Chapter One - Henry
Henry has the usual atoms everyone supposedly has, or at least we assume they have. Think of Henry as a brick and the world as a house. Henry’s skin is like the paint on the outside of the brick. We have an idea of what makes up the brick – after all, it looks like pretty much every other brick, sans a grain of cement or two – but we are only able to pass judgment on that brick by the paint that we can see. What we can’t see (the brick itself) is a matter for conjecture. Henry is a matter for conjecture.
A Saturday in the middle of winter, lying on the couch with the rain trickling down the window and sport on the television is a great time to ponder life’s existence. How did I get here? Should I be making more of this day? Who is to say that this day is even “a thing” that means anything in the context of the universe? Henry remembers something frivolous he once saw on a frivolous show he was watching one frivolous Tuesday.
“A thing is still a thing, even when nothing is said about that thing.”
No one ever said anything about Henry and most of the time this was an adequate existence. Yet at other, more subdued moments, he wanted someone to feel something toward him. He wanted someone to hate him. Hate is one of those emotions that really means something. It has a certain power to it. It’s not a bad emotion, it just is. If you can honestly say you hate something, you have developed a real emotion. Not one of those pathetic, nothing emotions that leave others in some doubt about how you actually feel. There is no conjecture to hate.
Henry hated just a few things; yellow paper, mossy rocks that led you to believe they were covered in a sturdy grass-like construct until you slipped on them, intolerant people, people who talked too much, yappy dogs, humid weather and door-to-door salespeople.
There was a knock on the front door. Henry rose from his dreamy ponderance and ventured down the hallway toward the front door. To call it a hallway was being a little generous. Henry lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment on the edge of the city. He shared that apartment with his cat, the odd cockroach and the noisy disturbances from next door. His hallway consisted of a two-foot stretch of wall that could not be attributed to his living room, kitchen or bedroom. To accentuate the space, he’d hung a picture of the Queen of England. He couldn’t stand the royal family, but he loved talking about how much he despised them and the picture invoked the inevitable question whenever anyone visited; “why do you have a picture of the Queen on your wall?”. His poor visitor would then be subjected to a robust discussion about the merits (or lack thereof) of the royal family. It was a conversation Henry enjoyed having. Hate can do that to a man.
Henry opened the door and two men stood on the other side of the doorframe. Both dressed a little too well, wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and black tie. Their hair seemed painted on, reminding Henry of the Ken doll he used to torture as a child.
“Hi, I’m Greg”, said one of the overdressed men “and this is Brian. We’ve brought the DVD you ordered”.
In the moment of awkward silence that ensued, the instance that lead to this encounter flashed through Henry’s mind like a dying man remembering his entire life in the moment before his death. It was late at night some three weeks earlier when Henry was watching some pretty bad television. He’d just smoked a joint and was oddly mesmerised by the Keanu Reeves movie that was showing. ‘Why is every Keanu Reeves movie only ever good in spite of him?’ he wondered as the movie cut to an advertisement promoting a free DVD about the life of Jesus Christ, supposedly focussing closely on his relationship with Mary Magdalene. One of Henry’s good friends was about to play Mary Magdalene in a local theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar and being a studious researcher, he thought she would appreciate the alternative viewpoint on Mary’s life, so he picked up the phone and ordered a copy. He had no idea it would arrive with two Mormons attached.
“Um…thanks…” mumbled Henry, as he reached for the DVD and attempted to prize it from the grasp of Greg. But the DVD wouldn’t budge. It became obvious that Greg and Brian were not going to surrender that easily. So, after sucking in a breath of courage, Henry reluctantly invited the Mormons in for a cup of tea. They ventured into the living room.
“That’s a nice picture of the Queen”, offered up Brian in a clumsy attempt at small talk. “Yeah, not bad for a shape shifting reptilian”, replied Henry as he flicked the switch on the electric kettle. He was referring to the conspiracy theory offered up by David Icke, an Englishman who claims that the world is run by Archon Reptiles transmitting from Saturn and the Moon. But hey, as far as Henry was concerned, these theories had about as much chance of being true as anything spun through the guise of religion. There was a also fair chance that the Mormons would not be aware of David Icke, so his comment would be allowed to hover in the air like an odd smell, helping create the air of mischief Henry was hoping would transfer to the conversation about to take place.
It’s not every day you are faced with a discussion about the Book of Mormon. In fact, Henry had never given the religion a second thought during his life, so he was genuinely interested in how it all started. Greg and Brian described how Joseph Smith had documented a visit from an Angel in 1830 to a bunch of people who then believed him and started a religion. The Angel had told him some stuff about something or other…Henry tended to drift off from a conversation as soon as he spotted an obvious flaw.
“Was anyone with this Joseph guy when he saw the Angel?”
“No, but the Angel led him to some ancient plates, which said…”
“So, he was completely alone?”
“Had he been drinking?”
The Mormons were pointing at an illustration of this “event” in a copy of the Book of Mormon and Henry was struck by how genuinely they believed this story.
“Do you have any proof? I mean, other than that illustration?”
“We have faith”
Henry had heard enough. He wasn’t trying to be rude when he started comparing Mormonism with other commonly known fairy tales, but it was clear that the Mormons were becoming agitated. Henry considered himself an Agnostic Realist; anything and everything was possible, but if there is no proof, then you might as well believe in nothing. Or anything. Either worked.
The whole idea of religion is merely organised brainwashing. Leveraging the innate emotion of fear, religion tells you what you should believe, else you be damned for eternity in the pits of hell. It occurred to Henry that hell on earth equated to knocking on stranger’s doors and selling them a concept with which he could produce a mere illustration as “proof”. Still, he enjoyed their conversation, always feeling as though he held the moral upper hand, before he sent Greg and Brian on their way.
The Mormon movie sucked. It turned out to be a 15-minute commercial on the merits of turning the 15 minutes of brainwashing into a life-long, spiralling commitment to the church of cuckoo land.
He kept most of these thoughts to himself. He always did. He, more than anybody, had an inkling of what was contained in that brain of his and it terrified him.