reached across and grabbed the wine list from in front of Famine. “Wasn’t he supposed to have returned from... from...”
“Palau? He did. Yesterday. He said he needed a vacation to recoup from his vacation, however, so...” Famine trailed off.
* * *
Ring... ring... ring...
Pestilence placed a pillow over his head.
“That won’t do any good, you know!” a voice shouted from out in the hall. “I’m just being polite by ringing!”
“Go. Away,” he shouted from beneath his pillow.
Pestilence shot up out of bed, inadvertently hitting Gabriel in the chin with his flying hands.
“Ow! You bastard!”
“That’s what you get for warping in here and shouting in me ears, ya twit!” He flopped back down onto his bed, pulling the covers up and over his head.
“I think you broke something,” Gabriel sat down, rubbing his jaw. “Geez, you got any Advil or something? This is gonna smart real bad in a few minutes...” He turned and poked at the lump under the satin sheets. “Hey, you, pretty boy. Pain reliever? Anything?”
“Go. Away,” came the muffled reply.
“No can do, hot stuff.” Gabriel stood up and yanked the blankets. “Aw, dude!”
Pest was still face down, head buried in a pillow… Buck naked. “No one invited you, and a peep show will cost ya.” He sat up, yanked the blanket from Gabriel’s now slack hands and disappeared once more.
“Dude, you so have to start wearing something to bed--what if I were Jesus... Or the Big Cheese himself?”
“Then they’d already know I was naked, wouldn’t they? Now scram! I have a party to be at tonight and need to sleep off last night’s...”
“Good point... Look, you think I like coming here and smelling your beer-piss breath first thing in the morning? No, I’m here because she sent for you.” He watched Pest’s head turn up--or what he thought was his head--and cock an ear in his general direction.
“She sent you to get me?”
“All four of you, actually.” Gabriel now appeared nonchalant and began wandering aimlessly about the room studying the brick-a-brack. “Something’s up or else she wouldn’t have--No way! You have Chevy Chase’s autograph? When did you get this?”
Pest flipped the blankets off and caught the picture just as Gabriel was dropping it to cover his eyes. “Oh yes, shield your eyes from the naked boy body. Jesus Christ, Gabe, get a hold of yourself. What are you, eight? Did she say what she wanted?”
“N-n-no. At least put a towel on or something!”
Pest reached up and yanked Gabe’s hands down from his eyes--which were squeezed tightly shut. He sighed. “Gabe? Gabe? Gabriel buddy-ol-boy? Anyone home? What does she want?”
“She didn’t--she didn’t-- Oh god, he’s still naked.” Gabriel turned his back toward Pest. “Listen, just be there in an hour’s time, alright? I have to find the rest of the riff-raff.”
“And wear something... Anything... Clothes!” he shouted, slamming the apartment door behind him.
* * *
She sat on her throne, tapping her fingers impatiently.
“So sorry, ma’am, but he is coming, I promise you.”
“Listen here,” Death snapped, “while we’re waiting for party boy, can we talk about me getting a new horse?”
“What’s wrong with the horse you have now?”
“Oh, I don’t know, let’s see--I’ve only had him since the beginning of time!”
“And?” She arched her brow expectantly.
“And? And? Do you have any idea what it’s like to ride a sickly horse for one hundred thousand years? She trips over the tiniest pebbles, she’s always throwing up, she has the shits constantly...”
“As the prophecy was written, darling, you ‘ride upon a sickly horse,’ ” the Holy Spirit stated. “What do you want me to do? Rewrite the apocalypse?”
“But--but-- That’s over! We’ve been there, done that! The prophecy has been fulfilled!”
War giggled, “That’s right, you tell her, Bones!”
Famine smacked War lightly on the back with a “Hush!”
H.S. briefly glanced at them and then returned her attention to Death. “Yes, well, we’ll see...”
“We--we will? I’m going to get a new horse? Halle-frickin-lu-yah!” He lifted his dark robed and did a little jig. “I’m getting a new horse, I’m getting a new horse!” he sang giddily.
H.S. slapped a hand down, bringing Death sharply back out of his revelry. “We won’t see about that, you stinking pile of rot!”
War guffawed loudly this time, and even Famine seemed to have some trouble keeping a grin off of his face. Gabriel gave them a stern look.
“No… no, please! I can’t bear this! I just...” Tears started at the corners of his eye sockets.
“Gabriel, get that half-wit and get him now. I’m tired of all this lolly-gagging. We have important things to discuss.”
“Right away, ma’am.” Gabriel warped out of sight.
“And stop that sniveling! You’re Death, for crying out loud!”
Famine hugged Death gently and used a hankie to wipe the tears from his skull. War huffed and rolled his eyes.
A minute or two later, Gabriel reappeared--with Pest wearing only a towel.
“--in a minute, Gabe, I’m taking a shower... Oh, shit. Hello. Hello all. Holy Spirit, always a pleasure. I was just, ahh, cleaning up a bit, so sorry to have kept you waiting. I’ll just... Just wait over here... With my towel!” he growled that last part at Gabriel, who simply shrugged innocently.
“Fine, whatever. Listen up, you goofs. I have a report here from Lucy that says we’re missing someone.”
The four horseman stared at her silently.
“Didn’t you hear me? Someone is missing!” She paused. “Well? Have you anything to say for yourselves?”
War stepped forward slightly. “Uh... Begging your pardon, ma’am. Missing from where?”
“Hell, you bearded buffoon, someone is missing in hell!” she stood and shouted angrily. "You dimwits had one job--one job! You had thousands--no hundreds of thousands of years to prepare! You had legions of demons and angels at your beck and call, reports, data sheets, the latest technology that Father could buy, and SOMEONE IS MISSING!? Is this a joke? Please tell me this is a joke!”
War shrugged and stepped back into line, cowed and speechless.
“Impossible.” She rubbed her temple with one hand and flapped another one at Gabriel. “Bring in Lucy,” she replied before sitting back down on her throne.
“Yes, ma’am.” Warp. Warp. “Here she is, ma’am, at your service.”
“Lucifer, thank you.”
“Listen, Father made you woman, I don’t care what surgeries you’ve had done, so if I call you Lucy, you damn well better just answer with a ‘yes, ma’am,’ you hear me you maggoty little--”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lucifer curtsied sarcastically.
“Why you little sniveling--”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Gabriel interrupted. “The, uh, missing person?”
“Yes, yes, so sorry. I’ll snap your britches later, Lucy. But for now, I need to know how far you are on balancing the death book. Do you know who’s missing yet?”
“No, ma’am, not yet, but we are getting close. Let’s see here--“ Lucifer snapped his fingers and a large volume appeared on a lectern before him. “We’ve catalogued thus far 16,414,809,102 humans, 20,780,999,865,334 Martians, 23,001 Jupiterians--we’ve just started on them, you see--and 1,907,456,8--”
“So, you would say ‘no,’ then, in answer to my question?” H.S. asked, dangerously dripping sweet.
“No, we don’t yet know who’s missing.” Lucifer snapped his fingers again and the book and lectern disappeared. “But we’re getting there. It should only take--oh, I don’t know--20 more years to finish?”
“That’s 20 years too long!”
“Don’t blame me, blame what’s-his-face for not giving me enough assistants! I’m not the one who declared all creation done after six measly days, ya know.”
“Sorry, sorry, of course you’re right, but we’re all working within very strict parameters here and according to prophecy, the new heaven and new Earth--not to mention the rest of those miserable rocks--must be completed in fifteen years.”
“Well, perhaps if you approve overtime in the budget--”
“No. What I need is for four very clumsy, incompetent fools to find that last soul!” Her eyes whipped around and fell back onto the horsemen who had just begun to think they might be getting off the hook.
“Yes, ma’am!” War responded.
“Yes, ma’am,” Famine replied.
“Yes, ma’am,” Death said wistfully.
“You got it, H.S.,” Pest said.
“Excuse me?” H.S. began to angrily get up, but before she could say or do anything more, the four were out the door.
Outside the door, the four looked at one another.
“Meet you guys at the bar in one hour?” Pest asked.
“H.S. isn’t going to like that...” Famine replied, trying to secretly peek beneath Pest's towel.
“Listen, guys--” he said, closing his towel tighter around his waist to close the small gap on the side, “we’ve got twenty years--”
“Fifteen, Nancy,” War interjected.
“--so the least we should do is grab a pint and come up with a plan, yeah?”
“I guess this means no horse...” Death said dejectedly.
“Right guys, one hour, see you at the bar,” Pest said, running off down the street.
“Come on,” Famine said, and the three horsemen started down the block toward the bar.
* * *
"I'm... No, no, that can't be!" the son of God cried at the vast emptiness of what was once a full, thriving planet.
"Oh, you'd better believe it alright," Lazarus cackled, taking a swig from a just-opened bottle of Jack. He settled himself at the base of a nearby pear tree.
"No. No! I refuse to believe it! I'm Jesus Frickin'-Flippin' Christ! I can't do something that's impossible for me to undo! That negates the whole point of omnipotence!"
"Not to mention omniscience! Haha!"
"What are you blathering about? You drunken fool..."
"Oh, fine, fine! Blame me for my alcohol problems! Have you been stuck on this rotten rock for millennia?! No?"
"Listen, Laz--buddy. I thought I was doing you a favor, yeah? Bringing my bud back from the dead, making your sisters happy, all the while proving what a groovy all-powerful dude I was! I never meant--"
"Well, that's a fine kettle of fish, isn't it?"
"But regardless--when the apocalypse happened... I mean, really, all souls being raptured and judged and shit... Means all souls! Not 'all souls but those Jesus brought back from the dead once upon a time!'"
"Hey, yeah, wait--wasn't there that little girl you also raised from the dead?"
"Yeah... Yeah! Exactly! See? So this is all just a big mistake. She's obviously not around, eh? Therefore, it's just that the four horsemen missed you or something. See? Now come along--I may have missed the main event, but I can still rapture you, my friend! Haha! Perfect!"
"Okay, okay, okay--put the bottle dow-- Laz... Put the bottle... Dammit!" Jesus reached over and wrestled the bottle from Lazarus's hands and mouth. "Shit! Look, this robe was made just for this occasion! Now it's got-- What is this again?"
"Jack Daniel's. A shitload better than that 'wine' you made for that blasted wedding, I'll tell you!"
Jesus grimaced. "It was my first miracle, give a god a break, would ya?" He turned and moved a few steps away from Lazarus. "Now, I'm not sure if rapturing hurts, per se..."
"I've dulled the pain--give it your best shot, J.C.!"
He rolled his eyes. "Another nickname... Fantastic..." He closed his eyes and spread his hands toward the sky. "Ali.... Oop!"
Lightning criss-crossed the skies, thunder rumbled and deep dark clouds rolled in from across the vast plains. Winds picked up and debris whipped up forming tornadoes. Hail began to fall as trees bowed in worship before the awesome power unleashed from the son of God's hands...
When Jesus lowered his hands and looked down...
Lazarus pointed at the bottle near Jesus's feet. "Can I get that back?"
* * *
"Hey, there, laddies! Lookie over there!" War pointed from atop his stallion toward the horizon where a mass of swirling clouds dominated the landscape.
Famine looked up from his magazine, pulled his shades down with the magazine-holding hand while simultaneously raising his parasol. "Oh, my!" he declared. "What a hullabaloo that looks like!"
Pestilence barely stirred on his horse, busy applying tanning lotion to his golden, practically nude body. "Uh-huh..."
"Death! Look! What do-- Where the bloody hell is he now?" roared War.
Famine pointed a delicate, well-manicured finger toward the horizon behind. "He traded in his horse for a... Hmm... Has one wheel, pedals..."
War shook his head. "A unicycle?"
"Yes, yes, that's it! A nice shiny red one! Very chic, if I do say so myself," Famine replied. "I'd have joined him, but..."
"Afraid you'd break a nail?" Pest teased. "Hey--why'd we stop?"
"I think I know where our lost soul might be, lads. And it's that-a-way!" War reared up on his horse and bellowed toward a small figure behind them. "Come on, yer bag o' bones! Destiny awaits!"
Death, barely hearing the cry from so far, lifted one small, bony middle finger, dragging behind him the handlebars to a once brand-new-looking shiny red unicycle. "They just had to destroy all the roads during the tribulation... Goddamn waste..."
* * *
Death, breathless, exhausted, weary, crumpled at the feet of the gathered crowd, bringing the crowd on the hillside up by one. Jesus barley spared him a glance as he watched while Pestilence tried to give Lazarus leprosy.
"Really, this isn't working," Famine wailed. "His body just... just..."
"Let me take me axe to him!" War cried, obviously an argument he'd been using for at least half an hour.
Pest stepped back, wiped the sweat from his brow. "I dunno, Jesus. Whatever you did..."
"I didn't do anything! Well, I did do something, but this is obviously some devilish trickery!"
Whoom! Suddenly Lucifer stood before the small crowd, tapping his foot. "I resent that. Who is this wretched looking bugger anyway?"
"Lucy, this is Lazarus. Lazarus, Lucy... Can I get anyone some refreshment? I had special cupcakes prepared for the Tribulation Take Two, and..." Famine trailed off, realizing, perhaps, that no one would care about how he hand-decorated each cupcake either.
"It's Lu-ci-fer! It's no wonder you can't rapture a soul! Not a one of you can even get my fucking name right!" Lucifer stopped suddenly. "Lazarus, you say? Wait a moment..." He snapped his fingers and the lectern with the giant Book of Life appeared before him. He began to page through it rapidly. "Lafayette... Laguna... Lambert... Launcelot... Lazarus! Here we..." He trailed off, a puzzled expression forming.
"Yes?" Jesus asked.
Death got up, finally realizing that no one could give a crap about him. He walked over and stared at Lazarus quizzically.
"Well... It says here he did die, but then there's this asterisk by his name... I'm not sure... I need the appendix, I think..."
"An asterisk? What the hell's an asterisk?" Pest asked no one in particular.
No one answered him.
War, Famine, Jesus, and Lucifer were all peering at the Book of Life, all speaking over one another, pointing, shouting, arguing. Lazarus sat under a tree, nursing his bottle of Jack Daniels while Death watched, seemingly fascinated by one whom he ultimately could not have.
"What's an asterisk?" Pest asked again, and again, to no one in particular.
The shouting began to get loud by the book crowd. More books popped into existence around them as they grabbed them from the air, whipped open to other pages, pointed at other things, referenced other sources. Death took a seat beside Lazarus, who offered him a swig from the bottle.
Pest watched it all, scratching his head. Shrugging, he took a seat under the tree with Death and Lazarus.
* * *
The Holy Spirit rapped once on the door, then sat on the small chair beside the potted fern. She spared a glance for the magazine selection, then whipped out a communications device, deciding to use her time coordinating the new heaven and new earth while she waited. He would, after all, want an update.
A small cherubim opened the door. "He will see you now."
Holy Spirit rose, adjusted her flowing skirts, then walked through the door, head held high. "Your majesty," she said, bowing low.
When she received no reply, she glanced up. No one.
She turned her head to the left, then the right, still bowed, looking for Him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him just behind the door, his back to her. He was drawing on a...
"A chalkboard?" She gasped, realizing she had spoken before being spoken to.
"Hmm? What? Oh, Holy! So glad to see you, come in, come in!" God placed the chalk down into the tray, and walked over to hug Holy.
"Say, how are things? What's happening? How's the new earth coming? You know, I had some ideas about 'floating oceans.' Do you think that'll set physics back too much during the next round?"
"And I'm also seriously reconsidering the whole 'cancer' thing. It seemed like a way to shake things up a bit this last time, but--I dunno, it strikes me as a bit too much of a downer, you know?"
"Oh! And I seem to remember something about a census being taken?"
Oh, now he was on her page! "Yes, sir, you see, it seems a soul was missed during the whole tribulation/white throne judgement/ rapture thingy, so we've been searching non-stop..."
"Oh, wait a minute!" God held up a hand, and Holy nearly choked on her words in her eagerness to obey his command.
"They've found him!" He declared.
"Found-- who, exactly?" Holy queried.
"The missing soul! Come now!" God grabbed her hand and--
* * *
"Ah, see?" God and Holy now stood before the two groups. Holy glanced at the drunkards under the tree, then over to the argumentative group on the other side of the small hill top.
"Dad! Dad! Thank God you're here--er, no pun intended." Jesus grabbed one of the books and charged over to where God and Holy stood. "See this? And this--"
"Yes--" Lucifer interjected, "but he is clearly forgetting Section 5, paragraph 3, by-law subsection 2(a) when he says that..."
"Silence!" God shouted, just as War and Famine were about to join in on the fray bearing down on him. "There. Hey, Lazzy buddy, can I get a swig of that?"
"Be my guest!" Lazarus stood up, offering the bottle to God. "One of your best inventions, if I do say!"
"Indeed, well. Now I can't wait to... Um... Hmmm..." He polished off the bottle. "By jove! Shit, I need to get some of this stocked in my rooms! See to it, Holy."
"Now, about this whole 'missing soul' business..."
"Yes?" they all asked in unison.
"This is just further proof," God stated.
They gazed at him expectantly, waiting for him to go on.
"An exception to the rule, if you will," he started again.
Lucifer blinked. Jesus leaned forward. War brushed flies out of his beard.
"You see..." He trailed off. "It was bound to happen sooner or later..."
"What was?" Pest asked.
"What do you mean?" Jesus pressed.
"Sooner or later what?" Famine gasped, barely able to withstand the tension.
"You've all heard the riddle?" God posed.
"Riddle?" War stood there, perplexed.
"Is this a game?" Death asked.
"No, no, no. Not a game. A man's soul is at stake, you know. I take that very seriously," God stated emphatically. "However... Well..."
"Get on with it!" Lazarus jumped up, shouting. "Heard what riddle? What are you going on about?"
"It seems I can make a rock to big for myself to lift." He stood there, smiling, pleased with his statement "You know, I'd always wondered."
"Rocks?" Pest dead-panned.
"Wondered?" Jesus puzzled.
"I'm lost," Death said.
"Not literally, guys," God laughed. "No, you see, sooner or later, I would do something I can't undo! Here's the proof!" He pointed to Lazarus.
"Doesn't that... Er... Can we..." Holy Spirit motioned for God to follow her off to the side. She whispered vehemently, "This creates some very serious problems! For you. For us. For--" she waved her hands frantically in the air, "--all of this!"
"What?! What about omnipotence! Omniscience! Omnipresence! You've just negated all three of the biggies!"
"I'm God. I can do whatever the hell I want."
"Except rapture Lazarus."
"Well, there is that. It stands to reason, however, that if I can do anything, I can create a soul I can't rapture. And a rock to big for myself to lift!" He smiled.
"Do you even hear yourself?"
"I will. Sooner or later... Lazarus, how about another bottle of that Jack Daniel's, eh?"
Previous Challenges I have answered:
[Week 1: All of Me] [Week 2: Child's End]
[Week 3: Seeking Bonds] [Week 4: Just So You Know]
[Week 5: Justice & Mercy] [Week 6: Tale of a Fateful Flick]
[Week 7: Hell or High Water] [Week 8: Streaming Summer]
[Week 9: Piss & Vinegar] [Week 10: Set It Free]