Revelations 1-18: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Billy saw the new kid get on the bus and grab a seat near the front. He saw the boy sit on a bench at school, waiting for the bell.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Is that really a name?”
“It’s the only one I have. Rush Lassiter.”
“Where are you coming from?”
“Idaho. I come from Idaho.”
Billy saw him again at lunch and sat next to him. “This is a tough crowd,” noted Rush. “They aren’t exactly warming up to me.”
“You have to know who’s who. Let me show you.” Billy pointed out the various factions in the cafeteria, who they were, how open they were to newcomers. “There’s also the groups that eat in the classrooms or outside. You might want to stay away from them. They’re harmless but they don’t like new kids. Rush, this is Emma.” Emma took a seat; she was wearing a plaid dress and chewing on an apple.
“You can hang with us if you want,” she said, winking. She was holding Billy’s hand. “We go to the mall after school. They’re closing it soon, winter they say. Would you be up for that?”
Rush nodded. He finished his sandwich. There was an ant in his lunchbag; he scrunched it tight until he was sure that the critter was dead.
Revelations 1-20: The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right nand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
“Billy, there is something off about that kid,” said Emma. Rush was in the garage, sanding his divining rod.
“Think he’s gay?”
“I said ‘off’, not the same as half the school.” They had splayed their books on the kitchen island, enough space to cover science and math and politics. Tea was boiling on the stove.
“I like him. He just doesn’t know how to fit in yet.” Billy looked up. “He didn’t hit on you, did he?”
She shook her head. Emma was wearing pyjamas made from hemp; when she chewed at the collar, it tasted funny. The tea was burning hot, so they cooled it with honey. “Rush, tea’s ready!” called Billy. There was no answer.
“I hope he didn’t hurt himself.” Emma put down her pen. “Go check.”
“He’s sanding. Let him finish.”
“Do you hear the sander?”
Billy sighed and slid off his chair. The garage was connected to the house by a hallway between the great room and the games room. Billy stopped for a bathroom break, then opened the garage door.
Rush’s eyes were red. His eyes were red and he was holding a broken divining rod, and he was staring at Billy as though he wanted the lights to go out, as though he wanted something to crash into the house and be done with it. Billy felt a coldness press into him, hands that weren’t really there, fingers that had no right to touch him in that way. But Rush was in the middle of the garage, exactly in the spot where Emma’s dad’s Corvette should have been: should have been but wasn’t. The Corvette was ten feet in the air, above Rush’s head; and it was spinning on an axis just off horizontal, so that it looked like it would fall over on any given quarter of its rotation. The Corvette was spinning, thought Billy. The Corvette was spinning and Rush was under it, with red eyes.
“Wanted to tell you,” he said. “I think you have the right to know.”
“How are you doing that, Rush? Is it a trick? Tell me it’s a trick…”
“I don’t know any tricks. This is real, Billy.” Rush raised his hand and the Corvette stabilized, slowing as it described a perfect arc over his head. He moved closer to Billy; the Corvette settled behind him, touching down lightly. “Listen Billy. This is hard for me. But you have to know who I am.”
“What the bloody fuck…” said Billy, backing away. “Look, whatever it is, don’t tell me, okay? Just don’t…”
“I have to, Billy. Please listen. No one else will, it’s only you and Ella. Billy,” he said, eyes flashing once more, “I’m the devil’s son. I am satan’s child.”
Revelations 2-9: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
“Do you want a milkshake?” asked Billy. The Dairy Queen was full but they had a table in the corner. “Are you even allowed to have milkshakes?”
“Why would I want a milkshake when I could have ice cream? And what do you mean, am I allowed to have a milkshake?”
“Rush.” Emma put a stop to the chattering, because she had something on her mind. She had not seen Rush’s car trick, but he had shown her other things: how to make a window into a mirror with the swipe of a hand, how to make dogs kiss cats, how to shoplift without going into a store. “Listen Rush. Can you tell us a bit more about this please. How do you know that you’re… you know.”
“During the first Iraq war, they recovered a statue called the Whore of Babylon in the area once known as Lower Mesopotamia. Three of the heads were cut off, but the fourth was intact – and had my face. I saw the picture, it looks exactly like me. In the 13th century, there was a mad monk who lived along the Euphrates that wrote about the coming of the Antichrist, pinpointed the date and time to the second: same second I was born.”
“Doesn’t prove much…” noted Billy.
“Also, my mother doesn’t remember being impregnated and my father the devil appeared to me when I was five and laid it all out for me. He doesn’t have horns, by the way. He’s actually quite handsome.”
“Oh shit,” said Billy, staring. “Look, are you hanging out with me because I’m Jewish? Because I’m not that religious…”
“I’m Catholic,” interrupted Emma. She grabbed Rush’s hand. “Tell me truthfully. Is Catholic okay?”
For the first time since his revelation, Rush smiled. “Catholic’s fine. My dad’s Catholic, actually.”
“Thank God,” she said.
“Okay,” said Billy, “so I’m screwed because I’m Jewish? Fantastic. Jesus, honestly, I never thought a Pope was the way to go, but I guess if that’s the way it is…” He thought for a moment about committing to a conversion; he could see that Emma was expecting him to blurt that out, and though they’d been over that ground before, he decided not to give her the satisfaction. “Okay Rush. You’re the devil’s son. Great. Can you please let us know, and tell us in whatever detail you can provide, what on earth you are doing in Rome, New York?”
Revelations 5-6: And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
Emma and Billy were on a bed. The skylight showed blue sky, and the windows rustling trees.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Damnation,” he said. “We can’t have sex, you know. New Testament says no to that.”
“Maybe Rush can get us a hall pass?” Emma laughed when Billy tried to swat her. “We have to help him, you know.”
“Is that really a good idea?”
“He needs friends, Billy… I swear, he just wants to be normal kid, but it must be hard resisting who you are. There are things going on in him that we can’t possibly understand, but we have to be tolerant. We have to be inclusive and try not to judge.”
“Try not to judge? You know, if he loses his temper, he could very well bring about the apocalypse.”
“Right. Well, you’re the one who had lamb for dinner…” Billy’s mouth opened, but Emma gave him a kiss, and that made it all right. “He’s resisting, Billy. He’s standing up to his urges, to the compulsions in him that come from his father. That can’t be easy. This is evil we’re talking about, sheer and complete evil that comes right from the source, about as undiluted as you can get. But he’s fighting – go look at him next time he gets a bad grade on a paper or some jock swats him in the hallway, I swear his eyes get red everytime, like he wants to burn a hole through people. But he resists, so the least we can do is help. We have to, Billy.”
She told him.
We have made you a just nation, so that you may testify against mankind and that your own Apostle may testify against you. Quran 2: 142-3
The next week, Rush showed up to school in a plaid shirt and new jeans. His hairstyle had changed as though by magic, and there was even a mote of hair product in it to resist the New York wind.
“You have to keep your hair this way. Buy new clothes every month. Change up your wardrobe.” Emma handed him a coffee in a stainless steel mug. “Sip this until morning break, then put it in your locker. Don’t spill any.”
“But I look the same as everyone else…”
“That’s the point, bub,” put in Billy. “Dress the same, act the same. Do the same things at lunch. Go to the same parties. Join the same media shares.”
Rush stared at the school; it was filling up with the contents of the buses that had just unloaded. He felt a heat inside him; it came from a spot that he could never find, that didn’t seem as though it was part of his physical body. It had no name, and nothing he ever did muted its voice. Sometimes, it cried so loudly that he felt as though he were about to burst like a bomb and spatter his frustrations over the world and space and everything. Each year, it was harder to resist. Each waking moment, he found it more and more difficult to hold it back, to put it somewhere safe.
“I don’t think you understand exactly what it is that I’m going through,” sighed Rush. The coffee was sweeter than sugar, and the caffeine seemed to hit him right away.
“Everyone thinks that,” noted Emma. “Everyone has their problems and everyone has to deal with them. We know what it feels like.”
“But mine’s a hell of a problem!”
“Just accept it,” she urged. Emma pointed at the school doors, which were opening and closing in rapid succession, swallowing children who looked alike, talked alike, smelled alike, thought alike. “We have this system down. It’s a process. You come in one end, you get stamped with facts and figures, and you come out the other end taller and wiser and better. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to dream, you don’t have to struggle, you don’t have to plan, you don’t have to organize. Go through those doors like the rest of us and it will all be laid out for you: a perfect plan that will take all your worries away. Listen, this is the most powerful system there is. Nothing breaks it. Nothing ever gets away from it. It’s more powerful than you. It’s more powerful than your dad.”
“You can’t mean that,” whispered Rush, horrified.
“Try it for a week. Give yourself to it. See what happens. Come on, let me introduce you to the Pep Squad. You’re perfect for them.”
“You want me to be part of the cheerleading team?”
“They have a quota to fill. Make sure you smile.”
Later that day, Emma found a note in her locker that she shared with Billy. It read like this:
I get this. I do. I get that you sit in an oven and that you become a brick. You become a brick and they put you in a wall, and sometimes they take the wall down to build another wall a few feet away. I get the hammering; but I hate the noise. I don’t know what dad is going to say about this. He hardly ever talks to me. To tell the truth, he’s a bit of a prick, but he means well. I think he cares about me and wants the best for me. I guess every dad does. I hope he’s proud of me. But you know, I hope both of you are proud of me too, and that we see each other around sometimes. I’d like that… Rush
Emma and Billy didn’t see him often, usually only in class, and there were certain divides that prevented them from talking to him much even there. Just before Christmas, they sat across from Rush in the cafeteria, and he waved at them. Someone threw a Christmas pageant figure at his table; it was a shepherd, and after it came a remarkably dense baby Jesus that hit him in the head and left a mark. Emma and Billy were on their feet; they could see the boy’s eyes flash red with anger, but it only lasted for a second, until he seemed to remember who he was and how he fit here. His cheerleading buddies walked out the cafeteria with him.
Revelations 6-8: And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
And so children played. And above them were birds, swimming the skies, wondering if they should more properly be attacking those little people beneath them, those fleshy beasts that had somehow laid claim to the entire stockpile of earthly souls. Some men and women dove under the seas, some headed for the heavens, and some even sat in contemplation on the snows of mountains few of us will ever see, wondering what our destiny may be, and where we find the strength to resist our basest impulses – our most dreaded compulsions. Even when we drink and fornicate and steal and blaspheme, still we are essentially good, they have written, for we do not give ourselves to darkness completely. We resist. What allows us to do that, it has been asked? Well sometimes, we might suppose, the way to resist evil is quite simply to engage it with nothing more than greater evil still; Amen to that.