Friday, June 24, 2011

The Lost Light


X.



It was a short time later that the grumbling really started. Just a few malcontents voicing their displeasure. We want our games, they said, we want to be able to see and talk with our friends and family far away. We’re tired of fruit, we want meat, we’re tired of the Light. But, before long the numbers grew.



Meno was at the forefront of the movement. Everywhere he went crowds followed. His message was clear. We don’t want religion, We don’t need religion, we don’t need God, we don’t need Jesus. We were happy before; happy to be free; to struggle. In spite of the lack of phones and other communication devices, this new message spread. I was at one of Meno’s rallies and it left me afraid; afraid for humanity which I feared was coming to an end.


Meno stood on a podium, speaking through a makeshift bullhorn, his voice carried through the still air with remarkable clarity.


“We never asked for this light, did we?” he shouted to the crowd, a gathering that stretched as far as I could see.


“No”, the throng replied.


“We were happy before; even those who were poor had more than we have today”, he preached.


“We’re happier now”, responded a lone female voice.


The crowd shouted at her and she was set upon by everyone around her as Meno stood at the front, smiling, doing nothing to stop the wild vicious attack.


“We are not happier now; it’s time we reclaimed our world; it’s time to send this false Messiah home. It’s time to say to this uninvited and unwanted intruder that the world is ours; we will make it a paradise, a paradise of our choosing in our image.”


“MENO, MENO,MENO, lead us to a better world”, the crowd shouted in unison, led by Meno’s lieutenants stationed at strategic spots.


Meno held up his arms to quiet his ardent followers. Silence filled the air.


“It’s time…it’s time to find our enemy, to send him away and rebuild our world, bring back our technology, bring back our food. Send the light away”, and shouting loudly, “SEND THE LIGHT AWAY”.


The crowd started chanting, “Send the light away; send the light away”. The chanting grew louder until it was a thunderous roar:


“SEND THE LIGHT AWAY,SEND THE LIGHT AWAY.”


Meno marched off his podium towards downtown Tucson and all the people followed. At this point I ran to the beaten woman; she was lying motionless on the ground, but I saw that she was still breathing. I ran to her and cradled her head as all the people, some surely her assailants, slowly moved away.


I looked at her face and then sat back suddenly, for there was Gwen, her face bruised and swollen, blood pouring from her mouth and both ears.


“Gwen…oh Gwen, why did you do it? Why didn’t you stay with me?” I cried.


She opened her eyes, “Dr. Marcus, How good of you to care.”


“Let me get you up, let me help you…save you”, I cried.


“Leave me, doctor, I know you have seen Him. And, if you have seen Him, then you know that I am already saved. I was lost; I was dead, but now, even as I breathe my last breath, I am finally made whole, His touch made me whole. Perhaps, now, my daddy will forgive me, because, I know, I am forgiven.”


She closed her eyes and the life went out of her.


“Gwen, Gwen”, I shouted s I lifted her up. “I’m still a surgeon; I can save you.”


They were empty words; I had nothing else to offer.


“She is with my Father now”, a familiar voice said from behind me.


“Can’t you save her? Won’t you save her? If you touch her I know she will be healed”, I cried.


I laid her on the ground and turned to look at Him for the last time. He was shaking His head and then He looked upward, towards Heaven, I presumed.


“She is with my Father; she is at peace, finally. Like the lost sheep, she strayed far away, but her faith was great. There is great rejoicing in Heaven at this moment; a lost daughter has come home.”


I watched Him silently for a few moments. There was a mixture of sadness and joy in His eyes.


“The mob is looking for you”, I informed Him.


“I know; and before long they will find me. They will try to kill me, but just as before I will pass through them unharmed. It is almost time to return to my Father. When the time comes for you, remember Me. If enough people like you and Gwen and many others remember, hope will live on. Then, in time I will return.”


He walked away, leaving me by myself. I felt great loneliness and briefly despaired. I carried Gwen’s lifeless body to an empty field and laid her among the wild flowers, consecrating her to a God I was barely beginning to know.


After Gwen’s death, I wandered through the streets of Tucson aimlessly for a while. I knew that salvation was present in this life, there for the taking, but there was so much anger; anger which fouled the air. Jesus had left our area, but the unrest remained. I saw Meno walking through the streets one day, surrounded by his entourage, dozens, perhaps hundreds of followers. People with fear in their eyes hailed him nevertheless as he surveyed the land. He was carried by his people, elevated as if he were God, offering salvation. Confrontation was inevitable and I knew it would be soon. I tagged along with the crowd; morbid curiosity overcoming fear.


I didn’t have to wait long. Jesus returned and spoke to a crowd just outside the city. Word reached Meno and he went out to meet this adversary.


“I bring you a great gift”, Jesus preached, “Salvation from My Father; return to Paradise, to the perfect world that We created for you. It is here now, all around. But, there is so much more for all of you. When the time is right all the glory of Heaven will come to this place and you will know such peace and happiness; greater than the greatest thing you can imagine.”


“Lies…all lies,” Meno’s voice pierced the air. “It’s always the same thing. It will come, you will find happiness and peace sometime; sometime in the future. But what about now? Now we have nothing but fruit and light. I say to you, false diety, we had so much before you came. It’s true, this world wasn’t perfect, but at least we had dignity and freedom. We aren’t made to serve any false god, we’re made to struggle, to fight for every inch of our being.”


Jesus remained outwardly calm as he turned towards Meno, “Fool, do you know what you are saying? Do you know where your words come from? The Evil One has taken your heart. Do you know what will come?” Tears filled Jesus’ eyes as He spoke. “Do you really believe that you will make a better world for yourselves? Do you so openly reject God?”


“We not only reject god, as you call him, we condemn him and you and we sentence you to death”, Meno answered angrily, hatred filling his voice. “Seize this false god.”


The mob rushed forward, but, just as He had predicted, He passed through them unharmed. The crowd shouted as He walked away. So many stood and watched, myself included.


Shouts of “Be Gone…leave us alone…Go back to your own world” followed Him. As he walked into the distance, I suddenly realized what a stupid idiot I was. I burst away from the throng and went after Him. He was several hundred yards away, but as fast as I ran I could not catch up to Him. I watched as His image faded away. And, when I could no longer see Him, I knelt down and cried.


Soon, everywhere He went He was met by angry shouting, people raising their fists in rage. Those who were happy with the new order and who spoke out against the protests were beaten, violently subdued and, although their injuries were quickly healed, the voice of God was silenced. As the rebellion spread, Jesus disappeared. A few reported that they saw Him ascend on a cloud, but I doubt this was anything more than wishful hyperbole. After all, there weren’t any clouds. In reality, He just left.




XI.



But the clouds did return, the Light quickly faded and the sun began its daily travels across the sky; although it seemed dimmer than before.


When the light had finally receded completely, when the feelings of contentment and happiness finally disappeared, the trouble really started. The trees and vines withered and with them went the fruit, vegetables and everything else. Shells of buildings remained and, in a few areas, a few good people tried to organize the masses and start rebuilding our nearly forgotten, past civilization. Many gave up hope; after all God had abandoned them and all that remained for them was a life filled with pain, followed by death and oblivion.


I went by the hospital after He left. I thought that I’d soon need to return to my old life. The hospital was still empty; the front entrance padlocked, the windows all closed and locked. But, I had my ways and I still had my keys. Many years before I had convinced a young and na├»ve hospital administrator that I needed access to the hospital any time and that going through the ER entrance wasn’t always in my best interest. She gave me a key to the door that opened into the kitchen and, as luck would have it, it still worked.


I made my way between the empty appliances, through the cafeteria and up one flight to the OR’s. There were still stretchers in the hallway and the last OR schedule dangled from the bulletin board adjacent to the main desk, held by a single, tenacious thumbtack. There was my name at the top, Dr. Daniel Marcus, Right Inguinal Hernia Repair and so many other names, colleagues I hadn’t seen in years.


“It’s terrible…such a waste”, I murmured to myself.


“That it is”, a voice answered.


I turned and saw Nate Greenwood walking towards me, Dr. Greenwood, an anesthesiologist I had worked with in the past, never a close friend, but we always had a collegial sort of relationship; the sort of mutual respect that can develop after taking care of octogenarians with ruptured bowels at three am.


“I suspect we’ll be busier than ever soon”, he stated. “Now that things will be getting back to normal.”


“Normal”, I cried, “how can anything ever be normal again. Everything we used to have is long gone. Everything that should have kept us content and happy has left us. Nothing will ever be normal again.”


My voice grew louder. “Do you think there is any chance that we can all just return to our old homes, go back to shopping at the supermarket and complaining that the lettuce is wilted, or send our children to school to teach them how to make this world a better place.”


I was shouting now and Dr. Greenwood had a look of fear on his face, fear of me. I didn’t care what he thought as my tirade reached fever pitch.


“We had our chance, Dr. Greenwood, and we blew it. Traded an eternity of peace and contentment, no, an eternity of glorious, ecstatic, perfect joyful happiness; traded it for an empty world, devoid of hope, filled only with flawed humanity, suffering, and, very soon, starvation, disease and death. I hope you don’t consider that normal.”


He looked at me a bit aghast and slowly backed away.


“Have some faith in human ingenuity, Marcus. It will all work out for the best. People will naturally band together and inside of two years we’ll have this old world humming along like nothing ever happened.”


I noticed he continued to back away, but by now I had calmed down.


“I hope you’re right, Dr. Greenwood, I hope you’re right.”


I watched him walk away. I just shook my head as I pondered what we each had said. If he was right it would be better for all, at least in the short run, but, as I thought about all that had happened I was convinced that I was right.