On the 7th day, p.1
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       On The 7th Day, p.1
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           Zack Murphy
On The 7th Day
On The 7th Day

  Zack Murphy

  Copyright 2012 Zack Murphy

  6 DAYS BEFORE THE BIRTH

  Jeff MacFeeghan normally didn’t ride the bus; as a matter of fact, he was morally opposed to even the idea of their existence. But when your brand new Lexus, that you had only purchased 2 months back, decided that this was the day it wasn’t going to start, you ride the bus.

  It had been raining for three straight days, a sure sign of the Apocalypse in southern California. Being an up-and-coming young investment banker in one of the most prestigious offices in the country had many perks, and not riding the bus with commoners was, to Jeff, the biggest perk.

  Something happened, Jeff knew that. What actually did, he couldn’t quite put his finger on. There was a dense fog of nescience permeated his brain. The past several seconds had seemed to flow in slow motion. Jeff had chalked this up to the sinus-permeating fumes of the woman sitting across from him, who had felt it better to douse her body in a full bottle of cheap perfume than to take the time to bathe.

  He looked around at the other passengers on the bus, the ones with whom he had so keenly avoided eye contact, for fear that they may want to chat about whatever had happened over the weekend at the county fair or exchange recipes for the latest craze in goulash or enchiladas.

  Suddenly, and without warning, the bus was overtaken by the brightest light Jeff had ever seen, filling the bus with a radiant white glow. He shielded his eyes from the glare, but couldn’t quite seem to make out the shape emerging from the brilliant radiance that pervaded his stare.

  A silvery voice beckoned from the shadowy form approaching him, but couldn’t quite make out what it was saying. Jeff shifted away from the light and tried to find any door that he could; if this was the Apocalypse he was damn sure he wasn’t going to spend the end of the world trapped inside public transportation.

  As Jeff fumbled for anything that looked like an exit he realized that he was not, in fact, on the right side of the bus. He was very much on the wrong side of the bus indeed. The figure drew closer as Jeff struggled to make sense out of the verity that he was now sitting on the ceiling. As he looked at the seats lined overhead, resembling a vast display of mall florescent lighting, he thought about all the other travelers on the bus and thought, shaking his head, “Man, the boys at the office are going to have a field day with this one.”

  As the figure crept closer to Jeff he could just make out the shape of a man, or a woman, hooded in a black cowl and a flowing robe that stretched from head to foot, and carrying what seemed to be a scythe. The figure stopped a few feet from where Jeff was sitting, tapped the handle on the floor and tilted his head.

  It had situated itself between a small Latino woman and an elderly man dressed in a horribly tight-fitting, blue and yellow-striped seersucker suit. The older gentleman reached out his shaking arm to touch the figure. Jeff tried to telepathically advise the old man about the dangers of such brazen activity, “don’t grope at it you old fool, it’s obviously a not-for-touching thing, like a dive-bar debutante after a few beers; no matter how tempting it is, you just don’t know where she’s been.” The old man’s hand grabbed ever so gingerly onto the robe of the figure.

  The figure looked down at the man and nodded intently. A sense of calm inflicted itself upon the passengers. They may all be crumpled in a mound of mangled steel, but it suddenly seemed okay. Instead of taking the old man’s hand in a reassuring gesture of humanity, he slapped the old man’s arm away and boomed out, “Okay everybody, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”

  “What?” said Jeff weakly, trying to figure out why the Prophet of the Apocalypse was being kind of a douche.

  “Let’s not talk, okay?” whispered the hooded figure, shaking his head “let’s just be good little boys and girls and walk into the light.”

  “Why are we whispering?”

  “Because I’m a tad bit hung over today.”

  “Really?”

  “No!” screamed the veiled outline, “I just want to do my job, and I can’t do my job unless you go into the light.”

  It pointed its scythe toward the portal of light that was shepherding the other passengers from the bus. The scythe was large and daunting, the blade the most magnificent silver he had ever seen; it seemed to literally cut the air into slices as he waved it about.

  “This isn’t how it’s supposed to end at all!” barked Jeff, feeling betrayed by the figure trying to usher him towards an end unbefitting his demise.

  “This isn’t how what’s supposed to end?”

  “The world. The universe. Everything. This isn’t much of a reception for Armageddon. Where’s the fanfare, where’s the vestigial virgins, where’s the glamour?” clamored Jeff, fumbling for the right words that would express his overall disappointment.

  “The end of the world?” the figure gave a bone-chilling chuckle [which is very hard to do with a chuckle, a laugh yes, but a chuckle?] “My poor disillusioned boy; this isn’t the end of the world.”

  “Then what is it?”

  The figure shrugged. “It’s just the end of you.”

  *****

  Dana Plough sat bleary-eyed at her kitchen table and lunged for her morning cup of coffee. "Piece of crap, freaking decaf freaking coffee," she muttered, looking down at the swollen lump that used to be her belly, "I can't wait until you’re out of me and I can get a decent cup of coffee."

  It wasn’t as if the life form writhing within was an big inconvenience; she was still working. She loved her job and, quite frankly, her job loved her. Working for the top-rated 24 hour news channel had its privileges, especially when you’re the poster child for the machine that owned her network.

  She knew how to pick fights and she knew how to win them. She had battled all-comers to her show and mowed them down, like a big league pitcher hopped up on a mixture of human growth hormones and steroids facing a batch of wide-eyed little leaguers.

  Being nine months pregnant came with attachments Dana Plough had not anticipated: The hourly peeing, the immense back pain, the fetal horns of the son of Satan writhing in her belly, jabbing her insides like some kind of disgruntled goat trying to pry open a can of beef stew.

  She knew that the life forming inside her was for the greater good, and she was happy for it. She felt happy for all of mankind as she sipped the brown sludge sitting in her mug, knowing that within days the child inside her would burst forth out of her womb and into the world, ushering with it an eternal darkness that would swallow and destroy all those who were not deemed to be on the right side of the war of the heavens.

  Fire and brimstone would hail down as the skies opened up and brought forth a new beginning of evil and suffering. It was going to be great to be a mom.

  *****

  Jeremiah was outside, gardening. He really did enjoy the activity of cultivation. He had become quite fond of his little patch of land with its rows of carrots, beets and the occasional tomato plant. He was particularly fond of the pear tree he had nurtured from a seedling. He called it Mr. Partridge.

  Naming inanimate objects had been a particular bee in the bonnet for Jeremiah for quite a long time; he could never quite seem to get it right. He had a cat named Cat and a washing machine he had effectively called Mr. Washing Machine, though most people who would come over to the house would delicately tell him most people didn’t actually name their appliances.

  Mr. Partridge had been named, very cleverly in his opinion, after a song he had heard while shopping one late December morning in one of the local shopping centres. There were a group of 12 people dressed in what they liked to believe were authentic-looking Victorian era clothing, each taking a particular verse about what some seemingly very wealthy man with too much tim
e on his hands had given his true love. As the song progressed the man had come up with a wide variety of items to give his betrothed, but always punctuated the new gifts with retreads of old ones.

  By the end of the song, the woman had been presented with enough gifts to open up a small village on the outskirts of town with an overabundant contingency of maids, leapers, drummers and a wide assortment of livestock. A partridge that accompanied the pear tree was always given as gift no matter what day it was.

  Jeremiah knew it would be very impractical. Unless you already had a large lot in town and enough people around to warrant the eating of all those pears to house said birds it was not a functional gift, but it was a fine inspiration for someone who had but a single tree and nothing to name it.

  *****

  There had been better gigs, but a job was a job and being the personal driver for Dana Plough was what was defined as a job. As he drove down Santa Monica Boulevard he espied into the backseat through the rearview mirror, and watched Dana Plough pour herself a triple of vodka.

  “Are you sure you want to be drinking that with the little one on the way Ma’am?”

  “When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for your opinion, okay? Marco.” she glared at his eyes in the mirror as she poundeded the glass in one smooth shot.

  “Yes, Ma’am,” said Manuel.

  Manuel DeLuego had been Dana Plough’s driver for almost three years now, and much to his chagrin she had continued to vehemently insist that his name was Marco, even though he kept protesting it wasn’t. His insistence over his name was a tad disturbing to Dana Plough since she knew that some people were not supposed to be right about anything and those people were the working people.

  Manuel had speculated that Dana Plough had once met a Latino man years before named Marco and had deduced, in all her worldly erudition, that all Latino men were named Marco. That, or she was just a bitch. He settled on the latter.

  It wasn’t as if Dana Plough had a problem with her liquor; in fact, before the pregnancy she hadn’t had so much as an ounce of liquor since the two tequila shots at Suzy Kessleman’s after her High School prom and that made her violently ill for three days after. That the baby craved liquor was strange enough, but that the baby only seemed to hunger after straight-up vodka was something she couldn’t quite fathom.

  Poka Vsyo was a little known brand from a small fishing village in Siberia, made by a chapter of lapsed orthodox monks working behind the local mink stole shop. It was three thousand dollars a bottle and almost impossible to get. But when your unborn fetus, fathered by the dark overlord, wants expensive grain alcohol from the furthest depths of a former Soviet Bloc country, who are you to deny it?

  “Big show today?” Manuel was trying to make small talk, something he was gifted at outside the car; but inside, with Dana Plough, was a different story.

  “All my shows are big, Marco. Lest we forget that”, she replied as if talking to three-year-old child. Dana Plough was excellent in knocking people down a few notches; it came in handy both in her job and in her personal life. She had an analytical need for people to know she was superior to them.

  “Of course Ma’am, it was just that-“

  “You don’t need to apologize to me Marco; I know you try your best.”

  “Yes, Ma’am.”

  As the car made its way into to the lot of Global News Association Network, Dana Plough peered out the side window. She stared up at the prodigious G logo on top of the GNAN building and sighed. She had spent her entire life striving to get to where she was and now the little bundle of joy was going to take it all away. She sighed again and reconsidered her first thought.

  At least where she was going after this would make everyone in the office sit up and take notice and curse the fact that they didn’t put her on at the 8 pm time slot she wanted, instead of the twelve noon time slot she was so erroneously given. “They’ll all want me in prime time now,” she mumbled under her breath.

  “Excuse me, Ma’am?”

  “Nothing Marco, just keep driving.”

  “Yes, Ma’am.”

  The car pulled up at the front doors of the studio where stood Juliet Robinson, a bright, cheerful, smiling, brunette of 23 years, who opened the car door and stuck her head in. She was dressed in a conservative gray pinstriped pantsuit, hiding the well-toned body that she had put in hours at the gym to sculpt.

  As Dana Plough had stated many times, if god wanted you showing your assets to the world he wouldn’t have invented blazers. In her right hand Juliet held a bottle of Evian water, in her left hand she clutched a clipboard, both of which she tightly gripped as if her life depended on the objects being there.

  “Good Morning, Ms. Plough; we have an amazing show planned for today. I hope you’re feeling up to it,” her eyes chaffed with a deep desire for the tiniest bit of encouragement.

  “And why wouldn’t I be up to it? Juliet.” The way she said Juliet’s name had a ring of serpentine malice about it. “I’m the best there is and don’t plan on ever being anything else.” Dana Plough had a certain uncanny way of always knowing who she was, and who she was was the best. Dana Plough lurched out of the car with the wobbly, unsteady restraint that nine month pregnant woman do.

  “Yes Ma’am,” Juliet knew she would have to wait for another day before the compliments came in. If you didn’t get palatable Dana Plough first thing in the morning, it wasn’t going to come that day.

  Dana took the bottle of water from Juliet and drank it all down in one impressive, smooth swallow. She reached out her hand and Juliet placed two breath mints in her palm. Dana Plough chewed on the mints as she eyed her assistant up and down, thinking that she herself had had that kind of body not too long ago. As the ladies headed inside, Manuel drove off to the studio’s cafeteria to exchange stories with his fellow drivers about the wonderfully misguided souls they had to work for; and a have good laugh over a Danish and coffee.

  *****

  Heaven was a hive of activity this particular day. A massive earthquake had killed 312 in Argentina, a hurricane wiped out 35 locals and 12 tourists on the island in Aruba and a small guerrilla war in the Middle East had claimed another two dozen, to go along with all the time-honored deaths of old age, gun-downs, overdoses and the ever increasingly popular auto-erotic affixation.

  Technically, this wasn’t heaven, but none of the recently deceased could tell the difference. Most people believe that when you die you go straight to Heaven; this is in fact a big lie. Before anyone gets to pass through the Pearly Gates, they must go through many hours of standing in processing lines, filling out massive amounts of paperwork and then meeting with his or her particular God. This was not heaven; this was what you had you to do in order to get into heaven. This was the giant DMV in the sky.

  Once one’s death had been processed and one was fit for going on to the next life [To go onto the next life, it actually helps if one were actually through with this life. There are approximately 22 accounts per year where people who weren’t actually dead ended up going through the bright white light because “It seemed to be the thing to do at the time.”], one must stand in a very long color-coded line that marked his or her particular belief in his or her particular god, religion, being, cult, etc. Once one met with one’s god, guru, incarnation, cult leader, etc. one would then move on to one the four cities of heaven or, in some cases [members of said cults] to hell.

  The better it was determined that you had lived your life on earth, the better the city in heaven in which you would be assigned to live. Someone who had led an extraordinarily exemplar life would live in the most grandiose city of heaven, deemed “Heaven One” [because heaven had a lot more things to think about than naming the cities where people would live]. Heaven One was ripe with huge fields of lilac bushes and freshly mowed green grass, encircling majestic mansions on vast hilltops looking down on one of Heaven One’s four-star restaurants.

  In the lowest city of heaven were standard one bedroom apartments
, overlooking fields of concrete slab and a Denny’s. Hell also had four cities, but none were nearly as nice as the fourth city of heaven.

  Death of the West Coast of the United States including Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii walked through the front door of his French chapeau-style home in the city which had been deemed “Place where workers of the after-life live Three.”

  He took off his black hooded cloak, hung it the coat rack, and plopped down on the sofa, resting his feet on the coffee table overgrown with magazines that sported titles like “Heaven’s 10 best places to get Shrimp Scampi” and “Hell: It may be too hot to work here, but the benefits are endlessly fun”.

  Death of the West Coast of the United States including Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii rubbed his eyes and slapped his face several times trying to get any semblance of cognizance back in his aching head.

  Being an agent of Death was the cushiest job in the afterlife, but the hours were hell, so to speak. People died twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and although not everyone had to be personally guided through the light, it was a given that a Death had to at least see 32.8% of his clients through to the other side.

  The phone rang. Well, the phone would have rung if it were an actual phone; it was in fact just a telepathic thought being transmitted to DWCUSiNAH [Death of the West Coast of the United States including Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii will now be referred to as simply DWCUSiNAH to help keep the author’s typing to a minimum.] from Death. Death, of course, being THE DEATH and not one of his employees, who were also called Death, but with a fancy long title tacked onto their names. The Death, throughout history and story-telling, had been transformed into a tall, rather bony individual by people who thought Death would be better served to scare small children and college coeds at sleep-away camps, than merely someone whose job it was to get people to stop living and get on with their deaths. The Death wanted a staff meeting and when the big guy called, you jumped. So DWCUSiNAH pulled himself off his sofa and started toward what was going to be the worst week of his after-life.

  *****

  The Hall of Death was a magnificent entry in the encyclopedia of architecture, with its high fresco ceilings aglow with Rembrandt’s, Michelangelo’s and other assorted mutant ninja turtle painters. The corridors were festooned with great statues of past gods and retired Deaths.

 
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