“In a matter of time, they will all worship the Chancellor as God. I’m sure of it. Is there anyone left that has not been touched by him? If there are, they will be too afraid to say so, and if they say so then they’ll die.”
“And you’ve just realized this?”
“I’ve pushed the thought away for as long as I could bear. You haven’t?”
“Better to face the truth before it smacks me in the face……What’s this? A picture?”
“The sky. Unbelievable, isn’t it? It’s how it looked a few days ago. Look at it now, Claiborne, it’s all…messed up and dark. All of that beautiful blue is gone.”
“We’ll see it again one day.”
“Will we? If what we believe is true, then the Exaltation has already happened, and we were left behind. Why are we still here? What did we do to deserve this? We’ve believed in the true God, haven’t we?”
“Of course, Wim. You’re being a big flake right about now, and it’s hurting my head.”
“Who do you believe?”
“I mean, who do you believe in?”
“You know who I believe in.”
“Yes, but I thought I’d ask. I’m flustered, thas’ all. Hello! Another drink here, charlatan.”
Twice a week they would meet at Luca’s, a warm, shabby shack where Swiss men went to drink beer and watch sports, and order the same drink, two Ueli Laggs Specials. Their seats were worn from their drinking sessions, the plastic covers torn from hours of pressure, and the chair so accustomed to their weight that unless Wim and Claiborne were sitting there, the metal would make the most awful creak. From time to time, froth would drip onto the hardwood bar, sinking into the counter and over the years, creating a permanent stain, the stamp of their presence for any other that would take their place.
Outside the early-risers jaunted as normal, despite the murky sky and the poisoned sun that blazed red. If the wind picked up, it would blow back their hair, and evangelists could spot the Mark of the Beast, glowing like swollen blisters on the disciples’ foreheads, a barcode that permitted entrance to Jerusalem. The Chancellor’s Capital was Jerusalem’s other and more notorious name; even previous to the great claim of all who professed belief in Elyon, called evangelists, he had taken the place as ruler and protector of nations. Those who heard his name trembled, not of fear but of elation. The thought of breathing the same air as the Chancellor was exhilarating for his disciples.
For starters, the Chancellor bore the face of a chiseled David, excluding his glossy facial hair, and donned the robes of a saint. Before the Exaltation he was merely a common man, born in the walls of some odd town. His wit and charm removed prickles of doubt from the minds of others, and he found a place in political office, climbing the ranks to become someone with more influence. Governor, commander, chaplain, president, king, doctor, mister, whatever the title, he would twist it around his name until it stuck. And then it did. No man had ever possessed that degree of power.
Those who led before were led by the Chancellor. Those who worshiped idols and myths soon worshiped the Chancellor. If a person ate, it was likely that the food was provided by the Chancellor. Those who walked on a cobblestone road walked on a street funded by the Chancellor. Anything that happened was regulated by the Chancellor. Monuments of him were erected in several countries. His very name became the eighth wonder of the world. Women loved him, children feared him, men desired to serve him.
In a matter of time, they would all worship the Chancellor as God.
Those who hated him were greatly outnumbered, refusing to claim their true beliefs lest both their minds and their bodies be publicly tortured. In this category were both Claiborne and Wim. Many knew of their passion for Elyon. Elyon, the true God, God that lived in the sky and had no need to bribe for love. This was an unpopular opinion, and in fact a hated opinion after the Exaltation, where servants of Elyon were stolen away to be with him. Others after seeing the Exaltation converted, yet remained on earth. Two ministers, however, put their faith in Elyon before the event, and were left.
So they drank at Luca’s in their spare time, while the earth split and burned on the other side of the planet. Two thirds of the world were desolated with fire and earthquakes. Those that dwelled there were split into thirds themselves, two thirds succumbing to ruin, the final third surviving off of scraps and whatever was left.
The New Roman Empire consisted of Europe and countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. These were included in the Chancellor’s domain. The journey of man was only to arrive in the New Roman Empire.
To keep track of his true kingdom, the Chancellor developed a system of endorsement, or rather a gold star next to the name of every city or town that was fully committed to him. To earn his blessing, a monumental eighty-five percent of the population would need to register for the Mark of the Beast. Once achieved, the officer of the township would film themselves confessing their love for the Chancellor, and providing reasons their loyal megalopolis should be endorsed. The Chancellor would watch and enjoy in the company of his closest councilmen, or in the comforts of his chambers where he could slip his hand down the front of his pants. A digital message would confirm their success. A town that was not endorsed was censured; this meant laziness, insubordination, betrayal to the crown, and damnation.