NRA: Someone wrote this. And someone else published this.

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 194-197

Buck Williams and riverboat captain Michael were headed up the Jordan for a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour. Then Michael shut off the engine, pulled a gun, and informed Buck that he had murdered his previous two passengers and dumped their bodies in the river.

This led, of course, to a tense round of Twenty Questions, after which the two men are relieved to realize they’re on the same side. Buck was sent up the river by Moses and Elijah to look for Tsion Ben-Judah. Michael had been sent to the river by Moses and Elijah to kill anyone looking for Tsion Ben-Judah. You may notice a potential problem there in the biblical patriarchs’ plan, but it all works out OK because Michael had also been instructed to await the arrival of an unnamed “deliverer” — the one person he should help rather than kill. That turns out to be Buck, so it’s all good and our hero doesn’t get shot and dumped in the river.

Buck and Michael hug it out and share a laugh over the wacky misunderstanding, and then they have the following conversation, which is … well, it’s indescribable.

The complete exchange is too astonishing to engage in its original form without working up to it slowly, so lets break it down into its slightly more manageable constituent parts. Here are all of Buck Williams’ lines:

“Moishe and Eli.”

“And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

“Are you, then, an evangelist?”

“Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

It might be a fun exercise to attempt to write the other side of that conversation in such a way as to make Buck’s lines there seem less deliriously absurd.

I’m not sure how that would go, exactly, but I’m guessing it would include some sort of rational segue between “have you murdered others?” and “are you an evangelist?” And then some kind of explanation as to how or why it is that Buck would say that a non-murderous evangelist was just what he’d been praying for.

But the actual conversation here on these pages is not such an exercise. If anything, Michael’s side of this dialogue only serves to make Buck’s weird non sequiturs seem even stranger. Here are all of Michael’s lines in this exchange:

“Who told you where you might find Tsion?”

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

“I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.”

“In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.”

“That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said. “You must realize that you are the same.”

Again, it might be fun to try to supply the other side of that conversation by somehow interspersing Michael’s lines with responses and prompts that produced something coherent, meaningful or human-seeming. But, as you’ve already seen, Buck’s lines don’t do any of that.

Put together, the whole exchange looks like this:

“Who told you where you might find Tsion?”

“Moishe and Eli.”

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

That bit isn’t completely bonkers. I mean, if you set aside the fact that “Moishe and Eli” are actually the biblical figures Moses and Elijah — and you disregard the whole dizzying array of howling biblical contradictions it introduces, such as Moses talking about an heir to David’s throne — then this could pass for a mostly rational bit of conversation. Who sent you? These two guys. Oh, them — I know them. That bit makes a bit of sense.

But then the non-sequiturs start flowing and the rest of the conversation reads like some failed improv experiment involving two actors pulling lines out of a hat:

“They are my mentors,” Michael said. “I am one who became a believer under their preaching and that of Tsion.”

“Michael reached to embrace Buck. He squeezed him with a huge bear hug and was laughing and weeping.”

“And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

“I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.”

“Are you, then, an evangelist?”

“In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.”

“Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.

“That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said. “You must realize that you are the same.”

I wanted to get into some of the underlying issues here in this conversation — like the violent ethic that seems to suggest the life of a preacher like Tsion (or Tim LaHaye) is worth more than other, disposable, lives. Or the way the authors abandon their alleged literalism to transform the “144,000″ martyrs from a host of singing virgins laying down their lives to an army of gun-wielding killers. Or the way that the portrayal of Michael here plays on a right-wing American stereotype of Israelis as remorseless killers — a stereotype that is both anti-Semitic and as hilariously revealing as any Wolverines!-type fantasy always is.

But I’m unable to focus on any of that because I’m just too flummoxed by the exhaustive, pervasive, shrieking awfulness of that conversation above. It’s just too much. I can’t even get past it enough to form a coherent joke about disposing of bodies in the Dead Sea in the manner of Paul the apostle.

Someone wrote this. Someone wrote this and sent it to a publisher of books. Someone who works at a publisher of books read this and said to themself, “Yes, this. This is something I, a publisher of books, would like to publish in a book for others to read.”

That happened. How did that happen?

  • tatortotcassie

    “And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”

    “Are you, then, an evangelist?”

    “Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?”

    This reads like one person’s dialogue in a game of Questions Only from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

  • Lori

    That turns out to be Buck, so it’s all good and our hero doesn’t get shot and dumped in the river.

    It’s all good. I do not think that means what you think it means. :)

    Buck getting shot & dumped overboard, now that would have been good.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    When there’s really no such thing as gay, just a few intentionally wicked perverts vs. Men exploding at the seems with Real Manliness bound by pulsating danger and hot-blooded Perfect Love (of Christ)…. what is this ‘subtext’ you speak of?

  • Matri

    I can imagine Colin Mochrie’s answers, in the form of a question.

    Buck: And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?
    Colin: Who hasn’t?

    Buck: Are you, then, and evangelist?
    Colin: Who isn’t?

    Buck: Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?
    Colin: Who wouldn’t?

  • Dogfacedboy

    Do you suppose Jerry talks in real life the way his characters do?

    Mrs. J: “Honey, have you seen the remote?”

    Jerry J: “I am one who has seen the remote upon the end table beneath the latest issue of Christianity Today and also my reading glasses.”

    Grandkid: “Grandpa, can we go fishing tomorrow?”

    Jerry J: “In the manner of the apostles Andrew and Peter, according to scripture, we too shall be fishermen. And the bodies of those fish will be buoyed up by our fishing lines and burned in the frying pan of your grandmother with oil and flour and salt and pepper.”

    Tim L: “Jerry, you need to rework this section. You’re not following the checklist properly. You’re mixing up the fourth seal judgment famine with the third seal judgment famine and the second seal judgment warfare with the fourth seal judgment warfare.”

    Jerry J: “You are my mentor and would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer? I am one who became a writer in whom you have entrusted your apocalyptic vision. I shall rework the passage in the manner you have instructed, my brother in Christ.” *Gives hug*

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “Moishe and Eli.”
    “And have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?”
    “Are you, then, an evangelist?”
    “Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?”
    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    “extrack
    coach
    dies”

    http://eclipsearchive.org/projects/ARAM/html/pictures/027.html

  • bekabot

    I can’t even get past it enough to form a coherent joke about disposing of bodies in the Dead Sea in the manner of Paul the apostle.

    Paul the apostle came from a long line of, erm, tentmakers — all of whom found their profession an interesting one. They were good with hammers and pegs and even better with ropes and canvas, and they relished working with people whose plans involved no longer being seen in one neighborhood and then never showing up in another. Every last one of them regarded the Dead Sea as an, erm — godsend, and all of them found, at one time or another, cause to thank heaven it was there. (Plus, they liked the name.)

    Moishe and Eli and Michael might all have known to handle themselves better had they asked Paul the apostle for some advice first. (But probably nothing could have been done for Buck, the GIRAT who couldn’t shoot straight.)

  • Launcifer

    Psst… someone tell Buck they meant Surströmming and then tell him that absolutely the best place to open a can of that stuff is in an enclosed space – like on Rayford’s aeroplane.
    Then we can get back to Michael, who’s an assassin with a row-boat. Stuff this end of the world crap: I want to know why he didn’t just steal a car and park across the street from Tsion’s safehouse.

  • Lori

    I assume he means the one about finding Tsion and that he’s stretching the meaning of “almost instant” in that way that RTCs (and people who believe in fortune-telling) tend to stretch things in order to suit their beliefs.

  • Lori

    today was the birthday of the person I made the comic book for as a
    birthday present. In addition to mentioning that she’ll call me soon,
    she had this to say about it via text: “OMG. I have my own comic book.
    Coolest fucking thing ever.”

    Her assessment is correct.

    I’m glad that she liked it.

  • Launcifer

    It says much that the coolest thing I own is an Agatha Christie-style short story that some guy wrote for his GCSE coursework, starring me. A comic book would probably be the only way to top that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Given the general morality that Ellenjay espouse, I assume that it assumes a basic congruence between “it is murder” and “I am liable to get caught for it”. He’s explaining that his technique for disposing of the bodies ensures he won’t be caught, and if you can’t be caught, it’s not, in Turbojesus morality, murder.

  • Jim Roberts

    Oh, THAT verse. I can NEVER find that one.

  • Jim Roberts

    “I prayed for a wife, and now, 15 years later, I’m marrying the love of my life. What a wonderful answer to prayer.”
    - actual wedding quote

  • Launcifer

    Ah, is that the one that runs through the library shouting “Ohshitohshitohshit. I’m going to die!”? I’ve always liked that verse.

  • Lori

    I know a guy who was Israeli Special Forces. He has been a civilian for many years and he is still the most badass person I know. I am not making this up—-I once saw him stop a fist fight from happening by giving the guys The Look.

    Maybe people stupidly think that all Israelis are like him.

  • Lori

    Apparently yes, salt water slows decomp by a considerable amount

    https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/4078/fulltext.pdf

  • reynard61

    “No” to the first. “Yes” to the second.

  • Lori

    My eyes are rolling so hard.

  • Matri

    Hence the usage of salt as a preservative.

  • Daniel

    Life on the water agreed with Buck Williams. Barely three hours out of Jerusalem
    and he and Michael were already a world away. They had past the test to identify each other as the returning Christ’s disciples, and had each done so with flying colours. Buck had barely even noticed the gun Michael had pointed at him when he asked Michael questions- it hadn’t been any kind of a factor in his uncritical acceptance of the answers Michael gave him. The boatman had lowered his gun and sighed and smiled, brushing a lock of Buck’s hair away from his forehead in accordance with some local custom, probably. Buck, a seasoned world traveller, was as willing as anyone- certainly more willing than anyone he knew- to accept aspects of other people’s cultures that would have made many less rebellious men uncomfortable. He had, for instance, ordered a cheese burger in a Jerusalem restaurant to avoid giving offence by asking for pork chops, which is what he really wanted. He was happy to endure such unacknowledged suffering, which was often the lot of those who had his cultural awareness. In a way he had always been a martyr. Of course, there were limits. He could not be expected to make the ultimate sacrifice- he would never kiss another man as a greeting.

    A clear and logical thinker, Buck had a library of excuses prepared for not doing this in case he ever visited any areas of the newly United Europe. Respect was a two way street, a point people often forgot, and it must be understood that as he was now resident in Christ, and married, the traditional welcome of Formeuropean nations was not one he was comfortable with. It was the devil’s greeting. He had planned thoroughly, for every eventuality- though Buck was carefree and a maverick he was also careful and methodical. He had been very glad the sailor with the green eyes hadn’t tried to introduce himself. He looked Italian, or maybe Spanish which is where they do that sort of thing. Of course, most of the rest of the world was in the Devil’s hands, and it was his job to go undercover and infiltrate them for a purpose Bruce had never made clear, but had assured him existed.

    These thoughts flooded Buck’s heart during Michael’s hug, given as one true Christian evangelist to another. They were brothers in arms, preparing to battle the greatest evil ever known, besides the European greeting, and Buck felt his solidarity increasing as God’s love overwhelmed them both.

    They rested in silence for a while, Buck thinking of the mysterious ways in which the Lord worked. Only a few weeks before his death Bruce had told the Tribulation Saints and their wives that there would be more like them to come. The four of them had turned up for a private session with Bruce, Buck and Chloe had arrived early so they could watch the other members of the church leave and bless them as they did so. It was another mark of their humility. The other congregants did not know that Buck and Chloe were special in the Lord’s sight; to them the blessing was from the worldly Buck whom they respected because of his talents as a man of letters. The blessing of a man with such a powerful mind and such high standing with their Pastor, as well as his wife who made excellent coffee, were very well received, but Buck’s humility prevented him telling them he was spiritually gifted and special in the Lord’s sight- so special his wife had been blessed by association. They had waited for the rest to leave, occasionally lightening the mood of solemnity that everyone but the Tribulation Force seemed to feel at the end of Bruce’s sermons by exaggeratedly checking his watch and rolling his eyes. The few that remained in the pews, heads bowed and hands clasped in sleep, soon got the message and left. Buck was good with people.

    Bruce had gone into the back to prepare as Rayford and Annette had pulled into a blue parking space by the door. He hadn’t seen Buck and Chloe, so focused was he on teaching them more about the secret messages that were plainly revealed in the Bible that other people couldn’t see because they allowed their thoughts to interfere. He had a candle stick, a glass and some tissues and he closed and locked his office door after him.
    He was startled when Buck knocked. The door was opened, but only after thirty seconds wait.
    “Was it today?” he said, moving his black labelled candlestick from the table and quickly swallowing some brownish liquid from the glass.

    “Medicine.” he said, noticing Buck’s confused gaze. Buck nodded. Surely the Pastor hadn’t forgotten?
    “I was just having some private time with the Word… come in.” he showed his inner circle to their inner sanctum. They were all diligent students, each came pen and paper in hand, and with full wallets. Rayford and Buck could afford to be generous, the salaries they received from Nicolae were enormous, disgustingly so, as they had told everyone in the church- they were not proud and nor were they cowards who would hide their suffering from others- and they were so burdened by their great wealth that they felt an obligation to donate to Bruce however much and however often he asked. Solidarity in this was a great source of strength to them. Of course the benefits packages, various perks and holiday allowance from the OWG meant they really had very little to spend their money on any way. And besides, with his Lamborghini and his Savile Row suits Bruce was now the perfect image of an End Times preacher. How many more people- how many of the right people- would come now he was so well dressed, and had such a powerhouse of automotive technology at his control? The golden bull on its bonnet spoke of his power, his strength, his bull headed determination, and his eagerness to save. Then there was his medicine, which wasn’t cheap. Dr. Daniels had to send it all the way from Tennessee, and Bruce needed so much of it.

    Buck flicked his bible stealthily open to the page that Bruce had been reading. He was able to do this easily, having practiced his sword drills regularly- Bruce had told him that one day it might save his life. He’d never doubted it. When Bruce told them what to read, he’d be there first, and therefore best. Bruce might let him watch him drive his car as a prize. Ezekiel 23. Buck hadn’t read that one, which was strange as Bruce’s copy was cracked down the spine and clearly fell open at that chapter. It must be very important, Buck knew. Besides, Bruce was out of breath and nervous. He got like that before a private conversation with Jesus, which must have taken a toll on his health with the amount of medicine he needed to drink.
    “I’m not going to be with you much longer.”
    They gasped
    “Surely not? You don’t mean…” Adeline said “you’re… going home?”
    Bruce looked a little relieved that his secret had been guessed. His burden had been lifted. And by a woman! Sometimes the simple intuition of women puts the intellect of men, even of Buck’s calibre, to shame.
    “Yeah, that’s EXACTLY it. I’m going home.” He smiled. Then became serious again as he saw the puzzled faces of the Tribulation Force.
    “I just found out, I’ve got cancer. It’s terminal. So how’s your love lives?”
    “…Pardon?”
    “Just a film reference. Never mind. Anyway, I need some time alone… with Jesus.”
    “And your medicine?” Asked Buck.
    “Oh yes, definitely.” He laughed, and closed the door, then opened it to hand them a box
    “Trivial Pursuit- Bible Edition” Rayford read, in his strong baritone, making Althea and Buck shiver with respect.
    “It’s time you started teaching yourselves.” Bruce said sadly. “One day this stuff will save your lives.”

    “Penny for your thoughts?” Michael asked softly as Buck came back to life. Buck smiled- he hadn’t tried to short change him.
    “I was just thinking how easy a problem becomes when it’s shared.”
    “Yeah. Erm… about that….”
    “Have you murdered others looking for Dr. Ben-Judah?” Buck asked, unsure how much he wanted to know the answer. Michael looked solemn.
    “I do not consider it murder. Their bodies will be buoyed up and burned by the salt when they reach the Dead Sea. Better their bodies than his.” Buck wasn’t sure what this meant, and he remembered something Loretta had told him about meat being preserved by salt rather than being burned by it, but Michael was a man, so she was probably wrong. He felt Michael tense as he said this, so he tactfully steered the conversation away from the killings. The dead were unbelievers, and it was hardly fair to make a sailor as moderately priced as Michael feel guilty about that. And anyway, there had only been two of them.
    “Are you, then, an evangelist?”
    “In the manner of Paul the apostle, according to Dr. Ben-Judah. He says there are 144,000 of us around the world, all with the same assignment that Moishe and Eli have: to preach Christ as the only everlasting Son of the Father.”
    Buck smiled. That was a good answer. That would have got him a piece of cheese in Bruce’s Bible board game. Michael was so wise.
    “Would you believe you were an almost instant answer to prayer?” Buck said.
    “That would not surprise me in the least,” Michael said, teeth shining. “You must realize that you are the same.”
    Buck decided to ask one more question. He knew he was a fellow Christian Disciple, but what manner of sailor was Michael?
    “What’s that constellation?” asked Buck, who knew all about heaven but little about the heavens.
    “That’s Orion,” Michael’s charming accent made the name sound like “urien”, and Buck decided that would be how he’d pronounce it from now on. It was probably correct anyway, as Orion was almost certainly a character in one of the less important books of the Bible, like the bits of John that weren’t 3:16, or the bits of Matthew that weren’t about zombies. Or any book in the Bible, in fact, that wasn’t about mankind’s bloody destruction.

    Long out of the stifling heat of the Jerusalem night Buck and Michael slipped into
    an easy conversation about everything and nothing, where each grew up, how each had come to Christ, their favourite images from Foxe’s book of Martyrs. Michael left Buck briefly as he routed under the tarpaulin and produced a well thumbed copy. Under the moonlight they studied the pictures, adding humorous captions to each when it was appropriate. Buck wished the night and the journey would never end.

    He knew he would always remember this journey up the Jordan, his Urien Voyage.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Salt makes water a better oxidizer. Metal rusts faster in salt water than fresh.

    But I assume that they’re confused by saltwater contact dermatitis, a burning skin irritation which occurs when someone’s exposed to saltwater for long periods. Obviously, Michael’s victims would not exactly be prone to dermatitis, of course.

    ETA: Okay, I guess if you pack a dead body in salt, it’ll dry out and turn into People Jerky, which is kinda sorta like burning, kinda. Not really.

  • Hawker40

    There are a lot of bacteria that don’t like high salt enviorments, and it doesn’t get much higher in salt than the Dead Sea.

  • Jim Roberts

    See, I wish that’d been my reaction. I laughed, assuming it was the groom telling the joke.

    And I wonder why I’ve never been in another wedding party . . .

  • Lori

    That involves drawing the blood out using dry salt first though, right? It’s my understanding that if you don’t do a good enough job of that step the meat will rot. A dead body dropped straight into salt water is a different situation. Of course there’s still no obvious reason why Jenkins would believe a body would burn up in the Dead Sea. Obviously we all know that he does zero research, but I don’t know why he thought this detail up in the first place. I suppose Ross may be correct that he’s confused about contact dermatitis. Jenkins is such a useless hack.

  • Lori

    Trust me on this, the epic eye roll is no more likely to keep you on the invite list than laughing did.

  • Matri

    I don’t know about the exact process to do it, I’m only aware that it works on the principle of osmosis to draw out the remaining water.

    In theory, the human body in salt water of the Dead Sea’s concentration would also shrivel and, while not exactly be preserved, would take considerably longer to decompose.

    In theory, of course. I don’t have any body to test this on… >.>

  • Kenneth Raymond

    Fair enough. I’m not always the best at producing subtle textual humor, myself (as demonstrated).

  • Lori

    The grad student who did the thesis I linked to came to the (altogether charming) conclusion that at least in Texas the slower decomp in salt water is probably due to the lack of blowflies.

    The reason for this slower rate is likely related to the fact that the carcasses in saltwater did not have the burst abdomens with abdominal protrusion present in the carcasses in freshwater, which were most likely the result of osmosis. The abdominal protrusion on the freshwater specimens attracted blowflies, while the
    carcasses in saltwater did not, and thus with no insect activity the decomposition rate slowed considerably.

    (That thesis is oddly fascinating, if disgusting. It’s like a Texas specific, aquatic version Death’s Acre by William Bass.)

  • Lori

    True. The salinity variance is really high.

  • Jon Maki

    If anyone is interested, I wrote a blog post about it, which includes two of my favorite pages from the comic.
    I’ll be writing another one that gets more into the details of the process in the next day or two.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Didn’t Chloe say the same thing to him a couple books back?

  • Lori

    It’s fabulous. That is so very, very cool.

  • Hawker40

    “What prayer was he referring to anyway?”

    *Now I lay me down to sleep…*

  • ohiolibrarian

    “Would you believe …” as a phrase is associated in my mind with Maxwell Smart.

  • Ian

    Accept for a moment L&J’s belief that salt water could set something on fire. Perhaps he’s killings as a macabre fireworks display. “I do not consider it murder. I believe it to be performance art.”

  • P J Evans

    One of the posts the other day had pictures of skeletal critters for a seriously salted lake in Africa. Not burned, exactly, but preserved and totally weird.

  • Ian

    I don’t think the reformed Paul was a violent man, but if you told me that a New Testament author had snapped and killed a bunch of people I’d assume it was him.

  • P J Evans

    No one in the system bothered to read or edit it before it got to the printing presses, though.

  • Lori

    The weirdness with that lake is due to really high pH.

  • Cactus_Wren

    Hoping I can mention this without triggering a Discussion I Do Not Want To Start: Ellanjay might here be working backward from an erroneous notion popular in anti-abortion circles. Photographs of stillborn, severely autolyzed fetuses have been circulated and put forward as the results of saline abortions, often with some assertion that the salt solution “burns the baby’s fragile skin”.

  • P J Evans

    Give Buck a canned durian, too.

  • Lori

    Oh geez, that’s probably it.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Yay, Discworld!

  • $7846672

    I got the test results back, I’ve definitely
    got demon locusts.

  • Veylon

    One of the guys on the poster worked with Hal Lindsay. The 1988 and Late Great Planet Earth guy. If you get the chance, ask them if, thirty years ago, they thought they would still be talking about the End of the World today and what that means for current expectations.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Ezekiel 23. Priceless.

  • That Other Jean

    It’s not just salt. Those weird dead critters were found in a lake with high natron content–hydrated soda ash and sodium bicarbonate. The dry form was used in the creation of Egyptian mummies.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    We’ve got movie sign tomorrow night! Tribulation Force on Daystar!

    http://www.daystar.com/schedule/

  • banancat

    To be fair, many of the people that bought the books have also not bothered to read them. Instead, they’re used a tribal symbol to be displayed on bookshelves. Those that never read them are the lucky ones, in spite of the money they wasted.


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