Saturday, May 6, 6:00PM
“Good evening Karl.” The resonant, male voice on the line spoke with an unhurried calm, and the perfect diction that would have made any television network news anchor jealous.
“Who is this?”
“I am Gideon Ellasar. Perhaps you recall our previous conversation.”
Karl felt a sudden dread wash over him as he said, “I … can’t say that I do. But the name has a familiar ring to it.”
“Yes, I supposed it might.”
“So, how can I help you, Mister … Ellasar?” The caller had Karl’s full attention.
“We will discuss, tonight, a subject critical to both of us.”
“Sorry, but I’m booked this ev–” And the line went dead.
Though the conversation was over, his uneasiness wasn’t. His regular briefing with us would occupy him until late, so he was certain there would be no meetings with mysterious strangers on that night.
After a few moments’ small talk, Rachel got down to the business at hand. “Karl, we entered your employ at your moment of need, and not because we required the wages. Yet, you’ve chosen to break our trust by disregarding our efforts and treating us as menials.”
Karl started to break in, but Rachel persisted. “Please, let me finish before saying you’re right and we’re mistaken.
“When you felt threatened, why were you so extremely anxious?”
“Since when do I have to explain myself to you?” He wore his arrogance like a mask. “You’re right. Your job is to take care of my security, but I don’t answer to you! Is that clear?”
“To whom do you answer? Everyone must answer to Someone, don’t you agree?”
A knowing expression came upon his face. “And man created god after his own image,” His voice dripped sarcasm. “I see where you’re taking this, and I don’t need it!”
“You can’t escape answering to God. One day, every knee shall bow–”
“Are you through?” he interrupted with exaggerated forbearance. “I appreciate your concern for my eternal destiny, but my ‘hangups’ are no concern of yours, and if you don’t want to limit your activities to do the job as I see fit, I can find others to do it. Now if that’s all you’ve–”
“No, it is not!” Rachel said in a pique. “Though you’ve been positively beastly towards us, we want you to know we care for you rather deeply.”
A sly smirk crossed Karl’s face. “Speaking for all of you, or … just for yourself?”
“Speaking for the God who loves you enough to send us into your life at a moment of need! That’s whom I’m speaking for.”
“You can leave that ‘God stuff’ out of this! I’ve done real well without any gods in my life, and I don’t intend to change now. This meeting is–”
“NOT over! We’ve conformed our lives to your needs, and you will not dismiss us as mad! You will listen until we’ve finished, even if it ends our professional relationship.”
Karl smirked and settled back onto the davenport, affecting grim resignation as if to a tooth extraction without anaesthetic.
“You say you have no gods in your life, but what do you call your drive to possess power, wealth and loose women?”
His knowing expression returned. “So that’s it.” Then his face grew a lascivious leer. “I do believe you’re jealous, Miss Yeshurun.”
“Ha!” The humorless irony of Karl’s remark struck Rachel. “Jealous?” Then she got right in his face. “You’re absolutely right I’m jealous! But you wouldn’t understand my jealousy even if I tried to explain it.”
“Try me.” Karl seemed to enjoy challenging her.
“I am jealous … we’re ALL jealous of you with a Godly jealousy, because God loves you and so do we.”
He resumed his pained expression.
Since Rachel remained silent for a moment, I said, “Mister Adams, a knowledge of God’s love transformed each of us from self-centered, mythologically self-sufficient, bureaucratic prigs, to what we are today–”
“Yeah, now you’re self-righteous, religious prigs.” He sniggered and left it at that.
Betty was quicker than I with a response, “As religious as Jesus ‘imself?”
Karl didn’t know how to answer that one, so she continued with the more definite Cockney accent to which she lapsed when she was angry. “We’re followers of Jesus, we are! Students, if you will. To compare us with ‘im is the greatest tribute you can make to such as us.”
“Anything I say to you is not intended as a tribute.” I had no idea why his countenance was so hateful.
“Why do you ‘ate Jesus so?”
“Why, I don’t ‘’ate’ anyone.” Karl lied, mocking Betty’s accent. “I’m simply indifferent, that’s all.”
“Your vitriolic reaction to Jesus’ love says you’re not indifferent. The question is, why?”
Karl began to stand. “I don’t have to sit through
this–” But Betty blocked his way.
“We’ve put up with a load of rubbish from you when all we offered was our protection, and yes, our friendship! You’ll sit ‘ere and listen ‘til we’ve bleedin’ well finished.” As unbelievable as it would seem, Karl had nothing to say in response.
“Mister Adams,” Betty continued more softly, “What are you afraid of?”
His arrogant countenance deflated a little as he considered the question. “Am I afraid?” he asked of no one in particular. He thought much longer before saying, “You know what absolutely petrifies me? It’s the thought that I don’t know what’s next. And that I might not make it to the top in the time that’s left.”
“What do you expect to find at the ‘top?’”
He considered again with a vacant look. “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to know?”
“Yes … But I have a lot to think about at the moment.” He seemed unusually sincere. “I just need time to think.”
Betty looked at Rachel and me and backed off, allowing Karl to stand. He turned without another word and walked outside to his car.
Betty and Rachel both looked at me, and Betty said, “What do you think?”
“I think he has rather a lot to think about.” We all knew what my statement meant, because each of us had at one time been in his exact position. All we could do was pray.
Sunday, May 7, 4:20AM
Just before five the next morning Karl drove into the parking garage below his flat. He began sensing something wasn’t right as he noticed a distinctly stale odor while riding the lift. Though it was his practice to always leave lights burning, as his eyes passed floor level, the only light visible was a soft, warm glow from the area of his desk. Of course he assumed the electronic window shading had been activated, so he cursed as he pushed the wrought iron fence aside and began feeling his way to a light switch.
When he noticed movement at his desk, however, he stopped, petrified with fear.
“Welcome Karl,” said the familiar voice. A feeling of foreboding intensified Karl’s fear as he realized the voice was that of the caller he had dismissed the previous evening. “Come over, Karl, I will not bite you.”
Karl’s legs mechanically carried him closer to the one person he feared most, though he still could not remember why. As he neared the desk, its dreaded occupant cordially asked him to be seated. Of course Karl knew he had no choice in the matter.
“Are your fingers still in pain?” Ellasar smirked, then took a long moment to examine his surroundings. “You have done well for yourself Karl. I am proud of you. Of course you have not even begun to approach your potential. If you like, you are able to reach the very pinnacle of world power and wealth. Nothing in all the world will be refused you.” Then, with a penetrating gaze, “Such is the nature of our covenant.” His right eyebrow arched, and his voice seemed to imply a threat. “Do we need to review the terms of that covenant?”
Karl was mute, though he knew not why.
“You engaged in a conversation this past evening that indicated you have forgotten what you signed.” The intruder produced an ancient-looking leather scroll, and with a slight flourish he opened it before his captive audience.
The words of the scroll seemed to shimmer as he read the short document. Then the fingers of his right hand gave him a twinge as he read his signature, in the faded brown of dried blood.
“Need I remind you of these irrevocable terms, Karl?” That gaze! That hateful gaze, penetrated right to the core of his soul. “As you can see, my friend, it specifies in part, ‘I, Karl Ichabod Adams,’” Ellasar stared at Karl while reciting the scroll’s provisions from memory. “‘do pledge by my signature below in my own life’s blood to grant to PERDITION INCORPORATED, as directed by its Administrator, Lord Gideon Ellasar,” he paused to smile with mock humility, “the right to possession of all that is now or ever will be mine, including my body, my soul, and my spirit at the moment of my departure from this temporal life, and for all eternity.’ Do you have any question as to the meaning of these words?”
Karl tried to speak, but only managed a croak from his dry throat. He swallowed hard and tried again. “How did you know–?”
Ellasar interrupted with that familiar, evil smile. “Now Karl, does that really matter? The fact is you have considered an action that is impossible for you because of our covenant, that you signed of your own volition, in your own life’s blood.” Then he feigned a heartfelt sensitivity. “Karl, you might as well forget all those meddlers’ promises because it is out of the question.” His sniggering at the suggestion spoiled his little act. “Are we clear on that, or must I foreclose right now on what is legally mine?”
Karl sat numbly, not knowing how to respond.
“Am I to take your silence as acquiescence to my position?” Ellasar carefully, reverently, picked up the scroll and began rolling back up.
With a lump in his throat, Karl simply nodded. He knew his despair was evident to one with Ellasar’s exceptional abilities. With a self-satisfied smile, Ellasar stood and began walking away from the desk, but before he had gone five steps he simply vanished, as if entering a darkness not of this world.
At that moment the room lights came on and Karl looked up to see the light of early dawn in the eastern sky. This new day felt like the end of his life as he began to understand the gravity of his situation.
He wanted to burn his executive’s chair because he felt it was defiled by something unspeakably evil. But was he not just as evil, having signed such a stupid and irrevocable covenant?
Karl was unable to move for the longest time, but the morning sunlight dazzling his eyes finally stirred him from his fatalistic brooding. Methodically, he stood and began walking towards the spiral stairway leading to his loft.
He trudged up the wrought-iron steps, passed his bed, entered his lavatory and opened the medicine chest. The label of a pill-bottle sitting alone in its hallowed place read, “Use as directed for sleeplessness. CAUTION: Do not use while driving, operating machinery, or with beverage alcohol. May be habituating.” He chuckled at the dark humor of such warnings in the context of his intentions.
With the pill bottle in his left hand, he popped the cap and let it fall into the basin. Then he grasped the water tumbler in his right hand, walked to his liquor cabinet and removed a bottle of vodka.
He placed the glass and pill bottle on his night stand while he sat on the edge of his bed. With ritualistic movements, he removed the cap from the vodka bottle and dropped it to the floor, filled the ten-ounce tumbler, and put them down. He shook the pill bottle until a few of the sleeping pills lay in his left hand, tossed them into his mouth, picked up the tumbler and washed them down his throat, stifling a cough from the strong drink.
He repeated that action until both the vodka and pill bottles were empty. Then, anticipating the oblivion his world had promised, he calmly lay back on his bed to die.