Door in the Dragon’s Throat, pp. 107-112
It’s bad. It’s all bad.
As if to acknowledge the horrible news Gozan had just revealed, another bolt of lightening zigzagged down the sky and exploded in a ball of white light right outside the window, sizzling in the trees and breaking several panes of glass.
There’s a curse on. Or something.
As a number of readers have commented, the core of this story makes no sense at all. If there’s a pit full of demons locked behind a door waiting for the end times, why would God allow it to be opened early? Remember, God is supposed to be all powerful and all knowing. The idea that anyone could open that door early and let those demons out flies in the face of everything evangelical Christianity is supposedly based on.
Add to that that our protagonists—who have been trying to open the door—are Christians. Why wouldn’t God tell them not to do it? Sure, God doesn’t usually speak out loud, even in evangelicalism. But he does sway people’s hearts. He could have led Dr. Cooper to specific Bible passages suggesting that this was a job to turn down. He could have given Dr. Cooper a sense of foreboding surrounding the project. But he didn’t.
Instead, the only people trying to sway Dr. Cooper from opening the door were nonbelievers. They were Gozan, with his native “superstitions,” and the shaman. Speaking of the shaman, he was appointed by Shandago (whom Dr. Cooper identifies as Satan) to keep the key and prevent anyone from opening the door. So Satan wants to keep the door locked up tight … but God can’t take a moment to tell Dr. Cooper not to take the job in Nepur?
The shaman tells Jay and Lila that when his father, and his grandfather, tried to open the box containing the key, they died tragically, the result of the curse that guards the box. Jay poo poos the idea of a curse, but after he opens the box, all hell breaks loose. The weather turns, a lightening storm appears out of nowhere, and there are earthquakes. What’s the force behind the curse? Is it God, trying to prevent the door from being opened?
But wait—we were told that it was God who protected Dr. Cooper’s team from death at the site of the Door, while all other teams suffered mishap and death! Why would God first protect a team trying to open the door, only to rain down fire as soon as they get their hands on the key? It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense!
The earth continued to reel and shake, and the chandeliers were now slapping and tinkling against the ceiling.
“We can help, Gozan,” Dr. Cooper shouted. “You must let us help you.”
Gozan stumbled to his knees from the shaking and began to grovel pitifully. “You … you all bear the name of Jesus. Can you save us from the evil?
“If we don’t act immediately it will be too late! Put down the gun!
Why does God need Dr. Cooper’s help to keep the Door shut until its appointed time? God should have had Lila get appendicitis, necessitating a trip to the hospital in the capital, and then a flight back to the U.S. for recovery, at which point Dr. Cooper would read something in his Bible that would make him think that Lila’s emergency was a sign that the Door in Nepur was not the project God wanted him working on. Easy peasy!
The key was safe with the shaman until Dr. Cooper’s money-grubbing Christian kids converted him to Christianity so that they could gain his trust and swipe the box from him under the pretenses of destroying it. The door would not have been at any risk of being opened if these greedy, careless Christians hadn’t blundered into the picture.
What with Dr. Cooper’s urging and more scary lightening, Gozan finally decided to put down the gun.
There was no time for discussion. The Coopers and the old man dashed past Gozan’s fallen form and ran out the door.
Gozan curled up tightly on the floor, covering his head with his arms and cowering. “Jesus, great God, please save us!” he pled.
The four hurried, staggering their way down eh rocking, reeling marble hallway to the big front doors that were now swinging and slamming wildly. The wind carried sticks, leaves, papers, and streaks of rain in a firer, sideways torrent that almost knocked them over as they ran for the jeep.
Remember that it was Gozan who first warned Dr. Cooper off of the Door. It was Dr. Cooper who insisted on blundering ahead, proclaiming to all who listened that hiss God would protect him. After being warned again, and again, and again that the Door was dangerous, Dr. Cooper read a Bible verse that changed his mind about the Door when no one else could—and set out lecturing everyone around him about the dangers of the Door as if he had not spent the previous four-fifths of this book trying to open the door and ignoring all caution and warning.
No one ever tries to convert Gozan, despite Gozan’s earlier statement that their God is powerful and his call here for Jesus to protect him. No one cares a whit about Gozan’s soul.
This is the last we ever hear of Gozan.
So, our crew of selfish, heedless Christians, plus newly converted ex-shaman, head for the jeep and drive like heck back to the site where the Door is. The pass “frightened, cowering citizens” and eventually arrive in the desert, where they can see a “hellish, red glow.” At this point Peretti finally explains Revelations 9.
Hmm. Ellipses. What was taken out? This:
The awesome scene reminded them all of the terrible words of Revelation, chapter 9.
“I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. … their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them.”
… they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and …
Huh. On the one hand, removing this shortens the passage up, which might be the only motivation. On the other hand, removing this removes a reminder that this is something that’s only supposed to happen in the end times, and not something that should be able to happen outside of its appointed time.
Peretti goes on:
Demons were captive in the Dragon’s Throat!
They didn’t need the Bible to tell them this, Gozan told them this way back in the beginning of the book! Yes, demons! Imagine that! Who could have seen that coming?!
When they finally arrive at the pit, they see it is putting off a “hideous, crimson glow” and that even the “boiling clouds in the sky” were tinged red.
The camp was in shambles. The tends were collapsed and shredded, the supply sheds blown over and splintered, the equipment scattered and tossed like litter. Jeff, Tom, and Bill were nowhere to be seen and apparently had fled.
And that’s the last we ever hear of Jeff, Tom, and Bill. It’s like they weren’t really characters, just cardboard cutouts that said “howdy” and tossed explosives when you wound them up. Peretti has a talent for abruptly dispensing with characters he doesn’t need anymore. Of course, it’s possible this could be seen as adding nuance—after all, Jeff, Tom, and Bill were presumably Christians, so it’s no longer just native people cowering and fleeing. This actually makes their flight seem more odd, though, because Peretti doesn’t care about creating nuance. Why did they flee?
When Jay opened the box and took out the key the weather changed, but that wouldn’t have caused the red glow in the Dragon’s Throat. Did a sudden lightening storm cause Jeff, Tom, and Bill to flee? If not, the three of them should have been more than enough to stop the president when he showed with the key. Sure, he could have said he wanted to see the Door, and they would have had no reason to stop him—they don’t know about Revelation 9—but in that case I would have thought Jeff, Tom, and Bill would have gone down into the cavern with him.
Did they go down with the president, let him try the key—since he was the one who commissioned the team and they didn’t really have a good reason to stop him—and then flee? This seems odd, because they’re supposed to be Christians—at least, I’d assumed they were, since they happily join in prayer. If they’re Christians, couldn’t they have helped pray the door closed again, as soon as they realized something was amiss?
When did they flee, and why?
I realize that this isn’t all that important, but this book has so many fuzzy logistics I find myself less willing to overlook them than in other books. To me it feels like Peretti just wanted them out of the way, so that he could have the president successfully open the door, only to have Dr. Cooper, Jay, and Lila arrive and attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. To do this, he needed to dispense with Jeff, Tom, and Bill somehow. Ergo the fleeing!
Dr. Cooper finds a limousine near the cavern, with footprints they assume belonged to the chauffeur leading away from the spot with a spacing that “indicated he’d run like a madman.” They can see the president’s tracks too—leading toward the cavern. (Apparently these are the only tracks to be seen in a busy, lived-in camp site.)
So, what to do?
Dr. Cooper huddled close and shouted, “We’ve no choice. We’ll have to go down after him. We’ll have to face this thing.” He shouted to the old man, “You may flee to safety and wait for us if you wish.”
The old man was very shaken with fear and nodded in agreement. “It would be best. I can remain above and pray to our God.” He embraced them quickly and then ran out into the desert to a safer distance.
This is the last we hear of the shaman.
Did Dr. Cooper really have to suggest that the shaman “flee to safety”? I mean really? Why not just say “hey, you’ve been through a lot, how about you wait over there where it’s safer while we go down.” There might even be some good reason to have a watch of sorts—in fact, if Dr. Cooper was worried that the shaman was scared, he could have suggested that he stay up top to keep watch, thus saving the shaman from embarrassment of having to admit his fear. But no! Instead we get Dr. Cooper suggesting that he flee! Awesome!
Anyway, there’s another character dispensed with!
I know this post is slightly shorter than most weeks, but I’m going to leave it here. Next week we’ll see what happens in the cavern. I’ve also been rereading some of the other Cooper kids books, and … wow. I will definitely be sharing!
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