A man knocked on my door the other day and handed me a piece of paper that read ‘MARK LIX DIX.’
Enraged, I grabbed him by the collar, thinking he was leveling some type of low slur at me. The man began to shake and whimper. He was rickety, as old as Methuselah, may have actually been Methuselah, and he was foundering beneath my assault. It took me a moment to realize the Mark he was referring to was the apostle in the New Testament, and what I took to be a vulgarity directed at me was a set of Roman numerals. Suddenly I felt like the crude one, a boorish cretin who misinterprets harmless numbers for obscene slang. I steadied him and offered an apology. He accepted. His messages were simple. “Be of good cheer,” and “There is nothing from without a man that entering in can defile. But the things which come out of him, those are they that defile.”

“Right-o,” I said. While I am no hermeneutical scholar, I am a reasonable fellow despite occasional behavior to the contrary. I offered my doddering dogmatist a glass of Benedictine & Brandy. At first he politely refused until I wielded the Book of Timothy at him. ‘Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.’ Since I didn’t have any wine I suggested a strong dose of brandy. Who knows what the vulgate translation of ‘wine’ is anyway and furthermore, monks make brandy. How bad could it be?

People are touchy these days. The end of the world is nigh, and has been for a very long time. The world imposes deadlines, even on itself, which is a good incentive to get things done before it is too late. The affable solicitor who had arrived at my doorstep was offering a soul cleanse. My aura was dirty, smudged, plugged up with ash like an old chimney. He had the disinfectant, he said, and handed me the good King James.

As he was talking to me he kept glancing at his phone. He told me he had an app that offered real-time alerts on his group’s global missionary work. I was impressed. Even a nine-hundred-year-old man was more tech savvy than I was. Suddenly the thing began to sizzle and scream in his hands. He looked down at it and buckled. I caught him at the last minute, helped him to a chair and brought him around with another dose of B&B. I looked to see what all the fuss was. Apparently some pumpkin-faced Ar-kansan named Michael Reed had driven his car right into a stone monument displaying the ten commandments, pulverizing it less than a day after it had been erected. He yelled “Freedom” as he did it. Unfortunately for Reed the rules and the ideas don’t go away if the monument is turned into dust. It’s not like he is now free to ignore the ethical blueprint. In fact, it would’ve been more accurate for him to yell “Prison!” right before he smashed it, because that is exactly where he wound up.

I was concerned for the old man sitting in front of me. It was obvious he could find evidence of the end of the world from the way the leaves fell, or the shape of a pretzel. Forget about the blatant destruction of the original top ten list.

“Don’t be upset,” I consoled the wheezing elder. “Didn’t Moses himself smash the tablets in anger after coming down from the mountain? The original ten commandments only lasted forty days. Still got em.”
This brightened him up a bit. He thanked me and continued on his way.

I pondered the end of the world, almost seeing it like an infomercial. “Act now.” “Don’t delay.” “You wouldn’t want to miss out.” Most cultures and civilizations have an eschatology (end-times rendering). The more fantastic the better, really, and for shock and awe, Revelations is hard to beat. I had read it a couple of times, like the old comedian W.C. Fields, who was always “looking for loopholes.”

In search of something new, I stumbled on “Ragnarok,” which is a Scandinavian doomsday story. “How exciting,” I said to myself.

During Ragnarok, which is much more destructive than Fraggle Rock, it is written that giants of ice and fire will go destroy the council of Norse gods known as the Aesir. Which is pretty lucky for the Aesir, since I suspected that giants of ice and fire would simply melt and extinguish one another. Problem solved. I never let an inconsistency mess up a good tale of destruction, and I wasn’t going to let this one, either. So on and so forth. The world sinks into the ocean. The world is renewed. Uncle Traveling Matt returns in triumph. Wait. That is Fraggle Rock again.
More Alembics to come.


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