Darwin Oliver Starling stared down at the smoldering ruins of the Vatican from the window seat on Flight 3076 which had taken off from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport ten minutes ago. Police agencies all over Europe had been investigating for a week, but so far had no clues as to the method used to initiate such mass destruction, or who had perpetrated such a heinous act.
“Heinous.” Starling whispered the word to himself. It was the worshipers of the Christian God who were heinous, and the Secret Order of Athéiste had been dedicated to wiping them from existence for the past two-hundred years.
It wasn’t just the Catholics, of course. In spite of what the news and entertainment media seemed to be pushing on the uninformed masses, Christianity wasn’t represented only by a bunch of child-molesting Priests, and American southern televangelists with big hair and greedy pocketbooks. They were everywhere.
Churches and dioceses were easy to target, and if it were just a matter of blowing up every house of Christian worship on the face of the planet, the task would eventually be done. However, there were so many of them in hiding. Not in “Christian nations” like America, but in those ruled by Islam or Communist governments such as China. Those disciples would be difficult to expose, because they were already threatened by their respective ruling powers with torture and death. But the Order always had agents infiltrating such groups. It was only a matter of time until they were all located and eliminated.
The aging industrialist was the current Grand Leader of the Order, but only a minor investor, in spite of his vast wealth. The sheep of the world were oblivious to the fact that some of the wealthiest men and women in the world were funding their efforts. In fact, they would be shocked to discover that many of their most beloved entertainers, innovators, and cultural icons were actively but covertly involved in crushing the Church of the Christ and the invention of the Apostle Paul.
One of the perks of first class air travel and a first class life was eating the finest food, drinking vintage champagne, and conferring with movie stars and supermodels. He chuckled to himself thinking, “I am truly blessed.” Of course, there was no such thing as a blessing, only wealth, privilege, and control.
It started as a mild pressure in his chest. The veal had been too rich, and the Fortune 100 CEO supposed it was just a bit of indigestion. “More gravy than grave.” The words of Charles Dickens came unbidden to his mind. Then it got worse, as if a weight had settled on his torso. They had been in the air a bit over six hours of their nearly ten-hour voyage to JFK. Unlike in the movies, there was no doctor on board, merely an EMT who was on her honeymoon with her new husband the accountant.
Darwin Starling’s last thoughts were of oblivion and how his second-in-command would carry on their vital mission, not just to eradicate the Christian Church, but to kill the God they worshiped. No God could exist without…
“Good Afternoon, Darwin. Did you have a pleasant nap?”
Starling was surprised to wake up in his own bed, sunlight filtering through the curtains of the western-facing window of his Park Avenue penthouse.
“Who the hell are you?” He’d forgotten for the moment that he was still supposed to be 42,000 feet above the North Atlantic.
“Bullshit. You look more like the Cuban boy I hire to clean my swimming pool in Palm Beach.”
“You have something against Cubans, Darwin?”
Starling sat up in bed. He was wearing the silk pajamas his eldest daughter gave him for his last birthday. He felt warm, comfortable, and alert. No hint of the chest pain that…
“Wait. I was on a flight from Rome to New York.”
“Technically, you still are. Well, your body is anyway. They can’t land for another two hours or so. Your family has already been informed, but for now, they’re keeping it out of the Press.”
“So you’re God. I can’t say I’m impressed.”
“You should be at least surprised, since you’ve always denied my existence, Darwin.”
“Did I say we were on a first name basis? Get out.”
“I can go anywhere I want, but your ability to order me to do anything is non-existent. It always has been.”
Starling reached for his cell phone on the night stand, but it wasn’t there. Neither was the land line.
“Fine. I’ll put you out myself.” He rose, feeling strong as a bull, which he hadn’t experienced for the last few years, and tried to put his hands on the “pool boy.” They went right though.
“A ghost? No. I’m dreaming.”
“Look out the window.”
Walking faster than he expected, Starling went to the window and pulled the curtains aside expecting to see Central Park and the sun setting over the Hudson River. Instead, the light vanished and he was staring at black, empty oblivion.
“That’s what you expected to see when you died, right?”
“I expected to see nothing. I expected to be dead.”
Starling spun around to face the “Cuban.” “What’s the trick? Who are you?”
“I told you. I’m God. There is no trick. You’re dead. I thought you’d like to exist in a familiar environment until final judgment.”
“You…you are going to judge me?” There was a tone of the incredulous accompanied by humor in his voice. “That’s a laugh, after all the misery you’ve caused.”
“What misery, Darwin?”
“War, disease, slavery, subjugation of people of color, gays, women, the whole enchilada.”
“Isn’t that what you do?”
“Me? I’ve dedicated my life to ending the horrors of the Christian Church.”
“Look at your wealth and where it came from. You didn’t build it from nothing, you inherited it. I believe it’s called ‘Old Money,’ and it has its roots in everything you’ve just mentioned. Besides that, you exploit your so-called ‘Cuban pool boy,’ paying him not quite half of what your peers offer.
“You have had thirteen separate affairs, all while married, and sexually assaulted forty-seven females and eleven males between the ages of twelve to thirty-seven, starting when you were but a lad of fifteen.
“Oh, and let’s not forget murder and conspiracy to commit murder on a vast scale. The Vatican is just the latest.”
“How do you know…?”
“I’m God. I know everything. I’ve witnessed every moment of your former life, and believe me, the crimes you lay at my feet and those of my followers pale in comparison to your own acts of injustice. You hide behind noble causes, popular buzzwords, and esteemed colleagues, many of whom are guilty of the same acts. If your stock holders and the fans of your celebrity friends knew what I know, they would abandon you as you have attempted to cause my worshipers to abandon me.”
For the next half an hour, Darwin Starling was presented with an abridged but highly accurate rendition of his life as he had orchestrated it, establishing God’s credentials in no uncertain terms. When the stunned and contrite entrepreneur was left speechless, standing in the middle of what he supposed was his bedroom, God concluded, “I’ll leave you now. I suspect you have a lot to absorb.”
“Judgment? Does it matter? It’s inevitable, whether it happens tomorrow or in a thousand years. Enjoy your stay in “paradise,” Darwin. Judgment will determine your final destination.”
I recently read Matthew Tonks’ short story Who Made Who, and while it didn’t directly address the topic of God and belief, the idea popped into my head, so I had to write about it. If you could kill every Christian on Earth (an impossibility, really) would the Christian God cease to exist? If He exists objectively, then of course not, but that’s what Darwin had to discover for himself.
Yes, this has logical and theological holes you could drive a truck through, but I’m exploring a concept, not creating a credible world. Have a think or two.