Tuesday, March 15, 2005

rand the hatchet #4

James and his brother, Peter, stood quietly in the crowd. The ceremony hadn't yet begun, but it would soon. An often overlooked aspect of funerals is that the moment of waiting can be more intense than anything that transpires during the actual event; there's a certain climactic energy to the silence that sometimes serves as a nice starting point for stories like this.

"This is really pissing me off, Pete. This just isn't right." James kept his voice down for obvious reasons.
"It'll all be over soon, Jim... don't do anything stupid."
"It just isn't right. It's just not right."

Ted's widow and his two teen-aged children were close enough to hear them, but Peter figured that they weren't bothering to listen. Ted's wife wasn't making a peep, but her head was tucked down into her lap, and her entire upper body was shaking violently; Peter assumed that she was crying. He observed James staring intently at the casket, with a silent rage that he knew all too well. "Just don't do anything stupid."

The company limo pulled up gracefully, and two girls solemnly stepped out. They were wearing their ceremonial robes, which were crimson in color, and looked to be made of a thick, heavy fabric. They slowly ventured toward the podium, scattering rose petals, creating a beautiful and colorful path. James and Peter couldn't hear the words that they were chanting, but already knew their song, "Make way, make way, for he is coming."

"This is all his fault, Pete."
"He'll hear you, Jim..."
"He just shouldn't be here."
The brothers bowed their heads along with everyone else, as Rand emerged from the darkness of the limousine.

Rand was in his everyday-wear, consisting of a flowing purple robe, with gold sewn into the sleeves and collar. This robe only had a ten-foot train, and he wasn't even wearing his formal Papal hat. He was dressed like he was stopping off at the funeral just after doing some grocery shopping. Ted's widow started weeping harder when she saw that only two girls were carrying the train of Rand's robe.

Most of the people at the funeral were Ted's friends or peers; these were people from an age that was quickly diminishing. These people grew up playing catch in the street, waiting eagerly for the ice-cream man to drive by. Rand's era was a time of progress... this created a world that they just couldn't keep up with. This was a time of computer games, easily accessible pornography, and wars fueled by economics... this was a time when things made sense for once. They were lost in this era... they didn't have the energy anymore to toss a ball around with their kids, and they couldn't afford to get them ice-cream. They were quickly dying out, and Ted's failure was just a bit of Rand's reality slapping them in the face. As Rand finally arrived at the podium, one of the girls who had scattered flower petals rang a bell, and the entire crowd stood tall and sang, "He was coming, we made way, and now he is here."

Rand pretended to survey the crowd, but wasn't really paying attention. "I want to thank you all for coming, but today, we're here to honor Ted. Ted lived a good life, until he finally decided to end it, leaving his loved ones to fend for themselves."

Ted's widow started weeping audibly.

"Ted was an adequate sandwich delivery boy, and at fifty-six years of age, he was the oldest delivery boy at the deli."

James' face took on a darker shade of red, and his hands clenched into fists.

"Having to work two jobs to fund his son's three years of junior college, Ted's fire quickly burned out, much like his son's education did."

Peter noticed his brother's knuckles turning white, but lacked the courage to say anything.

"His friends called him a good man, with a big heart. He was just one of the guys; he was very.... average."

James couldn't stand it anymore. "Ted was a data processor!"

The entire crowd gasped, and even Ted's family looked back at James in horror.

Peter's heart dropped. He wanted to save his brother, but didn't know if it was possible anymore.

One of the girls pulled a crossbow out from the folds of her robe, but before she could aim it at James, Rand lifted a hand, signaling that it was okay. Pretending to make eye contact with the crowd, Rand continued, "This is true. Ted was once a data processor at my company until we automated his job. Even though he wasn't very good at doing..."

"Ted was a good man, and you ruined his life!" James had gone too far; Peter backed away from him slowly.

"Son, the Lord works in mysterious ways." While the rest of the crowd responded in unison by saying, "Amen," James approached the podium so that he could look Rand in the face.

"You're a monster! You take pleasure in ruining the lives of good people!"

Rand sighed and nodded at one of the girls in robes. Before Rand could say, "Forgive him Lord... he knows not what he does," a shuriken was lodged into James' ankle, causing him to lose his balance and fall backward into Ted's open grave. His screams of pain pierced the ears of all around. Rand glanced down to see that James' left leg was folded under him, and other bones appeared to be broken as well. His cries were finally muffled when the casket was lowered, and dirt was thrown into the grave.

After the crowd sang the 'Baptism of Earth' song (a joyous hymn about forgiveness) for both Ted and James, the clouds above parted, and a booming voice resounded, "This is Rand the Hatchet, with whom I am pleased."