Back at the camp, everyone was relieved to see us. Gil and Seth skinned the fish on a large rock slab a few feet from the fire. Blood ran off the stone and was swallowed up by a thirsty earth below as though we were appeasing an
angry god. Shirtless and huddled around the stone, wielding knives like ancient priests at a sacrificial alter, Gil and
Seth seemed to transform before my eyes. Suddenly they were wearing feathered headdresses and loincloths, and
had painted faces. I turned away, blaming the vision on whatever we’d smoked out on the island, and began stoking
the flames and preparing the pans.
As dusk set in, conversation around the fire progressed from mellow dinner talk to a confrontation between Earl and Caroline over world issues. Caroline disagreed with him on the necessity of war as the great leveler. Practically every time we had a weekend away, Earl got into a debate with someone on this subject.
“Earl,” I said, “we’re not on this again, are we?”
He smirked, took a sip from his pint, and kept up the discussion with Caroline.
“Do you think this’ll lead into his infamous end of the world speech?” I asked Connor.
“Is the pope Catholic?”
It didn’t take Earl long to find the opening he’d been waiting for. I heard Caroline say, “You actually believe we need world wars, famine and disease??? You think we need these things, things that extinguish the human race?”
“Do you really think that with all of the pollution we pump into the atmosphere and the theft of the planets natural resources, it wouldn’t fight back to rid itself of the disease that’s killing it? Like a surgeon cutting out the cancer.”
John attempted to speak but Earl raised his hand and continued.
“With all of the new diseases popping up, earthquakes, forest fires and tornados, you have to see that the world is actually fighting back. It’s karma. There are too many people on the planet with no respect for what it can do for us.
What it is doing for us. Nature’s a bitch, 300 million killed off in the 20th Century from smallpox alone, the Spanish
Flu wiped out nearly 100 million during the Great War, the Black Death, 75 million over the course of 300 years.” He paused again, hand still up. His index and forefinger started to wiggle. “Jake, set me up with a butt.”
Jake threw a cigarette to him without missing a beat. Earl lit it and continued. “And we’re not much better, nearly 60 million people killed during the second world war. Horrible statistics - but necessary? You bet! With fewer people to shelter and feed, the planet isn’t hit as hard by mankind’s abuses. Right now there are too many people on earth, so you can expect to see one of two things happening soon: war or global retaliation. Read Malthus man, it’s all there in black and white. My money’s on war. Look at the history of the world – did you know that in all of recorded history there have been only seven days of peace? And that’s seven in total, combined, taking an hour here, a few minutes there.
War has been controlling population ever since we learned to fight.
“So in answer to your question, Caroline: yes, we do need world wars. Imagine the damage the planet would unleash
if we didn’t have them. The unfortunate thing about a world-wide war right now is that most life on earth would be devastated. That’s why we never see countries that have nuclear weapons use them in battle. They’re too efficient, too final. And the political implications of using a nuclear missile could just as easily propel the planet into a world war. Every shithole country on the globe has a half-ass copy of the bomb now and won’t be left out if someone decides to light one up.”
“It looks as though we have a member of ‘The Four Horsemen’ among us,” Julia commented. The whole group laughed.
Caroline staged a rebuttal. “So, Earl, with the shape the world is in right now, you’re suggesting that another war is imminent. Beyond population densities, on what do you base that profound prophecy?”
“Think about it Caroline, everyone…” He paused for effect. “You’ve all heard of Revelations, in the Bible and the ‘seer’ Nostradamus. Not to mention the others who’ve seen the future, the dark future. They’ve all seen a third world war. Some say that the ‘war on terror’ is the third and final installment of world wars. A third global war with nukes would be the end of the world as we know it. Radiation would permeate the soil and the air. The lucky ones would be those who happened to be at ground zero when their city was hit. With history, fact and the Bible backing up these arguments, I think I’ve pretty much covered my ass.”
“I think you mean history, fact, and fiction, Earl. The Bible?” Connor shook his head. “Alright, I’m leaving this conversation.” He struggled to stand.
“Connor,” Sara broke in, annoyed, “the Bible is the most real thing in this conversation. I believe in the Revelations. I don’t want to think it’ll happen in my lifetime, but I believe it will one day.”
“It’s not a cop-out, Connor,” added Earl. “It’s as valid as anything you’ll hear on the news these days.”
“It’s ancient history, I mean fictional history. It’s a piece of fiction. What can you draw on from the Bible that can make sense of the state of the world today?”
“It’s not all fiction, Connor. It’s steeped in historical fact and to see into the future you have to look into the past. It’s that simple.”
“I think we’re all a little too high right now to continue this line of thought,” I declared.
“Joel!” Sara hissed. “I’m serious. Read it some time. I guarantee you’ll shit your pants.”
“Hey, I was just saying that we should mellow out a minute. Don’t get all jerked off over nothing. You’re not exactly a Bible thumper.”
“I don’t have to be a Bible thumper to believe in something, Joel!”
“Chill out,” I went to grab her hand, but she pulled away. “Settle down.”
I stared at Connor, amazed at Sara’s attitude. He nodded and waved me over. On our way to the cooler, he settled
me down with a show of acid.
“Just let her cool off, old man. You must have struck a chord or some shit.” We snagged a beer each and sat on a
large, protruding rock. “Do you want to do a hit?”
“I didn’t know you brought this shit up.” I licked my finger and dabbed it on the paper holding the acid. Connor followed suit with a mischievous smile. While we waited for the drug to take hold, we listened to Kevin arguing with Sara over
the ‘faith’ she had in the Bible.
“Faith is the key word there, Kevin.” Her voice became louder. “That’s why religions are also called faiths. Faith
requires no particular proof.” I followed her shadow with my eyes as the fire projected it ever closer to our position. “Faith is everything. I believe in heaven and hell with little more proof then the Bible can give me. I believe because I want to, and I pray that when I die heaven will be waiting for me.”
Kevin went silent. Sara was blowing this way out of proportion.
Sidney broke in. “Maybe you should read the Bible like Sara said. I skimmed through it once in a hotel room when I
was traveling and the end of the book is in essence the end of the world.” With this said, the whole group exploded in conversation.
“Intense, man,” Connor sighed as he studied the stars. “We wonder why wars break out over religion, and these
people are friends. Man, everyone has their own ideas on how someone else should live.” A melancholy mood struck us both. I glanced over at him, and saw him regarding me with vacant eyes.
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