Book III: Chapter 25
The moment lingered…
Someone or something was coming through the gate towards us.
Only God knew what it might be.
At last, forging through the gate came Pope Benedict, followed a moment later by Chairman Ma’bus.
“Ah, I thought we would find you here,” Ma’bus called out jovially, as he shuffled ahead to take the lead. Meanwhile a pair of servants rushed forward to set down two more chairs around our group, others set up a cabana to temper the afternoon’s heat, whilst still others emerged with an array of tempting delicacies to offer as refreshments.
As our captors took their seats, Ma’bus was all smiles, “Well, my friends, I’m sure you’re aware that tomorrow is your day of doom. Have you given any further consideration to the generous offer I made you?”
“Fool!” I lashed out at Ma’bus. “Do you really think any of us would betray our Savior to follow a false god such as you? Hell, even if we contemplated such a mistake, everyone knows you wouldn’t honor your word.”
Although Benedict was beet red with embarrassment, Ma’bus took it all in stride. He stared humorously at me for a few moments, before replying, “John, oh John, you were his beloved once, right?”
“I am his beloved still and—“
“Please.” Mabus interrupted, holding up a hand, knowing I was not sure if I really believed my own words. “Save yourself the embarrassment. Everybody here knows the truth – the one you put your faith in has abandoned you. News flash, John, he’s NOT coming back. By crikey, man, I would think after two thousand years you would finally get it!”
“Whether it be two thousand or two hundred thousand,” Alan spoke up, “any amount of time is like a mere drop in the bucket to our God.”
“Ah, perhaps so,” Ma’bus turned his attention now to Alan. “However, such is not the case for you three, eh? After all, while your lord may be able to ride out Time however he chooses, none of you can say the same. Each of you has had to endure every excruciating second of your miserable, do-nothing lives upon this forsaken world. You can’t hide it from me; it’s written all over your faces – you KNOW that in spite of all the time you’ve been given, in the end, you’ve failed in your mission. Two thousand years down the drain. All the pain, all the misfortune, and now all for naught. I can see how much that bothers you… and rightly so. You failed your master! What good are you to him now?”
“We will always have a place with our Lord.” Miriam replied, hands in her lap, eyes looking down.
“Ooohhh. And you say that with such confidence.” Ma’bus scoffed. “Get real, sister. Nobody is buying your false hope and you shouldn’t be selling it. Look, the fact of the matter is that you really did have a chance to defeat me, but you failed. It’s that’s simple. I knew you couldn’t do it.”
“And why is that?” Miriam foolishly debated.
“First off, you made poor decisions. I mean, think about it – you were given a blueprint for success on how to overcome me and yet you couldn’t follow a simple set of directions! Instead you tried to do things your own way. Ah, news flash – that’s kind of stupid. Secondly, we all know that you three have never really been able to work together as a team. And worse still, you kept secrets from each other. How’s that for a start?” And here he paused to let each of us wallow in our shame, before adding, “Whatever you MAY have had with your god, it’s gone now. His time has passed. It’s MY time now.”
“You are a fool, Ma’bus.” I tried using my anger to resist him.
“Am I?” He grinned at me. “If that’s so, then what does that make you? After all, you’re all here. I have your Nails. I have your sacred scrolls. In fact, you’ve basically done everything I orchestrated.” And seeing the look of confusion on our faces, he happily explained. “Don’t you see? I’ve been pulling the strings all along. Surely, John, you know that the assailants who harassed you for lo these many years were all sent by me, right? And, Lazarus, we’ve already discussed how Mystery was sent to beguile you – with much success I might add. And Mary, oh Mary, where do you think all your premonitions came from? Certainly not from Above. No indeed, I sent them to you. Although I rather love what you did with them – 1492 is coming for you? This is the way you tried to disguise your warning? By making a clever code with a reference to Columbus? Well, you might have added your own touch, but the information was still from me. It’s all rather comical, don’t you think?”
“I don’t believe you.” Miriam stamped her foot in protest.
“No matter. I can go on. Although I didn’t create the prophets, I can attest that they were sent back because of me – so in a way I am responsible for them too. And of course, there can be no disputing that I was the one who had them killed – after all, the world still views me as a savior for that, right?” Then, turning back to Miriam, he asked, “My darling, who do you think pulled you out of Acedia?”
Caught off guard at this unexpected memory, Miriam blanched, unable to respond.
“Ah, don’t trouble yourself.” Ma’bus cajoled. “I will let you in on a little secret – I rescued you and Lazarus. After all, I brought him into that world, so only I could really let him out. I just wanted you to come here so that you could take Lazarus back to John to be cured – that allowed us to further things along a bit. Are you starting to get the picture? Ah, good. I can see you are. OK, let’s see, so where does that take us – ah yes, Mary and Lazarus go to Rome, fail to show Benedict any courtesy by advising him you’ve arrived, and instead you secretly dig in the Vatican’s most sacred vault – and for what? A worthless letter to a popess who never should have been? Why did you work so hard to protect that? It told me nothing! So, score one for your side, I let Marrollo reveal himself in order to capture your treasure. But no matter, for my plans proceeded regardless. You followed that old coot Marrollo like puppies – right into my hands.” His voice dripping with mirth, The Beast turned back to me, “And, naturally, John, you felt the shame that was to be expected for deserting your friends. I knew Gabriel Big-Mouth would warn you not to, but that you couldn’t resist coming to save your friends, could you? I figured you’d use one of your inane disguises, but The Baron? Again? Come on, John, you could do better than that. You’re making the game too easy for me – you’re taking the fun out of it.”
“You expect me to believe that you are omnipotent now?” I replied.
“Would you like me to go back further in time?” Ma’bus slithered. “Shall we discuss… Tower Bay? Hmmm?”
“You’ve made your point!” I snarled. “Wha—“
“You know you can never truly win!” Miriam yelled out, pointing at The Beast. “Regardless of what happens on this world, in the end, you are doomed to failure.”
“Oh, Mary, you speak of things so far over your head it’s comical.” Ma’bus clearly enjoyed the banter. “You really don’t get it, do you? So I’ve told you about a few strings that I pulled concerning you three and this petty little world. But, can’t you see that the War is to be won with each individual battle? Of course, my father and I are not fool enough to believe that we will control all of Creation at once – in fact, we may never accomplish that feat. And yet, it doesn’t matter – not to me, and certainly not to you.”
Here Ma’bus’ smile twisted into such a fiendish grin that even Benedict was a bit taken aback.
And still The Beast crowed, “Here is the essence of it all… this world is all of YOUR existence, it’s all you know. It’s all you are. Yet once I take ownership everything in it becomes MINE. Mine to possess for all time – that includes you… and your eternal souls. “