Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Lion's Den

A story

She shivered, drawing the black shawl closer to herself. The silver spangles that speckled the shawl caught the moonlight, glinting softly in the night. She exhaled, her life’s breath taking the form of a plume of smoky vapor in the night air. Her hair was brown and fell in waves; her eyes were fringed by dark long lashes. She watched the people from afar, wishing that she had strength enough to join them.

“Madeleine,” she heard her boyfriend say. She turned, applying a smile to her face as quickly as though she had drawn it in lipstick.

“Andrew,” she stated.

“You’re cold,” he offered, solicitously offering her his sweatshirt.

“That’s all right,” she told him. She looked at him, poor, sweet Andrew. He really deserved much better than her. She lived in her mind and her thoughts were unpleasant; she despised him for his weakness in returning to her when he ought to have thrown her aside due to her behavior and unreliability. At the same time, in a secret place in her heart, an ember of love flickered for him.

She saw the people in the shadow of the wall. It was the wall of prayer, the place where people had assembled for centuries. People would leave notes within the crevices and cracks of the wall; their tears would allow the stones to sink further into the ground. She saw the fires, leaping and flickering in the distance; she could faintly hear the screams.

Andrew, in his beautiful black jeans and Abercrombie t-shirt, was unaware. He ran his hand through his black curls, turned to her with a pair of dark black eyes. He held a cigarette between his slim fingers. “Want one?” he offered.

She inclined her head. He offered her one, then flicked open his lighter. She dipped slightly so as to catch the flame. It burned within the slender tube and she inhaled, her eyes still focused upon the shadow of the commotion taking place by the wall.

She would not close her ears to the sounds. The wails resounded, screams and shouts reaching across the ages. She stared blankly at the shadows and shivered unintentionally once more.

“What is it, Madeleine?” questioned Andrew.

“Nothing,” she said, because he would not understand.

But in the silence within herself, she spoke the true answer. She believed in God.


“Madeleine,” her boss boomed out, the voice unctuous, fruity, and ugly. It made her blood run cold.

“Yes,” she answered sweetly, the picture of propriety in a grey pencil skirt, a crisp white shirt tucked in neatly. She wore a necklace of reflecting little mirrors rimmed in gold; her earrings were gold and crystal. She had pulled her hair back neatly into a ponytail.

“Please make sure that the Franklin- Russo merger is completed on time today.”

“Certainly,” she answered him, walking briskly over to the copy-machine. As she bent to retrieve her documents, which she had printed via the multipurpose capability on the copier, she found an odd piece of paper.

It was a picture of an ordinary man’s ID Card. Height: 5”9, Weight: 170 lbs, Hair Color: Brown, Eye Color: Blue. Someone had written on it before faxing it over. ATT: Madeleine, it read. Bar XII.

Madeleine smoothed her facial expression into one of polite surprise. Carefully eyeing the video monitor, she walked over to her manager. “Sir,” she said, and extended the piece of paper to him.

“Do you know this man?” he questioned carefully, turning the picture over to see if there was any writing on the back. There was none.

Madeleine took in the brilliant efficiency of his office, symbolized by the minimalist black-and-white décor. Not one spot of color marred the effect; his windows were of clear glass and opened out on the city’s skyline.

“Of course not, sir,” she stated clearly, smiling at him.

“Well then, very good,” he affirmed, nodding his head. “You did right to bring this to me, Maddy, my dear.” He did not notice her instinctive shudder. She did not like him to call her by any endearments, including nicknames. “Well then, back to work with you.”

Gracefully, she dipped her head and glided out of the office, a swan caught within a cage of mechanical corporate lust. Returning to her desk, she filed papers, spoke on the phone, answered emails and tapped out texts on her BlackBerry. At precisely 5:00, she gathered her belongings and belted her tan trenchcoat over her waist. Reaching for her Gucci purse, she was surprised to see the boss standing at her cubicle. She paused.

“Maddy,” he said in his unctuous voice. “What are your plans for tonight?”

“To return home, sir,” she answered. “I figured I would shower and watch some TV. That’s all.”

“How would you like to go to Bar XII with me tonight?”

She smiled at him. “Why, that would be lovely, sir,” she stated.


Seated on an expensive red cushion, a Cosmopolitan perched in her hands, Madeleine dispassionately observed her employer’s roving eyes. First he focused on her face, his eyes drawn to her lips; unconsciously, he licked his own. His gaze swept down her body, taking in the thrust of her breasts, her trim waist, the way in which her camel-colored boots hugged her shapely feet. She wondered how he refrained from panting.

“People of America,” a voice announced suddenly, and Madeleine kept her eyes riveted upon her employer’s.

“Why, what’s this?” he said in surprise, starting forward. He was slightly drunk.

Carefully, Madeleine turned around. She schooled her expression into a mask of disinterest, viewing the intruder as a mild nuisance.

“Set yourselves free of this oppressive government!” the voice continued, insistent and calm. “It is a government ruled entirely via the auspices of science and reason. To speak to God and to recognize God is forbidden. And those of us who do so are deemed mentally ill! Yes, it has been categorized as a sickness to worship God. It is a form of mental illness. And you, all of you,” his eyes swept over the crowd, open, inviting, warm, “know that this is not true. This is yet another form of rebellion, an intellectual Tower of Babel. As you climb to the dizzying heights, you forget your creator and your maker; you have turned Him into a disease.”

He stepped forward, a group of men assembled behind him. “I have a representative of every religion in the world here,” he stated, “and we shall all pray together.”

Priest, rabbi, imam, shaman and oracle, no matter the type of theist they were, stood behind him. The imam took out his prayer rug and knelt on the floor. The rabbi looked at everyone with kindly eyes, then took out a siddur, his lips whispering the words lovingly. The priest began to sing a hymn.

“To pray is to be truly human,” the voice insisted. “Prayer to the Almighty is a way of showing our thanks to Him. He is our Creator, Maker, the one who gave us this beautiful world. And look at the state we have reached! It is an illness, an actual illness, to believe in a Deity. The psychologists and psychiatrists have banded together to proclaim that all of us are mentally ill. We are hallucinating, they say. We speak to figments of our imagination. We converse with the hidden parts of ourselves, the parts that are sickening. They have operated upon us in order to do away with our fear of God. They have lobotomized us. And yet we are still here. We still believe.”

“He is inciting us towards madness,” one scandalized elderly woman asserted.

“Yes! He wants us all to be insane like he is,” Madeleine’s boss answered drunkenly.

“Kill him!” the mob screeched, afraid of his contamination.

Madeleine remained silent as she watched the intruder.

“Repeat after me, o’ those of you who know the truth,” the man implored. “Speak these words, if not aloud, then in your heart. Thou has counted my wanderings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?’

The frightened customers looked at one another, unsure as to whether they should do as the man said.

“Thou has counted my wanderings…” one teenage girl covered in piercings began.

“Good!” stated the intruder, his voice kind. “Let us continue, then.” He paused for a moment. “Then shall mine enemies turn back in the day that I call; this I know, that God is for me.”

“Then shall mine enemies,” the goth’s boyfriend continued, standing up.

“In God--I will praise His word--in the LORD--I will praise His word—“

The wail of sirens and the flashing of signals heralded the arrival of the police officers. They stepped into the bar warily, their guns raised. “Cease and desist,” they ordered. “We have orders to take you and your companions to a mental hospital, where they will treat you in order to rid you of your delusion.”

“In God do I trust, I will not be afraid; what can man do unto me?” continued the blue-eyed man.

Shots rang out and he fell lifeless to the floor. Blood reddened his white shirt; his mouth was frozen in forbidden prayer.

“A madman,” the policeman said grimly, “trying to convert others to his delusions. Possibly dangerous, disturbing the peace, trying to harm others. Do not fear,” he told the customers. “We have this under control.”

The imam, priest, rabbi and others stepped forward. The other policemen cornered them swiftly, placing them in chains. Their handcuffs sparkled in the dim light.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of Atlasia,” the police officers dipped their hats as they led the religious leaders out into the paddywagon.

“For thou hast delivered my soul from death,” muttered Madeleine bitterly as she looked upon the face of her dead brother.

“What’s that you say, sweetheart?” questioned her boss, one hand reaching to fondle her breast.

She stepped away from him. “I said I must be getting back,” she stated, and turning on one heel, she exited the bar. It was not until she was home and safely ensconced under the covers that she began to cry, the tears mixing with her violent self-hatred. Her brother had been brave. It was she who remained a coward. And as she cried, a kind of resolve came to her, so that she dried her eyes and slept at last.


“Come on, baby.” Andrew irritated her, insistent as a doting puppy. “It’ll be fun.”

“Perhaps,” she said. He stood beside her, watching her apply makeup while looking into the vanity. She wore nothing but a nude-colored bra and a pair of lacy black panties.

“You’ve never been to a concert like this one,” he urged her. “It’s Cat’s Cradle. How could you miss Cat’s Cradle?”

“Honestly,” she stated, dabbing shimmering eyeshadow atop her matte color, “quite easily.”

“You never want to do anything, Madeleine,” he whined.

“Actually, I’d like to go to The Lion’s Den tonight,” she stated calmly.

“That’s a bar, right?”


“I’ll pick you up at 10?” he inquired.

“Go ahead,” she stated. “It’s unnecessary, though. I am quite capable of going there alone.”

“I want to be with you,” he insisted.

“In that case, 10 it is,” she asserted.

When he left the room she reached for her dressing gown; it was patterned in a shell pink. Light and loose, she wrapped it around herself before falling to her knees. She cared nothing for the censors, for the movie cameras that would review her actions tonight. She kneeled upon her knees and prayed and gave thanks to God, in whom she still believed.

Then she sat down to write several letters to several news agencies. She sealed them all with a kiss of her lipstick, then decided what to wear that night.


She was a bombshell. A knockout in tight black lace, her lips rimmed a decadently sensual red, her patent leather black shoes pointed and sexy, she sashayed into the club, exuding sex appeal.

Andrew wrapped his arm possessively around her. “What would you like to drink?” he inquired.

“A Scotch on the rocks,” she stated recklessly. She tossed her head, her curls beautiful in the array of rainbow colors that swept over her skin and caressed her.

“Look, it’s the King,” Andrew stated, affectionately noting their mutual friend. “What’s he doing here?”

Max King was the news anchor for ABC 7. Madeleine’s eyes swept the room as she noted other news outlets, with video cameras and equipment, had entered the room. Brazenly, she stepped over to King and kissed him full on the lips. Andrew’s eyes widened in confusion, but King stepped back and looked at her, his lips reddened by her lipstick. He seemed sad.

“Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee,” he whispered in her ear, then kissed her cheek.

Madeleine stepped forward to the Kareoke stand, taking the microphone from the woman who was singing. “People of America,” she began. “I’d like to sing with you tonight. But I don’t want to sing any song. I want to sing a prayer, one that you will never forget.”

The room buzzed with people who were scandalized. A prayer? Was this beautiful woman also numbered amidst the mad ones?

“You’re too beautiful to waste your life this way,” a man protested. “You know the country has declared there is no God, and those who claim there is are mentally ill.”

“I don’t care if you’re mad,” a woman protested, “just pretend you don’t think there is one. That’s what we all do.”

“But don’t you see,” Madeleine stated, her voice heartbreakingly lovely, “that’s precisely the reason we should tell the truth. We are not mad. We are not insane. We are not the mentally ill. To the contrary, we are the only ones who know that we owe a debt of gratitude to the God who watches over all, who sees us still and who loves us despite everything.

“Last night, in Bar XII, my brother was killed. He was killed for speaking up for his beliefs, for asserting that there is a God and that those who believe so ought not to be numbered among the insane.

The news anchors greedily filmed her speech, inching closer to focus upon her exquisite lips and frame as she spoke the scandalous words.

“I thought it would be apropos, seeing as we are gathered at The Lion’s Den tonight,” she continued, “to recite from Psalm 57.” She paused, then smiled. “My soul is among lions, I do lie down among them that are aflame; even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.”

Andrew spoke up and in that moment she could have melted in his arms, giving herself to him completely. “My soul is among lions,” he began, and other people at the bar chimed in.

“Be thou exalted, O’ God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth.”

The policemen were having trouble fitting through the door, seeing as they had to walk through the cameramen and news anchors and everyone else who was blocking their path. Nonetheless, they continued inexorably, determined to do their duty and cart away this dangerously ill person. Her mental instability suggested that she might do anything, harm anyone, so as to get her way.

“They have prepared a net for my steps,” Madeleine continued, looking directly at the Chief of Police. “My soul is bowed down; they have digged a pit before me, they are fallen into the midst thereof themselves. Selah.”

She extended her arms as though to embrace the roomful of people, hold them close to her in ecstasy. “My heart is stedfast, O God, my heart is stedfast; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.”

The shot cracked out and Madeleine did not flinch. Wonderingly, she felt her skin, unsure as to where the bullet had passed through her, for she did not feel any pain.

Then she saw him, bleeding on the floor. Andrew had jumped in front of her, dying to defend her. She knelt on the floor beside him and kissed his lips, his blood painting her skin red. The vulturous cameramen closed in for the shot.

The policemen took her sensual hands and enclosed them in bracelets of steel. She bowed her head as though in a kind of rapture and followed them. She met King’s eyes as she walked carefully out of the room.

“Believe in Him, my friends,” she shouted, the assembly at the bar bemused and afraid. “It is only because they are afraid of you and the truth you speak that they deem you mad.” She chuckled to herself. Then she spoke to the police officer, the one who had killed Andrew. “The King of Gath once questioned: Do I have need of madmen, that you have brought a man to play the madman before me? Nowadays, we do have need of madmen, however.”

King, the news anchor, had pushed through the crowd and was filming her conversation with the policeman. The Chief shot an anxious glance at the camera, his lips trembling nervously. Then, pulling his gun, he pointed at his fellow policemen.

“Get back, I say,” he threatened them. “Back, or I shoot you, and you know what an expert marksman I am.”

The policemen fell back. The Chief undid her handcuffs. “I believe, too,” he told her. “Run.”

“Angel!” one of his fellow cops cried out, reaching for his gun. “I’ll cover you!”

“Angel?” questioned Madeleine wonderingly, rubbing her wrists as she stumbled away from him.

“My nickname,” he said gruffly. “Go.”

King caught hold of her wrist, passing the camera to one of his assistants. “I’ll take care of her,” he growled at the man, then authoritatively escorted her to his car.

“Your God has sent his angel and hath shut the lion’s mouths, and they have not hurt you,” he stated, and leaning across the car seat, kissed her on the mouth.

“I want to make love to you all night,” he informed her as he revved the engine.

“We shall be as the dead,” Madeleine stated, almost as though she were caught within a dream.

“Not if they don’t find us,” he informed her, “and I am certain that they won’t.”

She turned to him joyfully. “Do you believe as well?”

He smiled at her. “I am the King,” he told her softly. “How could I not believe?”

“But Andrew,” she stated, her eyes sorrowful.

“Andrew gave his life for you,” he informed her. “He too believed in God.”

“With any luck, our entire society is mad,” she laughed gleefully.

“Or perhaps we are the sane ones,” he countered.

“For a night’s time,” she bargained with him, “and then we must go out again. The world will only take back what is theirs and the right to their God when they see that we are willing to die for Him.”

“We shall die tomorrow if you like, pretty Madeleine,” he assured her. “Only let us have our night of The Lion’s Den.”

“With pleasure,” she smiled at him, and the two disappeared into the darkness.

1 comment:

Shira Salamone said...

Sounds 1984ish. Creepy. That was the idea, I imagine.