Apocalypse Nights

I dreamed I was walking through a desolate Night. I had come a great
distance from the barren lands of Acedia. It was pitch dark except for the
lantern loaned to me by the old man; there were also curious twinklings of
light which I followed in uneven, confusing patterns across the splattered glass and smoking ruins of the old buildings and towers.

Everywhere in the Night I could hear conversations as well as the usual hideous laughter of the constant partying and the usual heart-rending moans of the poor and the sick.

As I passed through the deep fog I noticed the outline of a monk with a white
beard in a torn brown habit, tending to a man on the ground. I had not seen
such a sight in a very long time. The man lay on the sidewalk and appeared to be
in some kind of grievous pain. “Can I help you, Father?” I called out to the
monk, my voice echoing back to me from the desolate streets.

He looked at me and then began to tear at the bottom of his long habit. With each strip and piece I could see that he was applying a kind of tourniquet around the neck of the poor soul.

The single traffic light at the intersection pulsed a dull, yellowy light, now on,
now off, endlessly, ominously, if it can be called light at all. It faintly lit up the
face of the monk, on and off …who I could see wore a tattered dark, cotton skull

I wanted to speak, to ask him what he was doing here in the Desolation, but he
was mumbling some prayers now and closed his eyes as if in some kind of pain.
Finally he asked me in a whisper to find some water. “Here, brother?” I asked
incredulously. “Yes, please, please,” he whispered.

I looked around. A stray, emaciated dog crossed the other side and was almost
hit by a truck full of drunken revellers. Papers blew down the alleyways. I ran
across the intersection and saw men pressing women against unlit lamp posts,
and men with men. For a moment I felt swallowed up by panic as I panned the
bleak streets, not knowing which way to go.

A voice called out. “You want a date, honey?” I turned my head to see a tall
woman with a man’s face.

I shook my head.

“I need some water” I said. She—or he—looked at me with a pouting puffy bottom lip. “And what do you need some water for, honey?” She took some steps toward me and I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad omen. Her face was definitely man-like, though there was no way I could be sure. Her voice was impossible to tell, now sounding something like an effeminate man, now a woman. “A man… some kind of monk, asked me to bring water for a man whose throat appeared cut or wounded.”

“Cut?” she asked. “Why would he need water if his throat was cut, deary?”

“I don’t… know,” I stammered.

“Well you ought to let the wretch die and be done with it before you get
yourself in trouble. The State is the State, sweetie, and only if you’re licensed are
you allowed to be taking care of its people. You could be found guilty of
violating Codes. Monks! —huh!—
especially all that, you poor dear fool. You’re not licensed are you.”

“Save your own neck, then, if you know what’s good for you,” she insisted,
still trying to entice me by slowly tracing the outline of her breast.

I felt she was wrong to go along with The
Code and told her so. “Well, it’s your head, darlin’….” she said, “and you’re going to risk it for such quaint notions, right and wrong? Here? Ha! This ain’t the Middle Ages, sweetie,” she said, shaking her head like I was just another nutcase.

I was getting tired of her (or his) “sweeties” and “honeys”.

Then she paused and looked at me curiously for what seemed longer than the fifteen or so seconds it could only have been. I saw a certain tenderness that
tokened some part of humanity still alive in her.

“Stay here,” she said. I watched her walk into the Desolate as I looked back to see the nauseating pulsing light in the distance which was my only reference back to the monk.

I began to feel impatient as I waited. In the distance I could see fires lighting up
the horizons. I looked for the star-like lights on the ground, afraid that my
lantern was growing dim. I could barely make out their traces.

“There’s no water here!” her voice called out from the darkness, completely
invisible to me. “Do you want a date or not, honey?”

I walked briskly off, a shiver running up my spine. When I got closer,
I ran to the monk, my lantern swinging and banging at my side.

By this time the monk was sitting next to the lifeless body of the man. “Don’t
worry, friend,” he said, “I used a little spittle.” I must have looked confused. “To give him the Sacrament,” he said. Ephphatha.

I looked at the body. A tall handsome man, dark hair matted now in blood; he couldn’t have been less than sixty.

Then I looked at the monk. “Are you a priest?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “Just
a Friar trying to be a Christian”.

“Did the old Pole send you?” “Yes,” he said.

There was no depression in his eyes, just a deep tiredness. “What are you doing
out here?” I asked, looking around the Wasteland. His eyes seemed to follow
mine. The streetlight pulsed his face into and out of view.

“Same thing I suppose you are doing” he replied slowly, staring sadly at the dead man.

“Is this the End, Brother?” I asked abruptly.

For the first time the monk’s eyes twinkled. He looked up at me with piercing eyes and formed a gentle smile.

“The End? No one can know that, friend, nor should we even try. Near, far, very
far off, it’s all the same. We’re called to do what we always do… feed the hungry, spiritually, physically, clothe the naked, tend to the wounds of every kind, of the sick and homeless, seek an end to the hatreds.

Leave the End to God. You think you are the first to climb?

I told him many had turned away to the enticements of the world in despair,
choosing to join what they felt they could not beat.

He replied, “It’s true. But if time seems out of joint, it’s all the same. “A day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. We follow the lights He has lent us and make His lamp a light to our path. Perfect love casts
out fear. Don’t worry.

“The Lamb will show you the Way. Maranatha,” he said quietly as he stood up and walked into the Night. / SH


Gifts Unexpected