Close of the Age
By Michael Rodriguez
Published by Michael Rodriguez at Shakespir
Copyright © 2017 Michael Rodriguez
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Lightning lit up the blackness over what seemed to be a letter T over a hill. The area shaded again for a few seconds. Another bolt brightened a bloodied and heavily bruised face with his arms hanging on a patibulum by the wrist. Blood dripped black through open wounds on his body that hung like ribbons of flesh. A low cry of agony cracked through his swollen mouth. A deep thunder mumbled into the night followed by a soft exhale after it faded.
Yet another strike of brightness in the sky and an angel flashed down dragging a great blazing chain and tackled a dark figure that leaped towards the crucified man. The figure roared like the sound of seven dragons as he was plunged at great speed down a dark abyss until a glow of magma began to lighten the deep. The figure had six horns on his head. Two inwardly curved horns on the head with the left larger than the right. Two straight horns on each side of the head and two inwardly curved horns like fangs hanging down from its wide upper lips. The nose was like a giant tumor and oval eyes glowed with the brightness of electricity. Four large horns formed a breastplate over his torso resembling a snake’s fangs. Its skin was charred. It extended its finger to draw its sharp claw into the center of my right eye.
Joseph Michaels jumped from his sleep with deep gasps of air like he’d been close to suffocating to death. A slight burning sensation of a scratch in his eye irritated him and he grabbed his wife’s arm.
“What’s wrong baby?” Mary asked, as she turned around to face her husband.
“I saw the devil!”
Delicate hands cradled Joseph’s chin and gently laid his head over her armpit. “It’s okay my love. Shhh. It was just a dream.”
“No. It was a vision!”
“Stop rubbing your eyes honey. I’ll go make you some tea.”
Joseph felt around on the bedside table for the TV remote to muffle his fright with the sound of breaking news.
“It is time for all Muslims to unite and attack all Jews and Christians and all infidels wherever we find them in the name of allah!” said an Arabian man with a serious, bold face who seemed to have absolutely no patience about anything whatsoever.
“This world is going to hell,” Joseph whispered to himself.
Joseph rubbed his fingers over his eyelids wide and the pain went away. He changed to the channel to sautéed tenderloin steaks with wine sauce. The chef lifted the glass cover from the sauce pan to show the steak sizzling in olive oil. The steam must’ve escaped the screen and carried the smell into his nose.
“Now that’s more like it.”
He got up and made his way barefoot throughout his luxury Manhattan Beach house, hurrying to sip a hot cup of Earl Grey. The dawning sun glowed on the curtains of the bay windows, giving a warm comforting feel but he wasn’t relaxed at all, convinced that there was something important about that dream. Images from it flashed in and out of his head. He needed to wake up and focus.
Facing the sink, Mary tilted her neck as she held the steaming cup in her hand, waiting for Joseph to complete the ritual of giving her waist a tight hug from behind and kissing her neck before taking the cup and saying, thank you baby, a routine yet to break.
“Is it steaming hot?” asked Joseph.
“Yes, my love. Just how you like it,” Mary said and then smiled and turned on the cold water on the sink waiting for Joseph to splash some tap water into the tea. He always wants it hot just to cool it down enough for him to drink which actually always ended up more lukewarm than everything else. Mary always got a kick out of it. She knew him like clockwork.
“It’s been a while since you’ve had a revelation,” said Mary. “Maybe God is trying to tell you something?”
“I know where you’re going with that sweetheart and you know how I feel about that.”
“It’s just church.”
“That’s how it begins, a tender greeting at the door and next thing you know they’re running your life all sorts of ways from Sunday. No, I’m not consulting with any parishioners, mediums, witches or sorcerers.”
Mary opened her eyes in amazement.
Joseph often compared anyone with a psychic ability as the same kind of people. It all started from a terrible experience since he was raised in a Pentecostal Church of the Living God in West Virginia. It was an unexpected heartbreak when he found out that the youth vice president he was dating and in love with suddenly ended up with the cool, handsome drummer and the church accepted and protected it because, according to Joseph, it was backlash from his constant disagreements with their teachings and position on the nature of Jesus. He claimed all churches were a modern day version of Old Testament Israel in their rebellious years. In Joseph’s eyes it was personal and the bible or God had absolutely nothing to do with the mandates of the church.
“Good news. I’m having a book signing at 1pm today at the Barnes and Noble. The one in the Grove. I’m sure they’d love to meet you.”
Mary’s lips smiled behind her cup of coffee but her eyes gave a threatening, piercing look. In all the other book signings, Joseph took over talking about his idea that, with Mary’s writing skills, became the best seller of the year, Through the Exoverse. He was about thirteen when it came to him, the idea that the whole universe, as big as it is, is contained within a sphere with portals on a wall of intense blackness. These would then lead to the outside of the sphere to the place God believers would call heaven. It’d be filled with white space and having celestial bodies occupying it all around the universe which would be no longer visible because its surface would be something of a planetary mass furnished with gardens and mountains and oceans. Joseph proposed the theory all throughout his career to be dismissed with boastful laughter from every scientific community, but was a cool idea to his students at the University of California, where he serves as professor of Astrophysics and of course, to all of Mary Michaels sci-fi book lovers. But the look on Mary’s face referred to his extra charming dialogues with office secretary half plump-breasted type of female groupies that seemed to be way too fascinated by his ideas for her taste.
“I’m sure some hotties would love to hear your eccentric explanation of the way space works!”
“Oh, baby, you know you’re my one and only hottie,” Joseph lay his cup down on the counter and came closer to Mary, sliding his hands around her hips. “And I have just the kiss to prove it.”
The toaster shot up four golden slices as the smell of bacon fried into scrambled eggs filled a clean kitchen, furnished with expensive appliances and accented with lemon-colored curtains and upholstery that complimented the warm feel of a Sunday morning July and the sweet serenity of callings from all the playful birds. Joseph proposed that the signing were actually that of siblings waking up first thing to play fight as their parents called after them for breakfast. Mary’s version was a morning ritual of praising God in a choir of thanksgiving before going in search for food. Regardless of difference in how they viewed life they always meet in a common ground of love and happiness in each other. The earth around them could break apart and they’d lose themselves in their own embrace and a timeless smooching of the lips.
Joseph sniffed repeatedly.
“Breakfast is burning,” said Mary, pushing Joseph away lightly. “Let’s eat then get ready and after the book signing, Sunny Jim’s Cave? After hiking?”
“Just a sea cave that we can walk down to and explore.”
“I love unusual places,” Joseph said and smiled as he forked the eggs into a bent buttered toast.
Mary smiled and winked as she poured a mix of spinach, coconut water and orange juice for him. “I know.”
After breakfast Mary went about sorting her things before the signing event and packing a few essentials for hiking. Joseph stepped out onto the porch to pick up his delivery of California Sunday Magazine that came with the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He loved to stimulate his mind with all sorts of interesting things, especially against the backdrop of ocean waves splashing against the shore. He reclined into his la-z-boy outdoor recliner and sat his cup of orange juice on the white seahorse side table and opened the Los Angeles Time. A headline read: Mass Shooting at Grand Central – 42nd St Leaves Dozens Dead, Hundreds Wounded. He read on that the shooters shouted, “Allahu Akbar” before they were shot down on the platform for the uptown number 4 train followed by comments by U.S. President Donald Trump issuing an offensive against the Islamic State after reports of claiming credit for the attack throughout social media. His comments read, “We’re going to send the message: “You’ve messed with the wrong people and you’re going to regret it!” Joseph shook his head and sighed and tossed the paper for the science section of the California Sunday Magazine to read about decoding the science of why we scratch.
“Now that’s more like it.”
There was nothing like the feel of the gentle breeze of New York’s Autumn to cool Joseph’s soul but California knew no such thing, but a stand up fan set on low came close enough to the ideal of Ancient Egyptian’s fanning a Pharaoh as he relaxed on his throne, although Joseph’s seat of majesty came with a generous deep cushioning over a hand-woven resin wicker. The crave for power and comfort never ends and with that Joseph suffered an instant weakness as the feel of the fan and the breakfast, comfort of the seat rendered him useless. His arms dropped the magazine and his eyes surrendered to a pre-lunch nap.
Joseph woke up to the shoving of his shoulders.
“Come on wake up. It’s eleven,” said Mary, in her anticipation of his long decision making process over what he should wear for any particular occasion. The Barnes and Noble was only about forty five minutes away drive, which left a good hour for selecting just the right attire for his anticipated conversations. Joseph loved to engage others into his wild imaginations and although Mary was the author he usually ended up taking the limelight and because she loved him so much she’d just sit back and smile at his getting consumed by all the attention.
Joseph walked out the house like a boss and onto the passenger seat of their Acura RLX sport hybrid in his Rivington shorts, linen fitted dress shirt with the sleeves buttoned to the elbows, comfortable boat shoes and his favorite part, his canvas strap watch that he alternated to match his outfits. It was like there was a theme music playing behind him as he walked with his wife, hand in hand and she heard the music playing inside his head. She could tell by the wide smile on his face and smooth almost jazzy walk for absolutely no reason. She got a kick out of all his quirks and she knew all of his weird little things. She usually just followed along for her own private fun.
They drove off joyfully snapping their fingers singing out loud to the chorus playing on the stereo, “Taaaaake ooooon meeeee (Take on me). Taaaaake meeeee ooooon (Take on me). IIIIII’ll beeeee gooooone. In a day or twooooo!”
Joseph loved most types of songs, but relied heavily on anything jazzy to relieve his complicated mind of all his deep thoughts. As usual, he switched to CD and played Over My Head by The Fray so he could slowly bop his head as he enjoyed the wind on his face. “I never knew. I never knew that everything was falling through. That everyone I knew was waiting on a cue. To turn and run when all I needed was the truth. But that’s how it’s got to be. It’s coming down to nothing more than apathy.”
Mary turned down the volume a bit and asked, “Want to grab something to eat first? All you had was breakfast.”
“A bean burrito to go would be nice,” Joseph replied, holding Mary’s hand over her thigh. They enjoyed holding each other, gazing adoringly with such a deep satisfaction they had for their union. They’ve been married five years and grew closer ever since.
Joseph contemplated her pretty face as they merged onto the freeway, when he saw a commercial airplane stream black smoke from one of its engines and was headed down fast over the highway.
“Let’s get out of here! Step on it!”
“See, this is why we need to pray baby,” Mary said as her eyes watered a bit. “Oh my God, all those people.”
Joseph pulled out his cell phone to activate his twitter app for any tweets about a crash landing in Los Angeles, which he expected minutes away. “If it isn’t one catastrophe it’s another nowadays.”
Mary took exit 7B for Fairfax Avenue and drove to Frank’s, a cozy Mexican spot two breakfast burrito’s filled with potatoes, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, onions and crispy bacon. She wasn’t hungry at the thought of innocent casualties, but Joseph gobbled away at his burrito as he read about the plane making it somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where they awaited rescue. They both took in a deep sigh of relief and thanked God.
The rest of the way was quiet pulling into the grove, parking and entering Barnes and Nobles. They walked in, Mary’s arm tucked under Joseph’s arm. They smiled as they greeted visitors and sat down. Joseph thought he’d looked around the isles in search of any science fiction books that would catch his eye. It wasn’t the content inside the book that he was hoping to be a good read but the titles. He would stare into the titles of the books and let his imagination take the titles and run with them, one in particular, Into the Light. He stood before it, gazing into the white letters until his small space ship was sucked into a wormhole at warp speed. The speed was exhilarating. Then it slowed down and exited onto space to contemplate the wonders of a system of two planets circling each other called the Pisces galaxy, which he named, of course. At the center there was a small, bright star. The ship resumed again, picking up speed, directed towards that light. The planets generated an energy field from rotating around the gravitational pull that a man made star that was placed there by an intelligent alien race bent on destroying the earth emanated. The faster the planets would spin the greater the energy source which would increase the power of the star. Joseph didn’t know who weaponized the star but it was his job to stop it. Then—
The honeycomb constellation, Joseph thought to himself, after hearing a distinct female voice inside his head. When the power of his imagination transported him to the realms of the unknown there was absolutely no connection with reality, except to incorporate sounds and feelings into whatever his thoughts were playing.
Again Joseph heard a voice coming from somewhere behind a nebula. Of course! Joseph realized as he peered deep into the growing star which was preparing to generate something of an ultrasonic pulse throughout space. The Queen of an insect-like race was betrayed and heartbroken because a young American captain took off with a rare green crystal that would supply their ship’s engine with all the quantum warp drive they needed.
“Oh!” Joseph cried as he jumped into the reality of a firm grab and shoving of his arm.
“I’m sorry,” said an old man. “Your wife is calling you.”
Joseph laughed and eagerly replied, “Of course!” and walked through a crowd and onto the book signing table. “Yes my lovely wife?”
“There’s a man here who says he has a message for you,” said Mary. She pointed behind him.
Joseph turned around to a bald elderly man, wearing round frame glasses, white hair and a bright smile.
“Hello,” greeted the man with a warm and gentle, welcoming voice. “I have a message to deliver to you and if you’ll permit me I’ll get right to it.” He patiently opened his tiny bible with crumbled pages and bent to all tips, flipping them with absolutely no care of the world or time. He almost had it at some point, then nodded and kept searching. “Oh, there it is.”
The crowd laughed warmly.
“I will be reading to you from first Peter chapter three verses nineteen through twenty. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Amen.”
Joseph shook his head an amused yet confused sort of way and said, “Okay. I’m sorry … I don’t get it.”
“This is what the Lord has called you to do. Will you heed the call?”
Joseph laughed and shook his head with a look of disbelief and the man humbly walked away. But at the same time he immediately recalling his dream from that morning, he realized the meaning of it. He turned to his wife.
“We need to talk.”
“Okay,” said Mary, as she signed copies from her readers. “Shoot.”
“I think I’ve just figured something out. Remember the dream I had this morning? The man hanging from the cross was Jesus. The angel with the great chain was the angel mentioned in Revelation twenty, verses one through three, a passage that every Jewish and Christian theologian misinterpreted as an event that occurs after the apocalyptic great tribulation period, which is also called the close of the age. The problem with this theory is that it places a thousand years after these final years of tribulation before the complete destruction of the constellations and the earth and any false additions to the book of Revelation will result in curses. This means that all religious adherents that perpetuate this belief are cursed to suffer the plagues written within the book of Revelation according to chapter twenty two, verse eighteen. Essentially, all who are cursed are like those who are in prison.”
“So you need to preach to church people who are in a prison of confusion before the wrath comes.”
“Or is it build an ark?” Joseph said, nodding his head perplexed and hint of humor. “Are we expecting a flood?”
Mary turned to Joseph to give a bold, eyeballing look and said, “Fire. And a wooden ark is the last place we’d wanna be in.”
A young man lay his book before Mary for the signing.
“So first I had the dream, then this man delivers the message of what happens after Satan is bound by the angel, which is the three days and nights that Jesus is preaching in Hades to those of the Noah generation who were not preached at contrary to many church circles because Noah wasn’t an evangelist but was too busy trying to build a large ark with a handful of people,” said Joseph, growing in excitement.
Mary was beginning to sign away books without looking, gazing admirably into her husband’s face as he continued.
“Now Jesus went into Hades after the angel bound the devil, took away the keys to this prison of spirits and removed the angel of death from the powers of darkness and preached to these jailed souls the gospel of salvation.”
“Do you think they had a chance to repent and escape Hades?” Mary asked, as she handed a book back to reader without even looking to what she’d sign. “Like the Catholics who believe that with prayer they can release a soul from purgatory?”
“No, not like that,” Joseph replied. “The difference between that time and this time is that the Noah generation didn’t receive any gospel of salvation. I believe Jesus preached so that they wouldn’t have any excuse on judgment day.”
“But what if they did repent?”
“Well, I would rather give praise to the power of salvation of Jesus than place the greater authority on captivity over ignorance. Otherwise, we’d be limiting the power of God. I mean, considering all that he’d accomplished.”
“I just love seeing you ooze out with so much passion over the word of God,” said Mary, as she rested her face on her hand, smiling lovingly. “God has truly blessed you.”
“But what would I be called to do?”
“Preach to the spirits in prison,” Mary answered.
“Great, now assuming that the spirits in prison refer to the religious assembly how do you preach to a people who are convinced they know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”
“All you’d need is the power to prophesy.”
Joseph smiled at his lovely wife. She always made things so easy, usually taking off the tension that his many thoughts winded his brain into. He watched as she began to entertain questions from a young lady next on line. The more they exchanged words the more his thoughts wrapped inside a cocoon, preparing to concentrate on what this calling was truly about and whether he should believe this. So he began connecting information on his black imaginary board, fit with scriptures, verbal arguments and streaming images.
First, there’s the fact that the Gog and magog war, referring to the kings of the east, nations that will launch a global war against Jews and Christians as a judgments against the house of God and punish the rebellious for their sins. Second, the devil is released from his prison to prepare these Gog and magog nations and that’s Revelation twenty verses seven through ten along with the beast and the false prophet, both great tribulation entities proving that the devil must be already released from his imprisonment given all the current news concerning Jerusalem and that places the devil’s imprisonment beginning the moment Jesus gave his last breath on the cross so that he can take over Hades. That being the case, the devil is loose now, deceiving the kings of the earth, positioning them like chess pieces before the exchanges begin and the church is headed straight towards it blind like sheep to the slaughter because of course too many believe in the rapture of the church.
Joseph went into a dark, ghoulish prison with caves for cells. There were souls in anguish, agonizing with deep emotional pain. The solemn wailings were that of thousands of tired people, stretching out their cries because of their desolation. His attention drew to one, a little thin boy soaked wet who cried as though someone had taken his toys away for getting bad grades, saying a loud to anyone who would hear, “Please, let me out. Please.” That cry softened his heart with a deep compassion that made his right eye tear a tiny drop off the side. Then the boy coughed out water and gagged and it went on without stopping. A cold sense of terror consumed Joseph’s eyes. He suddenly felt the soft caress of a gentle hand hold his face, which he assumed belong to Jesus.
“Honey?” said Mary.
Joseph woke up to Mary as she dried his tear.
“Were you there? What did you see?”
“It was terrible. But those people wanted to get out. Church today is the total opposite. They want to fill in the churches and everything I’d relay to them about the true meanings of the bible would suggest to leave those places. Something they consider an attack against the church.”
“Maybe not,” said Mary. “They can change. People can change.”
“The leadership? Theologians, popular evangelists, pastors, bishops, cardinals, popes? These people won’t risk jeopardizing their credibility before the people they’d go out of business. There’s a level of pride that goes with stature in society.”
“And pride goes before a fall,” Mary said. “Ready to go?”
Mary’s words concerning pride simmered Joseph’s head for a while. He had to admit there was a kind of satisfaction he felt from thinking of all the religious leaders falling off a cliff one by one. It was a sense of payback from bad experiences in the church. To Joseph, church leaders were oppressors of the people, little Ceasars of the temples exacting their taxes in the name of tithing’s and their flock of sheep were the laymen they’ve conquered with all the hype. Like slaves in the pews they invest all they are in return for a senseless hope. In a world where everything is fast delivered; fast information, fast loans, fast food. Fast salvation would have to be the most profitable item in the dollar menu. Religion was definitely the best place for the devil to have the greatest influence of deception. And nothing was going to change Joseph’s mind about that. Or at least, that’s what he thought.
Joseph and Mary left Barnes and Nobles at the end of the day, starved. The smell of Mary’s chicken soup came into Joseph’s mind and couldn’t wait for her to cook it that evening. There was no meal like home cooked meal and he loved to eat his wife’s food. It always came with all the fixings, a natural juice, a warm smile and a sweet kiss.
“Oh, we need to get some apples and bananas honey,” said Mary. “Walmart is close by.”
“I’ll pick us up an apple turnover,” said Joseph. “To sizzle under ice cream.”
“Baby, we’re supposed to eat healthy.”
“I’ll go running tomorrow morning, burn it off.”
“I love how you justify things,” said Mary.
Mary took the cart into the produce section and Joseph left to the frozen foods for a bucket of vanilla bean, though the cookie’s n’ cream tempted him. There was nothing sweeter than ice cream melting over a sizzling apple turnover. He dropped the tub in the hand basket. They always bought the apple turnovers fresh at a local bakery.
Joseph made his way back to the produce section to get his wife, his eyes wandering through every product in every aisle. Then he heard a man shouting loudly. As he turned the dairy section he noticed a few people squatted under the vegetable stands; a woman held her child tightly to her chest. He inched closer as he looked around a few carts and saw blood on the floor.
Oh, my God …. Mary
Joseph dropped the basket and hurried to see who was bleeding. It was Mary. He shook her as blood gushed out from her neck. It was deeply slashed.
Joseph suspected a Muslim man conducted a terrorist attack. He left Mary and went closer to the man who was talking to find an Arab holding up a knife. All of the Walmart customers and staff cowered behind something.
“America is weak!” shouted the Arab.
Deep sorrow drowned Joseph’s eyes and rage filled his heart. He hurried behind him, took the knife the Arab held and stabbed him with it.
“You bastard!” shouted Joseph. “You killed my wife!”
Joseph held the Arab man down as he held up his forehead and with one deep swipe slashed the Arab’s neck.
“You like chopping people’s heads off?!”
Still unsatisfied Joseph stabbed the Arab man’s face; his eyes, his lips, his forehead, almost every part. Every attack was motivated by hurt and rage and when fatigued set it Joseph had a thought: Arab’s condone their people beheading others in the name of religion, but condemn foreigners who behead Arabs in return.
Joseph stood up as he panted. He looked around, knowing that people were hiding.
Joseph let out a cry over Mary and what he’d done. His rage compelled him, but deep inside he wasn’t a murderer.
“The hell with you! You want to be weak and let people kill us while you go on like nothing is happening! I hope God destroys this nation!”
“You’re right,” said a female voice. “This nation is weak.”
Joseph turned to an elderly woman with flowing white hair and a sincerity on her face.
“Muslims follow a false god. There is no salvation for them though they believe they’re doing God a service. But it’s not too late for you to turn you heart to Him. This event will start their blood thirsty uprising and many of our people will rise up. The prideful and the wicked will fall among all peoples, but if you repent you do not have to fear prison, for there you will give testimony and the book you wrote will be read for the sake of your name and it will put wisdom in the minds and hearts of many.”
His book Revelation Unsealed came to his mind and gave him a sense of ease that it would help many understand the many lies and mysteries that have plagued generations for so long. He made it back to Mary’s body and hugged her.
“Mary, I’m so sorry,” cried Joseph. “I love you!”
Joseph spent his tears until he was pulled away from her.
Close of the Age was written as a free ebook to help promote awareness and offer Revelation Unsealed, a guide book, which is available for purchase on Shakespir.