“My child, the Lord does not turn away those in need in shelter, let alone a servant of God such as myself!” I preached.
“Maybe in a church, but this an Applebee’s, and it’s three in the morning.” The security guard replied, obviously getting annoyed.
“But my child, all places are places of God, for He allows them to stand!”
“The owner’s a Buddhist.”
“Could I at least use the restroom before I leave?” I said as I began to see the Bishop sneak behind the guard.
“You know I can’t do th-”
The guard began to turn around, but before he could find himself in a position to protect himself, the bishop clubbed him in the head, knocking him out cold.
“Alright Cardinal, help me get the body out of sight.” The bishop said, grabbing the guard’s legs. I replied by grabbing his arms, carrying him into the broom closet.
“And you’re sure it’s here?” The bishop inquired.
“The Lord does not lie.” I replied, pointing at the old, worn out chair next to the movie poster and tacky sports memorabilia.
“How the hell does a chair from the Last Supper end up at an Applebee’s?”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
I bent over to grab the old chair by legs, and hoisted it over my shoulder. It smelled of dust, which I could not confidently contribute to either the chair’s age, or the inactivity of Applebee’s. Either way, the aroma felt assuring. After years of hunting down each and every chair, from the bustling streets of Paris, to an Applebee’s in Wyoming, my collection was finally complete. But this sense of completion would be short-lived, for the moment that will decide the fate of all mankind was approaching.
The birth of the antichrist was rapidly approaching, the archives were clear about that. We could not stop it from happening, but perhaps we could contain it. By channeling the antichrist into the body of one our own, we may just be able to control him. The question was whose body would become the vessel for evil incarnate? That decision belonged to no man but God, so thus the ritual must be performed.
As we arrived at the Vatican with the final chair in hand, I was overcome with dread. For decades now I studied the ritual during every hour of my freetime. I could perform it blind and deaf, but still the tension lingered. Human error could never be factored out of the equation.
Myself and the other brave volunteers, which consisted of two fellow cardinals, two bishops, a nun, and an altar boy, stood in a line facing the mythical chairs. Behind us were the choir of the cathedral, clearing their throats and murmuring to themselves as the maestro reviewed the music.
“You don’t think I’ll be picked right?” The bishop who accompanied me on my travels murmured to me nervously.
“I cannot be certain, but if it makes you feel any better, you seem a bit scrawny to be the vessel for the Lord of Evil.” I replied. The bishop appeared to be equal parts relieved and insulted.
But before the bishop could reply, the Pope himself made his entrance, opening the tall oak doors of the cathedral. He looked weathered, as if the preparation for this moment had drained all traces of life from his face. He walked with a slow, but consistent pace, dragging his staff carelessly alongside him.
“Brethren,” the Pope said in a cold, solemn tone, “by participating in this most sacred of ceremonies, you have given the ultimate sacrifice to our heavenly father, and for that He eternally grateful. Sure, one of your souls may become corrupted beyond repair by Lucifer himself, but are casualties not expected in war?
To the outside world, it may appear this war began today, but we know better. As servants to the Lord, we have fought against the devil and his schemes for eons! Against his rock music, against his edgy clothes, against his funky dance moves! But today we fight back, today we gaze upon the antichrist and say ‘no more!’ Today, we play musical chairs!”
By this point, the Pope had gotten himself so riled up he began to wheeze. He weakly gestured at the maestro to begin the choir and subsequently had a massive heart attack. The maestro began to wave his baton, as the choir violently sang Latin. The volunteers and I shuffled around the chairs, unable to determine as to whether they should walk as slow as humanly possible, or sprint for dear life. As the choir began their ascent into crescendo, however, they suddenly ceased singing, causing everyone to furiously clamor for a seat. I managed to push away the altar boy, to my embarrassment, away from a center, claiming my place in the round. It was most likely for the better, as a soul as young and inexperienced as his would have surely lead minimal resistance to the power of the antichrist.
This game continued as what felt like millennium went by. Each round found the choir increasing in intensity, and volunteers increasing in aggressiveness. After several tense, grueling rounds of musical chairs, only two remained: myself, and the nun.
I could not let this nun take my place as the sacrificial lamb. She looked young, perhaps even in her early twenties. She had her entire life ahead of her. I’ve had my time, I had to defeat her.
The music blared at an climactic intensity as the nun and I briskly walked around a lone chair, eagerly awaiting for the one who may claim its throne. The nun managed to hold a glare that sent shivers down my spine. She seemed less fixated on whether or not she’d take the chair, but rather what lengths she would have to go to so she may ensure her win.
I could not let this confidence be anything more than delusion. When the maestro signaled the choir to cease, I lunged towards the nun and attempted to kick her in the chest, away from the unholy chair. The nun must have anticipated foul play, for before I could react, she countered by puncturing my shin with a concealed knife. Before I could register the pain, I felt regret. Not for escalating the situation, per se, but for procrastinating on getting my tetanus shot, since the knife itself looked rather rusty.
As I laid on the rug, feeling the shock of the assault fade away, pain replacing it in it’s absence, the nun accepted my involuntary concession and sat on the fated chair.
No one knew what exactly was supposed to happen next. No records indicated what the result of the ritual, nor the form the Antichrist would take. As the nun laid back and grabbed the armrests, her body twitched violently for a moment, stiffening in an upward position. It seemed all emotion had left her body, leaving her staring at nothing in particular, with an expression that could only be described as intense indifference. She laid in that position for a considerable amount of time, enough to allow me to collect myself, remove the rusty knife from my shin, and stand alongside one of my fellow cardinals. I would have placed myself in the company of the bishop, but he had decided to hide behind the basin of holy water and the plastic fern.
Just as the volunteers began to drift their attention away from the nun, she began to levitate in her chair. The added elevation gave the nun a more commanding feel, as if she was looking down at us. She began to observe her surroundings, slowing turning her head from one side of the room to the other. As she found her head once again facing forward, the nun let out a screech at a pitch high enough to be barely audible. Winds from all directions bombarded us, at such velocities that some of the more geriatric volunteers found themselves unable to stand. This all felt like a build up, some sort of beginning of a climatic transformation, from holy, admittedly trigger-happy nun to an disgusting, sacrilegious son of Satan. But the nun’s slow descent back to the ground floor proved otherwise.
The nun began panting, as if a great tension had been lifted from her. I reached out my arm with some slight reluctance to help her up, an offer which she gladly accepted.
“Sister Maria!” I said, “Are you alright?”
“Oh, I’m not Sister Maria” The nun replied in a relaxed tone, “Her soul was banished to the eternal flames of hell, I’m the Antichrist.”
“Begone, vile beast! Satan and his ilk are not welcome in this house, begone!” I preached as he held out a large wooden cross.
“Do you honestly think that works? Besides, I’m not looking for any trouble.”
“Do not attempt to fool us with your silver tongue, foul beast! What brings you to our realm?”
“Eh, no real reason. Just saw you were trying to summon me, so I thought it would be fun to drop on by.”
“But, the prophecy foretold of your coming, your retribution!”
“C’mon, you really believe that? Trust me, whoever wrote that crap had just as little of a clue of what’s going on in the world as you do.”
“No, that cannot be true!”
“Hey, if it makes you feel any better, whoever wrote that is probably in hell for making it up.”
“If you aren’t here to destroy our world, then what, pray tell, are you going to do?”
“I don’t really know, to be perfectly honest. It’s been a couple of millennia since I’ve been to the mortal realm, I might do a little sightseeing.” The Antichrist said as they began towards the entrance to the cathedral. I felt a wave of relief come over me as they walked away from me. This celebration found itself interrupted as the Antichrist stopped themselves in their tracks.
“Actually, while I’m here,” The antichrist continued, “I do have some diseases I’ve been meaning to try out.”
“What?” I said.
“Oh, I never mentioned that. I’m what you might call an amatuer bio-terrorist. It’s a little hobby a picked up a couple of centuries ago. It’s really quite interesting how many ways you can trick a body into killing itself.” The antichrist began to search through their pockets pulling out a small vial. “I like to call this one ‘Super AIDS’. It’s like regular AIDS, but it spreads through hand-holding and causes your organs to combust within a week of infection. Here, I’ll let your bud have a sample.”
The Antichrist pulled the bishop out from his hiding spot, holding him up by his neck with ease, and jammed the vial in his eyes. The bishop howled with pain, with a combination of tears, blood, and vial liquid flowing down his face.
“Well, I’m off to Milan.” The antichrist said, opening the cathedral doors, “You kids have a good day!” They slammed the doors and from that point they were never seen again.
It’s been two months since that encounter. The bishop tried his best to remember not to touch anyone, but one of the altar boys caught him off guard, forced him into a hi-five. From there the virus spread like wildfire with the youth. All of the pure, abstinence-only teens who once saw hand holding as the only pure sign of premarital affection now saw it as their ultimate downfall. For a time, teens took to having premarital sex as a safer alternative to handholding, but after a while, the disease became so widespread that even contact with humans in general became too risky. Those who remained uninfected took to becoming recluses, avoiding contact out of fear of contact. But even this turned out to be in vain, for the fires created by the combustion of the infected reduced entire neighborhoods to ash and rubble. At this time, nearly all of humanity has succumbed to Super AIDS in one manner or another, and I cannot help but feel responsible. The Antichrist had no desire in our realm, but we provoked him, enticed him to decimate us. Despite all that the prophecies foretold, the true downfall of humanity began with Musical Chairs.
Charles W Baker High School
Baldwinsville, NY 13027