Virtual Jehovah by Zach Smith

For Redeye the weekends were reserved for video games. His consul of choice was the obscure Nintendo Virtual Boy, an early red on black monochromatic experiment in 3D gaming, which looked like a red turn of the century peepshow box. Redeye was one of the few dedicated players.

Today he planned on doing nothing but playing. It was a gray and dizzily day outside so he wouldn’t feel too bad for having “wasted” his time. For nourishment he had a large glass of tomato juice with everything you could imagine inside it: limes, beer, vodka, cheese, olives, tabasco, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, ice, etc. The straw was cut at a 30 degree angle leaving a sharp point with which he could spear the cheese and what not out of the drink, without pulling his head out of the Virtual Boy.

He put in his ear buds and selected “the Grand Playlist” of his 500 most played songs on his iPod and set it to shuffle. After playing for 5 minutes, and in a brief lull in the music Redeye heard his doorbell ring. Visitors were unusual, and whenever the doorbell rang it spooked him a little bit.

When a cop walks up to a stopped car, almost all the time nothing unusual happens, however there is always the possibility that the person in the car is unstable and armed. Redeye always approached his door skeptically in the same manor. He kept his drink with him. It may not have been a formidable weapon, but in a pinch he could throw it into the would be assailants face, and the tabasco and tomato juice would at the very least be a distraction. This time however it was the people knocking on the door, who would have something to fear.

“Good morning, we have a tract here we would like you to have.”

There were myriad ways that Redeye could have handled the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He could have politely said: “I’m not interested” or he could have closed the door in their faces. He could have cursed at them and threatened legal or bodily harm to the proselytizers. However Redeye was a friendlier sort and took the small pamphlet they were offering and thanked the men. It was at this point he noticed that the gray and drizzly day had now turned into an all-out rainy day, and the two men, were getting rather wet. Neither of them carried umbrellas, but their faith in Jehovah (whoever that might be) was keeping their souls warm and dry. Redeye was no more interested in their souls than he was in his own, but he was interested in their corporeal beings and what those might be going through in the cold and rainy morning.

“Would you like to come in?” asked Redeye, “Wait for the weather to improve?”

The man looked at the rain, almost as if he was noticing it for the first time, and then looked at his companion who gave a kind of confused look regarding the unexpected offer. He shrugged his shoulders and said.

“Sure, that would be great.”

The two men walked into Redeye’s house.

“I’m Dave by the way, this is Andrew”

“Nice to meet you fella’s, you can call me Redeye.”
“Interesting name,” said Dave. “How did you get it? Are you a pilot?”

“No, not exactly,” said Redeye.

“It’s unusual to be invited into someone’s house,” said Dave.

“Even by our own members,” Andrew added.

Redeye Chuckled.

“Do you have a rule about going into a house or not?”

“Were generally not supposed to,” said Dave. “If we’re invited though, and the person doesn’t look to be, you know, too hostile, we’ll accept. But again, it’s very unusual.”

“You’re all human beings. I couldn’t very well keep you out in the rain.”

“Thank you again,”

“It’s nothing, have a seat, can I get you guys a drink, coffee? Beer?”

“I’m sorry, we don’t drink,” said Dave.

“I might have some water around here somewhere, if that interests you?”

“We can drink water.”

“What is that you’re drinking?” asked Andrew.

“Its tomato juice, with a bunch of things in it, olives, cheese, stuff like that. I’d let you try it but there’s… let’s say, extra ingredients in it. If you’d like I can make you one without the hard stuff.”

“You know what,” said Andrew. “That sounds awful, but I think I’d have to try it.”

“Good man,” said Redeye. “How about you Dave?”

He looked at the drink for a second, and gave kind of a mischievous smile. “Sure I’ll tie one on, but I would like to see you make it.”

“I’m not going to put alcohol in it and not tell you, what kind of guy do you think I am?”

“I wouldn’t expect that,” said Dave. “But I may want to make one for my wife.”

“Sure,” said Redeye. “Come into the kitchen I’ll show you.”

Dave’s eye caught the unusual red box sitting on the kitchen table as he walked in, but then looked away as though it were something he was not supposed to see. Redeye pulled out the myriad ingredients, washed off the celery, cubed the cheese.

“You remember all that or should I write it down for you?” asked Redeye, when the drink was complete.

“I think I got it.”

“Cheers,” said Redeye as they all sat down in the living room.

The two men each took a sip, and Redeye watched them expectantly. They nodded their heads.

“That’s pretty good right there,” said Dave.

“Better than I expected,” said Andrew.

“Good,” said Redeye. Then leaning back in his chair, in a more relaxed position, he changed the subject and said. “I should be honest with you; I’m not really interested in joining your religion or anything. I think I should just be upfront with you guys on that note.”

“It’s not so much our religion, but the final destination of your soul,” said Andrew.

“Were not here to get new members, though that would be nice,” said Dave. “But it’s more about helping other people get to Christ and get to heaven. Are you close with God Redeye?”

“I am not?”

“You’re not, well do you belong to any church?” asked Dave.

“No, I am a devout Atheist.”

“Surely you must believe in something,” said Andrew. “Or else, why would you have let us into your house on a gray and rainy day.”

“Oh I believe in some things,” said Redeye. “I let you in because small acts of kindness can go far in this world, never mind what happens in the next, if there is one at all, of course we have no proof.”

“But we do have proof,” said Andrew.

“Oh, do you?” asked Redeye skeptically.

“We do,” said Dave as he pulled out something from the large pocket of his blazer. “It’s in this book.”

He handed the book over to Redeye.

Redeye accepted the book; however he did one peculiar thing. He grabbed an unused napkin in order to take the book without actually touching it.

Dave looked at him suspiciously.

“I never touch bibles, or other religious texts, kind of a phobia with me.”

“The word isn’t something to fear.”

“Okay, phobia might not be the right word, it’s like we are of two different worlds, the bible and myself you know, and I feel that I would be soiling the text if I were to touch it, and/or vice versa.”

“But it won’t soil you,” said Dave.

“Yes, if anything it will be a purification,” added Andrew.

“I suppose you’re right,” said Redeye. “I can touch it, I just prefer not to, but if I had to go to court I wouldn’t make a fuss over the swearing in or anything.”

“We don’t do that.” said Dave.

“Don’t do what?”

“We don’t swear, it’s against our religion.”

At that moment, as though it were preordained, Andrew sneezed.

“God bless you,” said Redeye, without even noticing.

“Oh no, no, no, no, no, no!” said Andrew.

“I’m sorry?” said Redeye.

The statement was half an apology, half a question, and half a request for elaboration in the face of honest confusion.

“We don’t use those words when people sneeze.”

“Why? It’s just a thing,” said Redeye.

“It’s not just a thing,” said Andrew, surprisingly (at least to Redeye) pissed off.

Redeye turned to Dave, looked him in the eye, and said “I guess we all have our little strange behaviors,” he lifted up the bible still in the napkin to emphasis.

Dave smiled. “Well played,” he said. Then he turned to Andrew and gave him a look, which seemed to calm him down.

As if in apology, trying to erase the tiny episode that had occurred, Andrew began to make a most unusual analogy. “So you won’t touch a bible, is that correct?” he asked.

“Right,” said Redeye. “I’ll hold it with some kind of cloth or napkin or something, to keep the two entities respectfully separated, of course I’m not in situations where I have to do this often.”

“But you are touching that Bible now,” said Andrew.

“It’s in a napkin.”

“I know that,” said Andrew. “But it’s like… well it’s like if you put a condom on before you have sex, you can’t honestly say that you didn’t have sex because you were wearing a condom.”

“I’m sorry?” asked Redeye.

Not in a million years would he expect to hear those words come out of a proselytizer’s mouth.

“I’m sorry too,” said Andrew. “But I honestly can’t think of any other good analogy.”

Redeye looked off to some empty space on the wall for a moment.

“At the moment, neither can I,” said Redeye. He took a deep breath and continued. “So what you’re saying, in let’s say less specific terms, is that I’m already touching the Bible so why don’t I just take it directly into my hand?”

“Yes, thank you, that’s correct,” said Andrew.

“Well I could go on and on about STDs or something, but how about I just humor you and touch it, just this once.”

With the hand holding the napkin wrapped Bible (the edition known as “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures,” which was the preferred bible for the Jehovah’s Witnesses) Redeye opened the book to a random page, and slightly wincing placed his finger on a passage.

He did not catch on fire, and neither did the book. He did not feel the slightest bit different, until he read the passage he had landed on out loud.

“‘I rejoiced when they said to me, “let us go to the house of Jehovah.”’ Wow that’s a little spooky isn’t it?”

Dave looked to Andrew, very surprised.

“Who’s talking here?” asked Redeye. “Who’s this ‘I’?”

Dave cleared his throat. “That would be David,” he said.

“Well how about that,” said Redeye smiling.

The other two laughed, but kind of suspiciously.

“I want you to keep that book, and read it,” said Dave.

Redeye closed the book, still holding it in the napkin and tried to hand it back to Dave. “It’s a nice gift,” he said. “But honestly I don’t think I’m going to.”

“Seriously you should read it,” Dave insisted. “I want you to have it. Read it, it will change your life.”

“Okay, I’ll make a deal with you, if you’re interested, hang on,” said Redeye. He left and went to get something in another room, he came back holding a CD in a jewel case. “I’ll read this Bible, every word of it, all the way through, I’ll even touch it when I do so, even though I don’t like to do that. But in exchange, I want you to listen to this album.”

Redeye passed the CD over to Dave, he took it suspiciously, looked at the cover of it, and said: “Oh my good god!” and then dropped it face down on the floor.

This is not exactly a common phrase uttered by the Jehovah’s Witnesses either. They took the use of the lords name (in vain or otherwise, be it God or Jehovah) very seriously, hence their apprehension to the phrase “god bless you” in response to a sneeze.

Andrew leaned down to pick up the case.

“Don’t look at the front of it,” said Dave. “You don’t want to see it, trust me.”

He of course was right, but a simple album cover producing such an unexpected reaction was a curiosity to say the least. In the end Andrew contented himself to just read the song list off the back of the album, and as he read his eyes grew wider, almost to the point of jumping out of his skull.

The album that Redeye had casually handed over to them was called “Dawn of the Black Hearts” by the notorious Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem. The album was technically a bootleg, a fan recorded album never “officially” released by the band. However “Dawn of the Black Hearts” is considered a quintessential part of Mayhem’s discography, because it is the only known album by the band to feature Dead on vocals and Euronomous on guitar, both of whom were iconic in the band and both of whom also happened to die shortly after the albums unofficial release. Euronomous was killed by the bands then base player Varg Virkerness (one of the only murders in modern Norwegian crime history), and Dead committed suicide. The album is one of the most distributed bootlegs of all time.

The song titles that Andrew had found so surprising consisted of gory shock-horror titles like: “Deathcrush,” “Necrolust,” and “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” (the lyrics of which are even more horrific then their titles may otherwise suggest) and darker malevolent song titles such as: “Freezing Moon,” “Funeral Fog,” and “Buried by Time and Dust.”

Song titles and background stories are one thing, but what made this album so infamous was the cover, a picture that evoked such a verbal reaction from the well-guarded tongue of a Jehovah’s Witness. The album cover is a picture of the singer, just after he killed himself with a shotgun to the head, and of course not censored or covered up in any form, no black line across the mortal wound that is usually present in such pictures.

“I could never listen to such a thing,” said Dave. His eyes closed, rubbing the bridge of his nose trying to get the image out of his mind.

“I mean what I say,” said Redeye. “I will read every word of your Bible, I will read it and touch it at the same time, but we need a quid pro quo, a this for that. I will do that for you, if you will do this for me.”

Redeye picked up the album and held it out toward Dave, spine forward (there was nothing all to offensive on the spine itself). Dave recoiled when he saw the album again.

“How could someone who was nice enough to let us into their house on a rainy Saturday morning, and make us fancy drinks, have something like that in his collection?”

“I have a broad knowledge and interest in all parts of the complete human experience.”

“Then why the aversion to religion? Why will you not read the Bible?”

“I will, I will read your Bible, but you must offer something in return.”

“We are trying to save your soul,” said Andrew. “That is our purpose.”

“And I am trying to broaden your mind, which at heart you are trying to do to me too.”

There was a brief time where no one said anything, and at the end Redeye got up as if to show the men out of his house, as it had stopped raining at that point. However instead of going to the door, he went into the kitchen and picked up his Virtual Boy, and brought it back into the living room.

“Well,” said Redeye. “If you will not listen to the album I was willing to give you, I have one more thing to offer. I will read your Bible, but in return, you will look into my red box.”

Dave and Andrew stared at the Virtual Boy, its demonic red plastic casing and soft black rubber. The device looked like something right out of revelations, a technological contraption of the devil that would steal their souls out through their own eyes. But what was in the box? Redeye had shown them a horrendous album, blatantly displaying what it was, but the red box was more mysterious, it showed nothing on the outside, and only their minds, molded by their church and the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, saw that it may be something more then what it seemed. They looked between Redeye and his red box, back and forth deciding whether or not to look inside, and wondering what could possibly be therein.


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