Front Door
Gift Shop

Passion Play

This was a short story I wrote for a friend. It ended up published in a local magazine. I suppose it's more of a philosophical piece than anything else, but I've always wondered what sort of sensibilities something truly inhuman might possess. This represents one of many attempts to explore the question.

Passion Play
Michael Mock
1998 or thereabout

Nathan was the sort of man you couldn’t help but despise. It was a natural (if petty) reaction; he was just too perfect. Part of this was physical, of course: the even white teeth and dark, sparkling eyes occupied a face that could have earned him millions as an actor, while the body was graceful and strong, almost rarified in its lack of any inessential flesh. His mind was quick and sharp, with a depth of perception and a precision of memory that astounded everyone who knew him. As if that was not enough, however, he was also extremely rich, rich enough to afford several houses around the world and a wardrobe of hand-tailored suits to match the charcoal one he wore currently.

He lounged easily in the padded wooden chair, basking in the smoke and shadows the way a cat might bask in the sun. The music was loud— rock’n’roll for the moment, but that would change— providing a consistent rhythm for the disparate movements of the dancers as they worked. One of them, a woman perhaps twenty-one years of age, had seated herself beside him and was trying to make conversation. Drawn by the suit and the scent of money, he thought to himself, with humor and a touch of bitterness.

He shifted slightly in his seat as he felt one of the Others pass through the door. Here? He thought to himself. Ridiculous. Unless They had suddenly decided to do to this place as they had to the cities of the plains... In which case he would oppose them, as he had in the past. Leaving that (rather unlikely) possibility aside, there was only one reason why such a one would enter here. So he turned slightly, waiting, as the Other approached. To the girl at his side he still appeared calm and relaxed, perfectly in control, but a more observant companion might have noticed a slight shift in his shoulders and expression, a change that bespoke tension and discomfort.

“Raphael,” he said, when the Other was close enough to be acknowledged. Though Nathan spoke too quietly for the girl at his side to hear, Raphael stopped and dipped his head. He was cut from the same cloth as Nathan, and though he was physically the larger of the two his movements were almost deferential. Despite their differences—Raphael had blond, almost golden hair and bright green eyes, and wore a simple coat and tie— there was a similarity between them, if only in their aura of mental and physical authority. They might have been brothers.
“Nathan,” he answered. His voice was calm, but he seemed more resolute than relaxed. “May I join you?”

Nathan smiled, and indicated an empty chair at his side. “How are things at the Old Home?” he asked, sarcasm in his tone. “Same as always? And our father? Is he well?”

Raphael seemed almost to flinch, surprising him. In the old days Raphael had been one of their father’s strongest supporters, full of certainty. Now he had the look of someone deeply troubled. The change in him was something Nathan would have gloated over long ago, but now he found it filled him with sadness and apprehension. Forgotten, the girl who shared the table with them fell silent, eyes flickering back and forth as she listened.

“No,” he replied as he seated himself. “And that’s the problem.” He glanced at the woman, then back at Nathan.

Nathan sniffed. “Eve, here, knows better than to repeat what she shouldn’t,” he said.

Raphael turned to look at her, eyes widening fractionally, but Nathan shook his head. “Don’t be a fool,” said Nathan, “It is only a coincidence of names. Nor,” and he smiled knowingly, “is it even her true name, though I doubt she’ll admit that.”

“If I’m bothering you, I’ll go,” said Eve. “Otherwise, please speak to me, not about me.”

For the first time that evening, Nathan really seemed to look at her. She shivered, but did not look away. “Very well,” he told her. “Please stay. You may be helpful to us.”

She nodded and sat back.

“Now,” said Nathan, looking back at Raphael, “The problem?”

Raphael gave an uncomfortable half-shrug. “You remember how he is,” he said. “He seldom speaks to us, and he does not tell us his plans.”

Nathan frowned slightly. “He never did. So what?”

“It’s just that recently— or perhaps I only notice it more, recently— it seems that not only does he not tell us his plans, but he doesn’t even tell us enough to do the jobs we were given. More and more, it seems as though he is deliberately keeping information from us.” Raphael’s expression had changed; though still nervous, he seemed relieved to have put his doubts into words. “I just thought— well, you were so close to him, in the old days. Did he ever say anything, or reveal anything to you? When you rebelled against him and were exiled, did you know something that the rest of us did not?”

For a long moment, Nathan was silent. Then he glanced over at Eve. “Do you believe in God?” he asked.

“Of course,” she replied.

“Have you ever seen him? Has He ever spoken to you?”

She gave him a look that said she thought the question was inappropriate, but she answered: “No. I’ve never seen him, and I don’t hear voices.”

“Very good,” said Nathan. “Now: why do you believe in him?”

She shrugged, but did not look away. “Why shouldn’t I?” she asked. “Just because I’ve never seen something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I don’t know that He exists— I don’t think it’s ever really possible to be sure— but I believe He does. The world wouldn’t make any sense otherwise.”
Nathan looked back at Raphael, his face expectant.

Raphael shook his head. “It’s not the same. We know—” He stopped abruptly, glancing at Eve. “I’m a Healer,” he said after a moment. “It’s my function, what I do. In a way, it’s what I am.” Nathan nodded, understanding. “And yet,” continued Raphael, “Well, anything I heal has been harmed at some point. But He won’t let me address the causes of that harm— only its effects.” He shook his head, looking pained and confused. “And so I must wonder— why does He let it go on? I know it is part of His plan, but what if His plan is mad? What if He is?”

“How is that different?” asked Nathan. “You cannot know. You may never truly know. Either you accept this and keep the faith, as Eve here has done, or...” He let the words trail away.

“I thought I was rebelling,” said Nathan at last. “It was a very long time ago. I thought that His plan was unfair, and in my pride I judged Him unworthy of our devotion. But I have had a long time to think on it since then, and I no longer believe it was so simple a matter. I rebelled against Him, perhaps, but I have never escaped His plan. I was the Bringer of Light; now I am the Adversary. I am still a part of the plan,” he said quietly, “I have merely changed my function. As he intended all along, I suspect.”

Eve looked stunned. Raphael looked thoughtful. And Nathan... Nathan looked tired.

“I’m sorry, Raphael,” he said after a time. “I have no special knowledge to offer you. You have begun to Doubt, as I once did. Now you must decide what you will do about it. You could ask Him—”

“He did not answer,” said Raphael softly.

“I suspected as much,” said Nathan. “There is a place down here for you, should you choose to leave Home. If not, well... It was good to see you again.”

Raphael smiled. “They were wrong about you,” he said, getting out of the chair. “You have not forsaken your function. You are still the Bringer of Light.”

And Nathan, for the first time in centuries, returned the smile with a genuine one of his own.

The parking lot was cold, and bare, and empty. Raphael stood in silence for the smallest of moments, just feeling the world around him. Then he allowed a sense of peace to settle over him, and in no time at all he was Home.