Chapter 3: The Phone That Never Rings
“If God lived on Earth, people would break His windows.”
2 January 2012: The Present
The breakthrough comes when Lilly has the idea to snork Jim’s webcam that he uses to Skype home and duck tapes it into the back corner of the freight elevator and sets it to record on a laptop that she leaves up in the lights so that she can see what the scientist does to make the elevator descend past where she’s been led to believe it reaches its descent limit, and it turns out that all he does is stand there, which she does but is too scared to actually leave the elevator today, and she’s a little pissed that her initial plan of hiding in the elevator, which she had and then immediately dismissed a month ago exactly, would have accidentally worked, it turns out.
30 May 1431: The Present
In between when the torch is lit and when the fire from it is applied to the logs underneath her, Joan is able to remember a great many things which have happened and also it seems is able to remember things that haven’t happened yet, which she didn’t think would feel like remembering, even though it turns out it does.
Her regrets low in number as to seem to be zero if she was put on the spot and forced to answer quickly, but given ample time to think she’d say, if pressed, that not knowing God face to face, and instead being content to merely listen, would be the big one, she reckons. She’s read of Moses’ burn and would abide both that and the discomfort, although now it’s kind of a moot point anyway.
Her proudest moment doesn’t involve any of her groundbreaking (in terms of both eschewing traditional gender roles and also strategic theory) military exploits, but is instead the leap that she took from the Vermandios tower into the soft ground of a recently dried-out moat in an escape attempt which surely would have succeeded had the force of the fall also not trapped her in the mud from the waist down. She’d wriggled there in the night for a while until she was found.
Her holy communication existing in her internal and wholly private hierarchy of accomplishments above any contributions to large-scale group pugilism.
She remembers for instance that she became a saint in 1920, and she suspects this memory is some kind of a gift from on high, some kind of perhaps mental anesthetic.
She will be burned in a way unlike the way Moses was burned, though the principal characters are similar.
The man holding the torch has eyes that don’t seem to see anything around him, or else a face that just doesn’t register what his eyes see, and so he applies the torch fire, and will in the future be unable to remember this moment right now, the moment of torch-fire application, he will be unable to remember anything between this moment and a moment that came a few weeks before this moment, when a prominent political figure offered him a spot in what he referred to as the world’s premier society of gentlemen. There are several blank weeks in Mr. Geoffrey Therage’s life, and upon his waking he will say that he doesn’t know what he’s done during that time, but he fears damnation for it.
Joan burns, burns, is burned again.
8 February 1989: The Present
One of the things that makes little axioms of eternal truth so utterly infuriating is the fact that they are generally true, and manage to condense truth into insipid little asides where truth should be something unattainable to justify the general human aversion to it.
One of those axioms that you don’t here that A. Atom Severe might endeavor to enter into the canon is “when you’re at an avant-garde performance art theatre-with-an-“r”-“e”-type setting, and someone shoots to murder the lead actor, it will be a while before the audience knows that it isn’t part of the performance, the fact that he’s been murdered, especially since it’s a one-man show.”
10 September 1864: The Present.
Someone who the fellow Booth can’t see is addressing him inside a building that doesn’t allow much in, ambient light-wise.
“Let me ask you a question,” is what the voice says.
“Actually two questions: how committed to this are you, and how committed to this are you willing to be?”
“Very to the first, and even more to the second, sir.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“The leader of the Knights of the Gold-“
“No, but to you know who I am?”
“I do not.”
“That will change.”
This is the last conversation that the fellow Booth remembers before he is inside a barn that is on fire and expending one hundred percent of his mental energy towards finding the absolute quickest way the hell out of it. It’s like he fell down and got up all full of nothing and stayed that way until April of the next year.
He’d be shocked to know that he killed the sitting prez, but let’s be clear: he’d be shocked in a very happy kind of way.
And so in this moment, right after he said “alright,” in a manner that wasn’t exactly free of wary, concerned inflection, like he was saying it but not because he especially wanted to say it, but because he thought that it was what he was supposed to say. Which it was, but right after the last syllable leaves his mouth, the fellow whose job had been to pretend to be other people became what might as well have been a completely different person than the Booth who entered the poorly lit barn that the Knights of the Golden Circle have their meetings in.
If he were aware of his surroundings in any way, he’d realize that there is no one else in the barn aside from himself and the figure hidden by the lack of much ambient light, and he’d realize that he can see pretty much everything else in the barn at least a little bit, but this bloke who’s supposedly calling the shots is completely shrouded in some kind of darkness, that seems like it even goes beyond absence of light, like it’s the absence of even the idea of light, which in not so many words it is.
So even when the so-called leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle steps forward, the darkness follows him or maybe more accurately, the light stays away from him.
And so even when he steps further forward, till he’s very nearly face to face on top of face with the fellow Booth, registering not a thing at this point, the pocket of darkness or rather the pocket of the absence of light follows him and continues to keep him shrouded or enveloped in it, and what he says is “welcome to Chernabog, my friend.” Which if he could hear or respond, the fellow Booth might reply to the effects of what is Chernabog and why isn’t it the Knights of the Golden Circle?
Though of course he can’t respond, and his next voluntary response to external stimuli will be “you’ll never take me alive.”
5 August 2021: The Present
And so even when Felix walks into his hated HH this morning, several hours after he’s supposed to be there and several hours also before the first customers tend to show up. This is Felix’s favorite part of the day, the part of the day when he doesn’t have to talk to anyone at all, and often times he’ll stand behind the cash register even during the lunch rush thinking “stay out. You stay out,” as loudly as he can at anyone who comes near the saloon-style doors that some nerd thought would give the place a pleasing atmosphere or some such hooey.
So when the Christ bag is still in the spot off to the side where customers who have called ahead pick up the food that called ahead for, Felix is irritated but has no one to direct it to. He looks at Squatch (who is here before Felix everyday and stays later) who shakes his head, communicating to Felix in no uncertain terms that the bag stays.
“When it starts to stink, it’s gone,” is Felix’s response, but it is halfhearted because he knows better than to in any way irritate Squatch, and he also doubts that Squatch understands.
And so then also when some elderly fellow with what looks like an ancient walking stick comes in and just stares at Felix for a few minutes and then leaves, he’s not only confused but also doubly annoyed and with no one to vent his annoyance in their direction.
Right before he leaves, the man says “I have something very important to tell you, but not right now,” directed at Felix, but Felix barely hears it over how annoyed he is that someone is in Hamburger Purgatory ahead of schedule.
The next person to come into the restaurant does so some 3 hours later, at a reasonable lunchtime, and is wearing the collar of a preacher, and so Felix assumes that there’s a chance that the bag’s for him, and so he kind of does an awkward thing with his eyes where he looks back and forth between the bag and the clergyman, between the bag and the clergyman, and the clergyman is deciding what to order but Felix interprets the raised eyes of his decision-making to some kind of prayer, for guidance or else for thanks, guidance or thanks with regard to the burger in the bag, and Felix chimes in by making a thumb-motion towards the bag and saying “why would he order more than one burger when we could just give him one and then he’d break it in half a bunch of times or whatever.” Felix would be unable to communicate capital H’s verbally, but he doesn’t think that way.
The clergyman’s response to that is to say nothing but instead to narrow his eyes at Felix, indicating non-verbally that he doesn’t care for that joke, and then he indicates it verbally as well.
Felix meaning well, and operating under the assumption that the Christ bag is the clergyman’s, which it becomes abundantly clear that it isn’t, when he (the clergyman) leaves.
 Which is McMurdo janitor colloquial slang for “borrow secretly but with full intention to return.”
 70 (!) feet
 “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” “Take it one day at a time,” all the variations of “it’s not how hard you’re hit/fall down…” etc.
 Whoever is responsible for the business model of opening the old HH for breakfast but never actually serving breakfast food is, in Felix’s mind, the highest order of asshat, but since he knows of no one ranking higher than him within the organization, nor does he know of any other Hamburger Heaven, he does not voice his concerns out loud for fear that he is actually the one responsible. But if he’s in charge, who does all the tax-type stuff? Is something that Felix routinely wonders.
 See above f/n.
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